I am concerned for my neighbor's safety. He flies a lone FPM flag amidst a hostile sea of Lebanese Forces banners and portraits of Pierre Gemayel. Hordes of young men loiter in the streets at night. Perhaps I didn't notice them before, but they seem to have multiplied over night. The large green garbage vats down from the Phalangist office in Rmeil are overflowing; I suspect the Syrian Sukleen workers are afraid to come pick up the trash.
Yesterday evening two thousand young men from the rival Christian factions hurled insults and bottles at eachother at Sassine Square, the stomping ground of reactionary francophone yuppies. The same happened at St. Joseph University.
Most of the troublemakers involved in street brawls are too young to remember the civil war. I inquired of some of the Phalangist youth gathered outside their headquarters last week if they remembered the war; no, they responded sheepishly. Last spring I watched two sixteen year old boys at Virgin Megastore leaf through a coffeetable book about the civil war. They were in awe; "c'est cool, man" one of them kept mumbling. Well it was the seventies/early eighties, and militiamen typically had big hair, shaggy sideburns and those Don Johnson sunglasses. Hot Phalangist sniper chicks in tiny tank tops shot at Palestinian schoolchildren...
Nine men from the Lebanese Forces security apparatus were arrested yesterday by the army intelligence branch. They were holding target practice up in Kesrouan and were armed with "M16 and AKF rifles, MT5 riflescopes, and a number of GLOCK pistols [...] in addition to very sophisticated communication devices." They also found a map of the Rabieh area -- home to Michel Aoun-- in one of the three SUVs used by the gunmen (which all had identical license plates), as well as a portrait of a "prominent Lebanese political figure" and a mannequin placed in the front seat of the vehicle. Al-Akhbar reports that the portait was of Michel Aoun whose house was also marked on the map.
"Six of the detainees confessed that before the LF [Lebanese Forces] was disbanded in 1994, they used be part of the “El SADEM” force that was made up back then of more than forty fighters, thirty of which were recruited back by the LF about one year ago. Most of them lived abroad, and one of them is currently the head of Samir Geagea’s security detail in 'Al Arz'."
But the best part of the story is that the Lebanese Forces "unequivocally" denied the report, and claimed that the men were just going about their "regular Monday training session" (!) as security officers for Pierre Dagher, the CEO of LBC Television. That doesn't explain the SUVs with identical license plates, which were painted brown and black, the unlicensed weapons, etc. The guy who services my Internet connection-- fat boy Roy-- was fuming over the arrests this morning. "The army is Syrian! Michel Sleiman [the Army commander] is with Syria", he ranted, and went on and on about how the Palestinians sold their land to the Jews in 1948. "They have no honor," he said. I wanted to expound on the benefits of getting laid once in a while, but instead asked him politely to leave. He apologized for bothering me.
Then today a further 13 Lebanese Forces fighters were arrested. Rumors and reports abound that Jumblatt is arming the Druze on Mount Lebanon, and a Future MP had this to say today: “The army will first protect us, but if we find ourselves obliged we will take to the streets, and a peaceful confrontation will be faced with a peaceful confrontation, and clashes will be faced with clashes,” said Walid Eido, a judge and member of Lebanon’s Parliament in the governing coalition, speaking of the challenge from Hezbollah. “We will sell our blood to buy weapons and confront them. We will never let them control the country.”
J. reports that a (Sunni) friend from Basta told him representatives of Hariri's Future party visited her father the evening of Gemayel’s funeral. They offered him a machine gun. “All your neighbors have taken them. The Lebanese Forces are armed and ready, the Tayyar (FPM) are. We have to be ready for when Hezbollah attacks,” he was purportedly told. He declined, stating that this was not the way to settle differences. “If something happens and you are not prepared, you will be to blame,” they said.
Prime Minister Saniora urged for calm today. "We want to avoid discord. My presence here (in the government), and that of many others will prevent discord and civil war...Because even if there is war... in the end, we will have to sit back together," he said. Jeez, that inspires confidence.
In the current climate, it doesn’t matter if talk of imminent civil strife, an arms race between opposing factions and cynical covert alliances are, in fact, true or not; the abundance of rumors, the blind subscription to blaming parties XYZ, and the propaganda of “the existential threat” can do the damage. If and when the conflagration occurs, the sectarian media will be to blame. Future TV in particular. When I watch that station I think I’m going to suffer a heart attack. It’s like that TV series “24” with Kiefer Sutherland. Time is running out! They are wacking us like flies! Ditto for Al Manar’s victory montages.
Those marching tunes really stick in your head. I find myself humming them at the supermarket.
The US embassy denies reports they have urged American citizens to evacuate Lebanon before December 1st. Which reminds me that this summer, the US frantically evacuated their citizens from Lebanon, all the while expediting shipments of bombs to Israel. The irony that it might have been easier to tell Israel to just lay off the bombing of civilian areas, was lost on the international media who went bananas covering the dramatic evacuations of a purported 50,000 Americans to Dearborne, Michigan.
I received a text message yesterday from the government-owned cellphone provider, offering to keep me abreast with "URGENT NEWS" on "the developing situation in Lebanon" for a whopping $10 per month. Are they trying to profiteer from the crisis, which they are fueling?
The UN Human Rights Council concluded that some of the infrastructure damage inflicted by Israeli bombs was done for "the sake of destruction". And that's a great relief because we were all waiting to hear what the strategic value of the Manara lighthouse and the Goethe Institute's parking lot were, not to mention all those bridges, ambulances and civilian housing.
Isreal, which was quick to blame Syria for Pierre Gemayel’s assassination, claims that new landmines in southern Lebanon must also have been laid by Syria or Hezbollah.
Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, the highest Maronite authority and a renouned demographer, insisted yesterday that Christians must unite. A young Maronite complained to me the other day that Sfeir, who was nearly kidnapped by Israel this summer due to his unfortunate first name and love of black headwear, has struck deals with Canada and the US not to grant visas to Lebanese Christians. He fears they might emigrate which would further deflate his demographic aspirations.
They will use all democratic means available to them in their endeavor. Expect whoopy cushion on Fatfat’s seat, a surprise party for Jumblatt, and Mohammed Ra'd returning to the negotiation table dressed as Santa Clause.
No, but really I hope they don't surprise me on Thursday by blocking the airport road. I have a plane to catch.