Walid Jumblatt, Lebanese Opposition Leader in the DT Column

Jumblatt: jubilant with the spark of democratic revolt spreading in the Middle East:

“The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.”

Let freedom reign. Since last week, Jumblatt’s words have been pinging round the blogosphere with ever increasing velocity.

And now the Syrians sniff freedom

OK, brainboxes, fingers on the buzzers. Here is your starter for 10. Who is Mr Walid (“Wally”) Jumblatt? That’s right, he’s something to do with the Middle East… You’ve got it, we’re talking Lebanon. Yes, I think he may well have a moustache, but that is fairly common in Lebanese politics. Did you say he was the leader of the Jews in Lebanon? Close. For Jews read Druze.

Shall I remind you? Walid Jumblatt is of course the very distinguished patriarch of the Muslim Druze community, leader of the Lebanese opposition and a man who is not known for being a huge fan of America.

Here are the views of Walid Jumblatt on American soldiers: “We are all happy when an American soldier is killed.”

Here are the views of Mr Jumblatt on Israeli soldiers: “The fall of a Jew, whether soldier or civilian, is a great accomplishment.”

I think we can take it that Mr Jumblatt is not the sort of man we would expect to find at a Washington think-tank whose patrons were, say, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz or Dick Cheney. He could not normally expect a rave write-up in a column by our own Mark Steyn. From the point of view of the neo-conservatives who run Washington and so much of the world, Mr Jumblatt is about as unsound as it is possible to be.

And yet here he is, last week, in conversation with David Ignatius of the Washington Post. Their talk took place over dinner in Beirut, at the height of the anti-Syrian protests. Not far away, 25,000 people were chanting for freedom, amid all the paraphernalia that we remember from the democratic revolutions that swept Europe in 1989: guttering candles; beautiful long-haired student girls with democratic logos lipsticked to their foreheads; hastily mass-produced flags; the whiff of cannabis; the strumming of guitars; the tent cities and the endless felt-tip scrawling of slogans on concrete.

I am unsure about the exact prohibitions of the Druze religion, but we can take it that Mr Jumblatt had ingested nothing more intoxicating than falafel when he made the following sensational statement.

“It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.” Jumblatt then went on to say that the spark of democratic revolt was spreading. “The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.”

The Berlin Wall! The end of the Middle East’s Berlin Wall! One can only dream of the ululations of rapture that will have greeted this phrase, when the neo-cons of Washington rose from their slumbers and switched on their blogs. Here it was, from the mouth of the top Druze himself, a genuine Muslim, a freedom-fighter, a man with anti-American credentials as long as your arm, the admission that the war in Iraq was not an epic and unparalleled disaster – as portrayed by some of the drips in the London media – in which 17,000 civilians had so far died and more than a thousand US soldiers. On the contrary, that war, that liberation, had provided the spark for the flame of freedom that was now burning in Beirut.

Yes, folks, it was the vaunted domino effect. First, Iraq. Then, Lebanon. Next stop, Syria. Just listen to Jumblatt. Democracy would appear to be on the verge of germination in the parched wastes of the Middle East.

Let freedom reign. Since last week, Jumblatt’s words have been pinging round the blogosphere with ever increasing velocity. For all I know, they have already been struck into bronze plaques and posted on the walls of the American Enterprise Institute and the Project for a New American Century. They are political gold: an apparent validation of George Dubya Bush’s hugely dangerous and controversial invasion of Iraq, the war against which so many hundreds of thousands protested in this country and across the world.

And because the events in Lebanon are proving so deliriously pleasing to the neo-cons, they are also, of course, symmetrically irritating to the Americo-sceptics and all those who opposed the war.

I am sad to say that I have friends and colleagues whose first reaction, on seeing the bunting of the Cedar Revolution, was to scoff. “Huh,” I heard someone say, “just look at those flags – I bet they were all provided by the CIA. You could never run off a load of flags that quickly. It’s all an American plot,” he said, “just like that business in the Ukraine.”

“Yeah,” said someone else, “and the last time I was in Beirut I talked to a taxi driver who said he liked the Syrian army. These neo-cons don’t understand that the Syrians have brought stability to Lebanon. The Lebanese like having all those Syrians standing around with guns.”

Well, my friends, I can understand your pique at the way in which history is apparently vindicating Mark Steyn. If there is one thing worse than a stridently triumphalist American neo-con, it is a stridently triumphalist American neo-con who seems to be right.

But in so far as the Americosceptics think the Syrian army has been good for Lebanon, they seem to be at odds not only with the Lebanese people, but also with most of Arab opinion. The Syrians have been intermittently brutal in their occupation; they have taken Lebanese water; they have kidnapped and detained without trial. It is time that Bashar Assad removed all 14,000 of them, and so say 77 per cent of the Arab world, according to Al-Jazeera, and newspapers from Jordan to Kuwait to Egypt.

The protests in Lebanon have hugely increased the likelihood of that withdrawal and, if Jumblatt is right, those protests have been sparked by democracy in Iraq. We may be on the verge of a process as wonderful as he thinks; and we should not allow any anti-Americanism, any hatred of Bush, any doubts about the war, to tempt us to hope otherwise.

Map of Lebanon here

23 thoughts on “Walid Jumblatt, Lebanese Opposition Leader in the DT Column”

  1. Neo-con triumphalism may be partially justified, but until any election held in the region is truly democratic (and let’s face the facts that the Iraqi, Saudi and Egyptian votes are anything BUT democratic), we may reflect on the fact that it is only military might in the area that is dictating events.

  2. Jozef – you really pull them out of a hat! echoing just the point of the article

    I bow to your sound counsel Scaryduck

  3. Walid Jumblatt and The Druze — rap? Nu-metal? Indie pop? Goth? Shoegazing? Which genre, I wonder?

  4. Another way of viewing it is that these events were already going to happen, and that the Bush administration is spinning in order to claim some of the credit and divert attention from Iraq’s many problems. Iraq war or no Iraq war, I think the Lebanese would have risen up the way they have – Syria has pushed them too hard.

  5. I found the Wikipedia article on the Druze yesterday.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Druze

    They are an extraordinary people. Their oppressed history and secret religion make for fascinating reading. Judging by Wikipedia they should not really be called Moslem.

    I must say I thought the article (above) simplistic (where did it come from, by the way?), it is one thing to object to an army of occupation (isn’t that what people in Iraq are doing?) quite another to be demanding democracy.

    If you see it on CNN then Baghdad = Bierut = Beijing = Burma or wherever, but in reality there are cultural differences and people want different things in different places.

    One of the biggest problems with the neo-cons is that they discount other cultures.

    At the risk of being anachronistic – I don’t know when the term neo-con was coined – the best example is Vietnam. A country pointlessly ravaged, environmentally blighted, with much of its heritage destroyed on the basis of some idiotic theories (dominos etc.) which were never properly examined in the context of SE Asian history.

    In retrospect it’s ironic that the USA lost the war in Vietnam but won the peace. Iraq is proving the opposite.

  6. > OK, brainboxes

    [Ed: aw, c’mon Michael – v unlike you to react in this way – polite language please]

    > Walid Jumblatt is of course the very distinguished patriarch of the Muslim Druze community.

    No he is not. A Druze is a Druze is a Druze and not a Muslim. As for what a Druze “is” – no one is quite sure because they practise _ketman_.

    There is a tangled confusion here about what a neo-conservative is, what the US administration is, and even who is in it and who isn’t.

    Richard Perle is a neo-conservative and a registered Democrat; Dick Cheney is a member of the administration but not a neo-conservative. The US policy in the Middle East is not necessarily a neo-conservative one, although the neo-conservatives have had more of a hearing with the adminsitration than previously – but perhaps rather less now.

    I suggest a read of Mickelthwaiite and Wolldridge’s “The Right Nation”.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1594200203/103-8952456-1732646

  7. ‘Walid Jumblatt and The Druze — rap? Nu-metal? Indie pop? Goth? Shoegazing? Which genre, I wonder?’

    Shoegazing have not heard that world in a while. How about world music: the world music of freedom!

  8. The Snow Goddess Melissa Writes:

    ‘Let’s move on to a more positive, happy mode!’

    And Nick get’s out his positive true blue freedom loving South Cal cheerleader’s. Yeah….

  9. ‘that’s the spirit Nick – you know how to bring on a smile’

    Of course there are other ways to bring on a smile Melissa – but they may well be x-rated.

  10. As always, Nick is a gentleman and a scholar!

    Despite the ancient struggle between spirit and the flesh …

    Rumour has it that Melting Melissa has been kind to me again. It is European spring after all.

    Dakujem 😉

    PS: By the way, how does it feel to be a top ranked blog? Especially when you didn’t even know it! http://www.webpronews.com/news/ebusinessnews/wpn-45-20050302BlogTrafficBuildersIdeasThatWork.html
    [Blog Traffic Builders: Ideas That Work]

  11. Hello Master Blogging Smiler Jozef

    Mother Teresa of Calcutta quotes (Albanian born Indian missionary and founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity. Nobel Prize for Peace in 1979. 1910-1997)

    Quotes for Friends:

    “Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other – it doesn’t matter who it is – and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.”

    “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”

  12. was it Nat King Cole who followed Mother Theresa’s advice and sang ‘smile though your heart is breaking …’ or shall we choose ‘Pack up your troubles …and smile, smile , smile’
    you gotta start somewhere.

  13. He is a [sane] man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.
    – GK Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles, 1909

    Aha Melissa and one and all,

    Mother Theresa (knows) where the secret holy grail resides …
    Joy boils down to the little, simple and absolutely free things in life – what seems to make the world priceless is a smile of a stranger or a kindness in a glass of (vodka) water.

    Still if someone offers a vessel of vodka which might warm not only spirit but also the head – the better 😉

    BTW: Why Congress Doesn’t Blog…And a Few Members Who Do
    The political blogosphere now provides commentary on races all the way down the ballot to the local level.
    Yet, despite the proliferation of blogs on the news side of the media, they are a technology only rarely used by politicians. In fact, most congressional websites look at least five years out of date. Only a few have included any kind of blog, even though blogs would seem like one of the easiest ways for a member of Congress to connect with constituents. Of the handful of congressional “blogs,” most lack the capability for readers to post comments at will, making them at best a one-way online diary though the press-release quality of much of the writing leaves much to be desired.
    http://www.personaldemocracy.com/node/403
    [ The Power of Virtual Community ]

  14. I met a very nice Druze once in an Italian restaurant.

    As far as I recall, they are a post-Muslim splinter group, who no longer believe Mohammed was the seal of the prophets, because they had their own messiah a few centuries after him. I think that’s one of the main points where they differ from Muslims.

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