Bloggers in Lebanon respond to the latest round of Hezbollah-encouraged rioting in and around Beirut. Also, there’s something about a State of the Union address that apparently happened last night.
Cedar Chips Are Down: Hezbollah militants, under the guise of a “general strike,” rioted throughout Beirut Tuesday, protesting the democratically elected government of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Seniora. Men wearing ski masks and operating under the command of cleric Hassan Nasrallah blocked roads leading to the capital, while rioters on the city’s streets burned tires and threw carted-in rocks at Lebanese soldiers.
Abu Kais at diaspora blog From Beirut to the Beltway offered this portrait of the chaos in his hometown Tuesday: “The Lebanese army so far has been letting the protestors block the roads for a while, to then re-open them, although not in Beirut so far. This seems to be their ‘neutral’ strategy. In fact, as of 7:30 AM Beirut time, most of the roads and tunnels in Beirut are blocked, including the airport road. The sky is filled with black smoke from the burning tires, and visibility is zero. Universities and schools are open, and so are most businesses. But the morning commute has been disrupted, and the army has failed to secure safe roads for citizens. There are unconfirmed reports of stoning at several locations by protestors. There are also reports of citizens leaving their cars at home and walking to work.”
Michael Totten, a blogger who has done extensive traveling in and original reporting from Lebanon, reports: “Up until today Hezbollah has modeled its ‘resistance’ to the elected government after the March 14 demonstations to oust the occupying Syrian army. The March 14 movement, though, never did anything remotely like this. That’s because they are, for the most part, liberal and democratic while Hezbollah is a Syrian-Iranian terrorist army. Today should be a moment of clarity for the willfully obtuse.”
Observing that Hezbollah’s call to “intifada” has coincided with its transportation of rocks and debris for throwing at Lebanese soldiers, “JoseyWales” at Lebanonesque is frustrated by Seniora’s administration: “Is anyone surprised? … These are the very same people who told us that the roads, specifically the airport’s, would be kept open by the authorities and the army. Check the army’s web site and the latest 2 headlines are: Army Commander meets US Ambassador Feltman, and Army Commander meets the Skiing Federation.”
Beiruti Jamal at Jamal’s Propaganda Site is more forgiving of Lebanese authority: “At the end of the chaotic day calm was restored. 3 people were dead and a hundred or so injured which is tragic; but given that the whole country (and not any country) was engulfed in street fights involving guns, I must say the army and the security forces did a commendable job. If riots of this scale broke out in any American city, the amount of deaths and injuries would have been multiple times more, not to mention the looting that would have hapened.”
Mark at The OuwetFront, the Web portal for the Lebanon Forces, a Christian right coalition, describes one prominent urban brawl between supporters of the group’s leader Samir Gangea and supporters of the erstwhile anti-Syrian dissident turned pro-Syrian Hezbollah ally, Gen. Michel Aoun. [Note: “FPM” = Free Patriotic Movement]: “I was stuck on my way down to Beirut, there were barely few FPMers blocking the roads, it was very easy to simply remove them and clear it, but NO we have to wait for 3 hours until tons of LFers regroup on the spot and call for reinforcements. I am not asking the Army to beat the demonstrators but to force them to clear the freakin’ roads !!” Also, check out Mark’s gallery of photographs.
Read more about unrest in Lebanon.
Sedative of the Union: President Bush delivered his State of the Union before a Democratic-controlled Congress for the first time on Tuesday. Evenly split between plans for his domestic and foreign agendas, the speech was perhaps most notable for its relative modesty and early paean to Nancy Pelosi, the first female House speakers. Liberal or conservative, live-bloggers and post-mortem analysts were underwhelmed.
Liberal Steven Benan at The Carpetbagger Report writes: “Bush, for all of his many tragic flaws, is capable of delivering a decent speech, just so long as we put the merit of his ideas aside while listening. With this in mind, last night was just … boring. Anticlimactic. Void of soaring rhetoric and almost anything of any interest at all. The speech and its delivery felt obligatory. The president might as well have just skipped the event altogether — he showed up, rehashed some old ideas, and left.”
Kudos to Bush for his delivery, says conservative Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters, but “[t]he meat of the speech impresses me less. I’m a little troubled that he only gave Iran and Syria a passing mention. Iran would be one of the issues on which he could demand bipartisanship, since the Democrats spent the last two electoral cycles complaining that he hadn’t done enough about Teheran.”
Bush’s conciliation of traditionally leftist causes—like mandatory fuel standards and the development of alternative energy—has got righty Jonathan Adler at the National Review’s The Corner saying not so fast: “Increasing automotive fuel economy standards will do little to offset these additional costs, and will also restrict consumer vehicle choices. … I also question the environmental wisdom of artifically increasing the demand for biofuels, which will mean thousands of acres will remain (or be converted to) crop production that would otherwise revert to (or remain in) wildlife habitat.”
Read more about the State of the Union address. In Slate, John Dickerson said Bush had “the posture of an unhurried man”; Fred Kaplan called the speech “maddening”; and Jacob Weisberg explained the address’s “overall limpness.”