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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Aux Armes Citoyens: Lebanon's Civil War, the Sequel

There you go. The new generation of politicians, each of whom was born after the Civil War of 1975, is now in place: Jumblatt, Gemayel, Aoun/Bassil, Chamoun, Berri, Moawad, Lahoud, Hariri and every other name in the Lebanese political farm pantheon have now all inherited their entitlement to political power from their fathers.

They have heard of the atrocities of 1975, the communal massacres, the ethnic cleansings, the kidnappings, the disappearances, the mutilated bodies discarded by the roadsides, the shellings, the sieges, the foreign occupations..... But they have not lived them. The only thing they know is the distorted story of what happened in the 1970s and 1980s, whereby acts of treason, inhumanity, barbarity, killings, rapes, plunder, mayhem and pillaging have been distilled into acts of bravery. Politicians, under whose leadership tens of thousands of Lebanese lost their lives, their homes, their sons and daughters, are today for the most part in power. The killers of the 1970s are today's government ministers and members of parliament. They are elevated by their herds of mountain brutes to the standing of heroes and saints. Not one month goes by without some grand meeting is held honoring the warlords of the 1970s and 1980s.

But they have grown old, and to ensure the continuation of Lebanese barbarity, they have bequeathed their political power as local, sectarian, regional Mafia and warlord bosses to their sons, sons-in-law, and occasionally their daughters and wives.

The new generation is ready for another episode of bloodletting. They want to capture the "heroism" of their fathers. And in this primitive lemon republic, the only way to do so is to engage in a reckless sectarian discourse, leading to a street fight and to, eventually, a brand new and improved civil war that will outshine that of their fathers of 1975.

I lived the pre-1975 war, and then the 1975 war itself. Before 1975, I heard the stories of the testosteronic "heroes" of the 1940s and 1950s, and when their sons ran the country to the ground, I, like many of my generation, listened to them and joined reluctantly their sectarian concentration camps. It took many decades to take stock of what had happened and realize that they all lied to us, they fought by killing us, the ordinary Lebanese.They fought by making sudden enemies of their erstwhile allies, and after their massacres and killings, they went back to being allies, with the Lebanese people left holding the body bags of their children.

The second installment of the Lebanese Civil War has begun. The incidents of the past few days, in which the word "bully", uttered by a Christian leader about a Muslim leader, has already caused street fighting and armed thuggish behavior, are a harbinger of worse things to come. The pseudo-nation-state of Lebanon is, we are told, an experiment in "tolerance" which is still work in progress. Unfortunately the vast majority of the Lebanese do not learn from the data, no one looks back with reason at what happened, no "reconciliation and justice"commission was ever established to look at the details - The Lebanese are not good with details because they require hard work, diligence, assiduity, and an open mind - and the killers of the 1970s gave themselves an amnesty. And so we are condemned to repeating the same mistakes. We are about to repeat the 1975 mistake.

In the 1970s, the Lebanese Sunnis hated the Lebanese State because it was established over their fathers' objections who wanted Lebanon to be part of Syria. They rebelled, using the Palestinians and the PLO as their militia, and the Shiites and the Druze joined them in fighting the Christians. One of the many triggers of the 1975 war was that the Sunnis (led by Rashid Karami) imposed a boycott on the Christian Phalange Party, and low and behold as the years passed and the war became more and more complicated, the net result of 20 years of mayhem was that the Sunnis extricated some of the powers that the Christian  Maronite president had and gave them to the Sunni Prime Minister. That was, in essence, the "solution" to the war of 1975, a solution we today refer to as the "Taif Agreement".

The Shiites, who had fought alongside the Sunnis and the Druze, did not lose, but they did not win either. They got very little out of the settlement. Today, it is the turn of the Shiites to "demand" gains for their sect. They are the only community that maintains a militia, Hezbollah, despite the fact that Taif Agreement required the dismantling of all militias and returning the exclusivity of violence to the Lebanese Army.

In this sequel to the Lebanese Civil War of 1975, the Shiites will lead the way into the descent into sectarian violence. Two Christian neighborhoods have so far, in less than 2 days, been "invaded" by Shiite hordes brandishing weapons and angry over the word "bully". One word and two days, and you already have street fighting, because of course, the Christians have shown up on the street also armed to "defend" themselves. And you can take it from here. In 1975 there were "rounds" of fighting, separated by a couple of months each... and round after round, the war erupted and the killings began.

My lessons from all of this - because my entire life was screwed up by the 1975 war - are:
- Move to a safe location, to an area of your "own kind". This is easy because the 1975 war had already sorted people into sectarian regions.
- Take your prized possessions to a safe hideout because even those fighters from your own camp, who will claim to be defending you against the other side, will kill you, rape you and rob you just as the other side will.
- Dust off any foreign passports your parents might have given you during their own exiles in the 1975 war, because you will need them in emergencies that are bound to erupt.
- Do not trust anyone. Buy a gun. Learn how to use it.
- Take your money out of the bank, convert it into a strong currency, and stash it in cash somewhere safe. In 1975, the US dollar was worth 2-3 Lebanese Liras. In 1995 and to date, the US dollar is worth 1,500 Lebanese Liras. So imagine where that exchange rate will be when this new civil war takes its flight.
- Start a business that caters to repairing damages and filling gaps caused by war - glass, concrete, food, water, candles and generators.... All of these are easy because we still live today in 2018 in the same conditions we were left with after the 1975 war. 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wondering if you saw this idiot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmPdZs4YsjU who's a diehard Trump supporter and native Lebanese who rose to Mayor of Escondido, CA

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. Hadn't seen it. But I am not surprised. Most of the Lebanese - including many Muslims - love Trump for one reason and one reason only: His bluster, Machismo, megalomania... all resonate well with the primitive mindset of Lebanese society and politics. Most Lebanese political leaders are Trump clones, who prefer shady deals to the rule of law, who are corrupt to the bone, who are deeply racist without even knowing it, who continuously brag about their greatness even as they sink in their own excrement, whose egos are beyond criticism and who, in their ignorance of what politics should be in a modern society, will not hesitate to attack, assassinate, or otherwise persecute any critic.