Wednesday, March 2, 2005
Azmi Bishara - Death, Lies and Politics
Even if it is in the higher interests of the state -- and it most certainly is -- to mount an investigation into the assassination of Al-Hariri, if it did so and identified the culprits and proved their guilt beyond any reasonable doubt no one would believe the verdict if it was not in their interest to do so. What matters to them is how right they are and how wrong the other side is. All facts, including the identity of the killer, are assessed on the basis of a single criterion: the extent to which they serve their own cause.
One look at the Israeli press on the day after the death of Al-Hariri, who was no great friend of Israel, is enough to know what Israel is after. Although Damascus has its compass set on stability with almost classical resolve, and although Israel occupies Arab lands in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, Israeli commentators paint Syria as the agent of destabilisation. Syria supports Hizbullah and refuses to disarm it. Syria acts through the headquarters of Hamas and Jihad in Damascus in order to obstruct the efforts of Israel and the PA and render the ceasefire fragile and unstable. Syria is involved in Sunni terrorism in Iraq which has killed hundreds.
The logical conclusion of these outpourings is simple -- strike Syria.
"The assassination of Al-Hariri and Syria's refusal to respond to all international demands [talk about pots calling kettles black!] does not leave the world many diplomatic options. The US should study the possibility of using force to deter the Syrian regime [to serve as a lesson to other Arab countries that refuse to bow first to Israeli and then to American hegemony in the region, we read between the lines]." So editorialised Yediot Aharonot on 15 February 2005.
Yediot Aharonot 's amazing Arab affairs correspondent comes right out and accuses Syria of masterminding Al-Hariri's assassination. "Bashar Al-Assad's crocodile tears will not save him," she warns. Nor will anything else for that matter, not even the facts, for her masters have decided it was Al-Assad who "assassinated his greatest opponent". Al-Assad is "the prime suspect and the prime loser".
What matters, of course, is that Al-Assad is the loser regardless of whether he is the perpetrator and regardless of who stands to gain. Politics is all the cleaner for such upstanding probity on the part of the press. The Israeli press is not clamouring to get Syria out of Lebanon, it is clamouring for a war against Syria. The identity of the assassin is not the issue, nor is whether or not Syria was behind the killing, not when the opportunity is at hand to set the international community against Syria. Such an opportunity is too good to waste, which is why the following day -- 17 February -- a Yediot Aharonot headline proclaimed that Israeli military intelligence suspected Hizbullah.
On 17 February, in the course of outlining his aims for the Greater Middle East, Bush reiterated his criticisms of, and demands on, Syria. The US and Israel want Lebanon and Syria to change their tune on US policy in the region, and in Lebanon and Palestine in particular. This is what matters to Washington, not how democratic Lebanon is. Lebanon, even under Syria's guardianship, is the most democratic country in the Middle East. It is certainly more democratic than Syria, and than Egypt, Jordan and all the US's other allies in the region. Syria's guardianship of Lebanon is far more favourable to democracy than America's guardianship of the Gulf and other places where American forces are stationed.
It would be disastrous to believe that the US, with its agenda in Syria and Lebanon, might be of help in resolving Lebanon's domestic crisis. The power best equipped to wage war is also the best equipped to spread lies. The truth may out eventually, but only after the lies have done their damage and only after the truth becomes of interest only to scholars. Moreover, those who have lied successfully once, even if their lies are eventually exposed, have no compunction against lying again as long as they can rest assured that the truth will come to light only when it is no longer relevant.