Saturday, November 25, 2006

Julie Flint in the Guardian/There's no accounting for it

There's no accounting for it

Julie Flint

November 24, 2006 08:58 PM

On Tuesday last week, Pierre Gemayel, Lebanon's Maronite Christian Minister of Industry, died after an unidentified assailant pumped dozens of bullets into his body through the window of his car. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora asked the United Nations for help in investigating the assassination. On Thursday, UN investigators began assisting the Lebanese inquiry into Gemayel's murder.

Now cast your minds back a few months.

Between 12 July and 14 August, more than 1,100 Lebanese civilians died - a third of them children - after the Israeli Air Force launched more than 7,000 air attacks on as many targets in Lebanon. The Israeli Navy unleashed another 2,500 bombardments. Amnesty International said Lebanon's infrastructure suffered destruction on a "catastrophic" scale. The US rights group Human Rights Watch accused Israel of launching "indiscriminate" attacks against civilians, in response to the kidnapping by Hizbullah of two Israeli soldiers, and of a "systematic failure" to distinguish between civilian and military targets.

More than three months later, there is no investigation into Israel's war. Nor is there any real pressure for one, from any side. It is hard to escape the conclusion that there will be no justice for the Lebanese killed in the summer war - 1,183 of them, at last count - just as there was no justice for the victims of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the subsequent massacre in Beirut's Palestinian refugee camps, Sabra and Chatila.

And yet there was - and still could be, perhaps - a chance of justice this time round. The International Criminal Court is an independent court, set up in 2002 to try those accused of the gravest crimes - genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes - when national courts are unwilling or unable to do so. Lebanon did not ratify the Statute of Rome that set up the ICC. But under Article 12.3 of the Statute it can ask the Court to consider whether war crimes have been committed in Lebanon, and then to investigate and prosecute them. All it would take is a fax to The Hague, signed by someone with the authority to represent the State.

Lebanese lawyers who know better say they cannot move until they have a water-tight case, until every "i" is dotted and every "t" crossed. This is nonsense: if the ICC accepts the case, it is the ICC that will investigate. That is the Court's job, not Lebanon's.

Why this reluctance to seek justice for what many consider to have been war crimes committed by Israel? Siniora is concerned that Lebanon might lose US support if he goes after its ally Israel. (Can he have forgotten how Washington "supported" Lebanon by providing Israel with cluster bombs and delaying a ceasefire at the UN in the summer?) Hizbullah is concerned that it, too, could be charged with war crimes. Among ordinary Lebanese, the mood is one of uninformed resignation. "Why bother?" they ask. "When was Israel ever punished, for anything?" They answer themselves: "Never."

Sooner or later, however, there has to be a first time - and the ICC could be the vehicle for it. The international reaction to Israel's July offensive was unlike any previous reaction. Under attack was not the Lebanon of the "rag-tag militias" of the 1980s and 1990s, but the Lebanon of old cliché - of beach clubs, night clubs and sexy women; a reconstructed, post-war Lebanon whose people had stopped slaughtering each other and were dancing the night away again. Day after day, week after week, the photographs of dead children - poor children in poor clothes - won sympathy for Lebanon where previously there had been little. It was the perfect moment to take the initiative. It was missed.

Lebanon today is a dangerously, and increasingly, polarised place. Pierre Gemayel's assassination has been turned into a show of political strength by the country's anti-Syrian factions, who have won the battle for a UN tribunal to investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and who accuse Damascus of murdering Gemayel too - without, it has to be said, a shred of evidence. Precedent, certainly, but not evidence.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the ICC, announced on Thursday that the Court is close to launching prosecutions against some of those suspected of committing war crimes in Darfur. Sudan refused to allow the ICC to investigate in Sudan, just as Israel would, in all probability, if Lebanon referred the July/August war and the ICC agreed to open a criminal investigation into it. But the ICC has got what it needs despite Khartoum's lack of cooperation. There will be indictments of Sudanese officials and, hopefully, prosecutions. There could be of Israelis, too. It would be difficult, but not impossible.

Many Lebanese have lost their lives at the hands of the governments of Syria and Israel and have suffered torture in their jails. Both states should be called to account. The life of a poor Shia child is no less precious than that of a wealthy Christian politician. A demonstrator at the funeral of Gemayel carried a banner saying: "See you in court." He was addressing himself to Damascus. He should have added: "All of you, whoever you are."


Blogger Askinstoo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Charles Malik said...

It would have been nice to hear Muhammad Raad or Michel Aoun make this kind of statement at the Hiwar.

Unfortunately, they did not, and do not.

I don't know why. There are many pessimistic answers, but even giving them the benefit of the doubt, this merely proves their inability to use international instruments to further their cause and legitimate their calls for overturning the cabinet.

Of course, I'm not giving Prime Minister Saniora or the cabinet a pass, but we all know where their paychecks come from. For Saniora, it's Hariri first, then the investigation into the war. I mean, that's why he's PM right now, not Saad, right? He's doing the dirty work of putting together the tribunal and removing Lahoud, while Saad waits in the wings to sweep in as Lebanon's gracious and benevolent savior.

9:15 AM  
Blogger karlos said...

You are right Charles. Both sides are failing their country.

But I find it far more offensive and insulting that Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir is meeting with the US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman. At least the opposition is maintaining a consistent resistance.

Unfortunately, I also find a preference to domination by Syria than hegemony and duplicity with the US.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Ruthie In The Sky said...

Now George Bush has been snubbed in two different parts of the world.

[He deserves it]

But the killing goes on. Your dead, my dead...everyone's blood.

Do you ever dream of the day when everybody drops their hatred along with their weapon and says "I won't do this anymore." ??

I think the point has been made that battle equals battle and will never add up to peace.


6:02 PM  
Blogger Doc said...

Ruthie--in principal, you are right, in reality, never gonna happen, esp in Lebanon.

As an outsider, looking in, its so easy to see how mechanically people follow their leaders, and at any expense...same in the US, same anywhere..the nature of Leb's confessionalistic govt does not help either..

And because Lebs are such hot-blooded people (thank you Mediterranean), I am afraid that tomorrow's mass demonstration is going to explode...I am literally praying that it does not.

1:53 AM  
Blogger Doc said...

Ruthie--in principal, you are right, in reality, never gonna happen, esp in Lebanon.

As an outsider, looking in, its so easy to see how mechanically people follow their leaders, and at any expense...same in the US, same anywhere..the nature of Leb's confessionalistic govt does not help either..

And because Lebs are such hot-blooded people (thank you Mediterranean), I am afraid that tomorrow's mass demonstration is going to explode...I am literally praying that it does not.

1:53 AM  
Blogger Doc said...

Ruthie--in principal, you are right, in reality, never gonna happen, esp in Lebanon.

As an outsider, looking in, its so easy to see how mechanically people follow their leaders, and at any expense...same in the US, same anywhere..the nature of Leb's confessionalistic govt does not help either..

And because Lebs are such hot-blooded people (thank you Mediterranean), I am afraid that tomorrow's mass demonstration is going to explode...I am literally praying that it does not.

1:53 AM  
Blogger karlos said...


I agree with you and i believe that you say IS possible. People just have to accept other people's right to exist. This applies to Israelis as well as Palestinians, pro-Syrians as well as anti-Syrian.

It's really no that hard, but people are too greedy, too corrupt by power.

To avoid the current problem in Lebanon, the government should have put on-hold their relations with USA. This would placate Hezbollah and allow more time to resolve the issue peacefully. Instead, they were as stubborn as Hezbollah, and now look.

5:07 AM  
Blogger Mr Wrath said...

wow, it is sad I find a need to return to this site. I mean that, because if all went well, I would not have. Many people were on here slamming any support for Hezbollah this site and certain posters offered them....these people who damned Hezbollah were correct it seems. Today is the first step toward an Islamic state in Lebanon where this site will cease to exist along with mnost other freedoms democracy has gifted the people there....truly sad.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Mr Wrath said...

P.S. I hope those who write this blog still consider Hezbollah as heros when this site no longer exists, and that they enjoy the Iran lifestyle where certain music, clothes, and everything else is forbidden.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Doc said...

I supported HZ during the war as defenders against Israel and I supported Sinoira as a true and respectable leader (who, by the way, also supported HZ in their role against Israel), but now this is a different issue we are talking about.

HZ is a legitimate part of the govt and they have a legitimate right to protest (peacefully). Sinoira also has a right to uphold the govt and protest against Syrian influence.

I blame Israel and the US (and others, including Syria/Iran) who promoted and supported the July war and made HZ stronger through their actions. HZ are much stronger and popular today than ever. So I say, Mr. Wrath, those who damned Israel were correct, it seems.....

I also blame the Leb people who follow like blind foolish lambs, who dont know what the reality is and are easily swayed with the moving wind. The citizens of Leb have the power, not Sinoira, nor Nasrallah, nor Geagea, nor Aoun, nor Gemayl....

btw, just because HZ supports a movement, doesnt mean Leb will become an islamic will never happen, mr. wrath, as long as we have chrisitans in leb and other moderate groups...i guarantee it.

6:59 PM  
Blogger HCB said...

I too, Mr Wrath, have enjoyed just checking in each week or so to see what may have been posted. I very much appreciate reading thoughtful comments about tragedies happening or about to happen.

Hyocritical sarcasm is not thoughtful - it's hateful. I can likewise suggest to you that the idiots in black who meander between banging their fists on the table in the knesset and banging their heads on the "wailing wall" are the real root of ALL the problems in the mideast. While you imply a lifestyle being imposed on Lebanon by Iran, you ignore that Israel tried and failed to do the same thing. You ignore that it is precisely that evil of which Israel is guilty in Palestine. Israel imposes its will forcefully and gleefully every day on the poor people who have neither hope nor ability to help themselves. Every day Israel divides the Palestinians from their families and every day they force them to live as subhumans in far less than humane conditions. But Israel does not limit its imposition of misery on Palestine - it turns its wrath on Lebanon with the clear intention of simply destroying it for the pleasure it finds in destruction. It accomplished absolutely nothing in its effort other than to solidify Hezbollah as the ONLY hope for the people Israel displaced, destroyed and made even more hopeless.

The United States is finally beginning to realize the real problem is Israel. When Bush and Rice follow Rumsfeld out the door, there will be a chance for peace. Because Israel will find its wings clipped and will finally be forced to work on solutions that don't involve simply destroying that which it finds irritable.

7:44 PM  
Blogger karlos said...

Mr Wrath, You're talking like a scaremongering twit. There will not be an Islamic State in Lebanon. I hope these protests result in a united and representative government to lead the country forward, independent of foriegn interests.

1:25 PM  
Blogger dobegs said...

Welcome to the reality I predicted during the war.. I totally agree with Mr Wrath... Lebanon, its people and esp the blog writers on here will now welcome the Islamic state of Lebanon where no internet , no music, no women rights oh and other lovely things like public killings :), to Doc and HCB who comfortably live in the civilised world - you have no idea what so ever what its like to live under Relegious laws and esp under Islamic laws.... I cant imagine personally but I knopw people who ran away from it!
so the alternartive to islamic state of Lebanon is a free lebanon multi relegion and culture lebanon... hmmm sounds a lot better to me.... going out at night, enjoying life, women rights, internet, sounds better to me.

10:11 PM  
Blogger HCB said...

Perhaps, dobegs, but I don't know what my having no idea what it's like to live under "Islamic laws" has to do with anything.

Was that Israel's purpose? To save Lebanon from itself by destroying it? Is that its idea in Palestine? Bomb the rubble to dust and fence the people so they won't know the horror of "Islamic law?"

I have a feeling that, no matter what you envision as "living under Islamic Law," it's better than having your hovel bombed into shards. I also have another idea - maybe it's none of your business (or that of Israel or the US or anyone else) how the people decide they want to live. I would guess the person trying to wend his or her way through the unexploded cluster bomblets to the fields this spring could not care less what you think of the situation or of "Islamic Law." Perhaps that person would simply like to be let alone so he or she can tend the fields and the children. Without Israel or dobegs or George Bush or the idiots in black in Israel deciding what's best.

One thing is certain - telling me and doc your vision of "living under Islamic law" is as completely meaningless as your "prediction." We are not the people who count and, frankly, whether you would enjoy living under "Islamic law" is equally irrelevant - no more meaningful than whether you'd prefer to be a famer or fireman.

But that's the trouble with Bush and Olmert and all the rest of the busybody fools in the world - they think they know best and, by God, they are going to give their way of life to you. Or kill you in the attempt.

12:52 AM  
Blogger Doc said...

dobegs--you have no idea what you are talking about and what lebanon is capable think just like Monsieur Bush--in black and white..all or nothing...good and evil...

That's not how the world works.

And if Lebanon were to hypothetically fall under Islamic regime, it would be because of the US and its proxies promoting it's 'fight terrorism' tactics, which (as we have seen in Iraq), have the completely opposite effect....

If I were in Sinorias govt, I would distance myself from US involvement, and if I were supporting the HZ movement, I would distance myself from Syria/Iran involvement. Lebs need to learn to think for themselves. (I can say that, I am one).

12:56 AM  
Blogger dobegs said...

Doc, I think your post make sense when you say that any Leb government should distance themselves from any outside affiliation and support, this is the best way and I fully support your comment. But in reality on the ground Leb government needs the support of outside powers to be able to develop and provide a better life for the lebanease people. so if there is a choice (if!!) then I would go for freedom, free life, women's rights, internet and open society that relegion is not its ruller! Choice is the ruller and it empowers the people to make the choice and tollerate other people and live together and not in segregation.... however with powers and dogma like Iran, Syria I cannot see where choice is for its people? it reminds me of old soviet era.
oh and HCB, I am not going to respond to your hate propaganda, you say silly meaningless things as you want people on here to like you.... you are sad and in need of help.. you need to try and be a little more inventive in your hate propaganda esp for someone who is not from the region and has no connections other than ... the internet and your pc.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Doc said...

Lebanese society has always prided themselves on a 'free' life, as you define above. That is not the issue. That society is more free in terms of media, fashion, art, education, women's rights than any european nation.

Why does HZ's clamor for more attention in the govt mean we will fall under Islamic regime...we are not talking about freedom, Dobegs. Leb govt is confessionalistic...all religions and groups represented...Again, you sound like Bush, with his 'freedom, terrorist' talk.

The US does not care about Leb people and their freedoms..they are fighting Syria/Iran through us. And Syria/Iran does not care about the Leb people...they are fighting the west/US through us...

So, dont think for one minute that western support of the Leb govt means that that will guarantee freedom...Look at what's happening in Iraq now and the US's support of 'freedom' in that country...I certainly dont want that to happen in Leb (again).

I do not support HZ's/Aoun's push to bring down the govt...but they do have a right to protest...that is democracy, is it not? Hoping this all ends soon.

6:51 PM  
Blogger hardslap said...

until the stone age cock roaches fight like men instead of hiding behind women and children expect more "innocent"cock roaches to die!

4:50 AM  
Blogger Red said...

Red Cross and Red Crescent Club
Youth Organization
iranian red crescent

4:38 PM  

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