The Assassins of Lebanon

Who's to blame for the death of Rafiq Hariri?

by , January 19, 2011

Those who believed we would see a significant change in America’s misguided – indeed, suicidal – foreign policy of global intervention, especially in the volatile Middle East, have surely been sorely disappointed by what President Obama has wrought. In Afghanistan, Iraq, and throughout the region, the present administration has simply continued and even amplified the same failed policies that have brought us to our present pass. Continuity, rather than change, is the leitmotif of US foreign policy in the Age of Obama: like a great ship that is steering its own path, rather than being steered by the captain, America’s imperial course is on automatic pilot.

Nothing underscores this automatism quite so eloquently than the recent handing down of a sealed indictment by the UN Tribunal investigating the assassination of Lebanese politician and businessman Rafiq Hariri. The indictment is widely expected to name Hezbollah, Lebanon’s Shi’ite political party, as the culprit – this in spite of voluminous evidence to the contrary, including a surveillance video and DNA testing that points to one Abu Adas, a Lebanese Palestinian convert to Wahhabism, who claimed responsibility for the deed in the name of an al-Qaeda affiliate.

US and Israeli officials (or do I repeat myself?) have their own conspiracy theory that blames both Hezbollah and the Syrians for Hariri’s demise. Their theory is based on the premise that the Lebanese leader was killed by a bomb hidden in a previously-unknown underground tunnel, which was detonated by remote control once Hariri’s car reached the appointed spot. The problem with this theory, however, is that no such tunnel exists, or has ever existed. Furthermore, it seems clear from the physical evidence that the assassination was carried out by a suicide bomber, not a remotely controlled explosive device.

But facts have never gotten in the way of US officials intent on pursuing their chosen course: they “reason” that, since Syria was in control of Lebanon during the years of occupation, the assassination couldn’t have taken place without the knowledge and consent of the Syrian authorities – an assumption belied by the many acts of terrorism which have taken place inside Syria itself, before and since.

While Tribunal officials have warned the Lebanese not to indulge in “rumors” as to the contents of the indictment, which will remain sealed for months until a Belgian judge decides if the case can proceed, there is little doubt as to what it contains. Rejecting the conclusion of the Lebanese government that Hariri was murdered by al-Qaeda, which subsequently denounced Hariri as a “Saudi puppet,” the UN Tribunal was constituted to come to one and only one conclusion: Syria and Hezbollah were behind the killing. No one in the region takes seriously Hillary Rodham Clinton’s rhetorical theatrics, as reported by the Associated Press:

“Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said those who oppose the tribunal ‘seek to create a false choice between justice and stability in Lebanon; we reject this.

“’We are confident that the tribunal will continue to operate according to the highest standards of judicial independence and integrity. We call on all parties to promote calm and continue to respect the tribunal as it carries out its duties in a professional and apolitical manner.’”

Operating behind a thin pretense of “legality,” the strategy of the US and Israel is to keep the Lebanese cauldron boiling, preventing the creation of a government of national unity and creating a power vacuum where there might be a countervailing force against Israel. Tel Aviv has sent its troops into Lebanon three times since 1978, with US backing. A weak and divided Lebanon presents no obstacle to the expansionist designs of extremist Israeli politicians, who can count on unconditional US support for their dream of a Greater Israel no matter what the cost to US interests and prestige in the region.

To get some idea of what is going on in Lebanon, imagine if a major US politician had been assassinated, and his killer identified by the authorities – and then imagine further that the United Nations stepped in to nullify the verdict, and conduct its own investigation at the instigation of, say, Russia and China.

This is precisely what has occurred in Lebanon, and the results are likely to detonate the always volatile Lebanese political landscape, perhaps unleashing another civil war along the lines of the decade-long struggle that reduced the country to ruins.

The media narrative being spun out by the US and its international enablers is simple: Hezbollah, backed by Syria and Iran, is to blame not only for Hariri’s death, but also for the tumult that keeps Lebanon and the entire region in a permanent state of destabilization. Taking into account the operating principle behind our Bizarro World foreign policy, which inverts reality in the service of a rapacious imperialism, this storyline is the exact opposite of the truth.

The Tribunal investigation is a ticking time bomb, designed to explode just as the US and Israel are ramping up their campaign against Iran and its regional allies (Syria and Hezbollah). And make no mistake: Iran is the real target of this whole operation, which is being assaulted not only with economic sanctions but also a joint US-Israeli covert campaign of terrorism: Jundallah’s attacks in southeastern Iran and the Stuxnet worm are two prongs of the same offensive.

The US-Israeli strategy is to suck the Iranians into a proxy war pitting the UN against Hezbollah – the chief military counterweight to the IDF in the region. The Israelis are still chafing from the humiliation of their defeat at Hezbollah’s hands in the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. With US – and UN – help, they are counting on getting their revenge.

The Lebanese people have the sovereign right to conduct their own affairs without interference from the US, Israel, or the UN – and we only feed anti-Americanism, and act as a recruiting agent for our enemies, when we intercede on Israel’s behalf. Furthermore, the campaign to discredit Hezbollah as a mere agent of Iran discredits us in the eyes of Lebanese and the Arab world: Hezbollah is a recognized political party in Lebanon, with a considerable bloc of supporters in the parliament and an extensive network of social service agencies at its command.

The “special” UN Tribunal is a sword pointed at the throat of the biggest single political party in Lebanon. It has no more legitimacy or credibility than such a body would have in deciding who assassinated John F. Kennedy, and why. Yet American commentators and government officials – including President Obama – invoke it as an instrument of “justice.”

The “justice” of the American hegemon has no use for evidence, or legality, except insofar as it can give the appearance of “impartiality” to a process rooted in its imperial designs. Whether Washington is really intending to ignite the Lebanese tinderbox, and start its long-planned war to take down the Iranians, remains to be seen. Israel’s powerful lobby in the US will certainly be pushing for just that outcome – and certainly a new war would provide a welcome diversion for the Obama administration, which is mired in economic and political difficulties.

Somewhere in a cave in the wilds of Waziristan, Osama bin Laden is smiling. Just as the 9/11 terrorist attacks set the Americans rampaging through Iraq and Afghanistan, so one of his assassins sent to create chaos in Lebanon has succeeded in drawing the Americans ever closer to yet another unwinnable conflict. Observant readers will note this strange confluence of interests, with Washington, Tel Aviv, and al-Qaeda the beneficiaries of a “legal” process designed to explode any hopes of peace in Lebanon.

Read more by Justin Raimondo