Across the Bay

Saturday, September 22, 2007

No Equivalence

Hazem Saghieh's piece in al-Hayat today (al-Hayat's mediocre English translation is here) is worth reading as it demolishes the often-used contemptible and facile equivalence trope when discussing the murders perpetrated by the Syrian regime (something that is done by the regime's own media and flacks, as well as their allies, objective or actual, in Lebanon):

This all reveals a series of truths that are difficult to hide: There is in Lebanon today a growing populist language -- a product of eras of disgust, despair, and the feeling of a political dead-end -- which holds that politicians share equal responsibility of what is happening. That is incorrect, for those being killed are not in league with those benefiting from their diminishing number. This is not to defend March 14 but rather to emphasize that holding them accountable is contingent on the presence of a state, of laws, of borders and a monopoly on arms in the hands of legitimate authorities. As for the opponents of March 14, their damage affects the fundamentals, preventing what should be final from being finalized, thereby providing the politics of assassination with its tools and actual capability.

He also makes a good point in identifying the "cold, bureaucratic calculation of 'ideological' regimes" and movements in his discussion of the systematic annihilation of March 14 MPs, which is what I tried to show in my piece today in The Daily Star:

This alleged equivalence takes on another form as it camouflages the political sources of assassinations and murders. Leaving aside the mythical tendency amongst the Lebanese to exonerate themselves, this criminal tactic recalls a non-Lebanese condition. It is true that Lebanese made and fought a civil war and committed all kinds of atrocities and obscenities. Yet assassinations of the kind that befell Antoine Ghanem and those before him require the cold, bureaucratic calculation of 'ideological' regimes. For example, we note that conservative and traditional Arab regimes were not known for assassinations nor did they excel at car bombs and explosives. For Riad al-Solh, King Abdullah I of Jordan, Hazzah al-Majali, Nassib al-Metni, Kamel Mroueh and Wasfi al-Tal were slain either at the hands of 'ideological' parties and organzation or of military regimes also 'ideological' in their own way. Similarly, Lebanon's political conflicts, with the exception of the later episodes of the civil war, when militias became complete closed structures, did not know this method of settling disputes. Beshara al-Khoury never liquidated Emile Edde, nor did Fouad Shehab assassinate Camille Chamoun.

This underlines the fundamental contrast between the factions involved. This is what several local factions are trying to cover up; factions whose power and representation only drives the level of pessimism to that of despair. For how to live with strong mendacity that enjoys popular support?!

Read the whole thing.

Addendum: Also read Walid Choucair's piece (English translation here), which complements Hazem's. See especially this graph: "With each assassination targeting Lebanon, certain people - including those of the Lebanese opposition - are quick to highlight the state's and security forces' responsibility for exposing the perpetrators in a clever attempt to turn a blind eye to the intentions and goals of such operations. This comprises a campaign to turn people's attention away from bids to alter the balance of power through murder, to foster an acceptance of such methods and to acknowledge the murderer's supremacy over the entire political community. This implies a legitimization of murder as just another tool in politics - akin to casting a vote, to issuing a policy statement… or to forming alliances based on temporary convergences of interests."

See also a similar comment from Abdel Rahman al-Rashed in Asharq al-Awsat today: "The [parliamentary] minority... is, regrettably, killing its own political system, and is laying the foundation of their own targeting in the future by the same faction and others who see the ease with which they can settle demands through the language of crime.
It is a scandalous thing that will go down in history as a blot of shame against every single one of them." (Emphasis mine.)