Most Lebanese, including the younger generations, have repetitively heard the official story of the “liberation of the south by Hezbollah” in May 2000, a “coup” that prompted the Lebanon-based Khomeinist organization to seize power across the land and throughout the country’s institutions. The benchmark of May 2000 provided Hezbollah with the foundation from which to take the ultimate leap to dominate Lebanon and, despite the brief Cedars Revolution of 2005, to intervene in Syria starting in 2011. Lebanon’s public, overwhelmed by significant events since 2000, particularly by the current geopolitical menace across the border with Syria, has never been given the opportunity to truly understand what took place just before May 2000, which could have led the country to another path, similar to the path that led to UNSCR 1559 in 2004. Instead, Lebanon’s citizens are made to watch the lionization of Hassan Nasrallah’s “liberation war” of south Lebanon though reality was not that bright and while underneath the public discourse dramatic moves and sad choices were made by the opposition to Hezbollah, choices that finally allowed the Hezbollah’s empowerment. So far, as for UNSCR 1559, no accurate accounts have been made regarding what led to the fall of the “security belt,” handing it over to Hezbollah. Perhaps historians will at some point provide readers with early information about the saga, but my memoirs will undoubtedly include some of the hidden facts. What follows will reveal just a few pieces of what lies beneath, appropriate for this 15th commemoration of the May 2000 events in south Lebanon.
While it is widely known that the war in south Lebanon, stretching from 1984 to 2000, was a result of the botched Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the previous confrontation raging between the forces of East Beirut’s free areas and a vast coalition made of Assad occupation forces (including the PLO, “National Movement,” and the pro-Iranian militia known as Hezbollah), this equation was the result of the 15 year war that started in 1975. At the end of 1990, a new reality emerged as 90% of the country was under Syrian-Iranian domination and the 10% in the far south was under a force controlled by Israel. The so-called security zone defended by the SLA was confronted by mostly Hezbollah and allies militias to its north. It is important to note that between 1985 and 1999, not an inch of land was gained by Syro-Iranian backed Hezbollah or lost by the Israeli-backed SLA. No “liberation” in either direction took place for 14 years. Hezbollah waged strikes and suicide attacks against the SLA for a decade and a half. Facts tells us that nothing happened. The SLA spoke of liberation of the north, but facts also tell us that nothing happened there either. The status quo was too powerful to shake.
In 1999, the district of Jezzine (northern part of the southern security zone under the SLA) suddenly falls, Hezbollah enters as a liberator. Rallies are organized, and the Arab world elevates Hezbollah to the Salah el Dine of the 20th century. There were no battles. There was just an “Israeli order to the SLA to pull back and to remit Jezzine to the Lebanese Syrian-controlled Government,” which sent a few “post-1990″ Lebanese Army units to the mostly Christian district of Jezzine, but the strategic dominance was granted to Hezbollah. The Lebanese public was not given a chance to understand what happened seemingly overnight after 14 years of status quo. There was no “liberation.” It was a regional and international deal, involving the Clinton administration, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Syria. In future works, more light will be shed on said deal, which in fact was, more accurately, two deals. Obviously, Hafez Assad outmaneuvered Israel and Washington at the same time and added Jezzine to his panoply. And Hezbollah obtained the feather in its cap.
In 2000, a similar but more dramatic scenario took place across the “Security Zone,” from Naqura to Khiam. Overnight, an Israeli order was issued by the Ehud Barak government to its forces to pull out and dismantle the SLA, sending the population of the “Belt” into Israel, if they decide to go. Were there battles? None, except a couple of engagements launched by Hezbollah against SLA positions a week before and which were decisively lost by the pro-Iranian Jihadists. As more than seven thousands civilians crossed the border in fear for their lives, Hezbollah militias conquered, not liberated, the border areas. There were no military confrontations, but there were victory parades by pro-Iranian militias and Syrian-dominated Lebanese government officials briefly visited the SLA evacuated villages in the area. By the evening of May 25, 2000, Hafez Assad had insured full control of Lebanon from the edges of the Galilee to the Nahr al Kabir in the North. These were the facts, and now come the questions:
Why did Israel surrender the “security zone” in south Lebanon to the Syrian-dominated government of Beirut and eventually to the Iranian-backed militia? There are answers to this question, but they won’t come until a new reading of the history of the Lebanese War is made available. The answers will surprise many, but not all, of the readers. Another question arises as well: Was there an alternative to an Israeli withdrawal and a Hezbollah takeover? The answer is yes, but it is almost totally unknown to the Lebanese public. Following are few pieces of it.
As of 1996, a plan submitted to the United Nations by Lebanese civilian committees in south Lebanon and backed by Lebanese Diaspora groups called for an Israeli withdrawal from the security zone, including Jezzine and Marjeyun, and for putting the 120,000 people from all communities (Christians, Shia, Sunni and Druse) living in that area under a direct UNIFIL command under a Chapter 7 Resolution, to be issued before any Israeli withdrawal. The project resembled the initiative that became UNSCR 1559 eight years later, which was also initiated by emigres groups overseas. The group in charge of the initiative for south Lebanon toured the UN and the U.S. Congress for support. Israel was suspicious of it, Iran and Syria were fighting it with rage, the Hariri government opposed it, and the anti-Syrian opposition dodged it.
Imagine an Israeli withdrawal without a Hezbollah conquest, with local Lebanese police stations in charge of security and a stronger UNIFIL protecting the area. Then imagine a Cedars Revolution followed by a Syrian withdrawal with a south free from Hezbollah. Use your imagination and you would understand that the alternative to the May 2000 Hezbollah so-called liberation would have been an Israeli pullout, a Lebanese liberation of their own soil, growing into a Syrian pullout, followed by a gradual disarming of Hezbollah. Today, in 2015, Lebanon would have been celebrating the tenth anniversary of a country free from Syrian occupation and an armed Hezbollah with a fully independent Lebanese Army.
But the tougher question: What was the position of the anti-Syrian occupation politicians, particularly the Christians among them, when they were approached regarding support for the internationalization of the south? Shockingly, the answer was a resounding no to such a pre-1559 resolution. More details will be revealed in time, but the politicians argued that “if Israel can be made to pull out, it would put ‘moral’ pressure on Hezbollah to disarm.” This reckless logic led to the loss of a Lebanese opposition backing of such an initiative, a UN disinterest, an American shifting of policies, an Israeli regressive attitude, a Syrian-Iranian victory, and Hezbollah reaching the zenith of power.
Liberating a piece of Lebanon in 2000, leading to a final liberation of Lebanon in 2005, was possible. This possibility, however, was crushed by the poor vision of Christian-Lebanese politicians and by a shrewd pro-Iranian camp. There are dozens of questions and a slew of counter arguments to this assertion, but we will leave the debate for my memoirs and for historians to research. On this May anniversary of the fall of the “belt,” it was important to let the public know that there is an alternative history to what they know.
Dr Walid Phares is the author of The Lost Spring and a professor of Middle East Studies. He was the author of the NGOs draft memo introducing UNSCR 1559 in 2004
On Friday, May 22, the front page of the Times had the story of yet another promising young black man killed in a gang shootout in N.J. and an article on the head of the Boy Scouts calling for an end to their ban on gay leadership. On page 14, after pages of articles on shifting views about reporting sex abuse in Britain, extended talks between the US and Cuba, dogs splitting from wolves earlier than previously thought - finally, came the story of a young family and their housekeeper tortured, slaughtered and set afire in their home in Washington, D.C. The headline said “Arrest is Reported in Washington Killings,” and the article reported that the case was cracked by finding the killer’s DNA on a slice of pizza he had ordered while the massacre was underway.
News Item 5/5/15: At Rancho High School in Las Vegas, during an immigration roundtable, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “believe it or not, when I was growing up in the Chicago area, it was farm fields as far as the eye could see.”
Competing with the WSJ’s coup in first publicizing the Asian Tiger Mom, the Times has captured Wednesday Martin, an anthropologist whose subject has been the super-rich slender mothers of the upper east side. She has also covered the same demographic in London but for the interest of their local readers, the Times has focused on the “Poor Little Rich Women” of the upper east side who have been coined by Ms. Martin with the cliche’d acronym Glam SAHMS - glamorous stay at home moms. (SundayReviewNYT5/17) From the pictures on her website, we see that Wednesday has obviously learned a thing or two from her life among the savages - the best place to get her hair colored, where to buy de rigeur high heels and brightly colored sleeveless dresses and how to get a professional make-up job before embarking on a public relations campaign. Despite her insistence that she was up front with her subjects about writing a book, she clearly felt the need to look just like the women she was preparing to eviscerate.
Tens of thousands of deleted emails. Eighteen-and-a-half minutes of missing tape. As one who worked closely with former President Nixon during the last years of his life, I find the comparisons between him and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be insulting — to Nixon.
Sister Helen Prejean, the Roman Catholic nun who has made her career campaigning against capital punishment and ministering to those on death row, spent five visits with Boston bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev and testified that he had “sympathy for his victims.” Despite evidence to the contrary revealed during the trial at which the killer sat impassively, registering no emotion at the anguish of victims and their families, Sister Helen sensed pain in Tsarnaev’s voice and could feel his sincerity when he said that “no one deserves to suffer like they did.” The question, as Hillary Clinton famously said, is what difference does it make?
The well-worn adage goes “History is written by the victors”. That is, the nation that wins a war provides the facts that compose the history books. But the Vietnam War is an exception. In this case the loser, the United States, provides posterity with most of the information about the 1964-1975 conflict that cost 56,000 American and 1.5 million Vietnamese lives.
Back when Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani threatened to cut off municipal funds to the Brooklyn Museum for an exhibition that included, among other controversial works, a collage of the Virgin Mary made by Chris Ofili from pornographic magazine images and shellacked clumps of elephant dung, the NYTimes ran several columns defending the freedom of art to offend. This is from Michael Kimmelman’s Critic’s Notebook: Cutting Through Cynicism in Art Furor (NYT9/24//99): “In the end, there can be no underestimating the genuine pain that works like those in “Sensations” can cause people, most particularly Christians who may find the art world’s refined justifications for Mr. Ofili and his colleagues inadequate, if not callous. Roman-Catholics, Italian-Americans and white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, among others, sometimes argue that they are treated by artists as acceptable targets while certain other groups are taboo. And it is a fair question: would the defenders of art react the same if the offending image were of Rosa Parks rather than the Virgin Mary? But no race or issue is actually untouchable in the arts.”
As a Washington columnist, I covered and got to know Jim Wright and his wife, Betty, during the final 20 years of the 34 he served in Congress culminating with his 1989 resignation in the midst of accusations of ethics violations. I once had the pleasure of introducing him when he was a guest speaker at the Women’s National Democratic Club in 1993. Former House Speaker Jim Wright died today at 92.
Call me a sap. But my heart bleeds for people handing out stuff on the street. Talk about a tough job. The public ignores me, too, but I don’t have to watch them do it. These poor folk have to stand there, like a rock dividing a stream, while indifferent humanity flows around them, spurning whatever pathetic scrap they’re trying to give away, inevitably some green flier about a barbershop opening or a new deli.
Baltimore is a city with a black mayor and black police chief making one pause at the notion of municipally ordained police brutality against black men. Perhaps because of this, racial activists, politicians (our president included) and the liberal media have quickly shifted the issue of criminal behavior - looting, arson, violent attacks against police - to what is characterized as its underlying cause - poverty and unemployment in their city. Although both are serious problems in Baltimore, it’s time to question whether violent rioting and criminality are inevitable consequences of economic deprivation.
In David Brooks’ hortatory sermon on what parental love should be, he preaches that “it is supposed to be oblivious to achievement. It’s meant to be an unconditional support - a gift that cannot be bought and cannot be earned. It sits outside the logic of the meritocracy, the closest humans come to grace.” (Love and Merit, NYT 4//24/15) In his essay, he refers to current trends in child-rearing involving greater praise and greater honing, compared with an earlier generation that stressed greater obedience. He might have stretched his imagination further and realized that as far back as recorded history, there have been different modes of parenting and few (if any) considered unconditional love a necessity or even a factor. Open favoritism figures prominently in the Bible from Abraham’s preference for Isaac over Ishmael to Isaac’s preference for Esau over Jacob to Jacob’s love for Joseph over all his brothers. Cultural outlooks produce very different modes of parenting as well; the tiger mother considers it a sign of the greatest love to push her child to excellence so that child’s life will offer more rewards that come with personal achievement.
During the latter years of President George W. Bush’s presidency, I remember watching a petite wisp of a woman step to the podium of the White House briefing room and answer the pointed barbs and hostile questions of a profoundly belligerent press corps. I admired her poise as she faced the daily barrage — and the deep loyalty she so obviously felt for her boss. As one who had worked with an equally reviled former president, Richard Nixon, I felt an affinity with Dana Perino, so I am delighted to now call her a colleague at Fox News — and a friend.
James Comey, former US Attorney and current head of the FBI, gave a speech at the Holocaust Museum in Washington last week commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day. He stated: “In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, Poland and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil. They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do. That’s what people do. And that should truly frighten us.” (NYTimes, 4/21/15) Immediately, the Polish president took umbrage at this, reminding us that Poland was a victim, not an aggressor during the war and that Mr. Comey’s comments were the result of “ignorance, lack of historical knowledge and possibly large personal aversion” towards Poles. Rick Lyman, the Times reporter offered the following clarification: “And while there were certainly episodes in which Poles were responsible for the deaths of Jews, there was no widespread complicity with the Nazi policy of extermination.” Let’s be grateful for small favors.
The successful Republican candidate for president will have to be many things: fearless fighter, relentless advocate for conservative principles, articulate spokesperson for the forgotten middle class, a likable charismatic personality, expert on the complicated dynamics of foreign policy and national security strategy.
With the “historic” clasp of hands in Panama City, Panama last week with Raul Castro, President Obama took the next fateful step toward normalizing relations with the Western Hemisphere’s most repressive regime.
It’s become habitual for movies to pair ordinary (Ben Stiller) or geeky (Adam Driver) comedic men with unusually beautiful women like Naomi Watts and Amanda Seyfriend. Of course we would accept this if these men were playing the movie stars they actually are but that type of unbalanced casting starts us off being incredulous when the males are playing losers (Ben Stiller) or wannabes (Adam Driver). The latter is more than a foot taller than Stiller yet there’s a scene where Ben dons Adam’s jacket and roller-blades - both of which fit perfectly. It’s a minor moment but another peg for the incredulity board which is disconcerting in a movie that purports to poke fun in the mores of contemporary urban twenty and forty-somethings. If the object of the poke isn’t recognizably authentic, there’s no stuffing in the satire.
Check this: In a brazen move, the People’s Republic of China is now building “islands” in the South China Sea to bolster its position against several other East Asian countries — and the United States.
“The Tell-Tale Heart” is a chilling 1843 short story by Edgar Allan Poe about a man whose disturbed conscience is haunted by the sound of a heart that will not stop beating. The real life tell-tale heart is the tragic story of 13 year-old Jahi McMath, who was diagnosed as “brain dead” over a year ago but whose heart still beats. The case generated a lawsuit last month that could overturn a half-century of established belief and haunt the conscience of medicine.
On the afternoon of Jan. 20, 1961, Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower slipped away from the Inauguration Day festivities, piled into their 1955 Chrysler Imperial and famously drove to their farm at Gettsyburg, Pa. Contrary to myth, they were not alone — two servants and a chauffeur, Leonard Dry, were with them, but even then, the ex-president felt “an eerie loneliness about the absence of motorcycle escorts and caravans of Secret Service and press cars” according to Ike’s grandson, David.
Rolling Stone finally admitted that its recent story about a vicious rape on the University of Virginia campus was a lie. Adding journalistic insult to injury, the magazine announced that the “reporter” who made it up will face no disciplinary action. In fact, she gets to keep her job at the magazine.
Let’s be honest, the joint comprehensive plan of action announced last week in Lausanne, Switzerland, between the P5+1 (U.S., France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany) and Iran is essentially a Rorschach inkblot test.