Posted by Joshua on Thursday, July 12th, 2007
Michael Young takes aim at three "myths" about Lebanon in his article: "Mostly, a divine victory for disinformation:" 1. That Lebanese overwhelmingly supported Hizbullah during last years war with Israel. 2. That Israel's decision to go to war in Lebanon was premeditated and preplanned, making it inevitable. 3. "That because Israel cannot accept defeat in Lebanon, it is bound to attack the country again in the future…. it gives Hizbullah an excuse to retain its weaponry."
Responsibility for creating the first of these myths, according to Young, are Abdo Saad, and his daughter, Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, who head the Beirut Center for Research. Young complains:
The first myth was that of Lebanese unanimity in the face of Israel. Soon after the war began, a spectacular bit of disinformation surfaced when the Beirut Center for Research published a poll that allegedly showed overwhelming support for "the Resistance" – shorthand for Hizbullah. The head of the center is Abdo Saad, and his daughter, Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, summarized the poll's results in an interview with the American radio and television program Democracy Now:
"Basically, 87 percent of all Lebanese support Hezbollah's resistance against Israel today. And that includes 80 percent of all Christian respondents, 80 percent of all Druze respondents, and 89 percent of all Sunnis. And this, of course, is non-Shiite groups, so those which have supported the March 14 pro-American – the March 14, sorry, alliance, which is seen as being pro-American, pro-French, anti-Syrian."
These numbers were truly remarkable; so remarkable indeed that rare were the foreign media outlets that did not, early in the war, diligently cite them. Unfortunately, rare, too, were the correspondents who could read Arabic and the question the Beirut Center for Research had put to its respondents. It was a simple one, to the point: "Do you support the Resistance's opposition to the Israeli aggression against Lebanon?"
More loaded a question would have required a firearms license, its answer obvious in advance, particularly when Lebanon was being bombed. Naturally, most of those asked said they approved opposing Israel, but what those preparing the poll got across, intentionally or unintentionally, was that this could be read as support for Hizbullah per se.
Young's attempt to smear Saad-Ghorayeb and the Beirut Center is unfair: The question — "Do you support the Resistance's opposition to the Israeli aggression against Lebanon?" — was a good one, particularly as it was asked when Israeli bombs were falling on Lebanon. Neocons, naturally enough, want to discredit the results because they showed, once again, how wrong their presuppositions are about the effectiveness of the use of force. Refusing to learn from history, neocons supported Israel's bombardment of Lebanon in the belief that pain would split the Lebanese and turn the majority against Hizbullah. The Beirut Center's statistics show that this did not happen. On the contrary, the bombing forced Lebanese together in opposition to Israel and the US. Even Siniora was forced to announce his government's support for the resistance and thank Hizbullah for frustrating Israel's plan to hold a strip of land along the border. It made his negotiations for ending the war easier, he explained. At the beginning of the war, many Lebanese were quick to denounce Hizbullah as "adventurous," but these criticisms abated during the height of the bombing, when the ultimate question became: "Are you with us or against us?" Ghorayeb was right to ask this question at the time she did. The results showed that in the heat of battle, most Lebanese will not choose Israel over fellow Lebanese, no mater how much they may be divided in more normal times. This is perhaps distressing news for some. Certainly, it was distressing for the neocons and Israel, who were banking on a different result.
This is precisely why Saad-Ghorayeb's statistics are revelatory, despite efforts to discount them as disinformation. The US administration and its Arab cheer leaders believed the Iraqis would greet them with sweets and flowers. How wrong could they have been? We know from copious historical examples that bombing a people causes them to rally around their government, no matter how disliked. The firebombing of German cities did not break the will of the German people or cause them to turn against Hitler in WWII. Instead, allied bombing designed to kill civilians and ruin infrastructure caused nationalism to surge and the desperate to rally around the most hateful of leaders. That Lebanese would rally to Hizbullah under the pressure of Israeli bombs should not be surprising. The statistics do not confirm more than this simple truth. As soon as the bombing stopped and Lebanese began to survey the carnage and ask themselves whether it was worth it and who had caused it, the normal recriminations set in, resulting in the deep divisions that exist today. In fairness to Saad-Ghorayeb, her center has tracked the steady decrease in Hizbullah's approval ratings among Sunnis and Christians in Lebanon since the end of the war. The Beirut Center has been among the most dependable polling centers, giving us meaningful cross-sections of popular opinion on a regular basis. The fact that these statistics frequently demonstrate that US policies are no more popular among Lebanese than those of America's enemies may be bad news for the partisans of Siniora's governing coalition; all the same, they cannot be dismissed.
Syrian government newspaper Teshreen accused France in an editorial of aligning itself with the US "which supports the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora" against the opposition in Lebanon.
"We hope that the France of [President] Nicolas Sarkozy will play the role of a neutral and honest mediator embracing peace and justice," said the editorial, adding that Syria hoped Paris would renounce "the biased policy adopted by former President Jacques Chirac." The daily also questioned chances of progress at the weekend summit. "How can a major force like France host a meeting for Lebanese dialogue at a time when its government supports one party against another and Paris makes accusations of terrorism against Hizbullah, an essential party within the Lebanese opposition?" it asked….
Hizbullah's attendance was cast into doubt following comments made Monday by Sarkozy characterizing the group's operations as "terrorist." Sarkozy was speaking during a meeting with families of three kidnapped Israeli soldiers.
Hizbullah officials confirmed Tuesday, however, that the group would send a delegation to the meeting comprising resigned Energy and Water Resources Minister Mohammad Fneish and Hizbullah Foreign Relations Coordinator Nawwaf al-Moussawi.
The confirmation came after Andreani told reporters that France maintained its invitation to the group, but mostly after a statement issued by the French presidential place late Tuesday, saying that France did not consider Hizbullah to be a terrorist organization. …
During a visit to Paris last month, Siniora said he did not expect much progress at the meeting. "Expectations are not extremely high for this meeting," the premier said. Syrian newspapers reported on Tuesday that Damascus has a key role to play in finding a solution to Lebanon's deadlock.
Replying to allegations made by the Syrian press, leader of the parliamentary majority MP Saad Hariri said only the unity of the Lebanese "would ensure that all of Lebanon's problems would be solved."
"Lebanon's Bloody Summer," by Mohamad Bazzi in The Nation
What if the battle over the presidency continues past September, and the country is further paralyzed? There's a real fear that the Lebanese government could once again split into two dueling administrations, as happened in 1988, when outgoing President Amin Gemayel appointed Aoun as a caretaker prime minister because Parliament could not agree on a new president. He created a largely Christian government, while the sitting Sunni prime minister refused to leave and led a rival Muslim administration. The crisis ended in October 1990, when Syrian warplanes bombed the presidential palace, driving Aoun into exile in France. It's remarkable how many Lebanese are talking openly today about the possibility of another government breakup; some are even resigned to it.
Splitting the country into two administrations in 1988 was a logical endpoint of the confessional system. Lebanese leaders are going down the same path once again: They're trying to run the country under a system that's no longer viable and that continues to create a perpetual crisis. Until the Lebanese can agree on a stronger and more egalitarian way to share authority, they will be cursed with instability, their future dictated by foreign powers.
CIA Said Instability in Iraq Seemed 'Irreversible': This Washington Post article by Bob Woodward is important. Woodward quotes top CIA and military officials who argue that the US cannot win in Iraq. They believe the Maliki government cannot deliver what is being asked of it because it was designed for balance not effectiveness. Many believe it is part of the problem. Some top army brass claim that training more recruits for the Iraqi police is counter-productive because they are fueling the civil war. In contrast to the President, who claims our main enemy in Iraq is al-Qaida, many in the military argue that al-Qaida is pretty far down on the list of enemies and organizations that the US is fighting. The message of the article is that there is a major disconnect between the White House, which continues to maintain that the US will win in Iraq and the top tier of the people on the ground, who have been saying for some time that the president's claims are faith-based poppycock.