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The War Nerd September 21, 2007
 
Lebanese Democracy: One Man, One Boom
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
 
Page 2 of 3
 

Poor old Bolivia doesn’t have any naval heroes and never will have, now, not unless they start staging naval battles between the floating cattail islands in Lake Titicaca. The Bolivians have never been the same since they lost their coasts—stuck with the Kurds and Tibetans in the hell of Landlocked tribes. Every damn year, crowds of fat little Inca girls in derby hats and Eastwood serapes get together in La Paz to sing, "Queremos nuestro mar!" I read that in a National Geographic article when I was 12, and even though the Bolivian girls weren't that cute and wore way too many clothes for my tastes, I always liked Bolivia after that. They seemed like my kind of people somehow, something about that pathetic demonstration and that slogan, "We want our ocean back!" I agreed with them all the way, especially since Chile is such an ocean-hog, nothing BUT beachfront.

So you can see why the Syrians have been infiltrating Lebanon steadily, like surfers from the Valley trying to grab a wave at Huntington Beach or Zuma—only with more access to mercury-tilt switches.

But still, you really can't be totally positive it was Assad's agents, just because so many Lebanese are ready to kill nearly all other Lebanese. It's not just Christian vs. Muslim; a lot of it is family hate, al-Hatfield and al-McCoy stuff. These are hill folk—the Maronites pitch their villages way up on hilltops to make it harder for the Muzzies to come uninvited. But even Christians hate each other, and kill other clans when they get the chance.
Then there’s the Druze, my favorite Lebanese tribe, who ain’t really Muslim or Christian, though they try to act Muslim to avoid getting decapitated and gang-raped too often by the Faithful. When a Druze boy hits puberty they have some secret ceremony where they tell him, “OK, here’s the thing, and be sure you don’t blab this around, but see...we’re Buddhists. Yup, Buddhists. Go figure. Just the way it is.”

Now naturally everybody hates a closet Buddhist, one of these secret vegetarians, so the Druze  need to have their own warlord family, the Jumblatts. Kamal Jumblatt explained the Lebanese view of democracy when he was warned that he was about to be killed: “The Jumblatts are usually killed,” he pointed out. An occupational hazard, like transfats for data entry drones. If you can’t take the heat, get your intern to start the car, as they say in political circles in Beirut.


Here again, it's a matter of names. The same families keep popping up and getting knocked down; only the Frenchified first names change. Start with the Chamoun family, one of the oldest Christian warlord clans. He was the Lebanese boss who called in American Marines in 1958—that was the time the Marines DIDN’T get blown to bits in Beirut. Chamoun was pissed because the demographics were getting scary, too many Muslim babies and too many Christians emigrating. Of course the Marines couldn’t do anything about birthrate, so they stood around on the beaches for a while and then went home. In a way you could say that our 1958 mission to Beirut summed up what makes life hard for contemporary armies: standing around some place you don’t speak a word of the language trying to help a local Phalangist, meaning a guy to the right of Franco, try to stop a birthrate differential. What do you do, send a PFC to every Shia hut in South Beirut at the midnight hour to kick the door down and yell, “Now cut that out!” Talk about demoralizing missions—military peeping Tom-ery on a mass scale.

All the tribes turned on each other in the Lebanese Civil War, with the Syrians playing every side against every other. But the one tribe everybody hated all the time was the Palestinians. For starters, it terrified the Christians, because suddenly the demographics were even worse: boom, 1948, Israel boots the Pals and Lebanon has to take a lot of them in. All these Palestinian camps around Lebanon, as if the place wasn’t crowded and creepy enough. By last count there are now 402,000 Pals in the country, a tenth of the population. One thing those folks can do is breed—you’ll notice the boss of Gaza has 13 kids. The Pals, naturally, are Lebanon’s least popular tenth too.

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Gary Brecher
Browse author
Email Gary at war_nerd@exile.ru, but, more importantly, buy his book.
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