Driving Miss Condi

It was one of those bleak, wet and cold London mornings back on January 18, 1990 when this observer exited the Marks and Spencer’s store on Oxford Street, having purchased a Scottish Shetland wool cardigan for protection against the damp chill. As he walked to the Underground he noticed that some of the London street corner tabloids were running full page photos of his former boss, the Mayor of Washington DC.

The police photo showed Marion Shepilov Barry, Jr. finally caught in a police sting after a decade of government attempts, pulling hard on a hit of crack cocaine after complaining to his sister, Ms. Hazel ‘Rasheeda’ Moore that she was taking too long in the Vista Hotel bathroom and her presence would be appreciated in the bedroom.

On cue, the Feds and DC cops rushed through the door shouting “Freeze motherfucker!” Hiz’honer exhaled and his cocaine high definitively blown, Barry uttered those bonding words, as handcuffs were applied, that instantly endeared him to a whole generation of Washington DC’s male population who viscerally understood “the situation”:

“Goddamn setup . . . I’ll be goddamn. Bitch set me up.”

Those immortal words guaranteed an enduring political future for the Mayor in Washington after he served his 6 months in the Federal Pen. The day of his release from the federal facility in Pennsylvania, a long jubilant motorcade returned the prodigal son down route 95 to his District and his people.

Running on a whispered slogan, ‘He’s not perfect, but he’s perfect for DC’, Marion Barry regained the Mayor’s office and later broke all voting records in the nation’s capitol by garnering more than 96% of the male vote (Black, White, and Spanish) in the 2004 City Council race from the 8th District.

Years later, former Secretary of State, Colin Powell’s long-time aide-de-camp Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson divulged that Powell had told him that he too understood how Barry felt that day. Powell was talking about when on November 14, 2004 he was summoned to the White House to get the axe, his sister Condoleezza, rather than standing by Powell, or even giving him a ‘head’s up’, excused herself and remained in the bathroom for a long period until the deed was done and she became his replacement as Secretary of State.

What became of Miss Moore? Her assistance appreciated, all her other pending cases were dropped; she received government cash and went into the Federal Witness Protection Program.

Powell, like Barry, naturally had some bruised feelings, but word around Foggy Bottom these days is that he and Rice have significantly reconciled since both came to realize that as “display case negroes”, in the Cheney/Bush administration, the White House, turned out to be the plantation Big House.

Skilled at Curriculum Vitae enhancement, Miss Condi is not about to follow others over the rails of the sinking Bush ship. With a flurry of activity which both she and her colleagues know is pure fluff and photo op, she is hyping the moribund ‘Roadmap’ and planning a menu of Maryland Blue Crabs for the 49 invitees to the Annapolis ‘Middle East Peace Conference’ next week which any self respecting Arab would do well to avoid.

Those pressured into attendance should visit the Annapolis Maritime Museum, perhaps watch the seagulls and the fishing boats, stroll the colonial cobble stone streets, listen to their interlocutors but sign nothing. A Palestinian quisling signature on an understanding that will likely be offered on the Chesapeake Bay risks condemning a Palestinian “state” to a small portion of its territory. The Annapolis gathering is not being convened to benefit Palestinians. It is designed to give Israel a cover for taking more Palestinian land and cleansing more of the Arabs from the “the land of Israel”, by setting up Palestinian leaders for the ‘Israel has no peace partner’ hustle just as the Clinton, Dennis Ross, and Barak trio did to Arafat at Camp David in 2000.

The Annapolis get-together is designed for legacy-building for Bush and CV enhancement for Rice, as well as pressuring Iran, weakening Hamas, and shoring up Arab ‘leaders’ support for the US occupation of Iraq.

That Rice has her work cut out is plain all over Lebanon where her words and images appear still on billboards, posters, and graffiti from Maron al Ras on the ‘Blue line’ all over the south of Lebanon up to Beirut and the North.

Rice’s cold words during the July 2006 War are indelibly etched throughout Lebanon and the Middle East:

“We are witnessing the birth pangs of the New Middle East” she trumpeted, as Israel targeted civilian convoys and killed the fleeing Canadian Hasan al-Akrass family of 15 from Montreal, 8 of them children, and bombed other families who took to the roads on Israeli orders near Marwahin on July 15, and yet another convoy of more than 3,000 fleeing refugees the UN got Israeli permission for on August 11 at Marjayoun, killing or wounding more than 40.

“We don’t want a ceasefire yet”, Rice told the United Nations Security Council in late July 2006 as Israel bombed families in a basement shelter at Qana, killing 28 civilians including 16 children and killed four UN Observers near Khiam and continued the relentless slaughter of more than 1,250 civilians, with 84.5% of Israel’s weapons coming from America according to the October 2007 Report of the General Accounting Office.

“Israel has a right to defend itself and we will wait for a sustainable ceasefire “, she told the World from her podium at the UN as more than $4 billon in destruction was inflicted on Lebanon’s infrastructure, factories, schools, agriculture, and more 15,400 homes.

Lest anyone accuse Rice of changing her views since the 33 day aggression, on November 12, 2007 she made clear to the General Assembly of United Jewish Communities (formerly United Jewish Appeal) her convictions as she considers various Lobby offers for employment as the Bush administration expires.

Whenever I visit Israel, I’m reminded of the awesome living achievement that is the Jewish state. (Applause, applause)

When Israel was besieged by terrorism, it was the United States that insisted that Israel have the same rights as every nation on Earth, the right to defend itself. (Applause, applause)…And when violent extremists proclaimed their desire to wipe Israel off the map, it was the United States that responded with a $30 billion security package to ensure that no one will threaten our ally in Israel. (Applause, applause)

I want to affirm my own personal commitment to Israel’s security, and I want you to know how honored I am to serve a president for whom the enduring U.S. commitment to Israel’s security is unquestionable and unshakable! (Applause, rapture, delirium!)

Rice met recently with Karen Hughes her undersecretary who just resigned after visiting more than 40 countries to help win the hearts and minds of the Arab/Muslim world. Hughes, in a moment of admirable candor confessed that her assignment was ‘mission impossible’ as she advised her ‘boss’ in preparation for yet more frenetic trips by Rice to the region.

Three rather simple but basic bits of advice Hughes may not have offered Rice but she might consider nonetheless in her current crusade could include her use of language because many Middle Easterners are genetic linguists.

Specifically, Rice repeats the Israel lobby labeling of the July 2006 Israeli war against Lebanon as ‘The Second Lebanon War‘ .

Maybe it seems picayune in Washington and Tel Aviv but in Lebanon most citizens count differently.

Lebanese consider the July 12th, 2006 conflict as Israel’s 5th War (not second war) against Lebanon. The wise owl of Lebanon, Timor Goksel, 25 years with UNIFIL and who did a lot of counting over the years agrees. Some would argue it was Israel’s sixth war, if one includes Israel’s role in igniting Lebanon’s 1975-90 Civil War.

To wit:

Israel’s First War against Lebanon:

On March 14, 1978 Israel launched ‘Operation Litani’, a war against Lebanon during which it carved out a ‘security zone’ of 500 square kilometers covering 61 towns and villages. 10,000 Israeli troops and 200 tanks invaded southern Lebanon, killing hundreds of civilians. 250, 000 Lebanese were displaced, many moving to the southern suburbs of Beirut, which become known as the ‘misery belt’ (including the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla): an area Rice and her neocons/ziocons friends refer to as Beirut’s ‘slums’.

The Lebanese Army barracks at Khiam were taken over by Israeli forces and given to their allies, the Israeli created and US taxpayer funded South Lebanon Army. Israeli forces indiscriminately attacked homes and factories in the Awazi area near Beirut, killing 36 civilians.

On the same day an Israeli warplane attacked a mosque in the southern village of Abbasiya, killing 40 people and wounding over 100.

Two days later on 17 March 1978 Israeli commandos at the shore of Adlun killed 20 members of the Tawil family.

An Israeli economic blockade resulted in an influx of Israeli goods and the end of production in southern Lebanon, further crippling the country’s economy.

Finally, US President Jimmy Carter intervened with Israel, saying: “I consider this major invasion to be an overreaction…” and “a serious threat to the peace in the region.” UN Security Council Resolution 425, demanding that Israel withdraw from Lebanon, was passed and UNIFIL was sent to Lebanon. 30 years later UNIFIL is still here and UNSCR is still not fully implemented as Israel holds onto Shebaa Farms, half the village of Ghajar, and conducts nearly daily incursions into Lebanese airspace.

Israeli leaders called their Second War against Lebanon, the 1982 invasion ‘Operation Peace for Galilee’ a term used for Western public consumption given the favorable connotations of each of the words Operation, Peace and Galilee.

On July 25 1993, Israel unleashed an aggression it called ‘Operation Accountability’, Israel’s Third War against Lebanon. During this seven day aggression the UN counted 1,224 air raids and more than 28,000 shells, killing 140 civilians and wounding 500. More than 200,000 residents of 120 South Lebanon villages were displaced and thousands of homes completely or partially destroyed.

On April 11, 1996, Israel launched its Fourth War against Lebanon, which lasted for 16 days, which it called ‘Operation Grapes of Wrath’.

Rice’s use of the Israel lobby ‘second war’ label seeks to erase this aggression which included the first Qana massacre of more that 118 civilians seeking refuge at the UN HQ there and the wounding of 127 at that location alone. Lesser known war crimes committed by Israel during its 4th War on Lebanon included those at Suhmor on Day 2, al Mansouri ambulance on Day 3, and Upper Nabataea on Day 7. During this aggression more than 250 Lebanese civilians were killed and 7,000 homes were completely or partially destroyed.

The July 2006 war against Lebanon was Israel’s 5thnot its ‘Second’ War against Lebanon.

Some historians and political analysts identify Israeli efforts as a major cause of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war making the July 2006 attack on actually Israel’s 6th War against Lebanon.

Ron David, author of Arabs and Israel for Beginners, reminds us that Ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan and other Israeli cabinet members stated repeatedly and plainly as far back as the 1950s their intention to start a civil war in Lebanon.

David, a contributor to the indispensable Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, notes that in Israel’s Sacred Terrorism by Livia Rokach, it is reported that “Ben Gurion himself said it would be worthwhile to pay an Arab a million pounds to start a war. What a slip of the tongue” (Quote from the Diaries of Israeli PM Moshe Sharett).

Sharett also quotes Israeli Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan: “The Israeli army will enter Lebanon, occupy the necessary territory and create a Christian regime which will ally itself with Israel. The territory from the Litani southward will be totally annexed by Israel.”

In 1954 the Israeli Cabinet discussed their dreams for the future: “Above all let us hope for a new war with the Arab countries so that we may finally get rid of our troubles and acquire space” (Israeli Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan).

Dayan proposed to the Israeli cabinet that they ‘find a Maronite officer, bribe him to set up a Christian state along Israel’s northern border, and then let Lebanon break up into a lot of mini-states, some of which Israel could use as allies against the other Arab countries”.

Nearly two decades later, Israel carried out Dayan’s plan. They trained, funded and equipped a private army for Major Saad Haddad and through him got free access to South Lebanon. When he died they handed his fiefdom to Colonel Antoine Lahad, who ran the South Lebanon Army in the Lebanese territory along Israel’s northern border until Hezbollah expelled the Israelis on May 24, 2000.

Lahad fled to Tel Aviv where to this day he lives on a pension paid for by American taxpayers. In the 1970s, Israel also started funding the two Maronite militias run by the Gemayel and Chamoun families and in 1975 Lebanon’s Civil War began.

Kidnapped or Captured?

The Second Lebanon War misspeak reminds one of the insistence by Rice and the Israel Lobby that the two Israeli soldiers were “kidnapped” on July 12, 2006. Armed soldiers on active duty don’t get kidnapped. They get captured, or taken or snatched or imprisoned etc…but not kidnapped even if they were busy talking on their mobiles and one was eating a sandwich when surprised.

Children sometimes get kidnapped (kid from the German ‘kinder’) and we sometimes hear of girlfriends and even ex-wives being kidnapped but certainly not soldiers. Israel wants maximum sympathy for their boys and that is fair enough and it is also why they parade and trot family members of the two soldiers like sheep around the world on friendly TV shows on their captured soldiers birthdays, holidays, anniversary of their graduation from middle school, their bar mitzvah etc.

In Beirut a few weeks ago this observer pointed out to Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich, the preferred candidate of Americans who want a very different US Middle East policy, at a ‘Town Hall’ gathering the importance of not using the Lobby lingo when Kucinich mentioned the two ‘kidnapped’ soldiers. Kucinich’s really smart and stunning wife Elizabeth assured the audience that she will make sure he uses the correct term, “captured”. Let’s hope Ms. Rice does likewise as she travels the region.

Lebanon’s Slum?

Another bit of Israel lobby/neocon jargon Rice has picked up is to refer to the South Beirut neighborhood, know as Dahiyeh, as “slums”. She apparently means by this label to politically denigrate the Hezbollah/Shi’a area of Beirut as a filthy, crime filled, ramshackle, hotbed of religious fanatics of some sort.

Here Rice needs just a little tuition because Dahiyeh is, in point of fact, just the opposite of a slum.

In identifying what constitutes a ‘slum’, Rice may find the just released 14th annual City Crime Rankings: Crime in Metropolitan America published by CQ Press, instructive. It is based on the FBI’s Sept. 24 crime statistics report.

The report looked at 378 US cities with at least 75,000 people based on per-capita rates for homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and auto theft. All of the top crime infested cities contain one or two neighborhoods that are considered ‘slums’.

Detroit came in first as the crime leader and certainly contains some slums, St. Louis, was No. 2. Another Michigan city, Flint, ranked third, followed by Oakland Calif.; Camden, N.J.; Birmingham, Ala.; North Charleston, S.C.; Memphis, Tenn.; Richmond, Calif.; and Cleveland.

Contrary to the impression given by Rice and the Lobby, neither Beirut nor its southern Shi’a neighborhoods are littered with alcohol bottles, used drug needles, condoms, uncollected garbage, pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, homeless, hopeless, faithless, rejected and despised souls one normally finds in ‘slums’. In Dahiyeh, where this observer lives, there is virtually none of the 6 major crimes on the FBI survey.

This American often leaves his street level front door open since there is no AC and jogs at all hours around the neighborhood without concern for safety or theft. Arguably, Dahiyeh with its ubiquitous ‘walkie-talkie Hezbollah guys’ is about the safest place on the planet.

Quite the opposite of a slum, Dahiyeh is a communal beehive of activity with elements of Calvinist, Quaker and Mormon self-reliance and community ‘barn-raisings’.

Hezbollah banners at dozens of construction sites around our community proclaim: ‘We will build it nicer than it was’, as thousands of workers lay foundations for new apartment buildings. Foreigners and locals alike share community pride in restoring the neighborhood, exhibiting the normal Lebanese industry and work ethic for which Lebanon and the Shi’a are internationally known.

The $370 million campaign – Lebanon’s biggest construction project since downtown Beirut was rebuilt in the 1990s following the country’s 15-year civil war – is being planned and directed by “Waad” (Promise), a branch of Jihad al Binna (The Struggle Construction Company) which the Bush administration decided last year must be a ‘terrorist’ organization, and added it to the mushrooming Treasury and State Department ‘T lists’.

Waad has been contracted by families to rebuild 213 of the district’s 300 destroyed buildings, including 3,700 units in apartment buildings as well as shops, offices, warehouses and schools. It aims to transform Dahiyeh.

Non-military aid to Lebanon promised by Rice and the Bush administration has been slow in arriving (think Katrina). Asked if U.S. money could be going to Hezbollah’s rebuilding project, a U.S. Embassy official in Beirut said, “I would doubt it.” The official, who insisted on anonymity under Embassy rules, said U.S. funds were given for specific projects (some would argue to fund Jumblatt and Geagea against the Hezbollah led Lebanese Resistance) and would be carefully monitored by Embassy staff.

What is driving Miss Condi as she travels the Levant and beyond may be her legacy, but Lebanon and the region will likely pay the price.

Franklin Lamb is author of the recently released book Syria’s Endangered Heritage: An International Responsibility to Preserve and Protect. He is currently based in Beirut and Damascus and reachable at fplamb@gmail.com. Read other articles by Franklin.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Lloyd Rowsey said on November 24th, 2007 at 3:34pm #

    Thank you, Mr. Lamb.

  2. ron david said on November 24th, 2007 at 10:15pm #

    Most of us know Franklin Lamb as America’s bravest, most accurate reporter of Israel’s illegal, inhumane use of American weapons in Lebanon. I have used Lamb’s 900 page “ISRAEL’S WAR IN LEBANON: Eyewitness Accounts of the Invasion and Occupation” as the definitive source of information on the subject for over 20 years.
    I now use Franklin Lamb’s “sequel” to Israel’s atrocities against Lebanese civilians, “THE PRICE WE PAY: A Quarter Century of Israel’s use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon,” as the definitive source of information regarding Israel’s 2006 brutalization of Lebanon — and as context for Israel’s previous wars against Lebanon.
    That documentary evidence, collected at great physical and political risk, is a great contribution to the factual record of exactly what the American people are “buying” with the billions of dollars we give to Israel.
    But when a no-nonsense hard-nosed researcher like Lamb manages to combine elements as disparate as Marion Barry’s brilliantly slippery use of his arrest as an asset in winning an election, with Condolezza Rice’s un-brilliant impersonation of a fair minded peace maker, with the real number of Israel’s wars against Lebanon — including Israel’s US-based propaganda war that invents slums in Lebanon and ignores the slum-ridden reality of major American cities– you can only shake your head in astonishment.
    Franklin Lamb sees the world Whole. He sees the connections that most of us miss. If they gave the Nobel Peace Prize to people who truly deserved it, Lamb would be on the short list of nominees.
    Ron David

  3. gerald spezio said on November 25th, 2007 at 8:31am #

    Franklin Lamb makes me feel like a cringing coward with all my petty comfort.