February 10, 2008

Lebanon's Jumblatt Threatens War

Just a few nights ago I said to some out of town friends that I thought another war, between Hezbollah and whichever adversary first decides to pick up the sword, is all but inevitable in Lebanon. I wish it weren't so, but it probably is. If the Israelis don't do it, someone in Lebanon will unless the Syrian and Iranian regimes are first brought to heel.

Right on schedule, Druze chief Walid Jumblatt throws down the gauntlet.

Abu Kais has the story, from articles he translated from Arabic:
In one of his most aggressive speeches since the civil war, Walid Jumblatt said March 14 will go to war against Hizbullah if that’s what the militia wants. “Our existence, dignity and Lebanon are more important than anything else. You want disorder, so be it.”, he said, addressing Hizbullah and the forces he said are trying to bring back Syrian hegemony. ”You want war, so be it. We have no problem with weapons, no problem with missiles. We will take your ready-to-use missiles. We have no problem with martyrdom and suicide.”

Jumblatt also rejected Hizbullah’s “open war” against Israel under “fake slogans that serve the Syrian regime and the Iranian empire.”

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at February 10, 2008 11:15 PM

Comments

As some of us have been saying for years, if the Lebanese want a decent society, and not be Syrian and Iranian whores (I'm being gentle; prostitutes don't murder their neighbors, by and large) they're going to have to fight the Hezbollards, and not just keep paying them off.

That said, my take -- from this remove, which is great -- is that Jumblatt is pretty much just blowing smoke, at this point. Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran aren't going to be affected by words, but by deeds, and this is, so far, just more words. A few dozen dead Hezbollards is worth a lot more than many paragraphs of strong words.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 4:39 AM

No matter what you think about Hizb'Allah, it is clear that Jumblatt is nothing more than a political opportunist and always has been.

He has been "in bed" with almost every side in the conflict. If enough money flows his way he will change sides.

In 1982-83 he was working WITH the Syrians and Palestinians and killed thousands of Maronite Christians in the Chouf.

Sorry if I take anything he says with a grain of salt. Like many Arab leaders he tends to speak to the audience at hand and will later speak in front of a different audience and say something different.

There is one clear thing, the governmental system in Lebanon is flawed at it's very core. The system of representation based on sectarian affiliation is just not working. Shi'ites, not necessarily Hizb'Allah, have a valid issue in that they are under represented in the government based on their current population. The system that allocates positions based on sectarian is based on a view of Lebanon that has no basis in reality anymore. Christians are not a majority anymore, their population might be as low as 25% and hence should not have equal representation to other sectarian groups.

If Lebanon wants to be a real democracy they must drop the allocations of positions of power based on religion and should rely on popular votes alone. Anything else is nothing more than sectarian vote rigging and is not democratic.

This might or might not play into Hizb'Allah hands, but you cannot call yourself a democracy and then reserve positions for people based on nothing more than an accident of birth.

Imagine here in the USA if we decided that an African American MUST be the Speaker of the House, even though the number of African Americans in the country is still relatively small. Imagine if we REQUIRED the President to be a white Protestant? I guess we could REQUIRE the vice President to be Hispanic and we could mandate that the leader of the Joint Chiefs of Staff MUST be an American Indian.

This is insance, unfair and most important has no basis in popular vote or the general population itself.

Besides, this is all moot. If Jumblatt had a go at Hizb'Allah he'd get a taste of what the Israelis got. He wouldnt be able to mass murder the Shi'ites in Lebanon the way he did the Christians in the Chouf.

I am not a fan of Jumblatt, my memories do not extend much further than the thousands of Christian men, women and children his forces slaughtered in the early 1980s.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 6:29 AM

Marc,

You have Jumblatt wrong. He is shifty, yes, as the Druze have always been shifty. It isn't about money, though. It's about survival as a minority in a dangerous neighborhood with shifting alliances. The Druze pick the stronger side for protection. That is why Syrian Druze are Baathists, Israeli Druze are Zionists, and Lebanese Druze are with the West and the Lebanese democratic majority.

Jumblatt is sort of blowing smoke here, and he sort of isn't. This is the first time he or any other March 14 leader has said anything like this.

I have, however, heard street-level March 14 people talking like this. Slowly, over time, the willingness to go to war against Hezbollah grows.

"Better a thousand Israeli invasions than another civil war" is something I used to hear. But I don't hear that any more. And my experience is a year out of date. My friends there say it is worse now since I left, and darker.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 9:45 AM

Michael,

You are right. It isn't about money. However, the effects on Jumblatt and his role in history are the same. The man sells his allegiance and those of his people to the people or group with the most power. That is why he was working hand in hand with the Syrians and some Palestinian groups as his militia butchered Christian women and children in the Chouf. He has and will butcher men, women and children of whatever group as long as he thinks it benefits his own. Of course he was been wrong more than a few times, but I guess it doesn’t matter to the children that his thugs murdered that the leader of their killers thought he had sided with the right bunch of killers.

As to Israeli invasions and civil war, I think they go hand in hand. Any real and prolonged Israeli invasion of Lebanon would result in a civil war. Any civil war in Lebanon would almost certainly end up with Israeli troops occupying parts of Lebanon again.

Rather than civil war or Israeli invasions the Lebanese people should be thinking about some real and democratic reforms in their country that will push back the threat of civil war. Hizb'Allah have a point in that the current system is discriminatory against Shi'a. How they choose to handle their grievances is another thing. The governmental system is fundamentally flawed in Lebanon and needs changes. The Shi' are the largest group in Lebanon and this MUST be recognised.

The current system works on demographic models from decades ago when Christians had a slight majority in Lebanon. Christians now number some 25%-30% of Lebanon whilst the Shi'a population has exploded. The sectarian system currently at work does not recognise this demographic reality. Some Christians might launch their own civil war if a census was done because they know the results will cement their minority status in the country. The only real solution is to remove the sectarian allocations for political power and make the country a representative democracy.

Sunni and some Christian groups in Lebanon oppose this move because they know their share of the power will shrink, but this is how democracy works. Do Maronite Christians in Lebanon expect to hold the same positions of power in the country in 50 years when their numbers might well be at 15%-20%? Why should a group with 15% of the population control a base of power in government based on a flawed model that shows their population at some 55%?

Again, imagine what would happen in the USA if we decided to link representation in Congress to ethnic and religious groups based on population models from the 1960s. There would be blood in the steets here. If this isnt changed in Lebanon there will be blood in the streets there with more than enough blame to go around.

As to the Druze, I have not had good experiences with them in Lebanon nor in Israel. Their soldiers tend to be very brutal. About half the time when you hear about mistreatment/killings at checkpoints in Israel and the West Bank it is not Jewish soldiers involved, rather their "durzy" counterparts.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 11:07 AM

I suspect that the danger in picking an armed fight with Hezbollah is that they stand a pretty good chance of losing.

What would Lebanon look like in that case?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 12:10 PM

Sorry. "They" in my statement above as in March 14th losing a military fight with Hezbollah.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 12:12 PM

I am not sure anyone would "win" a new civil war in Lebanon. I think Hizb'Allah would best the others, but could they take over all of the cities, towns and villages that belonged to other sects and occupy them? No.

The big problem is the fact that civilians are the ones that get the worst of it all. If the only dead were combatants it wouldnt be as bad, but as the numerous different massacres in Lebanon show, the civilians always get the worst of it.

At the end of the day even if one side "won" we'd end up back where we are now. Hizb'Allah would not want to, nor could it rule the contry on it's own.

It all goes back to a democratic form of government that takes into account current demographic realities.

Christians need to realise that as only 25-30% of the population in the country they are no longer going to have the historic power they are used to. Sunnis are going to have to learn to share power with the Shi'a and the Shi'a parties must learn how to try and get what they deserve with different tactics.

To put it in a nut shell you have two groups of people, the Sunnis and some Christians, who are trying to prevent the Shi'a from getting what is theirs. Elements within the Shi'a community are inclined to take what is theirs no matter the consquences.

That is why I say there is enough blame to go around. Who is to blame, the robber, or the person who is attacked who beats the robber half to death when they could have stopped?

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 12:22 PM

The problem is that we're talking about Lebanon, not Belgium. In Belgium, you can be a political, ethnic, or sectarian minority (or all three) and not have to worry about someone killing you on account of it.

Lebanon is different. It's history, and the history of the surrounding countries, is full of examples of people getting killed because they were members of the wrong political party, worshiped the wrong god, or were born into the wrong tribe.

The Lebanese need to learn to live with each other. Once sect and tribe become background details instead of reasons to screw someone over, the confessional allocation of power will be reformed into something more democratic... but it can't happen until people stop worrying about being killed because of what church they go to.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 5:59 PM

You are right. It isn't about money. However, the effects on Jumblatt and his role in history are the same. The man sells his allegiance and those of his people to the people or group with the most power.

Of course he does, because the group with the most power will win. Jumblatt will do whatever he thinks is necessary to ensure the survival of the Druze. Why would anyone expect him to do anything else?

Do you expect Hizbullah to put the well-being of others ahead of the well-being of the Shia? Do you expect the Sunni to put the interests of others ahead of their own? How about the Christians?

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 11, 2008 6:10 PM

Rosignol,

Recent history has made it VERY clear that the people with the most power do not always win. Jumblatt was murdering women and children along side Syrians 25 years ago. Where are the Syrians now?

Israelis certainly have more power than Hizb'Allah but they failed to win the last conflict. Hizb'Allah ended the Israeli occuption of Lebanon even though it commands less power than the Israelis. Those with the most power do not always win. Lebanon is a text book case of this.

In Lebanon killing people over sectarian affiliation is a part of the history, that is EXACTLY why it should NOT be enshrined in law.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 6:24 AM

What I don't understand is M14's failure to appeal to the Shia for Lebanese unity. The Shia can't speak freely now, but if their is another civil war, or if one is to be avoided, then at some point individual Shia need an incentive to choose a free Lebanon rather than the lash behind their backs.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 6:38 AM

Solomon,

Where do you get the idea that somehow the Shi'a of Lebanon are somehow less free to speak their mind than the rest of Lebanese? That just isnt so.

Hizb'Allah doesnt have any more control over their supporters than the other parties in involved, Sunni, Christian or even other Shi'a groups.

I think some are getting the idea that Hizb'Allah wants to split up Lebanon, I dont think that could be any farther from the truth.

What Hizb'Allah wants is for the government to be changed to recognise the demographic realities of today's Lebanon. The parties on the "other side" are content to keep the sectarian system running because it enhances their power whereas any government set up based on popular representation would dilute their power.

The truth is that the current system in Lebanon is based on a Lebanon that hasnt existed in 30 years. Not only is it based on demographics which have radically changed, it is a system that bases control of the government on allocations made to religious sects based on these demographics.

Anyone who believes in democracy must see the injustice here. I think Hizb'Allah is entirely right in this point, they are just going about it the wrong way.

It is time for equal and proportional governance in Lebanon based on popular vote, not on which church/mosque you go to. To me it is amazing that there isnt a mechanism set into law that allows for updating the power structures to reflect the population.

The Shi'a in Lebanon are never going to support a government which downplays their numbers and hence robs them of proportional power and representation.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 8:30 AM

I think some are getting the idea that Hizb'Allah wants to split up Lebanon, I dont think that could be any farther from the truth.

Some have the idea that Hizb'Allah wants to gain power in order to wage war against Israel (or to wage war against Israel in order to gain power in Lebanon). Either way, history proves that this is their goal.

What Hizb'Allah wants is for the government to be changed to recognise the demographic realities of today's Lebanon.

Hizb'Allah and the areas under Hizb'Allah's control are basically a state within a state with it's own, illegally armed militia. If we were to compare them to the British occupation of Ireland during the '20's, Hizb'Allah would be the black-and-tans. Or, as MJT said:

"Their ideology is an alien one, imported from the East, from the extremist regime in Tehran. If they ever end up as rulers of Lebanon – and it will surely mean war if they try – Lebanon will no longer be recognizable."

Hizb'Allah also receives funding from their international mafia based in Europe, Southeast Asia, and West Africa. At the Triple Frontier or tri-border area along the junction of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil Hizb'allah runs the drug, arms trafficking, smuggling, and counterfeiting operations that provide a major source of their funding.

Another source of their funding is their cigarette smuggling operation in America.

Of course the Lebanese are doing everything they can to stop these criminals from taking over the country.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 9:12 AM

Mary,

Why would Hizb'Allah need to gain power to wage war against Israel? Did you miss the last conflict between Hizb'Allah and Israel? They don’t need to be in power to fight Israel, I would argue they are actually positioned better for their fight against Israel if they are not in power. I would argue this from many different view points, besides would YOU want the Lebanese Army on your side anyway? I guess if you like tea……...

You can compare Hizb to the Black and Tans or anyone else. You still didn’t address the FACT that the Shi'a are very under represented in Lebanon. This would be the case with or without Hizb'Allah. Changing the power structure away from a sectarian based model to a truely representative type system would only work to draw Hizb'Allah closer to the government and the mainstream. The Shi'a population has grown dramatically in the last 30 years, but it still isn't close to a majority so enfranchising the Shi'a population would only engage them in democratic politics more, not keep them isolated as the current sectarian model does.

Their ideology might be an alien one, but so is the ideology of the Phalangists. I don’t think Hizb would do anything worse to the country than the Phalangists did. Besides, if Hizb'Allah endorses democracy and representative democracy based on the current demographic facts, they would not be able to get enough power to change the entire make up of the country.

Many Sunni parties as well as the Phalangists get money from sources outside of Lebanon. The March 14th movement has a large portion of it's funding coming from the Gulf from groups looking to neutralize the "Shi'a threat". Much of this money is Saudi money. Let's not forget Hariri and his son are Saudi themselves. All of the militias set up in Lebanon today are funding at least partly by illegal means, that includes militias allied to the March 14 group, Phalangists and the like. Lets call a spade a spade and lets not attack Hizb'Allah for something that other groups are just as equally guilt of.

You can go on and on but the fact is that much of what you accuse Hizb'Allah of can be also attributed to other groups in Lebanon. For me the only way to get Hizb'Allah more involved in the mainstream, more involved in the political end of things in Lebanon is to draw them further into the process. It might not turn out the way everyone wants, but one thing I can GUARANTEE, is that if Hizb'Allah is isolated and the Shi'a population are not recognised it will certainly end up in a fashion that no one wants to see.

So lets look at the options, they can relegate the large Shi'a population to second class citizens setting off a chain reaction which ends in civil war and Israeli invasion or try to enact a truly democratic system in the country with any group's power equal to the amount of votes they can get in a free and fair election.

For me the answer is easy. Some would rather see civil war than see the Shi'a get fair and equitable representation. Look, I am not a fan of any religious party, Hizb'Allah or otherwise. I am a fan of democracy and the right of people to be fairly represented. Your projections about Hizb'Allah are playing on the boogeyman factor and have no real relationship to the actual power or numbers or either Hizb'Allah or the Shi'a of Lebanon.

You might call Hizb'All criminals, and I am sure some are just as some elements of all political parties in Lebanon are. However, are you contending that ALL Shi'a in Lebanon are criminals?

If not, how can you justify the continued disenfranchisement of an entire group of people? Ignore Hizb'Allah, dont the Shi'a of Lebanon have a right to fair representation?

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 10:23 AM

Marc - Your argument in favor of giving power to Hizb'allah is basically the argument used in favor of giving Hamas power. We need to 'engage' them in the government and the mainstream. How is that working out?

Oh, and the fact that Hizb'allah is a foreign-supported criminal organization - 'everyone else is doing it' doesn't make it right.

Please, don't tell me that the Lebanese should let an illegal, criminal militia run the country because said illegal, criminal militia wants to help the poor and the oppressed. That propaganda was old before the wall fell.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 "called upon Lebanon to establish its sovereignty over all of its land and called upon "foreign forces" (generally interpreted as referring but not limited to Syria) to withdraw from Lebanon and to cease intervening in the internal politics of Lebanon. The resolution also called on all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias to disband and declared support for a "free and fair electoral process"." That resolution is the best solution to Lebanon's problems. However, the UN is not enforcing it. The Lebanese government isn't enforcing it either. Hizb'allah certainly won't enforce it. Of all the players involved, only Jumblatt comes close to promoting any defense of Lebanese sovereignty.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 12:00 PM

Mary,

I thought I was rather clear. I am NOT in favour of giving power to anyone. I am in favour of representative democracy however. Do you think Lebanon should have a government led by people elected in a one person/one vote system or do you agree with the current sectarian set aside system which basically disenfranchises entire groups of voters because the system is tied to a demographic picture which has been outdated for over 20 years?

It is rather easy. Either you support democracy in a one person/one vote system or you support set asides based on outdated sectarian models. Seems clear to me in your blind, almost obsession with Hizb'Allah, you are willing to stand against democracy and support sectarian set asides.

This is all about making sure everyone's vote has the same power. Right now the Shi'a are seriously lacking in this department. You might not like Hizb'Allah, I don't care for them either, but if you support democracy you must support the enfranchisement of all voters equally.

I have said for sometime that it is entire possible that Islamists will have to be in power before their influence can be brought to book. They gain support because they are oppressed, because they are always in eternal opposition.

If they are elected in free and fair elections, so be it. Let them have to rule, let them have to see how hard it is, and let their people see how bankrupt their ideals and answers are. This wont be an overnight process as the Hamas issue in Gaza has show, but in the end the Islamists will loose most, if not all, public support.

Denying entire sects and groups of people equal voting power is not democratic and it actually ADDS to the problems.

I find it interesting how you seem obsessed with certain issues with Hizb'Allah that do not seem to both you with the other groups. The group that fought recently with the Lebanese Army was not Shi'a, they were extremist Sunnis. It is clear that they were funded, at least initially, by some elements within the March 14th movement. There is A LOT of money flowing around various Sunni groups, some of it comes from the Gulf, some of it comes from criminal enterprises.

I abhor all extremist movements equally. I love democracy. I am not willing to cede my love of democracy because some group might gain a short term advantage out of it.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 12:17 PM

Mary,

BTW, I had to shake my head about your Jumblatt statement converning Lebanese sovereignty. I am glad after killing the thousands of men, women and children side by side with the Syrians IN Lebanon that he has finally decided he is no longer willing to butcher his own country's women and children for an outside force.

That is, until he finds another force outside of Lebanon becomes powerful enough, then his forces will go back to killing Lebanese men, women and children like before.

For all of your words about Hizb'Allah it is entirely likely that Jumblatts Druze forces have killed far more Lebanese than Hizb'Allah have.

Seems to me you have little issue with Lebanese dying, it just all depends on who is doing the killing.

Jumblatt is a terrorist with the blood of women and children on his hands. No different than Hizb'Allah.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 12:22 PM

Where do you get the idea that somehow the Shi'a of Lebanon are somehow less free to speak their mind

Let's see: Hezbollah has its own army, its own rules, isn't accountable to anyone but themselves, controls the economy in the areas where their fighters dominate, and murderous arch-torturer Mugniyah is currently Hezbollah's chief of counterintelligence operations, which means stamping out Western/Zionist-leaning tendencies among the populace as well as hiding any activity that may violate UNSC 1559 and 1701. Does that answer your question?

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 12:42 PM

Either you support democracy in a one person/one vote system or you support set asides based on outdated sectarian models. Seems clear to me in your blind, almost obsession with Hizb'Allah, you are willing to stand against democracy and support sectarian set asides.

My support is irrelevant. So is yours. We're not Lebanese. From where I'm standing now, it appears that the majority of Lebanese are not in favor of the one person/one vote system. It's their country.

The United Nations is in favor of the disarmament of Hezbollah. They're also in favor of Lebanese sovereignty.

I also believe that the Lebanese have the right to defend their sovereignty and their government. You don't. I guess we have to agree to disagree.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at February 12, 2008 12:47 PM

Solomon,

Hizb'Allah does not control all Shi'a areas. If you think that you need to go back and take a look at various groups operating within Shi'ite areas of Lebanon.

Besides, Hizb'Allah did not get to the point at which they are with the Shi'ites in Lebanon by violently repressing the rights of the people in their area to speak. I have spoken to a number of Shi'ites in my travels to Lebanon who were more than a bit harsh in their comments in Hizb even Nasrallah and they didnt seem too concerned about what they are saying.

If you can come up with reports of violence or repression against Shi'ites who have voiced negative comments about Hizb'Allah I might think you have a point, but you cannot.

So no, you answer is moot.

Mary,

I guess you do not believe in democracy, so yes, we differ.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 6:23 AM

Marc:

Mugniyah's dead, so much of my answer is moot. Nevertheless, I hold that the Shia consider Hezbollah a bitter pill that they swallowed because it was coated in honey, one they wish they could expel if only they could relieve themselves of their affliction.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 8:09 AM

folks,

marc appears to be a multiculti who projects western culture on the middle east. these are a dime a dozen these days, think they know the ME but in fact they are naive and gullible at best, useful idiots at worst.

engaging them is a waste of time. they are impervious to any evidence that defies the dogma.

fp
http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

Posted by: fp Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 9:16 AM

if hezb were a purely lebanese element fighting for proper political representation in a democratic lebanon, period, than the notion of one man/one vote would make sense.

but it is not. it is a creation of iran, supported by syria, based on islamist supremacy and a cult of death and rabidly anti-semitic. based on its past and ideology its likelihood of behaving democratically once they have a political majority is nil.

in these circumstances the other groups in lebanon would have to accept certain oppression under a hezb majority. neither do i envision their disarming after they obtain majority, because that's the way they would protect and enforce their power.

fp
http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

Posted by: fp Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 9:27 AM

Solomon,

You base your opinion on what? Have you ever been to Lebanon? If so, you have had lengthy conversations with a large sample of Shi'ites?

If not, what do you base your opinion on? A book you read? Hizb'Allah wouldnt get the fanatical support they do from a large segment of the Shi'a population if they were a "bitter pill".

As for Mugniyah, why is it that some people feel the need to hold onto any boogeyman, no matter their role in CURRENT events?

Mugniyah had about as much of a role in day to day activities as bin Laden does. Which means he had no role in what is currently happening. He was a big fish in the 1980s, but hasn't been much in the last decade or more.

Did someone serve him with some well deserved payback? Sure, but will it change anything on the ground in Lebanon, no way. Beside, had you even heard of him before today's bombing?

If anything it will heighten tensions between Shi'a and Druze as the only one that has mentioned Mugniyah recently is Jumblatt, and after his call for the US to send carbombs to Damascus there are many that are sure to see his hand in this.

However Jumblatt is incompetant at doing anything besides killing women and children so I suspect the Israelis or even American involvment. Maybe even the Syrians did it. The area is known for supposed allies trading in each other for what they see as a strategic gain.

FP,

Nice of you to go on the personal attack. However, I have spent years in the Middle East, I speak Arabic and have a lot of knowledge in the area.

Instead of engaging in personal attacks why not add something new to the discussion?

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 10:02 AM

Marc: If you can come up with reports of violence or repression against Shi'ites who have voiced negative comments about Hizb'Allah I might think you have a point, but you cannot.

I know several Lebanese Shias who say they only felt free to openly criticize Hezbollah after they moved to neighborhoods outside Hezbollah's control. Also, the moderate cleric Mohammad Ali Al Husseini, whom I interviewed, said he gets death threats from Iran for criticizing Hezbollah on television.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 10:07 AM

marc,

knowledge is nothing if you have no competence for its interpretation to understand it. spending time in the ME is fine and dandy (i myself lived there for 18 years) but it does not guarantee judgment and critical skills.

it may come as a shock to you, but my description of you is an accurate inference from your pronouncements, not an ad-hominem. if you think the inference in incorrect, demonstrate it.

there is hardly much new to add -- it is quite clear what hizb is all about and i added it. all your knowledge of arabic won't obscure the fact that you have no clue what the jihadists are all about.

fp
http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

Posted by: fp Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 10:19 AM

mike,

i suggest the following: next time marc is in lebanon, he should try to go around criticizing hizb publicly to the point he gets attention and let's see what happens.

fp
http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

Posted by: fp Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 10:24 AM

I know Shi'a who openly criticised Hizb'Allah in public with me present. A couple had been associated with Amal before but the others were not associated with anyone.

Interesting that Husseini's threats come from outside Lebanon. Do you not think if Hizb'Allah wanted to silence critics they could?

Again, if anyone has reports of a campaign to silence critics I'd love to see it. It is not my personal experience in the area. I can read Arabic, French and German so any articles from news sources in those languages would be appreciated.

It is one thing to not feel comfortable in your criticisms, I often feel uncomfortable when I express my views in company that I know will not be open to my point of views, it is another thing to be killed or assaulted for your viewpoints.

I have not heard anything of such attempts in Lebanon. I am good friends with a Shi'ite from South Lebanon, a heavily Hizb'Allah area, and he is often critical of Hizb and has never express anything like this.

Look, I don't care for Hizb'Allah and I think I have made that clear. However, much of what passes for standard "truth" about the group in the West is based on nothing more than misinformation and ignorance. There seems to be a lot of personal animus by some here towards Hizb'Allah and other groups. Whilst I can understand that it does little to help foster an accurate and academic look at the situation and instead breeds hyperbole.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 10:28 AM

Again, if anyone has reports of a campaign to silence critics I'd love to see it. It is not my personal experience in the area. I can read Arabic, French and German so any articles from news sources in those languages would be appreciated.

I think you've been spending too much time studying languages and too little reading actual news. For more about the campaign to silence critics of the Hizb'allah/Syrian/Iranian crowd, just google lebanon car bomb.

Or, if you insist on showing off your language skills, search for "Gibran Tueni durch Autobombe ermordet" or "On a essayé May Chidiac tuer avec une bombe dans sa voiture"

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 10:48 AM

fp: i suggest the following: next time marc is in lebanon, he should try to go around criticizing hizb publicly to the point he gets attention and let's see what happens.

I do it all the time, as do almost all my friends who live there.

It's worse than Marc thinks it is, but not as bad as you think it is. Outside Hezbollah-controlled territory, loudly criticizing them is a national pasttime.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 11:08 AM

Marc: Interesting that Husseini's threats come from outside Lebanon. Do you not think if Hizb'Allah wanted to silence critics they could?

He is a sayyed and outranks Hassan Nasrallah. Killing him would trigger massive blowback from Lebanese Shias. They do not dare.

He was my guide in the blitzed dahiyeh and kept Hezbollah from harrassing me while I took pictures without permission.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 11:11 AM

mike,

well then i suggest the level/effectiveness of criticism must be sufficient to be considered by hizb risky/dangerous and thus worthy of a reaction.
i suspect that neither you, nor marc, nor in fact some lebanese on the street reach that level.

Note that when your cleric did it -- on TV and because of his religious standing -- he received death threats.

and you already know my position on generalizing from anecdotal personal evidence, which is essentially what you and marc rely on. not that such evidence means nothing, but it is not sufficient without systematic context knowledge (culture, religion, politics, ideologies, etc.)

Posted by: fp Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 11:18 AM

note also that when jumblatt started to talk about standing up to hizb they promised missiles to his bedroom.

Posted by: fp Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 11:20 AM

Solomon, You base your opinion on what? Have you ever been to Lebanon?

No, I base most of my opinion from my interpretation of what I read on MJT's blog. I consider doing so the next best thing to being there.

Mugniyah had about as much of a role in day to day activities as bin Laden does.

Marc, I didn't realize you were such an expert on Hezbollah's operations.

had you even heard of him before today's bombing?

Sure, I wrote the note about him before his death was announced. What about you, Marc?

after [Jumblatt's] call for the US to send carbombs to Damascus there are many that are sure to see his hand in this.

I think you're being a little too hopeful, here.

I know Shi'a who openly criticised Hizb'Allah in public with me present.

I didn't write that Shi'a couldn't criticize Hiz at all, only that there are limits to what they can criticize. After Stalin was gone, the Soviets allowed criticism of bureaucrats in their press; they didn't allow criticism of the system so its oppression still remained.

if anyone has reports of a campaign to silence critics I'd love to see it...It is one thing to not feel comfortable in your criticisms...it is another thing to be killed or assaulted for your viewpoints. I have not heard anything of such attempts in Lebanon.

You won't find "reports" of Sejanus' campaign to silence criticism either, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Have you ever read a book written by a man after he drowned? If the Gulag Archipelago hadn't been smuggled out of the U.S.S.R., would we know of Stalin's crimes today?

much of what passes for standard “truth” about the group in the West is based on nothing more than misinformation and ignorance...it does little to help foster an accurate and academic look -

Aha! There you have a problem, for when evidence is destroyed or lost, the "academic look" must necessarily be skewed if (as usual) it only relies on what can be documented for source material. It is indeed a bitter paradox of the intellectual that truth exists beyond what can be found in a library or interview, so the quest for academic rigor must necessarily be flawed.

The Russians, who burn their secret police and bureaucratic records and thus starve themselves of facts, approach this dilemma by substituting literature for history. For us Westerners, who suffer from too many facts and outright falsehoods, I look to blogs to get the "feel" of things and create corrective lenses to see the world more accurately. The effect is much the same.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 11:25 AM

fp: and you already know my position on generalizing from anecdotal personal evidence, which is essentially what you and marc rely on. not that such evidence means nothing, but it is not sufficient without systematic context knowledge (culture, religion, politics, ideologies, etc.)

You need to dial down the arrogance. Both Marc and I have extensive knowledge of the culture, religion, politics, and ideologies. The fact that you, he, and I have differing views doesn't change that.

Yours isn't the only informed view, and you need to understand that. Yours is, however, the more inflexible view. No doubt you'll say it's because you know more than we do.

I don't rely on anecdotal evidence. I report the information I acquire personally. That's what reporters do. I also read, you know. It's just silly to quote books instead of report what I've seen with my own eyes. If all I wanted to do was quote books, I wouldn't need to leave Oregon.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 11:26 AM

heh, heh,

for all his knowledge of the ME marc could not figure out why hizb did not get rid of the sayyed.

these multiculti projectors are so predictable, it's pathetic.

fp
http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

Posted by: fp Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 11:53 AM

Knock off the attitude, fp. You're being a dick.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 12:11 PM

mike,

MJT>I don't rely on anecdotal evidence. I report the information I acquire personally. That's what reporters do. I also read, you know. It's just silly to quote books instead of report what I've seen with my own eyes. If all I wanted to do was quote books, I wouldn't need to leave Oregon.

you are conflating knowledge with understanding. and we probably have different definitions of and perspectives on knowledge. there are different types and qualities of knowledge.

you are a young journalist. that's one type of perspective and knowledge. you and marc are americans. that's another cultural perspective and approach to knowledge of which, having not been trained in the methodology of social science, you may not see the influence of.

"information you acquire personally" the way you acquire it IS anecdotal. it is neither randomly, nor systematically selected and it always has an angle, even if you are not aware of it. it's "your own eyes" that lure you into a false sense of generality and objectivity, as it does anybody without adequately trained eyes.

it is not books per se. it is what kind of books and by whom. both those and your kind of information are useful, but they should not be equated or confused. what is more, both must be INTERPRETED, ASSESSED for accuracy, meaning, saliency, significance, etc. Which requires reasoning ability and awareness of one's own filtering tendency.

after all, what the MSM channels is no less seen "with their own eyes", and yet it is not difficult to interpret as channeled arab propaganda.

Posted by: fp Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 12:14 PM

uhuh.

and i thought ad-hominem was not a good thing.
or is it allowed only selectively?

Posted by: fp Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 12:15 PM

fp: or is it allowed only selectively?

This is my site, and I'm the moderator. I'm telling you to dial down the arrogance. You need to do it right now, and this is not a request. I'm sick of your know-it-all superior attitude. I doubt anyone here wants to read more of it.

One way or another, no one here will have to read any more of it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 12:21 PM

Thanks for the response to "fp" Michael. He makes a lot of assumptions. Yes, I speak Arabic, yes I have spent a lot of time in the area. How does that then translate into not being able to understand the context in which these things happen?

I would say living in the Middle East and speaking Arabic would give one a bit of knowledge about the culture, religion, politics and ideologies of the area. As my original undergrad program was Middle Eastern Histories before I decided to go with EE I would say I have a bit of practical real life experience in the area as well as more than a few credit hours in classes dealing with exactly what "fp" said I do not understand.

I guess the difference between someone like "fp" and Michael and myself would be that although I might disagree with his analysis of what he has seen, I would not attack his ability to be able to discuss the subject from a knowledgeable standpoint.

As to walking around Hizb areas, I have done that and I wear my opinions on my sleeve. I am sure Hizb'Allah was aware of my stays in their areas. I don’t think much happens there that they don’t know about. I will admit I haven't spent as much time in Shi'a areas of Lebanon as I would have liked and will probably fix that next time I am in the area. My interest in the past didn’t center around Shi'ite communities but that has changed in the last five years or so. My experience with Shi'a are almost exclusively in Lebanon and Zaidi communities in Yemen.

Solomon,

You cannot make an accurate judgment about a situation by reading on person's blog. Michael does a great job, but it is nothing like actually being there. Even the best writer cannot transmit the totality of their experiences with words. There is no replacement for first hand knowledge.

I do not claim to be an expert on Hizb'Allah operations but I can tell you what I get from talking to Shi'ites I know in Lebanon along with articles books and other information as well as talking to some academics I know who are experts on Hizb'Allah. Mugniyah was nothing more than an icon, his worth as an operational figure was minimal. Of course there is pay dirt in killing someone with such a reputation it does little or nothing to the operational capabilities of Hizb.

As to writing about Mugniyah before the bombing, as a matter of fact I did a paper on him in the 90's. If I can dig it up I'll send it to you if you are interested. If you are talking about on the internet, as I don’t have a blog or my own website the answer would have to be no.

Jumblatt indeed has talked about Mugniyah recently and also called for US car bombs in Damascus. Again, I don’t think either him nor the people who work for him are capable of this, but given the conspiracy laden nature of Middle Eastern society it will indeed fuel tensions.

Most of the rest of your posts was really just a jumble of useless comparisons to Russia and other places an does not need to be addressed.

When talking about sending missiles into Jumblatts house I guess we could also attribute that to the fathers of the children his troops massacred in the Chouf. These are not crazy eyed "Mozzies" these are Maronite Christians.

Mary,

As to car bombs, I am not nearly as decided about who is responsible for the car bombs and other bombings as some are. Look at Pierre Gemayel, his death has been automatically attributed to Hizb'Allah/pro Syrian forces, but if you look at the history of the Lebanese civil war there would be a line of people from Beirut to Tripoli of people who would have liked to have kill him. I know what I read in the Arab press and the Western press but much of it is nonsense and based more on ignorant assumptions and not much knowledge of what is going on on the streets. More often than not Arab and Western press are fingering those who are currently in their crosshairs. It has more to do with propaganda and agendas than it does with cold hard facts.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 12:21 PM

solomon,

quite right.

this is, however, a good point to mention that the western academia today is filled with what i call politicians who couldn't cut it in the political system. they are political activists, and would not know the scientific method if it fell on them. the academia is also infiltrated by arabist, either frustrated leftists or funded by rich arabs.

so while you are correct about biases due to source availability, that is not as huge a problem as the collapse of academia.

Posted by: fp Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 12:23 PM

marc,

just because you got through a academic ME undergraduate program and learned arabic and know a few things about the ME does not automatically mean that you have a systematic, objective UNDERSTANDING of the middle east. the sayyed example was an excellent demonstration of that. In fact, I would bet that the academic program was both superficial and probably biased. I know what's happening in US academia because i spent 15 years in it and i have been following it from the outside too.

there are two major problems in the west: (1) it produces people who are SCHOOLED but not EDUCATED; big difference of which part. americans are not aware of (2) they project their own culture on other cultures ("they are all like us", "they want democracy and human rights", etc.) as a consequence the west is conducting internal and external policies which are counterproductive and suicidal. they support and embolden the islamic supremacists which see the west as ignorant, weak and, therefore, ripe for islamization, either via jihad or demographically/politically.

and you fall just into that.

Posted by: fp Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 12:33 PM

it is indeed, your site and it is your prerogative to do what you want with it. But inconsistency is not exactly a useful quality.

the problem, methinks, is that my "arrogance" -- if I accept your definition, which I don't -- is backed up by evidence and reason. and when those two cannot be countered in the same way, well, then "it's my site, nobody wants to hear you, you're a dick, etc.". Otherwise they would be countered.

Posted by: fp Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 12:44 PM

LOL FP. You did EXACTLY what Michael said you would do. So predictable.

As to your bet about the Middle Eastern program I attended, I wish you had bet, it would have meant a few more bucks in my hand! So predictable again. Coming from a Jewish background care to guess where I attended my Middle Eastern program? Not one that has ever been accused of pro-Arab bias, I'll tell you that.

Anyway, I state from this point that FP is the almighty God of everything Middle Eastern and none of the rest of us have a clue about anything. He has more education and more experience than all of us combined and knows how to put it together in such a comprehensive manner than even Bernard Lewis would be envious.

Happy? }:>)

BTW, 15 years in US academia and they still couldn’t get you to use capital letters at the beginning of sentences? You are a REBEL. Here is a kippah tip for you!

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 12:55 PM

fp: just because you got through a academic ME undergraduate program and learned arabic and know a few things about the ME does not automatically mean that you have a systematic, objective UNDERSTANDING of the middle east.

Ah, but you do because you're so much goddamned smarter than everyone else.

I think you're done here. I'm giving you one more chance, but that's it. Then I'm pulling the plug. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 12:57 PM

Michael does a great job, but it is nothing like actually being there...There is no replacement for first hand knowledge.

I have also been a reporter. Marc, you sound like a Brit, so do you remember some of the Guardian's TV commercials? They had one where they showed a single event from three different perspectives: from the first POV you see a man fleeing, in the next you see him as if he's about to rob someone, and in the third you see him knocking that someone over. Only when you put it all together do you realize the man was running to push someone aside and save him from being squashed by a ton of falling bricks.

There is no substitute for first-hand knowledge, and first-hand knowledge itself may not suffice - yet it may well appear sufficient to the first-hand observer. Police detectives say this demonstrates just how little one can trust an eyewitness compared to forensic evidence.

Mugniyah was nothing more than an icon, his worth as an operational figure was minimal.

M had moved up the ladder from operational terrorist to behind-the-scenes terror master. Now he's an icon.

Most of the rest of your posts was really just a jumble of useless comparisons

I also like to know when I'm barking up the wrong tree. Thank you for your input.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 1:08 PM

As to car bombs, I am not nearly as decided about who is responsible for the car bombs and other bombings as some are. Look at Pierre Gemayel...It has more to do with propaganda and agendas than it does with cold hard facts.

Many, many critics of the Hizb'allah/Iran/Syria crowd were killed by car bombs, but Gemayel was killed by gunmen. So, he wouldn't have been included in the substantial list I mentioned.

It's not propaganda that makes people identify the usual suspects in these cases, it's a similar modus operandi. And, speaking of cold, hard facts and the intimidation of millions via car bomb, we should note that Lebanon's top anti-terrorism investigator, Captain Wissam Eid was killed by a car bomb that fits the Hizb'allah/Iran/Syrian m.o. Someone out there is not a fan of cold, hard facts.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 1:17 PM

marc,

actually it's you who are predictable.

instead of replying to my substantive arguments, you chose to hook to my not using caps. that is indeed the usual pattern: if you can't deal with the substance, take on marginals.

i don't need any more chances here. not worth my time.

Posted by: fp Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 2:00 PM

Beside, had you even heard of [Mugniyah] before today's bombing?

Yes.

However Jumblatt is incompetant at doing anything besides killing women and children so I suspect the Israelis or even American involvment. Maybe even the Syrians did it. The area is known for supposed allies trading in each other for what they see as a strategic gain.

The timing is interesting. Of course, it's easy to read too much into that...

-----

As to writing about Mugniyah before the bombing, as a matter of fact I did a paper on him in the 90's. If I can dig it up I'll send it to you if you are interested.

Dunno about MJT, but I'm interested. Feel free to send it to me @gmail.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 13, 2008 2:58 PM

"i don't need any more chances here. not worth my time"

deja vu

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at February 14, 2008 5:58 AM

Solomon,

I sound like a Brit? You used to be a reporter? I have stated many times here I am American. I did worked for several years in the UK and spent a lot of time otherwise in the UK and Ireland but I am hardly a Brit. I suggest you read for comprehension.

I would say with my academic background and first hand experience I more than have the ability to make good judgments on events in the Middle East. The fact that my judgments often conflicts with what you have read online and in books and other publications should give you a bit of a pause. I am not saying you are not well informed for someone who has no academic background to the issue and no first hand knowledge, what I am saying is that reading books and publications alone is not enough to make a well qualified statement about the events in the Middle East.

I never stated anything different about Mugniyah. He moved up the ranks in the 1980s. Yes, twenty years ago. Like bin Laden, for the last 17 years or more he has been a high profile target for the Israelis and Americans, so he has no real operational significance for sometime. He has been more concerned with staying alive than running anything. The Israelis almost got him sometime back, missed him by a few minutes but whacked his brother instead. He was about as involved in day to day Hizb'Allah operations as bin Laden is in day to day AQI activities, which is to say zero. His role was nothing more than symbolic.

Mary,

I had to sit here and laugh. Since when is a car bomb in Lebanon to be seen as someone's "MO"? Car bombs have been successfully employed by all sides in the conflict. Basically we are at a stage where any bomb that goes off in Lebanon will be blamed on Hizb'Allah/Syria/pro-Syrian elements. As a matter of fact I think every act of violence against a well known person in the "March 14th" camp will be blamed on the same people. So whereas the number of people that wanted to killed the Gemayel were legion, the pro Syrian camp were going to be automatically blamed. Perfect time for the thousands who wanted this man dead to do it. Besides, his shooting death didn’t fit the pro Syrian "MO". LOL, as we all know pro Syrians only bomb people unlike others in Lebanon. Of course a shooting death in Lebanon is an unheard method for assassination.

FP,

You have yet to make one substantive argument. Basically all I have seen from you is your opinion that everyone should be ignored but yourself because you are so superior to everyone else that they could not possibly have a valid opinion.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 14, 2008 6:35 AM

Basically we are at a stage where any bomb that goes off in Lebanon will be blamed on Hizb'Allah/Syria/pro-Syrian elements.

So, you proved my point. This discussion started when you said "Again, if anyone has reports of a campaign to silence critics I'd love to see it." The car bombings are the campaign to silence critics. A car bomb isn't the most precise weapon, but it is an effective way to terrify millions - Christians, Sunnis and Shi'a.

Since when is a car bomb in Lebanon to be seen as someone's “MO”?

The switches, explosive mixture and method of detonation used provide an MO. If you have spent time in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, I'm sure you already know that. Captain Wissam Eid knew a lot about that sort of thing, but, you know, he's not able to discuss it.

So whereas the number of people that wanted to killed the Gemayel were legion, the pro Syrian camp were going to be automatically blamed.

Why do you keep bringing up Gemayel? I never thought he was part of the discussion

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at February 14, 2008 8:03 AM

Mary,

You proven nothing other than people are dying in Lebanon. As that seems to almost be a Lebanese past time it hardly qualifies as any sort of proof of a coordinated campaign to silence anyone.

I am well aware of how explosives work having spent years in the Middle East and Ireland, but I have yet to see any report which ties them directly to any group, either a state or non state actor. Besides, if these MO are so well known by people like you or me then it would be rather easy to use the same materials and methods to shift the blame to others wouldn't it? This sort of dirty trick has been seen from Ireland and UK, to the Middle East and Spain.

Gemayel is certainly part of the discussion. When he was killed the March 14th camp immediately blamed Hizb'Allah and the pro-Syrian camp. This all goes back to the campaign of silence you are claiming exists. Gemayel is a perfect example of someone who had many enemies any of whom could have used this opportunity to kill him. As one Special Branch officer told me in the UK once, there are many people that need to be lined up against the wall and shot. Gemayel got his. Many have debts outstanding from the conflicts and sometimes payment comes due. Mugniyah is one example of someone who had his debts called recently, Gemayel another.

If Wissam Eid had materials and reports into who killed Hariri I am sure they still exist. No one person is needed for an investigation to be completed. If the evidence is as open and shut as some would like everyone to think the case can be presented with or without him. As dangerous as the situation is no one has a lone single copy of any report. Copies of the findings and reports are held in multiple locations exactly so one attack cannot remove said information.

I find the whole thing to be a bit of a farce myself. Jumblatt was on Syrian payrolls and his troops were killing babies side by side with their troops, Rafiq Hariri himself had well known ties to Syria and Syrian intelligence.

Maybe they did whack him, maybe they didn't. The fact is that he worked hand in hand with them for years himself. The list of allegiances that major actors in Lebanon have courted looks almost like a black book for a prostitutes Madame. They are all political/power-whores to one extent or another.

It was Hariri who protected Hizb'Allah members and refused to hand them over and even stated that Hizb'Allah were the only group protecting Lebanon against Israel. So it is clear he was just as much of a power whore as anyone. The attempts by some groups to make him into some sort of Lebanese saint who was only interested in Lebanese sovereignty is a joke.

Don’t take my word for it, see him talking up Syria, Hizb'Allah, blowing off Bush and demanding UN Resolutions against Israel be enacted yourself. Below is a link to the video of the interview.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/hardtalk/4270601.stm

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 14, 2008 8:36 AM

The fact that my judgments often conflicts with what you have read online and in books and other publications should give you a bit of a pause.

It has.

reading books and publications alone is not enough to make a well qualified statement

Yes.

His role was nothing more than symbolic.

I have no proof, but I do doubt that. I'd only go as far as thinking that he was inactive - the mullahs were holding him and the network he controls in reserve. With him gone, at the very least the ability to competently plan new attacks in reduced, and of course every terror operative in Syria now must realize that they may not be immune after all. Furthermore, in my eyes and those of most of the world, Muggie deserved to be killed for the past crimes he had committed.

The world may indeed have to endure "retaliation" attempts. As the fingers of terror reach to the Americas, it is even conceivable that I and my family may pay the price. I have no wish to die, yet I have little wish to live in a shadowed world where justice for great criminals is infinitely delayed while the evil they have spread takes root and grows. May Imad Mughniyeh rot in hell and may those who continue to follow his lead live in fear and meet a just fate - the sooner the better. For those of his followers who wish to change, I pray they can find a route open to them.

And to his family and friends I say, "As good a man as he was to you, he was far worse to many, many others, for he did not want others to live in the same peace as you, but to make them suffer and die for his profit. Although you benefited from his largesse, your souls are your own, and you can recognize the error of his ways and choose a different path in life. If not, you have yourselves - not those who carried out justice upon the departed - to blame for the consequences."

This is the Western way: the rule of law yet not rule by law, rather than the law of the tribe over all others. They need not be in utter conflict, yet their resolution is the problem of today.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at February 14, 2008 8:43 AM

Solomon,

Do you think that the "mullahs" really have day to day control over the military units in Hizb'Allah? If so, can you name for many any member of Hizb'Allah with background of an educated religious scholar (mullah) who has made a name for themselves based on their activities with the military wing of Hizb'Allah? I am no expect on Hizb'Allah, but I have never heard anything about such a person. Of course Nasrallah and the people below him make the big decisions, but it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that a man who is a top target for the Israelis and Americans would probably have to be retired and removed the any sort of chain of command. Do you think that the "mullahs" could just hope to let the guy sit around for a few years and that the Israelis and Americans would forget about him? Take a look at the current pictures of the guy, he had grown old and more than a bit fat.

The networks that he controlled in the 1980s and early 1990s have long ago been passed onto someone else who is in control of them. For them to be remain as static as Mugniyah has would mean they would have deteriorated to nothing. The performance of Hizb'Allah against Israel recently has show that far from deteriorating, they advanced father than even Israeli military intelligence thought.

As for being killed for the previous crimes he committed, I agree, and would add that using such criteria there are many on all sides of the conflict that deserve the same fate, including many members of the current Lebanese and Israeli establishments. Everyone pays for what they have done. Sometimes it is payment delayed, sometimes God sorts it out, but it is all paid back with interest in the end.

Hizb'Allah may strike out. I wont get into grand statements like you did about evil and the like. My American government is working with men in the Lebanese government who have the blood of innocent men, women and children on their hands. So talking about evil, criminals and the like would seem a bit over the top when my own government is working with people who have killed more than their share of innocents. Yes, continue to bang on about people rotting in hell as people like Jumblatt visit DC and sit and discuss matters with President Bush. Yes, the butcher of the Chouf, a man with the blood of women and children on his hands was entertained by our President. I find it odd how someone can condemn someone like Mugniyah and at the same time not have words for someone like Jumblatt. They are both cold blooded murderers with the blood of innocents on their hands. It would seem that to many the blood of innocents doesn’t matter as long as you are now our "friend".

Honestly Solomon, your post sounded like a sermon. Like most sermons it was self serving and hypocritical. Until you can blast our leaders for sitting two feet from Jumblatt you have nothing to say worth hearing about Mugniyah.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 14, 2008 9:56 AM

Here's what Tony Badran says, who knows more about this than any of us:

Hezbollah's head of special overseas operations Imad Mughniyeh was killed in a car bomb in Damascus yesterday.

This is a major blow to Iran, Hezbollah and Syria.

Mughniyeh's record is quite illustrious, and the blood on his hands is extensive, from the terror operations against the US and hostage taking in Lebanon in the 80s to the attacks in Argentina in 1992 and 1994 to the attack on the Khobar Towers in 1996, all the way to his involvement in Iraq in recent years (the Quds Force also had ties to Zarqawi, who was nailed by the US while hiding in a Quds Force safehouse).

To say that Mughniyeh was an Iranian asset is to understate his relationship with the Iranians. He was much more than an asset. He was an organic part of the Iranian regime, with direct access to Khamenei. Just like Hezbollah is itself an organic extension of the Islamic Revolution -- an Iranian ministry as one Iranian analyst told me -- Mughniyeh is like one step above that, according to some analysts.

As such, this is a big loss for the Iranians and Hezbollah. It was perhaps best encapsulated in the statement by Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, who declared that "the march of Jihad against the enemy has lost an essential pillar." Operationally, this adds to the losses suffered by Hezbollah in 2006, which, unlike stockpiles of Katyushas, is much more difficult to replace.

But it's also a huge embarrassment for Syria. As Michael Rubin noted at NRO's Corner, "as important as who was killed is where." Not that we needed this, or Mughniyeh's aunt Fayza for that matter, to know that Damascus is terror central.

Coming a few months after the Sept. 6 hit on their nuclear facility in Deir el-Zor, this hit on a most-wanted terrorist, harbored in a joint Iranian-Syrian location in the heart of Damascus is a major embarrassment for Assad. Regardless who did it, it reflects quite badly on Assad, not long after his secret nuke facility was pulverized. Speculation over who did it only adds to the embarrassment no matter how you cut it, and whether Israel did it or not, the suspicion that it did would once again make a mockery of Assad's and Hezbollah's proclamations regarding the "loss of deterrence" after the 2006 war.

Yet there's always room for idiocy, like the following gem of an "analysis" by the clueless Paul Salem, and his perennial obsession with the "deal" rubbish:

``It's a big blow and very significant blow no matter who did it,'' Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, said in a telephone interview from Beirut.

``This was done in Damascus,'' he said, adding that, if the Hezbollah commander was killed by Syria, ``then it's enormously significant and, if not, then who was able to penetrate Damascus so coolly and comfortably?''

Syrian Deal?

Mughniyeh was a hard target and his killing could be part of a deal between the U.S. and Syria, Salem said. ``He was one of the figures that was always asked for by name by the U.S. If, and it's a big if, it's part of a Syrian agenda, it means that the U.S. and Syria must be making progress and there is some deal-making on Lebanon."

Mmmm, yes... Deep. And it makes perfect sense too. A top Iranian commander, near an Iranian facility in Damascus probably crawling with IRGC personnel, was taken out by the Syrians, in Damascus (I repeat), presumably without informing the Iranians, and of course not paying any attention for the embarrassing fallout of having a hit go down in "a security area in close proximity to an Iranian school and the offices of the Syrian intelligence services and military intelligence unit," in return for... "progress" in the "deal-making" between the US and Syria on Lebanon! Such penetrating analysis. Such acumen. Such a well thought-out, careful observation. It's perhaps only rivaled by this nonsense from Duane Clarridge -- who, I might add, has been out of the loop for years, and clearly doesn't know what he's talking about here. But to be fair to Clarridge, the quote by one Ted Karasik of the Rand Corp might surpass it in the category of astounding idiocy.

But enough with nonsense.

The Syrians, exactly like they did after the hit on the nuke site in Deir el-Zor, issued an unofficial official response through their proxy, the PFLP-GC, whose Anwar Raja declared that the assassination of Mughniyeh "crossed all red lines, and it is an act of aggression against the sovereignty of an Arab state, and has political and security fallouts."

And this brings us to the issue of what the retaliation might be. Syria was exposed after the strike against the nuke site and neither it nor its proxies (the outrage of the PFLP-GC at the time notwithstanding) were able to mount a retaliation, further exposing Syria's weakness.

Expectations are different now, it would seem. The Hezbollah reaction that it reserves the right to retaliate "anywhere" might be an early hint of operations abroad. But this too will have repercussions against Hezbollah and Iran for that matter.

This becomes an interesting issue because of the constraints on Hezbollah in south Lebanon, and whether Hezbollah wants to risk the consequences of its breaking the 1701 security regime in the south.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 14, 2008 10:06 AM

You proven nothing other than people are dying in Lebanon. As that seems to almost be a Lebanese past time it hardly qualifies as any sort of proof of a coordinated campaign to silence anyone.

You proved that people are being terrorized when you said "Basically we are at a stage where any bomb that goes off in Lebanon will be blamed on Hizb'Allah/Syria/pro-Syrian elements" .

It doesn't even matter who assembled and detonated the bombs. If people believe that Hizb'allah was responsible, and if Hizb'allah lets them believe they were responsible, then that is part of a campaign to silence critics.

I am well aware of how explosives work having spent years in the Middle East and Ireland, but I have yet to see any report which ties them directly to any group, either a state or non state actor.

Accroding to Serge Brammertz in a report to the UN Security Council, there are direct ties to Hariri's murder and to the killing of 17 politicians and journalists known for their anti-Syrian views. Apparently you didn't notice this, which is kind of strange, since you spend so much time in the area.

... if these MO are so well known by people like you or me then it would be rather easy to use the same materials and methods to shift the blame to others wouldn't it?

That depends on the skill level of the people involved. For instance, Sheik Yassin was obviously killed by Israel, using a weapon that requires considerable technical training and skill to assemble and aim. Hizb'allah and Hamas often blow themselves up with their own weapons, their aim is terrible and their technical ability is laugable. They couldn't imitate Israel's m.o.

Gemayel is certainly part of the discussion.

Well, he's not part of my discussion. The skill level required to shoot someone in the street is awfully low - you're right, anyone could have done it. I was just discussing the terrorist tactic of intimidating people with the car bombs, and Gemayel wasn't killed by a car bomb.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at February 14, 2008 10:21 AM

Dear Micheal,

As you are so experienced in things Lebanese, with things heating up again, would you mind giving us some links to the stuff you are using to stay current?

Great work. Thank you.

Posted by: OregonGuy Author Profile Page at February 14, 2008 11:00 AM

Sometimes it is hard to believe that one reads. Mary has now informed us that even if Hizb'Allah and the pro-Syrian camp did not kill the people and detonate the bombs and someone else, possibly their enemies did, that they are still working a campaign to silence critics. Yes, you read it right, even if they didn’t do it they are still to blame. I guess one could take a look at the dirty tricks campaigns mounted in Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s and similar campaigns mounted against the Basque in Spain. Hizb'Allah has said it didn’t kill these people so unless there is proof out there otherwise, that is that.

Slap me if I am silly but the only people to blame for setting off bombs and killing people are the people detonating the bombs and the people shooting people. One cannot be an active participant in a campaign if they are not active. Makes since eh?

Of the 17 politicians and journalists killed they all had current anti Syrian viewpoints, where as many of them had previously worked together with the Syrians, in some cases hand in hand with the Syrian intelligence. Some of them had long and terrible histories in the civil war and some of them were known for outright sectarian interests. I think if one tried hard enough you could tie every politician/warlord in Lebanon together in one way or another.

Seems to me if the case is so airtight why has it been presented anywhere? The Brammertz report said Syria MAY have been involved in some or all of the deaths. MAY is not very damning. If they have the proof to make their case, let them do so.

Contrary to your over blown respect for Israelis ability to go at it with the terrorists, they have made some pretty high profile mistakes themselves. They wouldn’t have had to kill Sheik Yassin if two of their Mossad agents hadn't gotten caught trying to poison Khaled Mashal in Jordon, nor have they been unknown to mistakenly bomb and shoot the wrong people. A poor Moroccan guy in Europe comes to mind.

But you miss the point again. If the MO of the operators in the area are so well known then it wouldn’t have been too hard for someone else to do the bombings then would it?

Gemayel isn't part of your discussion, of course it isn't, because his killing when grouped with the other killings doesn’t necessarily lead to the conclusion you desire, therefore it has no part in your discussion.

As to Michael's post, whilst Tony certainly does know more than either of us it doesn’t mean I agree with his assessment. That is how it is when people knowledgeable about a situation can look at the same set of circumstances and facts and come up with two different conclusions.

Mughniya's role in current events is completely over blown. The rejoicing at his death and the over emphasis of his current role is another in a long list of "big fish" killed that have been not so big and whose death has had little or no impact in the conflicts they were involved in. Although Mughniya was much more than al Zarqawi, his death comes to mind. Everyone insisted his death would be the turning point in the war against AQI. Of course it was nothing of the sort.

Mughniya's death will have little or no impact on the operational capabilities of Hizb'Allah. I maintain this whether Hizb'Allah decides to retaliate immediately or not. So often it seems people are looking for things to happen in a short time frame, but that isn't how people and groups like this think. Hamas might lob a few lame rockets into Israel, Hizb'Allah is of a different calibre. I would not be one bit surprised if Hizb'Allah sets off a "spectacular" as they used to call it in Ireland, 5 years down the road and we see a nice announcement of the attack on al Manar dedicating it to Mugniyah. If and when that happens we'll see if Israel can do any better against them than they did the last time. After all, since Mughniyah is gone Hizb'Allah should be as easy to take as the local girl scout troop right?

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 14, 2008 11:41 AM

BTW,

For an article that sums up why the current strategy meant to counter Iran and the "Shi'ite" threat is going to fail check out the link below:

http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20080101faessay87106/vali-nasr-ray-takeyh/the-costs-of-containing-iran.html

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 14, 2008 11:50 AM

So often it seems people are looking for things to happen in a short time frame, but that isn't how people and groups like this think. Hamas might lob a few lame rockets into Israel, Hizb'Allah is of a different calibre. I would not be one bit surprised if Hizb'Allah sets off a “spectacular” as they used to call it in Ireland, 5 years down the road and we see a nice announcement of the attack on al Manar dedicating it to Mugniyah. If and when that happens we'll see if Israel can do any better against them than they did the last time.

A spectacular like the killing of Lord Mountbatten in Sligo combined with the ambush of British soldiers at Carlingford? I guess it's no surprise that the Syrians may have been involved in that too.

But it's not clear if Hizb'allah could coordinate something like that. They can throw a few dumb missiles around, dig underground bunkers and intimidate people, but I can't see them doing a 'spectacular' or even a hunger strike. They've only won wars so far because no one really wants to fight. When they have to fight someone who isn't interested in "limited' war, we may find out that Hizb'allah really is (comparatively) a bunch of girl scouts.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at February 14, 2008 12:15 PM

i>Do you think that the “mullahs” really have day to day control over the military units in Hizb'Allah?

No. Why would they need to? All they need is to have Hizb'Allah available when called for.

it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that a man who is a top target for the Israelis and Americans would probably have to be retired and removed the any sort of chain of command.

I do not realise that. Actually, I think that line of thinking is rather foolish. You mean all the Israelis and Americans have to do is declare a wanted terrorist a target and he'll retire immediately?

Do you think that the “mullahs” could just hope to let the guy sit around for a few years and that the Israelis and Americans would forget about him?

Forget, no. Lose track of, yes.

look at the current pictures of the guy, he had grown old and more than a bit fat.

Marc, don't you think you're being a little prejudiced here? Old and fat people can be terrorists too. And just because they are old doesn't mean justice should be denied them.

The networks that he controlled in the 1980s and early 1990s have long ago been passed onto someone else who is in control of them.

I don't know. Even if true, he would be treated as a valuable senior resource for planning further attacks.

I agree, and would add that using such criteria there are many on all sides of the conflict that deserve the same fate, including many members of the current Lebanese and Israeli establishments.

No, not everybody in war is a criminal, nor is every killing a crime; soldiers are not criminals unless they violate the rules of war. As for the leaders, not everybody wants to keep warring and killing rather than seek peaceful alternatives. Certainly it looks like the leaders of March 14th have resolved many of the differences that previously divided them. The Israelis would rather not kill anybody if they could possibly help it and stay alive. Mughniyeh was a criminal and not a soldier under international law from the very start and he wanted to murder and seek no peaceful alternatives.

My American government is working with men in the Lebanese government who have the blood of innocent men, women and children on their hands.

Yes, these Lebanese found their way out of the evil path - for the moment. Their souls are still in peril, however.

So talking about evil, criminals and the like would seem a bit over the top when my own government is working with people who have killed more than their share of innocents.

Sometimes you can't judge by absolutes, but you can know what is right by making less evil choices. Just as many of the Iraqi policemen of today were insurgents a short year ago, so too the sectarian killers of yesteryear may have chosen to build rather than kill and destroy today. Justice must be tempered with mercy, and mercy is best applied to those who have learned their lessons.

I find it odd how someone can condemn someone like Mugniyah and at the same time not have words for someone like Jumblatt.

The Lebanese civil war was brutal. So was the American. Both Union and Confederacy made peace at Appomattox - guerilla war was an alternative that Lee consciously rejected. Lee finished his days as leader of a college, not an insurgency. Most Lebanese leaders have sought to restore peace since 1990.

True, Jumblatt talks democracy in Washington and war when in Lebanon. But I cannot find it in me to compare Muggie and Jummie together, for that would mean rejecting not just the context of their deeds but the ends they seek today: Jumblatt survival, Mughniyeh conquest. Why would you think differently?

Like most sermons it was self serving -

Oooh! Another way to put it is that I'm living what I preach.

- and hypocritical. Until you can blast our leaders for sitting two feet from Jumblatt you have nothing to say worth hearing about Mugniyah.

Hypocritical? As in "double standard"? No. Deeds are judged in the context of their events. If I'm surrounded by five men who want to murder me because they don't like my clothes, am I in the wrong if, in defending myself, I kill them all? I don't think so.

Did you know, Marc, that during the thirties when Winston Churchill earned his bread writing newspaper commentary he had the opportunity to interview Adolf Hitler and refused? The reasons why are (1) he didn't see the need to, he knew what Hitler was, and (2) he couldn't see that anything good would come of it: either he would agree with his host and betray England's ideals, or he would disagree with his host and cause an international incident. And indeed those Englishmen who "negotiated" with Hitler first-hand were invariably dirtied by the experience, cowed or entranced and then their hopes betrayed.

Churchill had a lot of blood on his hands. He is to blame for a number of things that turned out badly in the twentieth century. But he was not a man of infinite evil as Hitler and Mughniyeh were. Sometimes even the angels need a terrible swift sword. I cannot judge that Jumblatt is worthy of the same fate as Mughniyeh for much the same reason I can't judge Churchill to be worthy of the same fate as Hitler.

I wont get into grand statements like you did about evil and the like.

Indeed. That you can't see the difference between J and M and the reason why President Bush was willing to sit with the former and not the latter perhaps says more about you than it does about me. But that doesn't necessarily take anything away from the value of your reporting. I don't suppose you want to speak to me anymore, so have a nice day!

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at February 14, 2008 12:29 PM

Mary,

I wonder how much you know about Hizb'Allah when you question their ability to do "spectaculars"? That is EXACTLY what they are known for. Many seasoned terrorism experts will tell you that Hizb'Allah is MUCH more dangerous on all levels than AQ. I would agree. They made their name with spectaculars and that is how they have kept their name.

As for the Syrians being involved in the Mountbatten killing, I just have to laugh. Not only do they get blamed for everyone killed in Lebanon today they get blamed for killing OAPs in Ireland in 1979. Brilliant!

Solomon,

Thanks for the levity. It makes for a light mood on the Friday before a long weekend. You have done a small bit of reading, but I think you have a tendency to read what reinforces your views. This is not uncommon for many of the people who claim to be knowledgeable about the Middle East since 9/11. They read some books that confirm their already well held opinions. They don’t know any languages of the area, they have spent little or no time in the area, but are more than happy to lend you a half baked rehash of a Robert Spencer or Emerson and probably have books like "The Arab Mind" by Patai memorised.

This is what bothers me so much about the current discourse on the Middle East, Islam and contemporary politics of the region. You get self professed experts on the subjects preaching to us everyday in the mainstream media, but when it comes down to it they have absolutely no basis to be speaking at all. Often their "expertise" extends no further than their own reading lists. This whilst the REAL experts are ridiculed and ignored.

I remember the good old days of the Cold War when experts on the Soviet Union spoke one or more languages of the region fluently, had an academic background on the subject and spent a lot of time in the area, sometimes years. Can you imagine someone back then trying to call themselves an expert on the Soviet Union but they didn’t speak Russian or any other Soviet Block language? Can you imagine someone trying to pass themselves off as an expert on France who didn’t speak French, an expert on Germany who didn’t speak German? They'd have been laughed out of any forum they tried to attend.

Why do we expect so little from our self professed experts on the Middle East and Islam and why do they get so much airtime? It is insane and has led to a drastic dumbing down of the average Westerners knowledge about the issues at hand.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 15, 2008 5:20 AM

You have done a small bit of reading, but I think you have a tendency to read what reinforces your views.

I don't consider that tendency a big problem. Rather, it is a tendency to ignore facts that contradict the frame through which one views events that I try to guard against.

They don’t know any languages of the area...This is what bothers me so much about the current discourse on the Middle East, Islam and contemporary politics of the region.

I know the kind of frustration you're writing about. I was so proud of my accomplishments after taking two summer courses in German! I went to Borders, purchased a copy of Der Spiegel, and opened it at random. The ad on the page read something like, "Verbessern Sie Ihre beruflichen Fähigkeiten, die Praxis Englisch"!

I speak English, but I would never pass myself off as an expert on the politics of London or Kent, even though I've been to those places. I know more about the local politics of Beirut than of Middlesex.

Can you imagine someone back then trying to call themselves an expert on the Soviet Union but they didn’t speak Russian

The Russian-speaking diplomats and kids I knew in the 70s and 80s totally missed the coming disintegration of the USSR.

Knowing languages isn't as necessary as knowing how people think (and current topics, of course). Some of that is shaped by the language, but that is a matter of linguistics, not fluency. I consider it quite possible to pick up the basics second-hand; one can intellectually appreciate the impact of Voltaire's work in translation even though one can't enjoy it fully unless you read the original French and know the association to his puns.

I'm unsure if Winston Churchill understood German, but he did understand the German mind. He didn't know Japanese, but I find it significant that in his memoirs he theorizes that linguistic peculiarities specific to Japanese may have been responsible for their losing several naval battles.

Moral: Just because one knows the language doesn't necessarily give one a pass to the realm of superior understanding, regardless of the time and effort spent at gaining fluency.

- they have spent little or no time in the area, but are more than happy to lend you a half baked rehash of a Robert Spencer or Emerson and probably have books like “The Arab Mind” -

Not my problem, because I haven't read any of those! I think the only book I've read with an emphasis on Lebanon was Being Arab by Samir Kassir. For the rest I've relied on news reports, one or two first-hand histories, publicly-available government archives, and my mind.

Why do we expect so little from our self professed experts on the Middle East and Islam and why do they get so much airtime? It is insane

Imagine two TV execs in a conversation:

"That's not news."
"It looks like news."
"Let's run it!"

Actually, I don't have to imagine it, that was a real conversation after Disney bought ABC in the early 80s. But I only have my memory of a newspaper account to prove it.

Good reporting costs time and money of both execs and reporters alike. If you can cut that down and still hold your audience your profit margin goes up. Since the 80s news execs have exploited the credibility earned by the previous generation of TV journalism. Only a more demanding audience, one that fluctuates in response to quality reporting, can change that.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at February 15, 2008 10:41 AM
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