Pierre Gemayel Assassination
This Way To Lebanon’s Gas Chambers
Pierre Tristam/Candide’s Notebooks, November 22, 2006
The Latest funeral for Independence Day
It’s virtually irrelevant who murdered Pierre Gemayel. The question is: who does this benefit, and what next? Pathetically appropriate questions to ask on this, Lebanon’s Independence Day. By a process of elimination—it has always been all about elimination in Lebanon—you can rule out those whom the murder doesn’t benefit: the anti-Syrian and anti-Hezbollah bloc is on its last leg. It can’t afford a cough, let alone an assassination. Gemayel was part of that bloc, and a minister in the government of prime minister Fouad Siniora that Hezbollah has been mobbing to resign or topple. Fouad (which means heart in Arabic) has been resisting. If two more ministers from that government quit or get killed, that’s it for legitimate government in Lebanon (yes, yes, “legitimate” government in Lebanon has a Florida-Ohio feel to it; nevertheless: it’s more legitimate than any government you’ll get from the eastern Mediterranean to the South China Sea). So obviously, the hit wasn’t ordered by the anti-Syrians and anti-Hezbollites.
Israel? That’s the default favorite for anything that goes wrong in Lebanon, especially when it’s garlanded in blood. That’s where logic and common sense miscarry down the sewer pipes of anti-Semitism. Israeli policy under Olmert has been a grab-bag of blunders, some of them murderous (namely, the escalation of the Lebanon war into a nasty, brutish and short homage to war crimes), but assassinating a Gemayel and further destabilizing a Lebanon on the verge of a Hezbollah breakdown is the last thing Israel wants or needs. In Israel’s compulsion to repeat well-treaded trails, it was more likely to be working its back channels to prepare another bed in which to lay with the anti-Syrian opposition, and with the likes of Pierre Gemayel as one of its Lebanese concubines.
This isn’t to be critical: a little concubinage between Israel and Lebanon isn’t in and of itself anything to sneeze at if stability and a measure of democracy is the end result, and if it puts up a buffer to the barbaric-regressive likes of Hezbollah and Syria, especially since Lebanon has been Syria’s crack whore for thirty years. One would much rather be an Israeli whore, where whoring has its medical and retirement benefits, plus a good vacation package, than a Syrian-Hezbollah whore, in which case the whoring—in good modern-Muslim tradition—is both servitude and punishment. But back to who not to blame: Israel, then, is out.
The United States? Not an entirely idiotic bet, but almost. The Bush administration has been pretending to be a strong backer of the Fouad Siniora government. But look what Bush backing gets anyone: defeat, whether it’s Republicans at home or the Maliki government in Iraq. Bush sat back and let Lebanon be bombed to hell last summer, all the while claiming that it was backing the Siniora government. It opposed cease-fire after cease-fire, rush-delivered cluster bombs and other ordnance of mega-murder to Israel like it was Christmas in July, and essentially sat back in the White House situation room, watching the war unfold like a Swartzenegger “Terminator” movie with Hezbollah at the hoped-for receiving end. Except it didn’t have the Hollywood ending the Bush administration was looking for. But winning the trust of the Lebanese government was not the end result, either. Still, as befits just about everything Bush has touched, this was another one of his classic catastrophes, a miscalculation that he has yet to learn from as he builds up forces in Iraq and contemplates a strike on Iran. Because he’s doing those things, Bush isn’t looking for more catastrophes on his Lebanon flank. So even favoring a hit on Gemayel would have been beyond insane, even for Bush.
So who does that leave out? The Maldives? The New York Yankees, who were wanting to make sure that Pierre Gemayel doesn’t end up pitching for the Boston Red Sox? Well, there is the Maldives element—the entirely out-of-left-field possibility that this was, in good Magritte fashion, an old-fashioned murder for nothing having to do with the political situation at large. The Gemayels (the lineage of Amin Gemayel in particular) have both their playboy and soprano streaks. It isn’t for nothing that the Gemayels are Lebanon’s Kennedy clan, that Bikfaya is their Martha’s Vineyard when Paris is too far to go for a quickie. Where the Gemayel boys put their dicks and their business can have explosive consequences. Pierre could very well have angered a zaaran, a little mobster with an ax to grind, and gotten offed for it. But the likelihood of that scenario is much, much too remote, like the Maldives, too morbid even for Lebanon, to warrant credit.
Which leaves us with the Red Sox scenario: Hezbollah and Syria, who must be seen as synonymous in this dismal dark-and-stormy-night story, don’t want the mildly resurgent right in Lebanon to pitch for anyone. They want the government smashed up, done for. And it’s enough to hear the Syrian foreign minister on al-Jazeera saying how innocent Syria is to know how blameworthy it must be, and why: “This,” the minister said, “is a crime we consider against Lebanese reconciliation, against the Lebanese unity efforts, against Syria itself.” Since when has Syrian wanted Lebanese reconciliation and unification? The mere existence of Lebanon is a crime against “ Syria itself.” The mystery is why Syria hasn’t gone after the original Syria-hater, whose father it so smashingly murdered back in 1976, Walid Jumblatt, who said today: “I just accuse bluntly the Syrian regime, because it doesn’t want Lebanon, the people of Lebanon, to be free, independent, and to be—to be safe.” And also, because a few hours before the Gemayel killing, the United Nations was to meet to set up a tribunal that would try the murder of Rafik Hariri. For that last step to be secured, the United Nations had to secure the approval of the Lebanese government, including the Lebanese president’s signature. But it would look pretty slimy of the Lebanese government to refuse such a signature. Syria, in this case briefly against the ropes, had to improvise. A quick hit might take the edge off. And have the two-birds-with-one-stone quality of precipitating a crisis, possibly even a civil war, which is what Hezbollah would love.
Remember, too, that Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah had called for massive street protests against the government. Massive protests clenching up, ass-like, against the Christians’ massive street mourning for Gemayel would suit Nasrallah like a turban from Neiman Marcus. He’d have his war and eat it too. So even if he wasn’t the soprano ordering the hit, he was certainly its chief beneficiary. The Lebanese government was once strengthened by the assassination of Rafik Hariri. In this case strength is unlikely. Pierre Gemayel was not quite a stellar, unifying force, and there seems to be nothing left in the Lebanese pantry of politicos to yield up a voice for sanity and reasoned government. Ironically, the closest thing to such a voice was that of Amin Gemayel, that old irrelevance suddenly finding a well of statesmanship in loss, who said the most important words of the day on Monday: “We should not desecrate his memory by any irresponsible acts . . . We don't want reactions. We don't want vengeance.”
But it’s out of his hands. It’s in the hands of those two Gentlemen of Virusland, whose hands you can hear paddy-caking their way to profit, once again, from Lebanon’s blood: Hassan Nasrallah and Syria’s Bashar Assad. Pull up a chair. The situation room is about to get noisy. And make Israel and the United States look like two gentle manatees compared with Hezbollah going Medieval on Lebanon’s ass.