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The Daily Journal
Candide’s Latest: November 23, 2006


Pierre Gemayel’s Funeral
Boilers in Beirut

From the Times: “Hundreds of thousands of people poured into Lebanon’s Martyrs Square today, transforming the funeral service of the slain government minister, Pierre Gemayel, into a political rally exposing the hatreds and schisms that have paralyzed the state and threatened an increasing cycle of violence. From early in the morning, and for hours after, streams of people flowed into the square, chanting slogans cursing the president of Syria, Bashar al Assad, cursing the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, and cursing the Christian leader, General Michel Aoun, who has allied his party with Hezbollah. It was a time of anger, more than mourning – as Mr. Gemayel’s flag-draped coffin was taken in a procession from his family home in the village of Bikfaya to St. George’s Church in central Beirut 20 miles away. “Nasrallah,” screamed a small cluster of young men, “the Sunni will dig your grave!”” The full story…

Funeral for U.S. policy

In the LATimes, Paul Richter writes that the Lebanese crisis is an indication of America’s fading authority: “"You're now seeing the last strand" of failed U.S. policy endeavors, said Nathan Brown, a specialist in Arab politics at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former United Nations consultant. Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution," which gave power to anti-Syria forces, was heralded along with the 2005 elections in Iraq, Egypt and the Palestinian territories as part of a new movement that was going to be "as important as the fall of the Berlin Wall," Brown said. But the changes that followed have dashed U.S. hopes in country after country, he said.”

Robert Fisk in The Independent: “The Lebanese have been responding to the international outcry over Gemayel's murder with somewhat less rhetoric than President George Bush, whose promise "to support the Siniora government and its democracy" was greeted with the scorn it deserved. This, after all, was the same George Bush who had watched in silence this summer as the Israelis abused Siniora's democratic government and bombed Lebanon for 34 days, killing more than a thousand of its civilians. And the Lebanese knew what to make of Tony Blair's remark - he who also delayed a ceasefire that would have saved countless lives here - when he said that "we need to do everything we can to protect democracy in Lebanon". It was a long-retired Christian militiaman, a rival of the Gemayel clan, who put it succinctly. "They don't care a damn about us," he said. That little matter of the narrative - and who writes it - remained a problem yesterday, as the Western powers pointed their fingers at Syria. Yes, all five leading Lebanese men murdered in the past 20 months were anti-Syrian. And it's a bit like saying "the butler did it". Wouldn't a vengeful Syria strike at the independence of Lebanon by killing a minister? Yes. But then, what would be the best way of undermining the new and boastful power of the pro-Syrian Hizbollah, the Shia guerrilla army which has demanded the resignation of Siniora's cabinet? By killing a government minister, knowing that many Lebanese would blame the murder on Syria's Hizbollah allies?”

Deadliest Iraq Bombing Yet

In Sadr City, says Al-Jazeera: “A series of car bombs have killed at least 133 people in the predominantly Shia neighbourhood of Sadr City in Baghdad. About 30 masked and heavily-armed men also attacked the health ministry in central Baghdad and engaged security guards in a fierce gun battle, trapping 2,000 employees inside the building on Thursday. The six car bombs, apparently coordinated, and a mortar blast in different parts of the Sadr City, also left at least 200 more people wounded and wrecked whole streets. Fierce fires were left blazing after the blasts, the worst in the Iraqi capital this month. Officials said the toll could rise since many of the dead have been reduced to scattered body parts and not been counted yet.

From the Post: “The number of civilians killed in Iraq reached a record monthly high of 3,709 in October, mostly a result of sectarian violence, according to a U.N. report released Wednesday. The report by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq described the many ways civilians have been killed, from roadside bombs to drive-by shootings to kidnappings. Many were found handcuffed, blindfolded and bearing signs of torture and execution-style killing. Most had gunshot wounds. […] No longer are terrorists and insurgents the main perpetrators of the killings. Death squads linked to militias, often in collusion with the Iraqi police, and criminal gangs are also responsible, the report said. Many slayings were simply acts of vengeance.”

Iraq’s Khe Sanh
U.S. Marines Surrender Fallujah

From the Christian Science Monitor: “But with just 300 marines, the US military footprint is smaller in this Sunni stronghold of more than 300,000 than it has been in two years. As the marine presence shrinks and Iraqis take more control, Fallujah - once a template for counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq, where US forces have controlled all the variables - is likely again to set a standard for the rest of the country. "A lot of us feel like we have our hands tied behind our back," says Cpl. Peter Mattice, of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. "In Fallujah, [insurgents] know our [rules of engagement] - they know when to stop, just before we engage." During this transition, frustration runs deep in this fortified bunker, and at a handful of posts that now dot Fallujah. They are designed to watch the main roads where marines travel, to prevent the laying of roadside bombs. Here echo the conclusions of a report written by the chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in August, and first described by The Washington Post, which determined that there is little the military now can do to improve prospects in insurgent-riddled Anbar Province, which includes Fallujah.”

Vatican Tries Out Condoms

From The Guardian: “ The Roman Catholic church has taken the first step towards what could be a historic shift away from its total ban on the use of condoms. Pope Benedict XVI's "health minister" is understood to be urging him to accept that in restricted circumstances - specifically the prevention of Aids - barrier contraception is the lesser of two evils. The recommendations, which have not been made public, still have to be reviewed by the traditionally conservative Vatican department responsible for safeguarding theological orthodoxy, and then by the Pope himself, before any decision is made. The rethink, commissioned by Pope Benedict following his election last year, could save millions of lives around the world. It is likely to be raised today when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has his first full discussion with the Pope at an audience in the Vatican.

In the Magazines

Do We Have a Civil War Yet?

John Keegan is as authoritative as it gets in contemporary military analysis. He takes on the big question in the latest issue of Britain’s Prospect: “What is civil war? The question is often raised about the disorders in Iraq. Does the violence between Iraqi religious and political factions amount to civil war, or is it best described another way? The US-led coalition's spokesmen, echoing the views of the White House and Downing Street, refuse to call the disorders civil war. Presumably they believe that to do so would be to admit defeat in their project to set up a stable, legitimate new Iraq. To assess the situation in Iraq, it is helpful to understand how a civil war differs from an inter-state, cross-border war. There are three principal defining aspects of a civil war, each with numerous subsidiary requirements. The basic formula is simple: the violence must be "civil," it must be "war," and its aim must be either the exercise or the acquisition of national authority. […]Apart from attacks on the US-led coalition, the current violence in Iraq shows two signs of civil war: it is taking place within the national boundaries of a single country, and it primarily involves local people killing local people. It is civil, in other words. But is it war? And what about the question of authority? […]Could Iraq be the first civil war ever without battles, generals, explicit war aims, the use of partisan public rhetoric by civilian leaders, mass public participation and targets of a predominantly military nature? Even if Iraq today possessed these characteristics, it would still lack something even more important: the struggle for authority.” See the full essay…

Hersh on Bush's Next Iran Act

Seymour Hersh’s latest in The New Yorker doesn’t reveal much, except to note that the Democrats’ approach toward Iran might not significantly differ from the Republicans’: “A nuclear-armed Iran would not only threaten Israel. It could trigger a strategic-arms race throughout the Middle East, as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt—all led by Sunni governments—would be compelled to take steps to defend themselves. The Bush Administration, if it does take military action against Iran, would have support from Democrats as well as Republicans. Senators Hillary Clinton, of New York, and Evan Bayh, of Indiana, who are potential Democratic Presidential candidates, have warned that Iran cannot be permitted to build a bomb and that—as Clinton said earlier this year—“we cannot take any option off the table.” Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has also endorsed this view. Last May, Olmert was given a rousing reception when he addressed a joint session of Congress and declared, “A nuclear Iran means a terrorist state could achieve the primary mission for which terrorists live and die—the mass destruction of innocent human life. This challenge, which I believe is the test of our time, is one the West cannot afford to fail.” See the full piece… 

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