During the course of yesterday’s U.S. State Department daily press briefing, Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley used the word “stability” 14 times and the word “instability” 4 times in his discussion of the collapse of the Lebanese government following the resignation of 11 ministers. The ministers resigned in opposition to the politicization of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon tasked with investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, which Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has pointed out is more concerned with investigating some groups than others.
An excerpt from Crowley’s discourse:
We’re working with the Lebanese Government and other partners who share our interest in stability and justice for Lebanon, including France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt, on next steps that will protect the work of the tribunal and help to achieve stability in the Lebanon. We encourage all Lebanese to work together to avoid threats and actions that could cause instability and to enable the governing coalition to serve the interest of the Lebanese people in justice, stability, and peace. Hezbollah is presenting a false choice for Lebanon of justice or stability. We think that Lebanon deserves both”.
Justice, stability, and peace are, of course, terms that have at no time in the nation’s history been applicable to Lebanon or to U.S. foreign policy goals in the region. It is possible that Crowley is so consumed with repeating his vocabulary list that he fails to notice that he is not even making sense, as according to Hezbollah and its allies the tribunal is both unjust and destabilizing—not one or the other. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is meanwhile quoted in Al Jazeera presenting her own take on the tribunal:
This is a matter that should be allowed to proceed as previously agreed to. This is not only about the tragic assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri, but many other people died and were injured as well”.
As for other matters that have previously been allowed to proceed, these include the 2006 Israeli assault on Lebanon that produced approximately 52 times as many fatalities as did the bombing of the Hariri motorcade and was lauded by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as the “birth pangs of a new Middle East”. Current Israeli contributions to stability and justice in Lebanon meanwhile include the kidnapping yesterday of a Lebanese shepherd.
That international casualties are assigned varying degrees of importance is clear from Crowley’s response during the press briefing to a reporter’s request that he address the situation in Tunisia, where deadly repression of demonstrators protesting unemployment and government corruption continues:
QUESTION: Tunisia demonstration?
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: On Tunisia?
MR. CROWLEY: Tunisia?
QUESTION: Right. Do you have any comment on what is happening with Tunisia?”
The questioner cites reports that 51 demonstrators have been killed; Crowley eventually stops parodying himself and counters with a figure of 23 civilians killed and a U.S. concern “about excessive force regardless of its – of where it emanates. But obviously, government forces are part of that equation”. Noncommittal criticism of the Tunisian regime is then balanced out with the assertion that “we’re also concerned about actions by the demonstrators, those who do not have peaceful intentions”.
Readers concerned with stability and justice in Tunisia are invited to view a series of videos—including gruesome hospital scenes—posted by PULSE’s Robin Yassin-Kassab, who reminds us that the killing of anti-government Tunisians is not receiving anywhere near the level of media attention awarded to the killing of Iranian anti-government protester Neda Agha-Soltan in 2009.
Human life is too often worth only its weight in politics.