Did You Say, "No Evidence"?


Antiwar's Justin Raimondo has taken Tim Cavanaugh and me to task for our views on the Hariri assassination. Fair enough, but he does quote me in a way where clarification is in order.

He writes: "Young reiterated … 'Certainly, the mood is very clearly that Syria did this. Syria will be blamed for it no matter who did it. They'll be even more isolated internationally than they already are.' Translation: Never mind the facts. Damascus must pay."

For the record, his conclusion implies there is no evidence that Syria killed Hariri, and that I wouldn't search for exoneration anyway. Had Raimondo been in Beirut talking to people, instead of at his desk digging up URLs, he might have known that both Hariri and Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader, were well aware that they were threatened by Syria, and discussed this openly together and with foreign officials on numerous occasions (the same officials also warning them of the danger from Syria); he might have known that Marwan Hamadi, who was almost killed by a car-bomb last October, has repeatedly declared Syria and the Lebanese state responsible for the attack; Raimondo might have known that a majority of Sunni officials close to Hariri, who four days ago would not have uttered a single word against Syria, are now openly accusing it of his killing.

Of course, the answer might be: Well what do they know? It might all be a scheme to blacken Syria. Perhaps, but it might be worth remembering that Syria has a long record of rubbing out its enemies in Lebanon (and invariably denying this afterwards). There were numerous reasons for killing Hariri, most prominently the fact that he was probably going to formally join the Lebanese opposition. This would have almost certainly tipped the balance in Lebanon decisively against the Syrian presence, and likely brought down the pro-Syrian Lebanese government–and with it, I suspect, Assad's stumbling regime.

Incidentally, one of the rare truths one has in life is knowledge of who wants to kill you.

There is also additional evidence, backed up by a growing number of bomb experts here (alas we have more than our fair share), pointing not to a suicide bombing (please Justin, doubt that fairy story being put out by the Lebanese interior ministry), but to a bomb placed under the road–suggesting a far more complex plot than the one being peddled, quite unconvincingly, by the state.

In the end, a duck is a duck, though, and Raimondo's problem is not really with Tim or me, but with the neocons and Israel. That's where I'll stop, because what concerns me is something far simpler and more parochial, namely whether Lebanon–as close to a liberal society as the Middle East has had–can regain that status by removing from its territory the army and intelligence services of one of the region's most illiberal regimes.

Which reminds me: My friend Ammar Abdulhamid, who was the subject of a profile in The New York Times Magazine last Sunday, has just started a blog. Those who think that Bashar Assad is a darling next to Paul Wolfowitz might want to take a look. (And Ammar happens to be one of the luckier ones.)