CNN's caption reads, "Six Ministers Quit Lebanese Government over Hariri Tribunal". Don't you wish it was that simple?
Yes, so six ministers resigned from the Lebanese cabinet-- all the Shia plus one Yaqub Sarraf, the jolly environmental minister, who is Greek Orthodox. I visited Mr. Sarraf at his ministry a few months ago. He sloppily downed one cup of coffee after the next, chain-smoked and laughed heartily as he ran from one end of the room to the other, shuffling through bottomless stacks of paper. During his tenure as Minister of the flailing environment, he co-opted March 14th's silly slogan, "We want the truth", printing "We also want the truth" on all the ministry’s letterhead.
In response to the resignations, March 14th decisively upped the ante with their current rhetoric. It's all the fault of Syria and now Iran, according to Saad Hariri. (Iran was previously exempt from direct accusations of obstructing the trial against Hariri’s assassins.) This wreaks of despair-- expanding the accusation of complicity to Iran. The sectarian media outlets are gobbling it up and fanning the flames. Naharnet ran a story today on how Shia children are brainwashed in school. Why does March 14th's rhetoric sound more and more like that of the White House? The Democratic victory in the Senate and Congress, the "new" policy of engaging Syria over the war in Iraq, might well see March 14th stranded. Do they really think they have guarantees?
The cabinet can technically make decisions as is, unless an additional two ministers resign, bringing the total to a third of the cabinet. After Sarraf's resignation today, March 14th "unanimously" approved the UN draft text to set up an international tribunal for Hariri's assassins. But they will never get President Lahoud to sign off on new appointments. Then again, who needs ministers of the environment, labor, public works, agriculture, health, energy and water, and foreign affairs, when you have the support of Jeff Feltman?
According to Al-Hayat newspaper, the Levantine branch of Al Qaeda issued a statement threatening to bring down the "corrupt" pro-Western government of Siniora.
"Although it was impossible to verify the authenticity of the message, Information Minister Ghazi Aridi cast doubt on its veracity Monday.
'There is nothing that proves that this statement was issued by al-Qaida,' he told reporters Monday following a cabinet meeting..."
And why does he doubt the veracity? Surely not because March 14th has been pandering to alqaeda-esque extremist groups for over a year now and ought to be getting it's money's worth in opposition to the Shia.
Dozens of busses were parked opposite Hariri's makeshift grave on Martyrs' Square yesterday, bussing in supporters to mourn at the site. Just in time, Future has printed new posters of the deceased, which depict the apocalyptic crater hole from the scene of his assassination. And Future TV runs dramatic ads of Saad Hariri placing the UN draft text for the tribunal by his father's grave, because -- as everybody knows-- saints can and do read. This is contrasted by a hefty montage of scenes of destruction from the summer war, and a final clip of the shiny and polished Solidere. In other words, Hariri stood for stability and prosperity, while Hezbollah wreaks destruction.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians are getting a new Prime Minister. A microbiologist, "US-eduated" to top it off. My friend P. was visiting his friend Hassan in the Dahye the other day. Hassan’s two-year old daughter Fatima was bouncing happily on P’s lap when news of the Beit Hanoun massacre in Gaza broke. Images of a young girl, the same age as Fatima, her face bloodied, being rushed to the hospital. Fatima stopped and stared at the screen. “Haraam”, she muttered.
A servis in Hamra has the following printed across the rearview window: “Why is it the victims are not allowed to ask questions while the murderer is having a good time? My daughter—I will never forget you.”
Sitting at my desk, I frequently imagine that the pace and pitch of noise emanating from the street outside has suddenly intensified. Did the frequency of sirens and ambulances increase? Is that the sound of people screaming in the distance? What was that loud thud? Why does traffic sound so frenetic? The variables for violence are seemingly infinite.
A stifling uncertainty looms over Lebanon, enhanced by threats, simulated raids by Israeli fighter jets, an uncanny ratio of 1 unexploded cluster bomb for every inhabitant of the south, and the inability to prevent it from happening again.
Haaretz reports that the vast number of unexploded cluster bombs in southern Lebanon is due to Israeli employment of "cheaper" American-made ones, for "budgetary" reasons. The "expensive" clusterbombs, which leave next to no unexploded munitions go for $10 a pop. The Israeli government promised the French to stop "hostile" mock raids against UNIFIL staff, but not against Lebanese towns and villages.
On a lighter note, Britney Spears is getting divorced from her trailerpark trash counterpart. “I H8 U Loser” she informed him by text message.
Does anyone else detest the "Incredible India" commercials they run on the BBC? I hate that commercial with the passion of Christ. It makes India look like one gigantic yoga retreat. Billions of attractive women in bright saris are itching to give your white ass a full-body massage. That laughing elephant at the end? Ditto for the "Uptown Cairo" commercial on CNN. Who would've known that fine dining by candlelight was the thing to do in Mubarak's Egypt?