Saturday, September 24, 2016

Consensual Democracy: A Failure in Flagrante Delicto

Whenever a critique of the so-called "consensual democracy" of the dysfunctional failed state of Lebanon is  raised, a volley of apologetic arguments is usually marshaled to drown it. Consensual democracy, an apparently unique Lebanese invention, is essentially an oxymoron that the blind Lebanese, in their utterly incompetent and ignorant understanding of genuine democracy, practice and defend as a fig leaf for the lemon republic that this country is. It is, they claim, the best one can get in a primitive, tribal, sectarian, and ultra-religious society such as ours, and we should all be grateful to God Almighty and to Lebanese "genius" for having found the most perfect political system that marries modern democracy with a primitive society.

Let me first define "consensual democracy", as I understand it. By definition, the "democratic" process involves, in one essential part of it called elections, a competition between candidates for representing their constituents in government, such that the candidate with the most votes represents the majority of his/her constituents. Candidates claiming to want to represent their people offer a vision, a program, a roadmap aiming at translating the will of the people into laws that regulate the administrative and political life of the country. The fact that a candidate earns a majority of votes in elections does not make that candidate necessarily the best or his/her ideas necessarily the most appropriate. As a group, the people of a district or a country may choose a bad or unsuitable candidate to represent them, because the outcome of an election is the average decision of large numbers of individual voters. In the US, for instance, the American people twice voted for George W. Bush, an absolute idiot who ruined the country, and the Republicans have just chosen an even more backward and incompetent man, Donald Trump, as their candidate for president. But elections provide for a scientific, numbers-based certainty, in the sense that we have a definite number of people who have chosen this or that candidate, and numbers are fixed, unalterable objective facts. Elections, ballots, votes, when done properly, are the only thing we know for sure in a democracy.

By definition too, "consensus" is a general agreement between persons over an issue, and that agreement is drawn not by a vote or election, but by discussion and negotiation. So when we say that there is consensus between a number of people, it means that a non-measured majority of these people agree on the issue. Also, consensus can only be between persons; it cannot be between groups or communities because a discussion or negotiation between these large numbers is not feasible. If you have to vote to choose representatives who then can participate in the consensus process, you are back to a democratic process in which consensus is not needed since people are directly voting. Again, as in a democratic vote, whether or not a consensus exists between a group of people does not necessarily make the outcome correct or right.  In fact, because the decision is left to the whims of a few individuals, it is even less likely to be a good decision as described below.

Therefore, there is a built-in contradiction in the term "consensual democracy". If there is a democracy, then people vote directly on the issue, or their duly elected representatives themselves vote on the issue. In consensual democracy, as practiced in Lebanon, people vote for representatives who then decide among themselves without voting the fate of a particular law or issue. For example, electing a president in Lebanon is not by direct popular vote. Rather, it is the parliament which elects the president. So the current stalemate in which no president has been elected for more than 2 years is essentially the direct proof of the failure of consensual democracy. A direct popular vote would quickly bring a president to office, but as things stand now, disputes between representatives who are unable to reach a consensus has brought the political life of the country to a halt. So here are some of the deleterious consequences of "consensual democracy":

Consequence 1: An agreement reached by "consensus" between people's representatives is in fact  disconnected from the will of the people. It renders elections an exercise in futility, since an agreement between the representatives - absent a vote - circumvents the will of the people who elected the representatives. As a result, this agreement more often than not represents the interests of the representatives, but not the interests of the people.

Consequence 2: This is fertile ground for corruption, backroom deals, handshakes, bribes, and other sordid means of agreement, because it is easy to bribe one individual and get him/her to join, or break rank with, the "consensus". This is a chronic problem with Lebanon's corrupt political establishment.

Consequence 3: In Lebanon, the fact that the representatives are elected on the basis of their sectarian identity makes these representatives at least equally loyal to established non-elected religious authorities as they may be to the voters who elected them. This further scuttles the democratic process because another, non-elected, stakeholder - the religious establishments - has a say in the consensus.

Consequence 4:  "Consensual democracy" explains why in Lebanon voters never hold their representatives accountable, because people never know how their elected representative voted on a given law or issue. Consensus is always made in shady undisclosed discussions, never by a vote based on conscience. Because of the lack of transparency, the representative justifies an unsatisfactory outcome by blaming the "other side" for the consensus decision. The consensus gives the elected representative a deniability of responsibility, and renders him immune to accountability.

Consensual Democracy has never worked. It can never work. Lebanon is a failed state because its political system is an oligarchical theocracy parading itself as a democracy. In this country, elected representatives are beholden to the religious establishments because they are elected as representatives of their religious community, and not of their individual constituents. And when you have a religious oligarchy with financial interests shared among its otherwise hostile and inimical members, the last thing they worry about is the will of the people. That is why in Lebanon when members of the political establishment agree among themselves (i.e. there is consensus), they rob their own people. When they disagree (i.e. there is no consensus), they fight among themselves leading, in best case scenarios, to stalemate (as is the case these days), and in worst case scenarios, to civil war, massacres and destruction.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lebanese expats: Gebran Bassil's Kafkaesque Bureaucracy will kill you before you reclaim your so-called identity

In The Trial, Franz Kafka describes a bizarre story of a man who is arrested and prosecuted by a vague, distant, and inaccessible authority, for a crime that is never revealed. An endless bureaucratic nightmare for which there is not even a single redeeming reason. That is how the corrupt, incompetent Lebanese bureaucracy is. One has to navigate it without knowing the rules, without knowing the endpoints, and even when there are milestones, they have no logical reason.The only logic one can draw is to invoke the conspiracy theory to the effect that all this endless travel through dark holes of unreason is to feed the valet bureaucrats appointed by the sectarian monsters that rule over our lives. All the appointees to public service offices where such bureaucracy takes place are clients of political bosses, and they cash a paycheck first to vote for the boss at the next elections, second to keep the wheel of incomprehension and vagueness turning in order to cement their jobs, and third as an additional source of income in the form of bribes and kickbacks they take in exchange for doing their so-called jobs, i.e. signing and stamping otherwise useless paperwork.

A case in point is my own recent experience of registering my divorce with the Lebanese authorities for the sole purpose of deleting the mention "متأهل" (married) from my Civil Status certificate (إخراج قيد). My divorce was issued by a US court in the 1990s, and it is a civil (not religious) legal process not involving the neanderthals of the Christian or Muslim clergy and institutions. In a civilized country, you submit an application, along with the divorce court ruling certificate, and the local registry just handles the process. In Lebanon, it is long winding endless maize of ill-conceived, poorly described, deliberately provided as fragmented requirements, involving the Lebanese Embassy or Consulate abroad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Interior Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the local registry (قلم النفوس), all intricately linked by Kafkaesque gossamer which is described nowhere, and which one discovers abruptly at every stunning, maddening step of the way. Like God, Gebran Bassil and his hordes of Uncivil Servants, operate in mysterious ways, and more often than not, only miracles make the process move forward. Do not count on ethics, responsibility, professionalism, obligations or any of the drivers of civil servants in the civilized world. Just take the plunge and suffer the many rectal exams you have to be subjected to in order to change one word in your record at the registry. Here is my story.

Having married in the 1980s in New York, where I had fled from Palestinian terrorism, Bachir Gemayel's barbarism, Walid Jumblatt's tribalism, Israeli treachery, Syrian vulgar savagery and the filth of Lebanon's religious politics of the 1980s, I registered my civil marriage and children with the Lebanese Consulate in New York. It took years for the names of my spouse and children to appear in the registries in Lebanon, and when I would occasionally call the consulate to inquire, I would be told that I had to fly to Beirut and "follow up" on the registration in person in situ. Being from the Chouf where cave-dwelling Druze and Christian savages have been slaughtering one another for centuries, there was no way I was going to fly to Beirut in the midst of war and drive to Beiteddine to do the "follow up". So, because of the war, and when the names appeared a decade later in the records, I forgave the ineptitude and rudeness of Lebanese Consular bureaucrats. 

But what about today, with Gebran Bassil wanting to reconnect the diaspora with the homeland? I will tell you: It is worse today. For one, Bassil is not really interested in helping the Diaspora; all he wants is for Christians to register so he can increase their hypothetical numbers in the sectarian cesspool of Lebanon, and then, of course, having increased their numbers artificially, to "save" those said Christians from their fellow Muslims who, it seems, are bent on annihilating them. He must have Christians so he can claim to want to defend them. With most Christians having fled the country, Bassil has no "flock" to shepherd. He has inherited the greed and stupidity of the Maronite Church which, less than 100 years ago annexed largely Muslim areas of Syria into their autonomous Mount Lebanon entity to create the Greater Lebanon monstrosity in which Christians quickly became a minority. In the 1989 Taif Agreement, concluded after decades of war in which the Muslims demanded power, the Christians managed to hold on to a 50% share of everything - المناصفة - despite their dwindling numbers and sectarian proportion (estimated today at 35%). And so Bassil, in collusion with the Maronite Church, today wants expat Christians - who by the way fled not only Palestinian, Syrian, Druze and Muslim barbarism, but the filth and Fascism of their own protectors of the Christian militias and the Maronite Church - to register at their consulates and embassies so the number of "theoretical" Christians in Lebanon increases, so that, in turn, Bassil can claim to have a flock to defend from the Muslims and more importantly so he can bolster the decaying argument of a 50% Christian share of government to 35% proportion of the demographics. 
For the past year, I have been dealing with the incompetence, rudeness, and lack of professionalism of  politically-appointed and often illiterate bureaucrats of the Lebanese  Consulate in NY, and the consequent abject misery and agony of registering my ancient (1990s) and civil (not religious) divorce. It is an endless saga of incomplete information provided on web sites, misplaced mailings, a New York consul who can't speak or write English and with whom telephone conversations are akin to a bullying contest of who can shut the mouth of his interlocutor faster and louder. After much misunderstandings and missed mailings back in the US, the papers finally made it to Bassil's den of Foreign Affairs in Ashrafiyeh. Thanks to someone I know who used to work there, the papers somehow made their way to Interior Ministry in Hamra. Keep in mind that both places are mindless, chaotic, dirty, incomprehensible worlds of rundown unmarked offices, where you have ask a million times many an individual in your same predicament before you know where to go. After being told that the papers will now make it in 3 days to the registry (the hypothetical endpoint of this Kafkaesque journey), we discovered a month later that the papers did NOT leave Interior Ministry. When we inquired, we were told that the asshole Consul in New York had misspelled my mother's name in the form he fills out, which causes the papers that have traveled all the way from NY back in April to be returned from Interior to Foreign Affairs and then back to the US in order for the asshole Consul to correct the name. In addition, there are requirements that make no sense, or if they do, there is never an explanation provided, as for example the requirement that a proxy (a Power of Attorney) must be given to someone else (at the extra cost of $125: $100 to the notary, and $25 to the consulate) to "follow up" the registration at Foreign Affairs. You ask a hundred times what this "follow-up" (ملاحقة المعاملة) consists of, and you never get a straight answer. Then you tell yourself after appointing the proxy that you'd better be physically present here in Lebanon to do the mysterious "follow-up" alongside the proxy. The papers normally should travel by diplomatic pouch from the Consulate to Foreign Affairs, who then forwards them to Interior, who then forwards them to the Registry, where the records are updated from "married" to "divorced". That is the job of ethical civil servants. But not in Lebanon. I also found out, only recently, that you are required to appoint an attorney for a reason that they never explain to you and that even the attorney I already spoke with does not understand.  All of this to register a really ancient, settled and done with divorce of more than 20 years ago.














Friday, September 16, 2016

Lebanon 1975: The Sequel - On a Street Near You

All the signs have been given. The Machiavellian Reality Hollywood production, rooted in the filth of middle eastern sectarianism and tribalism, is ready to launch Lebanon into the sequel of the 1975 War. About time. These productions usually alternate generations, but we are in the fast lanes of the 21st century and things move rapidly.

We had the Palestinians back in the 1970s to drag the pathetic Lebanese Muslims into launching their war against their own country and their own army. You see, their association with Lebanon is rather loose as they prefer all other affiliations - Syrianism, arabism, islamism, baathism, shiism, sunnism, wahhabism, iranianism... - to their own. Granted, their insertion into the Lebanese entity less than 100 years ago was forced, coerced, and painful for them because they much preferred to have stayed with Syria, the pulsating but now limp penis of the Arab world. Just as Faysal in 1919, Nasser in 1958, Arafat in 1965 in tandem with Assad in 1970, they reneged, again and again, on the National Pact with their fellow Christian Lebanese, using foreigners and outside powers to drive a nail in the coffin of the Greater Lebanon entity. They are Arabs. They are Muslims. What fucking bullshit is this Lebanon that forces to live under a Christian president who more often than not does not have an Arabic-sounding name?

So, the "leaders" by the names of Yafi, Bizri, Salam, Hoss, etc...followed Arafat, Assad, and Jumblatt, and joined them in one big hybrid mutant of "leftwinging-arabizing-islamzing-conquering-baathizing-antizionisizing-antichristianizing-antiimperializing-anticrusading... - called the National Movement whose objectives were to liberate Palestine, chase the Zionists out of Palestine, reduce the Lebanese Christians to the dhimmi status, emasculate the Lebanese christian president, make Lebanon the only filthy arab country to fight Israel, and assorted other goals which, all together, aimed at one thing: Destroy the Lebanese entity and merge with Syria or some other warm Arabo-Islamic union. To achieve these sublime goals, they resorted to breaking the army, preventing the army from fighting the lawless Palestinians, attacking and boycotting their own Lebanese government, besieging, shelling and massacring Lebanese Christian towns using Syrian a horde of militias and terror organizations, disguised as Palestinian guerillas, Shiite fundamentalists, Sunni fundamentalists, Communists, Druze gangs, all of this funded by the largesse of the Saudi criminal Muslim headquarters, or the Kuwaiti motherfuckers (before Saddam invaded them), or the Egyptian turncoats, or the Libyan hoodlum Qaddafi or any of the great Muslim-Arab cesspools around the world with oil beneath their soil. In the end, they even managed to rally the Americans who, having been stung by the Arab oil embargo, wanted the Saudis to be happy pumpers of oil, as well as the Israelis who, to this day, continue to prefer the Assad regime to any alternative because the regime's cruelty secured the Israelis all the pretexts they needed to keep gobbling up the last remains of Palestine. All these people converged their weapons, money, terrorists and energy to defeating the Lebanese Christians. And they did. In 1990, the last Lebanese government to be free from the custody of the enemies of Lebanon, fell.

For the past 26 years, Lebanon has lived under the custody of the winners above: Sunnis, Syrians, Druze, joined by the Shiites who were inducted to the club by the rise of the Islamic pit of Iran... Their achievements, heralded by the Taif Agreement of 1989, gave the Muslim rulers, who castrated the Christian president and reduced the Christian Lebanese to dhimmis, a free hand in the governance of the country. They continue to hate Lebanon, of course, and would have preferred, still, to join Syria or Egypt or some other Arab-Muslim cesspool. But, drunk from finally having power in their hands, they embarked on their "reconstruction" of the country. One Rafik Hariri, a building contractor with no education, but with billions he made kissing ass to the Saudis and building palaces for them, became Mr. Lebanon. They tempered their Arab and Islamic addicitions, and pretended to love Lebanon for a while. But the disease of Islamo-arabism is so entrenched that sooner or later it is bound to return.

Today, after 26 years of Muslim rule in Lebanon, you can witness the achievements of the winners of the 1975 war: Filth, corruption, a rundown country, bouts of Islamic forbidden this and Haram that, repression, taxation, garbage, a crumbling administration, an ecological disaster in the forests and the sea... You should also contrast those 26 years of Muslim rule with the preceding 26 years of Christian rule: From1946 (when the Christian Lebanese evicted the French army) to circa 1973 (when the Arabo-Muslims began dismantling the Lebanese State), Lebanon was literally a jewel of liberalism, prosperity, openness, tolerance, freedom of the press, an international banking platform, a wealth of tourism, a fountain of world-class education.... But, in the eyes of its enemies, it had one major problem: It had a Christian President with enough power to make the country a world-class country. It had to be brought down, like a sheep to the slaughter on Adha. And the Lebanese Muslims did just that. Problem for them is that they are incompetent. They do not understand the concepts of personal and collective responsibility that are the foundation of prosperous liberalism. They cannot transcend the tenets of Sharia law and the strict reliance on God to remove garbage, bring wealth, promote education, raise the human above the tribal and the sectarian. Just drive between Christian areas and Muslim areas of Lebanon, and do your own compare-and-contrast. Today, after 26 years of Muslim rule, the country is as backwards as it was under the Ottoman Empire of the 1850s before Lebanon seceded and became autonomous from the Muslim rule that the filthy Turks imposed on the country for 400 years.

Today, we are back to the starting line of 1975.We have Syrian refugees instead of Palestinian refugees, and just like the Palestinian refugees did from the late 1960s and well into the early 1980s, the Syrian refugees have brought with them their fanaticism, their tribalism, their fundamentalism, their million organizations of Islamic Conquest this and Arab Intifada that, and of course, their hatred of Lebanon which, of all countries hosting them, has the highest per-capita number of Syrian refugees.

We have the Saudis and Iranians as sponsors of the war, instead of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others back in 1975. A reshuffling of the assholes, as it were, all driven by the same Arab and Islamic ideologies and their hatreds of one another. But in Lebanon, they find a common enemy: A non-Muslim Lebanese who still demands his rights, unlike the other Christians in the Arab world who either don;t exist or who have been dislodged for good or who live as fourth class citizens.

We have the beginnings of the early 1970s: Car bombs, assassinations, kidnappings, lawlessness of all kinds. We have the Druze militias, Christian militias, digging up their weapons from their mountain caches. We have daily clashes between local Christian youth and Syrian refugee youth (as was the case yesterday in Sarba, near Jounieh); it is this sort of clashes that was the trigger of the 1975 War: Local Christian youth in Ain-Remmaneh who had enough of the armed Palestinian hoodlums. We have a paralyzed government, just as it was under the traitor Sunni Prime MInister Rashid Karame who refused to convene his own government for almost a year because he preferred the Palestinian Arafat to the Lebanese Gemayel. We have an army that no one dares use, because it will splinter in the blink of an eye into sectarian militias. It now looks great, of course, because no one uses it except against some mysterious enemy on the borders with Syria. But try to put it to the real test of securing the country internally, and it will crumble.

We have the Americans, the British, the French and all the bleeding-hearted westerners who sermonize the Lebanese as to how to run the country, but never help enough to ensure the country succeeds or survives. Just as they wanted the Palestinian refugees to stay in Lebanon to relieve Israel of the Right of Return, they today want the Syrian refugees to stay in Lebanon and not flood Europe. So they pump money into Lebanon to buy the corrupt Muslim rulers to keep the Syrians in Lebanon.

And so, it is with a great sense of foreboding that I predict a repeat of the 1975 War sooner rather than later. The Christians, of course, want to regain some of their lost mojo, and the Muslims will resist and will use the Syrian refugees as their fighting militias. The Christians, again, will fall in the trap of trusting the West who will sell them of course to secure its own interests which, for better of for worse, remain the vast Muslim expanse outside Lebanon's borders. Think of it, US president Obama, who is by far the most inimical American president vis-a-vis Israel, just gave the Israelis US$38 billion in weapons over the next few years. This tells you where the priority of the West is.

So, move your precious furniture and belongings to your mountain hideout - we all learned our lessons from 1975 - because even your friends, the army and militias who will tell you that they are protecting you against the other side, will rob your house and rape your daughters in the lawlessness of the next "civil" war. The leaders who killed and raped in the 1970s, have now bestowed power on their sons: Gemayels, Salams, Jumblatts, Frangiehs, Mouawwads, Chamouns, Berris.... every single political farm in this club now a new face on an old name, and these rookies will want to prove their worth: Just like their fathers, they will lead you to slaughter and massacre as they try to save you from other members of the club.

Perhaps it is true, after all, that things never change in Lebanon. We are fools to believe that they may one day change for the better. So perhaps, instead of stashing my belongings in my mountain hideout, I should sell the lot and leave the country and keep on enlarging the Lebanese expat population around the world.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

AOUN between 2002 and 2016: A MASTER OF PERFIDY

[I found this piece from my archives from 2002 when Aoun was still in exile in Paris. In the interview with Assafir below, Aoun spells out clearly his positions on Hezbollah, the Shebaa Farms, Israel, Syria and other subjects. Compare these positions to Aoun's, and his poodle Gebran Bassil's positions today, and draw your own conclusions as to the lack of integrity of the man. Who in their right mind would want a prostitute politician like this to be president of this miserable country? [Note: Highlights are my own].

Translation of excerpts from a televised interview with MTV, by: Assafir Daily (Lebanon)  10/04/02

Aoun: The Shebaa Farms are not Lebanese and the Resistance (Hizballah) Prolonged the Occupation
General Michel Aoun appeared live yesterday from Paris and presented his views and positions regarding the developments in the region.

Aoun described the martyrdom missions executed by the Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation as "suicide missions" and not "missions of martyrdom". He added that such operations "reveal an uncivilized conduct," and that the use of booby-trapped vehicles against Israel is an act of terrorism.

Aoun, in a televised interview with MTV, fiercely attacked Hizballah and Syria and accused them of nurturing the rejectionist discourse of the Palestinians. He also accused them of wanting to annihilate the Israelis, and of prodding the Palestinians to destroy a whole population.

Aoun criticized the military operations undertaken by the resistance (Hizballah) in the Shebaa Farms stating that "the Farms issue is a lie: the Shebaa Farms are not Lebanese; let Syria give us an official document that these Farms are Lebanese then we will work at liberating them."

Aoun described Hizballah's and Syria's position regarding the developments in occupied Palestine as "an extremist position stemming from either political recklessness or collusion with Israel." Aoun criticized "the rejectionist discourse that rejects even the human Israeli existence; such as the Hizballah discourse that considers the killing of anyone in the Israeli society as «fair game', and the discourse of President Bashar Assad that is identical to Hizballah's and proclaims that «there are no civilians in the Israeli society'. Aoun added: "We reject this kind of discourse. We reject such policy of extermination. Such things are contradictory to any human or civilized conduct. They are calling for the destruction of a whole people through terrorist means, and this is unacceptable. The use of such means released the destructive military power of Israel and legitimized it."

He also stated that the military victory of Israel "will not eliminate the Palestinian State nor the rights of the Palestinian people. However, those goals cannot be reached by the extermination of Israelis and wiping out Israel, as Hizballah and Bashar Assad want."

And regarding the resistance (Hizballah) that liberated the South from Israeli occupation, Aoun said: "The resistance prolonged the occupation. There was an Israeli proposal of withdrawal in 1994. Why did Lebanon withdraw from the negotiation process? Lebanon attached itself to the Syrian tractor and dissolved its own political and diplomatic identity, the resistance prolonged the occupation and damaged Lebanon economically". He called for the "disarming of Hizballah that keeps threatening us with civil war."

Aoun attacked Syria fiercely and said: "Is it allowable for Syria to kill in the name of brotherhood? Is it allowable for Syria to occupy Baabda (Presidential Palace) in the name of brotherhood? Why did it greet me with hostility from my first day as head of the interim government?"

 Aoun described the Lebanese constitutional institutions as "farms" and said: "The Baabda farm (Presidential Palace) needs to be liberated, so does the Kraitem (Cabinet) and the Nejmeh Square (Parliament) farms. There is no free decision in any of these places."[Today, Aoun and Bassil have created their own farm in Rabieh].

On the future of the region Aoun said: Peace in the Middle East is a civilizational condition that must evolve against the politics of violence. It rests on the acceptance of the "other", the right to be different, and the democratization of the political systems.

It is impossible to build a new Middle East with a war mentality. Competition through development and pluralism, which arises from the acceptance of those who are different, the plurality of races, genders, and origins, and the freedom of creed, is consistent with the stipulations of the Charter of Human Rights.

I do not trust states that engage themselves in the path of peace and try to develop their systems, but that do not recognize the right of freedom of creed, which by the way is not limited to religion, but also includes political and all other forms of freedoms. There are underdeveloped autocratic and theocratic states that are anachronisms and are incompatible with the times in which we live. The Bin Laden school is such a belief system and it cannot survive. The slogan of war on Christians and Jews is an aberration that cannot survive, neither in the East nor in the West. Lebanon is the only oasis for the reconciliation of cultures because of its Moslems and Christians who have lived the experience and found it to be viable.

Aoun said his return to Lebanon is tied to "changes on the ground" he expects to happen soon and which are linked to regional developments. 

Aoun finished his secondary education in 1955 and enrolled in the Military Academy as a cadet officer.  Three years later, he graduated as an artillery officer in the Lebanese Army. In June 1984, nine years into Lebanon's civil war, General Aoun was named commander of the Lebanese Army. In the fall of 1988, Syria and others created a political crisis by preventing the Lebanese Parliament from convening to elect a new president (Lebanese presidents are not popularly elected).  Damascus staunchly opposed the election of any candidate unwilling to sign a treaty recognizing Syrian hegemony in Lebanon.  In order to break this impasse, just 15 minutes before the expiration of his term, outgoing president Amin Gemayel appointed Aoun as interim prime minister until Parliament could elect a new president.  Although Aoun's government was constitutional, Syria backed the formation of a rival regime, supported by Syria's client militias.  While Aoun's government was officially recognized by several countries, most countries declined to formally recognize either regime. In an effort to assert the authority of his government, Aoun sent his army to close illegal ports run by both Christian and pro-Syrian Muslim militias.  After fighting that destroyed much of Beirut, General Aoun agreed to an Arab League-brokered cease-fire in September 1989.  After the cease-fire, a Saudi-sponsored meeting of Lebanese parliamentarians was held in Ta'if, Saudi Arabia, ostensibly to approve an agreement providing for the unification of Lebanon and the withdrawal of Syrian forces from the country. Aoun rejected the agreement, mainly because it failed to provide for a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon by a date certain.  However, the agreement also stipulated constitutional changes that Aoun believed should be subject to a popular referendum, a procedure that Syria opposed.  Foreseeing that the Lebanese parliamentarians would bow to Syria's will, Aoun dissolved Parliament, but it met anyway in Syrian-controlled territory in November 1989 to elect a new president and remove Aoun from office.  Aoun remained in office, however, and fought Syrian-led efforts to remove him.  In October of 1990, and with a green light from the United States and Israel, Aoun succumbed to Syria's superior military force and took refuge in the French Embassy.  He was allowed to leave Lebanon for exile in France in August of 1991 and has been there ever since. He returned to Lebanon in May 2005 following the Hariri assassination and the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon. He founded the "Free Patriotic Movement", today headed by his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Sectarian Proportionality: Oxymoronic Reform

Many well-intentioned people are calling for modifying Lebanon’s electoral system to one based on the principles of “proportionality” (an-Nisbiyah النسبية) and “one-man, one-vote”. 

Proportional representation is an electoral system in which candidates or parties gain seats in parliament in proportion to the number of votes cast for them. Under the one-man, one-vote principle voting districts for a legislature need to have about the same population size. The idea behind the rule is that one person's voting power ought to be roughly equivalent to another person's voting power within the state, AND one’s person’s vote to be reflected in a fair and equal representation of each individual voter in parliament.

The devil being in the details, however, below are some of the built-in contradictions between the proportionality and the one-man, one-vote principles on one hand, and the sectarian foundation of the Lebanese entity on the other. A lack of awareness of those contradictions denotes either ignorance or ulterior motives on the part of those calling for proportional and one-man, one-vote representation. If it is ignorance, these people need to inform themselves better. If it is some other motive, then they need to be more honest, speak up clearly and declare their otherwise commendable goal of sacking the sectarian basis of government in Lebanon.

1- Proportionality is extremely difficult to implement in a sectarian system. For it to work, any district that is not drawn along sectarian lines would immediately violate Lebanon’s sectarian basis of government. Any district that is heterogeneous would require two seats for the principle to be applicable. For the sake of example, if a district is majority Christian and has only one seat in parliament, you would be forcing the Muslims in that district to be voting for a non-Muslim representative, which violates the sectarian setup of the country. If you then must assign a second seat to satisfy the Muslim minority in that district, you would in essence be splitting the district in two, one Christian and one Muslim, each of which would obtain a separate representative. You might as well redraw the boundaries and create two districts. In other words, for Lebanon, you would need to draw the boundaries of the districts according to two implausible criteria: They each need to have a homogeneous sectarian population (all Maronite, all Druze, etc.), AND they need to be all of equal population size.

2- The Lebanese constitution gives مناصفة (fifty-fifty) to the Christians (i.e. half the seats in parliament) even if, by any account, Christians no longer make up 50% of the population.  So, in order for proportionality and the one-man, one-vote principles to apply in Lebanon, you would have to artificially create more Christian districts to meet the fifty-fifty rule, and those districts would in reality represent less than 50% of the people. In other words, you would have to invent virtual Lebanese citizens who would be Christian by faith, to whom you would ascribe parliamentary representation.

3- Lebanon’s parliamentary representation and so-called democracy are a fallacy. Rather than being a “demo”cracy in which the object of government is the individual, Lebanon’s form of government is a plutocracy-oligarchy-theocracy hybrid.  Since the core of the Lebanese system of government is the religious-tribal identity, rather than a national identity, then the one-man, one-vote and proportionality principles cannot be implemented. As a Lebanese individual thinks of himself or herself first as a Sunni or a Maronite or a Druze, and second as a follower of a local, village, tribal or religious boss, and only then beneath these other layers of identity, as a Lebanese, then the one-man, one-vote and proportionality principles are just an absurdity.

In other words, those calling for the proportionality principle should start by eliminating the sectarian basis of the constitution and the country, and that requires a major upheaval because the Lebanese, in their primeval underdeveloped state of societal and political development, remain attached to their religions and religious bosses like stink on a monkey. 

But are there alternatives that may provide for a modus vivendi between archaism (religious-tribal identity) and modernity (individual identity)? Below is a modest proposal that has been on the market for a while, but which has found no currency because the establishment (religious and tribal) sees it as a threat that would undermine its monopoly over power.

In the Lebanese system, the object of government is NOT the individual; rather, it is the religious community. Lebanon, as a political entity, is NOT constituted of individual persons; it is constituted of religious communities that willy-nilly were forced into a vague federation around 1923.  Individual rights do not really exist in Lebanon; they are subsumed under the rights of the religious community to which any one individual is forced to belong from birth. Within each religious community, individual rights are merely assumed or vaguely referenced, but are rarely, if ever, enforced. Parliament in Lebanon is more like the Upper Chamber or Senate of genuine democracies in which considerations of history, legacy, and social makeup recognize alternate elements alongside the individual citizen as constituents of the state and as sources of legitimacy and authority. In Lebanon, parliament is not a House of Commons or House of Representatives representing individual voters free of their religious affiliations; it is a Senate representing only the religious communities.

The solution therefore, perhaps, lies in a bicameral system – a people’s assembly (House) AND a religious communities’ assembly (Senate). In the former, one may apply the one-man, one-vote and proportionality principles regardless of sectarian identities, while in the latter only the religious consideration is the criterion for representation. For example, in the English system, the House of Lords gives consideration to the monarchy and the nobility, while the House of Commons represents individual citizens. In the American version, the Senate considers the States as a parallel constituent alongside the individual citizen who is represented in the House of Representatives. By population, the largest state (California) and the smallest state (Alaska) each gets two senators in the senate. In Lebanon, a Senate would represent the religious communities, say 2 or 3 representatives per community regardless of its size, while the House would represent individual voters without any consideration of religious identities. Obviously, the sectarian virus is so ingrained in the Lebanese ethos that even with a bicameral parliament you’d still have to face the sectarian monster. How do you draw the districts without regard for religious identity? How can “secular” candidates run for elections if the voters insist on associating them with a religious or sectarian identity? Those perhaps would be smaller devils to deal with piecemeal. For now, the country needs a miraculous leap out of the swamps of backwardness and into the light of modernity.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

WARNING: Remember 1975? It is back

From the perspective of Lebanon's Christians, the situation today on the ground resembles the years circa 1975 and the eruption of violence and the war that ensued between the Christians and the Muslim-backed Palestinian refugees and militias. As is the case today, government was paralyzed, then by the boycott of Muslim (Sunni) political and sectarian blocs, and today by the boycott of Muslim (Shiite) sectarian blocs, and the only standing institution was the Lebanese Army. But it would soon collapse too and splinter into sectarian militias.

Remember that Al-Qaa, the village that saw the multiple suicide bombings over the last 48 hours, is a Christian village that suffered a massacre in 1978. Many other Christian villages suffered similar massacres by never-identified attackers suspected to be Palestinian or Syrian operatives. Yasser Arafat's PLO and assorted Palestinian terror groups had been chased out of Amman, Jordan by King Hussein, and had established their headquarters in Beirut and Lebanon. They thrived in a country where government was weakened by a Muslim community who refused to join its Christian counterpart in condemning Palestinian exactions, violence, and terrorism. In fact, the Muslims of Lebanon - all of them, Sunnis, Shiites and Druze - supported the Palestinians against the Lebanese Army, and pledged allegiance to Hafez Assad of Syria. The Muslims wanted Arab unity at the cost of Lebanese sovereignty; they believed in liberating Palestine at the cost of the integrity of Lebanon; and most of all, they wanted more power in a the power-sharing formula that had worked so well since the 1940s. It is in the DNA of Muslims not to compromise; living in a country whose president was a Christian with constitutional powers was - and still is - anathema to Lebanon's Muslims. Ever since the 1920s, they resented being part of Lebanon, and would have much preferred to remain part of Syria (See the earlier post).

Yesterday's massacre of Christians and the attack against a church in Al-Qaa is a major reset in the current stalemate. Just as in the early 1970s, if the Lebanese Army and the government are incapable of providing security against lawless militias and terror groups, then the Christian population is likely to begin building its own militias to defend itself. They did it in the 1970s against the PLO and Syria, they will do it against ISIS and Syria again.

To the liberal press of the world: Do not blame the Christians if they undertake to defend themselves. Back in the 1970s, you accused them of being "right-wing fascists who were bent on killing Palestinian refugees". What would you accuse them of today when they try to defend themselves in their country that is - again - run over by 1.5 million Syrian refugees harboring ISIS operatives?

For 5 years now, the Lebanese have welcomed the Syrian refugees with open arms. There are no hate incidents against them to speak of. The Syrian refugees work and live among the Lebanese. But if refugee centers and camps become foci for launching terror attacks against specific communities, and the refugee population and those who oversee them are unable to identify the bad apples, then what gives?

This is an alert. An early call to action. Lebanon's Christians are not like the other Christians of the Middle East. They will not keel over, run away, turn the other cheek, or huddle in refugee camps. They will fight back.



Monday, June 27, 2016

Al-Qaa: Hezbollah fails to defend Lebanon

The Iranian terrorist party in Lebanon, Hezbollah, continues to claim that its fighting in Syria alongside the barbaric Syrian regime is to protect Lebanon against ISIS and other Sunni terrorists. It says that the reason it went into Syria proper - instead of protecting the Lebanese borders - is that it wants to defeat the Sunni terrorists "before" they enter Lebanon. Hezbollah also claims that the Lebanese Army is incapable of protecting Lebanon, thus justifying its existence as an unlawful paramilitary terror organization which, thanks to a weak and corrupt Lebanese oligarchy, is part of the Lebanese government.

If Hezbollah's arguments were to stand, then one would expect that the Lebanese Army would do the same thing: Intervene in Syria as a preemptive move against the infiltration of ISIS operatives into Lebanon. But the Lebanese Army respects itself and respects the sovereignty of Syria, and does not wish to take any offensive action inside Syria proper. It acts as best as it can, within its limited means, to protect the borders.

The Sunni terrorist bombings of early this morning in the Christian Lebanese town of Al-Qaa on the Syrian border are proof that Hezbollah is NOT protecting Lebanon. In fact, it is providing a justification for ISIS and assorted Sunni terror groups to enter Lebanon to fight Hezbollah. By fighting in Syria, Hezbollah has pushed many more Syrian refugees to enter Lebanon (and with them thousands of ISIS operatives) than would have been the case had Hezbollah in fact refrained from entering Syria.

The truth of the matter is that Hezbollah's fighting in Syria is NOT to protect Lebanon. That is one big Iranian lie. Hezbollah is in Syria to defend the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad which has been the lifeline bridge for Hezbollah between Iran and Lebanon. Money, weapons, mercenaries, terrorists.... all transit from Tehran to Damascus, then infiltrate Lebanon. None of Hezbollah's actions is lawful. Hezbollah's very existence is the definition of lawlessness, and in breaching every norm of sovereignty, Hezbollah has nurtured a culture of lawlessness, violence, and destruction, while undermining the State and its institutions.

All the above has been said over and over for decades. Since the 1960s, the Lebanese Christians have warned their fellow Muslims against plunging Lebanon into other peoples' wars. They said NO to Lebanon's enmeshing itself in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Druze, with the backing of Hafez Al-Assad's Syrian regime in Damascus and his army of occupation, thought better and sold the Lebanese South to Yasser Arafat and his PLO to "liberate Palestine". Never mind that those same Muslim sects refrained from "liberating the Golan Heights and Palestine" from Syrian territory. Only Lebanon was fair cannon fodder in their delusional Arab causes.

After scoring some pathetic gains against the Christians in the Taif Agreement, the Lebanese Sunnis, now in power, adopted the Christians' platform of staying out of other conflicts. They forgot all about Palestine and liberation. They now believed in a "Lebanon first". Only the Shiites continued in their endless Quixotic "resistance" pursuits at the behest of Iran, first against Israel and now against Saudi Arabia

After bringing Lebanon in 1920 out from under 400 years of Turkish occupation, Lebanon's Christians, dragging their fellow Lebanese Muslims along, transformed Lebanon into a jewel of a country between the 1930s and 1960s. But the Muslims continued to challenge a leading role for the Christians. They undermined every effort by the Christians to keep the country safe and prosperous. From the 1970s to the present, the Muslims have dominated, and what do we get? War and mayhem with foreign (Palestinian and Syrian) occupiers from 1975 to 1990, then garbage corrupt governance from 1990 to the present day, all of which have set Lebanon backward into a failed third world lemon republic that can barely stand on its feet.

The ISIS bombings in Al-Qaa remind us of the enormous sacrifice that the Christians of this country make by continuing to believe in some reasonable way to share power with the Muslims. The failure of the Muslims to stabilize the country, protect it, and keep it out of conflicts that can only hurt it makes for a reflection as to the future of the country. Many Christians have some time now contemplating some sort of separation, perhaps a federated Lebanon in which Christians and Muslims, while sharing the country, govern themselves separately. It has become untenable after 50 years of plunder and mayhem.

One hundred years ago, Lebanon and the region were in the midst of World War I. The Maronite Church bears the responsibility for its greed in seeking to expand the borders of the then-autonomous Christian Mount Lebanon Province and create the Greater Lebanon monstrosity that is failing today. In annexing Syrian Muslim provinces, the Maronite Church and its French sponsors planted the seeds for the heartbreak that Lebanon is today. Just like the Zionists did in Palestine in collusion with their British sponsors, Lebanon's Christians thought they could forever control Muslim minorities and keep them subjugated. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism has thwarted these naive prospects, and both Lebanon and Israel today face the disastrous consequences of political greed. 


Monday, May 9, 2016

Municipal Elections 1: The Lebanese People Deserve their Garbage

If yesterday's elections results are a sign of anything, it is that the Lebanese people are really either jerks or idiots.

In the backwoods of the Shiite heartland, 50% of eligible voters voted for Hezbollah and Amal against a minority of "opposition" Shiites.

In the Christian Zahle district, a traditionalist "political party-based" coalition defeated two traditionalist "family-based" coalitions (the Skaff and Fattoush families, both equally backward and corrupt).

And in the supposedly more enlightened Beirut district, people who should have voted for reform-minded technocrats did not even bother to haul their asses and go vote, and the same 18% of eligible voters who voted for the Hariri neanderthals in 2010 voted yesterday for the same neanderthals.

In other words, neither the Syrian crisis, nor the endemic corruption of the ruling class and the scandals that plague this country because of that political class, including the the garbage crisis of this past summer and fall, nor the endless string of sit-ins and demonstrations have stirred any life in the brain-dead Lebanese people. We are like a dead corpse on which the political ruling class feeds like so many leeches, worms, and other bloodsuckers. We have known this indifference to be a feature of the Lebanese people, but no one suspected it would so enduring. It is one thing to be indifferent in a country where things work normally (as happens often in the West, for example, where voter apathy seems irrelevant to a well-functioning system), but it is a different thing when you are surrounded by garbage of all kind, when your life is rotten because of how your own politicians treat you, when the infrastructure is primitive (roads, streets, garbage, water, internet, electricity, pollution....), where you are forced to become a corrupt individual because of all the corruption that surrounds you... You'd think that the bastard Lebanese would be stirred to action to try and improve their lives, but they did not show any sign of that yesterday.

I have no hope that the upcoming municipal elections in the remaining districts will make a difference, because they are mostly all in more rural environments where familial and sectarian barbarism and traditionalist politics rule supreme.

To all my fellow Lebanese who did not vote for change yesterday and who contemplate emigrating, start preparing your documents. This country has no use for your sophisticated nagging. Just be gone and abandon this country to the real barbarians who love it "as it is" and who voted yesterday for their local bosses. You will still need the useless "إفادة مختار" by the new moukhtar, the even more barbaric "إخراج قيد", and $400 to get a passport. You will still have to be humiliated a final few times at all the funky Lebanese administrations and the doors of foreign embassies before you escape this Gulag of barbarism, corruption, pollution, garbage, and, lest we forget, this " بلد الحضارة والعيش المشترك ".

H. Atheos