Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Syria and Lebanon

The same day as the release of the Mehlis the report of the UN investigation of the murder of Rafik Hariri a car bomb killed another prominent Lebanese democracy advocate. The victim was Gebran Tueni, a journalist. Claudia Rosett knew Tueni, and he knew the risks of defying the gangster regime that is Syria:
In March Tueni was meeting with other organizers of the Lebanese opposition, trying to translate the momentum in the streets into major steps toward real independence and democratic change. I asked him who was the leader of these democrats, and he replied that part of the strength of the movement was that there was no single leader; instead, many leaders of various groups and communities had come together. He stressed that this was just as well, given Syria's propensity for murdering Lebanese patriots, "A one-man show would make a beautiful target."

The common goal, he said, was to "restore democracy so we can have elections, and then we can compete with each other." On the broader front, concerning the wisdom of charting a similar course for Iraq, he had no doubts: "George Bush is doing the right job in the Middle East for us, believe me." Tueni's only reservation was his belief that Lebanon, endowed with a rich pre-Syrian legacy of democratic institutions, deserved a chance to lead the way: "We really think if the big issue is about the Middle East, about changing the world, Lebanon is the answer."

An-Nahar's new building had armed guards and bulletproof security shields and doors. But sitting in his corner office with its big picture windows, not far from the spot where Hariri was murdered, Tueni seemed both brave and terribly vulnerable. I asked him if his own life was in danger. He said he expected a wave of Syrian-backed "assassinations, booby-trapped cars," but did not think that could stop Lebanon's democratic movement. "They can kill one, two, three of us" he said, but then they are "finished."
We should note that, just when we're sure the UN can't do anything right, the Mehlis report proves it's not impossible. It's quite clear from Mehlis' report on the investigation that the highest levels of the Syrian government were involved in the Hariri assassination. It shows what can happen when France and the US are on the same side: it's almost like seeing a flying pig.

Meanwhile, all Baby Assad could do to deflect attention was to suggest that the UN really should be investigating the death of Yasser Arafat in France instead. That's so completely transparent and impotent that it's laughably pathetic.

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