My last post aroused some heated responses and brought to the surface ugly divisions, even violent impulses. This was not my intention. Perhaps the rule-of-thumb that the victims of violence are somehow sacrosanct and immune to criticism inhibits the honest expression of grotesque sentiments, such as "I wish the Israelis had finished off all the Shia" and "we had a party for every dead inhabitant of the Dahiye". In which case, let's keep it at that-- simmering beneath the surface. I prefer not to take the spate of opinions expressed here as indicative of Lebanese public opinion. And if that comment about "finish off all the Shia" was meant to be funny, then perhaps humor-- subtle or not-- isn't quite your forté.
Furthermore I reiterate what I have said on prior occasion: I don't seek to please everyone. If you are a self-declared Phoenician, a war-on-Christmas paranoiac, a Lebanese (white) supremecist or a March 14th enthusiast, please don't whine if you don't like what I write. You have ninety percent of the Lebanese blogosphere at your disposal.
On to more important business. It hasn't rained for a month now. It should be pouring rain for days on end in late November/early December. Did God abandon his reknowned impartiality and side with the opposition? Did Ayatollah Khameini issue a fatwa against the rain? Is global warming a Persian/Alawite conspiracy?
Every cab driver now defers to God when I ask him about the situation, and points to the sky. The protest in downtown continues unabated. It seems they are planning to hold out at least until New Years Eve for a monumental bash. If you've ever had the misfortune of consuming non-alcoholic champagne at an office party, you know what to expect at that particular venue.
I received a charitable plea from Virgin Megastore via e-mail yesterday. If you read this on time, please drop what you're doing and go spend money at "our beloved Virgin" (I kid you not, that's what it said) on Martyrs' Square, or else Richard Bronson will die of untreated cancer.
I don't understand why the business community wasn't defiant from the very beginning. They should have mobilized their supporters from Day 1 to shop until they drop at the overpriced boutiques and restaurants downtown. The only businesses obstructed by the presence of porta-potties and tents are Buddha-bar, that cigarstore on the corner of Riad el-Solh, and some of the worst elitist silicone-babe nightclubs you can find in this city. Like Taboo. I am however concerned that the barb- and razewire will become a permanent manifestation if this doesn't end soon.
By the way, what did Dr. Fatfat prescribe his favorite patient?
Prime Minister Siniora, who apparently suffers from severe mood swings, is off to Moscow today. I hope they don't slip him some sushi laced with Plutonium-210. We don't need any more martyrs.
The owner of a restaurant I frequent in Gemmayze told me that Detlef Mehlis, the earstwhile UN investigator, will return to finish the job. "It will be our Christmas present," he said crossing himself. In case you haven't been following this, Mehlis has been leaking very serious allegations against Brammertz to the German press. According to an exclusive report in Der Stern, Brammertz has intentionally de-railed the investigation over the past year, instead of following up on Mehlis' claims that al-Assad, Ghazali & co. ordered Hariri's assassination. Now if I was going to choose between believing Mehlis or Brammertz I would bear in mind the following points:
1) Mehlis was on the job for six months, during which he waltzed around in a trench coat, kicking in doors, gave press conferences and made bold accusations, which --admittedly--was fun to watch on TV. I remember my Sunni Beiruti landlord, in a fit of infatuation, saying, "You look like Mehlis when you smile." A misguided compliment, to say the least. Brammertz has been in charge of the investigation for twice that time-- twelve months. During his tenure, he has discreetly pursued various leads, re-examined all the forensic evidence, and for some reason, the Syrians seemed happy to cooperate with him.
2) Mehlis is a well-known friend of American intelligence services. Ask any German. He has botched judicial precedings in the past-- incidentally-- by jumping to hasty conclusions which were later discredited. In the late 1980s he was the presiding prosecutor on the La Belle case-- the bombing of a West Berlin nightclub in which dozens of disco-dancing American GIs perished.
Mehlis, at the time, hastily blamed Libya for the bombing and Reagan went ahead and bombed Gaddafi's presidential palace in Tripoli. A few years later, an investigative report on ZDF Frontal alleged that the actual suspect was a deranged CIA/Mossad agent who had been hiding in Malta, and that Mehlis had in fact questioned him but chose not to indict him, despite the fact that all the evidence pointed towards his involvement. Oops!
3) If Mehlis claims any impartiality and respect for the due process of law, how does he know that Syria assassinated Pierre Gemayel? He is sitting in his office in Berlin, twiddling his thumbs, having returned to his rather unglamorous job as prosecutor of petty thieves and drug dealers. If he merely suspects Syrian involvment, why did he jump the gun and publicize his opinion?
Furthermore, why were Mehlis' investigators flying around in Hariri's private jets? Why has Mehlis' second-in-command, a German intelligence agent who is simultaneously embroiled in the CIA kidnapping and "extraordinary rendition" of one German-Lebanese Khalid Masri, been spotted in Beirut and rumored to be working as an adviser for the Hariri dynasty? Slightly unprofessional, no?
The problem with March 14th is that they are evidently as foolish as the White House, hiring disreputable Ahmed Chalabi-types to make their case. Mehlis has no credibility. None whatsoever. And why not get someone honest and well-respected to do the job? And finally, Mehlis is not cute. As a personal aquaintance of his can testify, Mehlis looks like a little binturong raccoon straight out of the Brazilian rainforest. Add those stylish frameless glasses that most humorless and vain Germans like to wear. (I added that last part for critics who complain that my writing resembles a gossip column.)
The funny thing is that March 14th's media will hype any of the UN investigation's conclusions. If Brammertz reports that Bashar al-Assad was taking a crap when Hariri was killed, well then that's evidence of foul play. If Brammertz suggests that an aerial attack might have caused the former Prime Minister's demise, well then what?
We don't know and I dare say we will never know who killed Rafiq Hariri. It's shameful, I know.