Special offer

Le Monde Diplomatique on maids in Lebanon: “Special offer. A good Sri Lankan for $1,111 instead of two thousand.” What is this cut-price offer for February, Lebanon’s month of sales? Does it refer to men, women, animals or objects?
The advertisement, which appears in Lebanon’s most public places, has certainly shocked some people. The major Arabic daily
An Nahar (1) ran an article called “The Sri Lankans, our Domestic Animals” on the subject of domestic servants in Lebanon. (…) Many families, even those with modest incomes (teachers, tradesmen, etc.), have “their” Sri Lankan. It is considered good form to have a servant at home. Some of them have relative freedom and some degree of respect from their employers. But the majority of the 170,000 female Sri Lankans (2) who are currently working in Lebanon are shamefully exploited. What is almost starting to look like a real slave trade began in the early 1980s when, faced with the civil war, Lebanese families had more or less stopped employing Syrians, Palestinians and Egyptians, as they had done before. But, instead of drying up with the end of the troubles, the phenomenon carried on into the 1990s. In 1989 there were 2,818 Sri Lankans registered for work; in 1994 the number had leapt to 13,274.’


Hizbullah penetrated… Hitchens ridiculed

‘“Any time more than three or four vehicles stopped in the same place, that place needs to be abandoned,” says the security official, who has worked closely with the group for decades. “So that includes not just homes, safe houses and offices, but more importantly, their military headquarters, operational areas, bunkers. All the new things that have been built or put into place since the end of the 2006 war could be lost to them. They have been very busy since January moving everyone and everything to new locations.” The security official seemed to agree with the assessment of another military intelligence official, who said even the paths travelled by each vehicle around Lebanon – if observed for years – would show a wealth of patterns and habits by officials that could help the Israelis. The group might be forced to rethink almost all of its procedures. “They might not have known exactly who was in the vehicle at any given moment, but the Israelis now have a clear view of how the group moves, what lines you can draw from place to place. “It’s just an unbelievable logistical problem for any army, let alone a secret resistance group,” the security official added.’

Mitch Prothero, who wrote the above article, by far the best I have found on the subject in English, is also interviewed by Abu Muqawama on the same subject: ‘This is pretty bad from their point of view. South Lebanon has long been filled with Israeli agents, but to have a guy who had been vetted pretty extensively — an official Hizballah cadre member tasked with acquiring cars for the military wing — turn out to be collaborating for more than four years in this manner is a sharp stick to the eye. As one Hizb-supporter told me, the other recently-caught Israeli agents were part of ‘them,’ meaning Sunni or Christian rivals … This guy was, in their words, “one of us.” That can’t be good for morale in a group used to being pretty successful at counter-intel. One official described this as the worst infiltration of the group anyone has heard of.’

The ever interesting Timur Goksel, a Turkish ex-UNIFIL information officer who is still living in Beirut, recently gave a talk at the AUB, in which he had this to say about Hezbollah’s women: ‘(…) Goksel praised the women of the area for their strength and role in the resistance, telling a story of an Israeli invasion into the village of Maarakeh. “The women came out of their houses and attacked the Israeli tanks with pots and pans,” he said. “Now imagine you are a young Israeli soldier, because after all they are young too; he’s not trained for this – there’s a woman climbing on his tank.” The strength of the women and their determination impressed him. “I said if I ever think of marrying a woman from Maarakeh, stop me.”‘

To see how not to write articles on Lebanon if you want to retain even a shred of credibility, read this utterly ignorant and blatantly biased drivel by one Lawrence Osborne – and do keep in mind that the editors of Forbes Magazine have already changed numerous factual errors in the piece on their website after Angry Arab and other commentators pointed them out – I mean this guy actually manages to call the March 14  faction ‘March 15’ – while he was on a Hariri-sponsored 3-day trip to Lebanon! Still unedited in the article are jewels like ‘the “March 14 movement” is opposed by the “March 8 movement” of Islamicists‘…Quite apart from the fact that the good sir Osborne presumably wants to refer simply to ‘islamists’ (maybe he is trying to sound scholarly?), he is saying this about a movement that includes Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement – the largest party of the Lebanese christians; the Marada of Franjieh, also entirely made up of christians; and the SSNP – an avowedly secular party made up mostly of christians and alawis, a an offshoot of shiism denounced by islamists. And how did Ahmed Chalabi end up in this article? I mean, he has the same neocon connection as the M16s (sorry, M14s…), but how exactly is he relevant to Lebanese politics? Also on this press junket was the by now utterly alzheimer-stricken Christopher Hitchens, who gave a lecture at the AUB last week where he managed to call feudal landlord and predictable weathervane Walid Jumblatt a ‘true revolutionary’ – the collective Lebanese audience nearly died laughing… Hitchens is a former leftist turned ardent neocon, which is a shame becaues it discredits his not uninteresting writings about religion as a convinced atheist. I recently read his 2007 book ‘god is not Great – how religion poisons everything’, which, although it doesn’t contribute any new arguments or insights, is a highly enjoyable 300-page anti-religious rant annex atheist-manifesto. It is only marred by Hitchens’ irritating habit of  always trying to paint islam as just that little bit more irrational and destructive than christianity. And by every inane and wholly uninformed comment he makes to serve his neocon-allied March 14 paymasters in this country.

Obama sorely… pt2

It takes John Pilger to point out the elephant that by now has grown so big it is obscuring the room: ‘Far from “deconstructing [sic] the war on terror”, Obama is clearly pursuing it with the same vigour, ideological backing and deception as the previous administration. George W. Bush’s first war, in Afghanistan, and last war, in Pakistan, are now Obama’s wars – with thousands more US troops to be deployed, more bombing and more slaughter of civilians. On 22 January, the day he described Afghanistan and Pakistan as “the central front in our enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism”, 22 Afghan civilians died beneath Obama’s bombs in a hamlet populated mainly by shepherds and which, by all accounts, had not laid eyes on the Taliban. Women and children were among the dead, which is normal.
Far from “shutting down the CIA’s secret prison network”, Obama’s executive orders actually give the CIA authority to carry out renditions, abductions and transfers of prisoners in secret without the threat of legal obstruction. As the Los Angeles Times disclosed, “current and former intelligence officials said the rendition program might be poised to play an expanded role.” A semantic sleight of hand is that “long term prisons” are changed to “short term prisons”; and while Americans are now banned from directly torturing people, foreigners working for the US are not. This means that America’s numerous “covert actions” will operate as they did under previous presidents, with proxy regimes, such as Augusto Pinochet’s in Chile, doing the dirtiest work.
Bush’s open support for torture, and Donald Rumsfeld’s extraordinary personal overseeing of certain torture techniques, upset many in America’s “secret army” of subversive military and intelligence operators as it exposed how the system worked. Obama’s nominee for director of national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, has said the Army Field Manual may include new forms of “harsh interrogation”, which will be kept secret.
Obama has chosen not to stop any of this. Neither do his ballyhooed executive orders put an end to Bush’s assault on constitutional and international law. He has retained Bush’s “right” to imprison anyone, without trial or charges. No “ghost prisoners” are being released or are due to be tried before a civilian court. His nominee for attorney-general, Eric Holder, has endorsed an extension of Bush’s totalitarian USA Patriot Act, which allows federal agents to demand Americans’ library and bookshop records. The man of “change”, is changing little. That ought to be front page news from Washington.
What the childish fawning over Obama obscures is the dark power assembled under cover of America’s first “post-racial president”. Apart from the US, the world’s most dangerous state is demonstrably Israel, having recently killed and maimed some 4,000 people in Gaza with impunity. On 10 February, a bellicose Israeli electorate is likely to put Binyamin Netanyahu into power. Netanyahu is a fanatic’s fanatic who has made clear his intention of attacking Iran. In the Wall Street Journal on 24 January, he described Iran as the “terrorist mother base” and justified the murder of civilians in Gaza because “Israel cannot accept an Iranian terror base (Gaza) next to its major cities”. On 31 January, unaware he was being filmed, Israel’s ambassador in Australia described the massacres in Gaza as a “pre-introduction” – dress rehearsal – for an attack on Iran.
For Netanyahu, the reassuring news is that Obama’s administration is the most Zionist in living memory – a truth that has struggled to be told from beneath the soggy layers of Obama-love. Not a single member of Obama’s team demurred from Obama’s support for Israel’s barbaric actions in Gaza. Obama himself likened the safety of his two young daughters with that of Israeli children while making not a single reference to the thousands of Palestinian children killed with American weapons – a violation of both international and US law. He did, however, demand that the people of Gaza be denied “smuggled” small arms with which to defend themselves against the world’s fourth largest military power. And he paid tribute to the Arab dictatorships, such as Egypt, which are bribed by the US Treasury to help the US and Israel enforce policies described by the United Nations Rapporteur, Richard Falk, a Jew, as “genocidal”.
It is time the Obama lovers grew up. It is time those paid to keep the record straight gave us the opportunity to debate informatively. In the 21st century, people power remains a huge and exciting and largely untapped force for change, but it is nothing without truth. “In the time of universal deceit,” wrote George Orwell, “telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”‘