Hommage: Fouad Ajami ou l’anti-Edward Saïd (Edward Said accused him of having “unmistakably racist prescriptions »)

24 juin, 2014
https://i1.wp.com/i1.ytimg.com/vi/kXV199fIWjw/0.jpgEdward Said, the Palestinian cultural critic who died in 2003, accused him of having “unmistakably racist prescriptions. The NYT
Après la chute des Twin Towers, des universitaires américains renommés, Bernard Lewis et Fouad Ajami en tête, ont avalisé cet orientalisme de stéréotypes, et fourni ainsi une caution intellectuelle au discours ambiant, néoconservateur et belliciste, affirmant que la démocratie était étrangère aux Arabes, qu’il fallait la leur imposer par la contrainte. Jean-Pierre Filiu
What makes self-examination for Arabs and Muslims, and particularly criticism of Islam in the West very difficult is the totally pernicious influence of Edward Said’s Orientalism. The latter work taught an entire generation of Arabs the art of self-pity – “ were it not for the wicked imperialists , racists and Zionists , we would be great once more ”- encouraged the Islamic fundamentalist generation of the 1980s , and bludgeoned into silence any criticism of Islam , and even stopped dead the research of eminent Islamologists who felt their findings might offend Muslims sensibilities , and who dared not risk being labelled “orientalist ”. The aggressive tone of Orientalism is what I have called “ intellectual terrorism ” , since it does not seek to convince by arguments or historical analysis but by spraying charges of racism, imperialism , Eurocentrism ,from a moral highground ; anyone who disagrees with Said has insult heaped upon him. The moral high ground is an essential element in Said’s tactics ; since he believes his position is morally unimpeachable , Said obviously thinks it justifies him in using any means possible to defend it , including the distortion of the views of eminent scholars , interpreting intellectual and political history in a highly tendentious way , in short twisting the truth. But in any case , he does not believe in the “truth”. (…) In order to achieve his goal of painting the West in general , and the discipline of Orientalism in particular , in as negative a way as possible , Said has recourse to several tactics . One of his preferred moves is to depict the Orient as a perpetual victim of Western imperialism ,dominance,and aggression. The Orient is never seen as an actor , an agent with free-will , or designs or ideas of its own . It is to this propensity that we owe that immature and unattractive quality of much contemporary Middle Eastern culture , self-pity , and the belief that all its ills are the result of Western -Zionist conspiracies. Here is an example of Said’s own belief in the usual conspiracies taken from “ The Question of Palestine ”: It was perfectly apparent to Western supporters of Zionism like Balfour that the colonization of Palestine was made a goal for the Western powers from the very beginning of Zionist planning : Herzl used the idea , Weizmann used it , every leading Israeli since has used it . Israel was a device for holding Islam – later the Soviet Union , or communism – at bay ”. So Israel was created to hold Islam at bay !
For a number of years now , Islamologists have been aware of the disastrous effect of Said’s Orientalism on their discipline. Professor Berg has complained that the latter’s influence has resulted in “ a fear of asking and answering potentially embarrassing questions – ones which might upset Muslim sensibilities ….”. Professor Montgomery Watt , now in his nineties , and one of the most respected Western Islamologists alive , takes Said to task for asserting that Sir Hamilton Gibb was wrong in saying that the master science of Islam was law and not theology .This , says Watt , “ shows Said’s ignorance of Islam ” . But Watt , rather unfairly ,adds , “ since he is from a Christian Arab background ”. Said is indeed ignorant of Islam , but surely not because he is a Christian since Watt and Gibb themselves were devout Christians . Watt also decries Said’s tendency to ascribe dubious motives to various writers , scholars and stateman such as Gibb and Lane , with Said committing doctrinal blunders such as not realising that non-Muslims could not marry Muslim women. R.Stephen Humphreys found Said’s book important in some ways because it showed how some Orientalists were indeed “ trapped within a vision that portrayed Islam and the Middle East as in some way essentially different from ‘the West ’ ” . Nonetheless , “Edward Said’s analysis of Orientalism is overdrawn and misleading in many ways , and purely as [a] piece of intellectual history , Orientalism is a seriously flawed book .” Even more damning , Said’s book actually discouraged , argues Humphreys , the very idea of modernization of Middle Eastern societies . “In an ironic way , it also emboldened the Islamic activists and militants who were then just beginning to enter the political arena . These could use Said to attack their opponents in the Middle East as slavish ‘Westernists’, who were out of touch with the authentic culture and values of their own countries . Said’s book has had less impact on the study of medieval Islamic history – partly because medievalists know how distorted his account of classical Western Orientalism really is ….”.  Even scholars praised by Said in Orientalism do not particularly like his analysis , arguments or conclusions .Maxime Rodinson thinks “ as usual , [ Said’s ] militant stand leads him repeatedly to make excessive statements ” , due , no doubt , to the fact that Said was “ inadequately versed in the practical work of the Orientalists ”. Rodinson also calls Said’s polemic and style “ Stalinist ”. While P.J.Vatikiotis wrote , “ Said introduced McCarthyism into Middle Eastern Studies ”. Jacques Berque , also praised by Said , wrote that the latter had “ done quite a disservice to his countrymen in allowing them to believe in a Western intelligence coalition against them ”. For Clive Dewey , Said’s book “ was , technically ,so bad ; in every respect , in its use of sources , in its deductions , it lacked rigour and balance .The outcome was a caricature of Western knowledge of the Orient , driven by an overtly political agenda .Yet it clearly touched a deep vein of vulgar prejudice running through American academe ”. The most famous modern scholar who not only replied to but who mopped the floor with Said was ,of course,Bernard Lewis .Lewis points to many serious errors of history ,interpretation , analysis and omission . Lewis has never been answered let alone refuted . Lewis points out that even among British and French scholars on whom Said concentrates , he does not mention at all Claude Cahen , Lévi-Provençal , Henri Corbin ,Marius Canard , Charles Pellat , William and George Marçais , William Wright , or only mentioned in passing ,usually in a long list of names , scholars like R.A.Nicholson , Guy Le Strange , Sir Thomas Arnold , and E.G.Browne. “ Even for those whom he does cite , Mr.Said makes a remarkably arbitrary choice of works . His common practice indeed is to omit their major contributions to scholarship and instead fasten on minor or occasional writings ”. Said even fabricates lies about eminent scholars : “ Thus in speaking of the late –eighteenth early-nineteenth-century French Orientalist Silvestre de Sacy , Mr.Said remarks that ‘he ransacked the Oriental archives ….What texts he isolated , he then brought back ; he doctored them …” If these words bear any meaning at all it is that Sacy was somehow at fault in his access to these documents and then committed the crime of tampering with them .This outrageous libel on a great scholar is without a shred of truth ”. Another false accusation that Said flings out is that Orientalists never properly discussed the Oriental’s economic activities until Rodinson’s Islam and Capitalism (1966) .This shows Said’s total ignorance of the works of Adam Mez , J.H.Kramers , W.Björkman , V.Barthold , Thomas Armold , all of whom dealt with the economic activities of Muslims . As Rodinson himself points out elsewhere , one of the three scholars who was a pioneer in this field was Bernard Lewis . Said also talks of Islamic Orientalism being cut off from developments in other fields in the humanities , particularly the economic and social. But this again only reveals Said’s ignorance of the works of real Orientalists rather than those of his imagination . As Rodinson says the sociology of Islam is an ancient subject , citing the work of R.Lévy . Rodinson then points out that Durkheim’s celebrated journal L’Année sociologique listed every year starting from the first decades of the XX century a certain number of works on Islam .
It must have been particularly galling for Said to see the hostile reviews of his Orientalism from Arab , Iranian or Asian intellectuals , some of whom he admired and singled out for praise in many of his works . For example , Nikki Keddie , praised in Covering Islam , talked of the disastrous influence of Orientalism , even though she herself admired parts of it : “ I think that there has been a tendency in the Middle East field to adopt the word “ orientalism” as a generalized swear-word essentially referring to people who take the “wrong” position on the Arab-Israeli dispute or to people who are judged too “conservative ”. It has nothing to do with whether they are good or not good in their disciplines .So “orientalism” for may people is a word that substitutes for thought and enables people to dismiss certain scholars and their works .I think that is too bad .It may not have been what Edward Said meant at all , but the term has become a kind of slogan ”.  Nikki Keddie also noted that the book “ could also be used in a dangerous way because it can encourage people to say , ‘You Westerners , you can’t do our history right , you can’t study it right , you really shouldn’t be studying it , we are the only ones who can study our own history properly ”. Albert Hourani , who is much admired by Said , made a similar point , “ I think all this talk after Edward’s book also has a certain danger .There is a certain counter-attack of Muslims , who say nobody understands Islam except themselves ”. Hourani went further in his criticism of Said’s Orientalism : “ Orientalism has now become a dirty word .Nevertheless it should be used for a perfectly respected discipline ….I think [ Said] carries it too far when he says that the orientalists delivered the Orient bound to the imperial powers ….Edward totally ignores the German tradition and philosophy of history which was the central tradition of the orientalists ….I think Edward’s other books are admirable ….”. Similarly , Aijaz Ahmed thought Orientalism was a “deeply flawed book” , and would be forgotten when the dust settled , whereas Said’s books on Palestine would be remembered. Kanan Makiya , the eminent Iraqi scholar , chronicled Said’s disastrous influence particularly in the Arab world : “ Orientalism as an intellectual project influenced a whole generation of young Arab scholars , and it shaped the discipline of modern Middle East studies in the 1980s .The original book was never intended as a critique of contemporary Arab politics , yet it fed into a deeply rooted populist politics of resentment against the West .The distortions it analyzed came from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries , but these were marshaled by young Arab and “ pro-Arab ” scholars into an intellectual-political agenda that was out of kilter with the real needs of Arabs who were living in a world characterized by rapidly escalating cruelty , not ever-increasing imperial domination .The trajectory from Said’s Orientalism to his Covering Islam …is premised on the morally wrong idea that the West is to be blamed in the here-and-now for its long nefarious history of association with the Middle East .Thus it unwittingly deflected from the real problems of the Middle East at the same time as it contributed more bitterness to the armory of young impressionable Arabs when there was already far too much of that around .” Orientalism , continues , Makiya , “ makes Arabs feel contented with the way they are , instead of making them rethink fundamental assumptions which so clearly haven’t worked ….They desperately need to unlearn ideas such as that “ every European ” in what he or she has to say about the world is or was a “racist” ….The ironical fact is that the book was given the attention it received in the “almost totally ethnocentric ” West was largely because its author was a Palestinian ….”. Though he finds much to admire in Said’s Orientalism , the Syrian philosopher Sadiq al- ‘Azm finds that “the stylist and polemicist in Edward Said very often runs away with the systematic thinker ”. Al-‘Azm also finds Said guilty of the very essentialism that Said ostensibly sets out to criticise , perpetuating the distinction between East and West .Said further renders a great disservice to those who wish to examine the difficult question of how one can study other cultures from a libertarian perspective .Al-‘Azm recognizes Said anti-scientific bent , and defends certain Orientalist theses from Said’s criticism ; for example , al-‘Azm says : “ I cannot agree with Said that their “ Orientalist mentality ”blinded them to the realities of Muslim societies and definitively distorted their views of the East in general .For instance : isn’t it true , on the whole , that the inhabitants of Damascus and Cairo today feel the presence of the transcendental in their lives more palpably and more actively than Parisians and Londoners ? Isn’t it tue that religion means everything to the contemporary Moroccan , Algerian and Iranian peasant in amnner it cannot mean for the American farmer or the member of a Russian kolkhoz ? And isn’t it a fact that the belief in the laws of nature is more deeply rooted in the minds of university students in Moscow and New York than among the students of al-Azhar and of Teheran University ”. Ibn Warraq
Fouad Ajami would have been amused, but not surprised, to read his own obituary in the New York Times. « Edward Said, the Palestinian cultural critic who died in 2003, accused [Ajami] of having ‘unmistakably racist prescriptions,’ » quoted obituarist Douglas Martin. Thus was Said, the most mendacious, self-infatuated and profitably self-pitying of Arab-American intellectuals—a man whose account of his own childhood cannot be trusted—raised from the grave to defame, for one last time, the most honest and honorable and generous of American intellectuals, no hyphenation necessary. Ajami (…) first made his political mark as an advocate for Palestinian nationalism. For those who knew Ajami mainly as a consistent advocate of Saddam Hussein’s ouster, it’s worth watching a YouTube snippet of his 1978 debate with Benjamin Netanyahu, in which Ajami makes the now-standard case against Israeli iniquity. Today Mr. Netanyahu sounds very much like his 28-year-old self. But Ajami changed. He was, to borrow a phrase, mugged by reality. By the 1980s, he wrote, « Arab society had run through most of its myths, and what remained in the wake of the word, of the many proud statements people had made about themselves and their history, was a new world of cruelty, waste, and confusion. » What Ajami did was to see that world plain, without the usual evasions and obfuscations and shifting of blame to Israel and the U.S. Like Sidney Hook or Eric Hoffer, the great ex-communists of a previous generation, his honesty, courage and intelligence got the better of his ideology; he understood his former beliefs with the hard-won wisdom of the disillusioned. (…) Ajami understood the Arab world as only an insider could—intimately, sympathetically, without self-pity. And he loved America as only an immigrant could—with a depth of appreciation and absence of cynicism rarely given to the native-born. If there was ever an error in his judgment, it’s that he believed in people—Arabs and Americans alike—perhaps more than they believed in themselves. It was the kind of mistake only a generous spirit could make. Bret Stephens
Ce qui caractérise pour l’essentiel Ajami n’est pas sa foi religieuse (s’il en a une au sens traditionnel) mais son appréciation sans égal de l’ironie historique – l’ironie , par exemple, dans le fait qu’en éliminant la simple figure de Saddam Hussein nous ayons brutalement contraint un Monde arabe qui ne s’y attendait pas à un règlement de comptes général; l’ironie que la véhémence même de l’insurrection irakienne puisse au bout du compte la vaincre et l’humilier sur son propre terrain et pourrait déjà avoir commencé à le faire; l’ironie que l’Iran chiite pourrait bien maudire le jour où ses cousins chiites en Irak ont été libérés par les Américains. Et ironie pour ironie, Ajami est clairement épaté qu’un membre de l’establishment pétrolier américain, lui-même fils d’un président qui en 1991 avait appelé les Chiites irakiens à l’insurrection contre un Saddam Hussein blessé pour finalement les laisser se faire massacrer, ait été amené à s’exclamer en septembre 2003: Comme dictature, l’Irak avait un fort pouvoir de déstabilisation du Moyen-Orient. Comme démocratie, il aura un fort pouvoir d’inspiration pour le Moyen-Orient. Victor Davis Hanson
The relations between Islam and Christianity, both Orthodox and Western, have often been stormy. Each has been the other’s Other. The 20th-century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity. Samuel Huntington
Nearly 15 years on, Huntington’s thesis about a civilizational clash seems more compelling to me than the critique I provided at that time. In recent years, for example, the edifice of Kemalism has come under assault, and Turkey has now elected an Islamist to the presidency in open defiance of the military-bureaucratic elite. There has come that “redefinition” that Huntington prophesied. To be sure, the verdict may not be quite as straightforward as he foresaw. The Islamists have prevailed, but their desired destination, or so they tell us, is still Brussels: in that European shelter, the Islamists shrewdly hope they can find protection against the power of the military. (…) Huntington had the integrity and the foresight to see the falseness of a borderless world, a world without differences. (He is one of two great intellectual figures who peered into the heart of things and were not taken in by globalism’s conceit, Bernard Lewis being the other.) I still harbor doubts about whether the radical Islamists knocking at the gates of Europe, or assaulting it from within, are the bearers of a whole civilization. They flee the burning grounds of Islam, but carry the fire with them. They are “nowhere men,” children of the frontier between Islam and the West, belonging to neither. If anything, they are a testament to the failure of modern Islam to provide for its own and to hold the fidelities of the young. More ominously perhaps, there ran through Huntington’s pages an anxiety about the will and the coherence of the West — openly stated at times, made by allusions throughout. The ramparts of the West are not carefully monitored and defended, Huntington feared. Islam will remain Islam, he worried, but it is “dubious” whether the West will remain true to itself and its mission. Clearly, commerce has not delivered us out of history’s passions, the World Wide Web has not cast aside blood and kin and faith. It is no fault of Samuel Huntington’s that we have not heeded his darker, and possibly truer, vision. Fouad Ajami
There should be no illusions about the sort of Arab landscape that America is destined to find if, or when, it embarks on a war against the Iraqi regime. There would be no « hearts and minds » to be won in the Arab world, no public diplomacy that would convince the overwhelming majority of Arabs that this war would be a just war. An American expedition in the wake of thwarted UN inspections would be seen by the vast majority of Arabs as an imperial reach into their world, a favor to Israel, or a way for the United States to secure control over Iraq’s oil. No hearing would be given to the great foreign power. (…) America ought to be able to live with this distrust and discount a good deal of this anti-Americanism as the « road rage » of a thwarted Arab world – the congenital condition of a culture yet to take full responsibility for its self-inflicted wounds. There is no need to pay excessive deference to the political pieties and givens of the region. Indeed, this is one of those settings where a reforming foreign power’s simpler guidelines offer a better way than the region’s age-old prohibitions and defects. Fouad Ajami
The current troubles of the Obama presidency can be read back into its beginnings. Rule by personal charisma has met its proper fate. The spell has been broken, and the magician stands exposed. We need no pollsters to tell us of the loss of faith in Mr. Obama’s policies—and, more significantly, in the man himself. Charisma is like that. Crowds come together and they project their needs onto an imagined redeemer. The redeemer leaves the crowd to its imagination: For as long as the charismatic moment lasts—a year, an era—the redeemer is above and beyond judgment. Fouad Ajami
[Bush] can definitely claim paternity…One despot fell in 2003. We decapitated him. Two despots, in Tunisia and Egypt, fell, and there is absolutely a direct connection between what happened in Iraq in 2003 and what’s happening today throughout the rest of the Arab world. (…) It wasn’t American tanks [that brought about this moment]…It was a homegrown enterprise. It was Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans conquering their fear – people went out and conquered fear and did something amazing. Fouad Ajami
The United States will have to be prepared for and accept the losses and adversity that are an integral part of staying on, rightly, in so tangled and difficult a setting. Fouad Ajami
The mask of the Assad regime finally falls.. Fouad Ajami
The Iraqis needn’t trumpet the obvious fact in broad daylight, but the balance of power in the Persian Gulf would be altered for the better by a security arrangement between the United States and the government in Baghdad. (…) There remains, of course, the pledge given by presidential candidate Barack Obama that a President Obama would liquidate the American military role in Iraq by the end of 2011. That pledge was one of the defining themes of his bid for the presidency, and it endeared him to the “progressives” within his own party, who had been so agitated and mobilized against the Iraq war. But Barack Obama is now the standard-bearer of America’s power. He has broken with the “progressives” over Afghanistan, the use of drones in Pakistan, Guantánamo, military tribunals, and a whole host of national security policies that have (nearly) blurred the line between his policies and those of his predecessor. The left has grumbled, but, in the main, it has bowed to political necessity. At any rate, the fury on the left that once surrounded the Iraq war has been spent; a residual American presence in Iraq would fly under the radar of the purists within the ranks of the Democratic Party. (…) The enemy will have a say on how things will play out for American forces in Iraq. Iran and its Iraqi proxies can be expected to do all they can to make the American presence as bloody and costly as possible. A long, leaky border separates Iran from Iraq; movement across it is quite easy for Iranian agents and saboteurs. They can come in as “pilgrims,” and there might be shades of Lebanon in the 1980s, big deeds of terror that target the American forces.  (…) Even in the best of worlds, an American residual presence in Iraq will have its costs and heartbreak. But the United States will have to be prepared for and accept the losses and adversity that are an integral part of staying on, rightly, in so tangled and difficult a setting. Fouad Ajami
L’argument selon lequel la liberté ne peut venir que de l’intérieur et ne peut être offerte à des peuples lointains est bien plus fausse que l’on croit. Dans toute l’histoire moderne, la fortune de la liberté a toujours dépendu de la volonté de la ou des puissances dominantes du moment. Le tout récemment disparu professeur Samuel P. Huntington avait développé ce point de la manière la plus détaillée. Dans 15 des 29 pays démocratiques en 1970, les régimes démocratiques avaient été soit initiés par une puissance étrangère soit étaient le produit de l’indépendance contre une occupation étrangère. (…) Tout au long du flux et du reflux de la liberté, la puissance est toujours restée importante et la liberté a toujours eu besoin de la protection de grandes puissances. Le pouvoir d’attraction des pamphlets de Mill, Locke et Paine était fondé sur les canons de la Pax Britannica, et sur la force de l’Amérique quand la puissance britannique a flanché.  (…) L’ironie est maintenant évidente: George W. Bush comme force pour l’émancipation des terres musulmanes et Barack Hussein Obama en messager des bonnes vieilles habitudes. Ainsi c’est le plouc qui porte au monde le message que les musulmans et les Arabes n’ont pas la tyrannie dans leur ADN et l’homme aux fragments musulmans, kenyans et indonésiens dans sa propre vie et son identité qui annonce son acceptation de l’ordre établi. Mr. Obama pourrait encore reconnaître l’impact révolutionnaire de la diplomatie de son prédecesseur mais jusqu’à présent il s’est refusé à le faire. (…) Son soutien au  » processus de paix » est un retour à la diplomatie stérile des années Clinton, avec sa croyance que le terrorisme prend sa source dans les revendications des Palestiniens. M. Obama et ses conseillers se sont gardés d’affirmer que le terrorisme a disparu, mais il y a un message indubitable donné par eux que nous pouvons retourner à nos propres affaires, que Wall Street est plus mortel et dangereux que la fameuse  » rue Arabo-Musulmane ».  Fouad Ajami
Two men bear direct responsibility for the mayhem engulfing Iraq: Barack Obama and Nouri al-Maliki. (…) This sad state of affairs was in no way preordained. In December 2011, Mr. Obama stood with Mr. Maliki and boasted that « in the coming years, it’s estimated that Iraq’s economy will grow even faster than China’s or India’s. » But the negligence of these two men—most notably in their failure to successfully negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement that would have maintained an adequate U.S. military presence in Iraq—has resulted in the current descent into sectarian civil war. (…) With ISIS now reigning triumphant in Fallujah, in the oil-refinery town of Baiji, and, catastrophically, in Mosul, the Obama administration cannot plead innocence. Mosul is particularly explosive. It sits astride the world between Syria and Iraq and is economically and culturally intertwined with the Syrian territories. This has always been Mosul’s reality. There was no chance that a war would rage on either side of Mosul without it spreading next door. The Obama administration’s vanishing « red lines » and utter abdication in Syria were bound to compound Iraq’s troubles. Grant Mr. Maliki the harvest of his sectarian bigotry. He has ridden that sectarianism to nearly a decade in power. Mr. Obama’s follies are of a different kind. They’re sins born of ignorance. He was eager to give up the gains the U.S. military and the Bush administration had secured in Iraq. Nor did he possess the generosity of spirit to give his predecessors the credit they deserved for what they had done in that treacherous landscape. Fouad Ajami

Descente en règle dans le NYT et the Nation, silence radio dans les médias comme d’ailleurs dans l’édition en France, notice wikipedia en français de quatre lignes …

Quel meilleur hommage, pour un spécialiste du Monde arabe, que d’être accusé  de racisme par Edward Saïd ?

Et quel silence plus éloquent, au lendemain de sa mort et au moment même de la perte de l’Irak contre laquelle il avait tant averti l’Administration américaine, que celui de la presse française pour l’un des plus respectés spécialistes du Moyen-Orient ?

Qui, si l’on suit les médias qui prennent la peine de parler de lui, avait commis l’impardonnable péché d’appeler de ses voeux l’intervention alliée en Irak …

Et surtout, vis à vis de l’Illusioniste en chef de la Maison Blanche et coqueluche de nos médias, de ne jamais mâcher ses mots ?

Fouad Ajami, Commentator and Expert in Arab History, Dies at 68
Douglas Martin
The New York Times
June 22, 2014

Fouad Ajami, an academic, author and broadcast commentator on Middle East affairs who helped rally support for the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 — partly by personally advising top policy makers — died on Sunday. He was 68.

The cause was cancer, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where Mr. Ajami was a senior fellow, said in a statement

An Arab, Mr. Ajami despaired of autocratic Arab governments finding their own way to democracy, and believed that the United States must confront what he called a “culture of terrorism” after the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. He likened the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to Hitler.

Mr. Ajami strove to put Arab history into a larger perspective. He often referred to Muslim rage over losing power to the West in 1683, when a Turkish siege of Vienna failed. He said this memory had led to Arab self-pity and self-delusion as they blamed the rest of the world for their troubles. Terrorism, he said, was one result.

It was a view that had been propounded by Bernard Lewis, the eminent Middle East historian at Princeton and public intellectual, who also urged the United States to invade Iraq and advised President George W. Bush.

Most Americans became familiar with Mr. Ajami’s views on CBS News, CNN and the PBS programs “Charlie Rose” and “NewsHour,” where his distinctive beard and polished manner lent force to his opinions. He wrote more than 400 articles for magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, as well as a half-dozen books on the Middle East, some of which included his own experiences as a Shiite Muslim in majority Sunni societies.

Condoleezza Rice summoned him to the Bush White House when she was national security adviser, and he advised Paul Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense. In a speech in 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney invoked Mr. Ajami as predicting that Iraqis would greet liberation by the American military with joy.

In the years following the Iraqi invasion, Mr. Ajami continued to support the action as stabilizing. But he said this month that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had squandered an opportunity to unify the country after American intervention and become a dictator. More recently, he favored more aggressive policies toward Iran and Syria. Mr. Ajami’s harshest criticism was leveled at Arab autocrats, who by definition lacked popular support. But his use of words like “tribal,” “atavistic” and “clannish” to describe Arab peoples rankled some. So did his belief that Western nations should intervene in the region to correct wrongs. Edward Said, the Palestinian cultural critic who died in 2003, accused him of having “unmistakably racist prescriptions.”

Others praised him for balance. Daniel Pipes, a scholar who specializes in the Middle East, said in Commentary magazine in 2006 that Mr. Ajami had avoided “the common Arab fixation on the perfidy of Israel.”

Fouad Ajami was born on Sept. 19, 1945, at the foot of a castle built by Crusaders in Arnoun, a dusty village in southern Lebanon. His family came from Iran (the name Ajami means “Persian” in Arabic) and were prosperous tobacco farmers. When he was 4, the family moved to Beirut.

As a boy he was taunted by Sunni Muslim children for being Shiite and short, he wrote in “The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey” (1998), an examination of Arab intellectuals of the last two generations. As a teenager, he was enthusiastic about Arab nationalism, a cause he would later criticize. He also fell in love with American culture, particularly Hollywood movies, and especially Westerns. In 1963, a day or two before his 18th birthday, his family moved to the United States.

He attended Eastern Oregon College (now University), then earned a Ph.D. at the University of Washington after writing a thesis on international relations and world government. He next taught political science at Princeton. In 1980, the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University named him director of Middle East studies. He joined the Hoover Institution in 2011.

Mr. Ajami’s first book, “The Arab Predicament: Arab Political Thought and Practice Since 1967” (1981), explored the panic and sense of vulnerability in the Arab world after Israel’s victory in the 1967 war. His next book, “The Vanishing Imam: Musa al Sadr and the Shia of Lebanon” (1986), profiled an Iranian cleric who helped transform Lebanese Shia from “a despised minority” to effective successful political actors. For the 1988 book “Beirut: City of Regrets,” Mr. Ajami provided a long introduction and some text to accompany a photographic essay by Eli Reed.

“The Dream Palace of the Arabs” told of how a generation of Arab intellectuals tried to renew their homelands’ culture through the forces of modernism and secularism. The Christian Science Monitor called it “a cleareyed look at the lost hopes of the Arabs.”

Partly because of that tone, some condemned the book as too negative. The scholar Andrew N. Rubin, writing in The Nation, said it “echoes the kind of anti-Arabism that both Washington and the pro-Israeli lobby have come to embrace.”

Mr. Ajami received many awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 1982 and a National Humanities Medal in 2006. He is survived by his wife, Michelle. In a profile in The Nation in 2003, Adam Shatz described Mr. Ajami’s distinctive appearance, characterized by a “dramatic beard, stylish clothes and a charming, almost flirtatious manner.”

He continued: “On television, he radiates above-the-frayness, speaking with the wry, jaded authority that men in power admire, especially in men who have risen from humble roots. Unlike the other Arabs, he appears to have no ax to grind. He is one of us; he is the good Arab.”

Voir aussi:

The Native Informant
Fouad Ajami is the Pentagon’s favorite Arab.
Adam Shatz
April 10, 2003 | This article appeared in the April 28, 2003 edition of The Nation.

Late last August, at a reunion of Korean War veterans in San Antonio, Texas, Dick Cheney tried to assuage concerns that a unilateral, pre-emptive war against Iraq might « cause even greater troubles in that part of the world. » He cited a well-known Arab authority: « As for the reaction of the Arab street, the Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation in Basra and Baghdad, the streets are sure to erupt in joy. » As the bombs fell over Baghdad, just before American troops began to encounter fierce Iraqi resistance, Ajami could scarcely conceal his glee. « We are now coming into acquisition of Iraq, » he announced on CBS News the morning of March 22. « It’s an amazing performance. »

If Hollywood ever makes a film about Gulf War II, a supporting role should be reserved for Ajami, the director of Middle East Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University. His is a classic American success story. Born in 1945 to Shiite parents in the remote southern Lebanese village of Arnoun and now a proud naturalized American, Ajami has become the most politically influential Arab intellectual of his generation in the United States. Condoleezza Rice often summons him to the White House for advice, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, a friend and former colleague, has paid tribute to him in several recent speeches on Iraq. Although he has produced little scholarly work of value, Ajami is a regular guest on CBS News, Charlie Rose and the NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, and a frequent contributor to the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. His ideas are also widely recycled by acolytes like Thomas Friedman and Judith Miller of the Times.

Ajami’s unique role in American political life has been to unpack the unfathomable mysteries of the Arab and Muslim world and to help sell America’s wars in the region. A diminutive, balding man with a dramatic beard, stylish clothes and a charming, almost flirtatious manner, he has played his part brilliantly. On television, he radiates above-the-frayness, speaking with the wry, jaded authority that men in power admire, especially in men who have risen from humble roots. Unlike the other Arabs, he appears to have no ax to grind. He is one of us; he is the good Arab.

Ajami’s admirers paint him as a courageous gadfly who has risen above the tribal hatreds of the Arabs, a Middle Eastern Spinoza whose honesty has earned him the scorn of his brethren. Commentary editor-at-large Norman Podhoretz, one of his many right-wing American Jewish fans, writes that Ajami « has been virtually alone in telling the truth about the attitude toward Israel of the people from whom he stems. » The people from whom Ajami « stems » are, of course, the Arabs, and Ajami’s ethnicity is not incidental to his celebrity. It lends him an air of authority not enjoyed by non-Arab polemicists like Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes.

But Ajami is no gadfly. He is, in fact, entirely a creature of the American establishment. His once-luminous writing, increasingly a blend of Naipaulean clichés about Muslim pathologies and Churchillian rhetoric about the burdens of empire, is saturated with hostility toward Sunni Arabs in general (save for pro-Western Gulf Arabs, toward whom he is notably indulgent), and to Palestinians in particular. He invites comparison with Henry Kissinger, another émigré intellectual to achieve extraordinary prominence as a champion of American empire. Like Kissinger, Ajami has a suave television demeanor, a gravitas-lending accent, an instinctive solicitude for the imperatives of power and a cool disdain for the weak. And just as Kissinger cozied up to Nelson Rockefeller and Nixon, so has Ajami attached himself to such powerful patrons as Laurence Tisch, former chairman of CBS; Mort Zuckerman, the owner of US News & World Report; Martin Peretz, a co-owner of The New Republic; and Leslie Gelb, head of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Despite his training in political science, Ajami often sounds like a pop psychologist in his writing about the Arab world or, as he variously calls it, « the world of Araby, » « that Arab world » and « those Arab lands. » According to Ajami, that world is « gripped in a poisonous rage » and « wedded to a worldview of victimology, » bad habits reinforced by its leaders, « megalomaniacs who never tell their people what can and cannot be had in the world of nations. » There is, to be sure, a grain of truth in Ajami’s grim assessment. Progressive Arab thinkers from Sadeq al-Azm to Adonis have issued equally bleak indictments of Arab political culture, lambasting the dearth of self-criticism and the constant search for external scapegoats. Unlike these writers, however, Ajami has little sympathy for the people of the region, unless they happen to live within the borders of « rogue states » like Iraq, in which case they must be « liberated » by American force. The corrupt regimes that rule the Arab world, he has suggested, are more or less faithful reflections of the « Arab psyche »: « Despots always work with a culture’s yearnings…. After all, a hadith, a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, maintains ‘You will get the rulers you deserve.' » His own taste in regimes runs to monarchies like Kuwait. The Jews of Israel, it seems, are not just the only people in the region who enjoy the fruits of democracy; they are the only ones who deserve them.

Once upon a time, Ajami was an articulate and judicious critic both of Arab society and of the West, a defender of Palestinian rights and an advocate of decent government in the Arab world. Though he remains a shrewd guide to the hypocrisies of Arab leaders, his views on foreign policy now scarcely diverge from those of pro-Israel hawks in the Bush Administration. « Since the Gulf War, Fouad has taken leave of his analytic perspective to play to his elite constituency, » said Augustus Richard Norton, a Middle East scholar at Boston University. « It’s very unfortunate because he could have made an astonishingly important contribution. »

Seeking to understand the causes of Ajami’s transformation, I spoke to more than two dozen of his friends and acquaintances over the past several months. (Ajami did not return my phone calls or e-mails.) These men and women depicted a man at once ambitious and insecure, torn between his irascible intellectual independence and his even stronger desire to belong to something larger than himself. On the one hand, he is an intellectual dandy who, as Sayres Rudy, a former student, puts it, « doesn’t like groups and thinks people who join them are mediocre. » On the other, as a Shiite among Sunnis, and as an émigré in America, he has always felt the outsider’s anxiety to please, and has adjusted his convictions to fit his surroundings. As a young man eager to assimilate into the urbane Sunni world of Muslim Beirut, he embraced pan-Arabism. Received with open arms by the American Jewish establishment in New York and Washington, he became an ardent Zionist. An informal adviser to both Bush administrations, he is now a cheerleader for the American empire.

The man from Arnoun appears to be living the American dream. He has a prestigious job and the ear of the President. Yet the price of power has been higher in his case than in Kissinger’s. Kissinger, after all, is a figure of renown among the self-appointed leaders of « the people from whom he stems » and a frequent speaker at Jewish charity galas, whereas Ajami is a man almost entirely deserted by his people, a pariah at what should be his hour of triumph. In Arnoun, a family friend told me, « Fouad is a black sheep because of his staunch support for the Israelis. » Although he frequently travels to Tel Aviv and the Persian Gulf, he almost never goes to Lebanon. In becoming an American, he has become, as he himself has confessed, « a stranger in the Arab world. »

Up From Lebanon

This is an immigrant’s tale.

It begins in Arnoun, a rocky hamlet in the south of Lebanon where Fouad al-Ajami was born on September 19, 1945. A prosperous tobacco-growing Shiite family, the Ajamis had come to Arnoun from Iran in the 1850s. (Their name, Arabic for « Persian, » gave away their origins.)

When Ajami was 4, he moved with his family to Beirut, settling in the largely Armenian northeastern quarter, a neighborhood thick with orange orchards, pine trees and strawberry fields. As members of the rural Shiite minority, the country’s « hewers of wood and drawers of water, » the Ajamis stood apart from the city’s dominant groups, the Sunni Muslims and the Maronite Christians. « We were strangers to Beirut, » he has written. « We wanted to pass undetected in the modern world of Beirut, to partake of its ways. » For the young « Shia assimilé, » as he has described himself, « anything Persian, anything Shia, was anathema…. speaking Persianized Arabic was a threat to something unresolved in my identity. » He tried desperately, but with little success, to pass among his Sunni peers. In the predominantly Sunni schools he attended, « Fouad was taunted for being a Shiite, and for being short, » one friend told me. « That left him with a lasting sense of bitterness toward the Sunnis. »

In the 1950s, Arab nationalism appeared to hold out the promise of transcending the schisms between Sunnis and Shiites, and the confessional divisions separating Muslims and Christians. Like his classmates, Ajami fell under the spell of Arab nationalism’s charismatic spokesman, the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. At the same time, he was falling under the spell of American culture, which offered relief from the « ancestral prohibitions and phobias » of his « cramped land. » Watching John Wayne films, he « picked up American slang and a romance for the distant power casting its shadow across us. » On July 15, 1958, the day after the bloody overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy by nationalist army officers, Ajami’s two loves had their first of many clashes, when President Eisenhower sent the US Marines to Beirut to contain the spread of radical Arab nationalism. In their initial confrontation, Ajami chose Egypt’s leader, defying his parents and hopping on a Damascus-bound bus for one of Nasser’s mass rallies.

Ajami arrived in the United States in the fall of 1963, just before he turned 18. He did his graduate work at the University of Washington, where he wrote his dissertation on international relations and world government. At the University of Washington, Ajami gravitated toward progressive Arab circles. Like his Arab peers, he was shaken by the humiliating defeat of the Arab countries in the 1967 war with Israel, and he was heartened by the emergence of the PLO. While steering clear of radicalism, he often expressed horror at Israel’s brutal reprisal attacks against southern Lebanese villages in response to PLO raids.

apartment in New York. He made a name for himself there as a vocal supporter of Palestinian self-determination. One friend remembers him as « a fairly typical advocate of Third World positions. » Yet he was also acutely aware of the failings of Third World states, which he unsparingly diagnosed in « The Fate of Nonalignment, » a brilliant 1980/81 essay in Foreign Affairs. In 1980, when Johns Hopkins offered him a position as director of Middle East Studies at SAIS, a Washington-based graduate program, he took it.

Ajami’s Predicament

A year after arriving at SAIS, Ajami published his first and still best book, The Arab Predicament. An anatomy of the intellectual and political crisis that swept the Arab world following its defeat by Israel in the 1967 war, it is one of the most probing and subtle books ever written in English on the region. Ranging gracefully across political theory, literature and poetry, Ajami draws an elegant, often moving portrait of Arab intellectuals in their anguished efforts to put together a world that had come apart at the seams. The book did not offer a bold or original argument; like Isaiah Berlin’s Russian Thinkers, it provided an interpretive survey–respectful even when critical–of other people’s ideas. It was the book of a man who had grown disillusioned with Nasser, whose millenarian dream of restoring the « Arab nation » had run up against the hard fact that the « divisions of the Arab world were real, not contrived points on a map or a colonial trick. » But pan-Arabism was not the only temptation to which the intellectuals had succumbed. There was radical socialism, and the Guevarist fantasies of the Palestinian revolution. There was Islamic fundamentalism, with its romance of authenticity and its embittered rejection of the West. And then there was the search for Western patronage, the way of Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, who forgot his own world and ended up being devoured by it.

Ajami’s ambivalent chapter on Sadat makes for especially fascinating reading today. He praised Sadat for breaking with Nasserism and making peace with Israel, and perhaps saw something of himself in the « self-defined peasant from the dusty small village » who had « traveled far beyond the bounds of his world. » But he also saw in Sadat’s story the tragic parable of a man who had become more comfortable with Western admirers than with his own people. When Sadat spoke nostalgically of his village–as Ajami now speaks of Arnoun–he was pandering to the West. Arabs, a people of the cities, would not be « taken in by the myth of the village. » Sadat’s « American connection, » Ajami suggested, gave him « a sense of psychological mobility, » lifting some of the burdens imposed by his cramped world. And as his dependence on his American patrons deepened, « he became indifferent to the sensibilities of his own world. »

Sadat was one example of the trap of seeking the West’s approval, and losing touch with one’s roots; V.S. Naipaul was another. Naipaul, Ajami suggested in an incisive 1981 New York Times review of Among the Believers, exemplified the « dilemma of a gifted author led by his obsessive feelings regarding the people he is writing about to a difficult intellectual and moral bind. » Third World exiles like Naipaul, Ajami wrote, « have a tendency to…look at their own countries and similar ones with a critical eye, » yet « these same men usually approach the civilization of the West with awe and leave it unexamined. » Ajami preferred the humane, nonjudgmental work of Polish travel writer Ryszard Kapucinski: « His eye for human folly is as sharp as V.S. Naipaul. His sympathy and sorrow, however, are far deeper. »

The Arab Predicament was infused with sympathy and sorrow, but these qualities were ignored by the book’s Arab critics in the West, who–displaying the ideological rigidity that is an unfortunate hallmark of exile politics–accused him of papering over the injustices of imperialism and « blaming the victim. » To an extent, this was a fair criticism. Ajami paid little attention to imperialism, and even less to Israel’s provocative role in the region. What is more, his argument that « the wounds that mattered were self-inflicted » endeared him to those who wanted to distract attention from Palestine. Doors flew open. On the recommendation of Bernard Lewis, the distinguished British Orientalist at Princeton and a strong supporter of Israel, Ajami became the first Arab to win the MacArthur « genius » prize in 1982, and in 1983 he became a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. The New Republic began to publish lengthy essays by Ajami, models of the form that offer a tantalizing glimpse of the career he might have had in a less polarized intellectual climate. Pro-Israel intellectual circles groomed him as a rival to Edward Said, holding up his book as a corrective to Orientalism, Said’s classic study of how the West imagined the East in the age of empire.

In fact, Ajami shared some of Said’s anger about the Middle East. The Israelis, he wrote in an eloquent New York Times op-ed after the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, « came with a great delusion: that if you could pound men and women hard enough, if you could bring them to their knees, you could make peace with them. » He urged the United States to withdraw from Lebanon in 1984, and he advised it to open talks with the Iranian government. Throughout the 1980s, Ajami maintained a critical attitude toward America’s interventions in the Middle East, stressing the limits of America’s ability to influence or shape a « tormented world » it scarcely understood. « Our arguments dovetailed, » says Said. « There was an unspoken assumption that we shared the same kind of politics. »

But just below the surface there were profound differences of opinion. Hisham Milhem, a Lebanese journalist who knows both men well, explained their differences to me by contrasting their views on Joseph Conrad. « Edward and Fouad are both crazy about Conrad, but they see in him very different things. Edward sees the critic of empire, especially in Heart of Darkness. Fouad, on the other hand, admires the Polish exile in Western Europe who made a conscious break with the old country. »

Yet the old world had as much of a grip on Ajami as it did on Said. In southern Lebanon, Palestinian guerrillas had set up a state within a state. They often behaved thuggishly toward the Shiites, alienating their natural allies and recklessly exposing them to Israel’s merciless reprisals. By the time Israeli tanks rolled into Lebanon in 1982, relations between the two communities had so deteriorated that some Shiites greeted the invaders with rice and flowers. Like many Shiites, Ajami was fed up with the Palestinians, whose revolution had brought ruin to Lebanon. Arnoun itself had not been unscathed: A nearby Crusader castle, the majestic Beaufort, was now the scene of intense fighting.

In late May 1985, Ajami–now identifying himself as a Shiite from southern Lebanon–sparred with Said on the MacNeil Lehrer Report over the war between the PLO and Shiite Amal militia, then raging in Beirut’s refugee camps. A few months later, they came to verbal blows again, when Ajami was invited to speak at a Harvard conference on Islam and Muslim politics organized by Israeli-American academic Nadav Safran. After the Harvard Crimson revealed that the conference had been partly funded by the CIA, Ajami, at the urging of Said and the late Pakistani writer Eqbal Ahmad, joined a wave of speakers who were withdrawing from the conference. But Ajami, who was a protégé and friend of Safran, immediately regretted his decision. He wrote a blistering letter to Said and Ahmad a few weeks later, accusing them of « bringing the conflicts of the Middle East to this country » while « I have tried to go beyond them…. Therefore, my friends, this is the parting of ways. I hope never to encounter you again, and we must cease communication. Yours sincerely, Fouad Ajami. »

The Tribal Turn

By now, the « Shia assimilé » had fervently embraced his Shiite identity. Like Sadat, he began to rhapsodize about his « dusty village » in wistful tones. The Vanished Imam, his 1986 encomium to Musa al-Sadr, the Iranian cleric who led the Amal militia before mysteriously disappearing on a 1978 visit to Libya, offers important clues into Ajami’s thinking of the time. A work of lyrical nationalist mythology, The Vanished Imam also provides a thinly veiled political memoir, recounting Ajami’s disillusionment with Palestinians, Arabs and the left, and his conversion to old-fashioned tribal politics.

The marginalized Shiites had found a home in Amal, and a spiritual leader in Sadr, a « big man » who is explicitly compared to Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim and credited with a far larger role than he actually played in Shiite politics. Writing of Sadr, Ajami might have been describing himself. Sadr is an Ajam–a Persian–with « an outsider’s eagerness to please. » He is « suspicious of grand schemes, » blessed with « a strong sense of pragmatism, of things that can and cannot be, » thanks to which virtue he « came to be seen as an enemy of everything ‘progressive.' » « Tired of the polemics, » he alone is courageous enough to stand up to the Palestinians, warning them not to « seek a ‘substitute homeland,’ watan badil, in Lebanon. » Unlike the Palestinians, Ajami tells us repeatedly, the Shiites are realists, not dreamers; reformers, not revolutionaries. Throughout the book, a stark dichotomy is also drawn between Shiite and Arab nationalism, although, as one of his Shiite critics pointed out in a caustic review in the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, « allegiance to Arab nationalist ideals…was paramount » in Sadr’s circles. The Shiites of Ajami’s imagination seem fundamentally different from other Arabs: a community that shares America’s aversion to the Palestinians, a « model minority » worthy of the West’s sympathy.

The Shiite critic of the Palestinians cut an especially attractive profile in the eyes of the American media. Most American viewers of CBS News, which made him a high-paid consultant in 1985, had no idea that he was almost completely out of step with the community for which he claimed to speak. By the time The Vanished Imam appeared, the Shiites, under the leadership of a new group, Hezbollah, had launched a battle to liberate Lebanon from Israeli control. Israeli soldiers were now greeted with grenades and explosives, rather than rice and flowers, and Arnoun became a hotbed of Hezbollah support. Yet Ajami displayed little enthusiasm for this Shiite struggle. He was also oddly silent about the behavior of the Israelis, who, from the 1982 invasion onward, had killed far more Shiites than either Arafat (« the Flying Dutchman of the Palestinian movement ») or Hafez al-Assad (Syria’s « cruel enforcer »). The Shiites, he suggested, were « beneficiaries of Israel’s Lebanon war. »

In the Promised Land

By the mid-1980s, the Middle Eastern country closest to Ajami’s heart was not Lebanon but Israel. He returned from his trips to the Jewish state boasting of traveling to the occupied territories under the guard of the Israel Defense Forces and of being received at the home of Teddy Kollek, then Jerusalem’s mayor. The Israelis earned his admiration because they had something the Palestinians notably lacked: power. They were also tough-minded realists, who understood « what can and cannot be had in the world of nations. » The Palestinians, by contrast, were romantics who imagined themselves to be « exempt from the historical laws of gravity. »

n 1986, Ajami had praised Musa al-Sadr as a realist for telling the Palestinians to fight Israel in the occupied territories, rather than in Lebanon. But when the Palestinians did exactly that, in the first intifada of 1987-93, it no longer seemed realistic to Ajami, who then advised them to swallow the bitter pill of defeat and pay for their bad choices. While Israeli troops shot down children armed only with stones, Ajami told the Palestinians they should give up on the idea of a sovereign state (« a phantom »), even in the West Bank and Gaza. When the PLO announced its support for a two-state solution at a 1988 conference in Algiers, Ajami called the declaration « hollow, » its concessions to Israel inadequate. On the eve of the Madrid talks in the fall of 1991 he wrote, « It is far too late to introduce a new nation between Israel and Jordan. » Nor should the American government embark on the « fool’s errand » of pressuring Israel to make peace. Under Ajami’s direction, the Middle East program of SAIS became a bastion of pro-Israel opinion. An increasing number of Israeli and pro-Israel academics, many of them New Republic contributors, were invited as guest lecturers. « Rabbi Ajami, » as many people around SAIS referred to him, was also receiving significant support from a Jewish family foundation in Baltimore, which picked up the tab for the trips his students took to the Middle East every summer. Back in Lebanon, Ajami’s growing reputation as an apologist for Israel reportedly placed considerable strains on family members in Arnoun.

‘The Saudi Way’

Ajami also developed close ties during the 1980s to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which made him–as he often and proudly pointed out–the only Arab who traveled both to the Persian Gulf countries and to Israel. In 1985 he became an external examiner in the political science department at Kuwait University; he said « the place seemed vibrant and open to me. » His major patrons, however, were Saudi. He has traveled to Riyadh many times to raise money for his program, sometimes taking along friends like Martin Peretz; he has also vacationed in Prince Bandar’s home in Aspen. Saudi hospitality–and Saudi Arabia’s lavish support for SAIS–bred gratitude. At one meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations, Ajami told a group that, as one participant recalls, « the Saudi system was a lot stronger than we thought, that it was a system worth defending, and that it had nothing to apologize for. » Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, he faithfully echoed the Saudi line. « Rage against the West does not come naturally to the gulf Arabs, » he wrote in 1990. « No great tales of betrayal are told by the Arabs of the desert. These are Palestinian, Lebanese and North African tales. »

This may explain why Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 aroused greater outrage in Ajami than any act of aggression in the recent history of the Middle East. Neither Israel’s invasion of Lebanon nor the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre had caused him comparable consternation. Nor, for that matter, had Saddam’s slaughter of the Kurds in Halabja in 1988. This is understandable, of course; we all react more emotionally when the victims are friends. But we don’t all become publicists for war, as Ajami did that fateful summer, consummating his conversion to Pax Americana. What was remarkable was not only his fervent advocacy; it was his cavalier disregard for truth, his lurid rhetoric and his religious embrace of American power. In Foreign Affairs, Ajami, who knew better, described Iraq, the cradle of Mesopotamian civilization, a major publisher of Arabic literature and a center of the plastic arts, as « a brittle land…with little claim to culture and books and grand ideas. » It was, in other words, a wasteland, led by a man who « conjures up Adolf Hitler. »

Months before the war began, the Shiite from Arnoun, now writing as an American, in the royal « we, » declared that US troops « will have to stay in the Gulf and on a much larger scale, » since « we have tangible interests in that land. We stand sentry there in blazing clear daylight. » After the Gulf War, Ajami’s cachet soared. In the early 1990s Harvard offered him a chair (« he turned it down because we expected him to be around and to work very hard, » a professor told me), and the Council on Foreign Relations added him to its prestigious board of advisers last year. « The Gulf War was the crucible of change, » says Augustus Richard Norton. « This immigrant from Arnoun, this man nobody had heard of from a place no one had heard of, had reached the peak of power. This was a true immigrant success story, one of those moments that make an immigrant grateful for America. And I think it implanted a deep sense of patriotism that wasn’t present before. »

And, as Ajami once wrote of Sadat, « outside approval gave him the courage to defy » the Arabs, especially when it came to Israel. On June 3, 1992, hardly a year after Gulf War I, Ajami spoke at a pro-Israel fundraiser. Kissinger, the keynote speaker, described Arabs as congenital liars. Ajami chimed in, expressing his doubts that democracy would ever work in the Arab world, and recounting a visit to a Bedouin village where he « insisted on only one thing: that I be spared the ceremony of eating with a Bedouin. »

Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Ajami has been a consistent critic of the peace process–from the right. He sang the praises of each of Israel’s leaders, from the Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu, with his « filial devotion [to] the land he had agreed to relinquish, » to Labor leader Ehud Barak, « an exemplary soldier. » The Palestinians, he wrote, should be grateful to such men for « rescuing » them from defeat, and to Zionism for generously offering them « the possibility of their own national political revival. » (True to form, the Palestinians showed « no gratitude. ») A year before the destruction of Jenin, he proclaimed that « Israel is existentially through with the siege that had defined its history. » Ajami’s Likudnik conversion was sealed by telling revisions of arguments he had made earlier in his career. Where he had once argued that the 1982 invasion of Lebanon aimed to « undermine those in the Arab world who want some form of compromise, » he now called it a response to « the challenge of Palestinian terror. »

Did Ajami really believe all this? In a stray but revealing comment on Sadat in The New Republic, he left room for doubt. Sadat, he said, was « a son of the soil, who had the fellah’s ability to look into the soul of powerful outsiders, to divine how he could get around them even as he gave them what they desired. » Writing on politics, the man from Arnoun gave them what they desired. Writing on literature and poetry, he gave expression to the aesthete, the soulful elegist, even, at times, to the Arab. In his 1998 book, The Dream Palace of the Arabs, one senses, for the first time in years, Ajami’s sympathy for the world he left behind, although there is something furtive, something ghostly about his affection, as if he were writing about a lover he has taught himself to spurn. On rare occasions, Ajami revealed this side of himself to his students, whisking them into his office. Once the door was firmly shut, he would recite the poetry of Nizar Qabbani and Adonis in Arabic, caressing each and every line. As he read, Sayres Rudy told me, « I could swear his heart was breaking. »

Ajami’s Solitude

September 11 exposed a major intelligence failure on Ajami’s part. With his obsessive focus on the menace of Saddam and the treachery of Arafat, he had missed the big story. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers hailed from what he had repeatedly called the « benign political order » of Saudi Arabia; the « Saudi way » he had praised had come undone. Yet the few criticisms that Ajami directed at his patrons in the weeks and months after September 11 were curiously muted, particularly in contrast to the rage of most American commentators. Ajami’s venues in the American media, however, were willing to forgive his softness toward the Saudis. America was going to war with Muslims, and a trusted native informant was needed.

Other forces were working in Ajami’s favor. For George W. Bush and the hawks in his entourage, Afghanistan was merely a prelude to the war they really wanted to fight–the war against Saddam that Ajami had been spoiling for since the end of Gulf War I. As a publicist for Gulf War II, Ajami has abandoned his longstanding emphasis on the limits of American influence in that « tormented region. » The war is being sold as the first step in an American plan to effect democratic regime change across the region, and Ajami has stayed on message. We now find him writing in Foreign Affairs that « the driving motivation of a new American endeavor in Iraq and in neighboring Arab lands should be modernizing the Arab world. » The opinion of the Arab street, where Iraq is recruiting thousands of new jihadists, is of no concern to him. « We have to live with this anti-Americanism, » he sighed recently on CBS. « It’s the congenital condition of the Arab world, and we have to discount a good deal of it as we press on with the task of liberating the Iraqis. »

In fairness, Ajami has not completely discarded his wariness about American intervention. For there remains one country where American pressure will come to naught, and that is Israel, where it would « be hubris » to ask anything more of the Israelis, victims of « Arafat’s war. » To those who suggest that the Iraq campaign is doomed without an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, he says, « We can’t hold our war hostage to Arafat’s campaign of terror. »

Fortunately, George W. Bush understands this. Ajami has commended Bush for staking out the « high moral ground » and for « putting Iran on notice » in his Axis of Evil speech. Above all, the President should not allow himself to be deterred by multilateralists like Secretary of State Colin Powell, « an unhappy, reluctant soldier, at heart a pessimist about American power. » Unilateralism, Ajami says, is nothing to be ashamed of. It may make us hated in the « hostile landscape » of the Arab world, but, as he recently explained on the NewsHour, « it’s the fate of a great power to stand sentry in that kind of a world. »

It is no accident that the « sentry’s solitude » has become the idée fixe of Ajami’s writing in recent years. For it is a theme that resonates powerfully in his own life. Like the empire he serves, Ajami is more influential, and more isolated, than he has ever been. In recent years he has felt a need to defend this choice in heroic terms. « All a man can betray is his conscience, » he solemnly writes in The Dream Palace of the Arabs, citing a passage from Conrad. « The solitude Conrad chose is loathed by politicized men and women. »

It is a breathtakingly disingenuous remark. Ajami may be « a stranger in the Arab world, » but he can hardly claim to be a stranger to its politics. That is why he is quoted, and courted, by Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz. What Ajami abhors in « politicized men and women » is conviction itself. A leftist in the 1970s, a Shiite nationalist in the 1980s, an apologist for the Saudis in the 1990s, a critic-turned-lover of Israel, a skeptic-turned-enthusiast of American empire, he has observed no consistent principle in his career other than deference to power. His vaunted intellectual independence is a clever fiction. The only thing that makes him worth reading is his prose style, and even that has suffered of late. As Ajami observed of Naipaul more than twenty years ago, « he has become more and more predictable, too, with serious cost to his great gift as a writer, » blinded by the « assumption that only men who live in remote, dark places are ‘denied a clear vision of the world.' » Like Naipaul, Ajami has forgotten that « darkness is not only there but here as well. »

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Middle East expert Fouad Ajami, supporter of U.S. war in Iraq, dies at 68
Ajami was known for his criticism of the Arab world’s despotic rulers, among them Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gadhafi, and Hafez and Bashar Assad.
Ofer Aderet
Haaretz
Jun. 23, 2014

American-Lebanese intellectual and Middle East scholar Prof. Fouad Ajami has died of cancer, aged 68. He passed away Sunday in the United States.

Ajami, who was an expert on the Middle East, is remembered chiefly for his support of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. He advised the Bush administration during that period. He was strongly opposed to the dictatorial regimes in the Arab countries, believed that the United States must confront “the culture of terror,” as he called it, and supported an assertive policy in regard to Iran and Syria.

Ajami immigrated to the United States from Lebanon with his family in 1963, when he was 18. At Princeton University, he stood out as a supporter of the Palestinians’ right to self-rule. He later went on to Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, where he was in charge of the Middle East studies program.

He became well-known for his appearances on current affairs programs on American television, the hundreds of articles he wrote in journals and newspapers, and the six books he published.

Ajami was very close to the administration of George W. Bush and served as an adviser to Condoleezza Rice while she was national security adviser, and to Paul Wolfowitz, who was deputy secretary of defense at the time. In a speech delivered in 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney claimed Ajami had said the Iraqis would greet their liberation by the Americans with rejoicing.

His support for the war in Iraq elicited harsh criticism. He reiterated this support in an interview with Haaretz in 2011, in which he said: “I still support that war, and I think that the liberals who attacked Bush in America and elsewhere, who attacked him mercilessly, need to reexamine their assumptions.”

Ajami was known for his criticism of the Arab world’s despotic rulers, among them Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Muammar Gadhafi in Libya, and Hafez and Bashar Assad in Syria. He expressed optimism at the time of the Arab Spring, and had recently supported an assertive policy against Iran and Syria.

Fouad Ajami, Great American
His genius lay in the breadth of his scholarship and the quality of his human understanding.
Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal
June 23, 2014

Fouad Ajami would have been amused, but not surprised, to read his own obituary in the New York Times. « Edward Said, the Palestinian cultural critic who died in 2003, accused [Ajami] of having ‘unmistakably racist prescriptions,' » quoted obituarist Douglas Martin.

Thus was Said, the most mendacious, self-infatuated and profitably self-pitying of Arab-American intellectuals—a man whose account of his own childhood cannot be trusted—raised from the grave to defame, for one last time, the most honest and honorable and generous of American intellectuals, no hyphenation necessary.

Ajami, who died of prostate cancer Sunday in his summer home in Maine, was often described as among the foremost scholars of the modern Arab and Islamic worlds, and so he was. He was born in 1945 to a family of farmers in a Shiite village in southern Lebanon and was raised in Beirut in the politics of the age.

« I was formed by an amorphous Arab nationalist sensibility, » he wrote in his 1998 masterpiece, « The Dream Palace of the Arabs. » He came to the U.S. for college and graduate school, became a U.S. citizen, and first made his political mark as an advocate for Palestinian nationalism. For those who knew Ajami mainly as a consistent advocate of Saddam Hussein’s ouster, it’s worth watching a YouTube snippet of his 1978 debate with Benjamin Netanyahu, in which Ajami makes the now-standard case against Israeli iniquity.

Today Mr. Netanyahu sounds very much like his 28-year-old self. But Ajami changed. He was, to borrow a phrase, mugged by reality. By the 1980s, he wrote, « Arab society had run through most of its myths, and what remained in the wake of the word, of the many proud statements people had made about themselves and their history, was a new world of cruelty, waste, and confusion. »

What Ajami did was to see that world plain, without the usual evasions and obfuscations and shifting of blame to Israel and the U.S. Like Sidney Hook or Eric Hoffer, the great ex-communists of a previous generation, his honesty, courage and intelligence got the better of his ideology; he understood his former beliefs with the hard-won wisdom of the disillusioned.

He also understood with empathy and without rancor. Converts tend to be fanatics. But Ajami was too interested in people—in their motives and aspirations, their deceits and self-deceits, their pride, shame and unexpected nobility—to hate anyone except the truly despicable, namely tyrants and their apologists. To read Ajami is to see that his genius lay not only in the breadth of the scholarship or the sharpness of political insight but also in the quality of human understanding. If Joseph Conrad had been reborn as a modern-day academic, he would have been Fouad Ajami.

Consider a typical example, from an op-ed he wrote for these pages in February 2013 on the second anniversary of the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime:

« Throughout [Mubarak’s] reign, a toxic brew poisoned the life of Egypt—a mix of anti-modernism, anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism. That trinity ran rampant in the universities and the professional syndicates and the official media. As pillage had become the obsession of the ruling family and its retainers, the underclass was left to the rule of darkness and to a culture of conspiracy. »

Or here he is on Barack Obama’s fading political appeal, from a piece from last November:

« The current troubles of the Obama presidency can be read back into its beginnings. Rule by personal charisma has met its proper fate. The spell has been broken, and the magician stands exposed. We need no pollsters to tell us of the loss of faith in Mr. Obama’s policies—and, more significantly, in the man himself. Charisma is like that. Crowds come together and they project their needs onto an imagined redeemer. The redeemer leaves the crowd to its imagination: For as long as the charismatic moment lasts—a year, an era—the redeemer is above and beyond judgment. »

A publisher ought to collect these pieces. Who else could write so profoundly and so well? Ajami understood the Arab world as only an insider could—intimately, sympathetically, without self-pity. And he loved America as only an immigrant could—with a depth of appreciation and absence of cynicism rarely given to the native-born. If there was ever an error in his judgment, it’s that he believed in people—Arabs and Americans alike—perhaps more than they believed in themselves. It was the kind of mistake only a generous spirit could make.

Over the years Ajami mentored many people—the mentorship often turning to friendship—who went on to great things. One of them, Samuel Tadros, a native of Egypt and now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, wrote me Monday with an apt valediction:

« Fouad is remarkable because he became a full American, loved this country as anyone could love it, but that did not lessen his passion for what he left behind. He cared deeply about the region, he was always an optimist. He knew well the region’s ills, the pains it gave those who cherished it. God knows it gave him nothing but pain, but he always believed that the peoples of the region deserved better. »

Free at Last
Victor Davis Hanson
Commentary Magazine
September 6, 2006

A review of The Foreigner’s Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq by Fouad Ajami (Free Press, 400 pp)

The last year or so has seen several insider histories of the American experience in Iraq. Written by generals (Bernard Trainor’s Cobra II, with Michael Wood), reporters (George Packer’s The Assassins’ Gate), or bureaucrats (Paul Bremer’s My Year in Iraq), each undertakes to explain how our enterprise in that country has, allegedly, gone astray; who is to blame for the failure; and why the author is right to have withdrawn, or at least to question, his earlier support for the project.

Fouad Ajami’s The Foreigner’s Gift is a notably welcome exception—and not only because of Ajami’s guarded optimism about the eventual outcome in Iraq. A Lebanese-born scholar of the Middle East, Ajami, now at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, lacks entirely the condescension of the typical in-the-know Western expert who blithely assures his American readers, often on the authority of little or no learning, of the irreducible alienness of Arab culture. Instead, the world that Ajami describes, once stripped of its veneer of religious pretense, is defined by many of the same impulses—honor, greed, selfinterest—that guide dueling Mafia families, rival Christian televangelists, and (for that matter) many ordinary people hungry for power. As an Arabic-speaker and native Middle Easterner, Ajami has enjoyed singular access to both Sunni and Shiite grandees, and makes effective use here of what they tell him. He also draws on a variety of contemporary written texts, mostly unknown by or inaccessible to Western authors, to explicate why many of the most backward forces in the Arab world are not in the least unhappy at the havoc wrought by the Sunni insurgency in Iraq.

The result, based on six extended visits to Iraq and a lifetime of travel and experience, is the best and certainly the most idiosyncratic recent treatment of the American presence there. Ajami’s thesis is straightforward. What brought George W. Bush to Iraq, he writes, was a belief in the ability of America to do something about a longstanding evil, along with a post-9/11 determination to stop appeasing terror-sponsoring regimes. That the United States knew very little about the bloodthirsty undercurrents of Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish sectarianism, for years cloaked by Saddam’s barbaric rule—the dictator “had given the Arabs a cruel view of history,” one saturated in “iron and fire and bigotry”—did not necessarily doom the effort to failure. The idealism and skill of American soldiers, and the enormous power and capital that stood behind them, counted, and still count, for a great deal. More importantly, the threats and cries for vengeance issued by various Arab spokesmen have often been disingenuous, serving to obfuscate the genuine desire of Arab peoples for consensual government (albeit on their own terms). In short, Ajami assures us, the war has been a “noble” effort, and will remain so whether in the end it “proves to be a noble success or a noble failure.”

Aside from the obvious reasons he adduces for this judgment—we have taken no oil, we have stayed to birth democracy, and we are now fighting terrorist enemies of civilization—there is also the fact that we have stumbled into, and are now critically influencing, the great political struggle of the modern Middle East. The real problem in that region, Ajami stresses, remains Sunni extremism, which is bent on undermining the very idea of consensual government—the “foreigner’s gift” of his title. Having introduced the concept of one person/one vote in a federated Iraq, America has not only empowered the perennially maltreated Kurds but given the once despised Iraqi Shiites a historic chance at equality. Hence the “rage against this American war, in Iraq itself and in the wider Arab world.”

No wonder, Ajami comments, that a “proud sense of violation [has] stretched from the embittered towns of the Sunni Triangle in western Iraq to the chat rooms of Arabia and to jihadists as far away from Iraq as North Africa and the Muslim enclaves of Western Europe.” Sunni, often Wahhabi, terrorists have murdered many moderate Shiite clerics, taken a terrible toll of Shiites on the street, and, with the clandestine aid of the rich Gulf sheikdoms, hope to prevail through the growing American weariness at the loss in blood and treasure. The worst part of the story, in Ajami’s estimation, is that the intensity of the Sunni resistance has fooled some Americans into thinking that we cannot work with the Shiites—or that our continuing to do so will result in empowering the Khomeinists in nearby Iran or its Hizballah ganglia in Lebanon. Ajami has little use for this notion. He dismisses the view that, within Iraq, a single volatile figure like Moqtadar al-Sadr is capable of sabotaging the new democracy (“a Shia community groping for a way out would not give itself over to this kind of radicalism”). Much less does he see Iraq’s Shiites as the religious henchmen of Iran, or consider Iraqi holy men like Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani or Sheikh Humam Hamoudi to be intent on establishing a theocracy. In common with the now demonized Ahmad Chalabi, Ajami is convinced that Iraqi Shiites will not slavishly follow their Khomeinist brethren but instead may actually subvert them by creating a loud democracy on their doorstep.

In general,according to Ajami, the pathologies of today’s Middle East originate with the mostly Sunni autocracies that threaten, cajole, and flatter Western governments even as they exploit terrorists to deflect popular discontent away from their own failures onto the United States and Israel. Precisely because we have ushered in a long-overdue correction that threatens not only the old order of Saddam’s clique but surrounding governments from Jordan to Saudi Arabia, we can expect more violence in Iraq.

What then to do? Ajami counsels us to ignore the cries of victimhood from yesterday’s victimizers, always to keep in mind the ghosts of Saddam’s genocidal regime, to be sensitive to the loss of native pride entailed in accepting our “foreigner’s gift,” and to let the Iraqis follow their own path as we eventually recede into the shadows. Along with this advice, he offers a series of first-hand portraits, often brilliantly subtle, of some fascinating players in contemporary Iraq. His meeting in Najaf with Ali al-Sistani discloses a Gandhi-like figure who urges: “Do everything you can to bring our Sunni Arab brothers into the fold.” General David Petraeus, the man charged with rebuilding Iraq’s security forces, lives up to his reputation as part diplomat, part drillmaster, and part sage as he conducts Ajami on one of his dangerous tours of the city of Mosul. On a C-130 transport plane, Ajami is so impressed by the bookish earnestness of a nineteen-year-old American soldier that he hands over his personal copy of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American (“I had always loved a passage in it about American innocence roaming the world like a leper without a bell, meaning no harm”).

There are plenty of tragic stories in this book. Ajami recounts the bleak genesis of the Baath party in Iraq and Syria, the brainchild of Sorbonne-educated intellectuals like Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din Bitar who thought they might unite the old tribal orders under some radical antiWestern secular doctrine. Other satellite figures include Taleb Shabib, a Shiite Baathist who, like legions of other Arab intellectuals, drifted from Communism, Baathism, and panArabism into oblivion, his hopes for a Western-style solution dashed by dictatorship, theocracy, or both. Ajami bumps into dozens of these sorry men, whose fate has been to end up murdered or exiled by the very people they once sought to champion. There are much worse types in Ajami’s gallery. He provides a vividly repugnant glimpse of the awful alGhamdi tribe of Saudi Arabia. One of their number, Ahmad, crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11; another, Hamza, helped to take down Flight 93. A second Ahmad was the suicide bomber who in December 2004 blew up eighteen Americans in Mosul. And then there is Sheik Yusuf alQaradawi, the native Egyptian and resident of Qatar who in August 2004 issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill American civilians in Iraq. Why not kill them in Westernized Qatar, where they were far more plentiful? Perhaps because they were profitable to, and protected by, the same government that protected Qaradawi himself. Apparently, like virtue, evil too needs to be buttressed by hypocrisy.

The Foreigner’s Gift is not an organized work of analysis, its arguments leading in logical progression to a solidly reasoned conclusion. Instead, it is a series of highly readable vignettes drawn from Ajami’s serial travels and reflections. Which is hardly to say that it lacks a point, or that its point is uncontroversial—far from it. Critics will surely cite Ajami’s own Shiite background as the catalyst for his professed confidence in the emergence of Iraq’s Shiites as the stewards of Iraqi democracy. But any such suggestion of a hidden agenda, or alternatively of naiveté, would be very wide of the mark. What most characterizes Ajami is not his religious faith (if he has any in the traditional sense) but his unequalled appreciation of historical irony—the irony entailed, for example, in the fact that by taking out the single figure of Saddam Hussein we unleashed an unforeseen moral reckoning among the Arabs at large; the irony that the very vehemence of Iraq’s insurgency may in the end undo and humiliate it on its own turf, and might already have begun to do so; the irony that Shiite Iran may rue the day when its Shiite cousins in Iraq were freed by the Americans. When it comes to ironies, Ajami is clearly bemused that an American oilman, himself the son of a President who in 1991 called for the Iraqi Shiites to rise up and overthrow a wounded Saddam Hussein, only to stand by as they were slaughtered, should have been brought to exclaim in September 2003: “Iraq as a dictatorship had great power to destabilize the Middle East. Iraq as a democracy will have great power to inspire the Middle East.” Ajami himself is not yet prepared to say that Iraq will do so—only that, with our help, it just might. He needs to be listened to very closely.

The Clash
Fouad Ajami
The New York Times
January 6, 2008

It would have been unlike Samuel P. Huntington to say “I told you so” after 9/11. He is too austere and serious a man, with a legendary career as arguably the most influential and original political scientist of the last half century — always swimming against the current of prevailing opinion.

In the 1990s, first in an article in the magazine Foreign Affairs, then in a book published in 1996 under the title “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” he had come forth with a thesis that ran counter to the zeitgeist of the era and its euphoria about globalization and a “borderless” world. After the cold war, he wrote, there would be a “clash of civilizations.” Soil and blood and cultural loyalties would claim, and define, the world of states.

Huntington’s cartography was drawn with a sharp pencil. It was “The West and the Rest”: the West standing alone, and eight civilizations dividing the rest — Latin American, African, Islamic, Sinic, Hindu, Orthodox, Buddhist and Japanese. And in this post-cold-war world, Islamic civilization would re-emerge as a nemesis to the West. Huntington put the matter in stark terms: “The relations between Islam and Christianity, both Orthodox and Western, have often been stormy. Each has been the other’s Other. The 20th-century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity.”

Those 19 young Arabs who struck America on 9/11 were to give Huntington more of history’s compliance than he could ever have imagined. He had written of a “youth bulge” unsettling Muslim societies, and young Arabs and Muslims were now the shock-troops of a new radicalism. Their rise had overwhelmed the order in their homelands and had spilled into non-Muslim societies along the borders between Muslims and other peoples. Islam had grown assertive and belligerent; the ideologies of Westernization that had dominated the histories of Turkey, Iran and the Arab world, as well as South Asia, had faded; “indigenization” had become the order of the day in societies whose nationalisms once sought to emulate the ways of the West.

Rather than Westernizing their societies, Islamic lands had developed a powerful consensus in favor of Islamizing modernity. There was no “universal civilization,” Huntington had observed; this was only the pretense of what he called “Davos culture,” consisting of a thin layer of technocrats and academics and businessmen who gather annually at that watering hole of the global elite in Switzerland.

In Huntington’s unsparing view, culture is underpinned and defined by power. The West had once been pre-eminent and militarily dominant, and the first generation of third-world nationalists had sought to fashion their world in the image of the West. But Western dominion had cracked, Huntington said. Demography best told the story: where more than 40 percent of the world population was “under the political control” of Western civilization in the year 1900, that share had declined to about 15 percent in 1990, and is set to come down to 10 percent by the year 2025. Conversely, Islam’s share had risen from 4 percent in 1900 to 13 percent in 1990, and could be as high as 19 percent by 2025.

It is not pretty at the frontiers between societies with dwindling populations — Western Europe being one example, Russia another — and those with young people making claims on the world. Huntington saw this gathering storm. Those young people of the densely populated North African states who have been risking all for a journey across the Strait of Gibraltar walk right out of his pages.

Shortly after the appearance of the article that seeded the book, Foreign Affairs magazine called upon a group of writers to respond to Huntington’s thesis. I was assigned the lead critique. I wrote my response with appreciation, but I wagered on modernization, on the system the West had put in place. “The things and ways that the West took to ‘the rest,’” I wrote, “have become the ways of the world. The secular idea, the state system and the balance of power, pop culture jumping tariff walls and barriers, the state as an instrument of welfare, all these have been internalized in the remotest places. We have stirred up the very storms into which we now ride.” I had questioned Huntington’s suggestion that civilizations could be found “whole and intact, watertight under an eternal sky.” Furrows, I observed, run across civilizations, and the modernist consensus would hold in places like India, Egypt and Turkey.

Huntington had written that the Turks — rejecting Mecca, and rejected by Brussels — would head toward Tashkent, choosing a pan-Turkic world. My faith was invested in the official Westernizing creed of Kemalism that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had bequeathed his country. “What, however, if Turkey redefined itself?” Huntington asked. “At some point, Turkey could be ready to give up its frustrating and humiliating role as a beggar pleading for membership in the West and to resume its much more impressive and elevated historical role as the principal Islamic interlocutor and antagonist of the West.”

Nearly 15 years on, Huntington’s thesis about a civilizational clash seems more compelling to me than the critique I provided at that time. In recent years, for example, the edifice of Kemalism has come under assault, and Turkey has now elected an Islamist to the presidency in open defiance of the military-bureaucratic elite. There has come that “redefinition” that Huntington prophesied. To be sure, the verdict may not be quite as straightforward as he foresaw. The Islamists have prevailed, but their desired destination, or so they tell us, is still Brussels: in that European shelter, the Islamists shrewdly hope they can find protection against the power of the military.

“I’ll teach you differences,” Kent says to Lear’s servant. And Huntington had the integrity and the foresight to see the falseness of a borderless world, a world without differences. (He is one of two great intellectual figures who peered into the heart of things and were not taken in by globalism’s conceit, Bernard Lewis being the other.)

I still harbor doubts about whether the radical Islamists knocking at the gates of Europe, or assaulting it from within, are the bearers of a whole civilization. They flee the burning grounds of Islam, but carry the fire with them. They are “nowhere men,” children of the frontier between Islam and the West, belonging to neither. If anything, they are a testament to the failure of modern Islam to provide for its own and to hold the fidelities of the young.

More ominously perhaps, there ran through Huntington’s pages an anxiety about the will and the coherence of the West — openly stated at times, made by allusions throughout. The ramparts of the West are not carefully monitored and defended, Huntington feared. Islam will remain Islam, he worried, but it is “dubious” whether the West will remain true to itself and its mission. Clearly, commerce has not delivered us out of history’s passions, the World Wide Web has not cast aside blood and kin and faith. It is no fault of Samuel Huntington’s that we have not heeded his darker, and possibly truer, vision.

Fouad Ajami is a professor of Middle Eastern studies at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and the author, most recently, of “The Foreigner’s Gift.”

Samuel Huntington’s Warning
He predicted a ‘clash of civilizations,’ not the illusion of Davos Man.
Fouad Ajami
The WSJ
Dec. 30, 2008

The last of Samuel Huntington’s books — « Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity, » published four years ago — may have been his most passionate work. It was like that with the celebrated Harvard political scientist, who died last week at 81. He was a man of diffidence and reserve, yet he was always caught up in the political storms of recent decades.

« This book is shaped by my own identities as a patriot and a scholar, » he wrote. « As a patriot I am deeply concerned about the unity and strength of my country as a society based on liberty, equality, law and individual rights. » Huntington lived the life of his choice, neither seeking controversies, nor ducking them. « Who Are We? » had the signature of this great scholar — the bold, sweeping assertions sustained by exacting details, and the engagement with the issues of the time.

He wrote in that book of the « American Creed, » and of its erosion among the elites. Its key elements — the English language, Christianity, religious commitment, English concepts of the rule of law, the responsibility of rulers, and the rights of individuals — he said are derived from the « distinct Anglo-Protestant culture of the founding settlers of America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. »

Critics who branded the book as a work of undisguised nativism missed an essential point. Huntington observed that his was an « argument for the importance of Anglo-Protestant culture, not for the importance of Anglo-Protestant people. » The success of this great republic, he said, had hitherto depended on the willingness of generations of Americans to honor the creed of the founding settlers and to shed their old affinities. But that willingness was being battered by globalization and multiculturalism, and by new waves of immigrants with no deep attachments to America’s national identity. « The Stars and Stripes were at half-mast, » he wrote in « Who Are We? », « and other flags flew higher on the flagpole of American identities. »

Three possible American futures beckoned, Huntington said: cosmopolitan, imperial and national. In the first, the world remakes America, and globalization and multiculturalism trump national identity. In the second, America remakes the world: Unchallenged by a rival superpower, America would attempt to reshape the world according to its values, taking to other shores its democratic norms and aspirations. In the third, America remains America: It resists the blandishments — and falseness — of cosmopolitanism, and reins in the imperial impulse.

Huntington made no secret of his own preference: an American nationalism « devoted to the preservation and enhancement of those qualities that have defined America since its founding. » His stark sense of realism had no patience for the globalism of the Clinton era. The culture of « Davos Man » — named for the watering hole of the global elite — was disconnected from the call of home and hearth and national soil.

But he looked with a skeptical eye on the American expedition to Iraq, uneasy with those American conservatives who had come to believe in an « imperial » American mission. He foresaw frustration for this drive to democratize other lands. The American people would not sustain this project, he observed, and there was the « paradox of democracy »: Democratic experiments often bring in their wake nationalistic populist movements (Latin America) or fundamentalist movements (Muslim countries). The world tempts power, and denies it. It is the Huntingtonian world; no false hopes and no redemption.

In the 1990s, when the Davos crowd and other believers in a borderless world reigned supreme, Huntington crossed over from the academy into global renown, with his « clash of civilizations » thesis. In an article first published in Foreign Affairs in 1993 (then expanded into a book), Huntington foresaw the shape of the post-Cold War world. The war of ideologies would yield to a civilizational struggle of soil and blood. It would be the West versus the eight civilizations dividing the rest — Latin American, African, Islamic, Sinic, Hindu, Orthodox, Buddhist and Japanese.

In this civilizational struggle, Islam would emerge as the principal challenge to the West. « The relations between Islam and Christianity, both orthodox and Western, have often been stormy. Each has been the other’s Other. The 20th-century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity. »

He had assaulted the zeitgeist of the era. The world took notice, and his book was translated into 39 languages. Critics insisted that men want Sony, not soil. But on 9/11, young Arabs — 19 of them — would weigh in. They punctured the illusions of an era, and gave evidence of the truth of Huntington’s vision. With his typical precision, he had written of a « youth bulge » unsettling Muslim societies, and young, radicalized Arabs, unhinged by modernity and unable to master it, emerging as the children of this radical age.

If I may be permitted a personal narrative: In 1993, I had written the lead critique in Foreign Affairs of his thesis. I admired his work but was unconvinced. My faith was invested in the order of states that the West itself built. The ways of the West had become the ways of the world, I argued, and the modernist consensus would hold in key Third-World countries like Egypt, India and Turkey. Fifteen years later, I was given a chance in the pages of The New York Times Book Review to acknowledge that I had erred and that Huntington had been correct all along.

A gracious letter came to me from Nancy Arkelyan Huntington, his wife of 51 years (her Armenian descent an irony lost on those who dubbed him a defender of nativism). He was in ill-health, suffering the aftermath of a small stroke. They were spending the winter at their summer house on Martha’s Vineyard. She had read him my essay as he lay in bed. He was pleased with it: « He will be writing you himself shortly. » Of course, he did not write, and knowing of his frail state I did not expect him to do so. He had been a source of great wisdom, an exemplar, and it had been an honor to write of him, and to know him in the regrettably small way I did.

We don’t have his likes in the academy today. Political science, the field he devoted his working life to, has been in the main commandeered by a new generation. They are « rational choice » people who work with models and numbers and write arid, impenetrable jargon.

More importantly, nowadays in the academy and beyond, the patriotism that marked Samuel Huntington’s life and work is derided, and the American Creed he upheld is thought to be the ideology of rubes and simpletons, the affliction of people clinging to old ways. The Davos men have perhaps won. No wonder the sorrow and the concern that ran through the work of Huntington’s final years.

Mr. Ajami is professor of Middle East Studies at The Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies. He is also an adjunct research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Robert Gates Is Right About Iraq
Fouad Ajami
The New Republic
June 3, 2011

The U.S. war in Iraq has just been given an unexpected seal of approval. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in what he billed as his “last major policy speech in Washington,” has owned up to the gains in Iraq, to the surprise that Iraq has emerged as “the most advanced Arab democracy in the region.” It was messy, this Iraqi democratic experience, but Iraqis “weren’t in the streets shooting each other, the government wasn’t in the streets shooting its people,” Gates observed. The Americans and the Iraqis had not labored in vain; the upheaval of the Arab Spring has only underlined that a decent polity had emerged in the heart of the Arab world.

Robert Gates has not always been a friend of the Iraq war. He was a member in good standing, it should be recalled, of the Iraq Study Group, a panel of sages and foreign policy luminaries, co-chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, who had taken a jaundiced view of the entire undertaking in Iraq. Their report endorsed a staged retreat from the Iraq war and an accommodation with Syria and Iran. When Gates later joined the cabinet of George W. Bush, after the “thumping” meted out to the Republicans in the congressional elections of 2006, his appointment was taken as a sharp break with the legacy of his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld. It was an open secret that the outlook of the new taciturn man at the Department of Defense had no place in it for the spread of democracy in Arab lands. Over a long career, Secretary Gates had shared the philosophical approach of Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, peers of his and foreign policy “realists” who took the world as it is. They had styled themselves as unillusioned men who had thought that the Iraq war, and George W. Bush’s entire diplomacy of freedom, were projects of folly—romantic, self deluding undertakings in the Arab world.

To the extent that these men thought of the Greater Middle East, they entered it through the gateway of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. The key to the American security dilemma in the region, they maintained, was an Arab-Israeli settlement that would drain the swamps of anti-Americanism and reconcile the Arab “moderates” to the Pax Americana. This was a central plank of the Iraq Study Group—the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian issue to the peace of the region, and to the American position in the lands of Islam.

Nor had Robert Gates made much of a secret of his reading of Iran. He and Zbigniew Brzezinski had been advocates of “engaging” the regime in Tehran—this was part of the creed of the “realists.” It was thus remarkable that, in his last policy speech, Gates acknowledged a potentially big payoff of the American labor in Iraq: a residual U.S. military presence in that country as a way of monitoring the Iranian regime next door.

Is Gates right about both the progress in Iraq and the U.S. future in the country? In short, yes. The Iraqis needn’t trumpet the obvious fact in broad daylight, but the balance of power in the Persian Gulf would be altered for the better by a security arrangement between the United States and the government in Baghdad. The Sadrists have already labeled a potential accord with the Americans as a deal with the devil, but the Sadrists have no veto over the big national decisions in Baghdad. If the past is any guide, Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki has fought and won a major battle with the Sadrists; he crushed them on the battlefield but made room for them in his coalition government, giving them access to spoils and patronage, but on his terms.

Democracy, it turns out, has its saving graces: Nuri Al Maliki need not shoulder alone the burden of sustaining a security accord with the Americans. He has already made it known that the decision to keep American forces in Iraq would depend on the approval of the major political blocs in the country, and that the Sadrists would have no choice but to accept the majority’s decision. The Sadrists would be left with the dubious honor of “resistance” to the Americans—but they would hold onto the privileges granted them by their access to state treasury and resources. Muqtada Al Sadr and the political functionaries around him know that life bereft of government patronage and the oil income of a centralized state is a journey into the wilderness.

There remains, of course, the pledge given by presidential candidate Barack Obama that a President Obama would liquidate the American military role in Iraq by the end of 2011. That pledge was one of the defining themes of his bid for the presidency, and it endeared him to the “progressives” within his own party, who had been so agitated and mobilized against the Iraq war. But Barack Obama is now the standard-bearer of America’s power. He has broken with the “progressives” over Afghanistan, the use of drones in Pakistan, Guantánamo, military tribunals, and a whole host of national security policies that have (nearly) blurred the line between his policies and those of his predecessor. The left has grumbled, but, in the main, it has bowed to political necessity. At any rate, the fury on the left that once surrounded the Iraq war has been spent; a residual American presence in Iraq would fly under the radar of the purists within the ranks of the Democratic Party. They will be under no obligation to give it their blessing. That burden would instead be left to the centrists—and to the Republicans.

It is perhaps safe to assume that Robert Gates is carrying water for the Obama administration—an outgoing official putting out some necessary if slightly unpalatable political truths. Gates is an intensely disciplined man; he has not been a free-lancer, but instead has forged a tight personal and political relationship with President Obama. His swan song in Washington is most likely his gift to those left with maintaining and defending the American position in Iraq and in the Persian Gulf.

It is a peculiarity of the American-Iraq relationship that it could yet be nurtured and upheld without fanfare or poetry. The Iraqis could make room for that residual American presence while still maintaining the fiction of their political purity and sovereignty. For their part, American officials could be discreet and measured; they needn’t heap praise on Iraq nor take back what they had once said about the war—and its costs and follies. Iraq’s neighbors would of course know what would come to pass. In Tehran, and in Arab capitals that once worried about an American security relationship with a Shia-led government in Baghdad, powers would have to make room for this American-Iraqi relationship. The Iranians in particular will know that their long border with Iraq is, for all practical purposes, a military frontier with American forces. It will be no consolation for them that this new reality so close to them is the work of their Shia kinsmen, who come to unexpected power in Baghdad.

The enemy will have a say on how things will play out for American forces in Iraq. Iran and its Iraqi proxies can be expected to do all they can to make the American presence as bloody and costly as possible. A long, leaky border separates Iran from Iraq; movement across it is quite easy for Iranian agents and saboteurs. They can come in as “pilgrims,” and there might be shades of Lebanon in the 1980s, big deeds of terror that target the American forces. The Iraqi government will be called upon to do a decent job of tracking and hunting down saboteurs and terrorists, as this kind of intelligence is not a task for American soldiers. This will take will and political courage on the part of Iraq’s rulers. They will have to speak well of the Americans and own up to the role that American forces are playing in the protection and defense of Iraq. They can’t wink at anti-Americanism or give it succor.

Even in the best of worlds, an American residual presence in Iraq will have its costs and heartbreak. But the United States will have to be prepared for and accept the losses and adversity that are an integral part of staying on, rightly, in so tangled and difficult a setting.

Fouad Ajami teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He is also a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The Men Who Sealed Iraq’s Fate
Fouad Ajami
The Wall Street Journal
June 15, 2014

Two men bear direct responsibility for the mayhem engulfing Iraq: Barack Obama and Nouri al-Maliki. The U.S. president and Iraqi prime minister stood shoulder to shoulder in a White House ceremony in December 2011 proclaiming victory. Mr. Obama was fulfilling a campaign pledge to end the Iraq war. There was a utopian tone to his pronouncement, suggesting that the conflicts that had been endemic to that region would be brought to an end. As for Mr. Maliki, there was the heady satisfaction, in his estimation, that Iraq would be sovereign and intact under his dominion.

In truth, Iraq’s new Shiite prime minister was trading American tutelage for Iranian hegemony. Thus the claim that Iraq was a fully sovereign country was an idle boast. Around the Maliki regime swirled mightier, more sinister players. In addition to Iran’s penetration of Iraqi strategic and political life, there was Baghdad’s unholy alliance with the brutal Assad regime in Syria, whose members belong to an Alawite Shiite sect and were taking on a largely Sunni rebellion. If Bashar Assad were to fall, Mr. Maliki feared, the Sunnis of Iraq would rise up next.

Now, even as Assad clings to power in Damascus, Iraq’s Sunnis have risen up and joined forces with the murderous, al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which controls much of northern Syria and the Iraqi cities of Fallujah, Mosul and Tikrit. ISIS marauders are now marching on the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, and Baghdad itself has become a target.

In a dire sectarian development on Friday, Iraq’s leading Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on his followers to take up arms against ISIS and other Sunni insurgents in defense of the Baghdad government. This is no ordinary cleric playing with fire. For a decade, Ayatollah Sistani stayed on the side of order and social peace. Indeed, at the height of Iraq’s sectarian troubles in 2006-07, President George W. Bush gave the ayatollah credit for keeping the lid on that volcano. Now even that barrier to sectarian violence has been lifted.

This sad state of affairs was in no way preordained. In December 2011, Mr. Obama stood with Mr. Maliki and boasted that « in the coming years, it’s estimated that Iraq’s economy will grow even faster than China’s or India’s. » But the negligence of these two men—most notably in their failure to successfully negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement that would have maintained an adequate U.S. military presence in Iraq—has resulted in the current descent into sectarian civil war.

There was, not so long ago, a way for Mr. Maliki to avoid all this: the creation of a genuine political coalition, making good on his promise that the Kurds in the north and the Sunnis throughout the country would be full partners in the Baghdad government. Instead, the Shiite prime minister set out to subjugate the Sunnis and to marginalize the Kurds. There was, from the start, no chance that this would succeed. For their part, the Sunni Arabs of Iraq were possessed of a sense of political mastery of their own. After all, this was a community that had ruled Baghdad for a millennium. Why should a community that had known such great power accept sudden marginality?

As for the Kurds, they had conquered a history of defeat and persecution and built a political enterprise of their own—a viable military institution, a thriving economy and a sense of genuine national pride. The Kurds were willing to accept the federalism promised them in the New Iraq. But that promise rested, above all else, on the willingness on the part of Baghdad to honor a revenue-sharing system that had decreed a fair allocation of the country’s oil income. This, Baghdad would not do. The Kurds were made to feel like beggars at the Maliki table.

Sadly, the Obama administration accepted this false federalism and its façade. Instead of aiding the cause of a reasonable Kurdistan, the administration sided with Baghdad at every turn. In the oil game involving Baghdad, Irbil, the Turks and the international oil companies, the Obama White House and State Department could always be found standing with the Maliki government.

With ISIS now reigning triumphant in Fallujah, in the oil-refinery town of Baiji, and, catastrophically, in Mosul, the Obama administration cannot plead innocence. Mosul is particularly explosive. It sits astride the world between Syria and Iraq and is economically and culturally intertwined with the Syrian territories. This has always been Mosul’s reality. There was no chance that a war would rage on either side of Mosul without it spreading next door. The Obama administration’s vanishing « red lines » and utter abdication in Syria were bound to compound Iraq’s troubles.

Grant Mr. Maliki the harvest of his sectarian bigotry. He has ridden that sectarianism to nearly a decade in power. Mr. Obama’s follies are of a different kind. They’re sins born of ignorance. He was eager to give up the gains the U.S. military and the Bush administration had secured in Iraq. Nor did he possess the generosity of spirit to give his predecessors the credit they deserved for what they had done in that treacherous landscape.

As he headed for the exits in December 2011, Mr. Obama described Mr. Maliki as « the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq. » One suspects that Mr. Obama knew better. The Iraqi prime minister had already shown marked authoritarian tendencies, and there were many anxieties about him among the Sunnis and Kurds. Those communities knew their man, while Mr. Obama chose to look the other way.

Today, with his unwillingness to use U.S. military force to save Syrian children or even to pull Iraq back from the brink of civil war, the erstwhile leader of the Free World is choosing, yet again, to look the other way.

Mr. Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, is the author, most recently, of « The Syrian Rebellion » (Hoover Press, 2012).

Voir aussi:

Fouad Ajami on America and the Arabs
Excerpts from the Middle Eastern scholar’s work in the Journal over nearly 30 years.
The Wall Street Journal

June 22, 2014

Editor’s note: Fouad Ajami, the Middle Eastern scholar and a contributor to these pages for 27 years, died Sunday at age 68. Excerpts from his writing in the Journal are below, and a related editorial appears nearby:

« A Tangled History, » a review of Bernard Lewis’s book, « Islam and the West, » June 24, 1993:

The book’s most engaging essay is a passionate defense of Orientalism that foreshadows today’s debate about multiculturalism and the study of non-Western history. Mr. Lewis takes on the trendy new cult led by Palestinian-American Edward Said, whose many followers advocate a radical form of Arab nationalism and deride traditional scholarship of the Arab world as a cover for Western hegemony. The history of that world, these critics insist, must be reclaimed and written from within. With Mr. Lewis’s rebuttal the debate is joined, as a great historian defends the meaning of scholarship and takes on those who would bully its practitioners in pursuit of some partisan truths.

 » Barak’s Gamble, » May 25, 2000:

It was bound to end this way: One day Israel was destined to vacate the strip of Lebanon it had occupied when it swept into that country in the summer of 1982. Liberal societies are not good at the kind of work military occupation entails.

« Show Trial: Egypt: The Next Rogue Regime? » May 30, 2001:

If there is a foreign land where U.S. power and influence should be felt, Egypt should be reckoned a reasonable bet. A quarter century of American solicitude and American treasure have been invested in the Egyptian regime. Here was a place in the Arab world—humane and tempered—where Pax Americana had decent expectations: support for Arab-Israeli peace, a modicum of civility at home.

It has not worked out that way: The regime of Hosni Mubarak has been a runaway ally. In the latest display of that ruler’s heavy handedness, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a prominent Egyptian-American sociologist, has recently been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment on charges of defaming the state. It was a summary judgment, and a farce: The State Security Court took a mere 90 minutes to deliberate over the case.

« Arabs Have Nobody to Blame But Themselves, » Oct. 16, 2001:

A darkness, a long winter, has descended on the Arabs. Nothing grows in the middle between an authoritarian political order and populations given to perennial flings with dictators, abandoned to their most malignant hatreds. Something is amiss in an Arab world that besieges American embassies for visas and at the same time celebrates America’s calamities. Something has gone terribly wrong in a world where young men strap themselves with explosives, only to be hailed as « martyrs » and avengers.

« Beirut, Baghdad, » Aug. 25, 2003:

A battle broader than the country itself, then, plays out in Iraq. We needn’t apologize to the other Arabs about our presence there, and our aims for it. The custodians of Arab power, and the vast majority of the Arab political class, never saw or named the terrible cruelties of Saddam. A political culture that averts its gaze from mass graves and works itself into self-righteous hysteria over a foreign presence in an Arab country is a culture that has turned its back on political reason.
Opinion Video

Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot pays tribute to Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami. Photo credit: hoover.org

Yet this summer has tested the resolve of those of us who supported the war, and saw in it a chance to give Iraq and its neighbors a shot at political reform. There was a leap of faith, it must be conceded, in the argument that a land as brutalized as Iraq would manage to find its way out of its cruel past and, in the process, give other Arabs proof that a modicum of liberty could flourish in their midst.

« The Curse of Pan-Arabia, » May 12, 2004:

Consider a tale of three cities: In Fallujah, there are the beginnings of wisdom, a recognition, after the bravado, that the insurgents cannot win in the face of a great military power. In Najaf, the clerical establishment and the shopkeepers have called on the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr to quit their city, and to « pursue another way. » It is in Washington where the lines are breaking, and where the faith in the gains that coalition soldiers have secured in Iraq at such a terrible price appears to have cracked. We have been doing Iraq by improvisation, we are now « dumping stock, » just as our fortunes in that hard land may be taking a turn for the better. We pledged to give Iraqis a chance at a new political life. We now appear to be consigning them yet again to the same Arab malignancies that drove us to Iraq in the first place.

 » Bush of Arabia, » Jan. 8, 2008:

Suffice it for them that George W. Bush was at the helm of the dominant imperial power when the world of Islam and of the Arabs was in the wind, played upon by ruinous temptations, and when the regimes in the saddle were ducking for cover, and the broad middle classes in the Arab world were in the grip of historical denial of what their radical children had wrought. His was the gift of moral and political clarity. . . .

We scoffed, in polite, jaded company when George W. Bush spoke of the « axis of evil » several years back. The people he now journeys amidst didn’t: It is precisely through those categories of good and evil that they describe their world, and their condition. Mr. Bush could not redeem the modern culture of the Arabs, and of Islam, but he held the line when it truly mattered. He gave them a chance to reclaim their world from zealots and enemies of order who would have otherwise run away with it.

 » Obama’s Afghan Struggle, » March 20, 2009:

[President Obama] can’t build on the Iraq victory, because he has never really embraced it. The occasional statement that we can win over the reconcilables and the tribes in Afghanistan the way we did in the Anbar is lame and unconvincing. The Anbar turned only when the Sunni insurgents had grown convinced that the Americans were there to stay, and that the alternative to accommodation with the Americans, and with the Baghdad government, is a sure and widespread Sunni defeat. The Taliban are nowhere near this reckoning. If anything, the uncertain mood in Washington counsels patience on their part, with the promise of waiting out the American presence.

« Pax Americana and the New Iraq, » Oct. 6, 2010:

The question posed in the phase to come will be about the willingness of Pax Americana to craft a workable order in the Persian Gulf, and to make room for this new Iraq. It is a peculiarity of the American presence in the Arab-Islamic world, as contrasted to our work in East Asia, that we have always harbored deep reservations about democracy’s viability there and have cast our lot with the autocracies. For a fleeting moment, George W. Bush broke with that history. But that older history, the resigned acceptance of autocracies, is the order of the day in Washington again.

It isn’t perfect, this Iraqi polity midwifed by American power. But were we to acknowledge and accept that Iraqis and Americans have prevailed in that difficult land, in the face of such forbidding odds, we and the Iraqis shall be better for it. We have not labored in vain.

Voir enfin:

MARCH/APRIL 2013
Enough Said: The False Scholarship of Edward Said

Joshua Muravchik

Columbia University’s English Department may seem a surprising place from which to move the world, but this is what Professor Edward Said accomplished. He not only transformed the West’s perception of the Israel-Arab conflict, he also led the way toward a new, post-socialist life for leftism in which the proletariat was replaced by “people of color” as the redeemers of humankind. During the ten years that have passed since his death there have been no signs that his extraordinary influence is diminishing.

According to a 2005 search on the utility “Syllabus finder,” Said’s books were assigned as reading in eight hundred and sixty-eight courses in American colleges and universities (counting only courses whose syllabi were available online). These ranged across literary criticism, politics, anthropology, Middle East studies, and other disciplines including postcolonial studies, a field widely credited with having grown out of Said’s work. More than forty books have been published about him, including even a few critical ones, but mostly adulatory, such as The Cambridge Introduction to Edward Said, published seven years after his death of leukemia in 2003. Georgetown University, UCLA, and other schools offer courses about him. A 2001 review for the Guardian called him “arguably the most influential intellectual of our time.”

The book that made Edward Said famous was Orientalism, published in 1978 when he was forty-three. Said’s objective was to expose the worm at the core of Western civilization, namely, its inability to define itself except over and against an imagined “other.” That “other” was the Oriental, a figure “to be feared . . . or to be controlled.” Ergo, Said claimed that “every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was . . . a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.” Elsewhere in the text he made clear that what was true for Europeans held equally for Americans.

This echoed a theme of 1960s radicalism that was forged in the movements against Jim Crow and against America’s war in Vietnam, namely that the Caucasian race was the scourge of humanity. Rather than shout this accusation from a soapbox, as others had done, Said delivered it in tones that awed readers with erudition. The names of abstruse contemporary theoreticians and obscure bygone academicians rolled off pages strewn with words that sent readers scurrying to their dictionaries. Never mind that some of these words could not be found in dictionaries (“paradeutic”) or that some were misused (“eschatological” where “scatological” was the intended meaning); never mind that some of the citations were pretentious (“the names of Levi-Strauss, Gramsci, and Michel Foucault drop with a dull thud,” commented historian J. H. Plumb, reviewing the book for the New York Times”)—never mind any of this, the important point that evoked frissons of pleasure and excitement was that here was a “person of color” delivering a withering condemnation of the white man and, so to speak, beating him at his own game of intellectual elegance.

In truth, Said was an unlikely symbol of the wretched of the earth. His father, who called himself William, had emigrated from Jerusalem (a place he hated, according to Edward) to America in 1911, served in World War I, and become a US citizen. Reluctantly yielding to family pressures, he returned to the Middle East in the 1920s and settled in Cairo, where he made his fortune in business and married an Egyptian woman. Edward, their eldest after a first-born had perished in infancy, was told he was named after the Prince of Wales. He and his four sisters were reared in the Protestant church and in relative opulence, with a box at the opera, membership in country clubs, and piano lessons. They were educated at British and American primary and secondary schools in Cairo until Edward was sent to an elite New England prep school at fifteen, then to Princeton. After graduate studies at Harvard, he began to teach literary criticism, rising to the award of an endowed chair at Columbia by the time he was forty and later to the rank of university professor, Columbia’s highest faculty title.

A year after Orientalism sent his personal stock soaring, Said published The Question of Palestine. Fifteen years earlier, the Palestine Liberation Organization had been founded in the effort to consecrate a distinctive Palestinian identity, and the announcement of that identity to the world had mostly taken the form of spectacular acts of terror whose purpose was in large measure to draw attention to Palestinian grievances. Now, Columbia University’s Parr Professor of English and Comparative Literature gave the Palestinian cause a dramatically different face.

He brought authenticity to this task because of his origins and authority because of his membership in the Palestinian National Council, the nominal governing body of the PLO. Assuring his readers that the PLO had, since its bombings and hijackings in the early 1970s, “avoided and condemned terror,” presenting PLO leader Yasir Arafat as “a much misunderstood and maligned political personality,” and asserting his own belief in a Palestinian state alongside—rather than in place of—Israel, Said argued in behalf of “a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.” This was so compelling as to sweep up New York Times reviewer Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, who wrote: “So logically and eloquently does Professor Said make [his] case, that one momentarily forgets the many countervailing arguments posed by the Israelis.”

These two books—Orientalism and The Question of Palestine—each of which was followed by various sequels and elaborations, established the twin pillars of Said’s career as the avenging voice of the Palestinians against Israel, and more broadly of the Arabs, Muslims, and other “Orientals” against the West as a whole.

Said rolled American racism and European colonialism into one mélange of white oppression of darker-skinned peoples. He was not the only thinker to have forged this amalgam, but his unique further contribution was to represent “Orientals” as the epitome of the dark-skinned; Muslims as the modal Orientals; Arabs as the essential Muslims; and, finally, Palestinians as the ultimate Arabs. Abracadabra—Israel was transformed from a redemptive refuge from two thousand years of persecution to the very embodiment of white supremacy.

There was one final step in this progression: Edward Said as the emblematic Palestinian. From the time he came into the public eye, Said presented himself as an “exile” who had been born and raised in Jerusalem until forced from there at age twelve by the Jews. A sympathetic writer in the Guardian put it: “His evocation of his own experience of exile has led many of his readers in the west to see him as the embodiment of the Palestinian tragedy.” Indeed, he wrote and narrated a 1998 BBC documentary, In Search of Palestine, which presented his personal story as a microcosm of this ongoing Nakba (or catastrophe, as Palestinians call the birth of Israel).

But in September 1999, Commentary published an investigative article by Justus Reid Weiner presenting evidence that Said had largely falsified his background. A trove of documents showed that until he moved to the United States to attend prep school in 1951, Said had resided his entire life in Cairo, not Palestine. A few months later, Said published his autobiography, which confirmed this charge without acknowledging or making any attempt to explain the earlier contrary claims that he had made in discussing his background.

In reaction to the exposé, Said and several of his supporters unleashed a ferocious assault on Weiner. Said sneered that “because he is relatively unknown, Weiner tries to make a name for himself by attacking a better known person’s reputation.” And eleven ideological soul mates of Said’s, styling themselves “The Arab-Jewish Peace Group,” co-signed a letter to the editor that likened Weiner’s article to “deny[ing] the Holocaust.”

Much of the debate between Weiner and Said revolved around the house in which Said was born and that viewers of his BBC documentary were given to understand was the home where he had grown up. Weiner showed from tax and land registry documents that the house never belonged to Said’s father but rather to his aunt. In his rebuttal, Said had written somewhat implausibly: “The family house was indeed a family house in the Arab sense,” meaning that in the eyes of the extended family it belonged to them all even if the official records showed it to be the property only of Edward’s aunt and her offspring.

Said’s cynical modus operandi was to stop short, where possible, of telling an outright lie while deliberately leaving a false impression. Even so, he did not always avoid crossing the line or dancing so close to it that whether his words should be labeled a lie or merely a deception amounted to a difference without a distinction. “I have never claimed to have been made a refugee, but rather that my extended family . . . in fact was,” he wrote in response to Weiner. But what was a reader supposed to have inferred from his book, The Pen and the Sword, where he had spoken of his “recollections of . . . the first twelve or thirteen years of my life before I left Palestine?” Or from the article, in the London Review of Books, where he had written: “I was born in Jerusalem and spent most of my formative years there and, after 1948, when my entire family became refugees, in Egypt?”

It may be that Said, as he claimed, “scrupulously” recounted his life in his autobiography where at last the true facts of his education and residence emerge. But, as his critics continued to ask, does finally telling his story truthfully wipe away twenty years of lying about it? In the end, Said downplayed the matter. In a late interview with the New York Times he said: “I don’t think it’s that important, in any case. . . . I never have represented my case as the issue to be treated. I’ve represented the case of my people.”

What was important, however, was the light shed on Said’s disingenuous and misleading methods, becasue they also turn out to be the foundation of his scholarly work. The intellectual deceit was especially obvious in his most important book, Orientalism. Its central idea is that Western imperial conquest of Asia and North Africa was entwined with the study and depiction of the native societies, which inevitably entailed misrepresenting and denigrating them. Said explained: “Knowledge of subject races or Orientals is what makes their management easy and profitable; knowledge gives power, more power requires more knowledge, and so on in an increasingly profitable dialectic of information and control.”

The archetype of those who provided this knowledge was the “Orientalist,” a formal designation for those scholars, most of them Europeans, whose specialties were the languages, culture, history, and sociology of societies of the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. However, Said explained that he used the term even more broadly to indicate a “Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.”

Orientalism, he said, embodied “dogmas” that “exist . . . in their purest form today in studies of the Arabs and Islam.” He identified the four “principal” ones as these:

one is the absolute and systematic difference between the West, which is rational, developed, humane, superior, and the Orient, which is aberrant, undeveloped, inferior. Another dogma is that abstractions about the Orient . . . are always preferable to direct evidence drawn from modern Oriental realities. A third dogma is that the Orient is eternal, uniform, and incapable of defining itself . . . A fourth dogma is that the Orient is at bottom something either to be feared . . . or to be controlled.

Initial reviews of the book, often by specialists, were mixed, but it appeared at a time when “multiculturalism” was becoming the new dogma of the intellectual elites and took on a life of its own, eventually being translated into more than three dozen languages and becoming one of the most influential and widely assigned texts of the latter part of the twentieth century.

Critics pointed out a variety of errors in Orientalism, starting with bloopers that suggested Said’s grasp of Middle Eastern history was shaky. Said claimed that “Britain and France dominated the Eastern Mediterranean from about the end of the seventeenth century on,” whereas for another hundred years it was the Ottomans who ruled that area. He had written that the Muslim conquest of Turkey preceded that of North Africa, but in reality it followed by about four hundred years. And he had referred to British “colonial administrators” of Pakistan whereas Pakistan was formed in the wake of decolonization.

More serious still was his lack of scruple in the use of sources. Anthropologist Daniel Martin Varisco, who actually agreed with Said on many ideological issues, observed in his book Reading Orientalism that “one of Said’s rhetorical means for a polemical end is to partially . . . quote a phrase while judiciously neglecting words that would qualify and at times refute what the phrase alone might imply.” He offered as an example of this duplicitous method Said’s use of two quotes from the writings of Sania Hamady, an Arab-American who wrote critically of Arabs. The quotes put her in a bad light, but both times, says Varisco, they were taken from passages where Hamady is merely summarizing someone else’s view, not giving her own. In the same vein, John Rodenbeck, a professor of comparative literature at the American University of Cairo, found that Said’s “persistent misconstruction and misquotation of [the nineteenth century Orientalist Edward] Lane’s words are so clearly willful that they suggest . . . bad faith.”

Said’s misleading use of quotes shows the problem with his work in microcosm. On a broad view, Said fundamentally misrepresented his subject. In challenging Said’s first alleged “dogma” of Orientalism, which ascribes all virtue to the West and its opposite to the Orient, Varisco says that Said is describing “a stereotype that at the time of his writing would have been similarly rejected by the vast majority of those [Said] lumps together as Orientalists.” And the British writer Robert Irwin, whose book Dangerous Knowledge offers a thorough history of Orientalism and also a rebuttal of Said, notes that, historically, “there has been a marked tendency for Orientalists to be anti-imperialists, as their enthusiasm for Arab or Persian or Turkish culture often went hand in hand with a dislike of seeing those people defeated and dominated by the Italians, Russians, British, or French.” (Like Varisco, Irwin makes clear that he is no opponent of Said’s political position, but is offended by his travesty of scholarship.)

This is but a small instance of a large methodological problem that invalidates Said’s work entirely, namely, his selectivity with evidence. Said made clear that his indictment was aimed not at this or that individual but at “Orientalists” per se, which, as we have seen, was a category in which he included all Westerners who said anything about the Orient. Thus, he wrote, “all academic knowledge about India and Egypt is somehow tinged and impressed with, violated by, the gross political fact of empire.” And: “No one writing, thinking, or acting on the Orient could do so without taking account of the limitations on thought and action imposed by Orientalism.”

Why did Said choose to paint with such a broad brush? Because he knew that if he had asserted merely that some Westerners wrote pejoratively or condescendingly or misleadingly about the East while others did not, his argument would have lost much of its provocation. It would have demanded clarification about the relative numbers or influence of the two groups, about variations within the groups, about reciprocal attitudes among Easterners toward the West. Above all, it would have drawn the inevitable retort: so what? Was it news that some individuals favored their own societies over others?

The only way Said could make his generalized indictment seem plausible was to select whatever examples fit it and leave out the rest. When challenged on his omissions, Said replied with hauteur that he was under no obligation to include “every Orientalist who ever lived.” But of course the real issue was whether the ones he included made a representative sample (and whether he presented them faithfully).

These methodological failings were mostly lost in the dazzle. What made the book electrifying was that Said had found a new way to condemn the West for its most grievous sins: racism and the subjugation of others. With great originality, Said even extended the indictment through the millennia, a depiction that drew a protest from Sadiq al-Azm, a Syrian philosopher of Marxist bent (and one of that country’s most admired dissidents). Wrote Azm:

Said . . . trac[es] the origins of Orientalism all the way back to Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides, and Dante. In other words, Orientalism is not really a thoroughly modern phenomenon, but is the natural product of an ancient and almost irresistible European bent of mind to misrepresent other . . . cultures . . . in favor of Occidental self-affirmation, domination, and ascendency.

Azm may have thought this wrong, but it was heady stuff. If we are talking about a mentality that is continuous before and after Christ then we are talking less about European culture, which is in large measure defined by Christianity, than about the European race. Thus did Orientalism fit the temper of a time when it was widely asserted that all white people were inherently bigoted, and “encounter groups” met at campuses and workplaces so that whites could discover and confront their inner racist. And nowhere was the evidence of this white evil laid out in greater depth and seeming sophistication than in Said’s pages.

In this atmosphere, wrote the New York Times in its obituary for Said, “Orientalism established Dr. Said as a figure of enormous influence in American and European universities, a hero to many, especially younger faculty and graduate students on the left for whom that book became an intellectual credo and the founding document of what came to be called postcolonial studies.”

It was not only American leftists who seized on the book. The Guardian, in its own obituary, observed that:

Orientalism appeared at an opportune time, enabling upwardly mobile academics from non-western countries (many of whom came from families who had benefited from colonialism) to take advantage of the mood of political correctness it helped to engender by associating themselves with “narratives of oppression,” creating successful careers out of transmitting, interpreting and debating representations of the non-western “other.”

Orientalism, added the Guardian, “is credited with helping to change the direction of several disciplines,” a thought echoed by supporters and detractors alike. Admiringly, Stuart Schaar, a professor emeritus of Middle East history at Brooklyn College, wrote that “the academic community has been transformed and the field of literary criticism has been revolutionized as a result of his legacy.”

Without ever relinquishing his claim to personify a “glamour-garlanded ideal of ‘outsiderdom,’” as one disillusioned reviewer of a series of lectures Said delivered in London put it, Said and his disciples took power in academia, as reflected in the astonishing number of courses that assigned his books and the frequency with which they were cited. Varisco observed that “a generation of students across disciplines has grown up with limited challenges to the polemical charge by Said that scholars who study the Middle East and Islam still do so institutionally through an interpretive sieve that divides a superior West from an inferior East.” The new Saidian orthodoxy became so utterly dominant in the Middle East Studies Association, and so unfriendly to dissenting voices, that in 2007 Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami took the lead in forming an alternative professional organization, the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa.

Said was fond of invoking the mantra of “speaking truth to power.” This was an easy boast for someone who opted to live in America, or for that matter to live anywhere, and make a career of denouncing the West and Israel. But while a daring Promethean in the West, Said was more careful closer to native ground. Habib Malik, a historian at the Lebanese American University and a cousin of Said’s, recalls hearing him deliver a talk at the American University of Beirut: “On one occasion he blasted Saddam Hussein and a number of other Arab dictators but stopped short of mentioning [then Syrian dictator] Hafez Assad for obvious reasons: the Syrian mukhabarat [secret police] in Beirut would have picked him up right after the lecture!”

Said’s career, the deviousness and posturing and ineffable vanity of it, would have been mostly an academic matter if he had not been so successful in redefining Arabs and Muslims as the moral equivalent of blacks and in casting Israel as the racist white oppressor. Four years after the UN General Assembly had declared Zionism to be a form of racism, Said gave this same idea a highbrow reiteration. Israel did not give Arabs the same right of immigration as Jews, he said mockingly, because they are “‘less developed.’”

Decades after Orientalism was published, Said explained that Israel had been its covert target all along:

I don’t think I would have written that book had I not been politically associated with a struggle. The struggle of Arab and Palestinian nationalism is very important to that book. Orientalism is not meant to be an abstract account of some historical formation but rather a part of the liberation from such stereotypes and such domination of my own people, whether they are Arabs, Muslims, or Palestinians.

Said had not acknowledged such an agenda in the pages of Orientalism or at the time of its publication, although this ideological subtext could be discerned in his ferocity toward Bernard Lewis, who, observed Irwin, “was not really attacked by Said for being a bad scholar (which he is not), but for being a supporter of Zionism (which he is).” It was also implicit in the identity of those Said exempted from his generalization about Westerners. In the concluding pages of Orientalism, he allowed that a very few “decolonializing” voices could be heard in the West, and in a footnote he offered just two American examples, Noam Chomsky and MERIP, the Middle East Research and Information Project. Chomsky of course is not a Middle East expert or someone who writes often on the Middle East, but he had already carved out a place for himself as the leading Jewish voice of vituperation against Israel. MERIP, a New Left group formed to cheer Palestinian guerrillas and other Arab revolutionaries, was so single-minded in its devotion to this cause that it praised the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics for causing “a boost in morale among Palestinians” and “halt[ing]” moves “for a ‘settlement’ between Israel and the Arab regimes.”

Although Said’s assault on the Jewish state was thus initially camouflaged, it was devastatingly effective, as his stance on Arab/Israel questions came to dominate Middle East studies. The UCLA historian of the Middle East Nikki Keddie, whose sympathetic work on revolutionary Iran had won Said’s praise in his book Covering Islam, commented:

There has been a tendency in the Middle East field to adopt the word “Orientalism” as a generalized swear-word essentially referring to people who take the “wrong” position on the Arab-Israeli dispute or to people who are judged too “conservative.” It has nothing to do with whether they are good or not good in their disciplines.

His reputation made by the success of Orientalism, Said devoted much of the rest of his career to more direct advocacy of the Arab/Muslim/Palestinian cause, starting with the publication of The Question of Palestine in 1979, by which time he was already a member of the PLO’s top official body, the Palestinian National Council. The book was a full-throated polemic. The Jews were the aggressors; and the Palestinians their victims—on all counts and with little nuance. Even on the matter of terrorism, Said asserted, “There is nothing in Palestinian history, absolutely nothing at all to rival the record of Zionist terror.”

Said proclaimed himself “horrified” by the terrorist acts that “Palestinian men and women . . . were driven to do.” But all blame ultimately rested with Israel, which had “literally produced, manufactured . . . the ‘terrorist.’”

He wrote, with what even a New York Times reviewer called “stunning disingenuousness,” that “at least since the early seventies, the PLO had avoided and condemned terror.” These words appeared just one year after the organization’s bloodiest attack on Israeli civilians, the March 1978 “coastal road massacre,” in which thirty-eight civilians, thirteen of them children, were randomly gunned down, with scores of others injured—and not by any “renegade” faction but by the PLO’s mainstream group, Fatah. (Said himself was already a member of the PLO’s governing body when this “action” was carried out.)

Said worked hard to solidify the myth that for years Arafat had tried to make peace and been rebuffed: “On occasion after occasion the PLO stated its willingness to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza,” citing resolutions of the Palestinian National Council in 1974 and 1977. This was true, but these resolutions did not convey, as Said went on disingenuously to claim, “an implicit recognition of Israel.” Rather, they envisioned a strategy in which Palestinians would form a government in the West Bank and Gaza, in the event that international diplomacy afforded them this opportunity, not as a step toward peace but with the declared intent of using this territory as a base to fight on to “liberate” the rest of Palestine, i.e., Israel proper. As the PNC’s 1974 resolution stated: “The PLO will struggle against any plan for the establishment of a Palestinian entity the price of which is recognition [of Israel], conciliation, secure borders, and renunciation of the national rights of our people, its right to return, and self-determination on its national soil.”

In 1988, a decade after Said’s book appeared, the PLO did renounce terror and imply its willingness to acquiesce in Israel’s existence, albeit equivocally. These two pivotal concessions were clearly avowed only in the 1993 Oslo Accords. When Arafat finally took this indispensable step toward peace, one might have expected Said, who had been claiming that this had happened avant la lettre, to praise him. Instead, Said denounced his hero. Arafat, he complained, had “sold his people into enslavement,” and he called Oslo—in which Israel and the PLO recognized each other and pledged to hammer out a two-state settlement—an “instrument of Palestinian surrender.” Back in Arafat’s terrorist days, Said had seen him as “a man of genius” and said that “his people . . . loved him.” (Indeed, “Arafat and the Palestinian will . . . were in a sense interchangeable,” he once gushed.) But signing this agreement with Israel had, at a stroke, transformed Arafat, in Said’s eyes, into “a strutting dictator.” Arafat and his circle had become a bunch of “losers and has-beens” who “should step aside.”

Said himself adopted a new position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. No longer did he envision a two-state solution, as he had professed to do back when the idea was theoretical, since the main Palestinian organization (on whose board he sat) was not prepared to suffer the existence of Israel in any shape or form. Now, however, he sought instead “to devise a means where the two peoples can live together in one nation as equals.”

This was not a proposal to be taken seriously. In Israel, large numbers of Arabs did live freely but not in complete equality, a fact over which Said often protested. In the Arab states, many Jews had once lived but nearly all had been expelled. In other words, Said’s new formula was nothing more than a fancy way of opposing the only genuine possibility of peace.

This bitter ender’s position was, of course, phrased in terms chosen to sound idealistic. In that sense it was characteristic of Said’s oeuvre and of the movement of which he was such a critical part. Leftism is the stance of those who aspire to make the world a better place, according to their own view, through political action. For roughly a century its modal idea was Marxism, which identified the proletariat as the engine of redemption, a choice that resonated with the age-old Christian belief that the meek shall inherit the earth. As the twentieth century wore on, however, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela displaced Joe Hill, Mother Bloor, and Henry Wallace as objects of veneration. People of color and strugglers against colonial oppression stirred the hearts of idealists more than leaders of strikes and fighters for a fair day’s pay. Once, Zionism had tapped into that older leftism, seeing itself as a workers’ movement. But instead in the latter twentieth century—and in considerable part thanks to the impact of Edward Said—it became redefined as a movement of white people competing for land with people of color. This transformation meant that from then on the left would be aligned overwhelmingly and ardently against Israel.

Joshua Muravchik, a fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and a frequent contributor to World Affairs, is completing a book on the anti-Israel lobby, from which this article is adapted.

 

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Printemps arabe: La continuation du jihad par d’autres moyens? (The same jihadi intent only dormant)

6 février, 2012

Après  Damour, Chekka, Karantina, Tell al-Zaatar, Amman et Hama,… Damas? 

Alors que les commentateurs les plus lucides comme Victor Davis Hanson en sont à prier que l’accident industriel qui occupe depuis bientôt quatre ans la Maison Blanche n’ait pas fait trop de dégâts …

Et qu’avec  la réélection d’un président chrétien,  la démocratie jusqu’ici modèle du Nigéria est en train de révéler ses vraies couleurs …

Pendant qu’après avoir laissé massacrer sans compter la majorité sunnite de leur pays, les soutiens alaouïtes (une secte chiite) et chrétiens de la famille Assad  se préparent à subir,  à leur tour et dans l’indifférence générale, un chaque jour un peu plus probable nettoyage ethno-religieux …

Et qu’en attendant leur propre solution finale dû’ment programmée du côté de Téhéran, les habituels méchants israéliens plus au sud pourraient bien se révéler être –  l’Histoire a de ces ironies – la dernière planche  de salut de leurs ennemis syriens …

Retour, avec l’islamologue américain Raymond Ibrahim, sur l’étrange et potentiellement criminel aveuglement de l’Occident face au poker menteur à laquelle sont en train de se livrer sous nos yeux les tenants islamistes du prétendu « Printemps arabe » …

When Elections Fail, Jihad

Raymond Ibrahim

Jihad Watch

January 31, 2012

The Obama administration supports « democracy » and « self determination » in the Middle East — two euphemisms that, in the real world, refer to « mob-rule » and « Islamic radicalization, » respectively. Yet, as Jimmy Carter recently put it: « I don’t have any problem with that [an « Islamist victory » in Egypt], and the US government doesn’t have any problem with that either. We want the will of the Egyptian people to be expressed. »

Sounds fair enough. The problem, however, is that Muslim clerics openly and unequivocally characterize democracy and elections as tools to be discarded once they empower Sharia law. Thus Dr. Talat Zahran holds that it is « obligatory to cheat at elections — a beautiful thing »; and Sheikh Abdel Shahat insists that democracy is not merely forbidden in Islam, but kufr — a great and terrible sin — this even as he competed in Egypt’s elections.

The Obama administration can overlook such election-exploitation because the majority of Muslims are either indifferent or willing to go along with the gag — with only a minority (secularists, Copts, etc.) in Egypt actually objecting to how elections are being used to empower Sharia-enforcing Muslims.

But what if Muslims do not win elections? What if there are equal amounts of non-Muslims voting—and an « infidel » wins? What then? Then we get situations like Nigeria.

While many are aware that Boko Haram and other Islamic elements are waging jihad against the government of Nigeria, specifically targeting Christians, often overlooked is that the jihad was provoked into full-blown activity because a Christian won fair elections (Nigeria is about evenly split between Christians and Muslims).

According to Peter Run, writing back in April 2011,

The current wave of riots was triggered by the Independent National Election Commission’s (INEC) announcement on Monday [April 18, 2011] that the incumbent President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, won in the initial round of ballot counts. That there were riots in the largely Muslim inhabited northern states where the defeat of the Muslim candidate Muhammadu Buhari was intolerable, [but] was unsurprising. Northerners [Muslims] felt they were entitled to the presidency for the declared winner, President Jonathan, [who] assumed leadership after the Muslim president, Umaru Yar’Adua died in office last year and radical groups in the north [Boko Haram] had seen his ascent [Christian president] as a temporary matter to be corrected at this year’s election. Now they are angry despite experts and observers concurring that this is the fairest and most independent election in recent Nigerian history.

Note some key words: Muslims felt « entitled » to the presidency and seek to « correct » the fact that a Christian won elections — which they assumed « a temporary matter. »

Of course, had elections empowered a like-minded Muslim, the same jihadis would still be there, would still have the same savage intent for Christians and Westerners — Boko Haram means « Western education is forbidden. » But there would not be a fullblown jihad, and Obama would be singing praises to Nigerian democracy and elections, and the MSM would be boasting images of Nigerians with ink-stained fingers.

Yet the same jihadi intent would be there, only dormant. Like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — whose ultimate goal is « mastership of the world » — they would not need to expose themselves via jihad, and would be biding their time and consolidating their strength.

Now, back to the Egyptian clerics, specifically Sheikh Yassir al-Burhami — yet another leader in Egypt’s Salafi movement, who teaches that Muslims must preach peace when weak but wage war when strong. Discussing the chances of a fellow Salafi, Burhami asserts:

We say — regardless of the outcome of the elections — whether he [his colleague, the aforementioned al-Shahat] wins or loses, we will not permit an infidel [kafir] to be appointed to a post where he assumes authority over Muslims. This is forbidden. Allah said: « Never will Allah grant to infidels a way [to triumph] over the believers [Koran 4:141]. » We are not worried about losing elections or al-Shahat losing votes. We will not flatter or fawn to the people.

What will you and your associates do, Sheikh Burhami — wage jihad? Of course, that will not be necessary: unlike Nigeria, most of Egypt is Muslim; one way or another, « elections » will realize the Islamist agenda.

Thus, whether by word (al-Burhami) or deed (Boko Haram) those who seek to make Islam supreme prove that democracy and elections are acceptable only insofar as they enable Sharia. Conversely, if they lead to something that contradicts Sharia — for instance, by bringing a Christian infidel to power — then the perennial jihad resumes.

 Voir aussi:

The Perils of Obama’s Foreign Policy

Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

January 28, 2012

The mystery remaining about the Obama administration’s foreign policy is not whether it has worked, but whether its failures will matter all that much. That is no rhetorical question, given that it is hard to permanently damage, in just three years, the position abroad of the United States, given its vast military power and enormous economy.

The Obama administration’s policy was predicated on three assumptions. First, world tensions and widespread dislike of the United States were due to George Bush’s wars and his cowboyish style. Therefore, outreach and reset would correct the Bush mistakes — given that unrest did not really antedate, and would not postdate, the strutting Bush. The unique personal narrative and heritage of Obama and his tripartite name, of course, would earn America fides in inverse proportion to Bush’s twang and evangelical way of speaking about God.

Yet most problems really did transcend Bush, and so reset accomplished little. Hugo Chávez is more hostile to America than ever, whether symbolically by accusing the Obama administration of spreading cancer among Latin American leaders or concretely by entertaining Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There is no new warmth from Cuba or Nicaragua — as there never could have been from their Stalinist heads of state.

Putin has as much contempt for Obama as he did for Bush. Our policies remain the same: trying to encourage Russian reform without causing a war or neo-Soviet adventurism.

The decision to reach out to Assad with recognition and an embassy failed; Syria became more unhinged and violent, not less. The verdict is still out on the Arab Spring; the Obama administration stopped taking credit for it once the illiberal Muslim Brotherhood began its ascendance. The Palestinians are now talking of a third intifada, and they hope that, when the shooting starts, their new friend the United States will hector Israel in a way it did not under Bush.

Outreach to Iran was a disaster; the serial face-to-face talks and the quiet neglect of the Iranian dissidents did not work. Now we are reduced to the sort of catch-up sanctions that would have earned Bush the charge of warmongering from the Left. Unofficial US policy seems to be a silent hope that tiny Israel does the unthinkable that a huge United States would not, while Saudi Arabia expands its pipelines to nullify the value of the Strait of Hormuz in a way we are refusing to do at home with Keystone.

Obama likes Prime Minister Erdogan even more than he hates Prime Minister Netanyahu. But what he thinks the Israelis have done to the Palestinians pales in comparison to what he must know the Turks have done to the Kurds, Greeks, and Armenians. It is open to question whether Erdogan will be calmed by such affability or will find it useful should he wish to settle old scores with the Kurds, on Cyprus, or in the Aegean.

Lecturing China while borrowing ever more money from it does not work.

I don’t think Japan and South Korea feel any safer with Obama in office — despite claims of a new focus on Asia at the expense of old Europe. The more Obama talks of eliminating nuclear weapons, the more both these neighbors of North Korea will probably consider acquiring them.

There is no need to review the reset flip side of estrangement from the Czech Republic, Britain, Israel, and now Canada — allies who believe in staid things like democracy, human rights, and alliances in times of peril. It is hard to calibrate US policy toward the EU, since the entire enterprise is unraveling, and the Europeans seem puzzled that we are emulating the very failure they are learning from. Mexico is more violent and unstable than ever before, and more emboldened to sue US states in American courts of law. Fast and Furious promises not to deport any more illegal aliens, and the administration’s lawsuit against the state of Arizona did not have a warming effect on our relationship.

The second Obama idea was the dream of reenergizing the United Nations and working to eliminate all nuclear weapons. But the likelihood is that the atomic club will be larger, not smaller, when Obama leaves office. The madness of North Korea transcends the US presidency, although for now it is playing out in ridiculous matters of succession.

Obama claimed he was doing UN work in Libya; but in truth he exceeded a UN mandate for humanitarian help and no-fly zones by stealthily bombing “from behind.” How odd that by ignoring the US Congress and the War Powers Act and instead championing but not obeying the United Nations, Obama snubbed both in a way his cowboyish predecessor never had. Restricting oil leases on federal lands by 40 percent and stopping the Keystone pipeline did not translate into a gas-guzzling America’s doing its fair share to lower world oil prices and protect the global environment from careless new Third World exploration and exploitation.

Third, Obama promised to win the good war in Afghanistan, and to end the bad war in Iraq, in addition to junking or amending the supposedly unconstitutional and counterproductive war on terror. Here there is some confusion. He got out of Iraq, but on the Bush-Petraeus timetable long ago negotiated with the Iraqi government. In Afghanistan no one believes the situation is better — four commanders and three years after Bush left office. Obama tweaked the war on terror in cynical fashion, mixing euphemism and realpolitik. Rhetorically, we learned of overseas contingency operations and man-caused disasters, while mention of Islamic terrorism became taboo.

Yet Obama, in fact, embraced or expanded all of the Bush-Cheney protocols — from Guantanamo and tribunals to renditions and Predator drones — on the apparent tripartite and correct assumption that (1) these measures were both lawful and vital to the security of the United States; (2) opposition to them had been entirely partisan and would evaporate once he put his own brand upon them; and (3) the Republicans would be flummoxed, unsure whether to damn Obama for his blatant hypocrisy and the damage he had done through his earlier opportunistic attacks on the very policies he would come to expand — or to be relieved that a liberal Democrat was continuing the Bush war on terror and employed its tools, which brought such dividends as the end of bin Laden and the Predatorization of top Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders.

Did the Obama setbacks matter all that much? So far, in the very short term, perhaps not.

Few envisioned that the Arab world and the European Union in their own respective ways would implode, quite apart from anything the United States did. The recession has put China on the defensive, and heightened the contradictions between free markets and closed minds. Russia is in serial crises from demography to democracy. The tsunami reminded the world how vulnerable an aging and shrinking Japan really is.

Meanwhile, here in the US, fracking and horizontal drilling redefined our oil and gas outlook, despite, not because of, the Obama administration. The insolvency of Mediterranean Europe has taken attention from the near insolvency of the US Treasury. The EU pact, and styles of governance in China, Russia, and the Arab world, remind us that the US Constitution remains exceptional. And the stagnant American economy has muffled domestic objections to vast cutbacks in defense and our new follow-rather-than-lead foreign policy.

In other words, we are back to the deceptive quiet of a 1913, 1938, or 2000, consumed by internal problems, suspicious of the world abroad, assuming that foreigners’ challenges are worse than ours, and convinced that no one would be so stupid as to start a stupid war.

Let us hope no one does. But if someone should be so crazy, others might follow. Then we would learn that our old allies are now neutrals; our new friends are enemies; and the old deterrence will be as hard to regain as it was once to acquire.

 Voir aussi:

America and the Solitude of the Syrians

Deep down, the Obama administration seems to believe that Assad’s tyranny is preferable to the opposition

Fouad Ajami

The WSJ

January 6, 2012

Nearly a year into Syria’s agony, the Arab League last week dispatched a small group of monitors headed by a man of the Sudanese security services with a brutal record in the killing fields of Darfur. Gen. Mohammed al-Dabi, a trusted aide of Sudan’s notorious ruler, Omar al-Bashir, didn’t see anything « frightening » in the embattled city of Homs, nor did he see the snipers on the rooftops in the southern town of Deraa.

A banner in Homs, held up by a group of women protesters, saw into the heart of the matter: « All doors are closed, except yours, Oh God. » Indeed, the solitude of the Syrians, their noble defiance of the most entrenched dictatorship in the Arab world, has played out against the background of a sterile international diplomacy.

Libya had led us all astray. Rescue started for the Libyans weeks into their ordeal. Not so for the Syrians. Don’t look for Bashar al-Assad forewarning the subjects of his kingdom—a veritable North Korea on the Mediterranean—that his forces are on the way to hunt them down and slaughter them like rats, as did Moammar Gadhafi.

There is ice in this ruler’s veins. His people are struck down, thousands of them are kidnapped, killed and even tortured in state hospitals if they turn up for care. Children are brutalized for scribbling graffiti on the walls. And still the man sits down for an interview last month with celebrity journalist Barbara Walters to say these killer forces on the loose are not his.

In a revealing slip, the Syrian dictator told Ms. Walters that he didn’t own the country, that he was merely its president. But the truth is that the House of Assad and the intelligence barons around them are owners of a tormented country. Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, was a wicked genius. He rose from poverty and destitution through the ranks of the Syrian army to absolute power. He took a tumultuous country apart, reduced it to submission, died a natural death in 2000, and bequeathed his son a kingdom in all but name.

Thirty years ago, Assad the father rode out a ferocious rebellion by the Muslim Brotherhood, devastated the city of Hama in Syrian’s central plains, and came to rule a frightened population that accepted the bargain he offered—political servitude in return for a drab, cruel stability.

Now the son retraces the father’s arc: Overwhelm the rebellion in Homs, recreate the kingdom of fear, and the world will forgive and make its way back to Damascus.

A legend has taken hold regarding the strategic importance of Syria— bordered by Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq—and the Assad regime has made the best of it. Last October, the Syrian ruler, with a mix of cunning and bluster, played off this theme: « Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake. Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans? Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. »

There is no denying the effectiveness of this argument. The two big autocracies in the world—Russia and China—have given this regime cover and sustenance at the United Nations. A toothless resolution brought to the Security Council last October was turned back, courtesy of these two authoritarian states, and with the aid and acquiescence of Brazil, India and South Africa. (So much for the moral sway of the « emerging » powers.)

For its part, the Arab world treated the Syrian despotism rather gingerly. For months, the Arab League ducked for cover and averted its gaze from the barbarisms. Shamed by the spectacle of the shabiha (the vigilantes of the regime) desecrating mosques, beating and killing worshippers, the Arab League finally suspended Syria’s membership.

An Arab League « Peace Plan » was signed on Dec. 19, but still the slaughter continued. The Damascus dictatorship offered the Arab League the concession of allowing a team of monitors into the country. Bravely, the Syrians came out in large numbers last week to greet them and demonstrate the depth of their opposition to the regime. Some 250,000 people reportedly greeted them in the northern city of Idlib; 70,000 defied the regime in Douma, on the outskirts of Damascus. Nevertheless, the killings went on.

The Western democracies have been hoping for deliverance. There is talk in Paris of « humanitarian corridors » to supply the embattled Syrian cities with food and water and fuel. There has been a muted discussion of the imposition of a no-fly zone that would embolden and protect the defectors who compose the Free Syrian Army.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a true cynic throughout. An erstwhile ally and patron of Assad, he finally broke with the Syrian ruler last fall, saying « You can remain in power with tanks and cannons only up to a certain point. » But the help Ankara can give is always a day away. The Syrian exiles and defectors need Turkey, and its sanctuary, but they have despaired of the false promises given by Mr. Erdogan.

The U.S. response has been similarly shameful. From the outset of the Syrian rebellion, the Obama administration has shown remarkable timidity. After all, the Assad dictatorship was a regime that President Obama had set out to « engage » (the theocracy in Tehran being the other). The American response to the struggle for Syria was glacial. To be sure, we had a remarkable and courageous envoy to Damascus, Ambassador Robert Ford. He had braved regime bullies, made his way to funerals and restive cities. In the bloodied streets, he found the not-so-surprising faith in American power and benevolence.

But at the highest levels of the administration—the president, the secretary of state—the animating drive toward Syria is one of paralyzing caution. Deep down, the Obama administration seems to subscribe to the belief that Assad’s tyranny is preferable to the alternative held out by the opposition. With no faith in freedom’s possibilities and power, U.S. diplomacy has operated on the unstated assumption that the regime is likely to ride out the storm.

The tenacity of this rebellion surprised Washington, and due deference had to be paid to it. Last month, Frederic Hof, the State Department’s point man on Syria, described the Damascus regime as a « dead man walking. » There was political analysis in that statement, but also a desire that the Syrian struggle would end well without Washington having to make any hard choices.

Syrian rulers and protesters alike ought to be able to read the wind: An American president ceding strategic ground in the Greater Middle East is no threat to the Damascus regime. With an eye on his bid for re-election, President Obama will boast that he brought the Iraq war to an end, as he promised he would. That applause line precludes taking on Syrian burdens. In Obamaland, foreign policy is full of false choices: either boots on the ground or utter abdication.

Libya showed the defect of that choice, yet this remains the worldview of the current steward of American power.

Hafez al-Assad bequeathed power to his son, Bashar. Now Bashar, in turn, has a son named Hafez. From this bondage, the Syrian people are determined to release themselves. As of now, they are on their own.

Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and co-chair of Hoover’s Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.

Voir également:

Against Syrian anger, Assad’s sect feels fear

Feb 2 2012

Mariam Karouny

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – A year ago, Ali was enjoying university in Damascus, looking forward to a career in dentistry and paying little heed to politics in a country controlled by a single family for over 40 years.

That all changed, not so much when other Syrians took to the streets to demand President Bashar al-Assad step down, but when a mysterious message popped up on his Facebook page; it told him to get out of town, or die – because he was the wrong religion.

« You Alawite, » read a text on the social networking site, widely hailed by pro-democracy activists for enabling the Arab Spring uprisings. « We don’t want to see your face in Barzeh. »

Now, long dormant religious bigotries have thrust politics on Ali, who was born into the minority Alawite sect and still lives in the Damascus suburb of Barzeh, where most of his neighbours are Sunni Muslims. The 25-year-old student is now a firm supporter of Assad, not from any admiration for the wealthy elite that has run the country with an iron – and often bloody – fist for four decades, but because they too are Alawites.

« They sent me the threat just because I am an Alawite living in Barzeh, » Ali said during a series of interviews Reuters conducted in the Syrian capital last week with a variety of Alawite residents who asked that their identities be concealed.

If Assad falls, they fear a bloodbath for fellow Alawites, outnumbered six to one by the Sunnis in a Syrian population of 23 million, which also includes large minorities of Christians and ethic Kurds.

« We will go to the palace to protect him with our lives, » said Mahmoud, an Alawite student at another Damascus university, who spoke to Reuters among a group of friends.

« If Assad goes, » added another in the group, also called Ali, « I’m sure I’ll either end up dead or I’ll leave the country. »

ANGER AT CRACKDOWN

Opposition leaders, some of whom have taken up arms in an increasingly violent confrontation that has killed more than 5,000 people in 11 months, mostly dismiss suggestions the revolt is destined to divide Syrians along ethnic and religious lines.

But millions are incensed by the killing, arrests and torture unleashed last year by the Alawite-led authorities against demonstrators, including women and children, who confronted them in mainly Sunni cities like Deraa.

In a country which has seen refugees stream in from the sectarian blood-letting in Iraq in recent years, and where Assad and his late father are widely perceived by much of the 75-percent Sunni majority to have heavily favoured the once scorned Alawites, the language of religious hatred is growing louder. Stories of reciprocal atrocity are gaining currency.

Typical of such tales is that of Ali, the dental student. He said he took the threat on Facebook seriously because one of his uncles had been killed. His body parts were delivered in a bag to his home village in the Alawites’ western mountain heartland.

Mahmoud, who hails originally from Rabia in rural Hama province, said 39 people from his village had been killed since March: « If someone leaves the village, is stopped at a checkpoint and they know he is an Alawite, they kill him. »

Like accounts from Homs last month of a massacre of 14 members of a Sunni family by suspected pro-government Alawite militiamen, or ‘shabbiha’, the report is impossible to check in a country where reporting is heavily restricted.

For the Alawites, who identify their faith as a variant of the Shi’ite Islam practised in Iran, long a close ally of Assad, the rise in the ranks of the opposition of the Sunni Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood and other conservative Sunnis who accuse Alawites of heresy is a particular cause of anxiety.

« If Bashar loses power, then definitely a non-Alawite will rule, » said Fadi, a harassed-looking man in his 30s who runs a clothes store in Damascus. « The new regime will be tough on us Alawites and it will discriminate against us. »

Fadi admitted that some of his acquaintances had put their resistance to change into action, driven by fear to attack and beat up some of the demonstrators who have dared to protest against Assad and his Alawite-dominated security forces.

Others are just keeping their heads down, trying to conceal any sign of their affiliations. That can range from accent – many Alawites hail from mountain villages near Lebanon whose Arabic is distinctive – to their names, since some given names are more common among either Alawites or Sunnis.

« These days I am scared to give my name, » said Ali, the student from the mainly Sunni suburb of Barzeh. « Sometimes I say it is Omar. Sometimes I use something else. »

HISTORICAL GRIEVANCES

Communal support for Assad invokes not only the fear of reprisal, but the historic marginalisation of Alawites from the centuries of Sunni Ottoman rule down to the emergence of Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad. He took power in 1970 and died in 2000.

Before the Assads, Alawites say, they were treated routinely as second-class citizens, discriminated against and deprived of holding senior posts in the government.

« My father used to walk 20 km to get to school, because schools in our area were scarce, » said Abdullah, a government employee in Damascus recalling his father’s childhood in the Alawite mountain villages in the 1950s and 60s. « Now we’re allowed proper education, and this is thanks to Hafez. »

Assad’s opponents, for their part, recount decades of fear and oppression under the Assads, not just for Sunni Islamists but secular liberals, communists, Kurds and pretty much anyone who dared question the family’s monopoly on power.

Islamists take their historical bearings from the bloodiest moment of Assad rule when, 30 years ago this week, the father unleashed his forces, with Alawites at the spearhead, on Hama.

At least 10,000 people were killed, possibly two or three times as many, as artillery and tanks pounded the stronghold of the rebellious Muslim Brotherhood, levelling much of the old city in the process. It is an experience some Syrian Islamists recount as the profanation of sacred territory by heretics.

Adnan Arour, a Sunni cleric who fled Syria during Assad’s reprisals against the Brotherhood, now wages a campaign of sectarian invective against the younger Assad from Sunni-led Saudi Arabia – which has backed calls for the end of his rule.

« As for those Alawites who violate what is sacred, when the Muslims rule and are the majority of 85 percent, we will chop you up and feed you to the dogs, » Arour said in June.

Though he does not speak for a majority in Syria, for fundamentalist Sunnis, Alawites’ beliefs and practices place them outside the bounds of Islam altogether.

ALAWITES’ DEFENCE

Alawites dominate senior positions in the security apparatus. But many others say they see few of the privileges that have accrued to Assad’s inner circle over four decades.

Many of the two million or so Alawites live still in rural villages, while those who have migrated to Damascus say they are no better off than the substantial Sunni middle class which has also so far generally stood behind Assad and against upheaval.

Yara, a government employee in her 30s, was, like many Alawites, at pains to stress that their community did not feel especially favoured under the Assads and that, in her view, Sunnis benefited more from public sector employment: « Most of us Alawites are small traders, » she told Reuters in the capital.

« The Sunnis get the government jobs, so we don’t get our due from the state, » said Yara, who was sporting a bracelet adorned with the red, black and white Syrian flag adopted after Assad’s Baath Party seized power in the 1960s. It stands in contrast to the older green, black and white tricolour used by opponents.

« The Alawites live in the mountains, with no electricity or water, » Yara said of the continuing hardships for many of her community. « And now they say we should be kicked out? »

Though many Syrians would scoff at the notion, other Alawites insist that the president is a secular leader, blind to sectarian concerns, whose wife is Sunni.

As well as sharpening sectarian frictions, the violence of recent months has opened up differences within the Alawite community. Some prominent Alawite political activists have taken a stand against Assad. Aref Dalila and Najati Tayara have both been jailed for their opposition, while noted actress Fadwa Suleiman has led protests in the opposition stronghold of Homs.

But the Alawite students who spoke in Damascus dismissed them as self-serving attention-seekers, careless of the threat facing the minority as a group. « They don’t represent us, » said the student Mahmoud. « They’re just hypocrites looking for fame. »

Some also call naive those Alawites who push for reform, citing the example of Egypt’s Christian minority, who embraced the revolution in Cairo alongside their Muslim compatriots but now fear a new rule dominated by conservative Sunnis.

« ALL MURDERERS »

At bottom, Mahmoud and other Syrian Alawites argue, it will not matter whether an individual opposes Assad or not – in the final accounting, if he is overthrown by a movement dominated by Sunni Islamists, all Alawites will be marked for revenge.

As one opposition activist put it in a private conversation recently: « Every Alawite between the age of 16 to 40 is a murderer, whether he likes it or not.

« The regime has recruited them, either as shabbiha in the capital or in the regular army, to kill us. »

Disdain for the Alawites as a group is not limited to the firebrand preachers broadcasting from the Gulf. At a polite, middle-class dinner party last week in Damascus, one educated professional, a Sunni though not a pious one, spoke with casual disparagement that betrays each sect’s ignorance of the other.

« The Alawites do not have mosques, » the man said. « They do not pray like us. Nobody knows what they are. »

The prospect of life without the Assads – a prospect many world and Arab leaders see as all but inevitable – is driving many Alawites to desperate extremes. Rallies in support of the president and his family were, in the early days of the rising, relatively staid affairs, where loyalists bussed in from Alawite strongholds ran through a routine playlist of Baathist chanting.

Now, there is real anger, passion and fear on the streets, with some crowds howling devotion to the president’s younger brother Maher, commander of a military unit in the vanguard of the crackdown on opposition bastions.

Screaming for him to « finish off » the rebels, demonstrators have chanted: « Get on with it, Maher. For God’s sake! »

Mahmoud, the Damascus student from Rabia, was keeping his calm when he spoke to a foreign reporter. But his voice betrayed a grim determination that sends a chilling signal for Syria’s future: « For me, it’s an eye for an eye, » he said.

« If someone wants to kill me and my family I won’t just stand and watch. If this is how they want it, then so be it. »

(Reporting by Mariam Karouny; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

 Voir enfin:

Israel readies for Alawite refugees if Asssad falls

January 10, 2012

Israel is making preparations to house refugees from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s minority Alawite sect should his government fall, Israel’s military chief told a parliamentary committee today.

« On the day that the regime falls, it is expected to result in a blow to the Alawite sect. We are preparing to take in Alawite refugees on the Golan Heights, » a committee spokesman quoted Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz as saying.

Assad has faced 10 months of popular revolt in which more than 5,000 people have been killed, according to United Nations figures. Israeli officials have said they do not expect his government to last more than a few months.

In a speech today, Assad again blamed the unrest on a foreign conspiracy against Syria.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said last week that Assad « is weakening » and will fall this year.

« In my opinion … he won’t see the end of the year. I don’t think he will even see the middle of this year. It doesn’t matter if it will take six weeks or 12 weeks, he will be toppled and disappear, » Barak said.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel rarely censured the Assad government for its domestic crackdowns and has said little about the crisis that erupted last March. Successive Israeli governments have sought peace with Assad, seeing his government as a possible anchor for wider Israeli-Arab accommodation.

But in May last year, Israel accused Syria of orchestrating deadly confrontations on the ceasefire line between the two countries as a distraction from Assad’s bloody crackdown.

At least 23 people were killed and scores were wounded when Israeli troops fired on Palestinian protesters who surged against the fortified boundary fence.

The United States, Russia and the United Nations voiced deep concern about the flare-up, but it proved to be brief and was not repeated. Israeli sources note that Assad has not tried since then to turn the Golan into a « second front » in a bid to externalize his crisis.

Although Israel and Syria are technically at war, and Syria is home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war of Israel’s foundation, the Golan Heights had long been quiet.

A United Nations force patrols the demarcation line between the Golan Heights and Syria.

Barak said Syrian weapons could be transferred to the militant Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, « something we view with great gravity. Syria is believed to possess chemical weapons. »

The defence minister said that « when central authority weakens (in Damascus) all kinds of factors can create friction to try and act in the Golan Heights, and there are enough bad people in the region. »


Accrochage frontalier libano-israélien: A qui profite le crime? (From humanitarian to… military terrorism!)

5 août, 2010
No matter who dies, we're happy (Hezbollah, Dry bones)
Le Hezbollah transfère des armes, dont des missiles, dans ses bases au Liban, depuis des dépôts en Syrie selon des sources au sein des services de sécurité. Le Times a pu voir des images satellite de l’un de ces sites près de la ville d’Adra au nord de Damas où les militants y ont leurs logements, un dépôt d’armes et une flottille de camions qui seraient utilisés pour amener les armes au Liban. L’équipement militaire est soit d’origine syrienne, soit envoyé d’Iran par la mer, passant par des ports sur la Méditerranée ou l’aéroport de Damas. Les armes sont entreposées dans un dépôt du Hezbollah et acheminées au Liban dans des camions. Selon l’une de ces sources, le Hezbollah opère en toute liberté. Ils déplacent souvent les armes par mauvais temps quand les satellites israéliens ne peuvent les repérer. (…) Le réarmement du hezbollah a été interdit par la résolution du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU 1701 qui a mis fin à la guerre de 2006. Depuis lors, le Hezbollah a néanmoins réussi à refaire ses stocks et aurait amassé plus de 40.000 roquettes et missiles, allant de Katyushas à faible portée à des missiles à moyenne portée M600 et des missiles balistiques Scud de l’ère soviétique capables d’atteindre la plupart des grands centres de population d’Israël. Le Times (28.05.10)
Cette vallée, située non loin de Bint Jbeil, la «capitale» du Sud-Liban, et à quelques kilomètres de la frontière israélienne, «abrite des caches d’armes du Hezbollah», explique un bon connaisseur du dossier. Comme toute la zone, stratégique pour le Parti de Dieu, elle est l’objet d’une discrète mais constante surveillance de la part d’une population acquise au Hezbollah. Avec une obsession commune à tous : «l’ennemi israélien». Tout intrus est donc suspect. Les Casques bleus de la Force intérimaire des Nations unies (Finul) n’échappent pas à cette suspicion permanente. (…) Ces derniers mois, les Casques bleus ont été la cible répétée d’agressions et de vols de matériel. Jets de pierre, confiscation d’appareils photos et de GPS, arrestations temporaires de militaires en patrouille par des villageois, les incidents sérieux ont débuté en mars et se sont multipliés. (…) L’incident frontalier d’hier vient s’ajouter à une longue liste de griefs. Le 8 juillet, l’Etat hébreu avait une nouvelle fois accusé le Hezbollah de stocker des roquettes au cœur des villages du Sud et, pour étayer ses dires, produit des images qui auraient été tournées dans le hameau de Khiam. De quoi attiser la paranoïa ambiante. (…) « Et pour couronner le tout, la Finul a organisé, fin juin, un exercice grandeur nature pour protéger Israël. Elle s’est entraînée à empêcher des tirs de roquettes à partir du territoire libanais, s’insurge un officier libanais. C’est une provocation pour la population du Sud ! » (…) Ces incidents, en tout cas, sont organisés. Il est probable que le Hezbollah, qui a redéployé l’essentiel de ses activités militaires au nord de la zone frontalière et dans l’ouest du Liban depuis l’arrivée de la Finul renforcée, cherche à accroître sa capacité de mouvement dans le Sud afin de pouvoir mieux se préparer à une nouvelle guerre avec Israël. Libération (04/08/2010)
Laquelle a ouvert les hostilités ? Les versions divergent. L’état-major israélien parle d’une « embuscade délibérée ». (…) Le scénario de l’armée libanaise est rigoureusement inverse. (…)  Une journaliste libanaise, citée par Associated Press, affirme avoir vu des casques bleus prévenir les forces israéliennes que leur vis-à-vis ouvrirait le feu si elles s’aventuraient au-delà de la frontière. Un reporter du quotidien libanais Al-Akhbar, Assaf Abou Rahhal, a été tué dans le bombardement israélien et trois personnes ont été blessées, dont le maire d’Adaissé. Le Monde
C’est l’histoire d’un arbre. Un arbre qui aurait pu causer une nouvelle guerre au Proche-Orient. Il est midi, hier, à la frontière israélo-libanaise, quand des soldats israéliens effectuent des travaux d’entretien. Ils veulent arracher un arbre qui se trouve de l’autre côté de la ligne bleue, c’est-à-dire en territoire libanais. Les deux pays ne sont séparés que par un rideau de barbelés, à portée de voix et de fusil. A partir de là, les informations divergent. Difficile de savoir qui a tiré en premier. Libération (04.08.10)

Après les terroristes déguisés en casques bleus puis en humanitaires

Voici les terroristes… en uniforme!!!

Annonce d’une nouvelle flottille pour Gaza, cargo japonais victime d’un engin improvisé dans le Détroit d’Ormuz, attaque de roquettes sur Eilat et le Golfe d’Aqaba, retour de roquettes Grad sur Israël, tout à fait improbable accusation d’Israël pour l’assassinat de Rafik Hariri, simulacre d’attentat contre le président iranien …

A l’heure où l’étau des sanctions semble se resserrer sur l’Iran

Et celui de la justice sur leurs supplétifs du Hezbollah, dont le réarmement massif via la Syrie et au nez et à la barbe de casques bleus impuissants vient d’être révélé, pour l’assassinat d’Hariri …

Pendant qu’à l’image du Monde avec son « accrochage sanglant à la frontière avec Israël (rappelant le fameux « assaut sanglant contre une flottille ») et sa photo de « soldats israéliens pointant leurs armes près de la frontière avec le Liban », nos médias ne se sont pas fait prier pour rappeler les « méthodes agressives d’Israël » et la fameuse « disproportion » de la guerre de l’été 2006 (« les 1 200 morts côté libanais, des civils en grande majorité, et 158 côté israélien, pour la plupart militaires ») …

Comment s’étonner, connaissant le goût particulièrement prononcé des mollahs et de leurs affidés pour les opérations de diversion, de l’accumulation et de la conjonction d’incidents terroristes qui ont précédé ou accompagné le plus grave incident frontalier au Sud-liban depuis la guerre de l’été 2006?

Surtout que, comme en témoignent côté libanais la présence de tireurs d’élite (ayant visé délibérément les commandants israéliens) comme de journalistes et photographes sur place y compris parmi les victimes et le fait que l’opération de débroussaillage était prévue depuis 2 semaines, ladite embuscade semble avoir été très soigneusement préparée …

Autopsie d’un meurtre planifié, ou la 9ème Brigade libanaise supplétive du Hezbollah

Marc Brzustowski

pour http://lessakele.over-blog.fr et http://www.aschkel.info Lessakele

04 /08 /2010

Au déclenchement d’un conflit armé, l’effet de surprise est l’élément essentiel qui peut permettre au belligérant qui ne dispose pas de supériorité par sa puissance de feu, de marquer des points et d’enfoncer un coin dans le mental de la partie adverse.

Pour que cet élément de surprise soit total, on choisira de préparer l’évènement dans le cours des activités les plus routinières que peut mener l’adversaire. Les déclenchements, à la frontière libanaise, se déroulent toujours dans des moments ordinaires d’une absolue banalité.

En octobre 2000, 2 soldats de Tsahal sont enlevés par des miliciens du Hezbollah vêtus d’uniformes de la FINUL, qu’ils avaient troqués avec des soldats indiens de la « force de maintien de la paix ». Aucun détail extérieur ne pouvait suffire à mettre en alerte les deux combattants israéliens. Le 12 juillet 2006, c’est une patrouille de routine, lors du passage d’un fourgon blindé, que prend pour cible le Hezbollah. Il tue 8 de ses occupants et enlève Ehud Goldwasser et Eldad Reguev, dans un état grave.

Hier, 3 août, date anniversaire des 1500 jours de captivité de Guilad Shalit, otage du Hamas à Gaza, rien ne devait laisser présager de ce qui allait se passer. La FINUL avait passé à l’Armée libanaise, il y a deux semaines, l’information selon laquelle un petit travail de débroussaillage aurait lieu le long de la frontière, côté israélien. Tout portait à croire que l’armée libanaise était intéressée au maintien du cessez-le-feu et que le vrai danger ne pouvait provenir que d’un élément jihadiste incontrôlé, non d’un sniper en uniforme, risquant d’entraîner son pays dans une hécatombe. Pourtant, l’impensable, auquel il faudrait toujours penser, s’est produit.

Tous les détails dont on dispose à cette heure démontrent une planification de haut niveau et une collusion totale d’intérêt entre l’Armée libanaise et les objectifs du Hezbollah, de l’Iran et de la Syrie. D’abord, le choix du moment, qu’on vient d’évoquer, celui des cibles de premier ordre et de leur position en retrait, à 300 m du lieu réel de l’action de déracinement de l’arbre : les deux officiers Dov Harari z’l et Ezra Lakia, n’avaient aucune raison valable d’être au premier rang pour arracher eux-mêmes de mauvaises herbes. Leur présence, celle de la FINUL auraient normalement dû inciter la partie libanaise à des tirs de sommation. Les plus exposés à un acte de défi ou une « balle perdue » étaient les soldats chargés de ce petit travail…

Le journaliste tué durant les échanges de tir, Assaf Abu Rahal, travaillait pour le quotidien ak-Akhbar de Beyrouth. Un second journaliste blessé, Ali Shuaib, était correspondant de la chaîne al-Manar. Ces deux médias sont connus dans le monde entier pour leur appartenance à la milice chi’ite de Nasrallah. L’armée libanaise a, délibérement, laissé pénétrer dans le périmètre sous sa garde des caméras, appareils photo, présents dans un lieu banal de la frontière pour y capturer un « évènement » fabriqué sur mesure pour les chaînes affiliées à Nasrallah. Pour entrer dans ce type de zones gardées, il faut des laisser-passer, des autorisations administratives qu’on ne tire pas d’un chapeau.

Il s’agit d’une opération marketing visant à rappeler la nécessité de souder les rangs au prétexte même de la « souveraineté », si chère au mouvement du 14 mars… mais au seul profit de la « Résistance » contre un voisin présenté comme « hostile », lorsqu’il réplique aux provocations.

Il apparaît, de toute évidence, que la thèse de l’élément rebelle et radical au sein d’une armée prête à coopérer avec la FINUL et le voisin, ne tient pas et que le sniper préparé de longue date à faire mouche obéissait à des ordres stricts, consistant à provoquer une guerre « unificatrice ».

Lorsque Tsahal a riposté, l’armée libanaise était prête à entretenir le feu nourri de part et d’autre.

De fait, l’armée libanaise a développé des capacités d’observation des moindres faits et gestes des unités de Tsahal présentes face à elle, non pour des missions de supervision et de contrôle, mais bien en vue d’actions d’agression. Elles vont jusqu’à l’exploitation de la moindre faille, du moindre moment de relâchement ou de … routine.

L’armée du Liban vient donc de déclencher, à tout le moins, une guerre des nerfs ou « drôle de guerre », sachant que la moindre sur-interprétation ou sous-évaluation d’un événement ou non-évènement quelconque est, désormais, susceptible de mettre la région à feu et à sang.

La « naïveté » israélienne, une fois de plus, a été de ne pas réviser ses critères d’alerte, en ne guettant que « les mouvements suspects » d’une guérilla dissimulée, sans envisager qu’un ordre de tir la frapperait en plein coeur de son dispositif, dans l’accomplissement de gestes quotidiens. D’oublier que Tsahal se bat contre un ennemi vicieux, sans scrupule, rétif à tout réglement marqué par des résolutions, arrangements ou accords qu’il utilise à son seul avantage, et non dans l’espoir d’une « paix des braves »…

Il est toujours facile d’en parler après-coup. Mais cela intervient dans les suites d’un récent « incident » en mer, sur le pont du Mavi Marmara. Depuis 1973, il n’existait pas, dans la région, d’armée conventionnelle qui ose se lancer délibérément dans un conflit armé avec Israël. C’est désormais chose faite. Et ce n’est possible que parce que le niveau d’armement des milices supplétives comme le Hezbollah et le Hamas est jugé avoir atteint un seuil appréciable pour maximiser les dégâts stratégiques et médiatiques au détriment d’Israël. L’état-major israélien doit, désormais, identifier clairement les relais dans la chaîne de commandement adverse, qui participent de la mise en route d’actes de guerre.

Les mobiles du crime laissent peu de place à l’interrogation :

4 hauts dignitaires arabes, dont Bachar al-Assad de Syrie et le Roi Abdallah d’Arabie Saoudite, se sont réunis vendredi à Beyrouth, afin de faire le point sur la situation, à la veille du Tribunal international sur le Liban. Il devrait impliquer plusieurs hauts-dirigeants du Hezbollah dans le cadre de l’enquête sur le meurtre de Rafic Hariri en 2005. Derrière l’écran de fumée des discours bellicistes du despote syrien, certains ont voulu lire un infléchissement en cours : plus il criait haut et fort que jamais il ne lâcherait le Hezbollah face à ses accusateurs, plus on pouvait se demander : « pourquoi a t-il tant besoin d’en parler, puisque personne n’en doute? ». Qu’il ait eu ou pas la moindre intention de « prendre ses distances », le maintien d’une tension maximale à la frontière israélo-libanaise rectifie tous les discours et ramène le conflit « israélo-arabe » à l’avant-scène, dans la permanence et la durée. C’est autant de terrain perdu pour la « Ligue Arabe » incitant Mahmoud Abbas à envisager des pourparlers directs avec Benyamin Netanyahou. Le « front du refus » rappelle alors que si un seul membre s’y oppose, le « mariage », tant attendu à Washington, avant les élections de novembre, n’aura pas lieu. Mais bien plutôt, la guerre.

Comment Bachar pourrait-il se désolidariser, ni même du Hezbollah, ni même et surtout, du Liban, depuis longtemps considéré comme simple province de Damas? Il s’agit bien d’un glissement « stratégique », où Nasrallah a tout à gagner dans l’assimilation indistincte de ses intérêts propres et de ceux de Beyrouth en totalité. Le tir du sniper vient de balayer et d’annuler toutes les attentes des émirs venus du Golfe, la semaine précédente.

« L’effet domino » n’a jamais si bien joué, qui place la Syrie au centre de l’échiquier et la ramène objectivement au bercail. Ainsi le Hezbollah et l’Iran s’assurent-ils de la bonne coopération de leur relais et plaque tournante indispensable.

Nasrallah avait, quant à lui, tout intérêt à jouer profil bas, alors que la « résolution 1701 » de l’ONU qui pénalise son mouvement, est, tranquillement, en train de voler en éclats, sous les coups de butoir, non plus d’un « état dans l’état », mais bien de l’armée elle-même. Cette résolution avait pour vocation de « protéger une souveraineté » affaiblie par les puissances régionales et les groupes terroristes. Si le Liban soi-même viole les résolutions censées le protéger, hormis qu’il s’agit d’un état délibérément criminel et justiciable pour cela, c’est, vu sous cet angle de tir, « signe de bonne santé » et de bonne préparation à en assumer toutes les conséquences, à savoir son retour à l’âge de pierre, à partir de la toute prochaine provocation.

A qui « profite le crime »? Sûrement pas, en première lecture, à Saad Hariri, qui ne sait, décidément pas, s’il parviendra jusqu’au moment où un Tribunal statuera sur les culpabilités et complicités dans le meurtre de son père. Mais, l’armée étant sous ses ordres (suivis ou non) et ceux du Président Michel Sleimane, on est aussi en droit de se demander si l’assassin émarge d’un clan plutôt que d’un autre :

Saad Hariri lui-même aurait ordonné la semaine passée, à 1500 hommes d’aller renforcer la présence militaire libanaise dans le sud… « pour éviter toute provocation du Hezbollah, et « protéger la FINUL, suite à diverses agressions…

L’armée -ou/et certaines factions en son sein- fusionne de façon explicite avec la milice chi’ite. Près de 50 % de ses officiers sont issus de cette mouvance ou prêts à coopérer dans le sens de ses intérêts. Tant que la résolution 1701 subsistera, bon an mal an, le Hezbollah ne pourra reprendre pied massivement au Sud-Liban, qu’au travers de tactiques savantes pour confondre toute surveillance. Le meilleur camouflage est donc, évidemment, l’uniforme. Et la meilleure défense, l’attaque.

A ce degré de fusion, avec l’armée comme avec le pouvoir, il est, peut-être temps, pour le Hezbollah, de se fondre totalement dans l’appareil politique et de moins attirer l’attention comme groupe séditieux pouvant agir « contre les intérêts du Liban » : c’est aussi simple de le piloter de l’intérieur. Surtout, depuis l’élimination d’Imad Moughniyeh en février 2008, l’appareil terroriste montre ses limites et n’être vraiment à son affaire que dans les zones chaotiques de l’Irak ou de l’Afghanistan, voire, récemment du Sinaï.

L’hypothèse moins probable serait que des « souverainistes » quelconques aient décidé qu’ils pouvaient très bien se dispenser des coups d’éclats du Hezbollah et agir au nom du Liban pour mettre eux-mêmes le pays au bord du précipice les yeux bandés… Ou la gouvernance par l’appel au suicide de masse, par absence d’horizon politique, dans l’affrontement entre factions?

Plutôt la guerre avec Israël que la guerre civile?

Depuis le Détroit d’Ormuz et ce cargo japonais dont tout porte à croire qu’il a été la cible d’un engin improvisé, en passant par Eilat et le Golfe d’Aqaba, récemment le retour de Grads sur Ashkelon, jusqu’au sud-Liban, cette « suite d’incidents » laisse entendre que l’Iran fera tout pour mettre le feu aux poudres. Il dispose d’assez de pions et d’éléments dévoués dans la région pour mener la vie dure à des Occidentaux qui ne croient qu’aux sanctions et à la diplomatie pour prolonger les trêves, jusqu’au prochain round…

voir aussi:

Nouvelle donne au Nord d’Israël

Israel 7

04/08/2010

Selon la version officielle, un officier libanais aurait de son propre chef pris l’initiative de tendre une embuscade de tireurs de précision aux militaires de Tsahal. L’Armée israélienne voulait élaguer la végétation sur la ligne bleue et avait prévenu la FINUL afin de coordonner cela avec l’Armée libanaise.

L’Armée libanaise avait réagi en appelant à la compréhension de Tsahal pour repousser de deux heures cette activité. Ce à quoi, Tsahal avait donné son accord étant donné le semblant d’atmosphère de coopération. Ces deux heures ont été exploitées par les militaires libanais aux préparatifs à l’embuscade. Ils ont même pris soin d’alerter les journalistes de Beyrouth d’arriver à temps pour immortaliser sur pellicule la tuerie qui allait s’en suivre.

Les questions qui se posent sont les suivantes:

– Est-ce qu’un officier libanais aurait pu faire tout seul les préparatifs pour une action demandant planification et prévenir les médias libanais de sa propre initiative sans en avoir auparavant l’aval tacite de ses supérieurs?

– La FINUL est préposée à préserver le calme et la paix dans la région selon la résolution 1701 du Conseil de Sécurité. Ayant été témoin de ces préparatifs, comment la force de paix onusienne s’est-elle abstenue de prévenir les Israéliens et pourquoi n’est-elle point intervenue auprès du haut commandement libanais pour éviter l’escalade de la violence prévisible? Ce n’est pas sans rappeller le rôle de complaisance de la FINUL lors de la prise d’otages des militaires Goldvasser et Regev et le meurtre de leurs camarades en juillet 2006, ce qui avait déclenché la Seconde guerre du Liban.

Comment pour la nième fois, Tsahal a-t-il été surpris alors que le déploiement offensif sur le terrain et la venue de journalistes libanais ne conféraient pas à cette embuscade libanaise un caractère d’opération ultra secrète et de discrétion extrême?

Et surtout, comment l’armée libanaise formée et équipée par les Etats-Unis dans le dessein avoué de faire écran au Hezbollah et donc, à l’Iran et à la Syrie au Liban, se joint-elle à l’axe Damas-Téhéran contre Israël sous l’œil bienveillant de Washington?

Dans la confrontation d’Israël avec la Syrie et avec l’Iran par le truchement du Hezbollah, c’est la première fois que l’armée libanaise, non seulement se joint à l’organisation terroriste chiite, mais prend  elle-même l’initiative d’une attaque contre Tsahal sur la frontière, et surtout, est prête à en subir les conséquences.

En opérant ainsi, l’Armée libanaise  redistribue les cartes de la scène libanaise, tout d’abord en ayant réussi à prendre Tsahal par surprise. Les implications de cet incident dépassent de loin les conséquences tragiques immédiates des échanges de coups de feu. C’est une nouvelle donne stratégique dans la région.

Personne jusqu’à hier matin n’aurait pu s’imaginer que l’Armée libanaise attaquerait des militaires de Tsahal alors que ces derniers se trouvaient sur la ligne bleue, donc en territoire israélien. Ce qui a été confirmé par la FINUL. Ainsi, l’Armée libanaise a pris le pas sur le Hezbollah en reprenant ses méthodes. Par ce fait accompli, alors que sa neutralité relative semblait un acquis immuable, l’armée libanaise devient ainsi un élément anti israélien majeur de plus dans l’imbroglio libanais qui pourrait même éclipser le Hezbollah. Que les Etats-Unis aient promu cette armée libanaise est un indice de plus de l’incompréhension chronique de Washington sur les processus Moyen orientaux. La réaction classique et toute faite de la Maison Blanche à cet incident était prévisible: « l’appel au calme et à la retenue ».

Voir également:

Embuscade: Collusion avec les médias au Liban

Honest reporting

Que font les photographes et les journalistes sur les lieux de l’incident à un moment qui précède un échange de tirs mortels entre forces libanaises et israéliennes? Un échange fatal de tirs entre soldats libanais et les forces de Tsahal sur la frontière Nord, a causé la mort d’un soldat israélien et la perte de quatre autres côté libanais. L’incident a également soulevé des questions concernant l’intégrité du media qui a couvert l’information.

Les forces libanaises ont ouvert le feu sur des soldats de IDF qui effectuaient un travail d’entretien routinier sur la clôture de sécurité près de la frontière. Les soldats de l’IDF débroussaillaient des buissons pour améliorer la ligne de mire de la frontière et ainsi empêcher les terroristes du Hezbollah de se cacher dans les broussailles en vue de la préparation d’une attaque ou d’un enlèvement. Le travail de routine avait été autorisé à l’avance avec la FINUL. Il est essentiel de noter que l’ONU qui a délimité la ligne bleue  marquant la frontière officielle entre Israël et le Liban, ne suit pas toujours le tracé de la barrière de sécurité. Alors que l’armée israélienne opérait sur la clôture, ils étaient encore en territoire israélien comme on le voit sur la carte ci-dessous.

Les services de transmission se trompent

Comme c’est souvent le cas lors de tout incident impliquant Israël, les déclarations officielles israéliennes ont été ignorées en faveur des accusations libanaises qui seraient que l’armée israélienne aurait pénétré sur le territoire libanais, un thème repris par les agences de presse telles que Reuters, qui décrit la grue comme étant située du côté libanais de la frontière.

Légende de la photo : Un soldat israélien est vu sur la grue du côté libanais, sur la frontière libano-israélienne près du village de Adaisseh. Sud Liban 3 Août 2010. L’artillerie israélienne pilonne le village libanais mardi, blessant deux personnes, après que les forces armées libanaises aient ouvert le feu en avertissement sur les soldats israéliens .le long de la frontière généralement calme mais tendue selon des témoins. (Reuters/STR )

De même, l’Associated Press a également, exposé à tort l’emplacement des faits, de nombreuses heures après l’incident, avant de faire la mise à jour suivante :

Si les photographes de l’agence de presse étaient sur le site de l’incident près de la clôture de sécurité, ne savaient-ils pas réellement où ils se trouvaient  à ce moment-là ?

Malgré la correction de la légende, un certain nombre de médias utilisent toujours des légendes erronées, comme le Daily Telegraph, tandis que The Independent a même précisé que l’incident avait eu lieu « sur le côté libanais de la frontière dans le sud du village de Adaisseh.

Comment et pourquoi les photographes étaient-il là ?

Un rapport de l’AP, des lieux de l’incident, démontre qu’un journaliste libanais et un photographe, Ronith Daher étaient sur les lieux de l’incident ainsi que le montre la photographie ci-dessus. Evidemment, quelqu’un de Reuters était également là pour prendre l’image précédente. Mais pourquoi, étaient-ils là, en train de prendre des photos, avant l’incident ?

Après tout la taille de feuillages, ne fait pas les grands titres de l’actualité, un jour ordinaire, à moins que quelque chose d’extraordinaire ait été attendu. La FINUL et à travers elle, l’armée libanaise, avaient été informées de l’entretien de routine de l’armée israélienne et même la FINUL, admet maintenant que le tir libanais était injustifié.

Toujours selon l’AP, un journaliste libanais du quotidien Al-Akhbar, Assaf Abou Rahhal, a été tué par un obus israélien, qui a atterri à côté de lui dans le village frontalier de Adeisseh. Al-Akhbar, est censément associé avec le Hezbollah et a été dénoncé par le chef druze libanais, Walid Joumblatt comme étant financé par la Syrie et l’Iran. Donc, que faisait là, dans cette région, Abou Rahhal, à s’exposer au contre-feu des FDI ?

Un photographe de Reuters se trouvait également, sur les lieux de la scène, à Adeisseh, saisissant à ce moment-là les moments de représailles des IDF , qui ont conduit à la mort de Abou Rahhal et trois soldats libanais.

Encore une fois, nous nous demandons comment cela se fait-il qu’un photographe de Reuters se trouvait-il tout simplement présent sur les lieux à un moment aussi propice.

Ce n’est un secret pour personne qu’une partie de l’armée libanaise a été infiltrée par des sympathisants du Hezbollah et leurs renseignements. Ainsi, des informations partagées par Israël et la FINUL et l’armée libanaise, trouvent invariablement leurs voies vers le Hezbollah.

Est-ce une mise en scène et une embuscade pré-planifiées, comme en témoigne la présence des photographes et des journalistes, avant même l’échange de coups de feu ? Ces journalistes, étaient-il là, précisément parce qu’il y a eu un préavis de poudrière potentielle ?

Beaucoup parmi la masse des médias, y  compris la BBC, ont informé de manière soit impartiale, soit en donnant plus de poids aux revendications libanaises, concernant la nature de l’incident en dépit de l’évidence écrasante. CNN a déclaré que « Deux récits séparés ont émergé de l’incident. » En faisant des observations sur la couverture médiatique, particulièrement sur celle du New York Times, Barry Rubin a dit :

La vérité, cependant, est facile à vérifier – Israël, a-t-il annoncé l’entretien, a-t-il autorisé les photographes et les gens de l’ONU à regarder et ensuite sont-ils passés délibérément au Liban ? – Mais Israël, est décrit comme l’agresseur qui a provoqué le déclenchement du combat. Donc des millions de gens pourront croire que Israël a commis une faute ou qu’il est la cause de l’événement .

Le récit, cependant, est simple: lors d’une agression, les soldats libanais ont tiré sur les Israéliens et assassiné un soldat.

Voir enfin:

Une embuscade planifiée

Amos Harel et Avi Issacharof

Haaretz

Revue de la presse israélienne du service de Presse de l’ambassade de France en Israël

4 août 2010

Le fait que ce soient des soldats libanais, et non des hommes du Hezbollah, qui aient tué hier après-midi un commandant de bataillon de Tsahal à la frontière nord, est la principale raison pour laquelle Israël a réagi avec mesure à la provocation. On peut supposer que si l’organisation chiite avait revendiqué le meurtre du lieutenant-colonel Dov Harari, Tsahal aurait riposté en attaquant le long de tout le front sud-libanais.

Mais puisque c’est l’armée libanaise qui est responsable de cet acte, de nombreux efforts sont faits actuellement pour calmer les esprits. L’intervention d’acteurs de la communauté internationale, et notamment du gouvernement américain et des Nations-Unies, devrait permettre de rétablir le calme dans le nord, après l’incident le plus grave qu’ait connu la frontière depuis la fin de la deuxième guerre du Liban, il y a quatre ans.

L’incident a eu lieu aux environs de 12 h 10, face au kibboutz Misgav Am, alors que des soldats du génie et de l’infanterie de Tsahal opéraient à la limite de l’enclave entre la clôture frontalière et la frontière internationale (la « ligne bleue ») dessinée par l’ONU après le retrait israélien de 2000. Ces soldats étaient en train d’élaguer des arbres qui bloquaient la vue depuis la clôture. Le lieutenant-colonel Harari, qui commandait l’opération, se trouvait du côté israélien de la clôture, à une certaine distance de la grue utilisée par les soldats. Selon le commandant militaire de la région nord, le général Gadi Eizencot, seul le bras de la grue dépassait la clôture, pénétrant un demi-mètre à l’intérieur l’enclave. Des tireurs d’élite positionnés du côté libanais ont alors ouvert le feu, tuant le lieutenant-colonel Harari et blessant grièvement un commandant de compagnie, le capitaine Ezra L akia. Harari est la première personne à être tuée le long de la frontière nord depuis la fin du mois d’août 2006.

Tsahal a réagi en ouvrant le feu et les soldats libanais se sont enfuis de lieu de l’incident. Une demi-heure plus tard, des roquettes RPG ont été tirées vers un char israélien. Tsahal a alors pris pour cible les tireurs pendant que l’artillerie et des hélicoptères bombardaient un poste de commandement régional et des positions de l’armée libanaise. Selon des sources libanaises, trois personnes ont été tuées dans ces attaques, deux soldats et un journaliste.

Hier il a été décidé que le cabinet restreint de sécurité se réunirait dès ce matin pour débattre des derniers événements dans le nord ainsi que du tir de roquettes vers Eilat avant-hier.

L’armée libanaise et le Hezbollah se sont eux bien gardés de tirer des roquettes ou des obus de mortier vers Israël. Au Liban on a accusé Israël de provocation, mais le commandement de Tsahal a insisté hier sur le fait que l’armée israélienne n’avait pas violé, ne serait-ce que d’un millimètre, la souveraineté libanaise. Le secrétaire général du Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, qui prononçait hier soir un discours à l’occasion du quatrième anniversaire de la deuxième guerre du Liban, a déclaré que son organisation était prête à se joindre aux opérations contre Israël mais ne l’a pas fait, n’ayant pas obtenu l’autorisation de l’armée libanaise.

Le long de la clôture frontalière on trouve plusieurs dizaines d’enclaves semblables, dont la largeur varie de quelques dizaines de mètres à plus d’un kilomètre. Tirant les leçons de la dernière guerre (l’enlèvement des réservistes israéliens, qui avait déclenché la guerre, avait été commis grâce aux cellules implantées par le Hezbollah dans une de ces enclaves), Tsahal s’efforce depuis 2006 d’y manifester sa présence.

Toute opération à l’intérieur ou en marge d’une enclave est annoncée préalablement à la FINUL, qui en fait part à l’armée libanaise. C’était aussi le cas hier. Mais depuis plusieurs mois, les Libanais ont adopté une ligne agressive à l’égard de forces israéliennes postées le long de la frontière, surtout autour des enclaves. A plusieurs reprises on a vu des soldats libanais pointer leurs fusils ou leurs lance-roquettes en direction des soldats israéliens. Dans le même temps, la coopération entre l’armée libanaise et la FINUL s’est nettement réduite. Selon des responsables israéliens, le Hezbollah échauffe les esprits au plus haut niveau de l’armée libanaise dont les commandants ont fait à plusieurs reprises l’éloge de la « résistance » contre Israël.

Hier, pour la première fois depuis trois ans, cela s’est terminé par un affrontement direct avec l’armée libanaise. Au sein du commandement militaire de la région nord on attribue aussi la multiplication des incidents à des changements de personnes et notamment par la nomination à la tête du 9ème régiment de l’armée libanaise, qui était impliqué dans l’incident d’hier, d’un officier chiite proche du Hezbollah.

Tsahal estime que l’incident est le résultat d’une initiative locale d’officiers de l’armée libanaise, des commandants de compagnies, de bataillons ou de régiments, sans qu’il y ait eu une intervention directe du Hezbollah. Les forces libanaises s’étaient déployées sur les lieux de l’incident pour, semble-t-il, « bomber le torse » face à Tsahal. Il est possible que le commandant du régiment ait donné directement l’ordre de tirer, mais il est également possible qu’un officier subalterne sur le terrain ait compris que c’était ce que souhaitait son supérieur. Quoi qu’il en soit, cela ressemble plus à une embuscade tendue aux soldats israéliens qu’à un incident spontané, ce qui pose la question : Comment se fait-il que Tsahal n’ait pas su qu’une telle embuscade était prévue, alors que des médias libanais avaient été prévenus et se trouvaient sur place ?

Le fait que l’armée libanaise soit responsable de l’incident pourrait contribuer à calmer les esprits, car le gouvernement libanais n’a pas intérêt à déclencher un conflit militaire avec Israël. Israël semble souhaiter lui aussi un retour au calme. Une guerre en pleine période de grandes vacances, alors que le nord du pays est submergé de touristes, est le cauchemar des habitants de Galilée. La manière mesurée dont Tsahal a réagi, sur l’ordre de l’échelon politique, soulève cependant une controverse au sein de l’armée où des officiers supérieurs estiment qu’il aurait fallu riposter avec plus de force.

Aujourd’hui se réunira à Naqoura, du côté libanais de la frontière, la commission commune à la FINUL, Tsahal et l’armée libanaise, pour débattre des plaintes réciproques des deux camps suite à l’incident.

Le principal problème est que dans cette crise intervient un acteur supplémentaire, le Hezbollah, qui se trouve ces dernières semaines dans une situation inconfortable, certains de ses hauts responsables devant prochainement être inculpés pour leur implication dans l’assassinat de Rafiq Hariri. Il est probable que le Hezbollah se contente des affrontements d’hier, qui ne lui ont causé aucun dommage, seule l’armée libanaise en ayant payé le prix. On ne peut s’empêcher de penser que Nasrallah a de bonnes raisons d’être satisfait.

Jusqu’à cette semaine, et malgré la flottille vers Gaza, Israël connaissait l’été le plus calme depuis des années. A ce stade, on ne peut établir de lien entre les tirs de roquettes vers Eilat et Aqaba avant-hier et l’incident à la frontière nord. Mais l’accumulation de tels incidents (qui s’ajoutent aux tirs des roquettes vers Ashkelon et Sdérot le week-end dernier) augmente la tension dans la région. Comme si cela ne suffisait pas, au Liban on s’attend en fin de semaine à l’annonce du départ de la flottille à destination de Gaza. Il faudra semble-t-il un effort de toutes les parties impliquées, et notamment du gouvernement américain, pour empêcher une

Voir enfin:

Liban: accrochage sanglant à la frontière avec Israël

Le Monde

04.08.10

A quelques jours de l’anniversaire de la fin de la guerre israélo-libanaise de l’été 2006, la frontière entre ces deux pays a été, mardi 3 août, le théâtre d’un sanglant accès de violence. L’accrochage, qui a coûté la vie à deux soldats et un journaliste libanais ainsi qu’à un officier israélien, paraissait, mercredi matin, ne pas devoir dégénérer, d’autant qu’à la différence du conflit d’il y a quatre ans le mouvement chiite libanais Hezbollah est resté en retrait.

Mais le spectre de cette guerre qui dévasta le sud du Liban, l’extrême volatilité qui prévaut depuis à la frontière et les menaces des responsables des deux camps entretiennent la crainte d’une escalade. Conscientes de ce risque, les capitales occidentales ont enjoint les deux camps à « un maximum de retenue », Paris exhortant le Liban et Israël au « sens des responsabilités et au plein respect de la ligne bleue », la frontière internationale entre les deux pays.

L’incident s’est déroulé au bout du doigt de la Galilée, au nord de la ville israélienne de Kyriat Shmona et en face du village libanais d’Adaissé. Les tirs ont éclaté alors que des soldats israéliens s’efforçaient de tailler un arbre planté le long de la frontière, afin d’améliorer leur visibilité dans une zone sensible où les deux armées patrouillent à portée de voix.

Laquelle a ouvert les hostilités ? Les versions divergent. L’état-major israélien parle d’une « embuscade délibérée ». Il affirme que le mouvement de ses troupes avait été coordonné avec les casques bleus de la Force intérimaire des Nations unies au Liban (Finul) et que l’arbre en question était situé certes au-delà de la clôture électronique dressée par Israël, ce dont des photos attestent, mais en deçà de la ligne bleue qui diverge parfois du tracé de la clôture et donc, sur le territoire de l’Etat juif. Pendant qu’un membre du génie israélien, dans une nacelle mobile, procédait au débroussaillage, des tireurs embusqués de l’armée libanaise auraient tiré sans sommation sur un poste de commandement israélien, quelques centaines de mètres en retrait de la clôture. Blessant grièvement deux officiers, dont un lieutenant-colonel, décédé quelques heures plus tard.

Le scénario de l’armée libanaise est rigoureusement inverse. Selon elle, l’arbre de la discorde était situé en territoire libanais où des militaires israéliens auraient pénétré, en dépit de mises en garde de la Finul. C’est à ce moment-là que les soldats libanais auraient lâché quelques coups de semonce, avec des armes légères, déclenchant en retour des tirs d’artillerie sur le hameau d’Adaissé. Une journaliste libanaise, citée par Associated Press, affirme avoir vu des casques bleus prévenir les forces israéliennes que leur vis-à-vis ouvrirait le feu si elles s’aventuraient au-delà de la frontière. Un reporter du quotidien libanais Al-Akhbar, Assaf Abou Rahhal, a été tué dans le bombardement israélien et trois personnes ont été blessées, dont le maire d’Adaissé. Un peu plus tard, un hélicoptère a tiré deux missiles sur un poste de l’armée libanaise, faisant deux morts parmi les soldats.

QUATRE ANS APRÈS LA GUERRE

Les chancelleries occidentales sont vite entrées en action pour empêcher la répétition de l’engrenage qui mena à la guerre de juillet-août 2006, qui fit 1 200 morts côté libanais, des civils en grande majorité, et 158 côté israélien, pour la plupart militaires. De son côté, le premier ministre libanais, Saad Hariri, s’est entretenu avec plusieurs dirigeants, notamment le président français Nicolas Sarkozy, dont il a demandé l’aide pour mettre fin aux « méthodes agressives d’Israël ». Beyrouth dénonce les survols réguliers de son territoire par la chasse israélienne, en violation de la résolution 1701 de l’ONU qui mit fin au conflit. Israël réplique sur le même mode, en brandissant des rapports qui atteste d’un réarmement massif du Hezbollah depuis 2006. Ces derniers mois, deux développements ont accru encore la tension : la mise au jour, par les services secrets libanais, d’un vaste réseau d’espionnage en faveur d’Israël et la possibilité, avancée par l’Etat juif, que la Syrie ait fourni au Hezbollah des missiles Scud à moyenne portée.

Le président syrien Bachar Al-Assad, qui réfute cette accusation, avait déclaré le 1er juillet que le refus d’Israël de se retirer du plateau du Golan, occupé depuis 1967, augmentait la possibilité d’une guerre au Proche-Orient.

En l’absence de surenchères armées, le prochain round de la guerre froide israélo-libanaise pourrait se jouer devant le Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU, où les deux parties ont exprimé l’intention de déposer plainte. Dans un rapport préliminaire présenté mardi devant cette instance, le chef des opérations de maintien de la paix des Nations unies, le Français Alain Le Roy, dont dépend la Finul, s’est abstenu d’incriminer l’un des deux camps. Sur place, mercredi, des soldats de Tsahal ont déraciné le feuillu par qui la frontière israélo-libanaise aurait pu s’embraser.

Voir par ailleurs:

Syria accused of arming Hezbollah from secret bases

Richard Beeston

The Times

May 28, 2010

Hezbollah is running weapons, including surface-to-surface missiles, from secret arms depots in Syria to its bases in Lebanon, according to security sources.

The Times has been shown satellite images of one of the sites, a compound near the town of Adra, northeast of Damascus, where militants have their own living quarters, an arms storage site and a fleet of lorries reportedly used to ferry weapons into Lebanon.

The military hardware is either of Syrian origin or sent from Iran by sea, via Mediterranean ports, or by air, via Damascus airport. The arms are stored at the Hezbollah depot and then trucked into Lebanon.

“Hezbollah is allowed to operate this site freely,” said a security source. “They often move the arms in bad weather when Israeli satellites are unable to track them.”

Most of the weapons are sent from depots like the one near Adra and then stored at Hezbollah bases in the Bekaa Valley or southern Lebanon.

The revelation adds to growing fears in the West that the regime of Bashar Assad, the President of Syria, is becoming increasingly close to Hezbollah and its main supporter, Iran. Syria has long backed the Lebanese militant group, but until now most of those contacts have taken place on Lebanese soil.There are fears that if Israel and Hezbollah clash again — as happened in August 2006 — Syria could become directly embroiled in the conflict.

Israel reportedly planned recently to bomb one of the arms convoys as it crossed the border into Lebanon, but the operation was called off at the last minute. Western intelligence sources say that the Israelis have yielded — for now — to American diplomatic efforts to persuade Syria to stop the arms transfers. However, the apparent lack of success is increasing the chances that Israel may send a “calibrated signal” to Hezbollah and Syria by launching an airstrike against an arms depot or weapons convoy.

Jihad Makdissi, the spokesman for the Syrian Embassy in London, insisted that all military sites in Syria were exclusive to the Syrian military.

“Syria and Israel remain in a state of war as long as Israel refuses to implement UNSC [United Nations Security Council] resolutions to end the occupation of Arab lands; therefore if these military depots really exist it would be for the exclusive use of the Syrian Army to defend Syrian soil, and it is definitely nobody’s business,” he said.

Arming Hezbollah was banned under the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought an end to the 2006 war. Since then, however, Hezbollah has managed to replenish its military stocks and the group is thought to have amassed more than 40,000 rockets and missiles, ranging from short-range Katyushas to medium-range M600 missiles and the Soviet-era Scud ballistic missile, which is capable of hitting most big population centres in Israel.

Yossi Baidatz, an Israeli intelligence officer, told the Knesset this month that the amount of arms being sent to Hezbollah by Syria and Iran could no longer be described as “smuggling”. He said it was an “organised and official transfer” of weapons and that the Scuds were “only the tip of the iceberg”.

Syria has denied arming Hezbollah with Scuds, but America and Israel insist they have hard intelligence to the contrary.

The Times has learnt that US and Israeli intelligence agencies suspect that two Scud missiles have entered Lebanon and could be hidden in underground arms depots in the northern Bekaa Valley. One source said there were indications that Hezbollah may even be considering returning the missiles because of the intensified scrutiny.

Western officials have repeatedly urged President Assad to halt the flow of weapons to Hezbollah. John Kerry, the head of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visited Damascus in April and presented the Syrian President with evidence that Scuds had been transferred to Hezbollah, according to Western diplomatic sources. Mr Assad denied the allegations.

Western officials privately say that the Syrian leader is “flat out lying” about the arms transfers.

Voir enfin:

La Finul sous pression

Les incidents se multiplient entre Casques bleus et villageois acquis au Hezbollah.

Isabelle Dellerba correspondante à  Beyrouth

Libération

04/08/2010

A la vue d’étrangers dans son village, le conducteur de la voiture pile. «Qu’est-ce que vous faites là ? Vous avez l’autorisation de l’armée ? Montrez-la moi !» lance ce simple civil, agacé. «Ils étaient en train de filmer la vallée», affirme-t-il quelques minutes plus tard au téléphone, péremptoire, à un interlocuteur anonyme. Cette vallée, située non loin de Bint Jbeil, la «capitale» du Sud-Liban, et à quelques kilomètres de la frontière israélienne, «abrite des caches d’armes du Hezbollah», explique un bon connaisseur du dossier. Comme toute la zone, stratégique pour le Parti de Dieu, elle est l’objet d’une discrète mais constante surveillance de la part d’une population acquise au Hezbollah. Avec une obsession commune à tous : «l’ennemi israélien». Tout intrus est donc suspect.

Jets de pierre.

Les Casques bleus de la Force intérimaire des Nations unies (Finul) n’échappent pas à cette suspicion permanente. Ces 12 000 soldats effectuent, depuis la fin de la guerre de 2006, 350 patrouilles par jour pour «contrôler la cessation des hostilités» et «aider le gouvernement libanais à assurer le rétablissement de son autorité effective dans la région». Ils sont l’objet d’une «surveillance continue par les civils», s’agaçait, début juillet, le secrétaire général des Nations unies. Les dizaines de milliers de paires d’yeux braqués sur eux s’assurent qu’ils restent dans les limites de leur mission et, surtout, qu’ils ne marchent pas sur les plates-bandes du Parti de Dieu. Au moindre écart, la sanction tombe. Ces derniers mois, les Casques bleus ont été la cible répétée d’agressions et de vols de matériel.

Jets de pierre, confiscation d’appareils photos et de GPS, arrestations temporaires de militaires en patrouille par des villageois, les incidents sérieux ont débuté en mars et se sont multipliés. «Nous n’avons rien contre eux, affirment pourtant de concert les villageois, mais ils ne doivent pas se comporter en terrain conquis.» Beaucoup leur reprochent une attitude trop intrusive. «Ils pénètrent dans les villages avec leurs blindés et prennent des tas de photos, s’inquiète ainsi Nasser, commerçant. C’est comme s’ils cherchaient des preuves contre nous. Ils doivent se contenter d’aider les autorités libanaises !»

En 2006, le Hezbollah, épuisé par trente-trois jours de guerre, avait donné son aval à l’arrivée de ces milliers de soldats étrangers dans son bastion militaire mais à condition qu’ils collaborent étroitement avec l’armée libanaise, en laquelle le parti a confiance. Ce fut effectivement le cas. Aujourd’hui, les représentants de la force onusienne affirment que rien n’a changé et appellent l’armée libanaise à «assurer la liberté de mouvement» de leurs troupes tandis qu’un certain nombre d’analystes reprochent à Israël de jeter de l’huile sur le feu.

L’incident frontalier d’hiervient s’ajouter à une longue liste de griefs. Le 8 juillet, l’Etat hébreu avait une nouvelle fois accusé le Hezbollah de stocker des roquettes au cœur des villages du Sud et, pour étayer ses dires, produit des images qui auraient été tournées dans le hameau de Khiam. De quoi attiser la paranoïa ambiante. D’autant que l’aviation israélienne poursuit ses violations quotidiennes de l’espace aérien libanais, au nez et à la barbe des Casques bleus, qui semblent, une fois de plus, impuissants à imposer le respect du droit international. «Et pour couronner le tout, la Finul a organisé, fin juin, un exercice grandeur nature pour protéger Israël. Elle s’est entraînée à empêcher des tirs de roquettes à partir du territoire libanais, s’insurge un officier libanais. C’est une provocation pour la population du Sud !»

Nucléaire iranien. Le contingent français est plus particulièrement dans le collimateur des villageois. Est-ce, comme l’affirme cet officier, à cause de son ancien chef d’état-major, le général Lafontaine, qualifié de «va-t-en-guerre» et arrivé à la fin de son mandat il y a peu ? Des journalistes libanais, férus d’analyses géopolitiques complexes, pensent qu’il pourrait s’agir de messages envoyés à la France, très active sur le nucléaire iranien ou sur le Tribunal spécial pour le Liban, chargé de juger les auteurs de l’attentat contre l’ex-Premier ministre Rafic Hariri et qui pourrait émettre des actes d’accusation contre des membres du Hezbollah.

Ces incidents, en tout cas, sont organisés. Il est probable que le Hezbollah, qui a redéployé l’essentiel de ses activités militaires au nord de la zone frontalière et dans l’ouest du Liban depuis l’arrivée de la Finul renforcée, cherche à accroître sa capacité de mouvement dans le Sud afin de pouvoir mieux se préparer à une nouvelle guerre avec Israël.


Stratégie: L’étrange logique de nos stratèges en chambre (The Clausewitzian center of gravity has moved from the battlefield to the opeds and talking heads)

7 avril, 2009
Black bloc hooligans (Rostock)A Strasbourg, tout a été fait pour que la manif’ parte en Schweppes… Olivier Besancenot
Les autonomes ne sont pas nécessairement violents. Généralement, la violence vient plutôt de la police comme on l’a vu à Gênes avec la mort de Carlo Giuliani, ce manifestant tué par balle par la police italienne. La plupart des actions des autonomes sont aujourd’hui des actions non-violentes du type manifestation, occupation, ou piquets de grève. Sébastien Schifres (doctorant en science politique et militant du mouvement des “autonomes”)
Les forces de quatrième génération jouent le spectre entier et se rendent compte que le niveau moral est le plus puissant et le niveau physique le moins puissant. William Lind
Le centre de gravité clausewitzien s’est déplacé des champs de bataille vers les éditoriaux et les présentateurs de télévision. La perception de la guerre a autant d’importance que son déroulement concret. Daniel Pipes
Al-Jazeera nous donne une importante leçon de construction et de garantie de la libre parole. En fournissant librement ces ressources pour le monde entier, la chaîne encourage un plus large débat ainsi qu’une meilleure compréhension des faits. Lawrence Lessig (fondateur de Creative Commons et professeur de droit de Stanford)
Il ne s’agit pas de minimiser le rôle d’Israël dans la mort de nombreux civils mais (…) les témoignages que nous avons rassemblés laissent penser que le Hamas y a aussi pris une part en appliquant la stratégie du bouclier humain et en faisant régner la terreur parmi la population. David Pujadas (France 2, le 4 février 2009)
Le deuxième aspect du phénomène réside en effet dans le militantisme flagrant de nombreux journalistes dépêchés sur les théâtres d’opérations militaires, et tout spécialement en Irak. (…) La journaliste italienne Giuliana Sgrena en est un exemple. Elle s’est rendue en Irak pour “prendre le parti du peuple irakien opprimé” et en tant “qu’ennemie de l’Amérique”, selon ses propres déclarations rendues publiques par un reporter hollandais. Ludovic Monnerat

A l’heure, où après l’avoir exigé d’Israël à Gaza, c’est maintenant aux forces de l’ordre qu’on demande des comptes pour l’incroyable violence des hooligans des manifestations anti-OTAN du weekend dernier à Strasbourg ou des manifestations anti-police de Corse

Même si des erreurs peuvent naturellement avoir été commises, en ce pays autoproclamé des droits de l’homme à la longue tradition de violence politique et de stigmatisation de la police qui refuse systématiquement d’extrader des terroristes et, en ce 15e anniversaire du génocide rwandais, les génocidaires

Mais où, aussi étonnant que rare moment de lucidité de nos médias, France 2 diffusait début février un reportage un peu plus objectif et critique sur la réalité des tactiques de boucliers humains du Hamas à Gaza …

Retour sur une éclairante tribune de Daniel Pipes d’il y a trois ans suite à la Guerre du Liban de l’été 2006.

Où, faisant écho à certaines réflexions de spécialistes de stratégie militaire, il rappelait la véritable révolution que vit actuellement l’art militaire.

De petits groupes décentralisés d’acteurs non-étatiques (qualifiés de 4e génération mais en réalité des groupes terroristes) étant censés transformer à leur avantage leur infériorité face au suréquipement des grandes armées modernes en déplaçant les choses sur le terrain des perceptions et des relations publiques.

Autrement dit « des champs de bataille vers les éditoriaux et les présentateurs de télévision », « la perception de la guerre ayant autant d’importance que son déroulement concret »

Sauf que ce que nos stratèges semblent oublier, c’est qu’une stratégie qui se réduit à maximiser les pertes subies et par là sa propre image de victimisation bafoue non seulement toutes les lois de la guerre sur la supercherie et la perfidie mais ne fait en fait que détourner perversement à son profit l’intense souci des victimes d’origine judéo-chrétienne qui est devenu la caractéristique de notre temps.

Sans compter qu’elle nécessite, pour avoir la moindre chance de réussite, la coopération sans faille d’un véritable petite armée de faussaires de l’information à la Charles Enderlin ou de journalistes-combattants à la Sara Daniel ou Florence Aubenas disposés à diffuser largement les pires mensonges.

Dont on ne voit pas en quoi, si nos journalistes faisaient réellement leur travail d’information, ils pourraient leur valoir, face à une opinion publique mondiale correctement informée, la moindre supériorité morale …

Extrait:

Une telle puissance a pour corollaire que lorsque l’Occident affronte le non-Occident, l’issue de la bataille est connu d’avance. Dès lors, les combats revêtent plutôt l’aspect d’une opération policière que d’une campagne militaire traditionnelle. De même que les interventions des forces de police, les guerres modernes sont jugées en fonction de leur légalité, de la durée des hostilités, de la proportionnalité des forces engagées, de la sévérité des pertes et de l’étendue des dommages causés à l’économie et à l’environnement. Ce sont autant de questions discutables, et qui font effectivement l’objet de débats, à tel point que le centre de gravité clausewitzien s’est déplacé des champs de bataille vers les éditoriaux et les présentateurs de télévision. La perception de la guerre a autant d’importance que son déroulement concret.

L’étrange logique de la guerre du Liban
Daniel Pipes
New York Sun
15 août 2006

Version originale anglaise: Strange Logic in the Lebanon War
Adaptation française: Alain Jean-Mairet

En prenant de facto parti pour le Hezbollah dans sa guerre contre Israël, le personne de certaines organisations de presse parmi les plus prestigieuses du monde révèlent par mégarde une profonde transformation intervenant dans la logique de la guerre.

Quelques exemples de ces actions:

Reuters. Adnan Hajj, un photographe indépendant travaillant depuis plus de dix ans pour Reuters, falsifia ses prises de vue pour donner une image plus destructrice des attaques israéliennes sur le Liban et une image plus vulnérable des Libanais. Il retoucha des nuages de fumée résultant de l’explosion de manière à les rendre plus épais et plus noirs et fit poser une femme pleurant la perte de sa résidence détruite par les bombes sur trois sites différents. Reuters licencia Hajj et supprima de ses archives 920 de ses photographies. D’autres recherches effectuées par des bloggeurs révélèrent quatre types d’images frauduleuses diffusées par Reuters, toute exagérant l’agressivité israélienne. Les bloggeurs montrèrent même qu’une image de Reuters avait été mise en scène.

BBC. Les responsables de l’édition se mirent en quête de témoignages personnels diabolisant Israël avec cette demande postée sur leurs pages d’actualités: «Vivez-vous à Gaza? Avez-vous souffert des incidents qui se sont produits dans la région? Faites-nous part de vos expériences en remplissant le formulaire ci-dessous. Si vous souhaitez nous parler de vive voix, merci d’ajouter vos coordonnées.»

CNN. Une présentatrice du programme international, Rosemary Church, suggéra que les forces israéliennes pourraient abattre les roquettes du Hezbollah en vol mais renoncèrent sciemment à le faire lorsqu’elle demanda à un porte-parole israélien: «Pourquoi Israël n’abat pas ces roquettes en plein vol? Ils ont les moyens de le faire.»

Washington Post. De même, le journaliste spécialisé dans les affaires militaires Thomas Ricks annonça en diffusion télévisée nationale que des analystes militaires américains, dont il ne précisa pas l’identité, pensent que le gouvernement israélien «laisse intactes des réserves de roquettes du Hezbollah au Liban, car aussi longtemps qu’ils reçoivent des roquettes, leurs opérations au Liban conservent une sorte d’équivalence morale.» Puis d’expliquer que les souffrances de leurs compatriotes leur procurent «une justification morale».

Toutes ces activités médiatiques se fondent sur une perception selon laquelle les pertes subies et l’image de victimisation favorisent la position des protagonistes de la guerre. Les falsifications d’Adnan Hajj, par exemple, visaient à salir l’image d’Israël et ainsi à créer des dissensions internes, à saper la réputation internationale du pays et à générer des pressions sur le gouvernement l’incitant à cesser ses attaques au Liban.

Mais ce phénomène, avec les deux clans faisant étalage de leurs souffrances et de leurs pertes est opposé à l’usage historique voulant que l’on intimide son ennemi en se montrant féroce, implacable et victorieux. Pendant la Deuxième Guerre mondiale, par exemple, le Ministère américain de l’information de guerre interdit la publication de films ou de photographies montrant des Américains morts durant les deux premières années des combats et n’infléchit cette politique que légèrement ensuite. Ceci alors que son Bureau cinématographique produisait des films tels que «Notre ennemi – le Japonais» montrant des dépouilles de Japonais et des scènes illustrant leurs privations.

Le fait de proclamer ses propres prouesses et de dénigrer celles de l’ennemi a été la norme au cours des millénaires, comme l’attestent les peintures murales égyptiennes, les vases grecs, la poésie arabe, le dessin chinois, les ballades anglaises et le théâtre russe. Pourquoi les combattants (et leurs alliés médiatiques) renversent-ils aujourd’hui cette pratique séculaire et universelle pour minimiser leurs propres réussites et mettre en exergue celles de l’ennemi?

À cause de la puissance sans précédent dont jouissent les États-Unis et leurs alliés. Comme l’historien Paul Kennedy l’expliquait en 2002, «en termes militaires, seul un acteur compte vraiment». En examinant l’histoire passée, il observe que «cette différence de puissance est absolument unique – rien n’a jamais existé de tel. Rien.» Et Israël, tant par lui-même, comme puissance régionale, qu’en tant que proche allié de Washington, jouit d’une prépondérance comparable vis-à-vis du Hezbollah.

Une telle puissance a pour corollaire que lorsque l’Occident affronte le non-Occident, l’issue de la bataille est connu d’avance. Dès lors, les combats revêtent plutôt l’aspect d’une opération policière que d’une campagne militaire traditionnelle. De même que les interventions des forces de police, les guerres modernes sont jugées en fonction de leur légalité, de la durée des hostilités, de la proportionnalité des forces engagées, de la sévérité des pertes et de l’étendue des dommages causés à l’économie et à l’environnement. Ce sont autant de questions discutables, et qui font effectivement l’objet de débats, à tel point que le centre de gravité clausewitzien s’est déplacé des champs de bataille vers les éditoriaux et les présentateurs de télévision. La perception de la guerre a autant d’importance que son déroulement concret.

Cette nouvelle réalité implique que dans des situations telles que celle des États-Unis en Irak ou d’Israël au Liban, les gouvernements doivent désormais considérer les relations publiques comme faisant partie intégrante de leur stratégie. Le Hezbollah s’est adapté à cette nouvelle donne, mais pas les gouvernements en question.


Guerre contre le terrorisme: Retour sur une victoire de plus en plus difficile à cacher (Yes, we’re winning, but please don’t tell anyone!)

22 mars, 2009
Come unto me, ye opprest!
Ce qui se vit aujourd’hui est une forme de rivalité mimétique à l’échelle planétaire. Lorsque j’ai lu les premiers documents de Ben Laden, constaté ses allusions aux bombes américaines tombées sur le Japon, je me suis senti d’emblée à un niveau qui est au-delà de l’islam, celui de la planète entière. Sous l’étiquette de l’islam, on trouve une volonté de rallier et de mobiliser tout un tiers-monde de frustrés et de victimes dans leurs rapports de rivalité mimétique avec l’Occident. Mais les tours détruites occupaient autant d’étrangers que d’Américains. Et par leur efficacité, par la sophistication des moyens employés, par la connaissance qu’ils avaient des Etats-Unis, par leurs conditions d’entraînement, les auteurs des attentats n’étaient-ils pas un peu américains ? On est en plein mimétisme. René Girard
As for their accusations of terrorizing the innocent, the children, and the women, these are in the category of ‘accusing others with their own affliction in order to fool the masses.’ The evidence overwhelmingly shows America and Israel killing the weaker men, women and children in the Muslim world and elsewhere. A few examples of this are seen in the recent Qana massacre in Lebanon, and the death of more than 600,000 Iraqi children because of the shortage of food and medicine which resulted from the boycotts and sanctions against the Muslim Iraqi people, also their withholding of arms from the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina leaving them prey to the Christian Serbians who massacred and raped in a manner not seen in contemporary history. Not to forget the dropping of the H-bombs on cities with their entire populations of children, elderly, and women, on purpose, and in a premeditated manner as was the case with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Osama bin Laden (Nida’ul Islam magazine October-November 1996)
Allah has ordered us to glorify the truth and to defend Muslim land, especially the Arab peninsula … against the unbelievers. After World War II, the Americans grew more unfair and more oppressive towards people in general and Muslims in particular. … The Americans started it and retaliation and punishment should be carried out following the principle of reciprocity, especially when women and children are involved. Through history, American has not been known to differentiate between the military and the civilians or between men and women or adults and children. Those who threw atomic bombs and used the weapons of mass destruction against Nagasaki and Hiroshima were the Americans. Can the bombs differentiate between military and women and infants and children? America has no religion that can deter her from exterminating whole peoples. Your position against Muslims in Palestine is despicable and disgraceful. America has no shame. … We believe that the worst thieves in the world today and the worst terrorists are the Americans. Nothing could stop you except perhaps retaliation in kind. We do not have to differentiate between military or civilian. As far as we are concerned, they are all targets, and this is what the fatwah says … . The fatwah is general (comprehensive) and it includes all those who participate in, or help the Jewish occupiers in killing Muslims.  Osama bin Laden (May 1998)
Nous combattons la pauvreté parce que l’espoir est la réponse à la terreur … Nous défierons la pauvreté et le désespoir et le manque d’éducation et les gouvernements en faillite qui trop souvent créent les conditions dont profitent les terroristes. George Bush (2003)
L’Irak, c’était en fait plus facile. Barack Obama (60 minutes, CBS, 20 mars 2009)
Attaquer les Etats-Unis de front est désormais le chemin le plus court menant à la gloire et au pouvoir chez les Arabes et les musulmans. Mais quel intérêt y a-t-il à détruire un des édifices de votre ennemi si celui-ci anéantit ensuite un de vos pays ? Quel intérêt y a-t-il à tuer l’un des siens si, en retour, il élimine un millier des vôtres ? Voilà, en bref, quelle est mon analyse du 11 septembre. Saïd Imam Al-Sharif (alias docteur Fadl, fondateur d’Al-Qaida, 2008)
Les terroristes kamikazes sont souvent traités de lâches et de fous, déterminés à une destruction absurde, prospérant au milieu de la pauvreté et de l’ignorance. Le but évident devient de traquer les terroristes tout en transformant simultanément l’environnement culturel et économique qui les soutient en le faisant passer du désespoir à l’espoir. Quelle que soit la recherche, elle montre que les terroristes kamikazes n’ont pas une psychopathologie spécifique et qu’ils ont un niveau d’études et de revenus égal à celui du reste de la population. (…) Avec le terrorisme suicide, le problème attributionnel est de comprendre pourquoi des individus non pathologiques répondent à des facteurs situationnels nouveaux en nombre suffisant pour permettre aux organisations recruteuses de mettre en oeuvre leur politique. Au Moyen-Orient, les contextes, tels qu’on les perçoit, dans lesquels s’expriment les kamikazes et ceux qui les cautionnent, passent par un sentiment collectif d’injustice historique, de soumission politique et d’humiliation sociale vis-à-vis des puissances mondiales et de leurs alliés, sentiment contrebalancé par un espoir religieux. Constater de telles perceptions ne signifie pas les accepter comme la simple réalité; cependant, en ignorer les causes risque de mal identifier les causes des attaques suicides et les solutions pour les prévenir. Il est aussi évident que les gens tendent à croire que leur comportement parle pour eux, qu’ils voient le monde objectivement et que seuls les autres sont biaisés et interprètent les évènements de façon erronée. Qui plus est, les individus tendent à avoir une perception fausse des différences entre les normes des groupes, les percevant comme plus extrêmes qu’elles ne le sont en réalité. Les incompréhensions qui en résultent – encouragées par la propagande religieuse et idéologique – amènent des groupes antagonistes à interpréter leurs visions respectives des évènements, tel que terrorisme-combattre pour la liberté, comme fausses, radicales et/ ou irrationnelles. La diabolisation mutuelle et la guerre s’ensuivent facilement. Le problème est d’arrêter l’intensification de cette spirale dans les camps opposés. (…) Ces théories d’un choix rationnel basé sur des opportunités économiques ne rendent pas compte de façon fiable de certains types de crimes violents (homicides domestiques, meurtres dus à la haine). Ces supputations ont encore moins de sens en ce qui concerne les attaques suicides. En général, les terroristes kamikazes n’ont pas eu moins de chances dans leur vie légitime que le reste de la population. Comme le souligne la presse arabe, si les martyrs n’avaient rien à perdre, leur sacrifice n’aurait pas de sens: «Celui qui se suicide se tue pour son propre bénéfice, celui qui commet le martyr se sacrifie pour sauver sa religion et sa nation …. Le Mujahed est plein d’espoir». La recherche menée par Krueger et Maleckova montre que l’éducation peut ne pas être corrélée, ou même être positivement corrélée, avec le fait de soutenir le terrorisme. Dans un sondage de décembre 2001, auprès de 1357 palestiniens de 18 ans ou plus, de la Cisjordanie et de Gaza, ceux qui avaient 12 années d’études ou plus soutenaient les attaques armées par 68 points, ceux qui avaient 11 années d’étude par 63 points et les illettrés par 46 points. 40% seulement des personnes ayant des diplômes universitaires était pour le dialogue avec Israël, contre 53% ayant des diplômes d’études secondaires et 60% ayant effectué 9 ans d’études ou moins. En comparant les militants du Hezbollah morts dans l’action avec un échantillon au hasard de Libanais de la même classe d’âge et de la même région, les militants avaient plus de chance de ne pas venir de familles pauvres et d’avoir fait des études secondaires. Plus récemment, Krueger et ses collègues trouvèrent que, bien qu’un tiers des Palestiniens vivent dans la pauvreté, c’est seulement le cas de 13% des kamikazes palestiniens; 57% des kamikazes vont au-delà du lycée contre 15% d’une population d’âge comparable. Néanmoins, une perte relative d’avantages économiques ou sociaux dans les classes éduquées peut encourager le soutien au terrorisme. Dans la période précédant la première Intifada (1982-1988), le nombre d’hommes palestiniens ayant fait 12 ans d’études ou plus a fait plus que doubler; ceux avec moins d’années d’études n’a augmenté que de 30%. Ceci coïncida avec une augmentation significative du chômage chez ceux qui avaient fait des études supérieures par rapport à ceux qui avaient fait des études secondaires. Les salaires quotidiens réels de ceux qui avaient des diplômes universitaires diminuèrent de quelque 30%; les salaires de ceux qui n’avaient fait que des études secondaires restèrent stables. Le chômage semble aussi un facteur de recrutement pour Al Qaeda et ses alliés dans la péninsule arabique. Bien que l’humiliation et le désespoir puissent aider à rendre compte de la prédisposition pour le martyre dans certaines situations, ce n’est une explication ni complète ni applicable à d’autres circonstances. Des études menées par le psychologue Ariel Merari montrent l’importance des institutions dans le terrorisme suicide. Son équipe a interviewé 32 des 34 familles de kamikazes en Palestine et en Israël (avant 1998), des terroristes survivants et des recruteurs faits prisonniers. Les terroristes kamikazes reflètent apparemment une répartition normale dans leur population en termes d’éducation, de statut socioéconomique et de types de personnalités (introverti par rapport à extroverti). L’âge moyen des terroristes était la vingtaine. Presque tous étaient célibataires et témoignaient de croyance religieuse avant le recrutement (mais pas plus que la population générale). Excepté le fait d’être jeunes et sans attaches, les kamikazes diffèrent des membres d’organisations racistes violentes avec lesquels ils sont souvent comparés. Globalement, les terroristes kamikazes ne présentent pas de caractéristiques de dysfonctionnements sociaux (absence de père, d’ami, ou d’emploi) ni de symptômes suicidaires. Ils n’expriment aucune crainte de l’ennemi, aucun « désespoir », aucun sentiment de « n’avoir rien à perdre » par manque d’alternatives dans la vie qui seraient liées à des raisons économiques. Merari attribue la responsabilité première des attaques aux organisations qui recrutent en enrôlant des candidats potentiels dans cette population jeune et relativement sans attaches. Ensuite, à l’intérieur de petites cellules de trois à six membres, des entraîneurs charismatiques cultivent intensément leur engagement mutuel à mourir. L’étape ultime avant le martyre est un contrat social formel, la plupart du temps sous la forme d’un testament enregistré en vidéo. (…) Ainsi, on pourrait dire qu’un facteur critique déterminant le comportement du terrorisme suicide est la loyauté à des groupes intimes de pairs, que les organisations recruteuses encouragent souvent par le biais de la communion religieuse. (…) Peu de bénéfice tangible (en termes de théories de choix rationnel) revient au kamikaze, certainement pas assez pour faire du gain probable un gain « d’utilité attendue » maximisée. Le surcroît de reconnaissance sociale n’arrive qu’après la mort, parant à un bénéfice matériel personnel. Mais pour les leaders qui ne considèrent quasi jamais de se tuer eux-mêmes (en dépit de déclaration où ils se disent prêts à mourir), il est certain que dans les opérations de martyre, les bénéfices matériels l’emportent de loin sur les pertes. (…) Pour l’organisation commanditaire, les kamikazes sont des atouts remplaçables dont la perte, en augmentant le soutien public et les réservoirs de recrues potentielles, génère un plus grand nombre d’atouts. (…) L’argent coule à flots de ceux qui sont disposés à laisser les autres mourir, compensant facilement les coûts opérationnels (entraînement, personnel de soutien, maisons sûres, explosifs et autres armes, transport et communication). Après l’attentat à la bombe d’un supermarché à Jérusalem par une femme palestinienne de 18 ans, un téléthon saoudien recueillit plus de 100 millions de dollars pour «l’Intifada Al-Quds». Les représailles massives augmentent le sentiment de victimisation des gens et leur ardeur à se comporter selon les doctrines organisationnelles et les politiques mises en place pour tirer profit de tels sentiments.(…)  La dernière ligne de défense contre le terrorisme suicide – éviter que les terroristes n’atteignent leurs cibles – semble être la plus coûteuse et vraisemblablement la moins vouée à la réussite. Des fouilles au hasard de bagages ou au corps ne peuvent pas être très effectives contre des gens décidés à mourir, même si cela peut fournir quelque semblant de sécurité et donc de défense psychologique contre la guerre psychologique du terrorisme suicide. Une ligne moyenne de défense, qui consisterait à pénétrer et à détruire les organisations recruteuses et à isoler leurs leaders, pourrait être couronnée de succès à court terme mais avec la possibilité que des organisations encore plus résistantes émergent à leur place. La première ligne de défense est de réduire drastiquement la réceptivité des recrues potentielles aux organisations recruteuses. Mais comment ? Il est important de savoir ce qui probablement ne fonctionnera pas. Elever les taux d’alphabétisation peut n’avoir aucun effet et être contreproductif, une alphabétisation plus importante se traduisant par une exposition plus importante à la propagande terroriste (au Pakistan, l’alphabétisation et le rejet des Etats-Unis se sont accrus tandis que s’accroissait de 3000 à 39000 le nombre d’écoles religieuses madrasa depuis 1978)[23,34]. Diminuer la pauvreté pourrait n’avoir aucun effet, et être contreproductif si la réduction de la pauvreté pour l’ensemble de la population amenait à une redistribution des richesses vers le bas qui laisserait ceux qui étaient initialement mieux pourvus avec finalement moins d’opportunités qu’auparavant. Mettre fin à l’occupation ou réduire l’humiliation ressentie pourrait constituer une aide, mais pas si la population croit qu’il s’agit là d’une victoire inspirée par la terreur (par exemple le retrait apparemment forcé d’Israël du Liban). Si l’attentat suicide est crucialement (bien que non exclusivement) un phénomène de niveau institutionnel, cela pourrait demander que l’on trouve la bonne combinaison de pressions et d’incitations pour obtenir des communautés elles-mêmes l’abandon de leur soutien aux institutions qui recrutent les kamikazes. Un moyen peut être d’endommager tellement le tissu social et politique de la communauté que tout soutien par la population locale ou les autorités pour ceux qui commanditent les attaques suicides s’effondre, comme cela est arrivé pour les kamikazes en tant que sous-produits de la destruction nucléaire d’Hiroshima et de Nagasaki. Dans le monde actuel, cependant, une telle stratégie ne serait ni moralement justifiable ni facile à mettre en oeuvre, vu la dispersion et la diffusion de l’organisation des institutions terroristes parmi des populations séparées par la distance et qui se chiffrent collectivement à des centaines de millions. De même, la riposte sous forme de représailles n’est pas moralement acceptable si on recherche des alliés. Même dans des endroits plus localisés, comme dans le conflit israélo-palestinien, des politiques coercitives ne peuvent aboutir seules à une réduction durable des attaques et peuvent à long terme exacerber le problème. En ce qui concerne l’incitation, les recherches en psychologie sociale montrent que les gens s’identifiant aux groupes antagonistes utilisent les informations opposées de l’autre groupe pour renforcer leur antagonisme. Par conséquent, simplement essayer de persuader de l’extérieur les uns et les autres en les bombardant avec davantage d’informations qu’ils vont utiliser à leur profit ne peut qu’augmenter leur hostilité. Une autre recherche indique que la plupart des gens ont des vues plus modérées que ce qu’ils considèrent comme étant la norme de leur groupe. Inciter de l’intérieur les modérés et leur donner la possibilité de confronter les insuffisances et les incohérences de leur propre connaissance (des autres comme malfaisants), de leurs valeurs (le respect pour la vie) et de leur comportement (le soutien du meurtre), avec les autres membres de leur groupe peut produire une insatisfaction émotionnelle menant à un changement durable et avoir une influence sur le rôle de ces individus. Financer une éducation civique et des débats pourrait constituer une aide, de même que développer la confiance interconfessionnelle grâce à des initiatives intercommunautaires interactives (comme le propose le gouvernement de Singapour). La mise en avant du facteur ethnique, l’isolation et les attaques préventives sur des partisans potentiels (mais pas encore actuels) du terrorisme n’aideront probablement pas. Une autre stratégie pour les Etats-Unis et leurs alliés consiste à changer de comportement en abordant directement et en atténuant les sentiments de grief et d’humiliation, spécialement en Palestine (où les images de violence quotidienne en ont fait le centre mondial de l’attention musulmane). Car aucune évidence (historique ou autre) n’indique que le soutien au terrorisme suicide disparaîtra sans une entente pour réaliser au moins quelques objectifs fondamentaux communs aux terroristes et aux communautés qui les soutiennent. Evidemment, ceci ne veut pas dire négocier sur tous les objectifs, tel que la requête d’Al Qaeda de remplacer le système des états nations inspiré de l’occident par un califat global, d’abord dans les territoires musulmans et ensuite ailleurs. A la différence d’autres groupes, Al Qaeda ne fait connaître aucune revendication spécifique à la suite des actions martyres. Telle une armée vengeresse, il ne cherche aucun compromis. Mais la plupart des gens qui sont d’actuels sympathisants le pourraient. (…) Il se peut que le programme global, économique, politique et culturel de notre propre société joue un rôle catalyseur dans les volontés de fuir notre vision du monde (les talibans) ou de créer un contrepoids global (Al Qaeda). (…) Mais les résultats de Pew montrent que les populations qui soutiennent les actions terroristes sont actuellement favorablement disposées envers les formes américaines de gouvernement, d’éducation, d’économie et de liberté individuelle, en dépit du fait que ces gens font confiance à Osama Ben Laden et soutiennent les actions suicides. Les études menées par le scientifique politique palestinien Khalil Shikaki montrent que plus de 80% des Palestiniens considèrent qu’Israël a la forme de gouvernement la plus admirable, l’Amérique venant en second, bien que de nombreux sondages indiquent que 60-70% des Palestiniens expriment aussi leur soutien aux attaques suicides [47]. Un sondage antérieur de Zogby sur les impressions arabes concernant l’Amérique (avril 2002) montre le même schéma de soutien pour les libertés et la démocratie américaines mais le rejet de ses relations avec les autres – un schéma qui casse la thèse du «choc des civilisations» ou la conclusion de NSCT d’un «choc entre la civilisation et ceux qui voudraient la détruire». Des études plus récentes confirment aussi les rapports antérieurs montrant que les terroristes kamikazes et leurs partisans ne sont pas appauvris, sans instruction, vindicatifs ou socialement défavorisés. L’économiste palestinien Basel Saleh compila des informations sur 171 militants tués en action (presque tous durant la seconde Intifada, 2000-2003) qui provenaient des nouveaux services du Hamas et du Jihad (…) Comme pour le Hamas et le Jihad Islamique Palestinien, l’endoctrinement religieux par Al-Qaeda et ses alliés (de recrues qui initialement n’exprimèrent qu’une religiosité modérée) apparaît crucial pour créer des cellules intimes de famille fictive dont les membres s’engagent à mourir de plein gré les uns pour les autres. (…) Les psychologues sociaux ont longuement établi «l’erreur d’attribution fondamentale». La plupart des gens dans notre société , si on leur dit, par exemple, qu’on a ordonné à quelqu’un de faire un discours pour soutenir un candidat politique particulier, penseront encore que l’orateur croit ce qu’il est en train de dire. Ce biais d’interprétation semble être particulièrement prévalent dans les cultures « individualistes », telles que celles des États-Unis et de l’Europe Occidentale. Au contraire, de nombreuses cultures (en Afrique et en Asie) dans lesquelles une éthique « collectiviste » est davantage prévalente sont moins prédisposées à ce type de jugements. Les définitions du gouvernement américain et des media des kamikazes du Moyen Orient comme des maniaques homicides peut aussi souffrir d’une erreur d’attribution fondamentale: il n’y a pas d’exemple de terrorisme suicide religieux ou politique résultant de l’action isolée d’un poseur de bombe mentalement instable (comme le suicidaire Unabomber) ou même de quelqu’un agissant entièrement de sa propre autorité et sous sa propre responsabilité (comme le suicidaire Timothy Mc Veigh). (…) La primauté du situationnel sur les facteurs de personnalité suggère l’inanité des tentatives pour établir un profil psychologique du terroriste kamikaze. C’est le génie particulier d’institutions comme Al Qaeda, le Hamas ou le Hezbollah de prendre des gens ordinaires dans un amalgame de griefs historique, politique et religieux qui les transforment en bombes humaines. Un endoctrinement intense qui dure souvent 18 mois ou plus fait que les recrues s’identifient émotionnellement à leur petite cellule (généralement de 3 à 8 membres), la percevant comme une famille de fratrie fictive pour laquelle ils sont prêts à mourir comme une mère l’est pour son enfant ou un soldat pour ses copains. Comme de bons publicitaires, les leaders charismatiques des organisations qui commanditent le martyre transforment les désirs ordinaires pour une famille et une religion en envies furieuses pour ce qu’ils essaient de promouvoir, au bénéfice de l’organisation manipulatrice plutôt que pour celui de l’individu qui est manipulé (à peu près comme l’industrie pornographique qui transforment des désirs universels et innés pour des partenaires sexuels en désirs pour du papier ou des images électroniques à des fins réductrices pour la forme personnelle mais tout bénéfice pour les manipulateurs). (…) Ce ne sont pas les libertés intérieures et la culture de l’Amérique que ces gens n’aiment pas, mais ses actions extérieures et sa politique étrangère. Scott Atran

Oui, on a gagné, mais surtout ne le dites à personne!

Alors que, pris dans son refus de reconnaitre les succès de son prédécesseur, le maitre ès munichoiseries de la Maison Blanche multiplie les courbettes devant tout ce que la planète peut contenir de dictateurs ou de tyrannophiles

Qu’en ce 6e anniversaire de la victorieuse Campagne d’Irak et deux mois après la cinglante leçon que s’est prise le Hamas à Gaza, la campagne médiatique unilatérale de calomnie contre l’armée israélienne (récits de prétendues exactions, entretien d’un ancien tireur d’élite) a repris de plus belle …

Et où, réalité beaucoup moins médiatisée, commencent à sortir des informations sur la déroute des jihadistes d’Al-Qaida …

Retour, avec le recul des années écoulées (les sept ans sans attaques du territoire américain ou l’arrêt des attaques du Hezbollah au nord d’Israël), sur un éclairant article de 2003 de l’anthropologue américain Scott Atran concernant la « genèse du terrorisme-suicide ».

Qui, sans éviter les critiques les plus faciles (George Bush n’a jamais parlé que d’instrumentalisation de la pauvreté par Al Qaeda et, même en cherchant bien, on ne voit toujours pas quel courage il pourrait y avoir à s’attaquer aux civils désarmés d’une discothèque ou du WTC) …

A le mérite de tordre définitivement le cou à certaines idées reçues, notamment du prétendu « fondamentalisme » des groupes concernés alors que le mélange politico-religieux de l’islamisme actuel est de toute évidence un phénomène on ne peut plus récent et moderne.

Ou, au-delà des évidentes limites des théories de choix rationnel (sauf pour les commanditaires), les soi-disant motivations de pauvreté et de désespoir de terroristes-suicide qui auraient même pour nombre d’entre eux au contraire un bagage relativement favorisé.

Mais surtout de souligner la dimension institutionnelle du phénomène et partant l’importance des mesures de « réduction de la réceptivité des recrues potentielles aux organisations recruteuses ».

Comme une certaine « combinaison de pressions et d’incitations », au coût politique certes important au niveau de l’opinion publique internationale, « pour obtenir des communautés elles-mêmes l’abandon de leur soutien aux institutions qui recrutent les kamikazes » (voir la démolition des maisons des parents ou, comme au Japon en 1945 ou au Sud-Liban ou à Gaza tout récemment, « d’endommager tellement le tissu social et politique de la communauté que tout soutien par la population locale ou les autorités pour ceux qui commanditent les attaques suicides s’effondre ».

Mais surtout de pointer les effets potentiellement négatifs, au moins à court terme y compris pour les plus souhaitables, de certaines des mesures prônées.

Comme, sans parler de la démocratisation pouvant faire accéder au pouvoir les éléments les plus réactionnaires, l’alphabétisation qui pourrait par exemple augmenter, comme au Pakistan, l’exposition à la propagande terroriste

Ou la diminution de la pauvreté, « les groupes initialement mieux pourvus pouvant se retrouver avec finalement moins d’opportunités qu’auparavant ».

Ou la fin de l’occupation pourrait au contraire aggraver les choses si, comme on l’a vu au sud-Liban ou à Gaza, la population croit qu’il s’agit là d’une victoire inspirée par la terreur »

Extraits:

La première ligne de défense est de réduire drastiquement la réceptivité des recrues potentielles aux organisations recruteuses.

Elever les taux d’alphabétisation peut n’avoir aucun effet et être contreproductif, une alphabétisation plus importante se traduisant par une exposition plus importante à la propagande terroriste (au Pakistan, l’alphabétisation et le rejet des Etats-Unis se sont accrus tandis que s’accroissait de 3000 à 39000 le nombre d’écoles religieuses madrasa depuis 1978).

Diminuer la pauvreté pourrait n’avoir aucun effet, et être contreproductif si la réduction de la pauvreté pour l’ensemble de la population amenait à une redistribution des richesses vers le bas qui laisserait ceux qui étaient initialement mieux pourvus avec finalement moins d’opportunités qu’auparavant.

Mettre fin à l’occupation ou réduire l’humiliation ressentie pourrait constituer une aide, mais pas si la population croit qu’il s’agit là d’une victoire inspirée par la terreur (par exemple le retrait apparemment forcé d’Israël du Liban).

Si l’attentat suicide est crucialement (bien que non exclusivement) un phénomène de niveau institutionnel, cela pourrait demander que l’on trouve la bonne combinaison de pressions et d’incitations pour obtenir des communautés elles-mêmes l’abandon de leur soutien aux institutions qui recrutent les kamikazes. Un moyen peut être d’endommager tellement le tissu social et politique de la communauté que tout soutien par la population locale ou les autorités pour ceux qui commanditent les attaques suicides s’effondre, comme cela est arrivé pour les kamikazes en tant que sous-produits de la destruction nucléaire d’Hiroshima et de Nagasaki.

Genèse et futur de l’attentat suicide
de Scott Atran
(Traduction de l’original en anglais by Anne-Marie Varigault)

Résumé

Les modernes terroristes kamikazes du Moyen Orient sont considérés publiquement comme des lâches et des fous déterminés à une destruction absurde, prospérant au milieu de la pauvreté et de l’ignorance. Une étude récente montre qu’ils n’ont pas de psychopathologie notable et qu’ils ont un niveau d’éducation et des conditions de vie semblables au reste de la population. Une première ligne de défense consiste à obtenir des communautés d’où sont issus les commandos suicides qu’elles arrêtent les attaques en apprenant à minimiser la réceptivité de gens tout à fait ordinaires aux organisations qui les recrutent.

L’histoire récente

L’attaque suicide est une pratique ancienne avec une histoire moderne. Son usage par les sectes juives des Zélotes et des Sicaires (« poignards ») dans la Judée occupée par les Romains [1] et par l’Ordre Islamique des Assassins (hashashin) durant l’époque des premières croisades en sont des exemples légendaires [2]. Le concept de « terreur » en tant qu’usage systématique de la violence pour atteindre des fins politiques a été codifié pour la première fois par Maximilien Robespierre pendant la Révolution Française. Il la considéra comme une « émanation de la vertu », assurant une justice « prompte, sévère et inflexible », « une conséquence du principe général de démocratie appliqué aux besoins les plus urgents du pays » [3]. Le Règne de la Terreur, durant lequel la faction jacobine en place extermina des milliers d’ennemis potentiels, quels qu’en fussent le sexe, l’âge ou la condition, dura jusqu’à la chute de Robespierre en juillet 1794. Une semblable justification pour une terreur cautionnée par l’état fut partagée par les révolutions du 20e siècle, comme en Russie avec Lénine, au Cambodge avec Pol Pot et en Iran avec Khomeiny.

Qu’elle soit subnationale (par exemple les anarchistes russes) ou soutenue par l’état (les kamikazes japonais), l’attaque suicide comme arme de terreur est habituellement choisie par des groupes plus faibles contre des adversaires matériellement plus forts quand semble peu probable que réussissent des méthodes de combat d’un moindre coût. Le choix est souvent volontaire, mais il est généralement soumis aux conditions d’un groupe de pression et d’un leadership charismatique. Ainsi, les Kamikazes (« vent divin ») utilisés pour la première fois dans la bataille des Philippines (novembre 1944) étaient de jeunes pilotes, avec un bon niveau d’études, qui comprirent que poursuivre une guerre conventionnelle aboutirait à une défaite. Beaucoup de ces jeunes gens avaient étudié la philosophie et la littérature occidentales, certains étaient marxistes ou chrétiens. Peu d’entre eux croyaient qu’ils mouraient pour l’empereur en tant que chef de guerre ou pour des buts militaires. Il apparaîtrait plutôt que l’état était capable de manipuler une profonde tradition intellectuelle et esthétique de beauté dans la souffrance pour convaincre les pilotes que c’était leur honneur de « mourir tels de beaux pétales de cerisier qui tombent » pour leurs familles réelles ou fictives, celles-ci comprenant leurs parents, leurs collègues pilotes, l’empereur et le peuple du Japon [4].

Quand l’Admiral Takjiro Onishi leur demanda collectivement de se porter volontaires pour des « attaques spéciales » (tokkotai) « transcendant la vie et la mort », tous se désignèrent, en dépit d’assurances que leur refus n’entraînerait ni honte ni punition. Lors de la bataille d’Okinawa (avril 1945) quelques 2000 kamikazes lancèrent leurs avions de combat chargés de carburant sur plus de 300 bateaux, tuant 5000 Américains dans la bataille navale la plus coûteuse de l’histoire américaine. C’est à cause de telles pertes que fut appuyée l’utilisation de la bombe atomique pour finir la deuxième guerre mondiale [5].

Le premier grand attentat terroriste suicide contemporain au Moyen Orient fut la destruction, en décembre 1981, de l’ambassade d’Irak à Beyrouth (27 morts, plus de 100 blessés). L’identité de ses auteurs est encore inconnue, bien qu’il soit vraisemblable que l’Ayatollah Khomeiny ait approuvé cette action qui fut menée par des groupes cautionnés par les services spéciaux iraniens. Avec l’assassinat du président libanais pro israélien Bashir Gemayel en septembre 1982, l’attentat suicide devint une arme de stratégie politique. Avec le « Parti de Dieu » libanais pro-iranien (Hezbollah), cette stratégie acquit bientôt un impact géopolitique avec l’attentat au camion piégé d’octobre 1983 qui tua près de 300 militaires américains et français. L’Amérique et la France abandonnèrent la force multinationale qui maintenait l’ordre au Liban. En 1985, on peut dire que ces attaques poussèrent Israël à céder la plupart des gains (territoriaux) réalisés durant l’invasion du Liban en 1982.

En Israël et en Palestine, le terrorisme suicide commença en 1992, et devint vers la fin de 1993 partie intégrante d’une campagne systématique avec les attaques de membres du Mouvement de la Résistance Islamique (Hamas) et du Jihad Palestinien Islamique (JPI) entraînés par le Hezbollah, ayant pour but de faire dérailler les accords de paix d’Oslo. Dès 1988, cependant, le fondateur du JPI, Fathi Shiqaqi, donnait les directives d’opérations martyres « exceptionnelles » impliquant des bombes humaines. Il suivit le Hezbollah en insistant sur le fait que Dieu exalte le martyr mais abhorre le suicide : « Allah peut rendre connus ceux qui croient et peut faire de certains d’entre vous des martyrs; il peut purifier ceux qui ont la foi et qui détruiront complètement les infidèles » ; cependant « nul ne peut mourir sans la permission d’Allah » [6].

La radicalisation récente et l’interconnexion par le biais d’Al-Qaeda de groupes militants islamistes d’Afrique du Nord, d’Arabie, d’Asie Centrale et du Sud-est sont issues de la guerre russo-afghane (1979-1989). Avec le soutien financier des Etats-Unis, les membres de ces différents groupes eurent l’opportunité de mettre en commun et d’unifier leur doctrine, leurs buts, l’entraînement, l’équipement et leurs méthodes, dont les attentats suicides. Grâce à son association protéiforme avec des groupes régionaux (en termes de financement, de personnel et de logistiques), Al Qaeda tend à réaliser avec flexibilité son ambition mondiale de destruction de la suprématie occidentale par le biais d’initiatives locales ayant pour but d’expulser les influences occidentales [7]. Selon la Jane’s Intelligence Review : « Tous les groupes terroristes kamikazes ont des infrastructures de soutien en Europe et en Amérique du Nord » [8].

Traiter la vague actuelle de l’Islam radical de « fondamentalisme» (au sens de « traditionalisme ») est une notion trompeuse, proche de l’oxymoron. Les radicaux actuels, qu’il s’agisse des Chiites (Iran, Hezbollah) ou des Sunnites (Talibans, Al-Qaeda) sont beaucoup plus proches dans l’esprit et dans les actes de la Contre-réforme de la post-Renaissance en Europe que de tout aspect traditionnel de l’histoire musulmane. L’idée d’une autorité gouvernementale ecclésiastique, d’un conseil d’état ou national du clergé, et d’une police religieuse chargée d’éliminer physiquement les hérétiques et les blasphémateurs, a son modèle historique le plus clair dans la Sainte Inquisition. L’idée que la religion doit combattre pour imposer son contrôle sur la politique est totalement nouvelle en Islam. [9]

Des opinions publiques contestables

Les recherches récentes de la Sécurité Intérieure se concentrent sur comment dépenser des milliards pour protéger d’une attaque les installations sensibles [10,11]. Mais cette dernière ligne de défense est probablement la plus facile à battre en brèche en fonction de la multitude des cibles vulnérables ou telles (dont des discothèques, des restaurants et des centres commerciaux), de l’abondance des attaquants potentiels (qui n’ont besoin que d’une faible supervision une fois engagés dans une mission), des coûts relativement bas de l’attaque (composants d’accès communs, nul besoin d’organiser la fuite), de la difficulté de sa détection (peu d’utilisation de l’électronique) et de l’improbabilité que les attaquants divulguent une information sensible (n’étant pas au courant des connections au-delà de leurs cellules opérationnelles). Les exhortations à mettre du ruban adhésif sur les fenêtres peuvent atténuer (ou renforcer) la peur mais n’empêcheront pas des pertes de vies massives, et la réalisation publique d’une défense si dérisoire peut saper la confiance. Les services de renseignements s’occupent aussi de lignes de défense en amont, comme infiltrer les réseaux de manipulation d’agents des groupes terroristes, mais n’obtiennent que des succès mitigés. Une première ligne de défense consiste à empêcher les gens de devenir terroristes. Là le succès semble douteux, si ce que l’actuel gouvernement et les media pensent des raisons qui amènent les gens à devenir des bombes humaines devait se traduire en options politiques.

Les terroristes kamikazes sont souvent traités de lâches et de fous, déterminés à une destruction absurde, prospérant au milieu de la pauvreté et de l’ignorance. Le but évident devient de traquer les terroristes tout en transformant simultanément l’environnement culturel et économique qui les soutient en le faisant passer du désespoir à l’espoir. Quelle que soit la recherche, elle montre que les terroristes kamikazes n’ont pas une psychopathologie spécifique et qu’ils ont un niveau d’études et de revenus égal à celui du reste de la population.

Psychopathologie : une erreur d’attribution fondamentale

Dès le début le Président des Etats-Unis George W. Bush désigna les pirates de l’air du 11 septembre comme des «lâches maléfiques». Pour le sénateur américain John Warner, les opérations préventives contre les terroristes et ceux qui soutiennent le terrorisme sont justifiées parce que : «Ceux qui se suicident en attaquant le monde libre ne sont pas rationnels et ne peuvent être dissuadés par des concepts rationnels » [12]. Dans leur tentative pour contrer le sentiment anti-musulman, certains groupes recommandent à leurs membres de répondre que « les terroristes sont des maniaques extrémistes qui ne représentent en rien l’Islam». [13]

Les psychologues sociaux ont fait des recherches sur «l’erreur d’attribution fondamentale», cette tendance qu’ont les gens à expliquer le comportement en termes de caractéristiques individuelles de la personnalité, même quand des facteurs situationnels significatifs sont à l’oeuvre dans une société plus large. Le fait que le gouvernement et les media américains qualifient les kamikazes du Moyen-Orient de fous homicides et lâches peut relever d’une erreur d’attribution fondamentale: il n’y a aucun cas de terrorisme suicide religieux ou politique qui soit le fait de kamikazes couards ou instables. Le psychologue Stanley Milgram montra que des Américains ordinaires peuvent eux aussi obéir sans problème à des ordres de destruction dans les circonstances adéquates. [14]

Quand un «instructeur» leur dit d’administrer des chocs électriques potentiellement dangereux pour la vie à des «étudiants» qui n’arrivent pas à mémoriser des paires de mots, la plupart obéissent. Même quand les cobayes stressent et protestent tandis que leurs victimes hurlent et supplient, l’usage d’une violence extrême se poursuit – non à cause de tendances meurtrières mais du sens de l’engagement dans des situations d’autorité, si banales soient-elles. Une hypothèse légitime est que des comportements extrêmes peuvent apparemment être admis et considérés comme ordinaires en fonction de contextes particuliers, historiques, politiques, sociaux, idéologiques.

Avec le terrorisme suicide, le problème attributionnel est de comprendre pourquoi des individus non pathologiques répondent à des facteurs situationnels nouveaux en nombre suffisant pour permettre aux organisations recruteuses de mettre en oeuvre leur politique. Au Moyen-Orient, les contextes, tels qu’on les perçoit, dans lesquels s’expriment les kamikazes et ceux qui les cautionnent, passent par un sentiment collectif d’injustice historique, de soumission politique et d’humiliation sociale vis-à-vis des puissances mondiales et de leurs alliés, sentiment contrebalancé par un espoir religieux. Constater de telles perceptions ne signifie pas les accepter comme la simple réalité; cependant, en ignorer les causes risque de mal identifier les causes des attaques suicides et les solutions pour les prévenir. Il est aussi évident que les gens tendent à croire que leur comportement parle pour eux, qu’ils voient le monde objectivement et que seuls les autres sont biaisés et interprètent les évènements de façon erronée [15]. Qui plus est, les individus tendent à avoir une perception fausse des différences entre les normes des groupes, les percevant comme plus extrêmes qu’elles ne le sont en réalité. Les incompréhensions qui en résultent – encouragées par la propagande religieuse et idéologique – amènent des groupes antagonistes à interpréter leurs visions respectives des évènements, tel que terrorisme-combattre pour la liberté, comme fausses, radicales et/ ou irrationnelles. La diabolisation mutuelle et la guerre s’ensuivent facilement. Le problème est d’arrêter l’intensification de cette spirale dans les camps opposés.

La pauvreté et le manque d’éducation ne sont pas des facteurs fiables

Il y a un large consensus dans notre société autour de l’idée que débarrasser la société de la pauvreté la débarrasse du crime [16]. Selon le Président Bush «Nous combattons la pauvreté parce que l’espoir est la réponse à la terreur … Nous défierons la pauvreté et le désespoir et le manque d’éducation et les gouvernements en faillite qui trop souvent créent les conditions dont profitent les terroristes» [17]. Lors d’une rencontre de lauréats du Prix Nobel de la Paix, le sud-africain Desmond Tutu et le sud-coréen Kim Dae Jong opinèrent, «à la base du terrorisme il y a la pauvreté»; Elie Wiesel et le Dalaï Lama conclurent : «c’est par l’éducation qu’on éliminera le terrorisme» [18]. Ceci est soutenu par les recherches initiées par l’économiste Gary Becker montrant que les crimes matériels sont engendrés par la pauvreté et le manque d’éducation [19]. Dans ce modèle basé sur l’incitation, les délinquants sont des individus rationnels qui agissent par intérêt personnel. Les individus choisissent une activité illégale si le profit excède la probabilité qu’ils soient découverts ou incarcérés, et si dans le même temps une activité légale représente une perte de revenus («coûts d’opportunité»). Dans la mesure où les délinquants manquent de capacités professionnelles et d’éducation, ce qui est le cas dans les délits commis par les ouvriers, les coûts d’opportunité peuvent se révéler minimaux ; par conséquent le crime paie.

Ces théories d’un choix rationnel basé sur des opportunités économiques ne rendent pas compte de façon fiable de certains types de crimes violents (homicides domestiques, meurtres dus à la haine). Ces supputations ont encore moins de sens en ce qui concerne les attaques suicides. En général, les terroristes kamikazes n’ont pas eu moins de chances dans leur vie légitime que le reste de la population. Comme le souligne la presse arabe, si les martyrs n’avaient rien à perdre, leur sacrifice n’aurait pas de sens [20] : «Celui qui se suicide se tue pour son propre bénéfice, celui qui commet le martyr se sacrifie pour sauver sa religion et sa nation …. Le Mujahed est plein d’espoir» [21].

La recherche menée par Krueger et Maleckova montre que l’éducation peut ne pas être corrélée, ou même être positivement corrélée, avec le fait de soutenir le terrorisme [22]. Dans un sondage de décembre 2001, auprès de 1357 palestiniens de 18 ans ou plus, de la Cisjordanie et de Gaza, ceux qui avaient 12 années d’études ou plus soutenaient les attaques armées par 68 points, ceux qui avaient 11 années d’étude par 63 points et les illettrés par 46 points. 40% seulement des personnes ayant des diplômes universitaires était pour le dialogue avec Israël, contre 53% ayant des diplômes d’études secondaires et 60% ayant effectué 9 ans d’études ou moins. En comparant les militants du Hezbollah morts dans l’action avec un échantillon au hasard de Libanais de la même classe d’âge et de la même région, les militants avaient plus de chance de ne pas venir de familles pauvres et d’avoir fait des études secondaires. Plus récemment, Krueger et ses collègues trouvèrent que, bien qu’un tiers des Palestiniens vivent dans la pauvreté, c’est seulement le cas de 13% des kamikazes palestiniens; 57% des kamikazes vont au-delà du lycée contre 15% d’une population d’âge comparable.

Néanmoins, une perte relative d’avantages économiques ou sociaux dans les classes éduquées peut encourager le soutien au terrorisme. Dans la période précédant la première Intifada (1982-1988), le nombre d’hommes palestiniens ayant fait 12 ans d’études ou plus a fait plus que doubler; ceux avec moins d’années d’études n’a augmenté que de 30%. Ceci coïncida avec une augmentation significative du chômage chez ceux qui avaient fait des études supérieures par rapport à ceux qui avaient fait des études secondaires. Les salaires quotidiens réels de ceux qui avaient des diplômes universitaires diminuèrent de quelque 30%; les salaires de ceux qui n’avaient fait que des études secondaires restèrent stables. Le chômage semble aussi un facteur de recrutement pour Al Qaeda et ses alliés dans la péninsule arabique [23].

Le facteur institutionnel : l’organisation d’une famille fictive

Bien que l’humiliation et le désespoir puissent aider à rendre compte de la prédisposition pour le martyre dans certaines situations, ce n’est une explication ni complète ni applicable à d’autres circonstances. Des études menées par le psychologue Ariel Merari montrent l’importance des institutions dans le terrorisme suicide [24]. Son équipe a interviewé 32 des 34 familles de kamikazes en Palestine et en Israël (avant 1998), des terroristes survivants et des recruteurs faits prisonniers.

Les terroristes kamikazes reflètent apparemment une répartition normale dans leur population en termes d’éducation, de statut socioéconomique et de types de personnalités (introverti par rapport à extroverti). L’âge moyen des terroristes était la vingtaine. Presque tous étaient célibataires et témoignaient de croyance religieuse avant le recrutement (mais pas plus que la population générale). Excepté le fait d’être jeunes et sans attaches, les kamikazes diffèrent des membres d’organisations racistes violentes avec lesquels ils sont souvent comparés [25].

Globalement, les terroristes kamikazes ne présentent pas de caractéristiques de dysfonctionnements sociaux (absence de père, d’ami, ou d’emploi) ni de symptômes suicidaires. Ils n’expriment aucune crainte de l’ennemi, aucun « désespoir », aucun sentiment de « n’avoir rien à perdre » par manque d’alternatives dans la vie qui seraient liées à des raisons économiques. Merari attribue la responsabilité première des attaques aux organisations qui recrutent en enrôlant des candidats potentiels dans cette population jeune et relativement sans attaches. Ensuite, à l’intérieur de petites cellules de trois à six membres, des entraîneurs charismatiques cultivent intensément leur engagement mutuel à mourir. L’étape ultime avant le martyre est un contrat social formel, la plupart du temps sous la forme d’un testament enregistré en vidéo.

De 1996 à 1999 Nasra Hassan, un Pakistanais travaillant dans l’aide humanitaire, interviewa à peu près 250 Palestiniens, recruteurs et entraîneurs, des kamikazes qui avaient échoué et les parents de kamikazes morts. Les terroristes étaient des hommes de 18 à 38 ans : «Aucun d’eux n’était sans instruction, ni désespérément pauvre, simple d’esprit ou déprimé … Ils semblaient tous être des membres tout à fait normaux de leurs familles» [26]. Cependant «tous étaient profondément religieux», croyant leurs actions «sanctionnées par la religion divinement révélée de l’Islam». Les leaders des organisations qui les cautionnent se plaignaient, «Notre plus gros problème, ce sont les hordes de jeunes gens qui tapent à nos portes».

Le psychologue Brian Barber étudia 900 adolescents musulmans durant la première Intifada à Gaza (1987-1993)[27]. Les résultats montrent un haut niveau de participation à des actions violentes et de victimisation par ces mêmes actions. Pour les hommes, 81% rapportèrent avoir jeté des pierres, 66% avaient été physiquement attaqués et on avait tiré sur 63% d’entre eux (respectivement, 51%, 38% et 20% pour les femmes). L’implication dans la violence n’était pas fortement corrélée avec une dépression ou un comportement anti social. Les adolescents les plus impliqués faisaient preuve d’une fierté individuelle forte et de cohésion sociale. Cela était reflété dans leurs activités : pour les hommes, 87% d’entre eux livraient de l’approvisionnement aux activistes, 83% visitaient les familles des martyrs et 71% s’occupaient des blessés (respectivement, 57%, 46% et 37% pour les femmes). Une deuxième étude durant la deuxième Intifada (2000-2002) indique que ceux qui sont toujours célibataires agissent de manière considérée comme personnellement plus dangereuse mais socialement plus signifiante. De façon croissante, beaucoup considèrent les actes de martyre comme très significatifs. Vers l’été 2002, 70 à 80% des Palestiniens approuvaient les opérations de martyre [28].

Auparavant, les recruteurs recherchaient dans les mosquées, les écoles et les camps de réfugiés, des candidats jugés réceptifs à un endoctrinement religieux intense et à un entraînement logistique. Durant la seconde Intifada, il y eut surabondance de volontaires et une implication croissante d’organisations laïques (autorisant la participation des femmes). La fréquence et la violence des attaques suicides augmenta (davantage d’attaques à la bombe depuis février 2002 que durant 1993-2000) ; la planification a été moins poussée. En dépit de ces changements, peu de choses indiquent un changement général dans le profil des kamikazes (la plupart célibataires, avec un statut socio économique moyen, modérément religieux) [24,26].

Des études de contrôle sur un groupe d’adolescents musulmans bosniaques pendant la même période de temps révèlent, au contraire des Palestiniens, des expressions nettement plus faibles d’estime de soi, d’espoir dans le futur et de comportement pro social [26]. Une différence clé est que les Palestiniens invoquent systématiquement la religion pour investir une blessure personnelle d’une signification sociale pro active qui en fait une marque d’honneur. Généralement les musulmans bosniaques déclarent ne pas considérer les attaches religieuses comme faisant partie de façon significative de l’identité personnelle ou collective, jusqu’à ce qu’une violence apparemment arbitraire les oblige à en prendre conscience.

Ainsi, on pourrait dire qu’un facteur critique déterminant le comportement du terrorisme suicide est la loyauté à des groupes intimes de pairs, que les organisations recruteuses encouragent souvent par le biais de la communion religieuse [29]. Considérons les données sur 39 recrues de Harkat al-Ansar, un allié d’Al Qaeda basé au Pakistan. Tous étaient des hommes non mariés, la plupart avaient étudié le Coran. Tous croyaient qu’en se sacrifiant ils aideraient à sécuriser le futur de leur «famille» fictive : «Chaque [martyr] a une place spéciale – parmi eux il y a des frères, de la même façon qu’il y a des fils et des êtres encore plus chers» [30]. Un rapport du Parlement de Singapour portant sur 31 agents capturés du Jemaah Islamiyah et d’autres alliés d’Al-Qaeda en Asie du Sud-est souligne ce modèle : «Ces hommes n’étaient pas ignorants, destitués ou déchus de leurs droits civiques. Tous avaient reçu une éducation laïque … Comme beaucoup de leurs collègues dans les organisations militantes islamiques de la région, ils avaient un travail normal et respectable … Au niveau du groupe, la plupart des détenus considérait la religion comme leur plus importante valeur personnelle… le secret qui entourait la véritable connaissance du jihad contribuait à créer un sens de partage et de puissance vis-à-vis des autres» [31].

De tels sentiments caractérisent la manipulation institutionnelle d’engagements pris émotionnellement qui peuvent avoir émergé sous l’influence d’une sélection naturelle pour réformer ou dépasser des calculs rationnels à court terme qui auraient autrement empêché de réaliser des objectifs à faible probabilité de réussite. D’une façon générale, de tels engagement pris émotionnellement servent comme mécanismes de survie pour pousser à agir dans des circonstances qui auraient été autrement paralysantes, comme lorsqu’une personne plus faible menace de façon convaincante une personne plus forte d’y penser à deux fois avant d’essayer de prendre l’avantage. Dans le terrorisme suicide inspiré par la religion, cependant, ces émotions sont manipulées volontairement par les leaders organisationnels, les recruteurs et les entraîneurs au bénéfice de l’organisation plutôt qu’à celui de l’individu [32].

Le choix rationnel est la prérogative du commanditaire, non celle de l’agent

Peu de bénéfice tangible (en termes de théories de choix rationnel) revient au kamikaze, certainement pas assez pour faire du gain probable un gain « d’utilité attendue » maximisée. Le surcroît de reconnaissance sociale n’arrive qu’après la mort, parant à un bénéfice matériel personnel. Mais pour les leaders qui ne considèrent quasi jamais de se tuer eux-mêmes (en dépit de déclaration où ils se disent prêts à mourir), il est certain que dans les opérations de martyre, les bénéfices matériels l’emportent de loin sur les pertes. Hassan cite une ordonnance palestinienne officielle pour réussir une mission: « un jeune homme volontaire… des clous, de la poudre, un interrupteur et un câble court, du mercure (qui s’obtient facilement à partir de thermomètres), de l’acétone … l’item le plus cher est le transport dans une ville israélienne ». Le coût total est de $150.

Pour l’organisation commanditaire, les kamikazes sont des atouts remplaçables dont la perte, en augmentant le soutien public et les réservoirs de recrues potentielles, génère un plus grand nombre d’atouts. Peu après le 11 septembre, une étude des services de renseignements portant sur des Saoudiens éduqués (âgés de 25 à 41 ans) conclua que 95% d’entre eux soutenait Al Qaeda [33]. Dans une étude du Pew Research Center de décembre 2002 portant sur l’anti-américanisme croissant, 6% seulement des Egyptiens considérait favorablement l’Amérique et la «Guerre contre le Terrorisme» [34]. L’argent coule à flots de ceux qui sont disposés à laisser les autres mourir, compensant facilement les coûts opérationnels (entraînement, personnel de soutien, maisons sûres, explosifs et autres armes, transport et communication). Après l’attentat à la bombe d’un supermarché à Jérusalem par une femme palestinienne de 18 ans, un téléthon saoudien recueillit plus de 100 millions de dollars pour «l’Intifada Al-Quds».

Les représailles massives augmentent le sentiment de victimisation des gens et leur ardeur à se comporter selon les doctrines organisationnelles et les politiques mises en place pour tirer profit de tels sentiments. Dans un groupe de 1179 Palestiniens de la Bande Ouest et de Gaza au printemps 2002, 66% dirent que les opérations de l’armée accroissaient leur appui aux attentats suicides [35]. A la fin de l’année, 76% des musulmans libanais considéraient comme justifiés les attentats suicides. Cette radicalisation de l’opinion augmente à la fois la demande et l’approvisionnement pour des opérations martyres. Un rapport de l’ONU de décembre 2002 créditait les volontaires d’une augmentation du renouveau d’Al Qaeda dans 40 pays [36]. L’influence de l’organisation dans une société plus large – et très significativement dans ses élites dirigeantes – augmente à son tour.

Les priorités pour la sécurité intérieure

La dernière ligne de défense contre le terrorisme suicide – éviter que les terroristes n’atteignent leurs cibles – semble être la plus coûteuse et vraisemblablement la moins vouée à la réussite. Des fouilles au hasard de bagages ou au corps ne peuvent pas être très effectives contre des gens décidés à mourir, même si cela peut fournir quelque semblant de sécurité et donc de défense psychologique contre la guerre psychologique du terrorisme suicide. Une ligne moyenne de défense, qui consisterait à pénétrer et à détruire les organisations recruteuses et à isoler leurs leaders, pourrait être couronnée de succès à court terme mais avec la possibilité que des organisations encore plus résistantes émergent à leur place.

La première ligne de défense est de réduire drastiquement la réceptivité des recrues potentielles aux organisations recruteuses. Mais comment ? Il est important de savoir ce qui probablement ne fonctionnera pas. Elever les taux d’alphabétisation peut n’avoir aucun effet et être contreproductif, une alphabétisation plus importante se traduisant par une exposition plus importante à la propagande terroriste (au Pakistan, l’alphabétisation et le rejet des Etats-Unis se sont accrus tandis que s’accroissait de 3000 à 39000 le nombre d’écoles religieuses madrasa depuis 1978)[23,34]. Diminuer la pauvreté pourrait n’avoir aucun effet, et être contreproductif si la réduction de la pauvreté pour l’ensemble de la population amenait à une redistribution des richesses vers le bas qui laisserait ceux qui étaient initialement mieux pourvus avec finalement moins d’opportunités qu’auparavant. Mettre fin à l’occupation ou réduire l’humiliation ressentie pourrait constituer une aide, mais pas si la population croit qu’il s’agit là d’une victoire inspirée par la terreur (par exemple le retrait apparemment forcé d’Israël du Liban).

Si l’attentat suicide est crucialement (bien que non exclusivement) un phénomène de niveau institutionnel, cela pourrait demander que l’on trouve la bonne combinaison de pressions et d’incitations pour obtenir des communautés elles-mêmes l’abandon de leur soutien aux institutions qui recrutent les kamikazes. Un moyen peut être d’endommager tellement le tissu social et politique de la communauté que tout soutien par la population locale ou les autorités pour ceux qui commanditent les attaques suicides s’effondre, comme cela est arrivé pour les kamikazes en tant que sous-produits de la destruction nucléaire d’Hiroshima et de Nagasaki.

Dans le monde actuel, cependant, une telle stratégie ne serait ni moralement justifiable ni facile à mettre en oeuvre, vu la dispersion et la diffusion de l’organisation des institutions terroristes parmi des populations séparées par la distance et qui se chiffrent collectivement à des centaines de millions. De même, la riposte sous forme de représailles n’est pas moralement acceptable si on recherche des alliés [37]. Même dans des endroits plus localisés, comme dans le conflit israélo-palestinien, des politiques coercitives ne peuvent aboutir seules à une réduction durable des attaques et peuvent à long terme exacerber le problème. En ce qui concerne l’incitation, les recherches en psychologie sociale montrent que les gens s’identifiant aux groupes antagonistes utilisent les informations opposées de l’autre groupe pour renforcer leur antagonisme. Par conséquent, simplement essayer de persuader de l’extérieur les uns et les autres en les bombardant avec davantage d’informations qu’ils vont utiliser à leur profit ne peut qu’augmenter leur hostilité.

Une autre recherche indique que la plupart des gens ont des vues plus modérées que ce qu’ils considèrent comme étant la norme de leur groupe. Inciter de l’intérieur les modérés et leur donner la possibilité de confronter les insuffisances et les incohérences de leur propre connaissance (des autres comme malfaisants), de leurs valeurs (le respect pour la vie) et de leur comportement (le soutien du meurtre), avec les autres membres de leur groupe [38] peut produire une insatisfaction émotionnelle menant à un changement durable et avoir une influence sur le rôle de ces individus [39]. Financer une éducation civique et des débats pourrait constituer une aide, de même que développer la confiance interconfessionnelle grâce à des initiatives intercommunautaires interactives (comme le propose le gouvernement de Singapour). La mise en avant du facteur ethnique, l’isolation et les attaques préventives sur des partisans potentiels (mais pas encore actuels) du terrorisme n’aideront probablement pas. Une autre stratégie pour les Etats-Unis et leurs alliés consiste à changer de comportement en abordant directement et en atténuant les sentiments de grief et d’humiliation, spécialement en Palestine (où les images de violence quotidienne en ont fait le centre mondial de l’attention musulmane)[40]. Car aucune évidence (historique ou autre) n’indique que le soutien au terrorisme suicide disparaîtra sans une entente pour réaliser au moins quelques objectifs fondamentaux communs aux terroristes et aux communautés qui les soutiennent.

Evidemment, ceci ne veut pas dire négocier sur tous les objectifs, tel que la requête d’Al Qaeda de remplacer le système des états nations inspiré de l’occident par un califat global, d’abord dans les territoires musulmans et ensuite ailleurs. A la différence d’autres groupes, Al Qaeda ne fait connaître aucune revendication spécifique à la suite des actions martyres. Telle une armée vengeresse, il ne cherche aucun compromis. Mais la plupart des gens qui sont d’actuels sympathisants le pourraient.

Peut-être pour arrêter le terrorisme, avons-nous besoin de recherche pour comprendre quelles configurations de relations psychologiques et culturelles attirent et lient des milliers, possiblement des millions de gens très ordinaires, dans le réseau de fabrication des martyrs des organisations terroristes. On a besoin d’étudier comment les institutions terroristes se forment et les similarités et les différences entre les structures organisationnelles, les pratiques de recrutement et les populations recrutées. Existe t’il des différences réelles entre les groupes religieux et les groupes laïcs, ou entre le terrorisme idéologique et celui initié par le grief ? Les interviews des kamikazes survivants du Hamas et des agents capturés d’Al Qaeda montrent que l’idéologie et le grief sont des facteurs pour les deux groupes mais avec des poids relatifs et des conséquences qui peuvent diverger.

Nous avons aussi besoin d’investiguer toutes les relations causales significatives entre la politique et les actions de notre société et celles des organisations terroristes et de leurs partisans. Il se peut que le programme global, économique, politique et culturel de notre propre société joue un rôle catalyseur dans les volontés de fuir notre vision du monde (les talibans) ou de créer un contrepoids global (Al Qaeda). Financer de telles recherches risque d’être difficile. Comme dans le cas de l’usage quelque peu tendancieux, et qui sert nos propres vues, de «terreur» en tant que concept politique [41] pour résoudre les désaccords, nos gouvernements et nos media préféreront peut-être ignorer ces relations, en tant que thèmes légitimes pour investiguer en quoi consiste le terrorisme et pourquoi il existe. Cette demande de recherche peut demander plus de patience qu’aucune administration n’en peut tolérer politiquement en temps de crise. A long terme, cependant, notre société ne peut s’offrir le luxe d’ignorer les conséquences de ses propres actes, ni les causes qui motivent les actions des autres. Les coûts potentiels d’une telle ignorance sont terribles à envisager. La dépense comparativement moindre impliquée par la recherche sur de telles conséquences et causes pourrait avoir un bénéfice inestimable.
Post-scriptum : où la guerre contre la terreur peut-elle bien aller?

Deux documents de première importance pour la Guerre contre le Terrorisme furent récemment diffusés aux Etats-Unis. Le 23 mai, le US General Accounting Office remit au Congrès son rapport final sur «Combattre le terrorisme» [42]. Le 3 juin, le Pew Research Center publia les derniers éléments d’une étude de plusieurs années sur les attitudes globales par rapport aux mesures politiques et aux valeurs sociales [43]. Le rapport GAO n’évalue pas l’effet des programmes anti terroristes et l’étude Pew de 15000 personnes dans 21 nations ne cherche pas à connaître les raisons des attitudes globales. Néanmoins, les résultats de Pew, ainsi que ceux d’une recherche récente sur le background socio-économique des terroristes et de leurs partisans, sapent sérieusement les raisonnements et les pronostics de la Guerre contre le Terrorisme.

Selon GAO, le financement pour combattre le terrorisme à l’étranger a augmenté de 133% depuis 2001, atteignant 11,4 milliards de dollars pour l’année fiscale 2004 (GAO, p.12). De plus, le Département de la Défense a dépensé pour la seule année 2002 30 milliards de dollars dans des opérations militaires contre le terrorisme (considérablement plus en 2003, y compris 78,7 milliards votés pour une guerre contre l’Irak dont le but principal annoncé était de devoir priver les terroristes d’armes de destruction massives). En dépit d’une revue détaillée des actions liées aux milliards dépensés par des douzaines d’organismes fédéraux civils et militaires, il est fait peu mention de financement ou d’efforts pour comprendre ou empêcher les gens de devenir en premier lieu des terroristes. Qui plus est, le fait que le nombre d’attaques suicides par Al-Qaeda (ou ses alliés) et par des terroristes palestiniens un mois après la chute de Bagdad ( 5 en Israël, 3 en Arabie Saoudite, 5 au Maroc) ait été plus élevé que pour n’importe quel autre mois de l’année précédente suggère que, contrairement aux proclamations antérieures du président Bush et d’autres personnes dans l’administration américaine et les media, la guerre contre le terrorisme n’a pas diminué de façon significative le fléau des attaques suicides – forme la plus dévastatrice du terrorisme.

GAO décrit les efforts entre les organismes pour «vaincre et empêcher le terrorisme» (GAO, p.5). La prévention se concentre sur l’objectif de « diminuer les conditions sous-jacentes que les terroristes cherchent à exploiter », telles que présentées dans la Stratégie Nationale pour Combattre le Terrorisme du Président (publiée en février pour élaborer la Section III de la nouvelle Stratégie de Sûreté Nationale des Etats-Unis)[44]. La préface de l’étude NSCT parle d’«une compréhension de la menace terroriste » telle qu’esquissée dans l’Adresse au Congrès du Président le 20 septembre 2001 (NSCT, p.3) : l’Amérique a été attaquée parce que les conspirateurs du 9 septembre «haïssent nos libertés» et notre démocratie [45] et qu’ils incitent leurs partisans à la haine en exploitant leurs «conditions de pauvreté, de privation et de déchéance sociale» (NSCT, p.13). En conséquence, un rapport du Département d’Etat américain sorti le jour du premier anniversaire du 9 septembre dit que l’aide au développement devrait être basée sur «la croyance que la pauvreté fournit le terreau qui nourrit le terrorisme» [46].

Mais les résultats de Pew montrent que les populations qui soutiennent les actions terroristes sont actuellement favorablement disposées envers les formes américaines de gouvernement, d’éducation, d’économie et de liberté individuelle, en dépit du fait que ces gens font confiance à Osama Ben Laden et soutiennent les actions suicides. Les études menées par le scientifique politique palestinien Khalil Shikaki montrent que plus de 80% des Palestiniens considèrent qu’Israël a la forme de gouvernement la plus admirable, l’Amérique venant en second, bien que de nombreux sondages indiquent que 60-70% des Palestiniens expriment aussi leur soutien aux attaques suicides [47]. Un sondage antérieur de Zogby sur les impressions arabes concernant l’Amérique (avril 2002) montre le même schéma de soutien pour les libertés et la démocratie américaines mais le rejet de ses relations avec les autres [48] – un schéma qui casse la thèse du «choc des civilisations» [49] ou la conclusion de NSCT d’un «choc entre la civilisation et ceux qui voudraient la détruire» [50].

Des études plus récentes confirment aussi les rapports antérieurs montrant que les terroristes kamikazes et leurs partisans ne sont pas appauvris, sans instruction, vindicatifs ou socialement défavorisés. L’économiste palestinien Basel Saleh compila des informations sur 171 militants tués en action (presque tous durant la seconde Intifada, 2000-2003) qui provenaient des nouveaux services du Hamas et du Jihad islamique palestinien, et incluaient 87 kamikazes [51]. La majorité des militants était des hommes non mariés (de 20 à 29 ans), venant de familles avec leurs deux parents vivants et 6 à 10 frères et sœurs, qui avaient fait des études secondaires ou fréquenté l’université. Les terroristes kamikazes qui comprenaient des attaquants à la bombe (29 du Hamas, 18 du Jihad Islamique Palestinien) et des tireurs (14 du Hamas, 26 du Jihad Islamique Palestinien) présentaient ces mêmes tendances mais encore plus prononcées. Une majorité de poseurs de bombes du Hamas avaient été à l’université ; le Jihad Islamique Palestinien comprenait davantage de tireurs âgés de 14 à 19 ans. Les majorités des attaquants à la bombe, mais peu de tireurs, avaient eu des histoires antérieures d’arrestations ou de blessures par l’armée israélienne ; cependant la plupart des tireurs avaient un ou plusieurs membres de leur famille qui avaient eu de telles histoires. Ceci met en évidence les spéculations antérieures sur le fait que les griefs personnels pourraient être un facteur plus grand dans le cas des Palestiniens que pour Al Qaeda et ses alliés idéologiques.

Des sources de la US Army Defense Intelligence Agency me fournirent des résumés d’interrogatoires des détenus de Guantanamo, à Cuba. Les agents nés en Arabie Saoudite, particulièrement ceux dans des positions de leadership, sont souvent « éduqués au-dessus du niveau nécessaire pour un emploi … un nombre surprenant d’entre eux ont des diplômes universitaires et viennent de familles avec un statut élevé ». Leur motivation et leur engagement se révèlent dans leur désir de sacrifier leurs conforts matériels et émotionnels (familles, emplois, sécurité physique) et de payer leur part dans des voyages loin de chez eux. Beaucoup dirent aux interrogateurs que s’ils étaient libérés de leur détention ils retourneraient au Jihad. Les détenus rapportent peu d’histoire de grief personnel mais citent fréquemment le rôle que des parents plus âgés et des membres respectés de la communauté ayant participé à des Jihads antérieurs ont pu jouer dans leur décision de rejoindre le combat. Les Yéménites ont une éducation et un statut social plus modestes et sont souvent recrutés et financés par l’intermédiaire des mosquées au Yémen et à l’étranger (en particulier en Angleterre). Comme pour le Hamas et le Jihad Islamique Palestinien, l’endoctrinement religieux par Al-Qaeda et ses alliés (de recrues qui initialement n’exprimèrent qu’une religiosité modérée) apparaît crucial pour créer des cellules intimes de famille fictive dont les membres s’engagent à mourir de plein gré les uns pour les autres.

Tous les attaquants du 9 septembre, qui comprenaient 15 saoudiens et 4 autres originaires du Moyen Orient, étaient des hommes jeunes, célibataires, de familles bourgeoises. Tous avaient été recrutés en Europe par des organisations religieuses en relation avec à Al-Qaeda alors que la plupart étaient engagés dans un curriculum d’études supérieures laïques. Aucun défaut de « personnalité » n’était évident avant l’attaque et aucun ne fut découvert après coup (en dépit d’examen approfondi). [52]

Les psychologues sociaux ont longuement établi «l’erreur d’attribution fondamentale». La plupart des gens dans notre société , si on leur dit, par exemple, qu’on a ordonné à quelqu’un de faire un discours pour soutenir un candidat politique particulier, penseront encore que l’orateur croit ce qu’il est en train de dire. Ce biais d’interprétation semble être particulièrement prévalent dans les cultures « individualistes », telles que celles des États-Unis et de l’Europe Occidentale. Au contraire, de nombreuses cultures (en Afrique et en Asie) dans lesquelles une éthique « collectiviste » est davantage prévalente sont moins prédisposées à ce type de jugements. Les définitions du gouvernement américain et des media des kamikazes du Moyen Orient comme des maniaques homicides peut aussi souffrir d’une erreur d’attribution fondamentale [53] : il n’y a pas d’exemple de terrorisme suicide religieux ou politique résultant de l’action isolée d’un poseur de bombe mentalement instable (comme le suicidaire Unabomber) ou même de quelqu’un agissant entièrement de sa propre autorité et sous sa propre responsabilité (comme le suicidaire Timothy Mc Veigh).

Qu’est-ce qui mène une personne normale au terrorisme suicide ? Une partie de la réponse se trouve peut-être dans la notion de « banalité du mal » de la philosophe Hannah Arendt, notion qu’elle utilise pour décrire le fait que c’étaient des allemands tout à fait ordinaires qui étaient recrutés pour assurer le fonctionnement des camps d’extermination nazis et non des fous sadiques [54]. (Milgram a interprété ses expériences sur l’obéissance à l’autorité par des adultes américains comme une confirmation de la thèse de Arendt). La primauté du situationnel sur les facteurs de personnalité suggère l’inanité des tentatives pour établir un profil psychologique du terroriste kamikaze. Un rapport de la Federal Interagency couramment utilisé par la CIA sur «La Sociologie et la Psychologie du Terrorisme» et qui inclut des analyses détaillées de documents et des profils psychologiques de Al Qaeda, du Hamas et d’autres leaders d’organisations commanditant le suicide, établit : «les gens qui ont rejoint des groupes terroristes sont venus d’une large diversité de cultures, de nationalités, et de causes idéologiques, de tous les strates de la société et de populations variées. Leurs personnalités et leurs caractéristiques sont aussi diverses que celles des gens dans la population générale. Il semble que les psychologues s’accordent sur le fait qu’il n’y ait pas d’attribut psychologique particulier qu’on puisse utiliser pour décrire le terroriste ou quelque ‘ personnalité’ qui serait spécifique aux terroristes» [55]. Des mois – parfois des années – d’un endoctrinement intense peuvent mener à une « obéissance aveugle » peu importe l’individu, comme le montrent les recherches sur les gens qui deviennent tortionnaires pour leurs gouvernements [56].

C’est le génie particulier d’institutions comme Al Qaeda, le Hamas ou le Hezbollah de prendre des gens ordinaires dans un amalgame de griefs historique, politique et religieux qui les transforment en bombes humaines. Un endoctrinement intense qui dure souvent 18 mois ou plus fait que les recrues s’identifient émotionnellement à leur petite cellule (généralement de 3 à 8 membres), la percevant comme une famille de fratrie fictive pour laquelle ils sont prêts à mourir comme une mère l’est pour son enfant ou un soldat pour ses copains. Comme de bons publicitaires, les leaders charismatiques des organisations qui commanditent le martyre transforment les désirs ordinaires pour une famille et une religion en envies furieuses pour ce qu’ils essaient de promouvoir, au bénéfice de l’organisation manipulatrice plutôt que pour celui de l’individu qui est manipulé (à peu près comme l’industrie pornographique qui transforment des désirs universels et innés pour des partenaires sexuels en désirs pour du papier ou des images électroniques à des fins réductrices pour la forme personnelle mais tout bénéfice pour les manipulateurs)[57].

En dépit de nombreuses études de comportement individuel dans des contextes de groupe qui montrent que la situation est un meilleur facteur de prédiction que la personnalité [58], l’étude Pew constate que les Américains croient d’une manière écrasante que la décision personnelle, le succès et l’échec dépendent du choix de l’individu, de sa responsabilité et de sa personnalité. La plupart des gens ne sont pas de cet avis. Il est plausible que ce soit là la raison qui fait que les Américains tendent à penser que les terroristes sont des « maniaques homicides », là où le reste du monde tend à ne pas le croire [59].

Que ce soit à cause d’une erreur d’attribution fondamentale ou d’un aveuglement délibéré pour éviter d’être en désaccord avec leur propre vision du monde, les Américains considèrent le plus souvent les tentatives pour comprendre ce qui motive le terrorisme comme au mieux une perte de temps, au pire un encouragement au terrorisme. Mais contrer le terrorisme demande aussi de regarder en face les problèmes que génèrent les évaluations et les actions de notre propre société. De telles considérations sont totalement absentes du rapport GAO et du NSCT. Ce ne sont pas les libertés intérieures et la culture de l’Amérique que ces gens n’aiment pas, mais ses actions extérieures et sa politique étrangère. En 1997 un rapport du US Department of Defense Science Board conjecture (en réponse à l’attentat suicide à la bombe des bases de l’armée de l’air américaine à Khobar Towers en Arabie Saoudite) : «Les données historiques montrent une forte corrélation entre l’implication américaine dans les situations internationales et l’augmentation des attaques terroristes contre les Etats-Unis» [59].

Il semble y avoir une corrélation directe entre l’aide militaire américaine de contre insurrection, les violations des droits de l’homme par les gouvernements qui sont aidés, et la montée du terrorisme. Amnesty International et Human Rights Watch rapportent régulièrement des violations «épouvantables» et « massives » des droits de l’homme dans les pays qui reçoivent en termes absolus le plus d’aide américaine. Par exemple, en 2003, le budget du Département d’Etat Américain pour le Financement Militaire à l’Etranger (FMF) s’élève à 4107 milliards de dollars [60]. Le budget du FMF comprend parmi ses premiers réceptionnaires: Israël avec 2,1 milliards de dollars [61], l’Egypte avec 1,3 milliards [62], la Colombie 98 millions [63], le Pakistan 50 millions [64]. Des fonds spéciaux de soutien économique furent aussi budgétés comme faisant partie de frais supplémentaires d’urgence : 600 millions pour le Pakistan; 40,5 millions pour le renforcement de la lois et de l’économie en Ouzbékistan [65]; 45 millions en FMF à la Turquie [66] et l’Ouzbékistan; 42,2 millions pour l’entraînement et l’équipement des forces de sécurité aux frontières dans les républiques d’Asie Centrale (Ouzbékistan, Tadjikistan, Turkménistan, Turquie, Kirghizstan, Azerbaïdjan, Kazakhstan)[67] ; et des millions additionnels dans les fonds spéciaux du Département de la Défense pour l’entraînement contre le terrorisme et les opérations dans les Républiques d’Asie Centrale et de Géorgie [68]. Un rapport récent du Conseil National de la Recherche, «Décourager le terrorisme», montre que, «En ce qui concerne le contexte politique, le terrorisme et ses partisans apparaissent comme étant entretenus par des politiques d’extrême répression politique et découragés par des politiques d’intégration responsable, dans la société civile et le processus politique, des groupes modérés en même temps que des groupes dissidents» [69]. Il se peut que la situation soit critique en Asie Centrale, une zone d’intervention américaine intensifiée où le sentiment anti-américain et pro islamiste radical est en train de surgir rapidement et où Al Qaeda semble être en train de se réimplanter.

Le rapport GAO met en lumière deux objectifs clés pour réaliser l’objectif NSCT de diminution du soutien au terrorisme : renforcer le «Partenariat Initiatif» et gagner la «Guerre des Idées». Le partenariat initiatif de NSCT comprend l’aide pour contrer le terrorisme, incluant un entraînement pour la mise en vigueur de la loi et l’assistance militaire, «conçue pour promouvoir les intérêts américains de sécurité nationale en contribuant à la stabilité globale et régionale, en renforçant le soutien militaire aux gouvernements démocratiquement élus» et protégeant «les valeurs démocratiques dont le respect pour les droits civils et humains reconnus internationalement». (GAO, pp.119-120). Gagner la «Guerre des Idées» implique des programmes d’aide étrangère et des émissions des media pour promouvoir les valeurs démocratiques « pour aviver les espoirs et les aspirations pour la liberté » ( NSCT, p.14).

Les « nouveaux partenaires dans la guerre contre le terrorisme » cités dans le rapport GAO sont les Républiques Eurasiennes du Kazakhstan, du Kurdistan, du Tadjikistan, du Turkménistan, de l’Ouzbékistan, de la Géorgie (GAO, p.24). Toutes sauf une sont gouvernées par un ancien dirigeant du parti communiste devenu nationaliste, dont le principe – comme Saddam – implique le culte d’une personnalité brutale. Toutes ont été condamnées par Amnesty International et Human Rights Watch pour une augmentation des violations des droits de l’homme. Comme pour gagner la Guerre des Idées à propos de la démocratie et des libertés individuelles, l’étude Pew suggère fortement que l’opinion musulmane en faveur de ces valeurs signifie que la guerre a déjà été gagnée. Ceci éveille le soupçon que l’appel à combattre ceux qui haïssent la démocratie et la liberté – de même que les craintes à propos de l’utilisation imminente d’armes de destructions massives par l’Irak et de ses liens avec Al Qaeda [70] – fut cyniquement conçu pour rallier le front intérieur à une poussée stratégique en Asie du Sud et en Asie Centrale. L’étude Pew laisse entendre qu’une grande partie du monde – à part l’Amérique – est de cet avis [71].

Références

1. Flavius Josèphe, La Guerre des Juifs, Paris, 1977.

2. B. Lewis, Assassins (Paris, Berger, 1982).

3. M. Robespierre, “Principes de morale politique,” discours devant la Convention, 5 Février 1794.

4. E. Ohnuki-Tierney, Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2002), pp. 204-205.

5. A. Axell, Kamikaze (Longman, New York, 2002).

6. Quran, chapt. 3, verses 140–146. Comparez cette phrase avec celle du chef de Hamas Abd Al-’Aziz Al-Rantisi, Al-Hayat (Londres-Beirut), 25 Avril 2002.

7. U.S. Department of Justice, Al Qaeda Training Manual; http://www.usdoj.gov/ag/trainingmanual.htm

8. “Suicide terrorism: A global threat,” Jane’s BioSecurity (2002) http://www.janes.com/security/international_security/news/usscole/jir001020_1_n. shtml

9. B. Lewis, What Went Wrong (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 2002), tr. fr. Qu’est-ce qu’il s’est passé? Seuil, 2002.

10. D. Malakoff, Science 295, 254 (2002).

11. D. Chapin et al., Science 297, 1997 (2002).

12. D. Von Drehle, “Debate over Iraq focuses on outcome,” Washington Post (7 Octobre 2002).

13. Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, “Confronting anti-Arab or anti-Muslim sentiments” 21 September 2002; http://www.uua.org/uuawo/issues/respond/confront.html

14. S. Milgram, Obedience to Authority (Harper & Row, New York, 1974).

15. L. Ross, C. Stillinger, “Psychological factors in conflict resolution,” Negotiation J. 7, 389 (1991).

16. R. Clark, Crime in America (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1970).

17. White House news release, 22 March 2002; http:// http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/03/ 20020322-1.html.

18. J. J. Jai, “Getting at the roots of terrorism,” Christian Science Monitor, 10 Decembre 2001, p. 7.

19. G. Becker, “Crime and punishment: An economic approach,” Pol. Econ. 76, 169 (1968).

20. Article sur Al-Risala (hébdomadaire du Hamas), 7 Juin 2001.

21. Sheikh Yussuf Al-Qaradhawi (leader spirituel de the Muslim Brotherhood), Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Caïre), 3 Février 2001.

22. A. Krueger, J. Maleckova, NBER Working Paper no. w9074, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, Juillet 2002; http://papers.nber.org/papers/W9074 ; A. Krueger, “Poverty doesn’t create terrorists,” New York Times, 29 May 2003.

23. T. Friedman, Longitudes and Attitudes Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, New York, 2002.

24. A. Merari,, article présenté à l’Institute for Social Research seminar series, “The Psychology of Extremism,” Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 11 Février 2002.

25. R. Ezekiel, The Racist Mind (Viking, New York, 1995).

26. N. Hassan, , “Talking to the “human bombs,” The New Yorker, 19 Novembre 2001; en ligne à : http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/ ?011119fa_FACT1.

27. B. Barber, Heart and Stones (Palgrave, New York).

28. D. Brooks, , “The Culture of Martyrdom,” The Atlantic Monthly 289 (6), 18 ( June 2002); en ligne à: http://www.theatlanticmonthly.com/issues/2002/06/brooks.htm

29. A’ la difference de ceux qui veulent se faire sauter en l’air, pour les soldats sur la ligne du front dans une bataille sans espoir il reste un espoir de survie. La distance entre aucun espoir de survie et un faible espoir de survie est infinie. [G. Allport, J. Gillespie, J. Young, J. Psychol. 25, 3 (1948)].

30. D. Rhode, A. Chivers, “Qaeda’s grocery lists and manuals of killing,” New York Times, 17 Mars 2002.

31. “White Paper—The Jemaah Islamiyah Arrests,” (Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore)
January 2003); available at www2.mha.gov.sg. Le recrutement et l’endoctrinage dans le Jemaah Islamiyah Est semblable à celui d’autres groupes islamiques Le chef spiritual Ibrahim Maidan identifiait les potentiels kamikaze parmi lesquels qui étaient assez curieux pour rester après les leçons et poser des questions.

32. De la même manière, l’industrie pornographique, celle du fast-food ou des soda manipule nos désires innés pour des ressources rares dans le monde ancestral, comme les partenaires sexuels, la nourriture graisse et les sucres pour des objectifs qui réduisent la fitness naturelle et vont au bénéfice de l’institution manipulatrice. [S. Atran, In Gods We Trust: the Evolutionary Landscape of Religion , Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 2002].

33. E. Sciolino, “Don’t weaken Arafat, Saudi warns Bush,” New York Times, 27 January 2002, p. A8.

34. “What the world thinks in 2002: How global publics view: Their lives, their countries, the world, America”, rapport du Pew Research Center, 4 Decembre 2002; disponible à: http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID_165

35. Reuters News Service, 11 Juin 2002; disponible à: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl_story&u_/nm/20020611/wl_nm/mideast_palestini

36. C. Lynch, Washington Post, 18 Decembre 2002.

37. R. Axelrod, W. Hamilton, “Evolution of cooperation,” Science 211, 1390 (1981).

38. M. Bazerman, M. Neale, Negotiating Rationally (Free Press, New York, 1991).

39. A. Eagly, S. Chaiken, The Psychology of Attitudes (Harcourt Brace, Fort Worth, TX, 1993).

40. S. Atran, “ Stones against the iron fist, terror within the nation,”Politics and Society 18, 481 (1990).

41. N. Chomsky, 9-11, Seven Stories Press, New York, 2001.

42. “Combating terrorism: Interagency framework and agency programs to address the overseas threat” (U.S. General Accounting Office, Washington, DC, 23 May 2003);http://www.gao.gov/new.items/do3165.pdf

43. “Views of a changing world 2003” (Survey Rep., Pew Research Center, 3 June 2003); available at http://www.people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=18

44. “National Security Strategy for Combating Terrorism” (U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, Février 2003); disponible à: http://usinfo.state,gove/topical/pol/terror/strategy/, p. 13.

45. White House news release, 20 Septembre 2001, disponible à: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010920-8.html

46. “September 11 one year later” (U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, Septembre 2002), p. 14; disponible à: http://www.usinfo.stat/gov/journals/itgic/0902/ijge/ijge0902.pdf

47. J. Bennett, “Arab showplace? Could it be the West Bank?” New York Times, 2 Avril 2003.

48. “Arab Nations’ ‘Impressions of America’ Poll” (Survey Rep., Zogby International, Utica, NY, 2002); disponible à: http://www.zogby.com/features/features.dbm?ID=186.

49. S. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1996).

50. L’identification de la vision politique de l’Amérique avec la civilisation date de la Guerre Civile américaine (« We shall either nobly save, or meanly lose, the last great hope of mankind,” A. Lincoln, Getttysburg Address, 19 November 1863). A’ partir de la guerre Etats-Unis-Espagne, les admistrations successives des Etats Unis insistèrent sur la mission civilisatrice des Etats Unis pour justifier l’intervention américaine à l’etranger. Selon le PrésidentTheodore Roosevelt : “ If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and may lead the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.” [T. Roosevelt, « The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, » Mai 1904]. Au moins jusuqu’à la fin de la Guerre Froide, la notion des Etats Unis comme une “nation universelle” a joué un rôle dans la politique etrangère américaine, dans son économie (“America stands alone as the world’s indispensable nation,” Président Bill Clinton, Second Inaugural Address, 20 Janvier 1997 ; “The emerging global order needs an enforcer. That’s America’s new burden.” Thomas Friedman, “Manifesto for the Free World,” New York Times Magazine, 28 Mars 1999, p. 40) et dans la sphere militaire (« And by our actions, we will secure the peace, and lead the world to a better day, » Président George W. Bush, Remarks on Iraq, 7 Octobre, 2002 ; disponible à http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021007-8.html ; “We need to err on the side of being strong. And if people want to say we’re an imperial power, fine,” William Kristol, The Weekly Standard, on Fox News, Mai 2003).

51. B. Saleh, article presenté au Graduate Research Forum, Kansas State Univ., 4 Avril 2003.

52. A. Karatnycky, “Under our very noses,” National Review, 5 November 2001; disponible à: http://www.freedomhouse.org/media/0501nr.htm

53. Cf. M. Morris, R. Nisbett, K. Peng, “Causal attribution across domains and cultures,” in D. Sperber, D. Premack, A. Premack, Causal Cognition (New York, Oxford Univ. Press, 1995), pp. 577-612.

54. H. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Viking Press, New York, 1970).

55. “The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism” (Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, September 1999, p. 40); 14 décembre 2001 : http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Sociology-Psychology%20of%20Terrorism.htm. Le declarations des interrogateurs dans la base de Guantanamano conferment ces donnés.

56. M. Haritos-Fatouros, “The official torturer: A learning model for obedience to the authority of violence,” J. Applied Social Psychology, 18, 1107-1120.

57. S. Atran, “Genesis of suicide terrorism,” Science, 299, 1534-1539.

58. L. Ross, R. Nisbett. The Person and the Situation (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1991). 59. « DoD Responses to Transnational Threats, Vol. 2: DSB Force Protection Panel Report to DSB” (U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, DC, Decembre 1997, p. 8); disponible à: http://www.acq.osd.mil/dsb/trans2.pdf.

60. M. Ciarrocca, W. Hartung, “Increases In Military Spending And Security Assistance Since 9/11/01,” A Fact Sheet Prepared By The Arms Trade Resource Center, 4 Octobre 2002; disponible à: http://www.worldpolicy.org/projects/arms/news/SpendingDOD911.html

61. “The heavy price of Israeli incursions” (Amnesty International Wire, May 2002); disponible à: http://web.amnesty.org/web/wire.nsf/May2002/Israel

62. “In the name of counterterrorism: Human rights abuses worldwide. III. Country studies” (Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper for the 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, 25 Mars 2003); disponible à: http://hrw.org/un/chr59/counter-terrorism-bck4.htm.

63. “Colombian human rights crisis deepens” (Amnesty International Wire, Mai 2002); disponible à: http://web.amnest.org/wire.nsf/May2002/Colombia.

64. “Pakistan: Government breaks its own laws to participate in ‘war against terrorism’” (Amnesty International News Release, 20 Juin 2002); disponible à: http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/2002/pakistan06202002.html.

65. “The meaning of concern: Washington indulges Uzbekistan’s atrocities” (Human Rights Watch, 27 Mars 2003); disponible à: http://hrw.org/editorials/2003/uzbek-o32703.htm.

66. “Turkey: Human Rights Watch World Report 2001”; disponible à: http://www.hrw.org/wr2k1/europe/turkey.html.

67. A. Rashid, Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia (Penguin, New York, 2003).

68. “Georgia” (Amnesty International Rep. 2002); disponible à: http://web.amnesty.org/web/ar2002.nsf/eur/georgia?Open.

69. Discouraging Terrorism (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2002), p. 2.

70. Les interrogations de la CIA de chefs d’Al Queda prisonniers aux Etats Unis (parmi lesquels Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, chef des opérations d’Al Queda avant d’être capturé en Pakistan en Mars 2002) révèlent que Bin Laden a refusé toute cooperation avec Saddam Hussein. [J. Risen, “Captives Deny Qaeda Worked with Baghdad,” New York Times, 9 Juin 2003.] A’ l’époque de ces interrogations, les officiers américains continuaient à affirmer que la guerre à l’Iraq était justifiée parce que “Baghdad a une longue histoire dans le soutien au terrorisme et dans les contacts avec Al Queda » [George Tenet, Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, témoignant devant l’U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. BBC NEWS, “U.S. says Iraq linked to Al-Qaeda,” 19 Mars 19 2003 ; disponible à: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1881740.stm.%5D

71. Merci à N. Chomsky, D. Medin, R. Gonzalez, R. Nisbett, T. Stewart, M. Bazerman, B. Saleh and G. Hammel pour leur informations et suggestions.

Voir aussi:

Al-Qaeda founder launches fierce attack on Osama bin Laden

One of al-Qaeda’s founding leaders, Dr Fadl, has begun an ideological revolt against Osama bin Laden, blaming him for « every drop » of blood spilt in Afghanistan and Iraq.

David Blair in Cairo
The Independent

20 Feb 2009

Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, who goes by the nom de guerre Dr Fadl, helped bin Laden create al-Qaeda and then led an Islamist insurgency in Egypt in the 1990s.

But in a book written from inside an Egyptian prison, he has launched a frontal attack on al-Qaeda’s ideology and the personal failings of bin Laden and particularly his Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

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Twenty years ago, Dr Fadl became al-Qaeda’s intellectual figurehead with a crucial book setting out the rationale for global jihad against the West.

Today, however, he believes the murder of innocent people is both contrary to Islam and a strategic error. « Every drop of blood that was shed or is being shed in Afghanistan and Iraq is the responsibility of bin Laden and Zawahiri and their followers, » writes Dr Fadl.

The terrorist attacks on September 11 were both immoral and counterproductive, he writes. « Ramming America has become the shortest road to fame and leadership among the Arabs and Muslims. But what good is it if you destroy one of your enemy’s buildings, and he destroys one of your countries? What good is it if you kill one of his people, and he kills a thousand of yours? » asks Dr Fadl. « That, in short, is my evaluation of 9/11. »

He is equally unsparing about Muslims who move to the West and then take up terrorism. « If they gave you permission to enter their homes and live with them, and if they gave you security for yourself and your money, and if they gave you the opportunity to work or study, or they granted you political asylum, » writes Dr Fadl, then it is « not honourable » to « betray them, through killing and destruction ».

In particular, Dr Fadl focuses his attack on Zawahiri, a key figure in al-Qaeda’s core leadership and a fellow Egyptian whom he has known for 40 years. Zawahiri is a « liar » who was paid by Sudan’s intelligence service to organise terrorist attacks in Egypt in the 1990s, he writes.

The criticisms have emerged from Dr Fadl’s cell in Tora prison in southern Cairo, where a sand-coloured perimeter wall is lined with watchtowers, each holding a sentry wielding a Kalashnikov assault rifle. Torture inside Egyptian jails is « widespread and systematic », according to Amnesty International.

Zawahiri has alleged that his former comrade was tortured into recanting. But the al-Qaeda leader still felt the need to compose a detailed, 200-page rebuttal of his antagonist.

The fact that Zawahiri went to this trouble could prove the credibility of Dr Fadl and the fact that his criticisms have stung their target. The central question is whether this attack on al-Qaeda’s ideology will sway a wider audience in the Muslim world.

Fouad Allam, who spent 26 years in the State Security Directorate, Egypt’s equivalent of MI5, said that Dr Fadl’s assault on al-Qaeda’s core leaders had been « very effective, both in prison and outside ».

He added: « Within these secret organisations, leadership is very important. So when someone attacks the leadership from inside, especially personal attacks and character assassinations, this is very bad for them. »

A western diplomat in Cairo agreed with this assessment, saying: « It has upset Zawahiri personally. You don’t write 200 pages about something that doesn’t bother you, especially if you’re under some pressure, which I imagine Zawahiri is at the moment. »

Dr Fadl was a central figure from the very outset of bin Laden’s campaign. He was part of the tight circle which founded al-Qaeda in 1988 in the closing stages of the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. By then, Dr Fadl was already the leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, an extremist movement which fought the Cairo regime until its defeat in the 1990s.

Dr Fadl fled to Yemen, where he was arrested after September 11 and transferred to Egypt, where he is serving a life sentence. « He has the credibility of someone who has really gone through the whole system, » said the diplomat. « Nobody’s questioning the fact that he was the mentor of Zawahiri and the ideologue of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. »

Terrorist movements across the world have a history of alienating their popular support by waging campaigns of indiscriminate murder. This process of disintegration often begins with a senior leader publicly denouncing his old colleagues. Dr Fadl’s missives may show that al-Qaeda has entered this vital stage.

Voir aussi:

Israel’s death squads: A soldier’s story
A former member of an Israeli assassination squad has broken his silence for the first time. He spoke to Donald Macintyre
The Independent
March 1, 2009

The Israeli military’s policy of targeted killings has been described from the inside for the first time. In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, and in his testimony to an ex-soldiers’ organisation, Breaking the Silence, a former member of an assassination squad has told of his role in a botched ambush that killed two Palestinian bystanders, as well as the two militants targeted.

The operation, which took place a little over eight years ago, at the start of the present intifada, or uprising, left the former sharpshooter with psychological scars. To this day he has not told his parents of his participation in what he called « the first face-to-face assassination of the intifada ».

As the uprising unfolded, targeted assassinations became a regularly used weapon in the armoury of the Israel military, especially in Gaza, where arrests would later become less easy than in the West Bank. The highest-profile were those of Hamas leaders Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi in 2005, and of Said Siyam in the most recent offensive. But the targeting of lower-level militants, like the one killed in the operation described by the former soldier, became sufficiently common to attract little comment.

The incident described by the ex-soldier appears almost trivial by comparison with so much that has happened since in Gaza, culminating in more than 1,200 Palestinian casualties inflicted by Operation Cast Lead this January. It might have been forgotten by all except those directly affected, if it had not been for the highly unusual account of it he gave to Breaking the Silence, which has collected testimony from hundreds of former troops concerned about what they saw and did – including abuses of Palestinians – during their service in the occupied territories.

That account, expanded on in an interview with the IoS, and broadly corroborated by another soldier’s testimony to Breaking the Silence, directly challenges elements of the military’s official version at the time, while casting new light on the tactic of targeted assassination by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). So do comments by the father of one of the Palestinians killed, and one who survived, also traced by the IoS.

Our source cannot be identified by name, not least because by finally deciding to talk about what happened, he could theoretically be charged abroad for his direct role in an assassination of the sort most Western countries regard as a grave breach of international law. From a good home, and now integrated into civilian life in the Tel Aviv area, the former soldier is about 30. Intelligent and articulate, and with a detailed memory of many aspects, he is scrupulous in admitting his recall of other points may be defective.

The former conscript said his special unit had trained for an assassination, but was then told it would be an arrest operation. They would fire only if the targeted man had weapons in his car. « We were pretty bombed it was going to be an arrest. We wanted to kill, » he said. The unit then went south to Gaza and took up position. It was 22 November 2000.

The squad’s main target was a Palestinian militant called Jamal Abdel Razeq. He was in the passenger seat of a black Hyundai being driven north towards Khan Younis by his comrade, Awni Dhuheir. Both men were wholly unaware of the trap that was waiting for him near the Morag junction. This section of the main Salahadin north-south road in Gaza went straight past a Jewish settlement. Razeq was used to seeing an armoured personnel carrier (APC) beside the road, but he had no idea that its regular crew had been replaced by men from an elite air force special unit, including at least two highly trained sharpshooters.

Since before he even left his home in Rafah that morning, Shin Bet – the Israeli intelligence service – had been monitoring Razeq’s every move with uncanny accuracy, thanks to a running commentary from the mobile phones of two Palestinian collaborators, including one of his own uncles. The man who was to kill him says he was « amazed » at the detail relayed to the unit commander from Shin Bet: « How much coffee he had in his glass, when he was leaving. They knew he had a driver [and] … they said they had weapons in the trunk, not in the car. For 20 minutes we knew it was going to be a simple arrest because they had no weapons in the car. »

But then, he says, the orders suddenly changed. « They said he had one minute to arrive, and then we got an order that it was going to be an assassination after all. » He thinks it came from a war room set up for the operation and his impression was that « all the big chiefs were there », including a brigadier general.

The two militants would still have suspected nothing as they approached the junction, even when a big Israel Defence Forces (IDF) supply truck lumbered out of a side turning to cut them off. They would have had no way of knowing the truck was full of armed soldiers, waiting for this moment. A 4×4 was deployed by the road, only in case « something really wrong » happened.

But something did go wrong: the truck moved out too soon, and blocked not only the militants in their black Hyundai, but the white Mercedes taxi in front of them. It was carrying Sami Abu Laban, 29, a baker, and Na’el Al Leddawi, 22, a student. They were on their way from Rafah to Khan Younis to try to buy some scarce diesel to fire the bread ovens.

As the critical moment approached, the sharpshooter said he began to shake from the waist down. « What happens now is I’m waiting for the car to come and I am losing control of my legs. I have an M16 with digicom [special sharpshooter sights]. It was one of the strangest things that ever happened to me. I felt completely concentrated. So the seconds are counted down, then we started seeing the cars, and we see that two cars are coming, not one. There was a first car very close to the following one and when the truck came in, it came in a bit early, and both cars were stopped.Everything stopped. They gave us two seconds and they said, ‘Shoot. Fire.' » Who gave the order, and to whom? « The unit commander … to everybody. Everybody heard ‘Fire’. »

The target, Razeq, was in the passenger seat, closest to the APC. « I have no doubt I see him in the scope. I start shooting. Everyone starts shooting, and I lose control. I shoot for one or two seconds. I counted afterwards – shot 11 bullets in his head. I could have shot one shot and that’s it. It was five seconds of firing.

« I look through the scope, see half of his head. I have no reason to shoot 11 bullets. I think maybe from the fear, maybe to cope with all the things that are happening, I just continue shooting. »

As far as he can recall, the order to fire was not specific to the sharpshooters in the APC. He cannot know for certain if the troops in the truck thought wrongly that some of the fire was directed at them from the cars. But he says that after he stopped « the firing gets even worse. I think the people in the truck started to panic. They’re firing and one of the cars starts driving and the commander says, ‘Stop, stop, stop, stop!’ It takes a few seconds to completely stop and what I see afterwards is that both cars are full of holes. The first car, too, which was there by coincidence. »

Razeq and Dhuheir, the militants, were dead. So were Abu Laban and Al Leddawi. Miraculously, the driver of the taxi, Nahed Fuju, was unscathed. The sharpshooter can remember only one of the four bodies lying on the ground. « I was shocked by that body. It was like a sack. It was full of flies. And they asked who shot the first car [the Mercedes] and nobody answered. I think everybody was confused. It was clear that it had been a screw-up and nobody was admitting [it]. » But the commander did not hold a formal debriefing until the unit returned to its main base.

« The commander came in and said, ‘Congratulations. We got a phone call from the Prime Minister and from the Minister of Defence and the chief of staff. They all congratulated us. We succeeded perfectly in our mission. Thank you.’ And from that point on, I understood that they were very happy. » He says the only discussion was over the real risk there had been of soldiers’ casualties from friendly fire in the shoot-out, in which at least one of the IDF’s own vehicles was hit by ricocheting bullets, and at the end of which at least one soldier even got out of the 4×4 and fired at an inert body on the ground.

Saying his impression was « they wanted the press or the Palestinians to know they were raising a step in our fight », he adds: « The feeling was of a big success and I waited for a debriefing that would ask all these questions, that would show some regret for some failure, but it didn’t happen. The only thing that I felt is that the commanders knew that it was a very big political success for them. »

The incident immediately caused something of a stir. Mohammed Dahlan, then head of the Fatah-run Preventative Security in Gaza, called it a « barbaric assassination ». The account given at the time to the press by Brigadier General Yair Naveh, in charge of IDF forces in Gaza, was that it had been intended as an arrest operation, but that sensing something amiss, Razeq had pulled out a Kalashnikov rifle and attempted to open fire at the Israeli forces, at which point the troops shot at his vehicle. While Razeq was the main target, it was claimed, the two victims in the taxi were were also Fatah activists « with ties to Razeq ».

Mr Al Leddawi said last week that his son’s presence was a tragic accident of timing and that the family had never heard of the other two men. « It was all by coincidence that they were there, » he said. « We have nothing do with the resistance in this family. » Beyond saying that he had received « not a shekel » in compensation, the taxi driver, Mr Fuju, did not want to talk to us in Rafah last week. « You want to interview me so the Israelis can bomb my house? »

The Israeli military said in response to detailed queries about the incident and the discrepancies between its account at the time and that of Palestinians, and now the ex-soldier, that it takes « human rights violations very seriously » but « regrets that Breaking the Silence does not provide it with details or testimony of the incidents it alleges in order to allow for a thorough investigation ». It added that « these soldiers and commanders did not approach senior commanders … with their complaints during their service. »

Our revelations in brief: Secret unit on a mission to kill

The Independent on Sunday has obtained an account which, for the first time, details service in one of the Israeli military’s assassination squads.

A former conscript has told the IoS and an ex-soldiers’ organisation of his part in an ambush that went wrong, accidentally killing two men as well as the two militants targeted.

The ex-soldier, a trained sharpshooter, says he fired 11 bullets into the head of the militant whose death had been ordered by his superiors. The squad was initially told it was going on an arrest mission, but was then ordered on a minute’s notice to shoot to kill.

Instead of the flaws in the operation being discussed afterwards, the squad was told it had « succeeded perfectly » and had been congratulated by the Prime Minister and chief of staff.

The former soldier, who was psychologically scarred by the incident, has never told his parents what happened.


Idiots utiles: Nasrallah est le nouveau Saladin (Franklin Lamb: Who is Hezbollah’s best and brightest cheerleader bending over for?)

17 mars, 2009
The price we pay (Franklin Lamb)Nasrallah est le nouveau Saladin, le Nasser et l’espoir de toute la région. (…) Le Hezbollah est probablement la parti le plus laïc du Liban. (…) Le Hezbollah et ses chefs se fondent sur la raison, le dialogue et l’analyse empirique et non pas sur ce que nous pensons souvent en Occident comme l’application aveugle de la Charia. (…) Il y a pour la première fois dans l’histoire moderne une dissuasion arabo-musulmane au colonialisme sioniste et occidental. Franklin Lamb (Hezbollah TV, 20.06.08)
L’histoire rejetera tôt ou tard l’entreprise coloniale. Franklin Lamb (Press TV, 13.03.09)

A découvrir d’urgence sur English.hizbollah.tv, le site de la chaine anglaise du parti de Dieu et de Press TV, la chaine anglaise des mollahs …

Après George Bisharat

La dernière pompom girl en date, de la résistance islamique et coqueluche des sites alternatifs ...

L’avocat international multicarte (Americans for a Just Peace in the Middle East’, If Americans Knew, Lawyers without borders) …

Auteur, du Liban où il conduit actuellement « des recherches », de livres de référence sur le massacre de Sabra et Chatila et le Hezbollah (« Hezbollah: A Brief Guide for Beginners », « The price we pay: a quarter-century of Israel’s use of American weapons against civilians in Lebanon, 1978-2006 ») …

Ancien professeur-adjoint de Northwestern College of Law de Portland qui a fameusement corrigé le notoire avocat sioniste de Harvard Alan Dershovitz …

Mais surtout, énième victime d’une forme de syndrome de Stockholm particulièrement tordue, époux de la journaliste engagée Janet Stevens assassinée avec 16 autres membres de l’Ambassade américaine de Beyrouth, sept mois après le massacre de Sabra-Chatillah en avril 1983, par une camionette piégée du réseau de ses nouveaux amis du Hezbollah et de leurs commanditaires de Téhéran…

Franklin Lamb

Qui, profitant de son accès privilégié aux meilleures sources de la CIA, vient de prédire, dans les 20 ans, la disparition de l’entité sioniste

Franklin Lamb Interview: A historic first … « Israel » no longer able to attack Lebanon with impunity

Source: Global Research, 14-06-2008

Interview with Franklin Lamb

By: Mike Whitney

Question: Between May 7 to May 10, Hizbullah took over Beirut, shut down the city’s TV and communications facilities, blocked the main highways, closed the airport, and surrounded the homes of the leading political leaders with armed gunman. The action was taken in response to Prime Minister Fouad Saniora’s decision to outlaw Hizbullah’s telecommunication network and sack the head of security at Beirut airport. Although the incident has been downplayed in the western media, it appears that Hizbullah achieved a total victory and is now recognized as the strongest group operating within Lebanon. What affect will Hizbullah’s victory have on the political dynamic within Lebanon?

franklin lamb: I don’t believe Hizbullah achieved a ‘total victory’ as the question suggests, but its achievements were certainly strategic and that sets out the future in many respects. As you rightly imply, Hizbullah’s emphatic statement by its quick move into the « March 14 » areas was aimed at ‘Israel’, the Bush Administration and their agents and allies in Lebanon and the Middle East.

What provoked the precise timing of the action was the fact, as Sheik Naim Qassem, Hizbullah Deputy Secretary General told this observer and a former American Ambassador and other US citizens who met with him on Monday May 10 in Dahiyeh, was a 10 hour « series of conference calls » from the Welch Club to the Serail (Government House) that immediately preceded the Saniora government decision to move against Hizbullah, its vital optic fiber phone system and the Airport security office. According to Hizbullah sources there were other US planned assaults on the Opposition which have not been made public.

According to Qassem during this frenetic series of conference calls involving several countries, the decision was made in Washington to move against Hizbullah. Hizbullah believes the Lebanese government is virtually occupied by the Bush Administration and all substantive decisions now announced in Beirut come from Washington.

The outcome of the May events as you implied in your question was devastating for the Bush administration and its allies. It not only led to withdrawal of the two government decisions against Hizbullah, it led to the Dora agreement and the current serious efforts to form a unity government and share power. For nearly two years the Opposition tried to achieve a unity government for Lebanon and may now have done so with its counterstrike against the Welch club move against it.

The May events led to agreement on holding a democratic election next year and the veto power of the opposition over US initiatives sent to the ‘majority’.

Hizbullah’s Sheik Naim Qassem stated to a US Delegation two days ago that the party and its allies expect to win 64 of the 128 seats in next years election. Others think the current opposition may win as many as 70 seats in the new Parliament. In either case Hizbullah and their allies will effectively be the next government of Lebanon.

Will the predicted Hizbullah electoral victory be the forth Democratic election in the Middle East rejected by the Bush administrations new Middle East project? Will the Bush administration accept the fact that Hizbullah will likely have the Ministries of Defense, Exterior and Finance (the others don’t matter much) and be true to its daily claims that it wants to help Lebanon have a democratic and stable government which the Hizbullah government will bring? Very doubtful.

Hizbullah will face many challenges but the Party will also have the opportunity to demonstrate what it is capable of delivering in terms of social services to Lebanon’s increasingly desperate population. Hizbullah’s much anticipated Economic Plan may reshape the Middle East and the populations of Egypt, Jordan, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia may demand a local version of the same.

Presumably the fast strike [in shweifat] was to neutralize Walid Jumblatt who during two recent interviews with Harvard students and the US Council for the National Interest is reported to be in bad shape and scanning the horizon for a new ‘alliance’.

Hizbullah will likely not touch Walid because he is not reliable or predictable and is thought to be owned by the CIA. The ‘socialist » Jumblatt has amassed a huge fortune (which Lebanese warlord has not?) of land holdings with expansive vineyards above Khalde and may retire to survey and manage his estates. He knows he is a marked man from many quarters (who isn’t around here these days?) In Beirut Jumblatt is known as the ‘walking dead man’.

Question: How will it affect relations with ‘Israel’ and the US? Does Hizbullah now pose a credible deterrent to a future ‘Israeli’ invasion?

franklin lamb: Yes. There has been a fundamental shift in this respect. Hizbullah actually achieved its deterrent capacity following the July 2006 War. Some say as early as 1996 or 2000 when it forced ‘Israel’ out of most of Lebanon.

Several times in the past 20 months ‘Israel’ has « probed » Lebanon and Hizbullah has signaled thru back channels that it was ready for a ferocious response if ‘Israel’ again attacked Lebanon.
Most recently Hizbullah’s deterrence capacity was exhibited when ‘Israel’ cancelled its attack on May 11 which was green lighted in Washington to assist the Saniora government allies in West Beirut. Frankly put. ‘Israel’ is no longer able to attack an Arab country, Lebanon, with impunity. A historic first. Rather, it knows that it faces massive retaliation when it next attacks Lebanon. Recently there was a Report that Tel Aviv would receive 600 missiles each day following an ‘Israeli’ attack on Lebanon. US Congressional sources have challenged that figure and have estimated the number at 1000 Hizbullah missiles per day against Tel Aviv if war breaks out.

Question: Hizbullah’s takeover of Beirut was an amazingly swift and efficient military operation, and yet, it is nearly impossible to find any details about the operation itself. What really happened on the ground and how is it that an armed militia was able to carry out such a sophisticated « Green Beret » type operation (on a city-wide scale) with so few casualties? Can we expect that the « Hizbullah model » of resistance will be exported to other neighboring countries like Iraq, Jordan or Saudi Arabia?

franklin lamb: Contrary to ‘Israeli’ reports, those who moved into Beirut did not come from the South of Lebanon, from the Bekaa nor were they necessarily the ‘first team.’ Most were reserves with regular full time jobs in Beirut and the surrounding area.

Most came in cars and vans just three miles south of Hamra from the Jnah, Ouzai, Ghoberi, Dahiyeh area. They moved along the seafront past the Coral Beach Hotel, along the only free public beach in Beirut, Ramlet al Baida, along Corniche Mazra and fanned out up the inclines to the right into West Beirut streets.

It did not require much more than 20 minutes to reach their forward positions. Others, including Amal and the National Syrian Socialist Party came from the new airport road and from the southeast and east.

Potentially the ‘Hizbullah model’ has application in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, if oppositions there can replicate the Hizbullah model of study, analysis, caution, patience and determined, disciplined execution. Hizbullah is not essentially a Shiaa phenomenon, it is a rapidly expanding resistance and justice movement and that it what makes it so lethal to colonialism and occupation enterprises such as Zionist Israel and hegemonistic America during the current period.

Question: Even before the takeover, Hizbullah chairman, Hassan Nasrallah was the most popular Arab leader in the world. Is Nasrallah really the « terrorist-extremist » he is made out to be in the western press? What affect has Nasrallah had on Arabs living in the region?

franklin lamb: Hizbullah under the leadership of [Sayyed] Hassan Nasrallah has given the Arabs of the region restored self-respect following 60 years of humiliation and 41 years of repeated and voracious occupation and aggression. Hizbullah’s sometimes spectacular success has inspired many in the younger generation throughout Lebanon among all the sects as well as the Middle East and far beyond. One sees this in the faces of the old and young…….in the market places and play grounds in the universities and middle schools, in the course also of interviews. The Middle East is standing up and reclaiming it pre-Crusade unity, spirit, purpose and culture. Nasrallah is the new Salaadin, Nassar and regional hope.

Question: Nasrallah has shown that he is capable of thinking strategically and politically. This appears to have put him at an advantage in dealing with both ‘Israel’ and the United States. ‘Israel’s’ 34 Day war was not just a humiliating defeat; it was also seriously mismanaged from the beginning. In battles in cities and towns throughout southern Lebanon, Hizbullah fighters went toe to toe with the better-equiped Israeli Army and turned them away. Is it possible that the real path to peace in the Middle East is a strong army–like Hizbullah– on ‘Israel’s’ northern flank to discourage further military adventurism?

franklin lamb: I see it certainly as one of the major elements because if takes away the first option that ‘Israel’ has used in the past. ‘Israel’ has committed aggression more than 40 times on the ground against Lebanon starting in 1967 to July 2006. This era is over. Soon even Israel’s air force will be in peril from Hizbullah missiles as it attempts to add to its more than 6000 violations of Lebanese airspace and sovereignty since the 1960’s.

Question: How do you respond to people who believe that Hassan Nasrallah is a religious fanatic who wants to install a « Iran-type » theocratic regime in Lebanon?

franklin lamb: I would ask them to study the subject a little more closely and they would learn that Hizbullah, in the words of PLO founder and longtime representative of the PLO in Lebanon, Shafiq al-Hout, recently discussed with this observor, Hizbullah is probably the most secular of the Parties in Lebanon. What he meant is that Hizbullah and its leaders rely on reason, dialogue, and empirical analysis not on what we often think in the West as blind application of Sharia.

Hizbullah believes in one God as you know. Having said that they are very secular in the ways they tolerate and respect others beliefs and rights to differ on issues of politics, philosophy, sociology, and personal beliefs. I personally know many Shiaa and Hizbullah members who are very secular and keep their religious views to themselves. Just yesterday, when my motorcycle was in the shop I hopped a taxi to Hamra and the Shiaa driver brought up the subject of religion and presented several of his arguments for why he has real doubts there is a God. Unfortunately there is deep and vast misinformation/disinformation about Hizbullah and their religious beliefs. They are very secular on a day by day basis and they are very tolerant of others views. In Dahiyeh, after a short period one does not feel that one in a religious enclave.

Nasrallah and Hizbullah, as Naim Qassem told former US Ambassador Richard Viets and his delegation a couple of days ago that there is no interest in an Islamic Republic in Lebanon. That idea was expressed back in 1985 in Hizbullah’s ‘open letter’ announcing its formation. The relevant language was influenced by Ayatollah Khomeini and the then recent success of the Iranian revolution.

For years, Nasrallah has regularly stated that Lebanon is not Iran and never will be and if Lebanon wants an Islamic republic let 90% of the people vote for it and only then could it be considered. The Islamic Republic of Lebanon idea was a fantasy and virtually no one but the Zionist lobby and their pals even mention the concept anymore.

Question: General Michel Suleiman, Lebanon’s army chief of staff, was sworn in as the country’s new president last Sunday. The Bush administration did not send a delegation, which indicates the level of frustration with recent developments. It’s clear now that the real center of power has shifted away from Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and his allies in the « US backed » March 14th Coalition to Hizbullah. Nasrallah said in a recent speech that he has no interest in meddling in Lebanon’s political affairs but will not disarm his militia. With Hizbullah currently at full strength and confident after their victory; do you think an ‘Israeli’ attack on Iran less likely? If ‘Israel’ attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities, will Nasrallah launch missile strikes on Tel Aviv?

franklin lamb: My personal belief is that Hizbullah would attack Tel Aviv is ‘Israel’ or the US attacked Iran and perhaps even Syria.

I do not think either the US or Israel will attack Iran before Bush leaves office although both would very much like to.

The $4 per gallon gas prices in the States could rise to $12 per gallon if Iran shuts down the Gulf of Hormuz which it would almost certainly do.

‘Israel’ does not have the military power to take on Iran by itself and the still drowsy American public has no appetite for yet another war. Such a conflict might well destroy the State of ‘Israel’ and it knows it.

Such an attack would likely cause Iraq to explode in a massive violence against American forces that would make the 1968 Tet Offensive appear mild in comparison. The populations of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia would likely attempt to overthrow their governments.

This would be for starters and things would escalate form there. The results are unpredictable but surely would be catastrophic on a scale never seen since World War II.

The United States is on its way out of the Middle East. Attacking Iran would quite simply accelerate its departure.

Question: The ‘Israeli’ newspaper Haaretz is reporting that Hizbullah and the Olmert administration are close to a deal on a prisoner exchange. There are also reports that ‘Israel’ is negotiating secretly with Syria on the Golan Heights and that the Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has opened talks with Hamas. Is Olmert trying to divert attention from his own problems (bribery charges) or is ‘Israel’ attempting to neutralize its potential enemies in the event of an attack on Iran?

franklin lamb: I think you are exactly correct on this point.

Question: Hizbullah has been supportive of labor strikes in Beirut. Are Lebanon’s troubles really the result of sectarian problems (as the media suggests) or class divisions? Is this really a struggle between the wealthy Sunnis and Christians versus the poor Shiaa?

franklin lamb: More class divisions and the economy I would say. Skyrocketing prices increasing power cuts, poor job market, shortage of housing are all increasing tension and conflict. Plus outside actors continuing to meddle in Lebanese internal affairs and promote conflict. The exacerbation tensions here is cause less by whether one is Armenian, Druze, Chaldean, Maronite, Shiaa, Sunni etc. that the yawning economic gap.

With respect to the Saudi/Hariri owned Solidere Corp. This week in announced profits of $ 157 million dollars for the most recent reporting period. These are astounding and record figures when consumer good prices are rising. Under Rafik Hariri premiership, Lebanon borrowed more than $ 40 billion to rebuild parts of Beirut (now effectively owned by Solidere/Hariri Family and Friends). This interest alone on these loans payable partly to Hariri and Saudi banks keeps Lebanon stagnate and barely above water. Without a new economic plan Lebanon is lost.

Hizbullah claims it has a plan and we will soon see what it looks like and if Hizbullah can transform Lebanon economically.

Question: Are the prospects for peace in the region better or worse with a well-armed Hizbullah?

franklin lamb: Better in the sense that there is for the first time in modern history an Arab/Muslim deterrence to Zionist and Western colonialism. Worse in the sense that the US and Israel are rapidly losing influence and viability in the Middle East and may once again resort to war to stem the breach.

Note:

franklin lamb, PhD is an author and Director of « Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace » who works from Beirut. His newest book « Hizbullah: A Brief Guide for Beginners » is expected soon in Arabic and English

Voir aussi:

CIA report: Israel will fall in 20 years
Press TV
Fri, 13 Mar 2009
A study conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has cast doubt over Israel’s survival beyond the next 20 years.

The CIA report predicts « an inexorable movement away from a two-state to a one-state solution, as the most viable model based on democratic principles of full equality that sheds the looming specter of colonial Apartheid while allowing for the return of the 1947/1948 and 1967 refugees. The latter being the precondition for sustainable peace in the region. »

The study, which has been made available only to a certain number of individuals, further forecasts the return of all Palestinian refugees to the occupied territories, and the exodus of two million Israeli – who would move to the US in the next fifteen years.

« There is over 500,000 Israelis with American passports and more than 300,000 living in the area of just California, » International lawyer Franklin Lamb said in an interview with Press TV on Friday, adding that those who do not have American or western passport, have already applied for them.

« So I think the handwriting at least among the public in Israel is on the wall…[which] suggests history will reject the colonial enterprise sooner or later, » Lamb stressed.

He said CIA, in its report, alludes to the unexpectedly quick fall of the apartheid government in South Africa and recalls the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, suggesting the end to the dream of an ‘Israeli land’ would happen ‘way sooner’ than later.

The study further predicts the return of over one and a half million Israelis to Russia and other parts of Europe, and denotes a decline in Israeli births whereas a rise in the Palestinian population.

Lamb said given the Israeli conduct toward the Palestinians and the Gaza strip in particular, the American public — which has been voicing its protest against Tel Aviv’s measures in the last 25 years — may ‘not take it anymore’.

Some members of the US Senate Intelligence Committee have been informed of the report.

MRS/MM


Gaza: Et si la disproportion pouvait sauver des vies? (Sometimes striking a heavy blow can save lives in the long run)

23 février, 2009
Gaza ruinsHamas human shieldsLaissez-les dire ‘Mort à Israël. Ca fait 43 ans que je suis dans ce magasin et je n’ai jamais eu aucun problème. J’ai rendu visite à ma famille en Israël, mais quand je vois quelque chose comme l’attaque sur Gaza, moi aussi, je manifeste en tant qu’iranien. Soleiman Sedighpoor (commerçant juif d’Estefahan, Iran)
Les attaques doivent être strictement limitées aux objectifs militaires. En ce qui concerne les biens, les objectifs militaires sont limités aux biens qui, par leur nature, leur emplacement, leur destination ou leur utilisation apportent une contribution effective à l’action militaire et dont la destruction totale ou partielle, la capture ou la neutralisation offre en l’occurrence un avantage militaire précis. Protocole additionnel aux Conventions de Genève (Protocole I, Article 52 Chapitre III, alinéa 2)
Ils tiraient des toits des maisons, des écoles, des magasins. Les mosquées étaient pleines d’armes, de munitions, d’explosifs et de missiles. Après avoir été touchée, la mosquée de Jabalya a continué à exploser pendant plusieurs minutes, explosion après explosion. C’était probablement l’un des plus grands entrepôts d’armes du Moyen-Orient, avec un grand nombre de missiles importés de Téhéran. Isaac Herzog (ministre israélien des affaires sociales)
 Ce qui est arrivé au quartier Dahiya de Beyrouth en 2006 arrivera à tous les villages qui servent de base à des tirs contre Israël. […] Nous ferons un usage de la force disproportionné et y causerons de grands dommages et destructions. De notre point de vue, il ne s’agit pas de villages civils, mais de bases militaires. […] Il ne s’agit pas d’une recommandation, mais d’un plan, et il a été approuvé.  Gadi Eisenkot (commandant israélien de la division nord)
Frapper un grand coup n’est pas nécessairement immoral. Parfois cela peut même sauver des vies à plus long terme, parce que si vous frappez un grand coup, vous réduisez les possibilités que la guerre dure longtemps ou d’un deuxième round. Avi Kober (expert israélien en affaires militaires)
Je ne crois pas qu’une armée ait jamais fait plus d’efforts dans l’histoire militaire pour réduire le nombre des civils blessés et des décès des personnes innocentes que ne le font actuellement les forces armées d’Israël à Gaza. Colonel Richard Kemp (ancien commandant des forces britanniques en Afghanistan)
Je crois qu’en raison de l’énorme destruction, les habitants de Gaza ont compris que cela ne mène nulle part. Quand la construction commencera – avec des fonds de l’Europe, de l’Arabie Saoudite et d’autres endroits – et que les gens auront reconstruit leurs maisons, je ne crois pas qu’ils accepteront d’y remettre des lance-roquettes le jour suivant. Regardez ce qui s’est passé au lendemain de la deuxième guerre du Liban. Le Hezbollah a multiplié les menaces mais n’a pas envoyé la moindre roquette cette fois. Pourquoi? Parce que les habitants du Sud-Liban dont les maisons avaient été détruites ont dit: ‘Pour quoi faire ? Pourquoi recommencer tout ça?’.
Après les erreurs de la deuxième guerre du Liban, les soldats avaient peur, la population israélienne avait peur, les médias ont averti que ce serait une guerre dure et sans précédent. Hamas avait averti: ‘Si vous entrez dans Gaza, nous en ferons votre cimetière; il y aura des mines et des guet-apens partout’. Donc il y avait une vraie peur. Cette crainte nous a fait frapper trop fort. Il n’y a aucun doute que des choses dures se sont produites là-bas. Mais d’un autre côté, quand vous comparez aux batailles récentes de par le monde, cela n’a pas été si extraordinaire. A Fallujah, par exemple, environ 6 000 personnes ou 2,3 % de la population de cette ville irakienne ont été tuées par les forces américaines; et les Irakiens n’avaient jamais tiré sur Washington ou New York. En comparaison, le nombre de victimes à Gaza a été très bas. A.B. Yehoshua (écrivain israélien pacifiste)
With an outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy’s actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes. The strike must be carried out as quickly as possible, and must prioritize damaging assets over seeking out each and every launcher. Punishment must be aimed at decision makers and the power elite. In Syria, punishment should clearly be aimed at the Syrian military, the Syrian regime, and the Syrian state structure. In Lebanon, attacks should both aim at Hizbollah’s military capabilities and should target economic interests and the centers of civilian power that support the organization. Moreover, the closer the relationship between Hizbollah and the Lebanese government, the more the elements of the Lebanese state infrastructure should be targeted. Such a response will create a lasting memory among Syrian and Lebanese decision makers, thereby increasing Israeli deterrence and reducing the likelihood of hostilities against Israel for a an extended period. At the same time, it will force Syria, Hizbollah, and Lebanon to commit to lengthy and resource-intensive reconstruction programs. Recent discussion of “victory” and “defeat” in a future war against Hizbollah has presented an overly simplistic approach. The Israeli public must understand that overall success cannot be measured by the level of high trajectory fire against Israel at the end of the confrontation. The IDF will make an effort to decrease rocket and missile attacks as much as possible, but the main effort will be geared to shorten the period of fighting by striking a serious blow at the assets of the enemy. Israel does not have to be dragged into a war of attrition with Hizbollah. Israel’s test will be the intensity and quality of its response to incidents on the Lebanese border or terrorist attacks involving Hizbollah in the north or Hamas in the south. In such cases, Israel again will not be able to limit its response to actions whose severity is seemingly proportionate to an isolated incident. Rather, it will have to respond disproportionately in order to make it abundantly clear that the State of Israel will accept no attempt to disrupt the calm currently prevailing along its borders. Israel must be prepared for deterioration and escalation, as well as for a full scale confrontation. Such preparedness is obligatory in order to prevent long term attrition. The Israeli home front must be prepared to be fired upon, possibly with even heavy fire for an extended period, based on the understanding that the IDF is working to reduce the period of fighting to a minimum and to create an effective balance of deterrence. This approach is applicable to the Gaza Strip as well. There, the IDF will be required to strike hard at Hamas and to refrain from the cat and mouse games of searching for Qassam rocket launchers. The IDF should not be expected to stop the rocket and missile fire against the Israeli home front through attacks on the launchers themselves, but by means of imposing a ceasefire on the enemy. Gabi Siboni
Il y n’y a que deux moyens d’aborder la question d’une manière efficace: occuper le territoire sur la durée et affaiblir systématiquement l’ennemi, ou entrer en force et porter un coup rapide mais fulgurant. A Gaza, l’armée israélienne a choisi la deuxième option, et donc, elle a eu tout-à-fait raison en termes militaires d’employer une puissance de feu massive. Vous devez frapper dur, entrer et sortir vite et prendre l’ennemi par surprise. Et surtout, vous ne devez jamais vous excuser. Parce que si vous le faites, vous démoralisez votre propre camp avant même de commencer. En dépit de toute les critiques, la guerre du Liban de 2006 a été un succès, parce que le Hezbollah n’a pas réattaqué depuis. En d’autres termes, nous sommes parvenus à casser la volonté de combattre du Hezbollah et je pense qu’il y a une possibilité raisonnable d’arriver au même résultat avec le Hamas à Gaza, où la performance de Tsahal était meilleure et les pertes inférieures. Martin van Creveld (historien militaire)

« Disproportion« , « crimes de guerre », « génocide », « Hiroshima » …

Et si la « disproportion » pouvait justement sauver des vies?

Si, malgré les apparences et tous les efforts du Hamas, le bilan réel de victimes « civiles » de l’offensive israélienne sur Gaza le mois dernier se révèlera vraisemblablement beaucoup plus bas que prévu (500-600 au lieu des milliers annoncés) …

.
La chose qui incarne le plus l’impression de disproportion et semble échapper à toute rationalité est l’ampleur quasi-dresdéenne des destructions.

D’où l’intérêt du dossier post-Gaza du Jerusalem Report de la semaine dernière.

D’abord sur le malentendu de l’exigence de proportion qui, selon les lois de la guerre elles-mêmes, ne vise pas l’égalisation des moyens et des pertes de chaque côté mais porte sur le rapport entre les pertes civiles et l’avantage militaire visé et atteint.

Il s’agit donc, pour la partie offensive, de prendre toutes les mesures pour limiter le nombre de victimes civiles (comme évidemment ses propres pertes), ce que, contre la stratégie délibérée de boucliers humains du Hamas, Israël a fait en avertissant à l’avance les civils de quitter les zones de combat et en utilisant les armes les plus précises possibles (y compris en bloquant mystérieusement les ondes de télécommandes pour les bombes commandées à distance!) pour atteindre les cibles militaires.

L’opération ne se révélant d’ailleurs pas nécessairement disproportionnée si on la compare à d’autres opérations du même genre (dix fois moins de victimes civiles pour cinq fois plus de population qu’à Falluja en novembre 2005).

Quant aux destructions physiques elles-mêmes, les bombardements israéliens ont d’abord systématiquement détruit l’appareil militaire et politico-administratif du Hamas lui-même mais aussi, du fait de leur stratégie délibérée de les piéger ou de les utiliser à des fins militaires (sites de lancement et de stockage de roquettes), nombre de bâtiments civils (mosquées, écoles, habitations), qui de ce fait perdaient leur statut protégé.

Reste l’aspect le plus difficile à comprendre (y compris pour nombre d’Israéliens ou amis d’Israël) et en tout cas le moins expliqué par nos médias, à savoir la doctrine Dahia, autrement dit le côté démonstration de force qu’a effectivement été l’opération.

Le fait, comme l’explique l’expert en affaires militaires Avi Kober, que la dimension fulgurante et massive d’une offensive peut même dans certains cas (sans parler de l’effet dissuasif pour l’ensemble des pays de la région!) « sauver des vies à plus long terme en réduisant la durée de la guerre ou la possibilité d’un deuxième round ».

Stratégie qui, contrairement à ce qui est dit et répété par nos médias et têtes pensantes à la mémoire courte, s’est révélé payante au Sud-Liban à l’été 2006, le Hezbollah n’ayant toujours pas réouvert les hostilités devant l’ampleur des destructions que son agression avait imposées à sa population.

Et qui devrait donc logiquement faire réfléchir à deux fois ce qui reste du Hamas ou en tout cas les priver pour un bon moment de nombre de toits ou de jardins pour leurs rampes de lancement de roquettes …

Extraits:

Les lois de la guerre prennent en considération le fait que des civils peuvent être blessés lors d’attaques de cibles militaires, mais insistent sur le fait que les attaquants doivent prendre des mesures pour s’assurer que le nombre de victimes civiles ne soit pas disproportionné par rapport à l’avantage militaire atteint. Par exemple, la force attaquante pourrait avertir les civils de quitter la zone de combat, et elle doit utiliser des armes capables de cibler exactement les cibles militaires, ce qu’Israël a fait. De même, les attaques des forces israéliennes contre des bâtiments civils tels que des mosquées, des écoles et des maisons d’habitation ne constituent pas des crimes de guerre parce que les bâtiments en question étaient utilisés à des fins militaires. Dans ce cas une structure civile perd son statut civil. Par exemple, si une mosquée est utilisée comme d’observation point ou pour stocker des munitions, elle perd sa protection en tant que mosquée. Cela peut sembler cruel, mais si après 22 jours de bombardement, tirs d’artillerie et d’offensive au sol Israel a tué moins de 1 000 civils, il est évident que ce n’était pas disproportionné. Robbie Sabel (expert en droit international)

Si l’armée israélienne avait employé moins de puissance de feu, cela lui aurait causé plus de pertes et aurait considérablement réduit l’impact dissuasif de l’operation. Toute la région nous observait : le Hezbollah, la Syrie et l’Iran. Je pense que la démonstration de force était très importante pour créer de la dissuasion, non seulement vis-à-vis du Hamas, mais dans la région dans son ensemble. Doron Almog (ancien commandant israélien)

The Post-war Legal Battle
Leslie Susser
Feb. 1, 2009
THE Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem Report
February 16, 2009

The images on television screens across the world were harsh: the tiny bodies of children wrapped in green Hamas shrouds; a Palestinian doctor who had worked in Israel, distraught at the deaths of his three daughters and a niece; pandemonium as shrieking ambulances raced to hospitals; women in traditional garb sifting through the rubble of their bombed-out homes; the jagged concrete of mangled high-rise buildings; huge clouds of smoke billowing over the battle zone.

Across the bottom of the screens or in voice-overs, viewers were informed of the constantly rising death toll in Gaza: 220 on the first day, reaching a total of 1,285 and thousands more wounded by the time Israel’s 22-day war against Hamas was over.

Besides the general assumption of the Israel Defense Force’s responsibility for what was presented as an unnecessarily high human toll and unnecessarily widespread devastation, there were some specific criticisms of Israeli soldiers’ conduct in the fighting: that in some instances they had prevented evacuation of the wounded, fired indiscriminately at civilians, used white phosphorous shells that cause deep burns against human targets, all of which are violations not only of the ethics, but also of the laws of warfare.

Israel argues that its forces did all they could to avoid causing civilian casualties; that the army made a quarter of a million phone calls, sent text messages and dropped leaflets warning civilians to leave areas about to be attacked; that some missions were aborted because civilians might be hit; that when civilians were hit it was often because Hamas militiamen prevented them from moving out of the line of fire, and that it was always unintentional.

As for the white phosphorous, the IDF says it is used by armies all over the world in legal munitions for flares and smokescreens, but that it is investigating the firing by a reserve brigade of about 20 phosphorous shells in the Bet Lehiya area of northern Gaza where civilians may unintentionally have been hit. The IDF also says that preliminary investigations of incidents in which Israeli troops fired at a United Nations compound, an UNWRA school, the al Kuds hospital and a tall building housing foreign media all followed the same pattern: IDF troops came under fire from inside or adjacent to the locations, and fired back.

Beyond the specifics, some critics of Israel charge that its overwhelming military response was not proportional to Hamas rocket fire, which during the war caused only three Israeli civilian deaths. Others go further, accusing Israel of war crimes. Israeli officials dismiss these charges out of hand as part of an ongoing campaign of anti-Israel « lawfare, » in which attempts are made to criminalize anything Israel does, especially when it uses force to defend itself. They maintain that with its civilians fired on so persistently by Hamas and powerful regional enemies like Iran lying in wait for any sign of weakness, Israel had to find an effective response. And, they say, given the way Hamas deliberately used civilians as human shields, there is nothing Israel could have done to make the results less tragic.

As the dust settles, the question of whether Israel actually broke the rules of war and whether any of its soldiers will face judicial proceedings is one of the major issues that have come to the fore. Others are whether the abiding impact of Israel’s Gaza operation be enough to secure its war aims of deterring Hamas rocket fire and preventing the smuggling of new weapons into Gaza, and who will control the large-scale rehabilitation of Gaza, expected to cost at least $2 billion.

The Israeli government rejects all the war crimes allegations and a week after the cease-fire, it announced that it would give full legal backing to soldiers who might face such charges abroad. « The men and officers who were sent on missions in Gaza must know that they are safe from various tribunals, » Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared, describing attempts to move against Israel in the international legal arena as « moral acrobatics. »

If any foreign government or organization does try to prosecute, experts say this is unlikely to be done through the International Criminal Court at The Hague: Israel is not a member state and and the alleged crimes were not committed in the territory of a member state. Therefore, any proceeding in the ICC would have to be mandated by the U.N. Security Council, and the chances of that happening tend to zero. That leaves the possibility of prosecution through what is called « universal jurisdiction, » in the national courts of countries like Britain, Belgium and Spain, which allow prosecution for war crimes committed anywhere in the world.

In the post-war legal battle, Israel and its supporters are already taking the offensive. Irwin Cotler, a Canadian member of parliament and a former justice minister, law professor at Montreal’s McGill University and head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, says Israel should argue that Hamas is guilty of at least six violations of international law: Deliberately targeting civilians; launching attacks from inside civilian areas like houses, schools, mosques and hospitals; abusing international symbols, like using ambulances to transport fighters (the perfidy principle); bringing children into armed conflict; inciting to genocide; and, through its systematic eight-year long attack on civilians, perpetrating a crime against humanity.

« This is an important case to make, » he says, « because it shifts onus of responsibility for the human tragedy in Gaza onto Hamas. » Israeli legal experts add another major Hamas violation: not allowing Red Cross or any other international player access to Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for the more than two-and-a-half years he has been in Hamas captivity.

In any judicial process it faces, Israel will have to show that its forces met two criteria, which according to international law experts, armies must observe in a civilian war zone: discrimination — directing fire only at military targets — and proportionality. There is a common misconception that the latter means responding to enemy attacks with more or less equivalent force. In fact, the demand is quite different: that when attacking a military target, civilian casualties and damage should not be « clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated. » [Article 2(b)(iv) of the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court]. In other words, that when taking a military objective, an army must take care to inflict as little civilian damage as possible.

There is no demand for equivalence in weaponry or in casualty ratios between the warring parties. In other words, neither Israel’s use planes against rockets, or its having suffered far fewer casualties than the other side make it guilty of disproportionality. « The laws of war take into account that when attacking military targets civilians may be hurt, but insist that the attacking force take steps to ensure that civilian casualties will not be disproportionate to the military advantage achieved, » explains Robbie Sabel, an expert on international law at the Hebrew University and a former legal adviser to the foreign ministry.

For example, the attacking force could warn civilians to leave the battle zone, and it must use weapons capable of pinpointing the military targets. Israel, says Sabel, did both. Neither did the IDF’s attacks on civilian buildings, like mosques, schools and people’s homes constitute war crimes, because the buildings in question were being used for military purposes. « In that case a civilian structure loses its civilian status. For example, if a mosque is used as an observation point or to store ammunition, it loses its protection as a mosque, » Sabel tells The Report.

He maintains that in Gaza the IDF did its best to adhere strictly to the laws of modern warfare, with legal advisers in battle command centers to ensure real time compliance. « It may sound cruel, but if after 22 days of bombing, shelling and ground fighting Israel has killed less than 1,000 civilians, it was clearly not disproportionate, » he declares.

This raises the question of how other western armies have fared in densely populated battle zones. For example, on D-Day, when the allies stormed the Normandy coast on June 6 1944, 3,000 French civilians were killed by allied bombs and shells in a single day. But that was war in a different time and on a different scale.

A campaign very similar, in fact almost identical to the Gaza war in the urban military problems it posed was the U.S. Operation Phantom Fury in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in November and December 2004. About 5,000 insurgents under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were embedded in the city of 300,000. An estimated 200,000 civilians heeded American warnings and fled before the fighting began. On November 7, the Americans launched a major air strike, followed by nine days of fierce ground fighting and another 37 of mopping up. Of the 200 mosques in the city, 66 used to cache arms were destroyed; about 30,000 buildings were demolished or significantly damaged; the estimated civilian death toll was 6,000.

In Gaza, with a population of 1.5 million (5 times that of Fallujah) and about 20,000 armed militiamen, 20 mosques were destroyed, 25,000 buildings demolished or damaged, and the estimated civilian death toll was 894 by the Palestinian count or 500-600 according to the Israelis, although they had nowhere to flee to, and some were hit in what had been designated as safe havens.

Indeed, the IDF’s efforts to keep civilian casualties to a minimum despite the risks and complexities of urban warfare have been hailed by some foreign experts as setting new standards for other armies. « I don’t think there’s ever been a time in the history of warfare when an army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza, » Col. Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, told the BBC while operation « Cast Lead » was in full flow.

Still, the IDF acknowledges that it used heavy fire to protect its soldiers moving forward and that it made mistakes. The fact that four of the nine Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza were hit by friendly fire attests to the difficulty of accurately distinguishing between fighters and civilians in a fast moving urban battle situation.

So what was the IDF’s modus operandi? How did it manage to move through the narrow streets and alleyways, the booby-trapped houses and tunnels, with so few casualties of its own? Maj.-Gen. (Res) Doron Almog, a former commander of the southern front responsible for Gaza, puts it down to a combination of high-grade intelligence and a battle plan that took Hamas by surprise at every stage: strategic surprise at the ferocity and duration of the operation; tactical surprise at the timing of the initial air-strike and at the way the IDF found counters to all aspects of a Hamas defense strategy based on human shields, booby-trapped buildings and secret tunnels, and at the modus operandi of the forces on the ground.

« After one swift pincer movement, Hamas fighters suddenly found themselves surrounded everywhere, » Almog, now chairman of Aleh Negev, a live-in facility in the south for the mentally disabled, tells The Report. « The IDF soldiers then moved forward behind camera-carrying unmanned aircraft, which located Hamas forces and directed accurate fire from the air and heavy artillery barrages at them. So that even before they engaged in close combat, the Hamas lost dozens of fighters. Many of the dead were company and battalion field commanders. They weren’t at the head of their troops, but were deliberately picked out and hit. Through these tactical, targeted assassinations, the chain of command was severely disrupted. If the army hadn’t operated in this way, we would have sustained dozens of casualties. »

There were other tactical surprises, too – for example, the way the IDF was able to drop a mysterious electronic screen over Gaza. Israelis in the immediate vicinity found they were unable to open their cars by remote control; Hamas militiamen were unable to detonate booby-trapped buildings and other remotely controlled explosive devices.

Had the IDF used less firepower, Almog says, it would have cost it more casualties and greatly undermined the operation’s deterrent impact. « Everyone in the region was watching us: Hizballah, Syria and Iran. I think the show of force was very important in creating deterrence, not only vis a vis Hamas, but in the region as a whole, » he says.

As they went forward, Israeli troops with cameras fixed to their helmets recorded the web of booby-trapped buildings and tunnels, the way Hamas used civilians as human shields and weapons stored in and being fired from civilian locations. The data will obviously be used by the IDF in analyzing the operation; but it could also be made available if ever legal proceedings are instituted against Israeli soldiers.

Israel’s chief argument in justifying and explaining the Palestinian civilian casualties is that the Hamas military machine was totally embedded in the civilian infrastructure. In an interview with The Jerusalem Report, Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, a member of the war cabinet, points out that even Qassam missiles were fired from people’s homes. « They fired from the roofs of houses, from schools, from shops. The mosques were full of weapons, ammunition, explosives and missiles. After it was hit, the Jabalya mosque kept on exploding for several minutes, explosion after explosion. It was probably one of the biggest arms bunkers in the Middle East, with large numbers of missiles imported from Tehran, » says Herzog.

Could Israel have fought the war in Gaza any differently? Military historian Martin van Creveld, who has written about the inherent difficulty modern states have in fighting low intensity asymmetrical guerrilla wars, says there are only two ways of going about it effectively: Occupying the territory for a long time and systematically weakening the enemy, or going in hard and dealing a quick but overwhelming blow. In Gaza, the IDF chose the second option, and therefore, van Creveld argues, it was absolutely right in military terms to use massive firepower. « You must hit hard, move in and out quickly and take the enemy by surprise. And above all, you must not apologize. Because if you do, you demoralize your own side even before you start, » he declares.

Van Creveld argues that despite all the criticism, the 2006 Lebanon war was a success, because Hizballah has kept the peace ever since. « In other words, we managed to break Hizballah’s will to fight, and I think there is a reasonable chance of achieving the same objective with Hamas in Gaza, where the IDF performance was better and the price lower, » he says.

Not all top Israeli military analysts are as impressed by the IDF’s performance.
Avi Kober, an expert on military affairs at Bar Ilan University’s BESA Institute for Strategic Studies, points out that the results were achieved against a weak enemy, with a state-like infrastructure providing easy targets and without a strategic hinterland like the Hizballah has both in Lebanon and through its close ties with neighboring Syria. Kober also argues that the IDF and the Israeli political establishment are still in « post-heroic mode, » fearful of casualties, and therefore hesitant about fully committing the IDF. Still, he agrees that, in the case of Gaza, the decision to go for a short, sharp deterrent operation was correct. Moreover, he argues that striking a heavy blow is not necessarily mmoral. « Sometimes this can even save lives in the long run, because if you strike a heavy blow, you reduce the chances of the war going on for a long time or of a second round, » he tells The Report.

On the issue of whether the aims of the campaign were achieved or not, Kober is reasonably confident that Hamas will be deterred from quickly renewing its missile assaults on Israeli civilian targets, but he is less sure about the closure of weapons’ routes through Sinai into Gaza. « The Egyptians don’t really want to do the job, » he asserts.

Almog disagrees. He says the Egyptians are projecting much greater seriousness about blocking traffic through the cross-border tunnels. « It needs to be backed up with a lot of technology. I put up a two kilometer metal barrier when I was southern command head. With American expertise, now they could put up a cement barrier along the entire 14 kilometer Egyptian-Gaza border, 50 meters below ground and 30 meters above, with sensors and a water moat to make smuggling through the tunnels virtually impossible, » he says.

Herzog says the specifics of how the smuggling will be stopped are now under review, with the Americans and Europeans not only ready to provide technology in Sinai, but to intercept Iranian vessels carrying arms for Hamas on the high seas. If effective, the new measures could stifle the Hamas government: Herzog claims the tunnels were used not only to smuggle in weapons, but also much needed cash – $1 billion, mostly from Iran, since Hamas’s violent seizure of power in June 2007.

Still, Herzog rejects criticism – mainly from the right-wing opposition – that by agreeing to the cease-fire when it did, the government missed a golden opportunity to topple the Hamas regime. Going on with the operation would have meant staying in Gaza for at least a year, risking soldiers’ lives and having to provide for 1.5 million Gazans, he says. The reoccupation would have had the international community and the moderate governments in the region up in arms. And after it all, Hamas would still have been around. « When you take on operations like this you need to know your limitations, » he insists.

Herzog is the Israeli minister in charge of efforts to ameliorate the humanitarian suffering and ultimately to help rehabilitate Gaza. In the first week after the war, an international convoy of planes brought in large supplies of food and medicine which Israel transported into Gaza; 150 trucks a day were going in through the Kerem Shalom crossing point, the conveyor belt for wheat at Karni was reactivated, Israel repaired its side of the electricity grid and was helping with water purification and sewerage disposal. « Israel is sending in as much as the Palestinians can absorb, and there is no shortage of food or medicine, » Herzog says.

The international relief effort for Gaza is being directed by Sir John Holmes, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. His brief is to assess the immediate needs of the people of Gaza and, on the basis of his report, to convene a conference calling for assistance from U.N. member states. One of the urgent items will be temporary shelter in the form of tents or prefabricated homes for the about 20,000 Gazans the war has left homeless. Further down the road, there will be a big donor conference to deal with the longer term reconstruction of Gaza.

The main problem facing Israel and the international community in the rehabilitation effort is how to prevent Hamas from hijacking relief supplies and, more importantly, the entire rebuilding operation. For example, Israel approved the dispatch of equipment for water purification, but pipes it sent in quickly disappeared, apparently lifted by militiamen for the manufacture of new Qassam rockets.

Israel is working behind the scenes for major reconstruction to be carried out through Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority. The hope is that this will rehabilitate the PA’s standing in Gaza, transform living standards and create conditions for a two state Israel-Palestine solution. « The whole world and we too are looking closely at developments to make sure that the Palestinian Authority benefits from rebuilding Gaza, not Hamas, » Herzog says.

He talks about « a grand international strategy » to bring the PA back into Gaza as rulers instead of Hamas, the first stage of which should be having the PA administer the border crossing points between Gaza and Israel, and between Gaza and Egypt.

Clearly, any full-fledged return of the PA to Gaza would be predicated on a national unity deal between Hamas and Abbas’s secular Fatah movement. Officially, this is still something Israel opposes. But Herzog hints at the possibility of a fresh approach, given Hamas’s much weakened state. « We will not interfere in internal Palestinian affairs, » he declares.

A week after the war, the government instructed Justice Minister Daniel Friedman to prepare Israel’s legal argument in the event of any it its nationals being brought to court. The fundamental question, though, goes beyond the legal. Basically, it is a case of competing narratives: Israel which sees itself fighting for its survival against powerful regional enemies, and critics who see it as a nation corrupted by the arrogance of power. The question the fighting in Gaza raises, not so much for the courts, but for the judgment of history is who, ultimately, is responsible for the slaughter of the innocents – Israel or Hamas. •

Voir aussi:

A Necessary War (Extract)
Leora Eren Frucht
The Jerusalem Post
Feb. 1, 2009
Extract from an article in Issue 22, February 16, 2009 of The Jerusalem Report

Toys are scattered on the floor and the walls are filled with framed photographs of grinning children in A.B. Yehoshua’s Ramat Gan apartment.

A resident of Haifa, Yehoshua uses this place for weekends to host his six grandchildren, all of whom live nearby. Seated comfortably on a striped sofa, he awaits their arrival with particular anticipation this weekend, the first since his sons, aged 34 and 39, have returned home. Both were called up for reserve duty during Israel’s recent offensive in Gaza (though neither entered the Gaza Strip). « I feel a great sense of calm and relief, » says the acclaimed author of nine novels, who taught comparative literature at Haifa University for many years.

Over the last few weeks, Yehoshua, 72, a longtime member of the peace camp, has written articles in newspapers abroad and at home justifying, in principle, the Israeli operation. The author, who vehemently objected to Israel’s first Lebanon war, has often been seen as the ethical voice of the leftwing, together with fellow writers Amos Oz and David Grossman.
The local daily Haaretz featured a passionate exchange of letters between Yehoshua and left-wing columnist Gideon Levy, who accused the Israel Prize-winning novelist of having lost his conscience in supporting the offensive that claimed the lives of so many Palestinian civilians and destroyed much of Gaza.

Dressed casually in a black turtleneck and black pants that contrast strikingly with his shock of silver-white hair, Yehoshua speaks with conviction, waving his hands frequently for emphasis. While he has no pangs of guilt for his position, he feels the force Israel employed in Gaza was greatly exaggerated and even constituted « an act of brutality. » Yet he maintains that the war itself was unavoidable and believes that ultimately it may well bring peace and a two-state solution a step closer.

« This war was necessary, » says Yehoshua emphatically. « A million people can’t be under the constant threat of rocket fire. It was a type of insanity, an impossible situation that was paralyzing Israel. I believe any other country would have acted the same way we did out of a moral responsibility to defend its people from rocket fire. »

In recent days, some observers, including even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert himself, have said that they cannot rule out the resumption of rocket fire from Gaza. But Yehoshua believes the war achieved its goal of restoring long-awaited quiet to southern Israel. « I believe that as a result of the enormous destruction, the residents of Gaza understood that this way doesn’t lead anywhere. When the construction starts – with funds from Europe, Saudi Arabia and other places – and people rebuild their houses, I don’t believe they will agree to place rocket launchers there the following day.

« Look at the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War, » he continues. The Hizballah made lots of threats but didn’t fire a single rocket this time. Why? Because the residents of south Lebanon whose homes were destroyed said, ‘For what? Why start this again?' »

Yet Yehoshua noted, as he has in the past, that the Palestinians of Gaza are destined to « be our neighbors forever. » He would like to see them return to work in Israel and maintains that « we must be cautious and measured in our relations with them. » But how did Operation Cast Lead, which reduced Gaza to shambles and killed entire families, fit the bill? « There is no doubt, » he says, « that in this war the army used an enormous amount of firepower in an exaggerated and even brutal way that resulted in the deaths of civilians. »

Indeed, Yehoshua, whose latest novel is entitled « Friendly Fire, » points to the number of incidents in which IDF soldiers were accidentally killed by their comrades as evidence of a lightness or lack of restraint in the use of firepower in Gaza.

The author, whose works frequently delve into the primitive forces that drive people, invokes fear to explain – « although not justify, » he emphasizes – what he views as Israel’s excessive and sometimes indiscriminate use of firepower in Gaza.

« After the shortcomings of the Second Lebanon War, the soldiers were afraid, the Israeli population was afraid, the media warned it would be a harsh and unprecedented war. Hamas said: ‘If you enter Gaza, we’ll make this your cemetery; there will be mines and ambushes everywhere.’ So there was real fear. That fear caused us to strike out excessively. »

Much of the destruction could have been avoided had Hamas expressed a willingness for a cease-fire, he suggests. « Let’s not forget – and this is one of the most astonishing things in the war – that Hamas did not ask for a cease-fire once in these three weeks despite all the destruction and death in Gaza. It seems as though they don’t have much mercy for their own people. If, after the first or second week, Hamas had asked for a mutual cease-fire, believe me, I would have gone from door to door to recruit people to come and hold a huge demonstration at Rabin Square to stop the war.

Their cry would have brought the peace camp out. »

In assessing the destruction in Gaza, Yehoshua puts the conflict in a broader international perspective. « There is no doubt that harsh things happened here. But then when you compare it with recent battles around the world, it is not that extraordinary, » he says, citing fighting in Georgia, the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq. He notes that in Fallujah, for instance, about 6,000 people or 2.3 percent of the population of that Iraqi town were killed by American forces « and the Iraqis never shot at Washington or New York. » By comparison, he continues, the number of casualties in Gaza was very low.

« Nevertheless, » he says, « for us, this was an act of brutality, which included a lack of proportionality and while I understand the reasons for it, I can’t justify it. » He hopes the IDF will examine its actions in order to give a detailed reckoning of instances in which the force used was necessary and instances in which « we erred. God is in the details, and justice is also in the details. »

Yehoshua, an outspoken critic of the settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, says he is particularly angry at Hamas for « torpedoing peace. »

Voir également:

Israel warns Hizbullah war would invite destruction

IDF Northern Command chief says in any future war Israel would use ‘ disproportionate’ force on Lebanese villages from which Hizbullah will fire rockets at its cities. ‘From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases,’ Maj.-Gen. Eisenkot tells Yedioth Ahronoth

Reuters
10.03.08

Israel would use « disproportionate » force to destroy Lebanese villages from which Hizbullah guerrillas fired rockets at its cities in any future war, an Israeli general said in remarks published on Friday.

Speaking in Beirut in honor of al-Quds Day, Hizbullah secretary-general says, ‘No one has the authority to concede a grain of earth, wall or stone of the holy land’; adds his organization will continue resistance against Israel. ‘Today more can be done than ever before,’ he notes

« What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on, » said Gadi Eisenkot, head of the army’s northern division.

Dahiya was a Hizbullah stronghold that Israel flattened in sustained air raids during a 34-day war with the Shiite group two years ago.

« We will apply disproportionate force on it (village) and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases, » Eisenkot told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

« This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved, » Eisenkot added.

Some 1,200 Lebanese and 159 Israelis were killed during the war, which was sparked by a Hizbullah cross-border attack against an Israeli army patrol.

‘Hizbullah building capabilities against us’
The army’s failure to halt daily barrages of rockets against Israeli cities during the war prompted a wave of criticism of military commanders as well as calls on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign over his handling of the conflict.

Israel accused Hizbullah of firing rockets from civilian homes in southern Lebanon during the war, a claim echoed by human rights groups who also accused Israel of using excessive force that claimed the lives of innocent civilians.

Eisenkot said Hizbullah, backed by Iran and Syria, had significantly improved its rocket fire capability since the end of the war two years ago.

He rejected accusations that Israel was violating a UN-brokered ceasefire by sending aircraft on reconnaissance flights over Lebanon, saying the aerial missions were necessary given that Iran and Syria continue to arm Hizbullah in breach of the UN truce.

« Hizbullah is building capabilities against us that contravene the agreement signed by the Lebanese government at the end of the war, » said Eisenkot. « Therefore there is legitimacy to continue the flights over southern Lebanon and over Lebanon in general. »

Voir enfin:

Gabi Siboni
INSS Insight No. 74,
October 2, 2008

Not long ago Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was quoted as saying, “the Zionists will think ten thousand times before attacking Lebanon.” Nasrallah’s remark appears to have been in reference to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s declaration, made while visiting the IDF Home Front Command, that the IDF would face fewer limitations in future confrontations. Indeed, the pressure on Nasrallah seems to be taking its toll. The Hizbollah leader is beginning to internalize what he understands as a fundamental change in Israel’s approach in responding to a threat emanating from Lebanon.

Indeed, an updated Israeli security concept regarding Israel’s response to rocket and missile threats from Syria, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip is gradually evolving. Now, more than two years after the Second Lebanon War, it appears that Israel’s immediate response after the July 2006 kidnapping attack significantly boosted its ability to deter Hizbollah and Syria from operating against Israel.

The current predicament facing Israel involves two major challenges. The first is how to prevent being dragged into an ongoing dynamic of attrition on the northern border similar to what in recent years developed along the border with the Gaza Strip. The second is determining the IDF’s response to a large scale conflict both in the north and in the Gaza Strip. These two challenges can be overcome by adopting the principle of a disproportionate strike against the enemy’s weak points as a primary war effort, and operations to disable the enemy’s missile launching capabilities as a secondary war effort.

With an outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy’s actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes. The strike must be carried out as quickly as possible, and must prioritize damaging assets over seeking out each and every launcher. Punishment must be aimed at decision makers and the power elite. In Syria, punishment should clearly be aimed at the Syrian military, the Syrian regime, and the Syrian state structure. In Lebanon, attacks should both aim at Hizbollah’s military capabilities and should target economic interests and the centers of civilian power that support the organization. Moreover, the closer the relationship between Hizbollah and the Lebanese government, the more the elements of the Lebanese state infrastructure should be targeted. Such a response will create a lasting memory among Syrian and Lebanese decision makers, thereby increasing Israeli deterrence and reducing the likelihood of hostilities against Israel for a an extended period. At the same time, it will force Syria, Hizbollah, and Lebanon to commit to lengthy and resource-intensive reconstruction programs.

Recent discussion of “victory” and “defeat” in a future war against Hizbollah has presented an overly simplistic approach. The Israeli public must understand that overall success cannot be measured by the level of high trajectory fire against Israel at the end of the confrontation. The IDF will make an effort to decrease rocket and missile attacks as much as possible, but the main effort will be geared to shorten the period of fighting by striking a serious blow at the assets of the enemy.

Israel does not have to be dragged into a war of attrition with Hizbollah. Israel’s test will be the intensity and quality of its response to incidents on the Lebanese border or terrorist attacks involving Hizbollah in the north or Hamas in the south. In such cases, Israel again will not be able to limit its response to actions whose severity is seemingly proportionate to an isolated incident. Rather, it will have to respond disproportionately in order to make it abundantly clear that the State of Israel will accept no attempt to disrupt the calm currently prevailing along its borders. Israel must be prepared for deterioration and escalation, as well as for a full scale confrontation. Such preparedness is obligatory in order to prevent long term attrition. The Israeli home front must be prepared to be fired upon, possibly with even heavy fire for an extended period, based on the understanding that the IDF is working to reduce the period of fighting to a minimum and to create an effective balance of deterrence.

This approach is applicable to the Gaza Strip as well. There, the IDF will be required to strike hard at Hamas and to refrain from the cat and mouse games of searching for Qassam rocket launchers. The IDF should not be expected to stop the rocket and missile fire against the Israeli home front through attacks on the launchers themselves, but by means of imposing a ceasefire on the enemy.

By instilling proper expectations of the IDF response among the civilian population, Israel will be able to improve its readiness and the resilience of its citizens. Still, the IDF’s primary goal must nonetheless be to attain a ceasefire under conditions that will increase Israel’s long term deterrence, prevent a war of attrition, and leave the enemy floundering in expensive, long term processes of reconstruction.


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