Bloggers on the fighting in Lebanon.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
May 22 2007 6:38 PM

Tripoli Threat

Lebanese and Beirut-based bloggers respond to the third day of fighting there. Bloggers also discuss Britain bringing charges in Alexander Litvinenko's murder, and John McCain's swipe at Mitt Romney.

Tripoli threat: Fighting continued in Lebanon Tuesday, breaking a brief cease-fire. So far, 60 to 75 people are believed dead—30 soldiers and a fairly even split of civilians and militants. Apparently related: Two car bombs exploded in Beirut, killing one and injuring at least 19.

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Many bloggers ask the obvious: Is Syria involved? In Time's The Middle East Blog, Andrew Lee Butters notes that the Lebanese government is blaming Syria but that "The Syrian Ambassador to the UN hinted that anti-Syrian forces in Lebanon might be behind the violence, as a way of galvanizing the Lebanese public, and international opinion against Syria. … This line of argument may have had some traction in the past. I for one have had doubts about Syrian involvement in some of the bombings that have occurred after Hariri's death. … But as a draft resolution to establish the Hariri tribunal by force makes the rounds at the UN Security Council, Syria may well be capable of desperate acts.

At Across the Bay, Lebanese blogger Anton Efendi finds Syria's public statements larded with intimidation: "The Syrian regime is not even bothering to be subtle, as it feels the fire at its feet. The Syrian Foreign Minister has come out and basically confirmed my reading yesterday, that Syria is behind the attacks in Lebanon in order to send a message. … The message is: if you pass the tribunal, we will burn Lebanon."

Meanwhile, Mustapha at Beirut Spring worries that the Lebanese government is getting in over its head: "The army could well have a plan, but can we at least know what it is? Where is the conference where the Minister of defense explains his strategy? How can we know that it isn't just an ill-planned Olmert-style random attack to save our wounded pride? At least Olmert had precision weapons. Are we planning a Hama-Style massacre? Do we care if we turned 250,000 Palestinian refugees against us? Would that be sensible security planning?"

Read more about the situation in Lebanon.

From Russia with warrant: British authorities charged former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB agent who died from radiation poisoning in London last November. Britain is seeking Lugovoi's extradition from Russia. Nyet, the Russian government says.

Samizdata editor Perry de Havilland writes from London "What makes this really fascinating is that the [British government] is well aware that the Russian state has a policy of not extraditing Russian nationals to other countries … The fact they went ahead and made the demand for extradition anyway shows that the government is at last taking the threat Putin and his cronies pose seriously and this is an excellent way of dealing him a no-win hand politically, even though it will not result in Lugovoi being brought to justice."

Conservative Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters puts the events into a little more context: "This will certainly mean more trouble between Vladimir Putin and the rest of Europe. Indicting Lugovoi amounts to an indictment of Putin himself. The radioactive isotope used in the assassination makes a strong case for government involvement, as it would take high-level access to get enough together for the massive dose given Litvinenko." And John Little at Blogs of War asks "I wonder how long Andrei Lugovoy will be with us now. I expect Pravda to report any day now that he's been buried in an avalanche, eaten by bears, or killed in a tragic skateboarding accident. I'll be shocked if he makes this trial."

Read more about the Litvinenko murder.

Rascally Romney: Asked about Gov. Mitt Romney's position on immigration yesterday, Sen. John McCain sniped, "[M]aybe his solution will be to get out his small-varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn." The reference: In May, Romney called himself a "hunter pretty much all my life" only to later admit that his hunting had been restricted to "varmints."

Wonkette snarkily admired the snark, writing "Wow, that's like three zingers in one statement! Take that, Romney! Go get another $400 haircut with your three hundred wives while you windsurf down to Ted Kennedy's house to raise our taxes!"

Steve Soto at The Left Coaster adds, "McCain is making a valid point. Both Romney and Fred Thompson are saying something different now about immigration than they did before. The biggest difference between then and now of course is the need for these candidates to pander to the wingnut, anti-immigrant base of the GOP." He continues, "But who exactly is the true heir to Reaganism among this group if the default position is to trash each other and make the Dems' job easier for them?"

And Nicole Bell at Crooks and Liars sighs "Oy. Maybe the 'Straight Talk Express' has morphed into the 'Crazy, Cranky and Racist Express.' "

Read more about McCain and Romney.

Blake Wilson is a Slate contributor and former Slate editor.

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