Lebanon

The Case of the Four Generals

Several new embassy cables were released three days ago by Wikileaks. They are the same cables that al-Akhbar (which obtained advanced access to them) has been commenting on since July 13, so they’ll be old news for regular readers of the Arabic press. For the rest of you, here’s a basic summary of the most important revelations.

As early as May 5 2006, Serge Brammertz (the UN commissioner investigating the Hariri murder) had “expressed concern about the quality of the evidence that was used to recommend the arrest of four Lebanese senior security officials” and told American Embassy officials that Lebanese General Prosecutor Said Mirza was “growing increasingly uncomfortable with the extended incarceration of the officials.” In spite of the fact that Brammertz felt that there was not yet enough evidence to support “a strong case” against the generals, he assured the Americans that “he would not reverse the recommendation of his predecessor, Detlev Mehlis.”

Another cable dated June 20 2006 reveals that Brammertz was “deeply worried” about the “eroding basis for continued detentions” but was still not willing to order their release. Rather, he seemed more inclined to pass the hot potato to the Lebanese judiciary, arguing that such a decision fell under its jurisdiction. Meanwhile, the judiciary was clearly looking to the UN for guidance on the matter. No one wanted the job of turning the generals loose. Ambassador Feltman, for his part, was well aware of the “seismic effect” that Jamil al-Sayyid’s release would have on the political situation, and judged that releasing him could greatly impact America’s position in Lebanon.

A year later, a fascinating cable recounted an exchange between Ambassador Feltman and Minister of Justice Charles Rizk about the optics of how and when the generals should be released. I highly recommend you read the entire thing, but this is one of the most interesting bits:

The Ambassador noted that an international prosecutor could very well order the release of one or more of the [four generals] for lack of evidence.  After all, all of us have heard from UNIIIC Commissioner Brammertz that the detention of some if not all is “awkward,” given the dearth of credible evidence.  The four were arrested because of the testimony of witnesses who later recanted, their testimony now thoroughly discredited.  Yes, Rizk said, but a release from the UN would be different than a release from the GOL [government of Lebanon]. If the GOL releases them now, “it will be a scandal.”  People will say, “why did you hold them for two years?” If the UN releases them, however, the situation is different:  The GOL picked them up at the request of the UNIIIC and then held them until they could be transferred to the Special Tribunal.  So, in this case, the GOL merely acted on behalf of the UN. If [the Lebanese judiciary] releases them, by contrast, it appears as though the GOL had authority all along and chose to ignore it.

As it turned out, the generals would not be released for another two years after the date of this cable, and the reasons were entirely political. Ambassador Feltman says as much in the above cable, when he comments: “whatever the merits of their initial arrests and however awkward the continued detention of one or all is, we agree with Rizk that Syria’s Lebanese allies would score an enormous victory, should the four generals be released now.”

Comment

These cables represent yet another blow to the public image of the UN Tribunal. More seriously, they are a significant indictment of the integrity of the UNIIIC Commissioner and the various Lebanese officials involved in the Hariri investigation, to say nothing of the evidentiary standards in place and the UNIIIC’s judicial independence. Of course, many critics of the Tribunal have been making this case for years (and none so stridently as al-Akhbar‘s justice editor, Omar Nashabe), and the publication of these cables vindicates their position in certain ways.

March 14 partisans would counter that no investigation is perfect, and while some regrettable mistakes were made, these leaks are more of a public relations embarrassment than a reason to denounce the investigation as a whole. While this may be true, the problem is that the Tribunal’s public image has arguably become as important as its ability to indict suspects and prosecute them. When a UN Tribunal is seen as having no more independence and credibility than a judge appointed by an authoritarian regime, then is it safe to say that it has (to use an au courant phrase) “lost its legitimacy”?

Ambassador Feltman clearly understood the significance of a messenger’s credibility when he argued in 2007: “If [Judge Eid] would release any of the four generals, March 14 leaders would suspect Syria’s hand at play, further deepening the distrust and divisions in this country. But if an international prosecutor makes the same decision, it will be viewed as one based on the legal merits of the case.

Perhaps this was still true when he wrote it. How true is it today?

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Discussion

88 thoughts on “The Case of the Four Generals

  1. QN,
    I thought that the discussion of this issue was exhausted last year but I guess I was wrong:-). In that case allow me to make an observation, which again was made a number of times last year.
    It is crucially important to distinguish between the UNIIIC and the STL. It is not that they are separate organizations only but even if they are not distinct; which they are; one must differentiate between prosecutorial offices and a court of law. Each has a separate function and each uses a different standard. One indicts and brings to trial while the other decides on the validity of the indictments. Prosecutors do not always win.
    An excellent example to illustrate the major difference between the prosecutors and the court would be to look at the DSK case in NYC. The DA (prosecutor) decided that he had no choice but to issue a quick indictment against Mr. Strauss in order to prevent him from leaving the country. The DA’s office leaked all sorts of information about the strength of the evidence and that there was no rush to judgement. Later on the same office found out that the evidence was not as strong and so they reduced the conditions under which Mr. Strauss was held. Was the prosecutor wrong, has he lost the case? Time will tell but no matter what happens to the case no one can say anything yet about the court. The case has not been tried yet but one can surmise that the ADA’s were concerned that their case will not hold in court i.e. the integrity /reputation of the courts acted to shunt the rush to judgement by the DA. So one can crticize the DA but cannot say anything about the court.
    The above is verty much of a parallel case to what has happened to the generals. A prosecutor asked for their arrest based on evidence that apparently has not held up and it was the court that ordered their release at the earliest possible time ( the first opportunity that the pretrial judge got to review the evidence). How does that reflect on the integrity of the STL? And it is also helpful to remember that a court of law does not proclaim the innocence of an indicted party, instead it proclaims it not guilty as charged a. there is a big difference between the two.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 24, 2011, 10:51 pm
  2. Seems when 4 generals get together, problems ensue.

    Posted by Gene Ali | July 25, 2011, 1:27 am
  3. since last year, the 4 generals reincarnated to decorate the Corniche: http://wp.me/sx7bs-beyrouth

    Posted by georges salameh | July 25, 2011, 5:36 am
  4. The Daily Star covered this in December 2010, when we got hold of some WikiLeaks cables. Guess it’s not as sensational as when Al-Akhbar does it, right after indictment releases.

    Posted by patrickgaley | July 25, 2011, 7:43 am
  5. Here are some reasons why it is worth proceeding carefully in determining the impact of this on the credibility of the STL.

    1. Holding the generals until the STL was formed evidently became a matter of domestic political strategy. This contributes nothing to the central claim that the STL is a tool. That the UNIIIC accepted that state of affairs that is troubling, but it is hardly surprising that the UNIIIC would show some sensitivity to political circumstances by being passive on this issue. It would be preferable that they had operated purely on principle, but it should surprise no one that Lebanon provided a context that made operating on pure principle tricky. That’s the very reason the STL is in the Hague.

    2. The whole situation became possible because of the rather bizarre situation whereby the key investigator was not actually an officer within the jurisdiction that held the suspects, and the investigator was not at that point subject to rules and procedures that would properly protect the rights of the accused.

    None of this can have any bearing on the way in which the evidence is examined and assessed by judges in the open court of the STL.

    Posted by Jonathan | July 25, 2011, 8:04 am
  6. QN,

    Ghassan & Johnathan already have articulated better then I could why STL has nothing to do with what happened to these nefarious generals’ imprisonment.
    On the contrary the STL released them first thing for lack of evidence to hold them. Simply put; once the so called “witnesses” which I am sure were gleefully provided by the Syrian Mukhabarat (Hussam hussam; Siddiq etc.); were apparently exposed as “untruthful”…Brammertz seems to have acknowledged that according to the leaks…

    Political football or ramifications of their release etc…happens everywhere on earth. So; let’s not make it as if it is unique to Lebanon. If the generals could prove that they were wronged; they should sue the Lebanese government for compensation. Off course I think the castrated M14 should had the balls to indict these generals(when Saad was premier) for their crimes against Lebanese citizens. But alas; they just could not grow some steel balls to challenge HA and they find themselves in their current predicament.

    One day or another people who want freedom and justice have to stand up to the mafioso HA. No other recourse…Except be enslaved and become their prisoners.

    Posted by danny | July 25, 2011, 8:18 am
  7. Let me respond first by reiterating my basic point, which is that the reputation of the court and the investigation are extremely important. Ghassan and Jonathan, most people in Lebanon aren’t aware of the difference between the UNIIIC and the STL and don’t care. What they know is that there is an international effort to find and prosecute Hariri’s killers. When a part of that international effort can be shown (using leaked US embassy cables) to be politicized, the reputation and credibility of the entire thing is damaged.

    Setting aside the issue of image, there are also troubling issues of procedure to contend with. The cables reveal that there was considerable ambiguity concerning under whose jurisdiction the decision to release the generals fell. The fact that Brammertz expressed his concern to the Americans in “several meetings” that there was not enough evidence to hold the generals, but that he would nonetheless not overturn Mehlis’s initial decision suggests that, in fact, he had the power to do so in the first place. And even if he did not, the UNIIIC had a responsibility to guide the Lebanese judiciary in these matters, and, again, the cables reveal that there was absolutely no question in the minds of Brammertz, the Minister of Justice Charles Rizk, or the Lebanese chief judge Elias Eid that the generals should have been released.

    Ghassan, the critical difference between the DSK case and this one is that DSK was arrested, indicted, and arraigned within three weeks. The generals were arrested and sat in a jail cell for nearly four years without being charged, while the people who put them in jail debated about when the best time to release them would be to minimize the political impact!

    Come on. This was a major mistake, and it’s coming back to bite them.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 25, 2011, 9:25 am
  8. Patrick

    I’ve only just now gone back and discovered the DS’s coverage of it.

    I might have been in Beirut at the time, which is why I missed it. Ironically, I only read the DS when I’m out of the country (b/c of internet connection woes).

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 25, 2011, 9:36 am
  9. QN:

    the critical difference between the DSK case and this one is that DSK was arrested, indicted, and arraigned within three weeks. The generals were arrested and sat in a jail cell for nearly four years without being charged, while the people who put them in jail debated about when the best time to release them would be to minimize the political impact!

    Actually QN. The difference is quite a bit different.

    The Four Generals were suspected for collusions with higher ‘Syrian’ authorities. And the “false” “witnesses” were some Syrian fellows who apparently “ratted out” Syrians, and later “recanted”.

    So whatever else this story reveals, apart from the incompetence of this or that UN organization, or a mishandling of the file, etc. Is that it really highlights, yet again, what everyone already accepts to be true.

    We have already established, with people from the “Opposing” camp, that it is most likely a fact that the Syrians were complicit or orchestrated some of the ‘Assassinations”.

    And here you are indulging Al-Akhbar and other such like publications with their silly “Jeu de Piste”. Guilty is, at the end of the day, as Guilty does.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 25, 2011, 11:42 am
  10. Gabe,

    Irrespective of their maybe being indicted at a later date, the fact that they were held so much longer than was legally permitted shows a gross misappropriation of power.

    That means that the persons that were aware of this legal infringement have to be held accountable before a court of law.

    Whose “final” decision on this matter was it? Probably Hariri’s. So either Hariri’s men are ready to take their deserved fall from grace for these actions … or the final decision maker does.

    Hence, the importance of the false witness issue ?

    Posted by R2D2 | July 25, 2011, 12:05 pm
  11. QN,
    Let me add one more observation in response to your earlier remark.
    A matter of the rule of law is not a popularity contest. The fact that many or even most do not recognize the difference between the UNIIIC and the STL or the difference between the role of a prosecutor and the court of law does not make it so. I would even suggest that it is the duty of those that are aware of the difference to publicize and not to acquiesce.
    Equally importantly the Wikileaks should be put in the proper perspective. They are personal views and interpretations of events. So what does it mean if Mr. Feltman or Mr. Rizk or even Eid think that the evidence is not strong enough? Not much. It is only a personal opinion until a court of law reviews it. When all of these conversations were taking place there was no STL

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 25, 2011, 12:07 pm
  12. Ghassan,

    While I agree with everything you say above, I think there are 2 slightly different “objectives” or “points” to this story/matter/commentary.

    1) Yes, the STL did not exist, and therefore, this was not an issue of legality or conspiracy by the STL as the M8 camp constantly trumpets. And that legally, it is the GOL that dropped the ball on this one – intentionally perhaps – since it was the one holding the 4 generals (as is clear in Brammertz’s statements above, the issue was a political one, not a legal one).

    2) However, all that is all well and nice. But whether it was legal or not. A court of law or not. The leaks make it pretty obvious that the matter of the Hariri investigation WAS (and still is) politicized, as M8 has been claiming all along. It is hard to deny that.

    Your analogy to the DSK affair doesn’t hold. Or rather, it holds ONLY in a legal sense.
    The big difference, in my mind, is that you assume an independent and impartial judiciary first and foremost. This includes the operation of the DA (in the DSK example).
    If the prosecution goofed up (as it did with DSK) on the basis of insufficient evidence, etc, at the very least you can say that the DA operated in good faith, based on what evidence he had at the time, that was later proven insufficient.
    The situation in Lebanon is quite different. You do NOT have an independent judiciary operating IN GOOD FAITH. You have every politician (from either side of the aisle) owning and controlling the judiciary. We both know how these guys operate in Lebanon. Ergo, it is not valid to assume the prosecution (or whoever had the generals detained for 4 years) was operating IN GOOD FAITH. In fact, these leaks show pretty clearly that the matter was NOT done in good faith at all and was pretty politicized.

    To take your DSK example a step further:
    DSK was released as soon as the DA determined their evidence was insufficient.
    If we come to find out through leaks that the DA, knowing full well the evidence was insufficient, insisted on holding DSK under arrest for several years. And if it came out that said DA of NYC had been discussing the impact of holding DSK longer on, let’s say, the mayoral elections in NYC. Or the DA’s own re-election campaign (in other words, a political motive), do you think that would be accepted? Do you think it would fall under your logic of “Well, that was separate from the trial”?
    I am no law expert, but I am fairly certain the DA himself would be arrested for obstruction of justice (and would have to resign his post, obviously).
    I am also fairly certain this scandal would compromise the trial of DSK and almost certainly result in a mistrial.

    I suggest you do a bit more research on the analogy I presented. But I am fairly certain I have heard of some such examples in the US justice system in recent years (my memory fails me, however) where a case got thrown out entirely because it was revealed that the prosecution did not operate in good faith and was actually criminally negligent, or actively obstructing justice.

    I am no M8 supporter, as you well know. But let’s face it. There is a pretty solid case to be made here.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 25, 2011, 12:32 pm
  13. BV,

    What case? That Brammertz said there was not sufficient evidence to hold the generals and kicked the ball back to the GOL? So? Even if the cables reflect actual conversation…Does that mean the evidence and the INVESTIGATION and methods used are compramised? Your reference to :”where a case got thrown out entirely because it was revealed that the prosecution did not operate in good faith and was actually criminally negligent, or actively obstructing justice.” does not compare to this case. there was no prosecution. There were investigators and loads of “false witnesses” from Syrian mukhabarat (hear that R2D2?). How does that make the court procedings politicized? So Hariri should fire Rizk! He was Lahood’s man for God’s sakes! He was M8 before he switched sides.

    M8 will try to obfuscate, muddle and BS till kingdom come. The evidence and its authenticity and strength will decide. As for what Lebanese think; I really don’t give a damn! Justice has to prevail in that corrupt and wholesaled patchwork of communities called Lebanon.

    Posted by danny | July 25, 2011, 12:48 pm
  14. R2D2.

    I don’t disagree with anything you said, nor that angle of the story that QN is peddling.

    I think, everything held constant, with the exception of that little small detail that Hussam Hussam resides in Damascus. Put him in Washington DC, or Tel Aviv, and then Al-Akhbar will have a compelling case on its hand.

    Alas, he is in Damascus. And the fact that Aoun, and SHN, and and, have not managed to “extradite” him to face the Lebanese courts, despite their cozy relationship with Syria is a little convenient.

    QN is talking about the “Optics” of the story. This angle is not only a problem of Optics, but of Olfactory as well.

    The Syrian leadership can’t make this Rotten Rat smell like Roses fast enough.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 25, 2011, 12:58 pm
  15. Gabriel said:

    “And here you are indulging Al-Akhbar and other such like publications with their silly “Jeu de Piste”. Guilty is, at the end of the day, as Guilty does.”

    Why didn’t we just let you solve the mystery, Gabriel? It could have been so much simpler that way.

    “Guilty is as guilty does.” So much more elegant and straightforward than “Innocent until proven guilty.”

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 25, 2011, 1:25 pm
  16. BV,
    You answered your own hypothetical question:-) If the DA did something wrong then the DA will be fired and or arrested. A corrupt DA should have no bearings on the integrity of the courts if the courts were not involved in the DA’s schemes.
    Let me repeat that no DA/Prosecutor is expected to win all its cases. Actually there are never any guarantees that a potential case is strong enough until the courts rule on it. DA’s often indict knowing full well that the evidence is not strong. They have to make do with the best that they have and at times that is not good enough and so the case is either thrown out of the court for lack of evidence or it goes to trial and loses.
    To blame a prosecutor simply for bringing charges that later on are found to be inadequate is not a big deal. That is the reason for having an elaborate system of checks and balances.
    I agree with QN on one point, to have the accused held for years without an actual indictment was wrong. But who is to blame for this? Obviously not the STL, which was not there. The blame in this case is the lack of clarity about the line of responsibility? The UNIIIC asked the Lebanese authorities to arrest and in the absence of an STL it was up to the Lebanese judicial system to vacate the arrests or to investigate the evidence. If there is any blame in this sordid affair then the blame for the extended lock up is the Lebanese judicial system that allowed this to happen. This is not the first time and I can assure you that it will not be the last time either, that a prosecutor makes an indictment based on evidence that does not live up to expectations.What appointed and or elected officials think of the evidence does not matter, ultimately it is up to the courts to decide.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 25, 2011, 1:35 pm
  17. Ghassan

    I don’t mean to suggest that it’s purely about public perception, but that is a big part of it. It’s also precisely about the rule of law. Four people were held in prison for four years without charge and on the basis of weak evidence. What definition of “rule of law” does that conform to? It doesn’t matter what you or I or danny or Gabriel or anyone else “suspects”, with regard to Jamil al-Sayyid’s guilt or innocence. What matters is what can be proven in court.

    I agree with your response to BV: it was under the GOL’s jurisdiction, and according to another cable, people charged with crimes of state can be detained indefinitely in Lebanon, which is highly problematic in my view, and akin to the situation of Guantanamo detainees.

    But I still believe that the UNIIIC is culpable as well, given that they were repeatedly pressed to advise the judiciary on the matter and they refused to overturn Mehlis’s decision. If Brammertz knew that there was not enough evidence, he should have advised the Lebanese to release the generals.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 25, 2011, 1:42 pm
  18. QN:

    “Guilty is as guilty does.” So much more elegant and straightforward than “Innocent until proven guilty.”

    That’s for a court of law to weigh the evidence and decide.

    The argument of Optics is one you invoked in #7. What is good for the goose surely must be equally as good for the gander.

    So if the question of Image needs to be discussed, the question of the False Witnesses residing in Syria ought to be part of the same discussion, and as I said to R2D2, Syria’s problem is not only an Image problem. They need to figure out also what to do with that stench.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 25, 2011, 1:54 pm
  19. For everyone, right Gabe?

    Posted by R2D2 | July 25, 2011, 2:01 pm
  20. My apologies for formatting problem in 18.

    R2D2. I don’t follow your question.

    QN#17. I have no gripe to raise on the point of Optics itself, or to hold the UN or whoever accountable for its mistakes. And to hold those who are responsible for jailing 4 people unjustly accountable… etc.

    But a discussion has to have an equal footing.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 25, 2011, 2:07 pm
  21. Gabe,

    Are you in agreement that:

    If Prime Minister Hariri abused of his powers to retain the 4 Generals in custody beyond what mandated the Lebanese and International judiciary to legally retain them … he should be incarcerated for abuse power ?

    Posted by R2D2 | July 25, 2011, 2:16 pm
  22. … for abuse of power ?

    Posted by R2D2 | July 25, 2011, 2:18 pm
  23. Well I agree he should face the consequences.

    It is not for me to decide what those consequences are: Jail, Public Beheading, Financial Whatever.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 25, 2011, 2:22 pm
  24. georges, I don’t understand. The palm trees are the reincarnation of the 4 generals?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 25, 2011, 2:24 pm
  25. That was for georges @3

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 25, 2011, 2:26 pm
  26. QN,
    One more observation, I promise that this will be the last one.
    If it is true that the Lebanese law permits that a suspect be held for a long period of time without being formally accused; which I have always suspected to be the case; then no law was violated in the case of the generals. There are many laws that one might not like but still one is subject to these statutes within certain jurisdictions.

    R2D2,
    I don’t see how Sa’ad could have used his office to deny the generals’ release? Are you suggesting that he requested such an act from the judiciary? If so then the real onus is not the request as much as it is the member of the judiciary that had agreed to sell his/her judicial judgement. But the simple answer to your question is yes all individuals should be held accountable for their acts in a court of law. Isn’t this why justice is supposed to be blind:-)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 25, 2011, 2:31 pm
  27. Ghassan and others,

    GK says If the DA did something wrong then the DA will be fired or arrested. A corrupt DA should have no bearings on the integrity of the courts…

    I don’t know about the Lebanese justice system. And I am no expert on US law, but I believe you are mistaken here.

    I am almost certain that if it can be shown that the prosecution acted in ill-faith or obstructed justice, the case can be thrown out of court.

    I am certainly not embracing the conspiracy theories of the M8 camp, or think that there’s an evil hidden hand directing UNIIC or anything like that, but from a strictly legal perspective, I think there is a pretty good case to be made here for some kind of mistrial.

    I’ve seen this happen many times in the US. Where a case gets thrown out based on a technicality even though it’s pretty clear to all that the suspect may in fact be guilty, etc…

    I’ll try to think of better examples, but the recent mistrial of Roger Clemens comes to mind.

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/6768625/roger-clemens-trial-judge-declares-mistrial

    Almost as soon as it began, Clemens’ perjury trial ended Thursday — in a mistrial the judge blamed on prosecutors and said a “first-year law student” would have known to avoid.

    U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton called a halt to the trial under way after prosecutors showed jurors evidence that he had ruled out — videotaped revelations that a teammate had said he’d told his wife Clemens confessed to using a drug.

    The unraveling of the current case began as prosecutors were showing jurors a video of Clemens’ 2008 testimony before Congress. He is accused of lying under oath during that testimony when he said he never used performance-enhancing drugs during his 24-season career.

    Clemens’ former teammate and close friend, Andy Pettitte, had told committee investigators that Clemens confessed in 1999 or 2000 that he used human growth hormone. Clemens has said Pettitte “misremembers” or “misheard” their conversation.

    Prosecutors had wanted to call Laura Pettitte as a witness to back up her husband’s account because she says her husband told her about the conversation the day it happened. But Walton had said Laura Pettitte’s statement wasn’t admissible since it didn’t involve direct knowledge of what Clemens said.

    In the video prosecutors showed the jury, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., referred to Pettitte’s conversation with his wife during the questioning of Clemens. Walton quickly cut off the tape and called attorneys to the bench for a private conversation for several minutes. The video remained frozen on the screen in front of jurors with a transcript of what was being said on the bottom.

    Cummings had been quoting from Laura Pettitte’s affidavit to the committee. “I, Laura Pettitte, do depose and state, in 1999 or 2000, Andy told me he had a conversation with Roger Clemens in which Roger admitted to him using human growth hormones,” the text on the screen read.

    The judge eventually told the jurors to leave while he discussed the issue with attorneys in open court. Hardin asked for a mistrial, while prosecutors suggested the problem could be fixed with an instruction to the jury to disregard the evidence. Walton responded that they could never know what impact the evidence would have during the jury’s deliberations.

    “I don’t see how I un-ring the bell,” he said.

    “Government counsel should have been more cautious,” Walton said, raising his voice and noting that the case had already cost a lot of taxpayer money.

    “I think that a first-year law student would know that you can’t bolster the credibility of one witness with clearly inadmissible evidence,” Walton said.

    He said it was the second time that prosecutors had gone against his orders. The other occurred during opening arguments Wednesday when assistant U.S. attorney Steven Durham said Pettitte and two other of Clemens’ New York teammates, Chuck Knoblauch and Mike Stanton, had used human growth hormone.

    Evidently, the judge declared a mistrial simply on account of the prosecution disobeying his instruction regarding showing that video in court (which he had previous deemed inadmissible).

    I’m not necessarily saying this applies word for word to the Hariri case. But the leaks are making it clear that at the very least, there is a case to be made here. And even though trial hasn’t started yet, the presiding judge has the authority (at least using my US law analogy) to throw out the case if he deems some impropriety has occurred.

    Food for thought.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 25, 2011, 2:32 pm
  28. Thank you!

    I have no further questions at this moment.

    Posted by R2D2 | July 25, 2011, 2:39 pm
  29. BV,
    But that is exactly what I said earlier isn’t it?

    “DA’s often indict knowing full well that the evidence is not strong. They have to make do with the best that they have and at times that is not good enough and so the case is either thrown out of the court for lack of evidence or it goes to trial and loses.”

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 25, 2011, 3:28 pm
  30. BV,

    Again, please help me understand what impropriety has the prosecutor of the STL committed?

    You are comparing apples to oranges here. The trial has not even started and you are comparing to Clemen’s perjury TRIAL…

    There are allegations as to behavior of the lead investigator and/or jurisdictional matters. Please clarify your comparison.

    Posted by danny | July 25, 2011, 3:30 pm
  31. My two cents,

    The arrest of the four generals was a political action, using legal means, but it cannot primarily be understood and interpreted from the legal perspective. Anyone who separates the realms of laws from the realms of politics, whether in the US or elsewhere, is being reductive and/or being a rational idealist. The analysis of social and political events from a rational realist perspective needs to acknowledge the complexity and inter-connectedness of social and cultural forces in their interactions with legal, political, and economic structures.

    I am NOT saying that politics controls the law–that would be a very reductive reading of the statement that the realms of laws and politics are intricately connected–but that we need to understand and interpret political actions as different from some imagined purely “legal” actions. Maybe we can come up with a diagnosis for such a reductive approach (Legal uber-positivism, or the “Law Delusion,” etc?).

    It was necessary to arrest the four generals to reverse the “old regime” (in control of the intelligence and security appratus) and to effectuate incremental changes on the “ground” (disempowering the president and the pro-Syrian ruling clique, at the time, and allowing for an ideological or mythical foundation for a movement away from that rule). To ask questions about the legality of this arrest without contextualizing the complexity of the power struggles at the time is revisionist (and/or deluded)! But we all would prefer delusions that are simple over realities that are complex–especially those conditioned to think as modern and/or neoliberal social scientists!

    Posted by Parrhesia | July 25, 2011, 3:59 pm
  32. As I said, my example was not EXACTLY the same situation.
    I get that the trial has not started.

    But there are cases in US law (Can’t think of an example right now) where the PRE-TRIAL judge throws out the case because the prosecution acted inappropriately.
    In fact, any hint of inappropriateness (at any step of the way, even prior to trial) has the possibility (not necessarily a sure thing) of jeopardizing the trial. I believe it is up to the judge or pre-trial judge to even decide if the case should continue to trial based on this kind of thing.

    Again, i’m no lawyer, so I may be completely wrong here.

    Ghassan,

    As to your quote, the element you are missing in it is “in good faith”.
    I think your statement is fine when you assume that the judiciary is independent and the prosecution conducts itself in good faith (even if their evidence is weak).
    The problem with the 4 general issue is that evidence is starting to show in these leaks that the prosecution did not conduct itself in good faith.
    There is mounting evidence that there is political interference at some levels (not necessarily the level of the UNIIC, but at the very least on the GOL part) and that the GOL (at minimum) did not act in good faith.
    This taints the case.
    This is where my analogy to the Clemens trial comes in. Once the case is tainted and parts of the judiciary are shown to be working NOT in good faith, then there IS a case to be made for mistrial or for the pre-trial judge to throw the case out.
    I am not saying the latter is a given outcome. But at the VERY LEAST, there is a case to be made.

    I’ll bring up the DSK affair again. If it is shown that the DA acted in bad faith. With pre-meditated malice (as opposed to doing their best with weak evidence, say), for political gains, etc…then there are grounds for the authorities not only to go after said DA, but also for the case to be entirely dismissed.
    I am almost certain that is a fact.

    I do not know how that applies to the Hariri case. I am not saying it does. Plus my examples are from US law, not international/Lebanese…
    But my point is that there IS something here. This isn’t simply a nonsense talking point as Ghassan seems to believe.
    There IS fire under this smoke, so to speak.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 25, 2011, 5:14 pm
  33. Parrhesia,

    Your logic may apply in Lebanon. It does not apply in the USA. You are wrong on that count.
    You say a given political maneuver may be necessary and the law be damned (essentially).
    In the USA, there is no denying that it happens a lot. But when the matter is uncovered, the perpetrators ARE brought to justice.
    Congressmen are arrested and even jailed for corruption.
    Allegations of impropriety (Ted Stevens anyone) are investigated and prosecuted, etc.
    And when it is found that someone has manipulated the justice system for political gains, trust me, the perpetrator is indeed brought to justice (Rod Blagojevich anyone?)

    The US justice system prides itself on its independence and no politician is above the law (as witnessed by the DSK affair).

    I’ll give a hypothetical example: If it was shown or leaked that the mayor of NYC, Bloomberg, put political pressure on the DA to go after DSK (for whatever hypothetical political reasons), there would be pretty big scandal that would not only bring down Mayor Bloomberg, but also cause him to face prosecution AND the DSK case would be thrown out of court before it reaches trial. That is not unlike our Hariri case, IMO.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 25, 2011, 5:20 pm
  34. Parrhesia,
    That is a wonderful well thought out post. It is the kind that makes one say: Why didn’t I say this.:-)
    Prosecutors have at times to issue indictments, in cases that garner large public interest , although the evidence is not as good as they would like it to be. When the evidence meets minimal judicial standards a trial takes place and the case is then judged on its merits. At other times the evidence does not meet the minimal required judicial standard and so the case is dismissed without a trial.
    That is exactly what happened in the case of the four generals. An assassination that shocked the nation took place and gave rise to a civil “uprising” that led to many political ramifications the effects of which are still being felt 6 years after the fact. It is unfortunate that the case took four years before being presented to a judge but apparently the Lebanese statutes permit this.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 25, 2011, 5:20 pm
  35. BV,

    There is a difference between politics and individual politicians. While your examples in the US apply to the latter, I would doubt that you will find examples where you can show the law superseding politics: think the Patriot act, guantanamo, election fiascos, in recent history as well as the various instances on the past, from the Cold war, Vietnam, or Spanish American war… Politics always directed and transformed laws–even though resistance and change was possible, although rarely probable, in the name of laws…

    GK,

    Thank you for your kind words. I agree with you that the context at the time was a significant popular “uprising” with both spontaneous as well as planned and orchestrated political actions with significant ramifications.

    Posted by parrhesia | July 25, 2011, 5:40 pm
  36. GK,

    I have been wondering for some time who funds and is behind Yalibnan?

    I have noticed that you are a frequent contributor to that website and would appreciate understanding who funds the upkeep of that site and to what avail?

    Do you get paid by that site for your columns or do you contribute to it for free ?

    Posted by R2D2 | July 25, 2011, 5:41 pm
  37. People keep throwing up Guantanamo and the Patriot Act.

    You guys do know that every year there are thousands and thousands of cases that go through the legal system in the US. Many of those involve politicians and politics (local, state-level, city-level, county-level).
    Perhaps those of you who don’t live in the US don’t hear about them much, but I suspect Ghassan and others who live here and follow things somewhat decently can attest to what I say.

    Bringing up a couple of exceptions (Guantanamo, Patriot Act) does not mean that the US is filled with situations where politics trump the law. I’d even venture to say that it’s quite the opposite.
    (And btw, your election example actually backs my point more than yours, as many elections have recently been settled by the courts, in a way that supersedes this or that political agenda).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 25, 2011, 6:40 pm
  38. BV,

    I don’t know why you are not completely comprehending the situation.

    Consider what UNIIC equivalent to the LAPD conducting an investigation. It has nothing to do with the prosecutors yet. It is gathering of evidence and tracking the leads. Melis, Brammertz & Bellemare were just the chief commissioners. They had no prosecutorial powers. Why you are comparing the Clemens case with this is beyond me. Also, Lebanese law allowed the detention of the generals… What Brammertz would have suggested in a charged up atmosphere is irrelevant to the case.

    If you think that the HA “supporters” would be swayed either way; you are sorely misguided. As for us; the uncommitted as to the result before the court starts its proceedings; the Generals issue does not taint anything.

    Posted by danny | July 25, 2011, 8:59 pm
  39. Also, remember that these “boy scouts” were arrested based on Syrian fake witnesses and their own actions. Flooding the crater after the explosion; moving of evidence…Preparing to leave the country…etc.

    Posted by danny | July 25, 2011, 9:07 pm
  40. R2D2,
    To the best of my knowledge Yalibnan was one of the more or less spontaneous responses to 2005. I must have “published” over 200 columns to it thus far. I have not inquired about the profile of its readership but based on my own experience I can tell you that it is large , spread all over the world and is read by all the major news organizations such as BBC, Voice of America, CBC, CNN, Agence France…I will be very surprised if there is any major funding behind the site. I would rather like to think that the commercial revenue goes to cover maintenance, upgrades and the salaries of the few full timers.

    BV
    You are right aboiut Gitmo. It is a special case. When it was set up in 2002 the Justice Department found that it is not covered by the US legal protections . The Bush administration came up with the interpretation that those who are “enemy combatants” are not entitled to constitutional guarantees of protection. the Bush administration went as far as suspending Habeas Corpus in 2006, the right of each prisoner to ask for a trial. Most of the “no law applied” land of Gitmo was ultimately overturned by the Supreme court when it ruled that all prisoners even those in Gitmo are entitled to minimal constitutional protection. That is why Obama promised to close it down .
    Yes Guantanamo can be viewed as an exception but it does show that it does not take much to slip back into a world of no protection. ( Remember Jack in Lord of the Flies and how his appeal to the crude and natural instincts overcame the rationality of Ralph and Piggy). To me that was the real danger of Cheney, Darth Vader 🙂

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 25, 2011, 9:52 pm
  41. Whether it was legal or not doesn’t matter in a country like Lebanon where the law is trampled everyday by everyone and there is no hope in sight.

    What really matters is that these 4 cockroaches got some of what they deserve.

    Posted by Vulcan | July 25, 2011, 10:42 pm
  42. QN, I completely agree that the legitimacy of the STL is very much at stake and that its legitimacy is very much bound up with public perception and not merely inherent to the institution itself. All the more reason, in my view, to point to inherent elements of the STL that do suggest legitimacy.

    In any case, this problem of legitimacy is a leitmotif of international criminal justice. Ordinarily, courts have considerable legitimacy based on public trust and consensus: “the people” (construed in national terms) stand together in condemnation of the crime, determined that whoever committed it must be held responsible. However, it is in the nature of international criminal justice that such legitimacy doesn’t exist. There is no “national people” to condemn the crime because the crime was likely committed in the name of “the people” or the crime was committed within a fractured polity, or both. So international criminal justice will almost always face a crisis of legitimacy within the national jurisdiction where the crime was committed; indeed, such a crisis of legitimacy is what makes it necessary for the crimes to be dealt with internationally, which is to say beyond the national jurisdiction.

    One of the problems in this case is that there are two jurisdictions, one of which only properly came into being on 1 March 2009. It is certainly worth considering whether this was an advisable experiment in international criminal law, but I don’t think the whole process is discredited by such problems. And it’s worth considering that such an argument is usually made from political motives (i.e. wishing to exonerate the key suspects).

    Posted by Jonathan | July 25, 2011, 10:46 pm
  43. Whoever brought up the LAPD.

    I promise you. Many cases get thrown out of court when it is found that the LAPD used politically (or other compromised) tactics in bringing a suspect to justice.

    I stand by my original argument. The analogies are not perfect, but they hold. When ANYTHING taints a case, even prior to the trial, it may affect the outcome (I stress “may”, because I’m not saying it does affect the outcome every time).

    Tainted evidence, not reading miranda rights when arresting a suspect, or ANY kind of “not above the board” practices, even by the police while investigating the case can very easily lead to a case being thrown out of court by the judge.

    The US legal system is filled with such examples. I hear these stories on the news in one context (baseball) or another on an almost daily basis.

    I’m not saying the generals issue will directly affect the STL. It may not. But there certainly IS A CASE TO BE MADE.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 26, 2011, 12:41 am
  44. Tainted evidence is totally different than arresting four people on suspicion of murder and holding them legally (according to Lebanese law.).
    The fruits of a poisonous tree do not apply in this case unless any new evidence is attained because of the tainted one. In the extreme they have a very small PR problem to explain why the long incarceration.

    Let’s wait and see on what the evidence is against those indicted. The four generals case will be used by the media to act as lawyers to help out HA’s drive to besmirch the reputation of STL. No need convincing HA people already. It’s the armchair quarterbacks or “day traders” who are the targets…

    Posted by danny | July 26, 2011, 6:17 am
  45. BV:

    I don’t think there is so much a problem with the analogy.

    I am no “Law” person, but I certainly think that there should be some differences between day-to-day country law, and international law.

    I don’t think the grounds for dismissal ought to be as easy. Don’t ask me where the line ought to be drawn.

    And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, yet again… let’s repeat.

    (1) Most people don’t argue that Syria was likely involved in some/all of the assassinations. This view is not held only by one camp. It is held by all camps. Even Aoun, before his most recent incarnation has wagged an accusatory finger at Syria.

    (2) A murder happened (In the case of Hariri). People at the top (those “innocent” generals”, covered the scene of the crime.

    (3) A “Syrian” “false witness” popped up who either spoke the truth, then recanted, or did not speak the truth in the first place. What we know is that the “Syrian False witness” is living in Damascus. Not in Paris. Not in Brussels. Not in Washington.

    (4) For all the energy that the M8 camp keep discussing the False Witness Brouhaha. You would think if they were really interested in “Justice”, that they would demand the immediate extradition of said person to be tried for perjury or some like charge. Instead, they focus on throwing the whole case out the window. Every move and effort they have taken to date has been aimed at that direction. And to make matters worse, they have not undertaken any move to show that their actions should be taken in Good Faith.

    (5) So they desperately trying to fish for technicalities to try and “throw” this whole thing out the window. Whether its the False Witnesses. Or the Wikileaks. Or Or. Or computers going to Tel Aviv.

    (6) When we ask the question to the “other camp” as to what they propose to get closure in the case, we get answers like: Well we will never find out the truth anyhow. It’s too complex. Is it worth risking the stability and the very fabric, etc, yadda yadda.

    Given the level of errors and mistakes and convenient narratives, I think the least we should expect- from all sides involved- a very strong case to be made.

    Al-Akhbar has not really made a really strong case against the investigation. It showed that there are people who kept people in jail longer than the strength of the evidence warranted. Great. Penalize them, if the four turn out to be innocent, and simply incompetent civil servants grossly overpaid for services not rendered.

    Until then, let’s stop this non-sense. And wait for the court, and the evidence, and let’s judge if the case against HA or Syria, or Israel, or Teezee is strong enough.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 26, 2011, 11:15 am
  46. BV,
    I get the feeling that you are arguing in circles 🙂 So a prosecutor files charges that do not stand up to the standards of the court and as a result the judge sets the accused free. End of story.
    The fact that the prosecutor himself or other laymen felt that the case was weak has no bearing on the court and is at best immaterial.
    Let me repeat the only legitimate grievance is the length of time prior to the release but even that is not a violation of the rights of the accused under the laws of the jurisdiction in question.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 26, 2011, 11:39 am
  47. Ghassan,

    Isn’t that the gist of the Akhbar piece, and QN’s pandering to it?

    That the court should throw out the case as “clearly” the methods of the prosecutors were not up to par?

    Posted by Gabriel | July 26, 2011, 12:27 pm
  48. Ghassan,

    You keep saying “The fact that the prosecutor himself or other laymen felt that the case was weak has no bearing on the court and is at best immaterial.” which implies that the prosecutor was working on good faith.
    You seem to be missing my point entirely.
    In a situation where a prosecutor is working in good faith, your argument is perfectly fine.
    If the prosecutor is MALICIOUSLY operating in bad faith. That’s a whole different story. Get it?

    And Gabriel #45:
    There is no point rehashing who we think is the culprit here. That is not the issue.
    Are people in/from Lebanon so thick as to not get that the legal proceedings are not the same thing as whether one is guilty or not?
    Plenty of guilty people who have committed the most heinous crimes get to go free every year because of this or that technicality. That is NOT the point of my argument.
    Trying to convince me that Syria/HA did it is like preaching to the choir.
    Everybody knows OJ Simpson murdered his wife. He still got to go free, no?
    What you’re listing out there points 1-6 is not legal stuff. It’s just an argument about who is guilty and why. That does not mean any of that holds in court.

    I’m also fairly certain that Roger Clemens DID do steroids. It’s obvious for all to see. His case got dismissed. Not because he’s innocent, but because the DA fucked up on a procedural issue. It says NOTHING about his guilt.

    It is quite likely Caycee Anthony killed her 2 year old daughter. Horrendous crime. She still got to go free because the DA simply couldn’t prove that she did it beyond the reasonable doubt.

    Convincing me that Syria/HA did it does NOT mean that a court of law that follows the burden of proof and the procedurals laid out for it, won’t throw out the case. That’s all I’m saying.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 26, 2011, 12:42 pm
  49. And to change the subject…I’ll bring you another chapter of my favorite series “Ridiculous quotes by Michel Aoun”.
    He never disappoints.


    Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun stated on Tuesday that Internal Security Force chief Major General Ashraf Rifi’s several violations “make him ineligible to remain in his position in office.”

    He said after the Change and Reform bloc’s weekly meeting: “His statement that he was born out of the March 14 camp’s womb is one of his violations because this is not part of the ISF law.”

    I’m no big fan of Rifi, but come on! Really?
    So now, being affiliated with a political party makes you ineligible for office? In what freaking fantasy world does Claoun live?
    One could easily point out that being affiliated with the FPM is a “violation”. No? Cause that’s certainly not part of the law either.
    I suppose this means the mighty general will now immediately quit his position of MP? Yeah. Didn’t think so.
    You wanna talk about violations, general? Let’s take a look into your bank accounts, circa 1990. Or maybe you need to shut the **** up and stop talking altogether, because every single time you open your mouth, you say stuff that makes absolutely no sense.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 26, 2011, 12:52 pm
  50. BV,
    Honestly, I would like to drop this but I just cannot 🙂 How does one prove that Mehlis was not acting in good faith but was being malicious? He still maintains that all what he has done was proper and legal? All that can be said is that Serge Brammertz, who took over from Mehlis, had some doubt about the evidence but apparently not strong enough to request the release of the generals. Where does malicious come in?

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 26, 2011, 1:05 pm
  51. BV:

    See my point above to Ghassan.

    I don’t disagree with anything you wrote. Thanks for dumbing it down (?!?). But are we here acting as judges, can’t we leave that to the STL court to hear the argument from the defense if that is in fact the argument made by the defense?

    And sure, I doubt even the most vocal Syria/HA did it voice here- danny- would (because he already said as much) accept the court’s verdict.

    So let’s go back to what Al-Akhbar’s point is in this whole thing? Is it to fight the battle in the court of public opinion!

    You use the Casey example as a case in point. How would such a court get a good jury with so much misinformation. Disinformation and information thrown around willy nilly! 🙂

    Come on, let’s stop this nonsense, and let the judge make the call (as he is familiar with Lebanese or international law) to decide if in fact there is in fact grounds for dismissal!

    Posted by Gabriel | July 26, 2011, 1:18 pm
  52. Ok. I’ll drop this argument…:)

    And yes, the point of the story is clearly a matter of bringing things into the court of public opinion.
    That’s what it’s been all about for some time now.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 26, 2011, 1:58 pm
  53. http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/11279-hizbullah-chief-sayyed-nasrallah-speaks-on-5th-anniversary-of-july-war

    I’m converting !

    I think the rest of Lebanon should finally consent to giving Hizballah and their constituents autonomy over the South and their fate.

    It’s what they want.

    Posted by R2D2 | July 26, 2011, 3:29 pm
  54. I’m moving to the South for sure! Every time the Israelis aggress my home … and I manage to survive … I will get an upgrade.

    It’s risky … but there are ways around it.

    For further information on how to wisely invest into these prospects, kindly contact me on my private email.

    Posted by R2D2 | July 26, 2011, 3:55 pm
  55. I’ve said before – in frustration – but with a nugget of truth, that if HA and their constituency want their own state, they should have it. And then see how well they fare. They can stop fighting the rest of us who want to live a decent life and have it their way, as they’ve claimed is better all along.
    They can have their culture of resistance, and death and destruction for however long they want to – or however long their constituents will put up with.
    We’re just cramping their style, apparently. If only they were free of our corruption and western-loving ways…we’ve done nothing but hold them back, etc…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 26, 2011, 4:26 pm
  56. These jokers never cease to make for fantastic comedy:

    Victims of the July 2006 war with Israel should file lawsuits against Lebanese officials and Western governments for assisting the Jewish state during the conflict, Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc MP Nawaf Mousawi said Sunday.

    I’ll give everyone a couple of minutes to laugh and settle down…

    Ok. All done laughing?

    How about we all sue SHN and co. for ordering the abduction of 2 Israeli soldiers across the blue line and this provoking the death and destruction of the South that mister imbecile Moussawi is so upset about…

    Or even better. How about all the citizens of Beirut who were affected by the May 7th events also sue SHN, HA, the SSNP, Amal and Nabih Berri for infliction of material and emotional damages.
    I’m fairly certain there are a few property owners (not to mention media station owners) who qualify for such a lawsuit.

    This stuff should make mister idiot Moussawi the laughing stock of everyone above the age of 3. Sadly and maddeningly, he can get away with such nonsense.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 26, 2011, 4:32 pm
  57. It is not rational or useful to wish for HA and its constituency or supporters to leave their homeland. There are over 1 million Lebanese who feel that they are represented by HA and Amal and they have all the rights of citizenship that any other Lebanese does. When will the condescending tone towards difference disappear? Many Lebanese may not like the religious or cultural beliefs and practices of other Lebanese but no group can impose its own norms onto others, and national or cultural norms are always negotiated and never eternally set within the spirit of some laws. The Law is basically built on violence and force and that is why in democratic settings it is always negotiated, transformed, and revised in what we call politics. Power relations and differences are part and parcel of democratic settings and HA supporters are as legitimately involved in this setting as those who want to use the law or the.constitution to uphold the status quo.

    HA is also part of our affective engagement with our community and it plays a big role in shaping and reflecting our Arab-Islamic identity in contra distinction with our globally constructed consumer-individual identity. Who was not proud of HA achievement in the 2006 war, unconsciously or even irrationally? Be honest with yourselves.

    The solution is not to construct an other and try to push them out of the community but to negotiate and work together on building a community of differences. That is the aim of a democratic and of any ethical polity.

    Posted by parrhesia | July 26, 2011, 5:58 pm
  58. Parrhesia

    Who was not proud of HA achievement in the 2006 war, unconsciously or even irrationally? Be honest with yourselves.

    I wasn’t. Consciously, Unconsciously. Or Irrationally.

    And what exactly was the “Achievement” of HA in 2006? More infrastructure destruction in Lebanon? Dead people?

    Posted by Gabriel | July 26, 2011, 6:05 pm
  59. Parrhesia,

    The reason your counter argument fails miserably is this:
    but no group can impose its own norms onto others, and national or cultural norms are always negotiated

    The fact is, that noe group IS imposing its norms and its wars and is not willing to negotiate.
    I have no problem with the million Lebanese if they want to share Lebanon with me on an equal footing.
    I do have a problem when they wish to impose their views and norms at the point of a gun, and continually cause the destruction of my homeland and insist that I’m a traitor or conspirator.
    They are the ones who dislike me. Not the other way around.
    If they dislike me so much, they are more than welcome to run their own country where they can impose their norms and wars on whoever they choose and leave me out of it.
    I don’t see why this logic is so “superior”. It is merely a result of being bullied around for over a decade.

    Also Who was not proud of HA achievement in the 2006 war, unconsciously or even irrationally? Be honest with yourselves.

    I can tell you unequivocally that I was not the least bit proud to see children and civilians bombed back to the stone age, with their homes and villages and cities torn to rubble.
    There was NOTHING to be proud of in 2006. NOTHING AT ALL.

    You are proud of the death of 1200 innocent civilians? Really? PROUD?

    And you wonder why I don’t wanna live in the same country??? There’s your answer.

    I will never be proud of any innocent civilian’s death. No matter his creed, color or nationality.
    I will never be proud when a child dies in Bint Jbeil.
    I will never be proud when a pregnant woman gets blown to bits in Qana.
    I will never be proud when a Beiruti bystander gets shot by thugs on motorcycles or a Traboulsi gets grenades lobbed at him.

    And note that I did not say Shia, Christian, Sunni or Alawite. Because to me, they are all innocent civilians.
    I am equally appalled when ANY civilian finds death and destruction. Even if it’s a Jewish kid in the Galilee.
    I am proud of human life. Not of its destruction.

    So please spare me the “condescending tone” accusations. If there’s anyone who is condescending, it’s the one who talks about “pride” when a bunch of thugs cause the destruction of my homeland (and yes, I mean ALL the thugs, not just HA). There is absolutely NOTHING to be proud of.

    THAT, is why I think some people may be better served by having their own country/space/canton/whatever. They can be PROUD all they want their and leave the rest of us peace-loving people to raise our kids and love our wives in peace (and again, I make no sectarian distinction here. They can all go to their little “Resistanceland”, regardless of their sect, if they want to “resist”).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 26, 2011, 6:15 pm
  60. Another gem that I missed:

    HA supporters are as legitimately involved in this setting as those who want to use the law or the.constitution to uphold the status quo.

    No they are not. I don’t pretend to speak for EVERYONE of them. But many of them do not pay taxes or obey the law or the constitution.
    So again, all your words are all nice and well, except, they don’t appear to describe HA.

    You talk of constitutionality, rule of law, compromise, negotiation, democracy, equal rights.
    Yet we have NONE of those things in Lebanon (I don’t blame only HA, mind you).
    The fact is, none of that stuff exists in Lebanon. Your words may sound true in Paris or Los Angeles. But not in Beirut.
    What negotiations? The one where HA says “We’ll cut off your hands if you take our guns”?
    What law? The one where media crews get assaulted for investigating some land? Land, that last I checked, was part of this Lebanon of equal rights that you speak of.
    What democracy? The one where governments gets formed or toppled at the point of a gun? In a democracy, you respect a government even if you don’t like it. You don’t go burning and looting (May 7th) to oppose its decisions. You don’t see me calling for M14 to loot and burn to bring down the Mikati government. But hey, the government was formed and I respect that. In fact I welcome M8 being in charge, so we can see how well they can govern on their own. I’ve argued that point MANY times in the past.

    Really. Your words sound great, but they mean absolutely nothing in the context of Lebanon/HA.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 26, 2011, 6:25 pm
  61. *standing ovation* BV.
    Fasheytelna khel2na ya zalami.

    Posted by maverick | July 26, 2011, 6:36 pm
  62. Thank you, BV, for your heartfelt reaction to my post. I respect your position even if I do not agree with it (I believe the use of extra legal force and intimidation as an ethical form of resistance to oppression or to the hegemonic control of the officially acceptwd violence of the state and the laws, amd part of a resistance and change strategy) but I agree with you that once one’s rights of existence are establishes no domination is ethical and that the oppressed Shia should not become oppressors and reject the difference of others as a right.

    My position is philosophical and principled and may not be practicable in lebanon, France or anywhere else but Ian’t thought and frwedom about contestation and imagination?

    I apologize to you and to Gabriel for assuming that there are cultural affects that may be universally applicable within a specific social imaginary (I.e. pride in HA’s resistance to one of the mightiest and most brutal armies in the world). I guess that there are always genuine exceptions.

    Posted by parrhesia | July 26, 2011, 7:31 pm
  63. I wonder whether HA is going to accuse Mosad and March 14 of planning the attack on the French Unifil contingent and once they do so whether GMA will hold a press conference to confirm that:-)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 26, 2011, 8:20 pm
  64. Parrhesia, you have articulated very well the role of democratic contest and negotiation in the formation of a national political community. Importantly, you also recognize that power relations are woven into such negotiation. But once power comes into play, as it always does, the negotiation is no longer based purely on reason and justice. Fear and coercion are part of the deal; force is being applied. And force is certainly a key component in Hizbullah’s participation in national politics.

    Hizbullah effectively remind us of a basic reality of democratic politics: that as much as democracy is grounded in the reason of the public sphere, it is undergirded by the state’s monopoly on violence.

    How did France become the nation-state it is today? By violence and then by democratic negotiation.
    How did the US become the nation-state it is today? By violence and then by democratic negotiation.

    You have to hope that the person holding the gun does so in the name of democracy as ironic and paradoxical as that might sound.

    Posted by Jonathan | July 26, 2011, 8:54 pm
  65. Does anyone know anything about IDAL, Investment and Development Authority of Lebanon?
    I have noted for a while the small ads that they run on Lebanese websites and so finally decided to contact them. Itried their own “contact us” form twice but to no avail. The message was kicked back. As a result I decided to send a message to the provided emal and again the same results.
    Another curious fact is that the macroeconomic data provided goes up to 2008 only.
    Why would a government sponsored agency, if that is what IDAL is, show email address that does not work and promote investment based on data that is 3 years old? If IDAL is no longer in existence then why are the internet ads still being displayed?
    Is that a reflection on government efficiency?:-)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 27, 2011, 9:33 am
  66. Ah yes. Freedom of speech is alive and well in Lebanon…

    Good to see we can spare resources to arrest musicians for their songs.
    Did anyone ever get arrested for the murder of the 2 Ziads, btw?
    And I’m sure Zeid Hamdan’s arrest will bring a deathly blow to foreign conspiracies, Estonian kidnappings, Israeli incursions, UNIFIL road bombs and other ills….

    More power to you, “dawleh”.

    *tfeh*

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 27, 2011, 12:22 pm
  67. As a sidenote, I’m thinking of changing my moniker to “Full-of-venomous-bile”.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 27, 2011, 12:23 pm
  68. Zeid Hamdan is free again, or so rumor has it.
    Once again I will state the following from the point of view of those (idiots) like me who came back “home” under false promises and in the hope of an early retierment in this land of milk and honey.
    And away from politics:

    How can anyone accept the burning of a shop in the south just just because the owner refused to sell alcohol? As far as I am concerned the sale of liquor and spirit is legal and regulated by the “Lebanese state”, and more over if, and since this is the new trend, each region has it’s own “khoussousiyat” the DEMOCRATIC move would be such as for all the locals who truely fell outraged from such evil doing, to boycott such a shop and force the owner out of business.

    I am sorry to say (and I have been saying it for a few years now) that no matter how hard Hassan Nasrallah tries to ( in the new hizb’s manifesto) mask his true intentions, his project is that of “wilayat al fakih”; and the signs are very obvious for those who dare to open their eyes.

    Posted by marillionlb | July 27, 2011, 3:49 pm
  69. Marillionb,

    Of course. Nothing new there.
    Explain that to those who claim to be “proud” of the Resistance and then throw the words “democracy” and “freedom” and “equal rights” in the same sentence.

    Freedom and equal rights appear to stop where Hizbollastan starts.
    That fact is undeniable (yet, they will continue to deny it).

    Rule of law? What rule of law? State regulating the sale of alcohol? What state?

    I guarantee you that the state gets no tax revenues from Nabatiyeh either.

    And then they wonder why I think they should run their own country..

    I mean, they already do. But it’s unofficial. So they get a free pass because they are not technically accountable.
    I say make it official. Declare the Republic (we’ll leave out Islamic for now) of South Lebanon – or whatever name Nassrallah likes. Put in your own set of laws, your own constitution (or lack thereof if you prefer to rule by divine edict). And then let’s see how the constituents like it.
    If they do, more power to them.
    If they don’t, well, they’ll hold SHN and whoever else accountable eventually.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 27, 2011, 4:03 pm
  70. @BV,
    Freedom and equal rights are a foreign notion to those blinded by religious affiliation, fanaticism and blind following; and this is not my finger being pointed towards the Shia adept followers of Hizbullah but more to the few Aounist I know who were glued to their TV “accroche a chaqu’un des mots de notre tres cher Hassouna”. I keep on hearing the same sentence over and over again by those orange misguided “patriots” which claim out loud and very proudly that he is the only honnest person Lebanon has.
    I am from the south and I will NEVER surrender my little village (or the south, or even the 10452km2) to anything remotly resembling Hizbollahistan.
    Bassil goes on TV and speaks of plans to demarcate our maritime borders via the UN whilst Michel Aoun (the demanted general) and Hizbullah keep on telling us that not only the STL, but the entire UN is an American and Zionist entity. And yet this contradiction (to say the least) seems perfectly normal and acceptable to many.
    As to holding any of our local leaders (past and present) accountable, like the saying goes “quand les poules auront des dents”; another foreign notion in a country populated by “sheeple”.

    Posted by marillionlb | July 27, 2011, 4:28 pm
  71. I commented a few days ago about the irony of going to the UN for demarcating the maritime border, all the while accusing same organization of being a Zionist tool.

    Those people’s world and narratives are full of contradictions. Which should tell you something about how credible they should be.
    Sadly, they seem to manage to gather a sizable following instead of being laughed at like the crackpots that they are.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 27, 2011, 5:09 pm
  72. General Suleiman…. Go Home!

    QN- i double dare you to compose a song like that, we will send you beeds and go visit you in roumieh ! 🙂

    its time you let HK out of his holding cell, we miss him.

    Posted by Vulcan | July 27, 2011, 8:45 pm
  73. Interesting article in Foreign Affairs by an author who is publishing a book on Hezballah later this year.

    http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67997/matthew-levitt/hezbollah-party-of-fraud

    Posted by R2D2 | July 28, 2011, 5:28 am
  74. R2D2,
    Obviously I have no idea whether the book by Matthew Levitt is credible or not since I have not read it or researched the material on which it is based. However, as much as I am opposed to Hezbollah, I would approach this project with extraordinary precautions because the Washington Institute for Near East Policy , the sponsoring organization, is not an objective observer.
    I am not suggesting that one should not take their work seriously but suggesting that ideologically, they have taken sides and that it would be very highly unlikely to have them publish an objective treatise on the subject of HA.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 28, 2011, 10:28 am
  75. I shall read it with a wise eye then … Obi Wan.

    Posted by R2D2 | July 28, 2011, 10:50 am
  76. Qifa,

    You should try and get a one-on-one Q&A session with Ziad Baroud.

    (Now that he’s out of office)

    Posted by R2D2 | July 28, 2011, 11:24 am
  77. Ghassan,

    I’ve always meant to ask this question.
    I don’t really put a whole lot of stock in opinion pieces (prefering to form my own, hehe). But who/what is the Institute for ME Policy exactly?
    I’ve seen/heard that name countless times when associated with this or that “expert” (be it someone interviewed on NPR, or elsewhere).
    Please enlighten …

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 28, 2011, 12:39 pm
  78. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy is essentially a group that is obviously interested in the US policy in the Middle East but their vision of the world is very much influenced by their unconditional support for the state of Israel. That is why , in my opinion, their judgement on such issues as Hezbollah will most probably not be objective. This does not mean that they will fabricate facts but it means that while reading their analysis it is important to be on the look out for “spins”.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 28, 2011, 1:32 pm
  79. Good to know. Thanks.

    Who funds the Institute? Is this a private think tank? I mean, is it funded by known individuals or lobbies, or what?

    (I’m curious about such things)

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 28, 2011, 1:54 pm
  80. WINEP was started by AIPAC but it differentiates itself by not accepting any foreign donations. Some of the names associated with WINEP are Indyk, M. Kramer, D. Pippes and M. Eisenstadt.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 28, 2011, 3:53 pm
  81. Ah. I see. Interesting…

    Any affiliation with Brookings?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 28, 2011, 4:02 pm
  82. None whatsoever. WINEP reminds me of the corporate strategies of market segmentation and diversification. Ex. Toyota, Lexus,Scion or VW, Audi, ,Lamborgini, Veyron or obviously Chevrolet, buick, Cadillac, Holden, Opel …
    I do read WINEP for a particular point of view but it is essentially AIPAC with a different label just like cars that share the chasis and the engine but have different brands.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 28, 2011, 6:03 pm
  83. Ok. Good to know. Again, thanks…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 28, 2011, 6:41 pm
  84. This is off topic. If the Washington clowns continue on this path then this might go down in history as the biggest self inflicted financial disaster that the world has know. Greece, Portugal and others do the impossible to have the rest of the world lend them funds while the US does the impossible to prevent the rest of the world from loaning it funds that it desperately needs. These guys have gone nuts . The real irony though is that their irrationality will affect everysingle individuals welfare all over the world.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 28, 2011, 11:49 pm
  85. Ghassan,

    Electioneering has a lot to do with the posturing. In the end they’ll agree and both sides would spin their “victory”. They are moving forward in a democratic manner. Don’t sweat it out my friend. August 2nd will arrive to those of us who are still alive and the sun will still rise and…. 😀

    At least substantive issues are tackled in civilized manner.

    Posted by danny | July 29, 2011, 7:44 am

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