The Bushies and Beirut (The gang that can’t shoot straight)

2371026071_20721c9a68 "…humiliating blows made clearer than ever the power and determination of Hezbollah, a Shiite group backed by Iran and Syria, and its allies. By Friday afternoon, armed Shiite fighters were riding joyfully through west Beirut in a long column of trucks, cars and scooters, shouting and firing their weapons into the air in a raucous victory celebration.

The government majority issued an urgent appeal for help from other nations on Friday evening, calling Hezbollah’s actions an “armed coup” against Lebanon and its democratic system using “weapons sent by Tehran.” Some government lawmakers, including the Druse leader, Walid Jumblatt, and Saad Hariri, the son of the assassinated former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, spent the day holed up in their compounds, protected by Lebanese Army contingents and the police."  NY Times


Is this the best we can do?  What happened to the much feared covert interventions of the CIA, dreaded across the world by "liberation" movements for decades.  Is this the best we can do?

Our toadies (the government of Lebanon) are "holed up" in government offices and private compounds behind the protection of an "army" that specializes in parades and refereeing Beiruti political squabbles?

The Iraqi Arabs I have been teaching lately make a specialty of mocking most Beirutis.  They imitate their "cute" accent, lisp and swish away when laughing at them.  They don’t feel that way about the Shia militiamen (Hizbullah and Amal).  I have never asked them about the Aounis.  I should do that.

If I were Saad Hariri, I would "get out of Dodge."  That "army" is not going to protect him if its own safety is at stake.  Siniora (Sonora)?  Nice is nice this time of year.  He probably has a place there.

We Americans (well, the Bushies) brought this on with our insistence that Shia numbers and electoral success would not be reflected in the division of power within the government of that sad little country.

Did we encourage the Sonorans to think that they could demand the self-disembowelment of Hizbullah?  Did we really think the Government of Lebanon actually could do that.  We may well have.  It would be of a piece with the fantasy driven policy of the last eight years.  Any gamble, no matter how absurd and improbable of success has fit the pattern of desperate longing that has driven American policy this last decade.

Would McCain’s policy in the region be any more grounded in real calculation of the odds?  Doubtful.  Would Obama’s be better?  I wonder.  Look at his advisers.  pl

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49 Responses to The Bushies and Beirut (The gang that can’t shoot straight)

  1. londanium says:

    If one believes Robert Fisk in the Independent today, some of the weaponry being sent by Iran is, er, American. I’m sure that’s a detail the NYT would love to share with its readers.

  2. David W. says:

    Given your comments about your Iraqi students behavior, it’s no wonder pan-Arabism failed. I’m sure it’s all in good fun, but the rejoinder may be that the parents of those ‘swishy’ Beirutis were all neck-deep in Civil War, while the ‘tough’ Iraqis were cowering under Saddam. (sorry if that’s harsh, but I think it’s a deserved reminder, if that’s how they get their kicks).
    It sounds like the same old macho bs. that is heard from the Red States to Baghdad–as if being ‘tough’ is the ultimate virtue. Another way of looking at it may well be that the Beirutis have evolved in ways that their Iraqi cousins have yet to.
    Regarding the Bushco M14 backing, it’s all too predictable–being ‘westernized,’ usually means being open to corruption and co-option. The old ‘whiskey, women and money’ carrots tend to not be so effective with religious movements like Hizb, and I think there is a tendency to believe that the westernized arabs are more ‘like us.’ (well, I guess that is ironically true for Chalabi, the poster boy for this movement).
    The kicker is, of course, that this is blowback from earlier stupidity by the US and Israel, in backing religious groups as a counter to secular movements like Nasser’s and the PLO. Doh!

  3. Will says:

    who are the obama baby’s advisors?

  4. arbogast says:

    This comment is probably inane, but I am impressed with Obama’s intelligence. Listening to him speak, you have the feeling that he understands and has created what he says. I trust him.
    Before I am consigned to the deepest dungeon of self-deception, please recall that the country has trusted its leaders for quite some time. That trust has been misplaced. But it does not need to forever be misplaced.

  5. VietnamVet says:

    Quoting Helen Cobban “This administration seems to have a just about unique capacity for both belligerence and incompetence. This is an extremely dangerous combination.”
    Cheerleading Israel’s bombing of Hezbollah; instigating Christian Ethiopia’s invasion of Muslim Somalia; or supporting Iran’s proxy government in Iraq because it does not oppose continue American occupation. The contortions American foreign policies are comical except for the death and destruction they cause.
    At fault is a Bully’s conviction that Muslims are evil and must be destroyed but he is not told or even conceive that he does not have the manpower, treasury or the will necessary to conquer anything let alone his own School Yard. So he is always picking fights and terrorizing others, ultimately for nothing.

  6. GSD says:

    It seems like President Bush and his lackeys need a new magic wand because as of late they seem woefully unable to create their own realities.

  7. Montag says:

    Well, they’re not called the “Mayberry Machiavellis” for nothing. Don’t bother watching a Keystone Kops movie for lessons on proper police procedures, either–you’ll be wasting your time. There’s an apt Arab proverb, I believe: “A viper is soft to the touch, but if it turns upon you, its fangs are deadly.”
    Why do U.S. quislings perform so poorly? One should rather ask why their opponents are so motivated to the point where defeat is not an option. Frantz Fanon has given us the key in his analysis of the Haitian Insurrection 200 years ago:
    “I do not carry innocence to the point of believing that appeals to reason or respect for human dignity can alter reality. For the Negro who works on a sugar plantation in Le Robert, there is only one solution: to fight. He will embark on this struggle and he will pursue it, not as the result of a Marxist or idealistic analysis but quite simply because he cannot conceive of life otherwise than in the form of a battle against exploitation, misery and hunger.”

  8. wcw says:

    The one smart, expert, probabilistic person I know working (indirectly) for either campaign is working for Obama’s shop.
    For what little that’s worth, of course. In summer 2000, not everyone associated with the W. Bush team was an idiot. Unfortunately, most everyone in the faction that since has made most foreign policy was.
    I will agree: FDR Obama ain’t.

  9. jonst says:

    This level of utter and complete incompetence by the Bush Admin surprises even me. I’m stunned. This is the Gaza debacle all over again. With the so called 14 March movement playing the role of Dahlan et al. I mean somebody MUST have gotten their signals crossed. There MUST have been some plan that went awry…right? Well with Bush you never know. And this was timed right before his trip to the ME? Beautiful. The Saudis? They look like buffoons as well. Rarely, if ever, has one man (Cheney)done so much strategic harm to American interests. Kinda takes one’s breath away. And McCain wants to throw Russia out of the G-8? IOW…challenge Russia when we are at our weakest? Brilliant.

  10. Why would Iraqis know much about Aounistes? My experience meeting other Arabs and living in Egypt is that the Beiruti/Lebanese in the stereotype are the rich Christians. There are many, many Lebanese, including Christian Lebanese, who are not rich and not eager to pretend to be French, Italian or American.
    Also – Beirut is not only Achrafieh (“Beirut’s Upper East Side”) – it is also Dahihey (Hizbullah stronghold decimated by Israel in ’06, now rebuilt). And there are many trendy Beirutis with cute accents and cool electronic gadgets who are children of peasant villages elsewhere; such citizens have layers of steel beneath the external trappings of soft Western life.

  11. Patrick Lang says:

    Lots of partisans here for the Lebanese factions. Just remember that when you take sides in tis as in all other ME disputes, then you are part of the problem.
    “The Iraqis were cowering under Saddam Hussein?” What a wrongheaded remark. Did you ever hear of the Iran-Iraq War, numerous wars in Kurdistan, the First Gulf War? Know anything at all about that except the word “gas?” pl

  12. Grumpy says:

    I believe you are accurate, or at least, as accurate as anybody can be in this type of situation. The only comment, in my view, your last paragraph should include Hillary Clinton. Her advisors are no better than the rest. This omission sets us up for drawing one of two exactly opposite views. 1. Clinton has absolutely no chance of winning, therefore any examination of her comments are of no value. 2. The opposing view would be, she has a good chance of winning, therefore we should “assume” she has good advisors on the Middle East. My view is this, There are only a handful of knowledgeable people on this very complex subject as a region. This would include Persia, Arabia and Jews. This would involve all of the various shades of these cultures. As a U.S. Senator, she would be a real force to be reckoned with, no matter who wins.
    Just an old vet,
    as always,

  13. John Howley says:

    “Just remember that when you take sides in this as in all other ME disputes, then you are part of the problem.”

  14. Grimgrin says:
    Once again, I’m impressed by how disciplined Hezbollah seems to be. They were threatened by a Pro-US government, that wanted to dismantle their communications network. They responded with a show of force but avoided picking fights with the army which everyone here seems to agree they could have won. Now, if the IHT article can be believed, they’re accepting a compromise that seems to go back to the status quo.
    The cynic in me thinks that this restraint has two reasons. First, Hezbollah doesn’t want to commit itself to the kind of all out fight that would occur if they really did decide to stage a coup because it would create an opportunity for Israel to attack in the south, and they’re not strong enough or dumb enough to want a war on two fronts. Second that they think they’re going to inherit the government and most likely the army anyway, based on their popular support and military strength, so why smash up a house you plan on owning?
    Finally there’s the fact that Hezbollah talks and acts like a Lebanese nationalist organization rather than a purely sectarian organization. They may be genuinely opposed to a civil war in Lebanon, even one they can win, and only taking the steps they see as necessary to protect their organization and it’s capabilities.
    Here’s an on the foreign policy teams of both the Democratic candidates.
    On the Obama side, I think Zbigniew Brzezinski is a tool, but that’s more because of a few grandiose statements he made about bringing down the Soviet Union than any serious assessment of the man’s capabilities as a thinker and an adviser.

  15. Cloned Poster says:

    Taking sides?
    60 years ago Jewish refugees from WW2 got a free pass to invade Palestine because of “Western” actions etc.
    How can you not be on the side of the refugee Palestians?

  16. Will says:

    thanks grimgrin. the obamababy is not perfect, but he showed good judgment about the Irak adventure appears to surround himself w/ like minded advisors.

  17. I hope my comments above don’t lead you to believe that I take the side of anyone I’m describing, particularly the Aounistes. I merely meant to add more details to the stereotypical picture of Beiruti Lebanese. Not all Lebanese are Beiruti; not all Beirutis are rich, effete, disco-dancing, French-speaking right-wingers.
    General Aoun’s reappearance in Lebanese politics alarmed me almost as much as Samir Geagea’s; my memory, backed up by a little research, is that Aoun was responsible for a great deal of death and destruction toward the end of the civil war. Geagea may have killed more people (most observers credit the deaths at Sabra and Shatila to his account, as well as the slaughter of the family of Tony Franjieh, a fellow Christian and political rival) but Aoun was a pretty bloody-minded fellow during the war. There are no parties without blood on their hands in Lebanon.
    Another thing I’ve learned from conversations with relatives – as alliances shift in LEbanon, people line up behind political parties for all manner of reasons, including pure survival. A Shi’ite member of parliament, whatever he might think of Hizbullah, has to line up with Hizbullah these days. It would be unwise not to. Not long ago he might have been in the Syrian bloc (not the same as the Hizbullah bloc, at least then, but now…)
    Christians in South Lebanon find themselves acquiescing to Aoun, because they are in South Lebanon, controlled by Hizbullah, currently allied with Aoun. Some may actively support Aoun. Others just keep their mouths shut.
    BTW I have long had an interest in the Partie Populaire Syrien, the Syrian Socialist Party – and have kept an eye out for descriptions of this group. You get different stories from different historians, natch. Wikipedia tells me something I didn’t know – just today – that the SSP in its early years under Antoun Saadeh was supposedly right of center, anti-Communist, and against Nasserist Arab nationalism. In ’58 they fought with the Government; in 61 they fought against the government and were suppressed. At this point they began discussing Marx, mostly in jail, and re-emerged as a leftist group in the 70s. I assumed they are now about as important as the Armenian political party in Lebanon, but today they seem to be running whole neighborhoods of West Beirut. There were dark rumors about their activities during the civil war. Very curious.
    One of my uncles has a degree in political science and has always followed Lebanese politics closely, from inside Lebanon. He told me thirty years ago, in the beginning of the war, that “even I don’t understand Lebanese politics, how can I explain it all to you?”

  18. David W. says:

    Col, my remark was reactionary, designed to strike a nerve, just as yours did. I’m not doubting the ‘toughness’ of your Iraqi friends, but think it’s a mistake to scoff at the ‘soft’ Beirutis. Is this a competition?
    At any rate, I am for ‘soft power’ in Lebanon–the original March 14 was a popular movement, not a Bush creation, and it exists separately from the political faction that appropriated its name. These are the younger generations and ‘liberals’ of Lebanon, who are comfortable with a multicultural multireligious existance, and who have a pro-western orientation. This is the faction that is easily forgotten in the sectarian puzzle of Lebanon, but I think they are worth supporting as the future of Lebanon.

  19. Curious says:

    From a blog, A person living in Beirut
    This is what I have to say about the latest series of political speeches in Lebanon: Nasrallah speaks as if there is no future, but Jumblat, Hariri and Sanioura speak as if there is no past. For Nasrallah, the past performance and actions of the Loyalists is the only reference point. The past (?) collusion of some of them with Israel, their current alliance with the US and the intersection of some of their positions with the Israeli agenda, as well as the incapability of the Lebanese state to liberate the South and to protect the resistance appear to be the only unit of measure. On the other hand, the trio JHS has been delivering speeches and addresses as if the past did not exist, as if the resistance was not under threat of physical elimination by the Loyalists very allies, as if members of the Loyalists had not destroyed Beirut many times and invited and supported the Israelis when they invaded it, as if there had not been a number of youth killed by the thugs of the Future movement in Tarik al Jadideh and Ard Jalloul, as if there was no Future movement militia in Beirut brought from the North (seen by many on TV and in the streets before the fighting) or PSP (Jumblat) militia (which has murdered Druze political opponents in the mountains), and as if the State was all powerful, belonged to all its citizen, and capable of extending its authority onto the 4 corners of the country and to fend off Israeli agendas. When you start so far away from each others, the next stop is Xanadu, as my friend Anna would say. The first thing these guys should do is get into the same time zone. This is if they want to find a way out.

  20. “Curious” quotes Rami Zurayk, a professor of agriculture at the American U. of Beirut. He usually blogs food policy, agriculture, water wars and the problems of poor farmers. I admire his recent reporting from Beirut greatly – he and his young family are in the middle of the mess; the sixteen-year-old son of the neighborhood baker was killed by a sniper downstairs from them just Thursday. I am sorry his children have to have this “baptism of fire” (bullets whizzed into their apartment, missing his 10-year-old by a meter).

  21. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    From a close observer on the ground:
    “The main losers obviously are the Bush administration, Israel and their Welch Club allies. Personal losers are Amin Gemayel, barely still the “leader” of the Phalange Party, as he talks tough and tries to rally his ‘forces’…from Paris. Samir Geagea has pretty much nudged him aside and is reportedly casting his dark gaze toward Saad Hariri who may be planning to retire from politics and help with the very big family business. After the parties meet with President Bush next week, a ‘shaking out’ process may begin.Walid Jumblatt is another loser since his provocations, taunts, and Welch Club cheerleader role to take on Hezbollah left him at its mercy both in the Mountains and in his Beirut home. Whatever credibility he had has evaporated. …
    “The major winners are obvious: Lebanon’s Christian population allied with General Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Hezbollah, Amal and their Sunni, Druze and international supporters.
    Hassan Nasrallah’s position is probably the strongest it has ever been, not just in Lebanon but throughout the region…”
    Syria Comment/Landis:
    “Hizbullah has done what it said it would do – not more, nor less. The constant grinding among the religious communities is making Lebanon more sectarian with each new conflict. Fewer Sunnis than ever will be able side with Shiites and vice-versa. The Shiites will become ever more convinced that they cannot give up their arms without first getting constitutional guarantees that they will get their fare share of representation. As things stand today, the Shiites allocated 21% of parliamentary seats even though they may represent close to 40% of Lebanon’s population. This is a lingering institutional imbalance left over from Lebanon’s colonial legacy, when Shiites were discounted politically as poor sheepherders and dirt farmers. The notion that Lebanon can achieve stability before these sectarian imbalances are rectified is not a sound one.”
    Fisk, on the ground:
    “For the war in West Beirut is not about religion. It is about the political legitimacy of the Lebanese government and its “pro-American” support (the latter an essential adjective to any US news agency report), which Iran understandably challenges.”
    Seems to me the Bush Admin Lebanon policy is run by Neocons Abrams and Cohen with Condi (and Welch) fronting.
    As I don’t follow Lebanese politics, it would be helpful to hear from those who do.
    Anyone have some insights/hard facts/leaks on the US policy process per Lebanon, and the players?
    Just what SHOULD US policy be now in Lebanon? and WHY? Any suggestions and explanations out there?
    I did follow Lebanese politics some years ago and recall exchanges of view with Dany Chamoun and other leaders. Dany, his wife, and two sons were later (1990) murdered.

  22. Curious says:

    “Just what SHOULD US policy be now in Lebanon? and WHY? Any suggestions and explanations out there?
    Posted by: Clifford Kiracofe | 11 May 2008 at 12:27 AM ”
    Bush has destroyed US legitimacy in Lebanon. (whatever left of it in remaining pro US group.)
    At best US can start instigating factional war, that’s about it. Obviously there is no political appetite to open third front, and neither has Israel.
    Bush has no time, he has only 8 months in the office. With Condi in charge of diplomacy (the dumbest high ranking diplomat ever) and Pentagon trying to hold afghanistan/Pakistan together, there is not a lot of option.
    Hezbollah seems to want political legitimacy more than anything and they will get it in next election. After that, Lebanon will fall into Syria/Iran/Russia orbit.
    Not too bad really, this will stabilize the region, since Israel won’t be able to mount attack that will change the political landscape meaningfully.
    I think it would be interesting to see how Hezbollah will rule Lebanon, so far they are playing playing their position pretty good. That deserve some note.

  23. Jonathan House says:

    I just came across two series of articles by Franklin Lamb.
    The first earlier series gives a useful if tendentious account of history relevant to recent events and is now being re-published in The Arab American; it runs 25 pages as a Word document. These three articles, also published in CounterPunch on April 24, 25 and 26, are entitled:
    Part One: Historical Context and Current Posturing
    Bush to Nasrallah: an Offer Hezbollah Cannot Refuse? (April 24)
    Part Two: The Israeli Project Has Failed in Lebanon
    Why the Bush Administration Wants to Negotiate Now with Hezbollah (April 25)
    Part Three: What’s in it for Hezbollah?
    Will U. S. Policy in Lebanon and the Middle East Ever Change? (April 26)
    The second series(May 8, 9 and 10) gives Lamb’s daily reporting of the recent events. Because things unfolded rapidly it is possible to assess Lamb’s judgment which, at least as to these events, seems pretty good. All 3 together are a 13 page Word document. The titles and URLs are below.
    Blindsided, Hezbollah Mulls Its Response (May 8)
    Street Notes from the Hamra District (May 9)
    Hezbollah Eases Up and Beirut Opens Its Shutters (May 10)
    I’d be happy to send them as Word documents to anyone who wants them – my email is Or they can be found as above.

  24. Jonathan House says:

    I just came across two series of articles by Franklin Lamb.
    The first earlier series gives a useful if tendentious account of history relevant to recent events and is now being re-published in The Arab American; it runs 25 pages as a Word document. These three articles, also published in CounterPunch on April 24, 25 and 26, are entitled:
    Part One: Historical Context and Current Posturing
    Bush to Nasrallah: an Offer Hezbollah Cannot Refuse? (April 24)
    Part Two: The Israeli Project Has Failed in Lebanon
    Why the Bush Administration Wants to Negotiate Now with Hezbollah (April 25)
    Part Three: What’s in it for Hezbollah?
    Will U. S. Policy in Lebanon and the Middle East Ever Change? (April 26)
    The second series(May 8, 9 and 10) gives Lamb’s daily reporting of the recent events. Because things unfolded rapidly it is possible to assess Lamb’s judgment which, at least as to these events, seems pretty good. All 3 together are a 13 page Word document. The titles and URLs are below.
    Blindsided, Hezbollah Mulls Its Response (May 8)
    Street Notes from the Hamra District (May 9)
    Hezbollah Eases Up and Beirut Opens Its Shutters (May 10)
    I’d be happy to send them as Word documents to anyone who wants them – my email is Or they can be found as above.

  25. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I have been thinking of the role of the Shia in the Arab Middle East and I am thinking now that the Shia domination in Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, and Bahrain could make these polities more coherent and more stable.
    In fact, if you consider the Allawaites as honorary Shia, then many among the Syrian opposition will admit that their rule has been beneficial to Syria.
    As for Dr. Rice; Iranians seems to think well of her (and Dr. Albright) – “what is that females in US government have a better grasp of the realities of the region than the men?” said Mr. M. Mottakki, the Iranian Foreign Minister.

  26. jamzo says:

    i think that obamma counts zbibnewski as an ally and that he is supported by carter signifies that he has a more balanced view of middle east politics
    NYT article on obamma this morning contains some background information that supports the notion of a balanced view – an openness to the israelis and the palestinians
    Pragmatic Politics, Forged on the South Side
    As the meeting ended, the younger Mr. Crown said, his father — who is “fairly hawkish” about Israel’s security — was noncommittal about Mr. Obama. But, James Crown said, “I pulled him down to my office, and I said, ‘Hey, look, I think you should run, and I want you to win.’ ”
    In courting families like the Crowns, Mr. Obama was gaining entree into the upper echelon of the city’s corporate boardrooms, a ripe source of campaign money. But he was also seeking to broaden his appeal to Jewish voters, and he was wading more deeply into one of the touchiest issues in American politics: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    For years, the Obamas had been regular dinner guests at the Hyde Park home of Rashid Khalidi, a Middle East scholar at the University of Chicago and an adviser to the Palestinian delegation to the 1990s peace talks. Mr. Khalidi said the talk would often turn to the Middle East, and he talked with Mr. Obama about issues like living conditions in the occupied territories. In 2000, the Khalidis held a fund-raiser for Mr. Obama during his Congressional campaign. Both Mr. Khalidi and Mr. Abunimah, of the Electronic Intifada, said Mr. Obama had spoken at the fund-raiser and had called for the United States to adopt a more “evenhanded approach” to the Palestinian-Israel conflict.
    Still, Mr. Khalidi said ascertaining Mr. Obama’s precise position was often difficult. “You may come away thinking, ‘Wow, he agrees with me,’ ” he said. “But later, when you get home and think about it, you are not sure.”
    A.J. Wolf, a Hyde Park rabbi who is a friend of Mr. Obama’s and has often invited Mr. Khalidi to speak at his synagogue, said Mr. Obama had disappointed him by not being more assertive about the need for both Israel and the Palestinians to move toward peace. “He’s played all those notes right for the Israel lobby,” said Mr. Wolf, who is sometimes critical of Israel.
    During the Senate campaign, Mr. Obama joined in a “Walk for Israel” rally along Lake Michigan on Israel Solidarity Day. The Crowns and other Jewish leaders raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for him. Several days before the primary in 2004, some of his Jewish supporters took offense that Mr. Obama had not taken the opportunity on a campaign questionnaire to denounce Yasir Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, or to strongly support Israel’s building of a security fence.
    But in a sign of how far Mr. Obama had come in his coalition-building, friends from the American Israel Political Action Committee, the national pro-Israel lobbying group, helped him rush out a response to smooth over the flap.
    In an e-mail message, Mr. Obama blamed a staff member for the oversight, and expressed the hope that “none of this has raised any questions on your part regarding my fundamental commitment to Israel’s security.” Mr. Abunimah has written of running into the candidate around that time and has said that Mr. Obama told him: “I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping that when things calm down I can be more upfront.”
    The Obama camp has denied Mr. Abunimah’s account. Mr. Khalidi, who is now the director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, said, “I’m unhappy about the positions he’s taken, but I can’t say I’m terribly disappointed.” He added: “People think he’s a saint. He’s not. He’s a politician.”
    Mr. Crown, for his part, could not be more pleased. Since Mr. Obama was elected to the Senate Mr. Crown said that even his father had been won over, helping to arrange meetings for Mr. Obama in a visit to Israel. James Crown said he had “never had even the slightest glimmer of concern that Barack wasn’t terrific” on Israel — a view that Mr. Obama jokingly reinforced at a meeting last year in Mr. Crown’s office.
    As Mr. Mikva recounted it, after discussing a lukewarm response by more conservative Jews to some of Mr. Obama’s comments, “I turned to Barack and said, ‘Your name could be Chaim Weizmann, the founder of the Jewish state, and some of these Jewish Republicans wouldn’t vote for you.’ ” And, Mr. Mikva said, “He joked, ‘Well, you know my name is “Baruch” Obama.’ ”
    But for all of Mr. Obama’s attentiveness to Jewish concerns about Israel, Republican Party officials have made it clear that they think this is an area of vulnerability. Though Mr. Obama has condemned Hamas, a militant Palestinian group, as a terrorist organization, just last week Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, suggested that the group wanted to see Mr. Obama in the White House. Mr. Obama denounced that suggestion as a “smear.”

  27. Dana Jones says:

    I’m not so sure that the possibility of a last strike against Iran by Cheny/Shrub is less than 50%. There is much media propaganda play in the air tying Iran to “bad actions” in Iraq & Lebanon (google Lebanon news for example). Its true that this administration may be more constrained in the kind of strike they may take against Iran at this time. I feel that a wholesale attack on the Iranian military or nuclear facilities may be out of the picture, but I would not rule out one last petty swipe, a cruise missile strike at one of the so-called Quods training sites near Tehran for example. If that is it, I would expect the Iranian response to be very restrained, vs say an attack on the nuclear facilities. Until January of ’09 I would not rule any action by this administration completely out, but they are insane, eh, and living in their own reality that they have created to play in, “and no, you cant bring in any pesky “real” reality or you cant play with us.”

  28. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    <"Lebanon will fall into Syria/Iran/Russia orbit">
    Thanks for your observations. We could expand the scenario by speculating on the impact of the 2008 US election.
    Let’s say Obama gets the Dem nomination. A substantial portion of white Blue collar former Hillary supporters will then bolt to McCain as indicated at least in the last week or so by polls. So let’s say then that McCain wins and the Neocons again reign supreme in the White House. McCain has often said he is a “Scoop Jackson Republican” meaning he is a Neocon groupie.
    The world concludes that a Neocon dominated McCain Administration means 4 more years of Bush policy, maybe 8.
    So, major powers and regional powers make adjustments necessary to protect their national interests. We see some asymmetric and not so asymmetric “balancing” against the profusely bleeding but still dangerous, albeit fading (hard and soft power), US “hegemon”.
    What are the implications for the Middle East? IMO, Egypt will shift to China and others will shift to China and other options. I agree that Russia will have openings.
    The geopolitics of energy lead to alignments such as: a strategic Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline; a strategic Iran-EU pipeline(it’s already somewhere in the works); China-Japan energy cooperation offshore now under discussion; various pipeline arrangements out of Central Asia and Russia for China and Japan.
    And so on shredding the geopolitical narcissism of the US foreign policy establishment (which is dominated by Neocons and assorted other Zionist elements) as manifested in Cheney’s energy-war games; New Cold War against Russia; confrontation with “rising” China; crude pressure on “rising” India, etc..
    A US strike against Iran would, no doubt, accelerate this scenario.

  29. E L says:

    Would someone explain to me why the Siniora government chose to challenge Hezbollah on an issue, their vital telephone system, that was sure to provoke an armed response from Hebolllah? Is the Siniora government insane or could the US have promised to come to their aid or what? The whole situation is crazy.
    E L

  30. mo says:

    Theres a few theories but I do not think anyone expected the results:
    1.There was dialogue in the offing and M14 wanted to increase their leverage in the negotiations.
    2.M14 have been pushing and prodding at the Resistace over the last year. This time they went a step too far or it was the proverbial straw.
    3.This is my favored theory. It was Jumblatt, rather than the govt. that was pushing for these things to be done. I believed he used his position as part of the troika to push the decrees through, painting the govt. into a corner. Why? I believe he was being suplanted by Geagea as the US administrations go to guy and wanted his postion back. He probably thought he could impress the US by pushing these decrees through and banked on Hizballah just ignoring them.

  31. piotr says:

    Colonel do you think that this events in Lebanon was Hezbollah counterattack against coup which was prepared by Siniora and Dżumblatt in order of US goverment in my opinion knowing who is in this goverment and what they done in Palestina- article in Vanity Fair about palestinian coup- it’s high probability how it can be explained that USS Cole was sent there with aphibious ships here is probably scenario of events
    After Hezbollah deny dismantling this phone line coup forces interior security forces supported by Phalanga Hariri, Jumblatt militias will move to action probably in the same time there will sent to lebanon beach by this amphibious ship contingent of marines or other US forces in order to capture airfield then they establish foothold and next small guantanamo for Hezbollah fighters which can be there liquidated or send to Israel. Eventually on asking of Siniora israeli army will be sent to south Lebanon in order to occupied south lebanon and Beirut- this can consider as suicide but knowing performance of lebanese army during summer war israeli army doesn’t have much trouble. Eventually UNIFIL contingent can be used in order to secure israeli army rear. what is your opinion?

  32. Eaken says:

    This is all very fascinating, but I for one don’t believe for a milisecond that the results were unexpected.
    If Verizon or Comcast goes out for more than 30 minutes, things start to get ugly. You take Hizbullah’s comm system out and you expect nothing to happen?
    Something was about to go down, and Hizbullah wasn’t going to sit around and wait to find out.

  33. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Although I don’t follow Lebanese politics, it does seem to me Hizbullah has just sent a crystal clear message: “Don’t Tread on Me.” The apparent point seems to be that Lebanese politics needs to move forward to some new arrangements rather than remain in the thrall of US-Saudi (Israeli) stooges like mini-Harriri.
    So where are we?
    Rami Khouri says:
    1. “When street clashes started in several parts of Beirut, the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hizbullah-led opposition alliance quickly and roundly asserted its dominance over the US- and Saudi-backed government alliance. Put to the test, the new balance of power in Lebanon affirmed itself on the street for the first time in less than 24 hours.”
    2. “The street balance of power was translated into a new political equation inside Lebanon. Hizbullah and its allies had achieved on the street that which they had been asking for politically: the capacity to veto government decisions that were seen as threatening Hizbullah’s security and resistance activities.”
    3. “By immediately handing over to the armed forces those few buildings and strategic locations that they had taken over in Beirut, Hizbullah and its allies sent the signal that they did not want to rule the entire country, and that they trusted the army as a neutral arbiter between the warring Lebanese factions.”
    4. “As the political leaders now seek to do this, they operate in a new context where the strongest group comprises Iranian- and Syrian-backed Islamist Shiites and their junior partners, Christian and Sunni Lebanese allies. They will share power in a national unity government with fellow Lebanese who are friends, allies, dependents and proxies of the United States and Saudi Arabia.”
    A young blogger says:
    “Hizballah continues to work collectively with its Opposition allies, particularly its two main Christian counterparts, Michel Aoun and Sleiman Franjiyeh. Having Christian backing in Lebanon is a crucial leverage for Hizballah in dealing with the West. They are more or less saying, ‘you harm us, you harm the Christians’.
    “Hizballah will not take full control of Lebanon, but instead share it with its fellow allies, which includes the Shi’ite Amal movement, the Christian parties of Aoun and Franjiyeh, the secular SSNP, the Druze leader Talal Arslan, and the pro-Syrian Sunni chieftains such as Omar Karami. In other words, Hizballah has enough friends to fill positions of power without inviting Western or Arab economic sanctions.”
    “March 14’s total demise is a matter of time. Hizballah will not overthrow the government, but will simply squeeze it until it disappears. It is now utterly powerless. There is little anyone can do to resurrect it, save an invasion from a Western or a Sunni Arab power.”
    [The young blogger may not be aware of the suppression in the US media of anything serious relating to the Christian community of Lebanon, particularly Christian factions alliance with Hizbullah. The American public cannot be allowed to notice too much that there are authentic indigenous Christians in the Middle East who are in a political alliance with the “terrorist” Hizbullah Shia MUSLIMS. This would pose problems for 50 million militantly “pro-Israel” Christian Zionist cultists in the US and White House/Neocon manipulation of this bloc for Middle East policy purposes. Authentic American Christians would also begin to perceive things differently to the disadvantage of the Neocons and international Zionism.]
    A Canadian professor, Rex Brynen, who is critical of Hizbullah says:
    “In short, I think this is far from being an unalloyed masterstroke of strategic brilliance.”
    For some context, I just rereard last evening (Col.) Augustus Richard Norton’s “Hezbollah” (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007).
    If the Neocon driven White House does really intend to strike Iran, one indicator could be that it will continue to pour gasolene on the fire in what is Lebanon. This offers oportunities for Israel to strike at Syria-Lebanon which then provides the backdrop for the US strike against Iran. The White House dezinformatsia campaign would intensify against Hizbullah and Hamas in order to justify stikes against Iran for helping out “terrorists”, and so on.

  34. Andy says:

    I’m pretty much in agreement with Rex Brynan.

  35. Cloned Poster says:

    I think Mo has nailed it.

  36. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Your point 3 is most interesting.
    On your indication of Jumblatt as the snake in the grass, could you help us understand how-why the US had Jumblatt as the “go-to guy”?
    Also, I believe that another Druze leader is allied with the Hizbullah/Opposition grouping? So would this mean that power-influence over the Druze community would now shift to the pro-Opposition Druze leader?
    Says Jumblatt, “Sitting in his garden terrace in Beirut, with just a few family members and loyal retainers, Jumblatt is quickly coming to grips with the new political landscape. “The U.S. has failed in Lebanon and they have to admit it,” he said.,8599,1739261,00.html
    Also, the reference to Samir Geagea as the new go to guy for the US. Could you give some details? Any data per the March 2008 meeting he had in the White House?

  37. Binh says:

    Nir Rosen’s “The End of the New Middle East” which talks about how Cheney and Co. have really screwed things up for themselves across the region:

  38. Curious says:

    ” the impact of the 2008 US election.
    Let’s say Obama gets the Dem nomination. A substantial portion of white Blue collar former Hillary supporters will then bolt to McCain as indicated at least in the last week or so by polls. So let’s say then that McCain wins and the Neocons again reign supreme in the White House. ”
    I think there is quite a large chance that neocon next gang are taking over the whitehouse again.
    McCain opening Israel-european tour + Lieberman are certainly made to persuade rightwing pro-israel voters.
    Hillary was their best chance, but she seems to be going nowhere quick.
    Obama is complete wild card to the neocon. They simply has no idea who he is and has the least influence. At first they pile resource on Hillary, calculating that she will win.
    But I can’t say for certain what the impact would be until clear nomineee and first week of public opinion is out. Things are moving rapidly. Who knows what sort of deal will emerge.

  39. Clifford – I agree with much of what you say, but I would like a source for this figure you write:
    “50 million militantly “pro-Israel” Christian Zionist cultists in the US”
    50 million? ONe sixth of the population? I don’t think there are 50 million Americans who can locate Israel on a map. Sorry. I really doubt that even if 50 million Americans are associated with churches that spout Christian Zionist propaganda, that you could count all the members as believers in that stuff. Think about it. The rank and file no more have a clue of what it all means than they understand, say, the workings of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Or the latest political news from Kazakhstan.
    If this statement causes our esteemed host, Col. Lang, to think I am somehow anti-American, my apologies. I just don’t have a great deal of faith in the foreign policy or geo-political understanding of any one-sixth slice of the US population.

  40. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    <"belief in this stuff">
    Consult the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. They have a new study out, the most detailed undertaken and the most recent. It is at:
    The above study is about adults. The numbers are of course higher when you add children for a family number basis.
    You will notice the figures:
    26.3 percent for Evangelical; 18.1 percent for mainline Protestant;
    23.9 percent for Roman Catholic. Not all Evangelicals are Dispensationalists but the majority are.
    Roughly: 16 million members of the Southern Baptist Church. Then you have another group of millions of Pentecotals, Neo-Pentecostals, and various Charismatics, and other independents. Hagee claims 50 million Christian Zionists. I conservatively estimate 25 million but am willing to factor in the Pew numbers and give some credence to the claims of the Fundamentalists.
    The specific indicator is a belief in the Dispensationalist eschatology. Others, who do not believe this eschatology, however, are also pro-Israel for “Biblical” reasons. Hence, they are also Christian Zionists. Using a specific indicator for the eschatology you can arrive at 25 million hard core Fundamentalists. I can concede there may be another 25 million softer core which gives the number Hagee and the others claim.
    I get into all this in my forthcoming book: “Dark Crusade: Christian Zionism and US Foreign Policy” (London: IB Tauris/Palgrave-Macmillan, 2009)
    There is a large academic literature on this subject from historians, sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, religious studies folks and the like. I pull a good part of it into my book and it appears in extensive footnotes and bibliography. So you and others will have further references for research in areas which interest you, should you be so kind as to purchase the book or borrow from a library.
    ALL current presidential candidates are reaching out to the religious voters as you will discern from their campaign staffs and organizations. It is a
    very important campaign consideration.

  41. mo says:

    The US needs someone on the ground who is easily bought and willing to take part in whatever subterfuge they plan. Jumblat is ideal (were it not for his reported mental instability) because he cares only about keeping his position of power and always backs the side he thinks is going to win, which is why his nickname is The Weather Vane, and the fact that he has accepted the new status quo rather than beligerantly carry on as if nothings changed like his allies testifies to this.
    I doubt any change in the Druze community will happen that quickly. The opposition Druze leader, Arslan, belongs to a clan that traditionaly shared leadership of the Druze with the Jumblats but some poor decision making in the 80’s saw them slip from power. The Druze still mostly support Jumblat, and while they may be some drift in support because in Lebanon many people will simply support what they percieve is the strongest representative of their sect whether or not they like the person, unless he disappears or betrays them I don’t see that changing by much.
    In regards to Geagea, no, no hard data. He visited the US after Jumblat and after his visit, the number of visits to Jumblats house by visiting US diginitaries decreased while Geageas went up. In that time Jumblats announcements became more confused as he would publish statements that were increasingly extreme in position and slip one in that was conciliatary.
    Furthermore, for the US Geagea is logicaly a much better go to guy. Unlike Jumblat, he has a real and visecral hate of all things Hizballah (in fact all things Muslim) and as we saw in the civil war, is capabable of more brutality than most of the other warlords combined (Note he was the only militia leader who ordered the execution of all captured prisoners).

  42. Thank you, Clifford, for the numbers and sources. Clearly this is your field of expertise, and clearly I am just sheltered. I still can’t believe that all those folks could find Israel on a map, but maybe it doesn’t matter if they could or not.
    Really it’s quite staggering. I cling to a quote from Gandhi just espied on the internet – something to the effect that we must always believe in the goodness of humanity; if a few drops of water in the ocean are dirty, does that mean the whole ocean is polluted? Once again I must retreat to prayer. With God all things are possible – miraculous cures of mind and body.

  43. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Thanks for the insights.
    Per Geagea’s DC trip, it would be useful if someone could tell us his movements and contacts there. Did he visit Neocon think tanks? Did he meet any Christian Zionists contacts, who is handling his public relations, and etc.
    The United States have been in that region since the late 18th century. Our Mediterranean Squadron was established around 1800. There was an American community in Smyrna/Izmir in the late 18th and early 19th century. Success there encouraged Americans to venture further afield…to Beirut in the early 1800s and on to Persia.
    There is NO excuse for the massive and historic US policy failures in that region during Bush43. The explanation is, of course, that Bush43’s foreign policy is run by Zionist-Neocon and pro-Zionist policy team in the service of transnational interests.
    Take sides? It seems to me the US, as a friend of Lebanon (all Lebanon) should be trying to help Lebanon become a sovereign constitutional and independent republic rather than what it has become.
    Bush43 talks about supporting “the legitimate government” of Lebanon. What legitimate government? What constitutional government? There has not been a president for over a year. There has not been a legitimate cabinet, let alone a representative cabinet, for over a year.
    Isn’t it about time to take another census, the last one being I think in 1932? Couldn’t the UN monitor the census?
    Is it any wonder Shia, who have been treated like dirt around the Muslim world for centuries, want their rights and will defend them in Lebanon? Defend them against Zionists, Wahhabist-takfiri terrorist gangs, and the current machinations of the Christian Zionist Bush43 regime? And the coming Christian Zionist McCain regime?
    It seems to me the American values involved in the question today were embodied in the establishment of American University of Beirut. In 1871, Rev. Daniel Bliss said, “This college is for all conditions and classes of men without regard to color, nationality, race, or religion. A man, white, black, or yellow, Christian, Jew, Mohammedan, or heathen, may enter and enjoy all the advantages of this institution…”

  44. Curious says:

    The crazies just reactivate the fourth fleet. This is definitely going to end in some nasty latin american adventure soon. (Make that budget deficit bigger too)
    These people are completely war mad.
    Washington announced at the end of last month that it is resurrecting the long-ago moth-balled Fourth Fleet to reassert US power in the Caribbean and Latin America. Created at the time of World War II to combat German submarines attacking merchant shipping convoys in the South Atlantic, the Fourth Fleet was seen as no longer necessary after the Second World War and was disbanded in 1950.
    The Pentagon’s a statement on the revival of the fleet gave a far vaguer indication of its new duties, saying it would “conduct varying missions including a range of contingency operations, counter narco-terrorism, and theater security cooperation activities.”

  45. mo says:

    Clifford, all I can tell you is that while there he met with Eliott Abrams, Condoleezza Rice,National Security Advisor Steven Hadley, Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs John Hannah and Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia Gary Ackerman.
    He also ran itno Ban Ki Moon at the UN.
    1983 – Embarrasment in Lebanon, invade Grenada
    2008 – Embarrasment in Lebanon, invade? Venezuela?

  46. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Thanks for the data. His access to the top level contacts in the administration and in Congress may well indicate a “go to guy” role as you point out. As I understand it, he is also quite close to (in their pocket?) the Israelis and many recall his dark role in the past, particularly when the clever (?) Israelis got him to do their dirty work.
    Would you have a sense about what proportion of the Lebanese Christians he represents? General Aoun and Franjieh represent? What are their respective constituencies, and are these geographic?
    It really is quite remarkable how effectively the US press suppresses information and analysis about the Christian community of Lebanon. Guess the pro-Israel orientation of the owners of the concentrated US media accounts for that. Journalists in the United States who value their jobs (mortgage payments, kids in college, etc.) seem to remain silent on many matters.
    (Col.) Augustus Richard Norton’s book “Hezbollah” (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007) seems to me to be an solid and balanced up to date account with helpful and realistic perspective.
    I dusted off an old copy of Kamal S. Salibi’s “Crossroads to Civil War: Lebanon 1958-1976” (London: Ithaca Press, 1976) and will take that along this weekend to the Outer Banks. My main concerns over coffee this morning are surface sea temperatures and conditions at Hatteras.

  47. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Note the coded speech Bush just has delivered in Israel. Go word by word, phrase by phrase, and you will see how it is cast in Christian Zionist terms playing to that voter bloc and so forth. It was very very carefully crafted. On the White House website at
    For example:
    “What followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David — a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.”
    “The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul.”
    ” I have touched the Western Wall, seen the sun reflected in the Sea of Galilee, I have prayed at Yad Vashem. And earlier today, I visited Masada, an inspiring monument to courage and sacrifice. At this historic site, Israeli soldiers swear an oath: “Masada shall never fall again.” Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.”
    “With this change, Israel will open a new hopeful chapter in which its people can live a normal life, and the dream of Herzl and the founders of 1948 can be fully and finally realized.”
    “You have raised a modern society in the Promised Land, a light unto the nations that preserves the legacy of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.”
    And the like.
    See a report at YNET, for example:,2506,L-3544033,00.html

  48. mo says:

    the Christian constituency is probably the most fluid in terms of whom it supports as it rarely ever had a single figurehead to rally behind that has lasted long enough to become a “zaim”. Right now its a case of Geagea or Aoun, with all the rest really just lining up behind one of them.
    At the last election, Aoun had massive support, up to 70% of the Christians by some estimates.
    However, his alliance with Hizballah has left many bewildered. They were brought up to believe that the Shia were their enemies so Aoun’s action is a shift in their reality that some find impossible to accept. So his support has gone down as a result, possibly to as low as 50%. Saying that, his party was still able to defeat Gemayels in Gemayels home constituency in a by-election.
    However, even to many in the Christian community, Geagea is a nasty peice of work. His support, at its highest, I doubt exceeds 15% but i have seen little hard data for that.
    I have read neither book so I can’t really comment on them.
    Is literature on Lebanon the ideal comapny for a relaxing weekend?

  49. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Thanks again for the context as it helps give a sense of the players and their constituencies.
    I read history to relax and my students next week in Global Politics at W and L will be having questions on the situation. We went over the origins of Shiism earlier this week. The students felt the Shia position with respect to Ali and Hussein was easily understandable. I have yet to explain the Wahhabi cult to them and its destruction of Kerbala back in the early 1800s.

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