[click_to_tweet tweet=”skulls blog” quote=”skull blog”]Between 1970 and 1990 all of those student fighting today were babies who took their first breaths from the choking smoke of the gothic ruins of burning Beirut and heard their first sounds among the cries of pain and the thunder of guns, in one the world most intense and horrific civil wars.Their hopes and perspectives in pieces, the youth of Lebanon now look only backwards in a vain attempt to resolve their problems through re-confronting their buried demons.
Independent commentators are now generally agreed that the civil unrest was totally spontaneous in character. This fact alone is far more dangerous than had it been deliberately planned and led by either pro or anti-government political leaders. Its spontaneity means that this new movement has a life of its own, and is already growing beyond the boundaries of organized political life and organized politics in Lebanon is already organized violence. Such was the uncontrolled character of events that politicians of all hues and across the sectarian divide collectively called for restraint and respect for the Army and the curfew. Even Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nashrallah went so far as to call a Fatwah to enforce peace on the streets.
While all this was going on, an element of French farce entered into the theatre of events as the world realised Lebanon was without a government. Nobody was at home it seemed, just while the house was on fire. The besieged Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora was, in fact, in Paris with most of his ministers, doing a fund-raiser from Gulf princes and Western leaders to get money to rebuild the country. While, of course, at the same time, the country was announcing it was about to begin to cease to exist.
So what next? Perhaps, in order to try to divert the civil unrest along safe electoral channels, politicians of all sides will agree to hold new Parliamentary elections. But in the new situation, the campaigns may only become a new opportunity for more clashes and wide spread unrest, together with the assassination of candidates, which is customary in the country. But the fact is, that none of this can avoid or derail the inevitability of a head on fight to the death between the communities.
When the rank and file supporters move ahead of their leaders, who are, themselves, practised veterans of provoking and prosecuting civil wars, it must mean that a subterranean chasm has opened up which cannot be closed. These are movements, which are self-generating with their own logic and inner dynamics. They are irresistible and insatiable. Whatever political leaders try to do, whatever boulders and barriers are thrown in its way, it will not be denied its desire for expression. Come what may the unrest will force its way to the top, cutting open whatever channels are necessary and uprooting anything that stands in its way.
There were already indications two days ago that the depth of social unrest was much deeper and riper than had been suggested even by the ongoing, organized demonstration outside Parliament. A national general strike of organized labour brought the country to a standstill. And while it had strong links to the Shia community, the strike itself was also a movement from below, sanctioned rather belatedly from above and moving also beyond the traditional methods and channels of sectarian strife.
In most other countries, a demonstrations and a sit-in around parliament, a general strike and some bloody, student battles would not be enough to start talking of civil war and national disintegration. But Lebanon is country where the blood of genocidal sectarian strife is still hardly dry. Nearly every student today is a child of civil war. Between 1970 and 1990 Lebanon tried to flay itself alive when predominantly Shia and Christian forces pursued a scorched earth policy of internecine savagery. These are its offspring; civil war is no stranger to them,.. it is their parents. All of those student fighting today were babies who took their first breaths from the choking smoke of the gothic ruins of burning Beirut and heard their first sounds among the cries of pain and the thunder of guns, in one the world most intense and horrific civil wars.
For a little time afterwards, as the once glittering, Parisian-cultured society began rebuilding, the economy boomed, the tourist flowed back and those same students never spoke about their religious backgrounds. It was almost taboo. 15 years after the war, the same cell phone touting, tech-savvy youth were mixing across communities and dreaming of prosperity and peace. Then suddenly this year, like a thunder bolt from the blue, they castles in the sky were shattered by the battering ram of Israeli tanks and bombs. The destruction of their homeland brought back all the horrors and all the childhood trauma of civil war like a horrible, disfiguring acne, once banished and now back to haunt them as adults in their bathroom mirrors. They would never look at themselves and country in the same way again. Their hopes and perspectives in pieces, the youth of Lebanon now look only backwards in a vain attempt to resolve their problems through re-confronting their buried demons. That is why nothing will now stop the plunge into the vortex of civil war and the self-destruction of Lebanon. Few countries survive two civil wars, especially when both are within one generation.
However, contrary to some assertions, history never repeats itself. The coming civil war has already begun taking a new shape within the student unrest. Rather than Shia versus Christian, it has begun as Sunni versus Shia. This is because it lies on far-western side of the Shia/Sunni sectarian fault line now opening up from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. Events in Lebanon are pressurized by stresses of the continental-scale civil war now developing. It has the privilege of being the second fracture in the tectonic plates. Events there will, in turn, influence events elsewhere. It is already finding its own expression in Palestine and next among the Mediterranean contenders could be Egypt with its 7 million Coptic Christians among 60 million Muslims.
And what are the perspectives for Lebanon another bloodbath? Actually, the crushing military superiority of Hezbollah probably mitigates more against a bloodbath, than for it. With more than 40,000 missiles and better equipped than the Lebanese Army, they are likely not to need to fight to the death. The Lebanese Army would most likely prove useless in the hands of the present Sunni/Christian government. It would refuse to fight and/or dissolve as before. However, the threat most likely to cause a bloodbath is that of another Israeli invasion. If Israel invades on the side of, or even supplies arms to, the Sunni/Christian block, then, this time, these collaborators will be slaughtered mercilessly. Hezbollah will be fighting to the death. Clearly, this could, like Iraq, become a proxy war. Iran could not afford to see Hezbollah annihilated. During the last war Nashrallah became a folk hero, even among the Sunnis throughout the Middle East and Iran is empire-building.
Syria, like now, would most likely still be hesitant of getting directly involved, and would act as a conduit for arms and fighters. As things spiral out of control (as maybe planned) Israel and the US will make the excuse to launch punitive airborne attacks on Iran. Specifically, they will use the coming Lebanese civil war as the cover the destroy Irans nuclear abilities. This is the reason why US aircraft carriers have already been opportunely positioned in the Persian Gulf, why Israel has been beefing up its plans for aerial attack and Iran has been purchasing state of the art Russian anti-aircraft missiles. Should Iran choose to, however, it has far greater capacity than Iraq did, to hit Israeli cities. Israel does have strong defences, but it would need US support, if bombed by Iran. We could well see quite a fireworks display over the skies of the Middle East in the coming period.
The big fly in the ointment is whether it can be sold to the American people and whether a war can be sustained in Israel? Bush, we must remember, is not in denial, but suffering psychotic delusions. He believes he will have soon won some form of victory in Iraq, so clearing the way for an attack on Iran. Moreover, there are those who oppose the Iraq war, but would support limited action against the concrete threat of Iranian nuclear arms. So the scenario could not be ruled out.
January 26th 01.00 (Beirut Time)