Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, December 12th, 2007
The blame game begins
Brigadier General Francois al-Hajj, the Lebanese military officer tipped to take over the job of chief of the Lebanese Army should Michel Suleiman be voted President of the Republic, was assassinated.
The title I have used — "Anti-March 14th General Assassinated" is sarcastic. It highlights the irresponsible reporting that has followed most of the assassinations that have taken place in Lebanon over the last 3 years.
It has become normal practice among journalists to claim that an "anti-Syrian" politician was assassinated, which suggests that Syria was behind the assassination, when no evidence for blaming Syria is available. Then a paragraph is usually added to such reports that goes something like this:
Lebanon has seen a wave of assassinations since the killing of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others in Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005.
United Nations investigators have said Lebanese and Syrian intelligence officials, including the brother and brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, were implicated in the truck bombing that killed Hariri. Syria has denied any involvement in the attack.
The problem with such paragraphs is that "UN investigators" have not officially said that Syrian Intelligence Officials are implicated in the killing of Hariri. The first Mehlis report did not "officially" name any Syrian officers. It was discovered to have edits that were undo-able in Microsoft Word. Once reversed, the edits revealed that Mehlis had named Syrian officers. Someone — possibly Mehlis himself or someone higher up in the UN –had decided to edit the names out of the final published report. The first copy of the report sent out to journalists could be fiddled with to return to the earlier, edited version of the report. The problem with claiming that "UN officials" implicated Syrian officers is that it does not take into account any of the subsequent evidence that casts doubt on the primitive "unedited" version of the first Mehlis report.
The three witnesses used in the first Mehlis report, who were responsible for naming Syrian officers, were subsequently discredited and dropped by later reports.
Mehlis's reputation was badly damaged by his willingness to include these shoddy witnesses in his report, all of whom claimed to have been paid to implicate Syrian officials.
The UN never meant to print the names of the Syrians in the first place. It never included Syrian names in the subsequent reports. Brammertz, who took over the UN investigation after Mehlis resigned, has studiously avoided naming Syria as the prime suspect. He has certainly not named any Syrian officers.
Thus, it is extremely irresponsible for reporters to continue invoking the discredited and unredacted first draft of the early Mehlis report that "UN officials" decided not to publish instead of the many subsequent reports that do not name Syrian officers.
As an exercise in reverse irresponsibility, I named my article as I did.
Here is what "Friday Lunch Club" wrote about General al-Hajj:
Gen. Al Hajj was known to FLC as a low profile, professional, exemplary and disciplined officer. On the wake of the January 23, 07' demonstrations, the World Council of the Cedar Revolution issued a plea asking that Gen. El Hajj and his officers be brought before a world tribunal and listed as "terror supporters." El Hajj, fought the Lebanese Forces under the command of Michel Aoun, and was among the critics of Gea'gea's visit to Michel Sleiman in Yarzeh. He is the same General El Hajj who answered M14's allegations of borders porosity, that the " the Lebanese Army is properly controlling its borders with Syria", obviously, not a man after M14ers' hearts!
Lebanon's March 14 officials blame the killing on Syria:
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Sinioria says he believes the killing of an army commander was carried out to disrupt attempts to fill the country's vacant presidency. Lebanese army chief of operations General Francois El-Hajj was killed in a bomb attack in Beirut yesterday. He had been tipped to take over as head of the army from General Michel Suleiman, who is in line to become the next president.
Lebanese Communications Minister Marwan Hamade blames Syria for the attack. "We believe that all the institutions of Lebanon civilian and military have been targeted by the Syrian-Iranian axis," he said.
"And willing this to the statement by the Syrian vice-president yesterday telling his allies in Lebanon that they were stronger than ever and therefore calling them for attack." Syria has denied any involvement in the attack. AFP/BBC
Syria's Champress argues that march 14 killed the General:
Massoud A. Derhally quotes Syria sources blaming Israel
Syria condemned the killing of Haj today. The official state-run news agency Sana cited an unidentified government official as saying the assassination targeted the Lebanese army and it was Israel that benefited from the killing of a national figure. The agency noted that Israel blew up Haj's car in 1976 in southern Lebanon after he refused to cooperate with its allies.
Nadim Ladki of Reuters has the best article on Brigadier General Francois al-Hajj, Bomb kills Lebanese general tipped for army chief