Christian Jihadis in Iraq, Islamic Crusaders in Lebanon

I'm aiming to offend intolerant people with my headline. If you're offended by one, it's possible you'll agree with the other...and vice versa. Funny how that works, huh?

So, did I accomplish my goal? Who did I offend?

Ha. You know I like it raw. "Yeah baby I like it raw. Shimmy shimmy ya..." (Ol' Dirty Bastard RIP)

Anyway, here's Robert Fisk's latest stroke of brilliance. I want to make more commentary, but I'm just being run into the ground and my eye is banged up. I'm the one-eyed blogger now! hehe...

Here's a taste:

Up at Tripoli is Lebanon's biggest keep, the massive Castle of St Gilles that still towers ominously over the port city with its delicate minarets and mass of concrete hovels. Two shell holes - remnants of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war - have been smashed into the walls, but the interior of the castle is a world of its own; a world, that is, of stables and eating halls and dungeons. It was empty - the tourists have almost all fled Lebanon - and we felt the oppressive isolation of this terrible place.

Pat knew his Crusader castles. "When you besieged them, the only way to get inside was by pushing timber under the foundations and setting fire to the wood. When they turned to ash, the walls came tumbling down. The defenders didn't throw boiling oil from the ramparts. They threw sand on to the attackers. The sand would get inside their armour and start to burn them until they were in too much pain to fight. But it's the same thing here in Tripoli as in the little castle. You can hardly see the city through the arrow slits. It's another - bigger - prison."

And so I sat on the cold stone floor and stared through a loophole and, sure enough, I could see only a single minaret and a few square metres of roadway. I was in darkness. Just as the Crusaders who built this fortress must have been in darkness.

Indeed, Raymond de Saint-Gilles spent years besieging the city, looking down in anger from his great fortress, built on the "Pilgrim's Mountain", at the stout burghers of Tripoli who were constantly re-supplied by boat from Egypt. Raymond himself died in the castle, facing the city he dreamed of capturing but could not live to enter.

And of course, far to the east, in the ancient land of Mesopotamia, there stand today equally stout if less aesthetic barricades around another great occupying army. The castles of the Americans are made of pre-stressed concrete and steel but they serve the same purpose and doom those who built them to live in prisons.

From the "Green Zone" in the centre of Baghdad, the US authorities and their Iraqi satellites can see little of the city and country they claim to govern. Sleeping around the gloomy republican palace of Saddam Hussein, they can stare over the parapets or peek through the machine-gun embrasures on the perimeter wall - but that is as much as most will ever see of Iraq.

The Tigris river is almost as invisible as that stream sloshing past the castle of Mseilha. The British embassy inside the "Green Zone" flies its diplomats into Baghdad airport, airlifts them by helicopter into the fortress - and there they sit until recalled to London.

Indeed, the Crusaders in Lebanon - men with thunderous names like Tancred and Bohemond and Baldwin - used a system of control remarkably similar to the US Marines and the 82nd Airborne. They positioned their castles at a day's ride - or a day's sailing down the coast in the case of Lebanon - from each other, venturing forth only to travel between their keeps.

As soon as I clean up a few things (I'm notoriously tidy.), I shall hopefully get to everything I must do on the computer! I look forward to it. It's been a busy day.


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