Monday, February 14, 2005

Lebanon Hots Up

Ex-PM Rafik Hariri, a vocal opponent of Syrian influence in Lebanon, has been killed in a large car-bombing in Beirut. Like his late father, Bashir Assad seems to be playing by what Tom Friedman called Hama rules: the utter ruthlessness of power-politics in the region. When the Sunni fundamentalists of the Muslim Brotherhood in the city of Hama revolted against the government in 1982 - Assad simply had the army destroy the city and cover it in cement - killing up to forty thousand inhabitants with tanks, artillery and poison gas. Survivors were screened by secret police who used a Soviet-made machine called the "black slave", which lessened their burden by automating the process of removing supsects' fingernails.

Friedman memorably describes driving in a taxi over a solid, even surface, with the outlines of the city's ruins visible in the concrete.