Monday, September 25, 2006

Guest Posting by Declan: "What I Did At The Weekend"

Introduction: I've known Declan ('Deco') for a long time. He was the best sergeant I ever had. He fell in love first with Lebanon, and then with a Lebanese girl, they got married and as he says himself the rest is "history." It's entirely typical of Deco that when everybody was fleeing the brutal Israeli/American assault upon Lebanon that he was making his way there, determined to rescue as many civilians as he could. His emails describing what he saw and heard and smelt awoke painful and bitter memories for all of us. His description of the wreckage he encountered, of digging his wife's family from the ruins of their home and of his nephew's and niece's death were harrowing. I've known for some weeks now that he and his wife have decided to return to Lebanon permanently and that he would be resigning from the team here at "Guides" as he wants to devote all his time to winding up his affairs in Ireland and moving to his "new" home. He's told me what he plans on doing. I've every confidence that he'll be very successful.

As with all the guest postings I haven't edited anything. I've marked up the XHTML, in this case to very precise instructions from Declan, and prepared the graphics - in this case to extremely precise instructions from Declan. The words are all Declan's own. He's a shrewd observer with a wealth of contacts. I take what he says very seriously.

There will be no further postings today.



As long-time readers here know I fell in love with a Lebanese girl, we got married, had kids, the rest as they say "is history." I've been in Lebanon since the war I got here during the war. This posting is long and it contains strong language, it also contains a lot of graphics so it might load slowly. If you don't like what you read that's just too bloody bad.

What I Did At The Weekend

Last Friday I was asked by my in-laws if I'd like to take part in a family outing. The outing was to hear Nasrallah's speech at the Hizb's victory rally in Beirut. Of course I said "yes." That speech is going to make history. It's not often that Juan Cole has the full text of the speech as translated by BBC Monitoring up on his site. I'd print it off and keep it if I were you.someone like me, I was only a sergeant, gets to see a big history changing event. Wild horses wouldn't have kept me away.

There's a lot of crap being floated in the American media right now. Trying to re-write history. Trying to make American readers, and more importantly, American TV viewers believe that the Hizb lost. They didn't. The losers were the Israelis and their American backers. Professionals in the IDF know it know it . They ain't pleased about it and I don't think they'll let the politicians pin the blame on them. But that's not what this posting is about. This posting deals with what I saw and heard last Friday and what I think it means for the county and people I've come to love just as much as I love Ireland. The country that's going to be my permanent home in a few months time.

First off the rally was huge. I've seen all sorts of estimates of the size of the crowd. Take a loot at the photo to the right. Over view of people arriving for the rallyThat place is 37 acres. My hunch is that the estimates in the order of 800,000 are close to the mark.

People came from all over Lebanon. People came from outside of Lebanon. I spoke to several people who came from Dubai just to be there. I spoke to a Christian family who came from Paris. I spoke to two brothers who came from London. I've no idea how many people came back from Syria where they'd been forced to flee as refugees by the savage Israeli bombing campaign. I stopped counting after a while. But mostly the crowd came from Lebanon. They weren't all Shia either and they weren't all Hizb. There were Berri supporters (no surpise.) There were a lot of Sunnis and a hell of a lot of Christians. I spoke to people who were die-hard supporters of Awn's there was a large group of Franjieh supporters close to where I was sitting.

Maybe that doesn't sound important to you if you don't know Lebanon. Believe me it's important. Lebanon always regroups and re-forms from the bottom up. The composition of the crowd is a sign of a massive shift in Lebanese politics and society. It was happening anyway American and Israeli brutality have made sure that this shift is more profound, longer lasting, and more complete than the previous ones.

Two child murdering piano players
Two of a kind: Condi and Ehud both play the piano to drown out the screams of dieing children. My niece was 6 and dreamt of being a teacher. My nephew was 5 he wanted to be a soccer player. Mark prepared the graphic at my request. The sentiment is all mine and my family's.
- Deco
What I mean by that is that it's going to be a cold day in hell before the Lebanese forgive or forget what was done to their children by Israeli troops and Israeli aviators. They're not going to forgive or forget that the weapons used to slaughter their children and destroy their livelihoods were made in America, paid for by America, and calculatingly used against their children in a war planned for years by Israel, and launched with America's blessing.

They're not going to forgive or forget that America blocked all attempts to stop their children being massacred by Israeli troops and Israeli aviators. They're never ever ever going to forgive or forget what that bloodsoaked slut Condoleeza Rice said about how the agonised deaths of their children were the "birth pangs of the new middle east." They're not going to forgive or forget that neither the "light unto the nations" nor the "shining city on the hill" gave a flying fuck about their children. It didn't matter that a lot of the dead children were Christians all that mattered was that they were Lebanese, that they were Arabs, untermenschen and that it was worth killing them because the political calculation in America and Israel was that killing them would cause their parents to blame and hate their fellow Lebanese.

That was a big, stupid, and above all evil mistake. Between them Ehud and Condi finally conclusively ripped off the mask and exposed the cynical and vicious racism beneath. And speaking as someone with all the normal feelings about kids I hope that they and the people who voted for them get to suffer the consequences of their actions. I don't believe in revenge, harsh retribution dished out to child murderers in a court of law is an idea that I can get right behind 'though. I love the idea of every IDF soldier and every IAF aviator never being able to leave Israel even for a short break in case they get picked up on war-crimes charges. And don't even think of giving me that shit about how the noble Israeli aviators deliberately missed targets. All the dead kids I saw didn't get killed by accident. Not in those numbers.

Kids at the rally. There was face painting for the kids.
"Hezbollah" - Deco

We got there a few hours early and after a good long while walking round and talking to people. I went back to my chair. The rally was organised down a tee. I'd hate to have been the guy in charge of the logistics, I will say that he and his team did a brilliant job, they rented what must have been every chair in Lebanon, and everybody got their free hizb baseball cap. The atmosphere was electric and very much a family affair. In a way I was reminded of a carnival or other celebration. They were there to show their support and their gratitude and they were going to enjoy doing it. Entire families turned up, three, and sometimes four, generations. There was face painting for the kids. Some like the kids in the photo to the left turned up ready-painted.

As I say very much a family affair, very much people who wanted to show their gratitude, their loyalty, their patriotism and yes their anger too. I sent Mark three photos and asked him to prepare a composite graphic that shows some of the cold burning rage that the people of Lebanon feel towards their American and Israeli tormenters:

Composite graphic see list below

  • Panel 1: Giant poster showing Israeli soldiers mourning at the funeral of an IDF soldier killed in Lebanon. The Arabic text on the photo reads:

    "The nation has triumphed and the enemies were defeated."

  • Panel 2: Photograph of Condoleeza Rice and text the text reads:

    "Don't play with fire the Shia would burn you"

  • Panel 3: Giant poster showing Hizb fighter the Arabic text on his bandana reads:

    "God is Great"

From a professional point of view I'll also say that the security was excellent. The Hizb are good at logistics and security and it showed. Very tight security - which I'm not going to talk about. Let's just say that after looking around I felt very safe.

The speech itself was very well thought out. Go read the BBC translation on Juan Cole's site. My spoken Arabic is good - it should be after being married to an Arab all this time, my written Arabic isn't all that hot, but I know a good translation when I see it, and that's a good translation - a hell of a lot better than any translation I could do. The crowd interrupted with applause repeatedly. There was a lot in that speech. Most of it was directed to Lebanese concerns. The crowd lapped it up:

"Brothers and sisters, we should today stress that this war was an American war in terms of decision, weapons, planning, and desire, and by giving several deadlines for the Zionists; one, two, three, and four weeks. What stopped the war is the failure of the Zionists. If you recall the last days, the largest number of tanks was destroyed on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; the largest number of the occupation soldiers was killed on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; the helicopters crashed on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Therefore, the Zionists realized that if they had continued [the war], it would have been a disaster. The Americans intervened and even accepted the drafts [of resolutions] for the war to stop. They stopped the war not for the sake of Lebanon, not for the sake of the children of Lebanon, not for the sake of the blood of women in Lebanon, and not for the sake of beautiful Lebanon. They stopped the war only for the sake of Israel. They came to peddle it to us in Lebanon; namely, that our American friends stopped the war.

Every time he mentioned America or Condoleeza Rice there were boos. Heartfelt boos, enraged boos, there was a large bloc of Christians just behind us. They booed the loudest and there weren't any cheerleaders around that I could see - they weren't needed. One point that needs to be made is that the Hizb have been working round the clock on reconstruction. They're way ahead of the government and they're being straight up and honest about the reconstruction. They've even discriminated positively in favour of Sunnis and Christians when they were doling out grants-in-aid cash. That's going to reap them big rewards in the future. Contrast that with the government insisting that all aid go through the (notoriously corrupt and used as a source of political patronage) Higher Relief Council (HRC) and you can see why a lot of donors are going the direct route. When you read his speech you'll see time and time again his insistence on "no sectarianism" (the crowd loved it every time he did that you could see and hear the approval) and contrast it with how Hariri junior scooted out of Lebanon as fast as his fat little legs could carry him - but not before leaving instructions that refugees weren't to be allowed on any of his property and you can see the hollowness of the "Cedar revolution." He repeatedly criticised Siniora's government calling it weak and ineffective and calling for a national unity government. I have a feeling he might get it. "Premier boo hoo" as he's called in Lebanon - even by his supporters, hasn't impressed anyone lately.

What I saw and heard on Friday was one of the Lebanon's famous "bottom up" earthquakes. The Hizb rally and Nasrallah's speech was the clearest sign yet that the Shia are going to to assert themselves more strongly in Lebanese politics. All the obfuscation in the world and all the hysterical press coverage in America can't conceal that the Lebanese government as gor noted here have repeatedly referred to the Hizb as a resistance not a militia, a resistance, not a "terrorist" group. There isn't a hope in hell of them being able to backtrack on that now. And there isn't a hope in hell of either the UN forces or the Lebanese army especially not the Lebanese army being able to disarm the Hizb either. The Lebanese army doesn't want to disarm them. For the record most of the Lebanese army privates and sergeants are Southern Lebanese Shia. Ohlmert and Rice can squeal all they like about this - it's a measure of how thoroughly they've been defeated that they went to the UN in the first place. It's not going to happen. There might be some face-saving "seizures" of clapped-out equipment that the Hizb don't want anymore but that'll be it. To my mind this was the most telling part of his speech:

"But, what is happening now? Instead of the Israeli leaving Shab'a Farms, he is extending the strip northward. Instead of the Israeli resolving the problem of the border points, he moves forward to Al-Khiyam and Marwahin. Instead of our benefiting from our legal right to the Al-Wazzani River, the Israeli builds pipes to steal the water. Is this how to protect the country and its resources?

Therefore, any talk about disarming the Resistance - to some people the word "disarming" is a bit heavy; fine, how about surrendering the resistance weapons? Any talk about surrendering the resistance weapons under this state, this authority, this regime, and the existing situation means keeping Lebanon exposed to Israel so it can kill as it wants, arrest as it wants, bomb as it wants, and plunder our land and waters. We certainly cannot accept that."

What he was saying here and in the next few paragraphs is that even under the ceasefire the Israelis are acting with aggressive bad faith. That the solution is a national unity government with a strong Hizb component. I've a strong hunch the most Lebanese agree with him.

Here's my take: The Hizb won you lost. You deserved to. Get used to it. Every time you've tried to impose your will by violence you've lost. You deserved to. Get used to it. Start dealing in good faith with your Palestinian population and with your neighbours. Yes they're your enemies. Enemies are who you negotiate with. Get used to it.


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