Saturday, June 16, 2012
We must remain lucid and recognize that the financial and banking crisis is far from over, both in Europe and the United States. It will have long-lasting repercussions on the rest of the world economy, and on living conditions everywhere. Yet, in Europe, in the first quarter of 2012, the major media outlets backed the declarations made by European leaders, and representatives of the ECB and private banks to convince public opinion that the policies implemented had enabled the banking system to be stabilized.
Bankers Continue Path of Destruction
The Spanish Hurricane
by ERIC TOUSSAINT
All eyes are turned toward Spain and its banking sector. After Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, we may ask ourselves if the bailout plans are behind us or whether we are simply in the eye of the cyclone? We must remain lucid and recognize that the financial and banking crisis is far from over, both in Europe and the United States. It will have long-lasting repercussions on the rest of the world economy, and on living conditions everywhere. Yet, in Europe, in the first quarter of 2012, the major media outlets backed the declarations made by European leaders, and representatives of the ECB and private banks to convince public opinion that the policies implemented had enabled the banking system to be stabilized.
According to the prevailing rhetoric, the mounting fear stems from the over-indebtedness of countries, a possible default by Greece, and the adverse effects it would have on Spain and Italy. As far as the banks are concerned, the rehabilitation is supposed to be going forward, and the ECB has everything under control. From January to the early May 2012, the following general message was repeated ad infinitum: “Thanks to the 1000 billion euro loan banks have been given by the ECB in two phases (December 2011 and February 2012) for 3 years at 1% interest, private financial institutions are now in a good position to handle the difficulties facing countries in terms of sovereign debt. The financial markets have been stabilized, and the stock markets have risen after a particularly bad year. Public finances are being cleaned up thanks to the golden rule, which is being adopted everywhere, the efforts made by countries to reduce expenditures, and the reform of the labor market to make it even more flexible and of retirement regimes to cut costs. Some additional efforts must be made, but the end of the tunnel is in sight. Sweet dreams, dear friends!”
In May 2012, this rosy message was strongly refuted. It had become clear that private banks have not fundamentally cleaned up their accounts, have not modified their high-risk behavior, and their Directors have not lost their thirst for hefty bonuses and golden parachutes. Bankers consider that public authorities will always be there to save their skin. Bank bailouts with public funds continue. The depression is deepening, and public debt is increasing due to the combined effect of the bailouts and the depression. Meanwhile, the financial markets are blackmailing the weakest members in the euro zone more than ever before.
The banking system is in the eye of the cyclone, which is continuing along its path, hitting all major private banking institutions one at a time as it hums along, and paying no heed to national borders. Contrary to a real hurricane, which is a natural phenomenon, the financial cyclone is 100% artificial: it is the direct product of the cyclical nature of capitalism, worsened by 30 years of neo-liberal deregulation.
The Spanish case is emblematic because it demonstrates that the crisis does not stem from excessive public debt run up by spending too much money on social programs. In 2007, when the crisis erupted in the United States, and before Spain was submerged in it, Spanish public debt was only 36% of its gross domestic product. Spain was one of the model students in the euro zone with a public debt rate far below the 60% threshold stipulated in the Maastricht treaty, and its fiscal balance was positive (+1.9% of its GDP, whereas Maastricht imposes a maximum 3% negative fiscal balance). At that time, Spanish public debt only accounted for 18% of its total debt. Clearly, public debt is not the culprit, rather the deepening crisis affecting Spain was directly caused by the private sector, namely the real estate and credit sectors.
In May 2012, Bankia, the 3rd largest bank in Spain in terms of assets, requested 19 billion euros in government aid (in addition to the 4.5 billion already given). The Bank of Spain estimates that the Iberian banking system is sitting on toxic assets of 176 billion euros. Various specialists estimate that 40 to 200 billion euros are needed to recapitalize the Spanish banks.
The Spanish private finance industry is far from being an isolated case. Bailed out a second time in October 2011, the French-Belgian-Luxembourg bank group Dexia now acknowledges losses of €11 billion in 2011, and the downslide is not over: it again calls upon governments to recapitalize (at least €10 billion are needed). JP Morgan, one of the big US corporate banks, had to acknowledge losses of $2 billion in May 2012 (this announcement triggered a $25 billion loss in its market capitalization within a few days) and far more substantial damages are to be expected. Greek banks are on the ropes, facing a massive bank run, in which top managers and shareholders are also participating, and can only survive today thanks to emergency loans granted on a daily basis by the National Bank of Greece up to an amount of €100 billion, with the ECB’s consent.
Among the 800 European banks that borrowed this amount from the ECB, several (including some of the biggest) are again or will soon be short of cash, and they are urging the ECB to renew the same kind of low rate and fairly long term loans.
While attention is focused on the public debts accumulated by States, the main cause of the crisis lies with the balance sheets of private banks (and of some major insurance groups). Indeed they have accumulated huge debts in order to finance high risk operations that often result in abysmal losses that occur as contracts on structured products and other toxic assets reach maturity.
The lesson to be drawn is that we must, now more than ever before, demand the transfer of banks to the public sector under citizen control. We must refuse costly bailouts that increase public debt without solving the bank crisis. Expropriation must occur without compensation for big shareholders (small shareholders will be compensated), and the cost of cleaning up the accounts of expropriated institutions will be paid for by their patrimony at large (for they usually own a patrimony that extends far beyond banks). It is necessary to balance the power relations so that public authorities can repudiate the illegitimate part of the debt and release resources to set up policies that further full employment and public investments in activities that improve people’s standards of living, preserve the environment, and break with capitalism and productivism. We have to carry out a number of consistent policies in terms of economic and social alternatives that lead to a post-neoliberal, post- productivist, and anticapitalist society. On our way to radical change, a citizen audit of the debt is a valuable and indispensable tool to raise awareness and mobilize people.
Eric Toussaint, doctor in political sciences (University of Liège and University of Paris 8), president of CADTM Belgium, member of the president’s commission for auditing the debt in Ecuador (CAIC), member of the scientific council of ATTAC France, coauthor of “La Dette ou la Vie”, Aden-CADTM, 2011, contributor to ATTAC’s book “Le piège de la dette publique. Comment s’en sortir”, published by Les liens qui libèrent, Paris, 2011
 Financial Times, 22 May 2012, “Secret €100bn assistance propping up Greek banks”, p. 4.
 Debt owed to public institutions (the ECB, Fed, and national central banks), debt owed to Money Market Funds, debt owed to other private banks, debt in the form of bonds that they sell on financial markets, debt owed to their clients who deposit their cash funds there in their regular checking or savings accounts on a daily basis (for example, their salary at the beginning of every month, but this can also be the cash reserves of a small, medium or large company).
If history has taught us anything, it’s that America is a much better place when environmental laws are enforced. We need to make sure that people and organizations whose stated mission is to protect and enforce such laws remain fully committed to that mission.
Where Do They Stand?
The Ecological Costs of Environmentalist Collaboration
by MIKE GARRITY and CAROLE KING
If history has taught us anything, it’s that America is a much better place when environmental laws are enforced. We need to make sure that people and organizations whose stated mission is to protect and enforce such laws remain fully committed to that mission. But right now, especially in regard to those lauding collaboration, it’s very difficult to tell where some conservation groups stand.
Significant environmental compromises are being made by groups supporting national forest management legislation that negatively impacts wildlife habitat and old-growth forests and undermines the Wilderness Act of 1964. Unfortunately, such compromises fail to take into account the vast number of compromises that have already been made over the past century. As one friend put it recently, “They’ve cut the baby in half for so long they’re now down to the toenails.”
A number of Montana timber mills recently ran a statewide attack ad on the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, claiming “the Forest Service is being held hostage by a small group of professional obstructionists.” Senator Tester, meanwhile, publicly had this to say about those who oppose his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, “extremists are extremists and I don’t really care.”
We don’t see taking an active part in national forest management or participating in a public policy debate as falling under such derogatory labels.
What’s surprising is that while the Montana timber industry ads openly called for rolling back or eliminating public involvement in order to increase logging on public lands, the conservation groups with whom they’ve been collaborating have been strangely silent.
Do these groups agree with the timber industry’s demands? If the “collaborative” groups believe we should eliminate the public appeals process and exempt many Montana timber sales from judicial review, they should say so openly to their members and the general public so everyone knows exactly where they stand. If their goal is to protect land and wildlife in a meaningful way, they should speak up in defense of maintaining full public involvement and judicial review in public lands management.
The mission of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies is “to secure ecological integrity of the Wild Rockies bioregion through citizen empowerment and the application of conservation biology, sustainable economic models and environmental law.” Enforcing the environmental laws of the United States that apply to public lands management is critical to maintaining ecological integrity.
When our government doesn’t follow the requirements of those laws, the Alliance turns to the courts to force federal agencies to follow the law. Our record is clear. Our success in the vast majority of our lawsuits proves beyond a doubt that our claims have merit.
It’s easy to see how a climate of silence from the “collaborative” groups might encourage the Forest Service to believe it can avoid full compliance with environmental laws. It’s more difficult to understand why, when a citizen group steps forward to see that our nation’s laws are enforced, the “collaborative” conservation groups go on a well-financed public relations campaign and their industry “partners” launch statewide attack ads against that group.
It’s clear that corporations want subsidized access to public lands unencumbered by environmental laws. When the government follows the law, the Alliance supports its actions. When it doesn’t, we go to court. That’s how democracy works, and that’s where we stand.
Mike Garrity is a 5th generation Montanan and the Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.
Carole King is a singer, songwriter, author, longtime resident of Central Idaho, and a former Board member of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. She has just published her memoirs: A Natural Woman.
The President and his rival don’t mention the homeless and poor in their campaign speeches. They refer to the middle class, and spew vague words their advisors hope will connect with voters. In 2008 almost 60 million people voted for Sarah Palin (yes, for McCain also); some 20 million think Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim socialist, devoted to destroying our country.
Why Is It We Are Great?
by SAUL LANDAU
New York City’s wealth stands in stark contrast to the countless people begging on its streets.
New York is different of course, but not for the 1% who live well across the country; the rest of the population less or far less well. That’s America in 2012, where people have begun to consider their choice of leader for the next four years.
The President and his rival don’t mention the homeless and poor in their campaign speeches. They refer to the middle class, and spew vague words their advisors hope will connect with voters.
In 2008 almost 60 million people voted for Sarah Palin (yes, for McCain also); some 20 million think Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim socialist, devoted to destroying our country.
“Ann Romney Says Husband Has Deeply Principled Side No One Ever Sees In Public,” said an Onion headline (June 4). . Mostly, Romney’s media picture shows a man with vast wealth, dog and human nastiness – and other business virtues. Only in the unique and exceptional USA, where people casually shoot and kill other people to “defend” themselves, or for a variety of Christian “reasons!” Didn’t Jesus have a large gun collection and throw the moneyless out of the temple?
The moneyless, some 15 percent of Americans, use food stamps. “The program has become what some call the new welfare,” according to NY Times reporter Jason DeParle. In addition, “18 million Americans have had to apply for food aid since the economic crisis began,” and 6 million Americans depend on food stamps for their basic income. (“All Things Considered,” NPR, Guy Raz host, April 22, 2012).
“In my travels through low-income America, I have — over a period of many years — repeatedly been struck by how often and how hard people struggle to keep food on the table throughout the month,” said DeParle. “For those of us who never think twice about having enough food, it’s hard to imagine what a daily struggle it is for some needy families.” (“Fresh Air,” NPR, April 12, 2012
Long-term unemployment (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) “rose from 5.1 to 5.4 million in May. These individuals accounted for 42.8 percent of the unemployed.” Official government statistics list 12.7 million people unemployed at the end of May. (Bureau of Labor Statistics June 1, 2012) Unofficial estimates range over 20 million.
Millions remain homeless; others wait — fear — their jobs will end. The politicians assure us: our country is unique, exceptional, and good.
Some of our citizens – the minority that vote — think about their economic interests – who gets what from the government and who doesn’t. Others use abortion, guns, prayer, same-sex marriage and “less government” as issues to determine their ballot choice, reasons that would have made little sense to the sacred Founding Fathers.
“I like Sarah Palin,” a woman in Texas visiting New York told me. “She represents me.”
“In what way?” I asked.
“She’s, you know, kind of homey, you know, kind of like a soccer Mom, and with those kids. My daughter could get pregnant, you know and I like that she didn’t abandon her kid or anything. So, I voted for her – oh, and John McCain, of course. He seemed like nice man.”
The woman and her husband earned less than $40 thousand per year, with two kids, and a sizeable mortgage to burden them. He came to New York on company business and “we had those frequent flyer things so I could come too. But those Broadway shows cost so much, you know.”
A Colorado man loves guns, to hunt with and to protect himself, of course. “And damn anyone who tries to take mine away – and you know what I mean.” In case I hadn’t gotten his point, he added: “Obama has betrayed the country with his socialist health scheme.”
A New Yorker thought Obama had “sold out Israel,” meaning “he doesn’t really like Jews.”
“Why should he tell Bibi Netanyahu [Israeli Prime Minister] what to do? Whose business is it if Jews settle more land there? They civilized that barbaric region. Obama has nerve to try and boss Israel around.”
Do people get these notions in synagogues and churches? From Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, or does their “news” come from Fox?
I asked two homeless men in New York and one later in San Francisco if they planned to vote. All three stared at me as if I was a space alien. One New Yorker laughed at my question and spat an oyster into the street.
Some Ohio and Missouri tourists opined that government should stay out of their Social Security and Medicare. One Vietnam War vet complained: “the government didn’t let us win.”
“Winning, abortion, prayer, less government, guns –the Republican election topics, alongside Romney’s “jobs come from less taxes and regulation.”
Scientists warn of rapid changes in world climate, experts warn of danger from nuclear weapons spread, and the global economy falters. Yet, as the election approaches, tens of millions of Americans cling to their “exceptional” status, while reaffirming union-busting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Obama and Democratic National Committee contributed little to the campaign. Huge Republican donors outspent the Democrats by 7 to 1.
“What a great country we have,” several people told me. I agreed, wonderful land, resources, huge economy, millions of good people but I didn’t exactly know why it’s great – any more.
Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP is available for streaming on netflix.
Placing the nuclear freeze movement into its historical context is easy. Besides the readiness of many from the sixties youth movement to become active again, there was a palpable fear that Reagan wouldn’t hesitate to fight a nuclear war. The latter was nothing new as history later revealed that Richard Nixon had been more than willing to drop nuclear weapons on Vietnam. Nixon and Reagan were in close historical proximity to John Kennedy and Harry Truman, the latter having ordered dropping nuclear weapons on Japan and the former ready to launch nuclear weapons against Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
Thirty Years Later
The Legacy of the Nuclear Freeze Movement
by HOWARD LISNOFF
Marching in midtown Manhattan on June 12, 1982 was quite an experience. One million people were on the streets of the city, the largest anti-nuclear demonstration in history. Whenever the north/south line of march approached a major intersection, other protesters could be seen across the streets in the distance as far as the eye could see. The objective of the masses of humanity on the streets was Central Park where a huge nuclear freeze rally would be held.
The momentum leading up to this march had been spectacular! My wife Jan and I had set out from Rhode Island after picking up a babysitter and leaving her at our house to take care of our two children for the day. Then we boarded a bus in a nearby town for the three-hour trip to the city. The nuclear freeze movement had been growing exponentially since the bellicose Ronald Reagan took office as President of the United States. His right-wing style of confronting the Soviet Union was mixed with the religious fundamentalism that had swept him into office in answer to the national malaise with the presidency of Jimmy Carter that had fallen prey to the Iranian hostage crisis and a slumping economy marked by high oil and consumer prices.
Placing the nuclear freeze movement into its historical context is easy. Besides the readiness of many from the sixties youth movement to become active again, there was a palpable fear that Reagan wouldn’t hesitate to fight a nuclear war. The latter was nothing new as history later revealed that Richard Nixon had been more than willing to drop nuclear weapons on Vietnam. Nixon and Reagan were in close historical proximity to John Kennedy and Harry Truman, the latter having ordered dropping nuclear weapons on Japan and the former ready to launch nuclear weapons against Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Sixties’ activists would have one additional last hurrah in the movement to halt US involvement in Central American during the 1980s, but that would come after the nuclear freeze movement.
From a sixties’ point of view as an activist, the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign that began in 1980 was a strange phenomenon. Launched by Randall Forsberg of the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it drew millions of activists who worked in local communities throughout the country mounting nonbinding electoral campaigns to get towns, cities, and states to press for a freeze on the expansion of US nuclear armaments. Simply stated, a nuclear freeze meant that those cities and towns across the US voiced a wish at the ballot box to have the president stop the expansion of the US nuclear stockpile. In 1980, the US and the Soviet Union possessed more than 17,000 nuclear warheads. In 1982, both countries had about 21,000 such weapons. Reading John Hersey’s Hiroshima (1946), the disastrous effects of a single nuclear weapon far weaker than their 1980 and 1982 counterparts was enough to send chills up and down the spine of any rational individual.
The nuclear freeze movement was different in every respect from the sixties’ antiwar movement of in-your-face protest. While there were committed nonviolent activists who crossed over onto private property at nuclear weapons’ manufacturing plants during the freeze, and others who took more risky actions such as hammering on the nose cones of nuclear missiles, the mass of those in the freeze movement gravitated toward canvassing voters and holding various local events to fund the movement. I fell into the latter category since I could not risk being arrested while working in public schools, as I had already earned the reputation of being a troublemaker for my confrontations with school administrators over academic issues and workplace issues. I was also a member of my union’s executive board, another perceived wrong in the eyes of the administration. My antiwar and activist writing was also an ever-present reality in Rhode Island’s single daily newspaper theProvidence Journal. When I asked our family lawyer about the advisability of being arrested for civil disobedience at an anti-nuclear demonstration, he said, “Good luck.” Nothing else needed to be said to drive the point home to me about the necessity of earning a living compared to the risk of taking part in civil disobedience.
Week after week I walked neighborhoods in southern Rhode Island getting signatures on a petition asking the government to stop the expansion of the stockpile of US nuclear warheads. All kinds of people signed the petition; including defense workers from the nearby General Dynamics plant at Quonset Point in Rhode Island and its sister facility in Groton, Connecticut. The nuclear freeze group also had huge weekly meetings at a local library where we filled an auditorium. Bake sales, tag (yard) sales, and large community picnics filled the summer before and after the huge Manhattan rally and march. When it was all over, nothing had changed and Reagan pressed on with his “vision” of world dominance in nuclear weapons. By 1983, Reagan had announced the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) that sought to place nuclear weapons in outer space seeking to replace, to a degree, the prior policy of mutual assured destruction (MAD) through a huge nuclear deterrent. These policies followed upon the heels of the various unproven and illusory gaps in US strategic nuclear weapons in missiles, long-range bombers, and nuclear-armed submarines.
Two people made lasting impressions during the freeze movement. Sy Pressman had moved to Rhode Island from the Midwest after his retirement. Sy had long been involved in electoral politics and had campaigned for Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party’s nominee, during the 1948 presidential campaign. Sy told of being interviewed by the FBI during the campaign outside of his dry-cleaning business. John Grifalconi was a tireless worker in the freeze movement. John told of his experiences in the navy just after World War II as an official photographer taking pictures of nuclear tests in the Pacific. He developed leukemia a few years after the freeze and fought a valiant battle against the disease and for veteran’s benefits to help him deal with costs associated with his illness. He typified a person who had so much to both gain and lose by his efforts for a moratorium on the building of nuclear devices.
The nuclear freeze movement fizzled as the first half of the decade of the 1980s wore on. There was not much more people could do once they signed petitions to try and get the government to reduce its nuclear stockpile. Also, an argument could be made that during 1985 and 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev, as President of the Soviet Union, took the first steps in advocating for the reduction of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe with the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons by 2000. The end of the Soviet Union in 1991 gave the false illusion that the threat of a nuclear holocaust was forever gone.
Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
The solution to the nearly 34 year mystery surrounding the disappearance of Lebanon’s venerated Imam, Musa Sadr, will be publicly confirmed following DNA tests now being prepared. Negotiations are continuing with the Libyan National Transition Council (NTC) regarding selecting an international firm to conduct DNA tests.
Shadow of the Imam: Co-Founder of
Lebanon’s National Resistance
Imam Musa Sadr’s Remains Discovered in Libya; Battle Over DNA use; Sheikh Yaacoub Alive or Dead?
by FRANKLIN LAMB
In early spring 1983, shortly before her death, the American journalist Janet Lee Stevens urged this observer to visit Libya and meet some friends of hers who were active in the Palestine armed resistance. In those days, thanks to Yasser Arafat’s skill, passion, charm and cash, there were ten Palestinian groups publicly associated, and another half dozen more shadowy ones, sometimes in and sometimes out, depending on shifting political considerations, of the then large tent of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
I did go to Libya and over the next decade, would visit Libya fairly frequently for conferences and meetings as the “North American Delegate” to one of Muammar Gaddafi’s favorite activist organizations that I was asked to join. Our group had a long title: The International Secretariat for Solidarity with the Arab and Muslim People and Their Central Cause, Palestine.
It was in 1982 while in Beirut for a week as part of a US Congressional delegation and on leave from the House Judiciary Committee that turned for me into a long summer, that I first heard about Lebanon’s Shia activists, Imam Musa Sadr and Sheik Mohammad Yaacoub and their Lebanese journalist friend Abbas Badr Eddine all of whom disappeared on August 31, 1978, the night before Gaddafi’s 9th annual celebration of his “Great Fatah Revolution” at Green Square, three years earlier.
For years I continued to hear rumors in and outside of Libya about what became of the trio but only starting in the summer of 2011 did I begin a focused research project with the cooperation of a few Libyans I had met during the old days at the “Secretariat.” To my pleasant surprise, most had become high ranking officials during the past two decades and some agreed to help me solve this historic mystery since, like Saif al Islam, they had come to believe “ It is time to finish with the Sadr file and the events surrounding the cover-up”. A few are, post August 23, 2011, the day Tripoli was overrun by anti-Gaddafi forces, laying low in Egypt and Maghreb countries and two are today in Libyan jails awaiting “trial”.
The solution to the nearly 34 year mystery surrounding the disappearance of Lebanon’s venerated Imam, Musa Sadr, will be publicly confirmed following DNA tests now being prepared. Negotiations are continuing with the Libyan National Transition Council (NTC) regarding selecting an international firm to conduct DNA tests. Contamination is a concern of the NTC who agree that Libya does not currently have a local firm with the equipment and experience to conduct the tests and guarantee their integrity. Also being negotiated is who will oversee the essential chain of custody of all DNA samples removed from the Imam’s recently discovered remains. Extreme care is required at each step because it is certain that upon the release of the evidence of what was Imam Musa Sadr’s fate, on August 31, 1978, following his departure from a heated meeting with Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, the evidence will be challenged.
Predicted immediate challenges will come from some in Lebanon who have become wealthy and politically entrenched based on exaggerated claims of having had a special relationship with Musa Sadr and their appropriation of the right to carry the mantle of the departed Imam. These Lebanese politicians have a vested capital interest in preserving Musa Sadr’s and Sheik Mohammad Yaacoub’s status as ‘missing’ in order to continue their lucrative business at the expense of ordinary Shia and others in Lebanon and abroad who want to know the truth.
Among the reasons given by this group for opposing scientific DNA analysis is that it is against Islam, that Musa Sadr’s family believes the Imam is alive so the tests are not necessary or even possible, and that this group has “reliable evidence of sightings of Musa Sadr alive, as recently as only a few months ago.”
All of these arguments delivered with apparent utmost sincerity during meetings in Beirut in April 2012 are patent disingenuous and cynical nonsense. They are understood to be such by many with even a rudimentary knowledge of Islam and the value the great religion places on science and by those still waiting for the proof and promised photos of “Musa Sadr alive and well recently in Libya.”
Yet there remains no certainty about the fate of his partner and alter ego, Lebanon’s Sheik Mohammad Yaacoub and his file remains open and the search to discover his fate is intensifying.
Mohammad Yaacoub was born in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon in 1945 and with his family that included 12 sisters and brothers moved to the Hay Karameh neighborhood of Dahiyeh, South Beirut. A 1965 graduate of Lebanese University in mathematics and natural sciences, where he excelled as a brilliant student, Dr. Yaacoub received his PhD from the Sorbonne where his thesis was entitled “Islam, between Marxism and Capitalism”. He became Director of a high school in Nabetiyeh, south of Beirut and the following year he went to Najaf, Iraq and studied with and under several renowned Islamic scholars including Sayed Mohammad Bakr al Sadr, Sayed Mosen al Hakim and Sayed About Algasseur Al Rhouil
It was in 1968 that Mohammad Yaacoub and Musa Sadr first met in the home of the Martyr Ayatollah Mohammad Baqr al Sadr. They instantly became friends. In 1970, while leading a delegation of Najaf scholars to a religious conference in Cairo Mohammad Yaacoub met Gamal Abdul Nasser and their political views influenced the others and they became friends.
Following the Christian militia attack of April 13, 1975 at Ein el Rommaneh on a bus carrying Palestinian refugees, which massacre killed 30 and sparked the 16 year Lebanese Civil War, Sheik Yaacoub along with Christian leader Dany Chamoun risked their lives dismantling barricades along the red line of Mirror (Mraya) Street near Chiyeh.
Research in Lebanon and Libya including several interviews with some with firsthand knowledge, has revealed that Sheik Mohammad Yaacoub’s historic role in the Shia Renaissance has been kept largely out of the public spotlight for political reasons. In point of fact, Sheik Yaacoub worked hand in hand with Musa Sadr, who together founded Lebanon’s National Resistance a decade before the advent of Hezbollah. Sheik Yaacoub was simply the shadow and ‘secret box’ of Musa Sadr and number two in the Shia awakening in the 1970’s.
This fact was clearly underlined by the testimony of leading Lebanese Shia leaders who, after 33 years, recently paid public tribute to the still missing much esteemed Sheik
On the occasion of a community tribute honoring Sheikh Mohammad Yaacoub, oddly for the first time on February 8, 2011, there was a gathering of leaders of Lebanon’s religious and political community as well as current diplomats who know firsthand of his works and career.
Hezbollah’s Secretary-General spoke about “the indispensable legacy of Sheikh Yaacoub.” He emphasized Yaacoub’s humanity and his devotion to the cause he believed in, his brilliant energy as a student of science and related fields and his connection with the people he was committed to serving.
While the search for Sheik Yaacoub continues in Libya, he remains in the hearts of millions in Lebanon and globally as a pillar of the Resistance and icon of the decade of struggles waged as part of the Movement of the Deprived and the founding of the Amal Movement.
But serious questions remain. Why after nearly a year into the post-Gadhafi period was the case not solved with help from Lebanon despite several trips by officials allegedly for the purpose? Is it because some Lebanese politicians do not want the truth to be known?
Were some regional powers involved with Gaddafi on this subject before and after the disappearances and prevented Lebanon’s cabinet from even discussing the issue until 2005?
What was the role of the recent White House Medal of Freedom recipient, Shimon Peres, Israel’s Prime Minister and head of the Labor Party at the time of the disappearance who feared Imam Sadr and Sheik Yaacoub as the two Arab leaders capable of uniting the Arabs against the Zionist occupiers
The definitive answers to these and many other questions are generating increased demands to solve the case of Sheik Mohammad Yaacoub and answers to the above questions may be forthcoming soon.
Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and can be contacted c/o email@example.com