Duhnuh, duhnuh, duhnuh duhnuh duhnuh: imagine the Jaws theme. As I type, the USS Cole (“mudammara” in Arabic, which really drives home the meaning of the word “destroyer”) is sailing up from the Suez Canal to an undisclosed location “in the Mediterranean”, according to the AFP and all the morning newscasts. I wonder where it could be going, I say to myseld, tongue in cheek. And I wonder what State Department idiot thought that sending the Cole back here was a good idea.
American battleships and Lebanon go way back – and their relationship is not a happy one. The Chouf was already bombed yesterday – no need to bring back Civil War memories of the USS New Jersey doing the same twenty years ago.
On the other hand, perhaps this is the “private watercraft” that the last warden message mentioned …
I’ll let you know when the Cole arrives. Meanwhile, its another beautiful morning here in the non-shot-out hills, although a bit hazy. Here’s a slightly shifted view of the city, focusing on the deep downtown and the coast:
As the days wear on, I’m handling the situation less and less gracefully. I’m grumpy – I miss my routine, my apartment, my wardrobe, my neighborhood. But I am gaining new respect for one of my least favorite za3ims: Walid Jumblatt. What happened yesterday in the Chouf was awful – and Jumblatt stepped up and showed real leadership.
There are too many egos in Lebanese politics – too many men who use their constituencies to feather their own nests and to defend imagined slights to their big-man image. Jumblatt did the opposite yesterday: he put his own ego aside in order to keep the people of the Jebel from sparking a full out conflagration with one another and Hizbullah.
(For those of you who don’t speak Arabic, he gave an interview on Al Jazeera English’s Inside Story that aired this morning around 7:15. I can’t find it on the channel’s website yet, but it should be up soon. He’s unshaven and dressed in his usual one-step-above-homeless style, but he speaks well. And this morning he has been on the phone with every news channel I have flipped to, from New TV to Arabiya, explaining his decision and the importance of civil peace.)
Thanks to the shoot-out in the Jebel and the crisis generally, I have a new mini-za3im to snicker at: Jumblatt’s cousin, Talal Arslan. What a goober. He has never had such media attention before, and with each press conference he looks more and more self-important, talking about how the Jebel is and will remain “lil-muqawama wa al-muqawamin”. Right. And the muqawama is lil-Arslan and will remain so as long as he is a useful alat.
Oh well – he’s getting his 15 minutes of fame, and clearly reveling in it. Here is is giving press conference number four or five yesterday evening, with an entourage of men:
Wherever there is a cameraman in the Middle East, there are men. Sometimes young, sometimes old – but always there. They are the same men who halt their conversations when I walk by – men with nothing better to do than 1) watch girls and 2) stand patiently behind the person being interviewed for the fleeting pleasure of appearing on satellite television. Not to be sexist, but women seem to have better things to do with their time.
Of course, some of these men were probably encouraged to stand behind Arslan – big men need big entourages. But they enjoyed it – whenever Arslan shifted position, the men nearest him shifted as well, to make certain that they were still on camera. My favorite was the cool guy in sunglasses on Arslan’s left. Sunglasses at night and a black Hizbullah-style baseball cap – star qualities indeed.
But the most important man in this group – aside from Arslan – was the ceremonial Microphone Holder. No metal microphone rack for Arslan, but rather a 21st century version of the king’s chamberlain:
And unlike the entouragers, the microphone-ji was taking his responsibilities quite seriously. He didn’t make eye contact with the camera once – he was focused on his job. (And for the curious: the microphones belonged to Manar, OTV, and LBC. I don’t know why New TV wasn’t included, or NBN, or the satellite news channels – maybe he could only hold three microphones.)
I’m going to go and sweat off some of this grumpiness at the gym in a bit. Until then, I’ll be the one hissing at the screen while sending some Monday morning emails. After all, in the rest of the region (excluding poor Sudan) its a normal work day.