Assassins of Lebanon

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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 as 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.

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Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.

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