I get a huge kick out of the Israeli radio interception. Halfway through a news broadcast on the Lebanese Communist Party radio station, a monotonous, droning voice interrupts to address Hassan Nasrallah and the Hezbollah fighters (in Arabic): "Come on, oh Hassan, you coward. Pack your bags and go to Masnaa [the remaining border crossing to Syria, last time I checked].. come on, you brave men hiding in your tunnels and caves..."
Couldn't they do that to the TV stations, too? It might diversify the content a bit, if we weren't just seeing bombs and dead babies. Also, I'd love it if they dressed up like "real Arabs" to interrupt the broadcasts. That would be ultra-effective; a guy in a turban interrupts a cooking show or, say, Fashion TV, which is also still broadcasting, to say, "Surrender now, Jesus... I mean, Allah loves you".
Intercept every media outlet and tell the Lebanese what to think and do; then you will be welcomed with flowers and baklava. Do they have figures on how successful the conversion rates are from their propaganda? More successful than penis-enlargement spamming? Surely not. People aren't grateful for being bombed. That's a tough lesson.
The UN is re-routing aid packages to Lebanon, marked "To Baghdad". Well, it is all the hellish "Middle East". And everyone loves peanut butter in their care package, from Kabul to Cairo. Just leave out the Danish dairy products.
While the majority of Lebanese are now unemployed, the Phoenician entrepeneurial types can work for the international media as fixers and drivers, and risk their lives for a few dollars. But please bring your own sleeping bag and bulletproof vest, if you're a local. The BBC can't afford one for you, darkie.
Or they can deal drugs. An acquaintance told me that it's easier to deal drugs now, what with the police not around quite as much. He detailed how his distributor, who is usually extremely cautious, now whips out bags of various shapes and sizes and content, and goes into full marketplace bargaining mode, right in the middle of the street. Lebanon, the heartland of supply and demand. The vast service industry here can apparently adapt and revamp with ease; although beauty parlors are still in business, they might soon be better advised to start frying people's brains rather than their hair. Everyone wants drugs to take their mind off what the post-American and -European evacuation phase will bring.
It's bizarre driving around Beirut, and making mental notes of places to avoid, places you would bomb if you were the Israeli Air Force. Bridges and major roads are obvious (and all that silly civilian housing in its midst). What they are aiming for is to make life more inconvenient, without unleashing a barrage of inconsequential protests from Kofi & co.
Speaking of which, what did Kofi say on TV tonight, and why did it take him close to five minutes? "I am in favor of...a.... eh... ceasefire. Diplomacy is, eh, um, sheesh, pff, I dunno, taking...hold". I guess repetition makes the tongue grow tired; or that gun that's been cocked and pointed at the back of his neck has taken the last semblance of life out of him. Or maybe it's pre-retirement blues. I'm worried about you, Kofi. You've lost your unique style of fiesty, bold statements. "I am in favor of milk in my, eh... civilian, I meant, tea... If the US doesn't mind too much. Oh no, there's that maniac John Bolton running towards me, fresh falafel crumbs in his moustache, from celebrating imminent victory with the Guardians of the Cedars!"
Well we'll see who we get next, after Kofi goes home. Hopefully someone with the same first and last name again. I always loved saying, Boutros Boutros Boutros Ghali.
Back to Beirut:
Ironically, the rule of law in Lebanon was still in its birth pangs before this "July war" errupted (that's what they're calling it here. Only 8 more days to go!) When I first arrived in Beirut ten months ago, there wasn't a one-way street you couldn't barrel down at full speed in the wrong direction. Then sometime around last March, the Internal Security Forces sent text messages to the million-or-so mobile phone-wielding Beirutis that read, "As of tomorrow, traffic laws will be strictly enforced." They were, of course, not enforced, but the police did install a lone speed radar camera, near the Phoenicia hotel. Today, driving by there with a friend, we hesitated for a second before running the red light. Such are the minute pleasures of war.
Old habits die hard, despite the short-lived and symbolic phase of law and order and the era of "national dialogues". A friend who is working as a fixer for Norwegian TV says he saw 30 Druze men in military garb with AK-47s training up in Mukhtara (where Druze leader Jumblatt has his house). Now thirty men is not a hell of a lot, but maybe they are just the official PSP welcoming committee for the Israelis, should they make it that far north (which I doubt). For those of you unfamiliar with what I'm implying: Lebanon is going to have an ugly situation on her hands once the dust settles. I could be wrong, though; the Jumblatt followers could be getting ready to fight Israel, if it comes down to it. Depends how their master is feeling today, doesn't it?