Can we take 24/7 news seriously?

_1287456_artillery_ap300 That’s an M-48 tank out on a firing range.  The Lebanese Army has these.  This is an old tank from before the Vietnam period, but, how new do tanks have to be when used for shelling refugee camps full of civilians?  The fighting around the "Nahr al-bared" camp at Tripoli, Lebanon continues.

Lebanon’s political situation remains deadlocked between the US and French supported coalition headed by Siniora and the Iranian supported "opposition" coalition led by Hassan Nasrallah and Hizbullah.

This latter grouping is made up of Hizbullah and Amal Shia, more Sunnis and yet more Christians. The Syrian government tolerates this latter grouping’s logistical efforts in and through Damascus from Iran on behalf of Hizbullah.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Siniora’s grouping is made up of the allies of Saad Hariri (mostly Sunni Muslims), various hard-line Christian parties (Geagea, etc.)  a lot of the Druze and some odds and ends.

The essence of the Lebanese political stalemate has to do with the allocation of political power in Lebanon.  Of those elements in the population who have the vote (not Palestinians) the Shia are the most numerous and, in the aftermath of their victory over Israel last Summer, they are demanding a larger, perhaps decisive share in political power in the country.  There is also the issue of a UN run tribunal to rule as to who killed Rafik Hariri, but, anyone who thinks about it knows that this is really a "side" issue.  If the tribunal decided that Bashar Assad killed Hariri, what would they do, drive to Damascus and arrest him?

The United States and France do not want a larger role for Hizbullah.  The United States accepts Israel’s definition of Hizbullah as a terrorist group in spite of their toe-to-toe fight against Israel last year and their legitimate status as a political party in Beirut’s parliament.  France? Evidently, they are looking for love from the United States.  It has been lonely for the French lately.

Standing on the sidelines, there are the 350,000 odd permanent Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.  They are not Lebanese citizens.  They have no political vote, are overwhelmingly Sunni, are excluded from good jobs, and therefore good housing.  They are excluded from many Lebanese schools.  They and those who came before them have been living in those camps on a kind of "dole" from the UN for a long time, many of them for 50 years.  They have no prospects, zero.  People who have no prospects are dangerous.

So, they are susceptible to the takfiri jihadi message and influence drifting on the winds of the internets and in the minds of returned fighters from Iraq.  Not surprisingly some of them have accepted the call, the call to drive foreign, kaffir influence out of the Lebanon, the call to vent their rage against a political system that offers them nothing.

The "players" in the Siniora/Hariri coalition do not have clean hands in the matter of the creation and encouragement of Sunni zealotry in Lebanon.  Lebanese political leaders have "played" to the Sunni Lebanese of the north for many years, seeking their support in the maze of Lebanese politics.  Did they think that the Sunni Palestinians in the camps would not hear the same message?

So, now we have fighting between the Lebanese Army and Palestinian zealots.  What a surprise!  If it spreads to camps in the south of Lebanon, the Lebanese Army will be hard pressed.  Their commander said so yesterday, urging restraint.

The 24/7 news networks were hard at work today trying to make Syria responsible for the Sunni zealots in the camps.  The statement was being made today that these groups were connected to AQ.  No evidence was offered, but the assertion was repeatedly made based on the "possibility" that had supposedly been voiced by some nameless person in the Lebanese government.  Various Lebanese were asked that question – "Is this Al-Qa’ida?"  Nobody could be found who was willing to say that there was an organizational link to Al-Qa’ida, but the question was asked over and over again.  This question was paired with another – "Is Syria controlling and "behind" this group?"  Nobody could be found who would say that either, but the question was asked over and over again.

Now, think about it, folks  Al-Qa’ida is a virulently anti-Shia Sunni group.   Everyone "knows" that Syria supports Hizbullah, a main target of AQ displeasure.  So, which is it? Which side does the Syrian government support?  Does the Syrian government support both at the same time?  If you believe that, then you really are a sucker for propaganda.

It would be interesting to know who sets the agenda for the content of 24/7 news.  Very interesting.  pl

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58 Responses to Can we take 24/7 news seriously?

  1. Arnie says:

    Interesting and informative post. Who sets the agenda for the 24/7 media? Why, it’s nothing sinister, just the free market. The public understands AQ (for sure) and has been taught that Syria too is terrorist. Anything more complex than one or the other would bore the public and, therefore, not sell ads.

  2. chimneyswift says:

    The Russians I knew in the mid-90’s always liked to joke about American’s attitudes towards propaganda. “Everyone here thinks that there is no propaganda. They think the Soviet Union fell because it depended on propaganda all the time. Don’t you think maybe there is better propaganda here, and that is why the U.S. won the Cold War?”
    Of course it helps that we’ve actually got food, and we’re not trying to feed people with just our propaganda, but I do think they may have been right that our propaganda system functions much better than theirs did.

  3. stanley Henning says:

    All this is coalescing in my mind. I think the Sunnis in Iraq must also must be receiving considerable support from someome — possibly from some of our “allies” in the region. Otherwise how could they possibly keep up as they have so far?

  4. John Hammer says:

    Didn’t big Assad blow up a whole city full of Sunni militants? I’m not shocked that the MSM won’t or can’t put this into context. They are attuned of the trivial and blind to the substanstial.

  5. Matthew says:

    Col: Is the media stupid or do they just not care anymore? The latter is the more frightening development. Facts often are inconvenient. And often uncomfortable.
    I watched CNN’s John King interview Ron Paul yesterday. It was obvious that the substance of Paul’s crtique of the 9/11 Mythology was irrelevant. Instead, Paul was questioned politically (in the Soviet sense). Will we soon be critiquing people for being right too early?

  6. johnf says:

    >Can we take 24/7 news seriously?

  7. João Carlos says:

    “Are they just ignorant or are they complicit?”
    I vote complicit…

  8. Abu Sinan says:

    I am glad that you pointed out that the same people the US is supporting in Lebanon are the same people that are knee deep in it with these people.
    Hariri, “The Lesser” as I like to call him, and his supporters have been working with these guys for a very long time. Money and arms have been given to these same people.
    It is not just Palestinians involved in this however, many members of this group are foriegn from places like Saudi, Tunisia, Egypt and the like.
    It just seems whenever some “unity” is needed in Lebanon it is gained by pounding on the Palestinians. It is kind of a sad group/national sport in Lebanon.
    As to Hizb’Allah and the whole representation thing, I agree with them. The whole “confessional” set up to the current Lebanese government structure is profoundly unfair and undemocratic.
    Who, in their right mind, would set up a system where a group or groups of people are guaranteed positions and numbers in government based on their religion and what group they belong to without population being taken into account.
    The Lebanese Shi’a may be a majority in the country, yet there is no way to know because the powers that be refuse to allow a census to be taken.
    People should be elected to office and hold office based on elector votes, not some behind the scenes power-dealing to decide what religious group gets what seats and how many.
    This problem is only going to get worse as the Shi’a population grows.
    For me this is hardly about unity, this is all about a government in trouble trying to “rally the people” by kicking the crap out of their favourite punching bags.
    I have never bought the old idea that giving citizenship and rights to Palestinian refugees and their offspring delegitimises the Palestinian struggle. Far from it, it would do nothing more than show the rest of the world that the Arab countries are willing to put their actions where their words are and treat their Palestinian residents like human beings.
    As to who is responsible for the the zealots? My money lays with The Lesser Hariri and those around him along with Saudi money.

  9. J says:

    let’s box up all the u.s. mainstream media cheese-heads, including their propagandists like blitzer, roberts, etc. and send them to walk point in all the mess. watch how quickly they doo doo their propagandist drawers.

  10. shepherd says:

    Colonel Lang,
    This seems to dovetail into the last discussion… the media’s ignorance or complicity.
    One piece of propaganda that has been sold very well, apparently, is that terrorism is an ideology unto itself rather than a tactic. As a result, whenever “terrorists” of whatever stripe arise, “state sponsors of terrorism” like Syria will leap forward to support them. This case is the reductio ad absurdum of that idea.

  11. Leila says:

    Extremely useful post, Col. Lang, thank you. I am blogging it. I anticipate a spike in visitors to my blog looking for information and context – your analysis is very necessary, and I will urge people to read it.

  12. jonst says:

    A lot of questions…no answers from this corner. The timing of the fighting, coming as it does on the heels of the resolution vote last week has to, at a minimum, raise eyebrows. Ok, so what? May be nothing more than a coincidence. Still, it is my understanding now that only the ‘great powers’ can stop the Tribunal from going forward. i.e. Russia. Interesting then to note that the bombing target in Verdun today was the ‘Russian Cultural Center’, according to some press reports. As to Syria supporting (or anyone else, for that matter)groups at cross purposes, I would argue that such cognitive dissidence has been a hallmark of the struggles in Lebanon, going back to 1976, at least. That does not mean such a dynamic is at work here and now. But I would not rule it out completely. The MSM is clueless in situations like this. Too many players, too much history to consider,to complex, too many hidden agendas, including the Israeli’s one for them to work with. Even if they were so inclined to do their homework in the first place. Whatever they will report one can bet it will be the lowest common denominator.

  13. Beyond the obvious remark that the press follows the Israeli line on Lenanon, ie, all Moslems/Arabs are evil, there’s not much else to be said.
    I guess you could talk about the sentimental attachment that most Americans have for Israel and the politicians’ toeing the AIPAC line.
    For an insight into the way that think tanks cook the news and feed it in various states of macerated goo, you might wish to take a gander at this description of the white board to TV screen description.
    There’s also this.
    And this.

  14. Nabil says:

    ‘Al-Qaeda’ does not just refer to the organization, in the American media it is used as a synonym for Sunni extremist ideology. Lebanese have a more nuanced knowledge of the flavors of Islamist, extremist organizations, so if you ask us ‘Are they Al-Qaeda?’, well…maybe, maybe not. Who cares? They act like them and believe the same things, and actually they’ve pledged allegiance to them. What does it matter to me whether or not they write letters to or get money from Al-Qaeda proper?
    There are other ‘shadowy groups’ in Lebanon, like Jund el-Sham, which aren’t Al-Qaeda, but may as well be.
    Whether Syria supports them or not is open to debate. Fat7 il-Intifada and the PFLP-GC are both Palestinian organizations supported militarily by Syria. That is fact. The group called Fat7 il-Islam, which is currently fighting the Lebanese army, split from Fat7 il-Intifada. They seem to have plenty of money, so they are getting support from somewhere.
    Things are not as straightforward as ‘These are Sunni, these are Shia, you can’t support both of them’. You can. Syria supports Hizbullah on the one hand, and Hamas and other hardline Sunni groups on the other.

  15. tons15 says:

    Colonel, I believe there was some info in your blog about secret shippments of weapons on the coast of Lebanon – this was about 8 or 10 weeks ago and you sounded like Kassandra that this does not bode well. You were so correct.
    Is my recollection correct?

  16. Sean-Paul says:

    Col. Lang I am not saying this to be sarcastic or rude. You know I have nothing but respect for you and your opinion. But in answer to your final question I would answer you thusly: I would encourage you to rent Outfoxed. The answer to your question, by and large, is Roger Ailes.

  17. swerv21 says:

    i have been tracking this story since it broke on sunday. it isn’t just 24 hour news in the u.s.- seems like every news source has an agenda.
    the gulf papers took pains to point out that there was ‘internal’ fighting going on- and yet numerous saudis, yemenis, pakistanis and so on have been among the dead.
    lbc in lebanon carried many quotes from numerous factional leaders, politicians etc. pointing the finger at syria.
    the chorus of ‘leading’ questions was echoed in our own outlets: the times, bloomberg, etc.
    i did ultimately find one source that was able to report the news without the ‘overlay’.
    chosun ibo. korea.

  18. Will says:

    the skinny on this in debka rings true
    “After founding the Palestinian Fatah Uprising last year, Syrian intelligence discovered that the leader they had appointed, Mussa al Alama, a Palestinian born in Jerusalem known as Abu Khaled, had betrayed them. He had enlisted 300 members, recruited in Damascus’ refugee camps, to al Qaeda.
    “They arrested him on Dec. 21, 2006, accusing him of misusing Syrian intelligence funds allocated to pay and train Palestinians to fight in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. He had spent the money instead on opening an al Qaeda center in central Damascus. This center passed the trained men to Lebanon instead of Palestinian territory, together with Iraqi, Saudi, Yemeni and Sudanese fighters from Iraq.
    “On Dec. 10, 2006, DEBKAfile reported a esoteric ceremony that took place on Nov. 27, at the Nahr al Bared camp which is now under Lebanese army assault.
    “An armed Palestinian faction ceremonially changed its name from Fatah-Intifada (Fatah Uprising) to Fatah al-Islam. At the ceremony, its members showed off their new Taliban-style beards and said they had come to realize that the only way to achieve Palestinian goals was “by killing all the Jews and their crusader allies.” ”

  19. robt willmann says:

    As I have said before, the large television, radio, and print media organizations in the U.S. are actively and intentionally promoting the gangster foreign policy which is causing so much havoc and destruction.
    It is difficult for those of us who believe in certain ideals about this country to recognize and let go of the myth that the consolidated media in the U.S. is seeking objectively to report news and ferret out injustice and investigate and expose governmental misconduct.
    But once you release that myth, and look at what appears in the mass media as possibly being propaganda, you can quite easily spot it.
    Matthew in his comment above mentioned the CNN Late Edition interview with Congressman Ron Paul yesterday, Sunday, May 20. I made it a point to tape that brief segment and family members and I watched it several times to evaluate the positively blatant attempt to smear Representative Paul, who, by the way, is a physician who has actually practiced medicine. Paul blocked the hatchet attack quite well, but it was a good, yet disgusting, example of intentional media propaganda.
    If you think back a few months, you can see that the media oligopoly has been and is promoting Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as Democrats and John McCain and Rudy Giuliani as Republicans in the presidential race. As another example, look at the flattering Newsweek magazine cover of Hillary and Bill Clinton.
    I recently pointed out on this weblog facts about the proposed Iraq Oil and Gas Law that you don’t see in the New York Times or Washington Post newspapers. Their articles on that subject, which intentionally mislead the public by omission, would be hilarious if they weren’t so scandalous.
    Although doing this exercise is unsettling and unpleasant, it is useful to do and helps explain how easily this country was misled into the Iraq War II.
    State controlled media, as in China and Cuba today and as was in the former Soviet Union, and a media oligarchy and oligopoly, as in Mexico and here in the U.S.A., are the same thing, because an oligarchy is dependent on a powerful central government to allow its creation and to protect it. There can be rare
    exceptions, such as in
    Venezuela today where the central government split from the media oligarchy.
    The U.S. oligopoly was permitted by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, signed by President Bill Clinton; by rulings of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by mostly 3-2 votes; and by no antitrust enforcement by the Department of Justice and its Antitrust Division.
    Tracing how this insidious process happened over only a brief period of time is another story.
    As always, old sayings are wise:
    1. You have freedom of the press if you own one.
    2. The owner of the media outlet controls the content.
    Anyone who thinks that if Al Gore enters the 2008 presidential race and wins, there will be antitrust action against the media oligopoly, please guess again.
    The negotiating place in the Clinton administration for the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the office of Vice President Al Gore.

  20. kimmy says:

    If Israel and Palestein would only go back to the Oslo agreement all problems would be solved.
    But too much land has been stolen by the Israelis, and they don’t wan’t to give it back.

  21. b says:

    Published on March 5, 2007 Seymour Hersh wrote:

    American, European, and Arab officials I spoke to told me that the Siniora government and its allies had allowed some aid to end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south.
    Alastair Crooke, who spent nearly thirty years in MI6, [..] Crooke said that one Sunni extremist group, Fatah al-Islam, had splintered from its pro-Syrian parent group, Fatah al-Intifada, in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, in northern Lebanon. Its membership at the time was less than two hundred. “I was told that within twenty-four hours they were being offered weapons and money by people presenting themselves as representatives of the Lebanese government’s interests—presumably to take on Hezbollah,” Crooke said.

    BTW: when will the U.S. have finished its new airbase in Kleiaat, north Lebanon?

  22. Chris Marlowe says:

    This reminds me of the famous comment of President Bush when told that there were Shi’ites and Sunnis in Iraq. He replied “I thought that they were all Muslims?”
    Very reassuring.
    The MSM media is dumbing down America to the point where anyone who has a beef with America can be accused of being allied with al-Qaeda. Who cares about all those little historical details anyway? Henry Ford said that history is bunk.
    Under this definition:
    Castro–Has ties with al-Qaeda
    Chavez–Has ties with al-Qaeda
    Putin–Potential ties with al-Qaeda
    Of course, never mind about Muqtada al-Sadr and Nasrallah. They don’t like the US, so they must be al-Qaeda allies too.
    Hey, if you’re not with us, against us. That’s what the Great Decider said himself. What more do you need?
    And it goes on and on…

  23. pbrownlee says:

    Mencken on the MSM – “The average newspaper, especially of the better sort, has the intelligence of a hillbilly evangelist, the courage of a rat, the fairness of a prohibitionist boob-jumper, the information of a high-school janitor, the taste of a designer of celluloid valentines, and the honor of a police-station lawyer.”
    (Quoted in Review of The Brass Check, requoted The American Guardian, June 21, 1941)
    Seems a bit unfair on janitors and rats…
    The “especially of the better sort” is particularly apt – anyone else read Broder on the “courage” of Blair and Bush?
    (Not to be read on a full stomach.)

  24. Mo says:

    As usual, a wonderfully erudite and learned post on the Middle East.
    The Siniora govt. played with fire arming these guys and are now getting the obvious burns. One important fact missing from the post is the coincidence not with the chapter 7 resolution but with last weeks visit of the US governor general of Lebanon, David Welch who announced that Lebanon’s main 2 goals were the election of a new President and getting rid of the AQ linked extremist groups in the country. That this should happen so soon afterwards is unlikely to be mere coincidence, esp. as the justification for such an operation was a bank robbery that reportedly netted them the handsome sum of $1500!
    3 points of contention with the post though Colonel, sorry.
    As much as I find it hilarious that the Syrians are blamed for everything bar the extinction of the dinosaurs by the US and Lebanese administration, to say the Syrian regime cannot support both ignores Syria’s quite pathalogical duplicity in Lebanon. I am not suggesting that they are supporting these guys but these are the same people that supported just about every team in the Lebanese civil war, and in fact helped perpetuate the war by coming to the aid of whoever looked like they were about to be wiped out. The Syrian govt. has always backed all the sides so that at the end of the day they could “own” whoever was in charge.
    Second point; I have to strongly disagree with the assertion that Hizballah is virulently anti-Sunni. They have neither said nor done anything that I know of to even remotely suggest this to be true. I don’t understand how they could have Sunni allies, like you say, and be virulently anti-Sunni. All my Sunni friends (not to mention my Sunni mother) are some of their most ardent supporters.
    Finally, the Palestinians. The actual number of the Palestinians in the country is closer to the 350,000 mark. But I agree with you entirely that people who have no prospects are dangerous. The Lebanese only need to look at Gaza to see that. However, like I have said before, the absorbtion of such a large number of people into a weak state and a weak economy, may possibly lead to a situation or enviornment that is worse than what they have now.
    They are not going back to Palestine (proper) and a Palestinian state is a long way off. A humane and just solution does need to be found for these peeple or they will continue to be used as political scapegoats.

  25. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    <"who sets the agenda for the content of 24/7 news.">
    A difficult and complex analysis indeed that must place working journalists within the larger context of “media concentration” for which see:
    Trends in broadcast journalism:
    For professional org views/print see:
    For a brief period of three years, I was once a working journalist/print, and still write free lance pieces on occasion. From my experience, the answer to the question posed (per print media not broadcast) would include: ignorance, lack of training and expertise in international relations and military affairs, self-censorship for career reasons, and simply going along to get along. No “vast conspiracies” at the working journalist level.
    As far as I know, and I am out of date on this, journalism schools have not often offered extensive courses in foreign reporting/being a foreign correspondent. When I checked this with colleagues in the late 1990s, I believe it was said that Ohio and Columbia offered a course specifically on foreign reporting.
    At a professional seminar about a decade ago, I sat at the featured speaker’s (David Binder, New York Times) table at lunch and posed a question to him. “From your experience, what is the major problem we have in covering US foreign policy,” I said. “We aren’t aggressive enough,” he said. Fair enough.
    How can young journalists just starting out be best prepared for serious reporting on US foreign policy? I suggest an apprenticeship with someone of the highest professional quality and integrity like a Knute Royce, (not unknown to this forum).

  26. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You are right about the number of Palestinians. I was listening too much to the news people yesterday. That was the number they kept saying. See. It works on me too. all you have to do is say it enough.
    You are right that HB leadership in Lebanon has decided to make common cause with all the Sunnis that it can attract, but it would be difficult to argue that HB is really an organization that is seeking a kind of Islamic ecumenism. On the other hand, AQ in all its manifestations is utterly hostile to the Shia.
    As for Syria, even CNN this morning made it clear that the leader of Fath al-Islam spent three years in a Syrian jail and that he and his men are wanted by the police in Syria. A cover story? Well, that would be a pretty good one.
    I think you have missed the current phenomenon of distributed talking points in today’s news operations. pl

  27. mlaw230 says:

    I vote for complicit.
    Gulf War II saw the Kenneth Joseph stories, the Lincoln Group efforts and of course the NYT stories by Judith Miller. This is quite obviously premeditated.
    The same can also be said for Gulf War I, the effort run largely by the same personalities including Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney. Does anyone remember the baby incubator story, or the troops allegedly massed at the border of Saudi Arabia? We all knew we were lied to, but nobody was outraged and it would have seemed a bit unpatriotic to rain on that parade.
    When this Administration is over, there may be a true inquiry which exposes these lies. But the truth is that we actually like being lied to, it makes things so much clearer.
    Had we been as successful in Gulf War II as in Gulf War I, no one would care about the lies that got the ball rolling. Yellow journalism appears to flourish in times of change and upheaval, perhaps it is part of the consensus building process and it will flourish until a new consensus or a new “center” is formed. In the mean time, with a confused and uninformed populace it is so much easier to rule through appeal to the lowest common denominator.

  28. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    I am out of date on all this by a good decade. One can argue broadcast “journalism” of the 24/7 type is a form of entertainment rather than journalism. Or is it propaganda via those distributed talking points you point out? Print media seems about the same these days with some exceptions. American journalism has become, in a sense, a branch of advanced stenography based on those official “distributed talking points.”
    For journalism and official propaganda (the “Mighty Wurlitzer” on which Google) the classic analysis is:
    Arthur Ponsonby, Falsehood in Wartime (London, 1928) for the intro see:
    Quoting Ponsonby,
    “Falsehood is a recognized and extremely useful weapon in warfare, and every country uses it quite deliberately to deceive its own people, to attract neutrals, and to mislead the enemy. The ignorant and innocent masses in each country are unaware at the time that they are being misled, and when it is all over only here and there are the falsehoods discovered and exposed. As it is all past history and the desired effect has been produced by the stories and statements, no one troubles to investigate the facts and establish the truth.”

  29. david says:

    I agree and disagree with Mo. Agree on the “anti-Sunni” comment, and would push the Colonel’s qualification a bit further by merely saying that this is just a reality of politics a la libanaise — sectarian through and through, but not without intercommunal alliances made to protect the flock. As to points of disagreement, I would say I believe that various indicators suggest the number of refugees is in fact these days closer to the 200,000 than the 350k, although as the Colonel points out, I cant figure out why this seems to matter much. If anyone is interested, I can get the statistics. Finally, a last point, I dont think a proper history of modern lebanese politics will ever be written because death has robbed us of the opportunity for Ghazi Kenaan and Uri Lubrani to sit down and compare notes. I always felt that Kenaan spent most of his time as a telephone operator, fielding calls and complaints from the various lebanese prima donnas. Of course, this image of a schoolmarmish telephone operator obscures some realities, but so to does any reading that suggest Syria’s total callibration and control of the lebanese scene. That’s all. Great post.

  30. Mo says:

    In regards to Syria, it is highly unlikely that they are supporting Fatah al-Islam, however, as I understand it, they are wanted because they took money from Syrian intelligence to set up cells in the West Bank and Gaza but used the money to start recruiting for Iraq and Lebanon.
    However, my point was, that Syria has a long history of backing both sides in a battle so that they could be supporting both should not be discounted.
    I would also add that I do not believe they “support” Hizballah as such further than allowing the transfer of resources as a favour to Iran. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Syria probably dislikes Hizballah quite a bit. Syria does not traditionally like or tolerate organisations or people that it cannot own, threaten or kill and which it cannot use to line its pockets.
    In regards to their attitude towards Sunnis, would that I could get you to meet with these people or take a walk through the southern suburbs of Beirut and see the Shia-Sunni unity in action. They are not what I think you believe they are. Nasrallah himself has long called for Sunni-Shia unity and has long warned of attempts to sow disharmony between the two.

  31. Will says:

    HA’s outreach to the Sunna was demonstrated spectacularly when Israel improvidently expelled some Gaza Hamas leadership to Lebanon.
    “Experts trace the connection between Hizbullah and Palestinian militants to 1992, when Israel expelled more than 400 Palestinian extremists to Marj-el-Zhour, the Valley of the Flowers, in southern Lebanon. After their expulsion, the Palestinian militants, mainly from Hamas, set up a camp in Lebanon that was supported for months by Hizbullah. Some of Hamas’s expelled Sunni leaders were eventually brought to Beirut, and introduced to Hizbullah’s Shiite leaders there, experts say.”
    Christian Science Monitor Article

  32. Mike G says:

    Pedantic of me, I know, but I shall say it. Sorry, but it really bugs me to see sentences such as “Is the media stupid…..” or “The media is……” and”The media goes to…..”. Polease, folks, the word Media is plural. “Are the media……”,”Do the media…..”,”The media are going to……”

  33. Abu Sinan says:

    Good points Mo. Hizb’Allah’s support is much wider than a narrow Shi’a base.
    Both Christians and Sunni in Hizb’Allah areas support them and actually vote for them.
    Pat, as to AQ being utterly hostile to all Shi’a, the US government doesnt believe it.
    Please see the link below. It would seem that the US government is going to try to blame the inevitable failure of “the surge” on Iran and it’s work with the AQ groups in Iraq.
    It would seem that AQ doesnt hate the Shi’a enough to not take arms and cash from them.
    Personally? I dont buy it, but it might be Bush’s excuse to attack Iran when the surge goes south.
    See what they are trying to sell us now:
    “Iran’s secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq”,,2085192,00.html

  34. Charles says:

    Pat’s reply to Clifford has the kernel of truth that must be “read” – as discussed earlier in this blog – to comprehend what “news” is.
    I think you have missed the current phenomenon of distributed talking points in today’s news operations. pl”
    “Distributed talking points” says it all.
    A distributed talking point is not news, it is self-interested propaganda. There is no news. There are a very few western mainstream reporters, whose output is to be found only in obscure places at the fringes of the mainstream “debate”. On the other hand, the web is awash with access to foreign press and courageous independent reporters who post in a variety of forums and are generally not as beholden to one gigantic smokestack spewing out the day’s gibberish far and wide, clouding the view of the facts on the ground – which are usually thousands of miles away from the “target” audience.
    All the rest are mere talking heads, regurgitating what official “spokesmen” parrot for their employers – their governments. These bingo-callers and their ilk live in fear of being “scooped” or “cut out of the loop” or losing “face time” during question period thus being deprived of their easily parroted bit of cost-free “news” – and the influence that comes from spreading it.
    News would require ignoring what “authoritative senior administration figures” spew out, and traveling to the areas themselves to interview and report on the actors and the stage they act on. There is no money for that – or in that. If there is, it is money spent and limited to “embedding” – that is, sleeping with the source itself. Which produces fine and rousing theater, the quality of which is on a par with the irresistible appeal of a car wreck or the surreptitiously titillating photo of the man who could fellate himself – and must be seen to be “believed”.
    Why travel to the source for your unrefined Soma if the source will package it and deliver it to you – and then grant you absurd dominion over the media and especially the public electronic spectra that sell for the price of a Congress? Anybody knows that retail is where the real markup occurs, and if the government can both supply and reward the traffickers, why bob’s your uncle, your ticket is punched.
    It works for drugs and energy, independents are to be shot on sight. The addicts may squeal, but they keep on buying, whatever the quality, whatever the cost(s), and only the dealers and a few determined junkies ever travel to the source.
    News indeed.

  35. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes. Yes. I know that Hizbullah in Lebanon is looking for allies all over the place. God knows I have written about it enough.
    Nevertheless, the idea that Hizbullah really like the Sunni is absurd. don’t let your hopefulness overwhelm your critical sense.
    As for the policy driven opinion of the US about the interaction of AQ with the Iranians, I hope you are being ironic.
    And let’s not hear any crap about divide and conquer either. We are supposed to be adults here. pl

  36. W. Patrick Lang says:

    In American English collective nouns are treated as singular for agreement in number.
    On this side of the water, it is:
    The team is..
    The team are.. pl

  37. Cloned Poster says:

    Posted by: Charles | 22 May 2007 at 02:24 PM
    or the surreptitiously titillating photo of the man who could fellate himself – and must be seen to be “believed”.
    Those words alone describe the media whores that ride on the back of Fox America and every other media player (see PL’s post above).

  38. Mackie says:

    Mike G
    I know you’ll be the only one to agree with me, but ‘news’ is plural. It’s not ‘what is the news,’ but rather, ‘what are the news.’ It’s you and me against the world, Mike…hang in there.

  39. Mo says:

    Ok Col, we will agree to disagree about Hizballah and the Sunnis although I must point out it is not hopefuleness but experience I speak from.
    Meanwhile, reports suggest there is something deeper afoot. The attack on the UN Relief convoy that entered the Palestinian camp has been confirmed by the army to not have come from Fatah Al Islam positions but from snipers with high powered rifles OUTSIDE the camp.
    Furthermore, Beirut is rife with rumour that the Head of the Army accused the cabinet in a stormy closed cabinet session, of intentionally causing this problem in order to see the army disintegrate (and be replaced by a more pliant one). If that is true, and the army truly believes this, then Sinioras govt. may have bigger problems than HB after this is all over.
    What goes around may rather belatedly be coming around…

  40. RB says:

    The actual number of Palestinians in Lebanon really is closer to 250,000 (or less)–not 350,000. The latter number is based on UNRWA registration data, but many of those registered with UNRWA in its Lebanon field of operations are not actually IN Lebanon.
    Both the Palestinians and the Lebanese government find it convenient to use the larger number, but we’ve known for years now (and, in private, they freely admit) that the real number is much lower–as can be seen from registration data for UNRWA schools (if there were 350,000 refugees, there ought to be a lot more kids in UNRWA primary schools…). Indications of a much lower number have also come from living conditions surveys done by Fafo and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics/Damascus.
    The lower numbers are, in part, the product of decades of employment and legal restrictions on Palestianians, which encouraged many to find a way out (as expatriate workers, refugee claimants in other countries, etc). The Siniora government has been the first Lebanese government in half a century to show any inclination to improve the living conditions of Palestinian refugees, to the point of including a “Palestinian refugee” section in its submission to the Stockholm donor conference (, repeatedly raising this issue with Western governments as well as initaiting some modest (and very preliminary) internal policy planning on the issue.
    It remains to be seen whether events in Nahr al-Barid will lead to an intensification of these efforts (“we must reduce poverty to reduce radicalism”) or a return to old attitudes (“if they are miserable, maybe they’ll leave”).
    On another note, much of the media coverage notes that the Lebanese Army’s deployment in the camps is restricted under the 1969 Cairo Agreement. The actual agreement doesn’t forbid this, however (although that was the reality after 1973). In any case, the agreement was abrogated by the Lebanese parliament in 1987.

  41. D.Witt says:

    Would this perhaps have something to do with the proposed US/NATO airbase planned for Klieaat?

  42. John Howley says:

    Just heard an American recently returned from Lebanon interviewed on BBC. Identified as being from the Middle East Institute.
    He argued strongly for a connection between situation in refugee camps and Gaza/West Bank. To wit: US/EU effort to cut-off funds to Hamas and Fatah have shriveled the patronage systems that ruled in the camps.
    Salafists are moving in to fill the vacuum.

  43. JT Davis says:

    Perhaps this anecdote is apocryphal, it’s no less a truism today:
    “John Pilger addresses Columbia University in New York”
    On 14 April 2006, the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University in New York brought together John Pilger, Seymour Hersh, Robert Fisk and Charles Glass for a discussion entitled ‘Breaking the Silence: War, lies and empire’.
    Tne following is a transcript of John Pilger’s address – ‘War by Media’:
    “During the Cold War, a group of Russian journalists toured the United States. On the final day of their visit, they were asked by their hosts for their impressions. “I have to tell you,” said their spokesman, “that we were astonished to find, after reading all the newspapers and watching TV, that all the opinions on all the vital issues were, by and large, the same. To get that result in our country, we imprison people, we tear out their fingernails. Here, you don’t have that. What’s the secret? How do you do it?”

  44. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    “Unlike the early years of the movement, today’s neoconservatives enjoy a serious—and powerful—presence within the mainstream media. Though this level does not generate the political faction’s ideas and policies, it does generate influence. Access to the gates of mainstream media has enabled the movement to actually implement and market its objectives to America.”

  45. JT Davis says:

    That’s an excellent source, Clifford. IRC’s RightWeb. See what they say about Eleana Benador and Benador Associates:
    “When historians look back on the United States war in Iraq, they will almost certainly be struck by how a small group of mainly neo-conservative analysts and activists outside the administration were able to shape the US media debate in ways that made the drive to war so much easier than it might have been… But historians would be negligent if they ignored the day-to-day work of one person who, as much as anyone outside the administration, made their media ubiquity possible. Meet Eleana Benador, the Peruvian-born publicist for Perle, Woolsey, Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney and a dozen other prominent neo-conservatives whose hawkish opinions proved very hard to avoid for anyone who watched news talk shows or read the op-ed pages of major newspapers over the past 20 months.”
    — Jim Lobe, The Andean Condor among the Hawks, Asia Times, August 15, 2003.”

  46. david says:

    As per Mo’s agree to disagree:
    Can’t we have post on “ecumenicism” of various Islamist groups. It seems you have an allergic reaction to some strands of this argument, but it seems lurking in the comment sections. We could sound it out all at once, and you could show us why the rest of us are wrong and be done with it. Just an idea.
    I have heard the same things, but don’t know what to make of it. It is true that many LAF higher-ups are very upset with the situation they find themselves in, so it would not surprise me if some had gone ahead and called it a set-up (the shouting matches between ISF and LAF are true). I still think the conflagration was a coincidence, but the trolls were awfully ready to climb out of their caves, so it makes one wonder.
    PS: I actually share you sentiment as to HA, but could one not say the same thing about Hariri, Aoun, Gemayel, etc (all staunch sectarians when need be). It seems to me always a double game, even as, or perhaps especially as, a group reaches the rare heights of national pre-eminence. Curious why you think HA might be different.

  47. W. Patrick Lang says:

    My problem with this line of discussion is that I will spend a lot of time arguing with you folks who want to believe that “ecumenism” in the Islamic World is other than political and short lived. I do not believe that there is any more prospect of real ecumenism in Islam than there is in Christianity.
    Nevertheless, I will open a thread on “The Athenaeum” for you all to talk. pl

  48. Mo says:

    Why I think they are and will be different? Well mostly on the evidence I have seen:
    – The southern suburbs of Beirut are staunchly Hizballah, there are other areas staunchly Lebanese Forces or PSP. You will be hard pressed to find people of other sects living in these areas and if there are they get hassled. I could take you to the Hizballah areas where two of my best friends live and run businesses, one is Sunni and the other Christian. They have always been afforded the services Hizballah provide to the Shia there, no questions asked.
    – When they have had the opportunity to act secterian such as during the civil war or towards the Christian population of Southern Lebanon after the Israelis withdrew in 2000, they did not. In fact during the civil war they were only involved in defensive actions against the other militias and ironically it was against Amal, the other Shia militia that they fought; And after the Israelis withdrew it was Hizballah
    who made it known that any reprisals against the Christian population of Southern Lebanon would be considered an attack on them.
    – The likes of the Hariris, Jumblatts etc. are what we call Zaim’s. It is much more than a local strongman but slightly less than a
    feudal lord. They believe and act as if the people exist in order to follow them and make them wealthy. Hizballah have always acted the opposite. If you go to one of their hospitals to ask for blood for a relative who is in another hospital, they do not ask if the relative happens to be Shia or even if you happen to be Shia. And considering Nasrallah had $500 million in his hands after the summer war, the man is still paying his mortgage.
    – Finally, I know a few of these guys and have met many others. Their secular outlook is inward rather than outward. What I mean by that is they are interested in protecting themselves, their land, their people and giving the Shia strong representation. Outwardly, some are married to Sunnis or have Sunni relations.
    The Shia, being the minority, have in general have never had the superiorty complex, or the paranoia that comes with that, that the Sunnis have.

  49. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    So just what is Fatah al-Islam, its composition, and leadership?
    According to Patrick Seale:
    “Fatah al-Islam is far from being an ordinary armed Palestinian faction. Indeed, it seems hardly to be Palestinian at all. Whereas a minority of its members may be Palestinian, the others — judging from those who have been killed, wounded or captured — come from half a dozen Arab and Asian countries, some of them jihadi veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its parent body — or at least its inspiration — seems to be Al-Qaida.
    Fatah al-Islam is a fundamentalist offshoot of Fatah al-Intifada, a Palestinian faction which Syria backed over the years to contain and fight the influence of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement among Lebanon’s refugee population. But, in the last year or two, Fatah al-Intifada was routed by Fatah al-Islam, a dissident group within it, which seized control, if not of the whole camp, then at least of part of it.
    This development appears to have attracted jihadis of various nationalities, eager to exploit the relative freedom from government interference the camp enjoys, and determined to carry their struggle into Lebanon and Syria, ever closer to their prime enemy, Israel itself. …
    The leader of Fatah al-Islam, a certain Shakir al-Absi, spent the years 2002-2005 in a Syrian jail. He is the sort of Sunni fundamentalist the Syrian regime has been fighting ever since the late 1970s. Men of his sort detest and anathematize the Ba‘athist-led government in Damascus for ideological and sectarian reasons. It seems implausible that they would agree to be manipulated by Syria’s intelligence services. It certainly does not look as if Syria could have created Fatah al-Islam, because this fundamentalist Sunni movement would, from its base near Tripoli in north Lebanon, pose a potential threat to Syrian security.”
    Any other assessments out there?

  50. Chris Marlowe says:

    I heard a very good analysis of the present Lebanon camp fighting on CCTV (China Central TV) Channel 4, the Chinese language international channel last night. The program is in Chinese and called “In Focus”.
    Apparently this fighting all started with a bank robbery.
    Some thugs hit a bank, made off with some money, and went to the Palestinian camp, presumably where they came from. Now, there is a kind of unwritten agreement that the Lebanese national army would not enter the Palestinian camps; the camps have their own people in charge of law and order. (I don’t know if this is some leftover law from the Sabra and Chatila massacres of 1982.)
    But Siniora figured that he was going to be tough on those Palestinians (maybe with some kind of silent nod from US/France?) and show the Lebanese people that Hizbullah is not the only tough kid on the block and chased the bank robbers into the camp.
    Then all hell broke loose because the Palestinians aren’t overly fond of the Siniora government and the Lebanese national government. And they get especially unhappy when people drive tanks and all that other heavy equipment into their homes. So they started shooting back.
    I looked at this and thought “This explanation makes much more sense than what’s coming out of the US mainstream media.”
    The thing I can’t figure out is how a common bank robbery with Lebanese tanks in hot pursuit going into a Palestinian camp and fighting it out with their local sheriffs can morph into a conflict with an Al-Qaeda supported faction in the US press.
    I guess anything is possible in the US now.

  51. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    “NEW YORK Staffers at McClatchy’s Washington, D.C., Bureau — one of the few major news outlets skeptical of intelligence reports during the run-up to the war in Iraq — claims it is now being punished for that coverage.
    Bureau Chief John Walcott and current and former McClatchy Pentagon correspondents say they have not been allowed on the Defense Secretary’s plane for at least three years, claiming the news company is being retaliated against for its reporting.”
    Toe the line, go along with the White House managed news program, and you get “access”, otherwise…
    An elderly Bavarian friend once told me about news management during the Third Reich. He recalled Goebbels would have a daily (I think it was) press “briefing” during which dutiful journalists (stenographers) would get their cues and appropriate stories would follow. For background,

  52. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Two interesting new takes in today’s press:
    Christian Science Monitor with Blanford’s dateline at the camp:
    Financial Times:,dwp_uuid=fc3334c0-2f7a-11da-8b51-00000e2511c8.html

  53. swerv21 says:

    Shortly after the violent outbreak, FAI released a statement vowing to ‘unleash fire’ on the lebanese goverment. This statement was carried widely in the local media (lebanon).

  54. John Howley says:

    Here’s what Hersh wrote last February in his New Yorker article “The Redirection” (about Bush strategy of backing all manner of Sunnis against the Shia threat on the advice of Riyadh):
    “Alastair Crooke, who spent nearly thirty years in MI6, the British intelligence service, and now works for Conflicts Forum, a think tank in Beirut, told me, “The Lebanese government is opening space for these people to come in. It could be very dangerous.” Crooke said that one Sunni extremist group, Fatah al-Islam, had splintered from its pro-Syrian parent group, Fatah al-Intifada, in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, in northern Lebanon. Its membership at the time was less than two hundred. “I was told that within twenty-four hours they were being offered weapons and money by people presenting themselves as representatives of the Lebanese government’s interests—presumably to take on Hezbollah,” Crooke said.”

  55. Chris Marlowe says:

    CK, swerv21–
    I would argue that many of the official Palestinian groups have been hurt because they have not been able to cut a deal to improve the lives of Palestinians, either through a peace with Israel or some other means.
    When western governments cut off aid to the official Palestinian organizations, they create a vacuum which more extremist organizations such as Fatah al Islam are likely to fill.
    By refusing to put pressure on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories, and not helping the official Palestinian organizations to deliver some kind of hope to Palestinian refugees, the US and European governments perpetuate the cycle of violence. This becomes the basic fuel of violence and source of more anti-western volunteer fighters.
    Whether this is deliberate, or simply the result of short-sighted domestic policies and agendas, I don’t know.
    Ask Cheney and Abrams.

  56. swerv21 says:

    arab governments are complicit in this status quo condition.
    the Palestinians don’t have to be disenfranchised by everyone else to retain a sense of identity, or even grievance. the situation is made even more odious when the same governments that deny these people political rights are the ones that trumpet the pan-Arabist line against Israel.
    these people bear no less responsibility for the disenfranchisement of the refugees. if these governments were truly the pan-arabists they claim to be they would have given palestinians the right to claim dual citizenship with full rights in any middle eastern country.

  57. Chris Marlowe says:

    I’m not claiming that the Arab governments are not guilty of hypocrisy and complicity. I can understand the original logic for not giving Palestinians citizenship; that it would weaken the cause of Palestinian statehood, but I think that argument has worn thin by now.
    We could get into an argument about who is more and who is less at fault, as the players in the ME have been doing for the past 60 years. How much have people gotten with that argument?
    As far as I’m concerned, there are no real good guys in this argument, only victims.

  58. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    “The camp population all say that Fatah Al-Islam came in September-October 2006 and have no relatives in the camp. They are from Saudi, Pakistan, Algeria, Iraq, and Tunisia and elsewhere. No Palestinians among them except some hanger ons. Most say they are paid by the Hariri group.
    Reports that Fateh al-Islam helps people in Bared are denied. ” All they do is pray, one woman told me..and do military training.. They are much more religious than the Shia” she said.
    It is not surprising that al-Qaeda sympathies, if not formal affiliations, are found in the 12 official camps as well as 7 unofficial ones. Groups with names such as Fateh al-Islam, Jund al-Shams (Soldier of Damascus) , Ibns al-Shaheed” (sons of the martyrs) Issbat al-Anssar which morphed into Issbat al-Noor – “The Community of Illumination” and many others.
    Over a year ago Hariri’s Future Movement started setting up Sunni Islamist terrorist cells (the PSP and LF already had their own militia since the civil war and despite the Taif Accords requiring militia to disarm they are now rearmed and itching for action and trying hard to provoke Hezbollah).
    The FM created Sunni Islamist ‘terrorist’ cells were to serve as a cover for (anti-Hezbollah) Welch Club projects. The plan was that actions of these cells, of which Fatah el-Islam is one, could be blamed on al Qaeda or Syria or anyone but the Club.
    To staff the new militias, FM rounded up remnants of previous extremists in the Palestinian Refugee camps that had been subdued, marginalized and diminished during the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Each fighter got $700 per month, not bad in today’s Lebanon.
    The first Welch Club funded militia, set up by FM, is known locally as Jund-al-Sham (Soldiers of Sham, where “Sham” in Arabic denotes Syria, Lebanon, Palestine & Jordan) created in Ain-el-Hilwa Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon. This group is also referred to in the Camps as Jund-el-Sitt (Soldiers of the Sitt, where “Sitt” in Sidon, Ain-el-Hilwa and the outskirts pertain to Bahia Hariri, the sister of Rafiq Hariri, aunt of Saad, and Member of Parliament).
    The second was Fateh-al-Islam (The name cleverly put together, joining Fateh as in Palestinian and the word Islam as in Qaeda). FM set this Club cell up in Nahr-al-Bared refugee camp north of Tripoli for geographical balance.
    Fatah el-Islam had about 400 well paid fighters until three days ago. Today they may have more or fewer plus volunteers. The leaders were provided with ocean view luxury apartments in Tripoli where they stored arms and chilled when not in Nahr-al-Bared. Guess who owns the apartments?
    According to members of both Fatah el-Islam and Jund-al-Sham their groups acted on the directive of the Club president, Saad Hariri.”
    and so forth
    for which see, Turkish Weekly at:
    Again, where is the coverage in the US media of the composition, funding, and leadership of this group? What are the facts? Press reports talk about dead and captured members, ok what about them?
    Is Sy Hersh’s similar to the above recent analysis on track? Pretty on track? Not on track? Can’t tell yet?

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