Friday, February 27, 2009

Robert Fisk on the Hariri Assassination

If living in Lebanon for 30 years has taught Robert Fisk anything, it is how to talk like a local. In this January 2009 piece discussing "Mr. Lebanon", Fisk ensconces the reader in the murky politics of the country and the region, referring to characters and situations with the hints, winks, intonations and nods that would characterize most local discussions on "the situation".

Below is an excerpt from the lengthy piece as it pertains to the actual assassination and the assassins that ordered and/or carried the hit out. Read the entire thing, however, if you're looking to experience the full weight of the perceptions, mis-perceptions, and connotations with which local observers invariably approach the issues plaguing the country today:

Assad never believed there would be a UN inquiry into Hariri's murder and it was only after I revealed in the Independent that there would be, that an astonished President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt rushed to his presidential jet and flew to Syria to warn Assad that he might be in very hot water indeed. The first UN team was led by Irish Deputy Garda Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald, who discovered that the wreckage of Hariri's six-car motorcade had ? incredibly ? been moved from the crime scene at midnight on the day of the killings and other materials not associated with the bomb placed in the massive crater. The man responsible for doing so was General Ali al-Hajj, director general of the (then Syrian-dominated) Lebanese Internal Security Forces and one of the four men now locked up in Roumieh awaiting his day in court. If there is a court.

Al-Hajj used to work for Hariri, as his bodyguard, but was removed from his personal retinue when Hariri discovered he was also working for Syrian intelligence. He actually ' had the nerve to turn up at the Hariri family palace in Beirut's Koreitem district to offer his condolences on the day of the murder. I reported that night that one of Hariri's young relatives had told him: "Your place is not here." She turned up at my home with some student friends 24 hours later to say I had misquoted her. "What I said was, 'Your place is not here ? you dog!'" Well, I tried. Also in Roumieh is the former head of Lebanese military intelligence General Raymond Azar, Brigadier General Mustafa Hamdan (commander of the Presidential Guards Brigade), and the sinister figure of a certain Jamil Sayed...


The second UN team to arrive in Lebanon believed it [the bomb that killed Hariri] was in a truck driven by a suicide bomber. Indeed, within hours of the murder the pro-Syrian information minister blurted out that it had been "a martyrdom mission", which could have been a giveaway ...

The killings were followed by a series of macabre assassinations, which showed that the killers were still operational: the writer and journalist Samir Kassir blown up in his car outside his Beirut home; the politicians George Hawi, also blown up in his car in west Beirut, and Walid Eido (another car bomb, outside his favourite watering hole); the newspaper editor Gibran Tueni, atomised by a car bomb on a lonely pine-lined road in east Beirut; the MP Pierre Gemayel. All these men had come out firmly against Syria's involvement in Lebanon & Kassir had apparently been threatened by Sayed over the telephone when Hariri was still alive.

Then Samir Shehade, an army officer investigating the thousands of phone calls made in the hour of Hariri's murder he was the Lebanese military's top cell-phone expert was also killed by car bomb. One of the calls he was investigating was allegedly made to the presidential palace where Emile Lahoud, a Damascus protege, still ruled. An official who took the call was told Hariri was dead. He should have responded with shock, one might think. What he asked was: "Are you sure?"


A quick note - Samir Shehade, the officer referred to above, was, and fortunately still is, in fact an ISF Lt. Colonel who survived a roadside bomb meant for him and his convoy in southern Lebanon, near the city Saida. Check our 'Breaking News' post on the assassination attempt or this report on it in the Times Online. Four people perished in that assassination attempt.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Powered by Blogger.