July 18, 2008

The Truth about March 14

The “March 14” movement is a political vehicle for Lebanon’s liberals, democrats, free-market capitalists, human rights activists, and those who want an exit from the seemingly endless war with the “Zionist entity.” Unfortunately, that is not all it is. It’s also a political vehicle for hard-line Sunni Arab Nationalists and other political retrogrades who only oppose Hezbollah and the Syrian Baath regime because they hate Shias and Alawites as much as they hate Jews.

My colleague Noah Pollak is rightly horrified by the death worship on display in Beirut this week after Israel released the child-murdering terrorist ghoul Samir Kuntar to Hezbollah in exchange for the dead bodies of two kidnapped soldiers. “Lebanon’s March 14th movement cast itself into an abyss of moral depravity that the bloc’s supporters — myself included — never thought possible,” he wrote. I’m sorry to say this--I’m a March 14 supporter, too--but I’m a bit less surprised, if not less repulsed, by this recent turn of events.

Such March 14 stalwarts as Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Seniora and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt participated in the gruesome festivities and gave Kuntar--who smashed in the head of a four year-old girl on a rock after murdering her father in front of her--a warm hero’s welcome.

I don’t know if Seniora and Jumblatt sincerely believe Kuntar is a hero for those deeds. Frankly, I doubt it. He won’t be joining the March 14 movement. There is no question that he belongs to the “March 8” bloc led by Hezbollah, and that he will be perfectly willing to murder the children of the “wrong” kind of Lebanese when civil and sectarian violence explodes in his country again.

But Seniora and Jumblatt feel they have to triangulate, so to speak, and publicly throw their support behind a man who is their enemy because he is also Israel’s enemy. Anti-Zionism trumps everything, even in Lebanon where the violent Jew-hatred endemic to the modern Middle East is weaker than it is most other places.

Read the rest in COMMENTARY Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 18, 2008 9:34 AM
Comments

It seemed that half the people down there thought I worked for the CIA

The conspirazoid mindset in that part of the world is truly astonishing.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at July 18, 2008 10:03 AM

It never ceases to amaze me at the complexity and multi-layering of the relationships and shifting alliances. I often find it abhorrent - yet always intriguing.

Michael, I appreciate your insights into this deeply enigmatic world. Just when I a think I am beginning to understand - I realize I don’t.

Posted by: Chris in Tulsa Author Profile Page at July 18, 2008 10:55 AM

So, Kuntar (the child murdering terrorist) is a Druze. Jumblatt, eager to position his relatively small Druze community in a safe and powerful alignment with whomever happens to be in power at the moment, publicly applauds Kuntar to demonstrate to Hezbollah that Druze are the 'right sort', and he gets to sit on the podium next to the PM at big public functions. Is this really unusual behavior for Jumblatt? I still don't believe all of the flag waving is sincere or what it seems, but I can certainly see how it looks that way. It is the ME political version of 'Survivor' where your ability to make advantageous alliances might just keep you from getting voted off the island (killed). I hate that show.

Still, very disappointing to see it all playing out this way. It makes it very difficult to want to care about Lebanon when stuff like this happens.

Posted by: Lindsey Author Profile Page at July 18, 2008 11:07 AM

MJT -

Thanks for not trying to softpedal or justify the despicable behavior of the March 14 crowd. Unfortunately, recent events puts the lie to the notion that Hezbollah is the only villain over there, and the rest of the Lebanese peace-loving progressives held hostage to its will.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at July 18, 2008 11:54 AM

Possibly Seniora and Jumblatt believe Kuntar's account that the hostages were killed by friendly fire from Israeli forces during the rescue attempt, and that the Israeli security forces lied about the events for propaganda purposes.

At any rate, it's interesting that Israel pardoned him. I guess that's all they really can do to justify releasing him.

As for March 14, well, Middle Eastern politics. What can you say. Certainly never that it's boring.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 18, 2008 4:51 PM

DPU: Possibly Seniora and Jumblatt believe Kuntar's account

That would be even worse than what I assume to be true.

I think they know very well that he's a child murderer and need to appease the factions who love him for what he did.

Lebanon is a dark place.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 18, 2008 4:54 PM

"Possibly Seniora and Jumblatt believe Kuntar's account that the hostages were killed by friendly fire from Israeli forces during the rescue attempt, and that the Israeli security forces lied about the events for propaganda purposes."

Possibly DPU believes it too.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at July 18, 2008 10:41 PM

it was devastating (but expected) to hear that the released sc-mbag planned to keep doing the same. Let's hope Israel has a plan B, in a form of Hellfire missile.

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at July 18, 2008 11:21 PM

I watched the coffins go up on truck beds from the south along the Saida road toward Beirut during the lunch break of a seminar I was teaching. There wasn't jumping up and down. Just quiet viewing. I didn't see what the celebrations were like in Beirut, but I'm astounded that anyone expected anything different from March 14. Since when did Saad Hariri, Geagea (also accused of killing children in front of their parents or vice versa), and the others become the poster children for the moral highground? How anybody who lives in Lebanon, which is full of intelligent, motivated, socially progressive people of all faiths, can look to either side for political leadership is beyond me.

Posted by: jdstar Author Profile Page at July 19, 2008 10:21 AM

Gary: Possibly DPU believes it too.

Possibly Gary Rosen could stop polluting this comment section with his infantile and grade-school insults and imaginings, and could have the decency to ask things like that instead of suppose them.

Then again, a skunk can't change his stripe. Never mind, Gary, carry on stinking up the joint.

MJT: That would be even worse than what I assume to be true.

I think they know very well that he's a child murderer and need to appease the factions who love him for what he did.

I'm not sure why that would be worse, Michael. They bear no great love for Israel, and I'd think that supporting a known child murderer for political ends far more dark and cynical than choosing to think that he's innocent of that particular crime.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 19, 2008 10:22 AM

Oops. Last para above should not be in italics.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 19, 2008 10:23 AM

Why the panicky hissy fit, DPU? I didn't say you believed it. I didn't even say you probably believed it. I merely said you possibly believed it, giving you a chance to clarify. There was nothing in your post indicating one way or the other. Still hasn't been, really.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at July 19, 2008 10:51 AM

I didn't even say you probably believed it. I merely said you possibly believed it, giving you a chance to clarify.

Funny how those who peddle moral relativism become so indignant at the first whiff of challenge.

Posted by: Li'l Mamzer Author Profile Page at July 19, 2008 11:00 AM

I do wish DPU would have more sincere comments, including stating his own beliefs, with less insulting of others. Tho, he did do some accurate self-description:
Then again, a skunk can't change his stripe.

It's not just March 14, it's Muslim dominated society -- victims need to justify their victimization feelings by demonizing somebody. In America, the Left demonizes Bush, often Christians and Capitalists. In (false?) friendly, but non-cooperating Middle Eastern countries, it's the Jews and Israel.

This is why, if Iran gets a nuke, some Israeli city will be nuked (with a personal probability estimate that varies daily. Today, I guesstimate 30%) The stopping of this nuke will justify an anti-Iran war or a strike against Iran, that otherwise would not be justified.

I'd be interested in any who are against using military force on Iran to give their estimates.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at July 19, 2008 11:54 AM

I merely said you possibly believed it, giving you a chance to clarify. There was nothing in your post indicating one way or the other. Still hasn't been, really.

For all I know, Gary, you possibly think that anal sex with goats is a good idea. Common decency, however, would demand that I check with you before stating that possibility in a public forum.

But then, I don't expect that courtesy from you, nor do I expect any kind of reasonable discussion when you are involved. However, any time any kind of discussion starts here, you seem to feel the need to start throwing around insults, and the discussion suffers.

So I can either add your name my GreaseMonkey script to block your, uh, commentary from my browser when visiting this site, or I can simply stop participating. As this comment section is becoming more and more an echo chamber, I may just bow out.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 19, 2008 1:25 PM

Well, now you know what Lebanese politics are like, MJT: on the surface the people are friendly and support the state's democratic institutions but scratch them a little and the bigoted sectarian monster inside rears its head. Their fathers were the same.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at July 19, 2008 8:31 PM

DPU,

They bear no great love for Israel, and I'd think that supporting a known child murderer for political ends far more dark and cynical than choosing to think that he's innocent of that particular crime.

I disagree with your thought processes there. Think it through, DPU. You are proud of your reasoning abilities, right?

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 20, 2008 3:48 AM

Followup to DPU:

When was the last time a crime was solved in Lebanon? Can you name a single instance since the 1970s when anyone was definitively identified as the perpetrator of a terrorist attack or a civil war atrocity? Has there ever been a time when somebody said "This guy right here is the son of a bitch who did x, y, and z and he's going to be held to account for it!"?

That hasn't even happened with the Hariri assassination, and the whole world has been trying to get to the bottom of that. This is just more of the same old BS that has been happening in Lebanon for close to 40 years. And that is why it is "worse" than openly admitting a man is a criminal but Lebanese kinda like him anyway, so take a hike decent human beings of the world.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 20, 2008 3:56 AM

Some people, like myself, have made this point here time in and time out and were attacked for it.

Say what you want about the intentions of some of the leaders of March 14th, but many of them have blood on their hands and some of them are supporting the worst of the Sunni fundamentalists.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at July 21, 2008 12:08 PM

BTW,

Anyone who has spent any time in Lebanon, as well as being around Druze Israeli troops, can tell you they are often the most brutal of the lot.

In that area that is saying something. Samir Kuntar is a good reflection of that.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at July 21, 2008 12:10 PM

Progammer Craig,

Actually, some Lebanese leaders HAVE been directly head responsible for their acts and some have served prison time and been sent out of the country.

A little more reading on Lebanese history will sort that out for you.

It might do well to note that Kuntar denies killing the children. It is his contention that the Israelis shot and killed them in their attempt to kill him.

The Israelis are known for filling bodies and vehicles full of lead to "confirm kills" and other such tactics, so who knows?

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at July 21, 2008 12:14 PM

Marc,

Actually, some Lebanese leaders HAVE been directly head responsible for their acts and some have served prison time and been sent out of the country.

That's crap. A few scapegoats don't amount to much.

A little more reading on Lebanese history will sort that out for you.

A little more paying attention might sort things out for YOU. Did you notice how much better Syria's position has become since Imad Mugniyah was killed? Interesting timing, isn't it? Do you still wonder who killed Hariri? Would have been nice if it had gone to court, though, wouldn't it? But that's not the Arab way. It's particularly not the Lebanese way.

It might do well to note that Kuntar denies killing the children. It is his contention that the Israelis shot and killed them in their attempt to kill him.

He doesn't deny kidnapping a 3 year old girl and her father from their own home, does he? Abducting them in the middle of the night? Why do you think he did that, Marc? Did he intend to throw a party for her? And the fact that you take the word of a man who does something like that (the abduction in the first place, which he admits to) is quite telling.

The Israelis are known for filling bodies and vehicles full of lead to "confirm kills" and other such tactics, so who knows?

Yes, right. Nobody knows. So everyone is innocent. Even AFTER they've been proven guilty. Right?

Tell me, Marc, do you feel the same way about the American soldiers who raped that Iraqi girl and murdered her and her family a a couple years ago? Do you take their word for it when they make up a bunch of BS to claim they aren't guilty?

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 21, 2008 12:59 PM

Hey! Mike Totten! Famous comment forum micromanager and personal dropper of the hammer of justice!

You notice how Gary here has a problem debating ideas and a problem not serving up an endless stream of veiled insults, moral judgements, and political-campaign style wannabe smackdowns of other commenters?

Why don't you do something about it? Or does it add a refreshing contrast to your forum to have some folks accusing others of being deluded, death-worshipping terrorist supporters on a regular basis?

PS: In general terms, defense and intelligence agencies, including Western ones, will lie to make bad guys look worse than they already are, just like bad guys will. However, in this particular instance, I personally believe the conventional wisdom, not Kuntar. Having said that, I doubt that most Lebanese are celebrating the death of the kids, specifically. They're glossing over it and celebrating making Israel, the political entity, suffer. That's, of course, wrong. And not at all like what we do when we blow Iraqi or Palestinian children to smithereens and then gloss over it as unfortunate side effects of pursuing our good cause.
Mike never puts those pictures up on his website.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at July 21, 2008 5:59 PM

Oh, hey, by the way, Mike,

My colleague Noah Pollak is rightly horrified by the death worship on display in Beirut this week after Israel released the child-murdering terrorist ghoul Samir Kuntar to Hezbollah in exchange for the dead bodies of two kidnapped soldiers. “Lebanon’s March 14th movement cast itself into an abyss of moral depravity that the bloc’s supporters — myself included — never thought possible

You know, you can't spin this stuff both ways forever. Either it's horrible that March 14 does this, because it's horrible when people support people who do bad things - and thus March 14 is horrible for doing it and you should stop supporting them

Frankly, I don't recommend that approach. I still support March 14 myself, despite a wide variety of criticisms and doubts.

Instead, I recommend you come a long overdue acceptance of the fact that people who are not horrible support people who do horrible things. All the time. In every country.

Of course, if you came to that conclusion, you'd have to stop spouting these kinds of bromides about how Noah Pollak is right to be horrified because some Lebanese folks support Samir Kuntar. But yet, somehow, people are wrong to be horrified when the folks in the USA support the Haditha participants in kinetic operations impacting unarmed women and children (buzzworded enough for you?)

Noah Pollak isn't right to be horrified. It's the manifestation of the wide streak of selective moral uncuriousness, self-justification, lack of objectivity, hypocrisy, and other components of a worldview that systematically warps his ability to evaluate morality with any kind of fair or logical consistency - that ruins his work.

The only way you can be horrified about this is if you delude yourself that only those backward Arabs support vicious terrorist gouls, i.e. people that kill people who didn't deserve it.
If you recognize that it's done in every country, you stop being such a freaking demagogue about it.

I suppose you could just be consistently horrified about all such acts everywhere, but I never see anyone actually pull that off. Mostly I see it employed as a rhetorical tool for the explicit purpose of simplifying a complicated world in the service of destruction.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at July 21, 2008 6:13 PM

How many people in the United States supported Nicaraguans and El Salvadoreans who smashed the skulls of kids open with rocks? Not just once, either, in the middle of a hostage situation in a commando operation, but in the middle of fortified torture camps?

The answer: lots and lots and lots of them.

Are all those people evil?

Or gee, were they just good at glossing over inconvenient facts? Just like the Lebanese. We are not different. Noah Pollak is just a selective reader of history and formulator of models of outrage: I.E. a demagogue. That's not ad hominem, it's based on the record.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at July 21, 2008 6:20 PM

Programmer Craig,

Some of the LEADERS in Lebanon have been tried and imprisoned. Certainly you are aware of that right?

Usually leaders are not considered scape goats.

I am not taking the word on anyone, simply saying what his version of the events are. There are always two sides to everything, in the Middle East, probably six or seven.

My wife and I both have family in the Nahariya area where the attack happened. Being so close to Lebanon, like all Israelis in the area, they are rather keen on watching the political events unfolding.

You ought to watch your attacking nature. Not everyone who disagrees with you Craig is an enemy nor do they deserve the pit bull treatment.

I guess it is easy for you, as an American with nothing at stake, to be all fire and brimstone. Those of us who have family within rocket fire in Israel arent so lucky.

Typical that most pro Israeli Americans are more ardent than their counterparts in Israel.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at July 22, 2008 7:09 AM

It might do well to note that Kuntar denies killing the children. It is his contention that the Israelis shot and killed them in their attempt to kill him.

"According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kuntar had initially admitted to bludgeoning Einat to death after being captured,6 but at his trial, and consistently thereafter, he denied killing the 4-year-old...On July 13, 2008, after being classified for nearly thirty years, File No. 578/79, containing the evidence and testimony from Kuntar's 1980 trial, was first published.6 The pathologist's report presented at the trial stated that Einat's brain matter was found on the butt of Kuntar's rifle.6"

"Testimony was also given in court by a doctor who ruled that Einat's death had been caused by a direct blow with a blunt instrument, something like a stick or a rifle butt." link

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at July 22, 2008 11:16 AM

Craig: He doesn't deny kidnapping a 3 year old girl and her father from their own home, does he? Abducting them in the middle of the night? Why do you think he did that, Marc?

Well, seeing as we're asking question, if the intent was to kill them, why not simply slit their throats in the house? Why take the risk of being detected in the streets?

His contention was that the point of the mission was to take hostages back to Lebanon, and that they were killed during the rescue attempt by Israeli forces.

Whether or not this is true is largely immaterial - they wouldn't have died if he had not being taking them hostage either, so in both cases he has responsibility for their deaths. But your reasoning is flawed.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 22, 2008 11:21 AM

Marc,

Typical that most pro Israeli Americans are more ardent than their counterparts in Israel.

Typical for an Israeli to assume any American who speaks out against Hezbollah is "pro-Israeli". I am not. My friends DIED because they were sent back ashore in Lebanon after the Shabra and Shatilla massacres. The mission of evacuating Yassir Arafat and the PLO had been accomplished, and they were heading home. There wouldn't have been any US Marines in Lebanon for Hezbollah to attack, if it hadn't been for needless Israeli meddling in a very precarious situation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabra_and_Shatila_massacre

Thus on September 15, the Israeli army reoccupied West Beirut. This Israeli action breached its agreement with the United States not to occupy West Beirut;[12] the US had also given written guarantees that it would ensure the protection of the Muslims of West Beirut. Israel's occupation also violated its peace agreements with Muslim forces in Beirut and with Syria.

Your broken deal with the US. And the reason the MEF was sent back into Lebanon, after having been withdrawn to the Med.

So go play kissy face with somebody else.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 22, 2008 11:41 AM
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