Tuesday, November 29, 2005


"I Was Paid To Blame Syria"

Most interesting. Wonder if this will make the US news media?

Beirut - A man has claimed on Syrian state TV that he was bribed to accuse top Syrian officials of the murder of Rafiq Hariri in his testimony to the United Nations commission into the former Lebanese premier's assassination. Husam Taher Husam, a former conscript in the Syrian army, alleged in a 75-minute interview on Sunday night that Saad Hariri, the son of the slain Hariri, met him several months ago and offered him $1.3m to testify against top Syrian officials. The spokesperson for the Syrian inquiry into Hariri's murder, Ibrahim Daraji, said on Monday that if Husam is the unidentified key witness quoted in the UN commission's interim report, then the United Nations' case "has completely collapsed." Daraji spoke at a press conference in Damascus on Monday at which Husam reiterated the allegations he had made on Syrian television the night before. Syria criticised UN report Husam told the television that UN officials told him what to say when he gave evidence to the UN commission, in particular that he was "close to" Brigadier General Assef Shawkat, the chief of Syrian military intelligence and brother-in-law of Syria's president, who was named in the commission's interim report last month. "But I've never seen him in my whole life," Husam said of Shawkat in the television interview. It was not possibly to reach Saad Hariri for a response on Monday as he was travelling in South America. News bulletins on Hariri's own Future TV station did not refer to Husam's claims. The UN commission rarely responds to media reports about the investigation.
We probably should not accept this unquestioningly. (No one will ever confuse Syrian state-run TV with a free and fair press; but then again, the US press isn't all that hot, either.) But, when one considers that the main source cited in the UN report is not exactly a paragon of honesty, things obviously aren't quite as the Bush Administration wants us to think they are.

I have always been troubled by this case. What we are told is not precise enough to quite understand what is alleged to have happened, yet uses language that leads people to assume they understand what happens.

The example I gave in an earlier post is that the hit was supposed to be sophisticated because the bomber knew where to strike just a few minutes after Hariri departed for his next appointment. People generally assume this means that a telecommunication between the lead car and Hariri was intercepted. But what we have been told (or at least what I am aware of from the Fitzgerald Commission report) was not specific enough to exclude, for example:

1. Someone standing near the car overhearing (or lipreading) the directive and phoning in a report,
2. Betrayal from within, or even
3. Multiple bombers being placed around Beirut waiting for an easily-recognizable convoy.

I compare this to the assumptions made around the time of 9/11, that it had to be state-sponsored because it was so sophisticated. Ultimately we learned that it was some not-entirely-bright guys with boxcutters. There's a simple rule that applies: if you don't understand something, don't assume that it's magic.
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