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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saddam Executed

Well it happened. The end of a tyrant. An Arab tyrant for that matter. Only one of many. In a sense it might bring closure to the many people in the middle east whose lives Saddam destroyed one way or another. He has now paid with his life.

While I think that the man is one of the worst dictators - and there have been some pretty bad ones - that have ruled in the Arab world, he has long been out of the equation. From the day that the first American bomb fell on Baghdad, it's been curtains for him. The fact that it had to end in his execution seems natural in a place like Iraq, albeit - in my opinion - wrong on so many levels. Here are some reasons why.

1) He was tried and convicted for only one of sooo many crimes he has committed or authorized, and should have been tried for every one of his heinous acts.

2a) While the trial of Saddam was conducted by Iraqis and his execution performed by Iraqis, the fact that American army boots are still on the ground in Iraq does not give the proper feel of a sovereign action.
2b) It reeks of fear. It was a quick trial for one of many crimes with a speedy execution.

3) I don't believe in execution for reasons that have no place in this post.

4) The official videos released (and aired) of his hanging and of the moments before are in such bad taste. We would have taken your word for it. A picture of him dead - still distasteful but slightly less so - would have sufficed.

5) The unofficial video shot on some guy's cellphone that apparently made its way to the Internet (and to CNN) shows his executioners taunting him and cheering for Moqtada al-Sadr and Mohammad Baqer al-Sader (Moqtada's father in law, whom Saddam had tortured and executed). Ridiculously unprofessional and unnecessary. Reinforces 2b.

6) The fact that he was taunted so badly and obviously by his Shiite executioners, supporters of Sadr, is not gonna look good. How did they get there? And wayyyyyy more importantly, how are the Sunnis going to react?

I detested the man, his actions, and their impact on the lives and deaths of countless millions, but any which way you look at the execution, it just reeeeeks.

For one Iraqi perspective, check this out.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The End of a Bad Dream and The Beginning of a Bad Reality

I originally wrote this on August 11, 2006, I am posting it now untouched.

Too many days and too many lives lost after the beginning of the sad affair that we have all experienced one way or the other, the fighting is drawing to a close. For me and for countless others dispersed in countless cities all over the globe and more importantly in Lebanon, this signals the end of a bad dream, the end of a nightmare. We have witnessed systematic destruction, death, and the force of ruthless players who view us merely as pawns in a game much bigger than we are. Now, we are left to awaken only to find that in place of the bad dream, we are confronted with a bad reality.

We look at our Lebanon only to see all the lives lost and all the destruction we have been dealt. So we look beyond, and staring us in the face are monumental challenges. Challenges the likes of which the Lebanese have seen many times before. We have an economy that has been all but shattered, an environmental disaster on our coastline, and the threat of the spread of disease. We have at least tens of thousands of refugees with no homes to go back to, and whether we like it or not some threat of worsening sectarian strife. These are challenges that we have overcome before, and with some luck, hard work and international assistance, will overcome again.

But the biggest challenge of all, the challenge that Lebanon has failed to overcome time and time again is that of averting disaster. Our nation has failed to admit that we have an ailing socio-political system, and even when it has admitted that, it has failed to cure itself. Thus, on our shoulders lies a heavy burden, the burden of responsibility to ourselves and to our country. It is up to us to make sure that none of the conditions that set us on a collision course with each other are ever allowed to fester again. It is up to us to ensure that we will never again be tools used by others, be they "brotherly" neighbors, "friendly" countries, or flat out foes. It is up to us to alleviate the squalor, marginalization and poverty that allows fanatics and fundamentalists to fester in our midst. And it is up to us to realize that no one but us will do it.

There will be great difficulty as there as those amongst us that want us to fail. They will accuse us of breaking national unity and of serving foreign interests. They will do their best for us to fail, giving speeches about pride and honor, reneging on their promises and stalling for time. Meanwhile, they form or support militias, import weapons from foreign countries and devote themselves to the service of alien agendas. We are up against a battle for people's minds and loyalties, and the equation is simple. Formation of a modern state founded on the principles of rule of law, tolerance and diversity is victory. Anything short of that, and we are back to the Lebanon of the 1980s, if not now, then inevitably in the not so distant future.

The war was our bad dream, this is our bad reality, but the future is ours to shape!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Lebanon's Unanswered Questions

As 2007 approaches, Lebanon faces an identity crisis that its 60 years of formal independence could not resolve. It also obviously faces many other crises, economic and political, and it is part of larger regional conflicts as well. However, all of the latter ones are simply manifestations of the Lebanese people's failure to define what - other than geography and an imposed border- unites them under a common flag.

Question of identity

The question of identity is a natural one for a country with 18 recognized sects, among which are 5 major ones who don't necessarily share the same version of history or the same outlook towards the future. The Maronite and Greek Orthodox Christians, Sunni and Shia Muslims and the Druze have shared this piece of land for the decades that Lebanon has been a country and the many centuries before that it was not. Over different periods, both before Lebanon was created and after, the various communities clashed and co-existed, allied themselves with various external powers and tried to dominate one another. All of them have failed to establish long lasting hegemony. However, their communal experiences and alliances have shaped their sectarian identities in different manners and in sometimes opposing ways.

Case in Point

The Sunnis have long considered themselves as mainstream Arabs and in fact- at one point- opposed the very creation of Lebanon in favour of unity with Syria and at times a greater Arab nation. On the other hand, the Maronites are a fiercely "nationalistic" bunch, in that many of them believe that they are non-Arab Christians (as opposed to many Orthodox Christians for example) allowing them to legitimize looking to the west for support... Similarly, the Druze have a strong tribal sentiment and share with the Maronites a strong geographic connection with the region (in that both Druze and Maronites are relatively localized in and around Lebanon). Moreover, several times in recent (and not so recent) history, the various sects have committed atrocities against one another in the name of honor, dignity and self preservation.

Strength in diversity? Not really !

The point here - and books can and have been written on the subject -is to highlight and remind that Lebanon is a House of Many Mansions. The founders of modern day Lebanon realized that and understood that there was a need to define what Lebanon was. Their first attempt at that was the unwritten National Pact, which basically identified what Lebanon was not but failed to give clear answers as to what it is, and moreover failed to define - in practice - the ideals that Lebanon would strive to live by. Consequently, less than 2 decades after its establishment, Lebanon faced its first major crisis in 1958 followed by many others in the coming years. Lebanon's troubles culminated in a civil war which started in 1975 and eventually ended with the signing of the Taif accord in 1989, namely calling for such things as secularization- albeit without specifying a time-frame... Post-Taif, Lebanon was dominated by a Syrian regime that stifled dialogue and prevented tackling the very questions that Lebanon to this day needs answered so that it may proceed as one country rather than an unwillingly bound cocktail of sects.

Is the past the future?

1943 came and went and so did 1958, 1975, 1989 and 2005. And now 2006 has come and will soon be gone. Over sixty years old now, Lebanon still faces an identity crisis. Seemingly trivial questions* and others that are not so trivial dealing with both identity and strategy continue to haunt the Lebanese and will do so, with disastrous consequences, until they face them once and for all.

*A very non-exclusive list of questions that 2007 will see the Lebanese fail miserably to answer is:

-Where do we stand on Arab issues (e.g. vis-a-vis various regimes), and to what extent are we willing to get involved (with their struggles against the west and oppression of their people)?

-Where do we stand on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and to what extent are we willing to get involved (armed struggle, political support, neutrality)?

-Are we a secular country?

-If so, why is civil marriage not allowed and why aren't we proceeding with secularization?

-If not, why aren't we a federation of sects rather than a centrally governed country ?

-Can we agree on answers to these questions and if not, can we agree on how to proceed from there?


Thursday, December 21, 2006

SSNP Arrests and Confiscation of Weapons

According to various news sources (e.g. reuters, naharnet and the bbc), Lebanese "police say they have arrested at least four people and seized a large amount of explosives from homes in Lebanon. Those detained were not named by police but security sources said they were members of a pro-Syrian Lebanese party, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party."

In short, illegal weapons and explosives were confiscated. There were also reports that a car that had been reported stolen by its SSNP owner was found painted with a different color and all its numbers changed. Interesting...

In response, the leader of the SSNP, Ali Kanso, warned the security forces not to "take their injustices too far" and threatened that the "patience of the Syrian nationalists has its limits" claiming that the weapons were for "resisting the Israeli enemy" and have been stored since the eighties, and accused the government of harassment. He also attempted diverting attention from the news by reminding people that an airplane from Israel had landed with 11 people on board and left with 9 on the day of Jemayyel's assassination.

Note: It turns out that the plane used Cypriot airspace and had the Portoguese foreign minister on board, and that the two people who remained were reporters. It was also confirmed by the ministry of interior that all of this had occurred under the auspices of the army aviation control.

In any case, for resistance purposes or not (I think not), the weapons should have been confiscated and the culprits arrested as they have been. Hopefully, for a change, they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and any such weapons caches belonging to any party be raided and their owners held accountable. It is high time that the law start being applied for a change. Of course, the recent actions of our speaker of Parliament do not bode well in that direction, but thats a different story.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Coup d'etat, Coup d'etat, Coup d'etat

There is no other reasonable explanation. None. In the context of the opposition's behaviour, i.e. upping the ante in the face of the "Arab initiative" of Amr Mousa, demanding early elections under a new law (to be drafted by which government and parliament pray tell?)

Naturally, the opposition leaders are not stupid. They realize full well that what they are asking for cannot be granted by the March 14'ers and that is the reason why they are asking for it.

Something is cooking in Tehran, and it sure don't smell good.

In the context of the regional developments, tying in Lebanon with Palestine and Hamas's acceptance then refusal then acceptance then refusal... of a national unity government, followed by Abu Mazen's apparent intention to call for an early election and the infighting on the streets of Gaza that followed... In this context, added with Syria's apparent overtures towards Israel and Bashar's meeting with Putin and the Syro-Iranians apparently banking on the weakness of G.W.B domestically (i.e. in the States), it becomes apparent that the Syro-Iranians are negotiating, playing their own game of carrot and stick with the west. With GWB in particular. But they want a price.

In the subtle mix of chess and poker that the Syro-Iranians are playing with the West, it is not yet time for appeasement in Lebanon. For that would be a loss.

The name of the game: change the rules of the game

I have argued previously, and continue to argue that it is completely unacceptable to Syria and to Hizbulla and its allies that the March 14ers control government and parliament then elect a president and thus complete their revolution. Hence, the HISHee alliance cannot back down just yet. They need to change the rules of the game to something more favorable to them. One such way is a coup d'etat.

The March 14'ers better be ready for it, coz its coming.

Update (hat tip Abu Kais)
According to various news sources (e.g. reuters, naharnet and the bbc), Lebanese "police say they have arrested at least four people and seized a large amount of explosives from homes in Lebanon. Those detained were not named by police but security sources said they were members of a pro-Syrian Lebanese party, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party."

Now to all of you out there that are demonstrating against the government, thinking that this is nothing more than a democratic means of expression pleaaaaaase know full well that no matter how well meaning YOU might be, there are those among you that have different plans and that no matter how much you think that what you are doing is in the spirit of democracy, no democratic means can justify an undemocratic end.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Crosses, Crescents and the Curse of Lebanon

This post does not discuss present day politics in Lebanon for their own sake. Rather, I just want to highlight the behaviour of the various churches in Lebanon be they Muslim or Christian, their absurdity and their negative effect on the progress of democracy. Of course now that I have stated my goal, it seems like too monumental a task for one post, so I will stick to the "highlighting" part and add some commentary.

First, the Patriarch, ever so wise and calculating and capable of transcending the moment to capture eternal truths and policies that stand the test of time. Right... Well, his holiness - the same holiness that rejected a move to Baabda to topple the president in order to protect the precious right of the maronites to the presidency, thus legitimizing the Sunni mufti's move to lead prayer in the Seraille - has declared that family values are geopardized in the protests that the opposition is holding. His argument is that the protests are "mixed", mixed gender of course. God forbid that those boys and girls trying to topple Siniora should choose to take a break and have sex in one of those conveniently sturdy tents. How absurd!!!

Next, the Sunni Mufti - the same Mufti who would not stop singing the praises of the Syrian regime when they were around in Lebanon - recently decided that since it was ok for the maronite clerics to protect the president, then it must be his natural right (if not duty) to protect the Sunni prime minister from being toppled by Shiites and Christians.

As for the Shiite clerics, where do I begin. This particular brand of beardies has decided that it is both its natural right and divinely assigned duty to bear arms outside the realm of the state and to launch cross border operations that rain death and destruction on the Shiites and the other wonderful sects of Lebanon - all to protect the honor of the umma. Sheeeeeeeesh.

Of course that is not to say that the clerics of all the sects of Lebanon are not equally bad, they are. Don't get me wrong, I believe that the people of Lebanon have the right to practice religion and to follow whichever ugly bearded funnily dressed anachronistic clown that they choose. What the clerics do not have the right to do however, is trample upon the political realm issuing "advice" here and there and protecting politicians when convenient.

I think we have a right to a country where the churches and the state are separated. Where if Siniora's government is going to stand, then let it stand - just as long as the Sunni preachers of Friday noon are not the ones who save it. If the president in Baabda is going to stay in office, let him stay in office - just as long as the Sunday morning sermon in Bkirki isn't what saves him. And last but not least, if the people of Lebanon decide to wage war on Israel or not wage war on Israel, then let them make their decision freely - as long as it is not influenced by clerics schooled in Qom and Najaf.

The proper avenue for political debate is the institutions of the state. Namely parliament. Vote whomever you want to office, then topple them if they usurp power and break the constitution. Do it using democratic means, the ballot boxes, or demonstrations if need be. But do not let the clergy make your decisions for you, and do not let them have an influence on political matters. They are divisive, destructive and believe unwaveringly in ideas that were put forth over a thousand of years ago.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Why its going to get worse before it gets better

In no particular order, the top reasons why the situation in Lebanon is going to get worse before it gets better:

1 - Because Lahoud's term is not over till late 2007.
2 - Because Hizbulla has lost its resistance card and needs to redefine itself, and has so far failed.
3 - Because Brammertz's final report is not out yet and the tribunal has not been finalized and nobody has been charged.
4 - Because of reason 3, the Syrians are worried and will do their best to impede the government and hence (they believe) the tribunal.
5 - Because Hizbulla and its external allies need access to the government to impede both Unifil and the tribunal.
6 - Because March 14 has failed to be pro-active and has been on the defensive and reactive side ever since they won the parliamentary elections.
7 - Because the Arabs have started mediating and the mediators have immediately acknowledged (implicitly) Syria's role by visiting it.
8 - Because the Arabs have no interest in a prolonged standoff and may be willing to sell out on their March 14 allies to force an unfavorable deal.
9 - Because the nature of the sectarian beast in Lebanon has made the level with which the communities detest each other dangerously high, to the extent that any compromise is unacceptable to them.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Brave Iranian Students

From the BBC,

Iranian students have disrupted a speech President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was giving at a university by lighting fireworks and burning his portrait...
According to Iran's students' news agency, ISNA, the president responded by saying: "Everyone should know that Ahmadinejad is prepared to be burned in the path of true freedom, independence and justice."

Well, the Iranian president (and his buddies on the other side of Iraq, and across the border from there) should know that the only path to true freedom, independence and justice, might require them all burning... politically if possible.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Israel and Iran: More than meets the eye

From Haaretz's english online edition:

In spite of the belligerent declarations of Iran's leaders - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated his mantra this week that he expects the Zionist entity to collapse in the near future - Iranian representatives are holding negotiations with Israeli representatives. These are not only indirect negotiations, but real meetings. These meetings have been going on for about two decades, and concern laborious international arbitration regarding the debts between the two nations.

There are three separate litigations, which are taking place simultaneously in several European countries, all of them pertaining to a complex legal and business entity called Trans-Asiatic Oil Limited, and relating to one of the biggest secrets between Israel and Iran: the past oil connections between the two countries. Three years ago one of the arbitrations ruled that Israeli fuel companies have to pay the Iranian National Oil Company tens of millions of dollars. All the parties made efforts to maintain the secrecy of the decision and every other detail connected to the subject.

Iraq Study Group Report on Syria

"Although the U.S.-Syrian relationship is at a low point, both countries have important interests in the region that could be enhanced if they were able to establish some common ground on how to move forward. This approach worked effectively
in the early 1990s. In this context, Syria’s national interests in the Arab-Israeli dispute are important and can be brought into play...

RECOMMENDATION 13: There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon and Syria, and
President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

RECOMMENDATION 14: This effort should include—as soon as possible—the unconditional calling and holding of meetings, under the auspices of the United States or the Quartet (i.e., the United States, Russia, European Union, and the United Nations), between Israel and Lebanon and Syria on the one hand, and Israel and Palestinians (who acknowledge Israel’s right to exist) on the other. The purpose of these meetings would be to negotiate peace as was done at the Madrid Conference in 1991, and on two separate tracks—one Syrian/Lebanese, and the other Palestinian.

RECOMMENDATION 15: Concerning Syria, some elements of that negotiated peace should be:
• Syria’s full adherence to UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of August 2006, which provides the framework for Lebanon to regain sovereign control over its territory.
• Syria’s full cooperation with all investigations into political assassinations in Lebanon, especially those of Rafik Hariri and Pierre Gemayel.
• A verifiable cessation of Syrian aid to Hezbollah and the use of Syrian territory for transshipment of Iranian weapons and aid to Hezbollah. (This step would do much to solve Israel’s problem with Hezbollah.)
• Syria’s use of its influence with Hamas and Hezbollah for the release of the captured Israeli Defense Force soldiers.
• A verifiable cessation of Syrian efforts to undermine the democratically elected government of Lebanon.
• A verifiable cessation of arms shipments from or transiting through Syria for Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups.
• A Syrian commitment to help obtain from Hamas an acknowledgment of Israel’s right to exist.
• Greater Syrian efforts to seal its border with Iraq.

RECOMMENDATION 16: In exchange for these actions and
in the context of a full and secure peace agreement, the Israelis
should return the Golan Heights, with a U.S. security guarantee
for Israel that could include an international force on the
border, including U.S. troops if requested by both parties."

Monday, December 04, 2006

The faltering hopes for a Lebanese democracy

It's starting to dawn on me that Lebanon is not ready for modern democracy. While some of us aspire to the establishment of a true democratic system in which everybody is equally represented, at least a third of the Lebanese people not only have no faith in such a democracy, but are seeking their turn to dominate everybody else. Judging from several comments by Hizballah supporters in the blogosphere, which by the way are not solitary opinions but are rather widely shared within the shiite masses, the current events are viewed as:
1- A historic moment at which shiites will finally break sunni domination.
2- An opportunity to avenge the many years of marginalizing the shiite community in the Lebanese social and political arena.

The point to make here is that while the remaining two major communities, namely the maronites and sunnis, have had the opportunity to dominate, oppress and fail, the shiite community hasn't had its turn to oppress other communities or to be oppressed by other shiites.

Hizballah has a lot at stake here and the shia feel empowered by them. The alliance with Syria is not merely one of a master-slave relationship. Syria is a supply route, a regional power, and shares Hizballah's aspirations to perpetuate the state of war with Israel. So blocking the Hariri tribunal is a small cost they're willing to pay (assuming they had no hand in the murder) to maintain their relationship with the Syrian regime. To do so, Hizballah needed to mobilize the shiite masses against any agenda that conflicts with theirs and the approach they've chosen for this mobilization is one of sedition.

The question now is what are the other communities to do in the face of this new shiite coup? Blood has already been spilled with the death of the Amal supporter. It won't be long before we hear voices within the shiite camp crying against "an apartheid against the shiites" and the need for shia members to take up their hidden arms to protect and preserve the community.

One answer would have been to promote the culture of life instead of death (sounds a bit cliche now), but I think we're way beyond that point. The Shia are angry and they want revenge by blood and power, not only for the slain demonstrator, but for the thousand shia that were killed during the summer war (while the sunni controlled Arab states rightfully criticized the 'dignified and just' Hizballah for triggering the war), and for the last 60 years of being the underpriviledged community in Lebanon.

It's time for Hizballah to be discredited. Nasrallah has so far delivered on his promises. By foiling this coup, a memorable promise would be broken. Whether it's through international and mainly arab pressure on Iran, I'm still not clear about the means to end this standoff, but March 14 cannot give in. If this coup fails, I don't see the shia getting as excited about another one as they are about this one.
After all, broken promises are never forgotten.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

They are not playing with fire... they are the fire!!!

According to naharnet, one person was killed (a shia) while others were wounded in clashes between sunnis and shias in a predominantly (poor)sunni area of beirut. The question that one must ask himself is why are the members of the opposition, namely HA so bent on playing with fire. They are fully aware that they are intimidating and antagonizing the Sunni areas of Beirut. They are fully aware that the Sunnis are extremely upset and feel like this is a Shia coup directed at them, otherwise why would the Sunni mufti lead prayer in the Seraille.

Also recently, a Syrian national was arrested (source needed) after he had cursed at Nasralla in front of the latter's supporters and then fled towards the predominantly Christian are of Ashrafieh... I wonder what that was about.

Its time to wake up and smell the coffee, and the stench of a coupe d'etat... Its time to see the Syrian plot for what it really is: a plan to spread chaos to lebanon. What better way to escape all the troubles that they are facing, than to plunge Lebanon, after Iraq into chaos... I don't know if they are calculting properly or not, because I am not sure about the reaction in Syria, but thats a different story.

For the time being it is time for this coup d'etat/counter-revolution masquerading as a demonstration to end, in any way possible, while a war is still avoidable. If it doesn't end soon, march to baabda. It just might be the best way to direct the tension and turn the tables.

Friday, December 01, 2006

March 14, shape up or shut up...

Alright so Hizballa, Berri and Aoun have taken to the streets in huge numbers (regardless of the relative participation of each). They have shown what we already know, i.e. that they have the support of most of the Shia community and some of the Christian community.

I have previously argued, and continue to argue, that it is not politically intelligent for March 14 and government supporters to "stay home" as Jumblatt urged the March 14ers to do yesterday. A successful foreign initiative (doubtful) not withstanding, I have no doubt in my mind that the March 8 camp will continue to hold protests, camp out in downtown and escalate (as they themselves have promised numerous times) until Siniora's government falls.

You see, one has to be able to differentiate between the isolated demonstrations (even though they were huge) that March 14 organized after the Karami resignation and after each political assassination on one hand, and the sustained, continuous demonstrations, sit ins and political escalation that the aptly named current opposition (to everything not them) is planning and holding. March 14's post-Karami protests were just that, protests. This is sustained political pressure to achieve a well defined goal, and it is at its best.

At this rate, I don't think that Siniora's government will be able to hold for long if HA is to continue escalating. They look weak, and they look dependent on foreign support, and that is a recipe for failure. But the appearances are false. The Siniora government has the support of most of the Sunni and Druze communities and a lot of the Christians, it has the support of most of the upper middle class and of many of the seculars and academics, and it should show that to the world, and more importantly to the Lebanese. To the March 14 movement I say this:

If a million Lebanese people repeatedly took to the street to protest against the assassination of a person, why can't the same million people and more take to the streets to protest the assassination of hope, the prospect of democracy, and the dream of a stable prosperous future. The assassinated politicians were killed because, to their supporters, they were the symbols of that hope, now hope itself is being targetted. Is that not reason enough to mobilize? Have no doubt, this battle is for the future of Lebanon, and not taking action today will affect our tomorrow.

I still believe that if the opposition plan is to topple Siniora, then the best defence of the March 14 government is an offensive against the president. Bear in mind that if Siniora's government falls, then the country is indefinitely in the hands of the opposition, which also owns the positions of presidency and speaker of parliament, and thus practically no longer an opposition but a ruling party. Again that is simply unacceptable. If there is going to be a vacuum in the executive branch, then it should go all the way up. Prime minister for president, the simplest of equations. Then everything is in parliament's hands...

Restated briefly, there will be no civil war if March 14 takes to Baabda. The opposition is enforcing an equation: "Its my way or not at all". In response,
I think its time for March 14 to shape up and take action or shut up and abandon their cause, for good. The idea of a "Beirut Spring", a la Samir Kassir, is what gave me hope for the future, and I interpreted the independence uprising of March 14 partly as an embodiment of that hope. The so called opposition wants to hijack our future and align us with an axis of perpetual struggle. I prefer my struggles to be for a prosperous future, not ones initiated and sustained indefinitely by ideologues, demagogues, mullahs and dictators. If a peaceful future is the future that March 14 wants, then it is time to act. If the dystopia of "1984" is acceptable to them, then so be it, keep talking and don't take action. Either way, let us know, so we can abandon hope.