Nothing but the truth. Even if against me.

Nothing but the truth. Even if against me.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Dear Leader Jebran Bassil

Extending the Dear Leader syndrome of the Kataeb of the previous post to Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM)'s Jebran Bassil




In the previous post, I said, "The Aoun farm is an example of the latter where the godfather (Michel Aoun) bestows political power on other males around him who have married his daughters because he has no sons. This lateral extension of political power in the Aoun farm is actually quite interesting because it has three prominent male figures other than the alpha male: Alain Aoun (a nephew), Jebran Bassil (son-in-law) and Shamel Roukoz (another son-in-law who married an already married daughter of Michel Aoun after evicting a former son-in-law Sami Nader who had a fallout with the godfather).  In other words, forced marriages and divorces are another way of acceding to the inner sanctum of the Mafia godfather."

Not unlike medieval lords. But the thing with the FPM is a real shocker, because Aoun claims to want to "reform and change" the system. Many believed he will go after such elements of the Lebanese rotten system as corruption, cronyism, feudalism, clientelism, the incestuous role of organized religions in civilian affairs, and all their consequent ravages and obstruction to the fashioning of a modern state.

As it turned out, and as he is showing us, Aoun's definition of what reform and change is somewhat moot because - if I understand his recent history since returning from exile in 2005 to the present - what he actually means by "reform" is the objective, not the process, of political life. Aoun wants a return to pre-1980s Lebanon, with a presidential system rather than a parliamentary one, for the sole purpose it seems to rehabilitate the Christians into a prominent role rather than the Dhimmi condition to which the Taef Agreement has relegated them. Aoun does NOT want to reform the mechanics of Lebanese politics; he just wants a Christian president with more power than he currently has.

Do as I do, don't do as I say.  In Aoun's lens, all the ills of Lebanon, namely corruption, cronyism, feudalism, clientelism, the incestuous role of organized religions in civilian affairs, etc. are just fine. The goal justifies the means. Looking at the way and the means by which Aoun has so far acted, one clearly sees that he has no intention of fixing HOW things operate in this rotten Lemon Republic, because in his own little farm, Aoun practices corruption, cronyism, feudalism, clientelism, the incestuous role of organized religions in civilian affairs, etc. because he only wants a Christian president who is "strong" (again, in the Aoun dictionary of politics, "strong" means a cruel warlord thug with a dubious criminal past), and it doesn't matter how he gets there.

At this time, the FPM is believed to be torn apart between an entrenched guard, the inner sanctum of the Aoun mini-dictatorship on one hand, and a disillusioned real reform-minded opposition on the other. The latter is really what propelled the FPM forward, because many of Aoun's followers actually followed him because he said he was against all the other political farms of the Hariris, Jumblatts, Gemayels, Frangiyehs...But with almost ten years of hindsight into Aoun's performance, both inside the FPM and outside, this opposition is disillusioned and threatening to crumble the entire edifice.

The Aoun inner sanctum consists of nothing but family members: Jebran Bassil (son-in-law), Naim Aoun (nephew), Shamel Roukoz (second-hand son-in-law), Alain Aoun (another nephew).... Having released yesterday a plan for internal elections within the FPM, Michel Aoun is gambling on forcing his family members into every position of power he can muster. He wants Jebran Bassil to succeed him as head of the FPM, even though in the founding conference of the party in Paris in 2003, Aoun made it clear, slamming his fist on the table to quiet the rabid hounds eager to secure their political futures, that anyone who wants to become someone must prove himself in parliamentary elections. Jebran Bassil has run two or three times for the Batroun Parliament seat and failed each time. Yet Aoun continues to force him into cabinet posts (Energy,  Foreign Affairs). So, Aoun broke the rule he himself set because he wants only family members. Aoun also forced his daughter Claudine to divorce Sami Nader (a former true reformist who had a fallout with Aoun) and marry Shamel Roukoz an army general whom Aoun is now slating to become Army Chief).

Now, some may argue that these two individuals (Bassil and Roukoz) are fine people, and their kinship with Aoun should not be a hindrance to their access to political posts. Granted. But first it is the perception of cronyism that is the problem, more than cronyism itself.

Second, Jebran Bassil is no more an exceptional individual than many other capable member of the FPM. Bassil has made a fool of himself many times on trips abroad and those who know him see in him a vulgar thug who has no merit whatsoever. It is rumored that Bassil orders $500 bottles of wine and lavish dinners costing thousands of dollars on trips abroad. Bassil proved himself to be a streety sexist thug when he was caught on video gesturing to the Emirates UN Envoy about what a fine feminine specimen is a certain Caroline Ziade, member of the Lebanese UN delegation in New York. And this is probably the tip of the iceberg. Just look at the mansion he built himself in Batroun... you wonder where all the money is coming from.

Shamel Roukoz is by all appearances tough and a capable military man, currently leading the Commandos of the Lebanese Army. But army insiders tell stories about him running away from the front line and worrying more about his own immediate entourage than about the soldiers at large or the mission he is entrusted with.

But, in Lebanon the one-eyed man is king. There are probably very few individuals who are not tainted by corruption and filth, and these tend to be ostracized by the establishment because they do not play by the rules or because they are a serious threat to the putrefying status quo. In other words, even if Bassil and Roukoz are not the greatest individuals, that does not mean that their enemies or opponents are any better. But no one more than Aoun makes the "change and reform" claims, and that is why Aoun should be held to a higher standard.

The question is: Is there enough latitude for the anti-Aoun, anti-Bassil FPM insiders to actually reform the farm before they try to reform the country? We will soon find out because Aoun is 80 years old and is, by the admission of some of his people, no longer fit to be president or even head of the FPM. He must realize this as well, and has therefore embarked on ensuring his succession to his immediate family cronies.

When Aoun signed his Memorandum of Understanding with Hezbollah in early 2006, many, probably the best among his followers, abandoned him on ideological principles grounds. If he proves that the FPM is no more than a family business pretending to be a reformist movement, by forcing his family members on everyone else, then the FPM will again lose many of its good elements, thus reducing what was a promising left-of-center Christian party to another Kataeb (Gemayel), Future (Hariri), Ahrar (Chamoun), Socialist-Progressive (yeah sure)(Jumblatt), or Marada (Frangiyeh), etc... Aoun's peregrinations in war, exile, then return would all have amounted to opening a new Christian political farm, when the desired goal is to abolish this and all other Bronze Age primitive practices so ingrained in Lebanese society and political culture.

Hanibaal Barqa Atheos

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dear Leader Sami Gemayel

Like in North Korea, every little community in Lebanon has its own "Dear Leader" who is worshiped like a demi-god by his followers. Driving in the Bikfaya - Dahr El Sawan area the other day, you now see huge portraits of Sami Gemayel waving in a glorious posture, with slogans like "ايها القائد" (O Leader), or "العدرا تحميك" (May the Virgin protect you).

Sami Gemayel just "won" the presidency of the Kataeb Party, and I have "won" in quotation marks because he ran uncontested to the post, just as Bashar Assad or Hosni Mubarak or Qaddafi would do in fake elections, and also because he really inherited the post from his father who inherited it from his own father.... In other words, in typical political farm tradition in this country of mountain peasants, some urbanized, some educated, but all imbued with backward tribal and clannish ideas and customs.

The Gemayels are not the only ones. Oh no, by no means. The Jumblatts, the Frangiyehs, the Hariris, the Arslans, the Karamis.... There are very few Lebanese politicians that do not, one way or another, hail from - or create their own - political farm. The reason I use "farm" is because, like everything else in this country, politics here is a commercial enterprise. Its primary aim is to secure the financial well-being of its owners, and doing politics is like starting any other business, leveraging its finances, religious affiliations, tribal lordship over villages and towns in defined regions. The political farm construct is primarily based on genetic-blood kinship in the first place, but also occasionally extending to in-laws. The Aoun farm is an example of the latter where the godfather (Michel Aoun) bestows political power on other males around him who have married his daughters because he has so sons. This lateral extension of political power in the Aoun farm is actually quite interesting because it has three prominent male figures other than the alpha male: Alain Aoun (a nephew), Jebran Bassil (son-in-law) and Shamel Roukoz (another son-in-law who married an already married daughter of Michel Aoun after evicting a former son-in-law Sami Nader who had a fallout with the godfather).  In other words, forced marriages and divorces are another way of acceding to the inner sanctum of the Mafia godfather.

So after "electing" Sheikh Sami Gemayel (note: The title "sheikh" was bestowed on the Gemayels by none other than the Ottoman Turkish rulers of Lebanon to those leaders of the Lebanese clans who served the Turkish occupation by exploiting their own people. Jumblatts are "bek", Karamis are "effendi", Gemayels are "sheikh", etc. If you've watched Braveheart, and learned how Scottish nobles earned their titles and lands by stabbing their own people in the back to curry favors with the English occupation, you'd see how this works.

Now that a third generation of Gemayels has earned the medieval allegiance of the Maronite mountain brutes around Bikfaya, with, of course, the protection of the Virgin Mary, the blessings of the Bronze Age Maronite church Patriarch, and all the saints it produced to the Vatican's exasperation, the Maronite community in the Metn District is assured divine protection and guidance for a few decades to come. When the next civil war comes around, and it is not too far off, Dear Leader Sami will lead his herd of Maronite cave-dwellers into killing as many Muslims as they can get their hands on, in a tit-for-tat sectarian bloodshed with the assorted Sunnis, Shiites, Druze, Greek Orthodox and other sects, all of whom share mutual historic hatred between one another in this den of sectarian  Ta3ayosh (تعايش) or "tolerance".

Just as Kim Il-Sung begot Kim Jong-il who in turn begot Kim Jong-U, each occupying unchallenged and genetically heritable "Dear Leader" position in North Korea, so do the Gemayels in their own little turf around Bikfaya. The founder of the Kataeb Party is one Pierre Gemayel who was born in1905 in Bikfaya. His immediate father, Amine Bachir Gemayel, fled to Egypt in 1914 because he turned against the Ottoman Turkish occupiers after serving them for decades as top collaborator.

Nothing can be said about this genetic transmission of power. It is sad. It is bad. It is primitive. Only time will tell if Sheikh Sami is a good man or not, a good politician or not... He may be all these things. But how can a man in this day and age accept to inherit political power like this? Could he be asking himself questions like, "Do I really deserve this? What merit do I have for this? Do these people really think I can lead them? Where am I leading them to? Is it to ensure the same legacy for my own children? Perpetuating primitive traditions just to secure this empire? Do these people follow me blindly? They are mountain brutes, no doubt about it. But they are MY mountain brutes."

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Curse of Lebanon: Religion, Now as in 1870


William M. Thomson visited Lebanon back in 1870 and wrote a book to tell everyone how backward the place was. 1870! Here we are in 2015 - 145 years later - and we are still backward, not to mention no electricity, no running water, no decent roads, plus the pollution and the plastic garbage everywhere. At the heart of Lebanon's eternal problems is RELIGION. The Lebanese share the same genes (check Peter Zallouh's work on the Phoenician gene, done in collaboration with the National Geographic), but religion, superstitions, backward beliefs, and the religious establishment keep them chained like brainless sheep, taken to the slaughter every generation with massacres and unfathomable violence in the name of God and religion. 
 
The worst part of it all is that the Lebanese never learn. After each slaughter, they go back doing the exact same behavior that led them to the slaughter a mere generation ago: Worship their feudal bosses, believe in their religious leaders and assorted saints, gods, imams, and such other holy fantasies from the Bronze Age, hating the other Lebanese because they "believe" in another holy fantasy... until the next blowup, the next massacre, the next exodus, the next war, the next tragedy.... And then they wonder why many Lebanese  emigrate, fleeing this disgusting cesspool of backwardness called Lebanon, never ever return and finding their own fulfillment and glory in faraway lands of exile. They wonder, even as they brag about Khalil Gibran or Amal Alamuddine or Salma Hayek or...... being Lebanese, why only Lebanese emigrants who escape this Gulag succeed, while those who stay behind remain mired in filth and backwardness.

Here are William M. Thomson's own words:

"Lebanon has about 400,000 inhabitants, gathered into more than six hundred towns,   villages and hamlets...The various religions and sects live together, and practice their conflicting superstitions in close proximity, but the people do not coalesce into one homogeneous community, nor do they regard each other with fraternal feelings. The Sunnites excommunicate the Shiites - both hate the Druse, and all three detest the Nusairiyeh. The Maronites have no particular love for anybody and, in turn, are disliked by all. The Greeks cannot endure the Greek Catholics; all despise the Jews.

And the same remarks apply to the minor divisions of this land. There is no common bond of union. Society has no continuous strata underlying it, which can be opened and worked for the general benefit of all, but an endless number of dislocated fragments, faults, and dikes, by which the masses are tilted up in hopeless confusion, and lie at every conceivable angle of antagonism to each other. The omnific Spirit that brooded over primeval chaos can alone bring order out of such confusion, and reduce these conflicting elements into peace and concord.

No other country in the world, I presume, has such a multiplicity of antagonistic religions; and herein lies the greatest obstacle to any general and permanent amelioration and improvement of their condition, character, and prospects. They can never form one united people, never combine for any important religious or political purpose; and will therefore remain weak, incapable of self-government, and exposed to the invasions and oppressions of foreigners. Thus it has been, is now, and must long continue to be a people divided, meted out, and trodden down."  

From: W. M. Thomson, "The land and the Book", 1870.