June 01, 2007

Whos Afraid of the Tribunal?

by Michael J. Totten

Hezbollah says the Chapter VII United Nations Security Council’s tribunal to try the assassins of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is illegal and illegitimate: “The resolution is a violation of the sovereignty of Lebanon and an aggressive interference in its internal affairs.”

It’s hardly worth arguing with these people, but I’ll go ahead and do it anyway: Assassinating Lebanon’s elected officials is a violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and an aggressive interference in its internal affairs.

Those who believe this is all a Zionist-Neocon-Hariri conspiracy might want to note who the United Nations (which is held in low esteem by the Zionists and the Neocons, if not the Hariri family) holds in the dock as chief suspects:
Nine suspects, including Lebanon's once feared top pro-Syrian security chiefs, have been under arrest for about two years over the murder of former premier Rafiq Hariri.

[…]

Four of the main suspects were Syria's key security generals in Lebanon until Damascus was widely accused of the Hariri murder and forced to complete a troop pullout after 29 years of military dominance.

They include presidential guard chief General Mustafa Hamdan, former general security chief General Jamil al-Sayed, ex-internal security head General Ali al-Hage and former army intelligence director General Raymond Azar.

Since they were arrested in August 2005, the four have been held in a special building at the Roumieh central prison, in a mountainous village northeast of Beirut.

They are accused of murder with premeditation, attempt to murder with premeditation, terrorist actions, as well as the possession of weapons and explosives, according to judicial sources.

As the international tribunal due to try the Hariri murder is governed by the Lebanese criminal law, the four may be sentenced to death if found guilty.
UPDATE: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told the United Nations Security Council that Syria refuses to cooperate with the tribunal. They won't even pretend to cooperate with the investigation.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 01:08 AM

Comments

Now that the tribunal has been voted in, there's likely to be a period of conflict and recalibration. What will reconciliation look like afterwards? How differently might Eli Khoury assess the Shia and the Aounist situations today?

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at June 1, 2007 02:44 AM

Yo yo,

you're right, those people who were blow up and illegally kidnapped while their parents are still asking about them...

As it is written; "mithlama takounou, youwalla 3alaykom"... Those who deal oppression should not be surprised when oppression is visited upon them. This may not fit the need for civilized justice, but it is still a justice of sorts, the best we could get them.

With the tribunal in place, they can be legally charged for their crime. And Lebanon still has the death penalty on the books for crimes like murder and treason.

Posted by: Jeha at June 1, 2007 05:13 AM

How ironic and twisted can things get?!

Yes it's ironic and twisted. That's what happens when you don't tell the simple truth. Yo-yo is trying to distort the truth by selecting the facts that favor his interpretation (plus telling lies). Unfortunately, the average Lebanese does the same thing when it comes to Israel. That they can accuse Israel of crimes while ignoring their own much worse ones is ironic and twisted, and gives Yo-yo the opportunity to do the same.

I don't really understand why Syria should be concerned about this. The people who want to know the truth already know it. The rest will continue to deny it. So what?

Posted by: Yafawi at June 1, 2007 05:15 AM

With the tribunal in place, they can be legally charged for their crime. And Lebanon still has the death penalty on the books for crimes like murder and treason.

Thanks, Jeha, I guess that answers my question. (I was typing it when you posted.) So the UN is to conduct the trial because the government is not able to do it? Why is that? (I have a few guesses, but I'd like to know for sure.)

Posted by: Yafawi at June 1, 2007 05:20 AM

Each to his own, I guess. This particular UN sanction seems to me to be yet another puerile, mewling symbolic action -- like something out of one of Laumer's Retief stories -- from the tots at Turtle Bay, but we'll see what comes of it, if anything, and when, if ever.

But, let's assume that the tribunal quickly seizes (over, presumably, the objections of Nasrallah and the rest of the Hezbollards, but let's not assume over their dead bodies), gives a fair and speedy trial to, and then promptly hangs all of the accused . . .

Really, so what? How would that affect the fundamental problem of Lebanon? Is the fundamental (not a serious peripheral) problem of Lebanon that Syrian agents can murder an important Lebanese and not eventually be expended?

As to "internationally-sanctioned regime change in Damascus", who exactly is going to bell that cat? And who is going to take over? Is there some only hideously (rather than preposterously) oppressive but largely politically realistic dictator (a Damascene Mubarak, say), waiting in the wings?

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at June 1, 2007 06:44 AM

yo yo yo yo, and i thought the Lebanese civil war episode was locked into a trunk,chained up and sealed,and dropped to the bottom of the memory ocean.The only reason to bring up the past is to learn from the mistakes so we dont repeat history...im just sick of ppl pointing fingers all the time comparing this to that ,this guy to that guy.YoYo,i understood we should let Syrian cronies working in the Lebanese security apparatus that were responsible for "that disgusting suicide bomb" be free on the grounds theyve been in custody for too long and that Samir Geagea has done worse in his last life is not about Irony,..its letting your emotions talk politics instead of your reason.BTW Geagea and his misses were having dinner at the Moukhtara with Jumbo man and his misses,lovely isnt it...even theyve dropped the trunk.Time you should.

Posted by: maverick at June 1, 2007 06:53 AM

Yafawi,

At this state of affairs, we need all the leverage we can get. I have no illusions that this tribunal is no panacea, but it sure helps.

Now for Brammertz to reveal a few more cards, so we can have a normal presidential election...

Posted by: Jeha at June 1, 2007 07:14 AM

“The resolution is a violation of the sovereignty of Lebanon and an aggressive interference in its internal affairs.”

Michael, why is the UN involved in this case?

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 07:54 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 06/01/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

Posted by: David M at June 1, 2007 08:09 AM

The UN is involved in this case because Nabih Berri and other Syria-controlled Hezbollah shills will not allow justice for Hariri's killers to be pursued in Lebanon, because of where that pursuit will almost certainly lead: right to Damascus' doorstep.

Since one nation's proxies are clearly blocking the pursuit of justice in another nation because that justice would apparently indict high-ranking members of the interfering nation, the UN, as an inter-nation-al body, chose, with the urging of UN Security Council members such as the US and France, to intervene and pursue that justice themselves, so that at least justice would be done in this case by somebody.

Posted by: Salamantis at June 1, 2007 08:55 AM

i'm with joel on this one: it does not solve the syria-lebanon-hezbollah problem. but i hope to be proven wrong.

the UN does what a majority of the members of SC wants to do. in this particular case the US and France were together. the rest is conversation.

Posted by: fp/http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ at June 1, 2007 09:44 AM

Salamantis,

Is Nabih Berri Syrian?
Seems to me this is an internal Lebanese matter.

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 10:03 AM

Berri isn't Syrian, but his allegiances are. As long as Syrian shills block the Lebanese political process, this simply can't be an internal matter - whether the tribunal is convened or not.

Posted by: Salamantis at June 1, 2007 10:09 AM

I think Hezbollah is also opposed to this tribunal because once the mechanism for Chapter 7 involvement in Lebanese affairs has been set up, they are worried it could be used against them.

For example, they - or people near them - may have had a hand in the bombings of the uS Embassy and the Marines Barracks back int he 1980s.

hezbollah are worried the Tribunal's mechanisms could invetigate past crimes formt he Civil war era, but only selectively. ie. actions of the PSP, Phalange, LF etc will be ignored an dthe invetigations will concentrate solely on those who oppose the Pax Americana vision for the region.

Also, although it is technically a different directive, they don't want Resolution 1559 to be enforced using a Chapter 7 mechanism, as that would effectively mean a war with Unifil or with NATO... and as anyone who knows anything about the new Unifil set up will tell you -- it is basically a NATO Rapid Reaction Force (a la Kosova), with their kit painted white. There is some very mordern very heavy armour -- eg. France's Leclerc MBTs and a lot of Special Forces deployed -- just waiting for a more "pro-active" mandate.

Hezbollah do indeed do things that help Syria out, but in my opinion they have their own agenda as well. I don't think they'd do stuff that helps Assad but hurts them.

I know a lot of you don't agree with this analysis, but I probably know Hezbollah and thei ways better than many visitors to this site.

Posted by: Microraptor at June 1, 2007 10:14 AM

Salamantis,

I don't follow. Why would it be to for Nabih Berri or any Lebanese politician to decide the proceeding of a criminal investigation?

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 10:23 AM

Why would it be up to Nabih Berri..

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 10:26 AM

“The resolution is a violation of the sovereignty of Lebanon and an aggressive interference in its internal affairs.”

LOL. This Hesbollah quote is almost verbatim what Yo Yo said in a prior post (or some other pro-Hesbollah troll). Sounds like he's on the payroll.

Posted by: Carlos at June 1, 2007 10:29 AM

Carlos,

I'm still waiting for a satisfactory answer as to why that statement is false.

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 10:33 AM

Please do no reply to banned trolls. (Yo Yo in this case.) Those comments will be deleted.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 10:34 AM

Microraptor: I know a lot of you don't agree with this analysis...

That sounds about right to me. Hezbollah is worried about all those things.

As, yes, of course Hezbollah's agenda is different from Syria's. It mostly matches Iran's, but it differs somewhat from that one as well.

Some of you may think the UN is toothless (and I pretty much agree), but Assad is scared to death of this tribunal.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 10:37 AM

Nabih Berri is the Speaker of Lebanon's parliament (as well as the head of the mostly Shiite - read Hezbollah-sympathetic - Amal Party); he refuses to convene Lebanon's parliament, rightly fearing that their first action would be to ratify the Siniora Government's request for the UN Tribunal.

Posted by: Salamantis at June 1, 2007 10:48 AM

Salamantis,

Again, what does the Lebanese parliament or the UN have to do with the proceedings of a Lebanese criminal investigation?

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 10:53 AM

radaktor,

Lebanon has no legal enforcement mechanisms against suspects in Syria.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 11:04 AM

well Red,
maybe the Lebanese criminal investigators are also politically leaning towards one side...? Maybe it is a good idea to have a nuetral,respectful authority to deal with an overly important issue?A few months back,the opposition,including Berri were debating who should be on the panel of investigators and prosecutors...way too murky dont you think.

Posted by: maverick at June 1, 2007 11:11 AM

I'm still waiting for a satisfactory answer as to why that statement is false.

It's oh so simple. The reason why it's false is that it's Syria/Assad internal affairs being investigated, not Lebanese ones. And unless Hesbollah is admitting they are dupes of Syria, they have no standing to make that statement. Are they merely dupes of Syria? Methinks they are.

Posted by: Carlos at June 1, 2007 11:18 AM

Lebanon has no legal enforcement mechanisms against suspects in Syria.

Why should it?

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 11:20 AM

Were the suspects in Syria or in Lebanon? Are they Syrian or Lebanese?

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 11:21 AM

Why should it?

He didn't say it should, he just said it doesn't. A statement of fact. And because it doesn't, that's why you have international bodies to serve that function. Like when these international bodies went after Serbian war criminals. Same diff.

Posted by: Carlos at June 1, 2007 11:23 AM

Carlos,

It's an internal affair, even by your own words. What relevance does it make who it is that is pointing this out?

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 11:25 AM

redaktor,

because Hesbollah is saying it's a violation of LEBANON'S internal affairs. A patently RIDICULOUS statement, wouldn't you agree? LOL.

Posted by: Carlos at June 1, 2007 11:26 AM

Carlos,

A criminal Lebanese investigation into suspects of a Lebanese murder case is a LEBANESE affair.

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 11:37 AM

Redaktor, it's only an "internal affair" if Lebanon is a province of Syria. We all know you wish Lebanon were a province of Syria (you said so yourself a few days ago), but it is not.

You might want to rethink your position on that. First you lend you moral support to Assad's Greater Syria project. Now you're defending Hezbollah propaganda. And you're Israeli, right? Geez.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 11:44 AM

redaktor: A criminal Lebanese investigation into suspects of a Lebanese murder case is a LEBANESE affair.

Not when the chief suspect is the government of Syria.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 11:46 AM

MJT,

Israel has no legal enforcement mechanisms against suspects in Syria or Iran or lebanon, either. Why is Lebanon deserving of this special treatment and not others?

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 11:49 AM

MJT,

If the Lebanese government has a problem with the Syrian government, let them take it up with the Syrian government.

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 11:51 AM

A criminal Lebanese investigation into suspects of a Lebanese murder case is a LEBANESE affair.

But it's not a Lebanese investigation. Duh! It's a Security Council investigation of Syria. For Hesbollah to protest investigating Syria is like Seniora protesting as a violation of Lebanese internal affairs the U.N. investigating George Bush. That would be ridiculous, wouldn't it? But why am I humouring an obvious Hesbollah shill like you. Or are you Syrian intelligence? Would make no difference.

Posted by: Carlos at June 1, 2007 11:54 AM

Redaktor, they are "taking it up with" the Syrian government.

The Syrian-Israeli axis doesn't exist, but the Syrian-Redaktor axis certainly does.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 11:56 AM

Carlos,

Redaktor is Israeli. Pathetic, isn't it?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 11:57 AM

Michael,

how do you know? He could just as easily be Syrian, and SAY he's Israeli. Sock puppets abound.

Posted by: Carlos at June 1, 2007 12:00 PM

Carlos,

Who cares if the Security Council is investigating Syria or Sri Lanka, what business does the UN have conducting a murder investigation?

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 12:00 PM

Who cares if the Security Council is investigating Syria or Sri Lanka, what business does the UN have conducting a murder investigation?

Have we officially changed the subject? Because I thought we were talking about whether it was a violation of Lebanon's internal affairs-- it isn't. It's a "violation" of SYRIAN internal affairs. You have a problem with that? If so, why? In any case, Hesbollah's statement was ridiculous (not to mention false).

Change subject. Re the U.N. conducting a "murder investigation", killing Hariri wasn't equivalent to a liquor store robbery gone bad, it's more like an act of war. And Seniora (head of state) asked for the U.N.s assistance. That's why the U.N. got involved. Why do you object so much? Your turn to answer questions.

Posted by: Carlos at June 1, 2007 12:12 PM

quite aside from redaktor, the establishment of the tribunal is not a legal action, but a political one that serves the interests of the majority of the members as they see them, just like any action that the UNSC is taking. the notion of the UN as some sort of "neutral" or "objective" body is outright laughable. it never was and never will be. it so happened that the US and France, for their own reasons wanted the tribunal and the other members did not have major objections, or were traded other things.

i happen to think that it is a good thing, but i doubt that it'll achieve much, or solve lebanon's political problems.

mjt,

the circumstances in lebanon indicate that he is indeed scared, but why given that the UN is toothless?

Posted by: fp/http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ at June 1, 2007 12:21 PM

Carlos: how do you know? He could just as easily be Syrian, and SAY he's Israeli.

He's a right-wing Israeli "realist." You can tell from his other comments on different subjects that he isn't Syrian.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 12:22 PM

you mean a realist like james baker and hamilton? :)

Posted by: fp/http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ at June 1, 2007 12:24 PM

Because Carlos, this is NOT justice, this is a Bolshevik style political Show Trial. The UN is THE MOST corrupt institution on the planet, and allowing this precedent setting Show Trial will come back to bite us, and bite us hard.

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 12:24 PM

fp: the circumstances in lebanon indicate that he is indeed scared, but why given that the UN is toothless?

Probably because he's paranoid, as most dictators are. He also doesn't have many friends, and certainly none that can save him. The Israelis and the Americans could destroy his government in weeks at the outside. Since the UN and France are after him, he fears the US and Israel could get international permission, so to speak, to take him out.

I doubt very much the US or Israel will take him out, but you know paranoid Middle Eastern people can sometimes be.

I think scaring Assad to death is a great thing. It may be the best, if not the only, way to contain him.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 12:30 PM

He's a right-wing Israeli "realist."

If this is true, then I can think of only one reason why he would object to investigating Syria. He's worried that if Israel goes after the Hamas leadership they will also be investigated.

In which case you need not worry, redaktor. When Israel decides to jdam Hamas leaders, they will announce it to the world, and nobody that matters will object because Hamas (unlike Hariri) are a den of terrorists and murderers.

Posted by: Carlos at June 1, 2007 12:30 PM

Red, it is because the Prime Minister went to the UN and aksed them to intervene due to the refusal of the parliment to even convene to vote on the issue. In other words the legally elected representative of Lebanon is abdicating internal lebanese responsibity and putting it in the hands of the UN at his own request.

Posted by: Stymie Jackson at June 1, 2007 12:31 PM

redaktor: this is a Bolshevik style political Show Trial.

What, do you think the Syrians are innocent now?

You are Exhibit A in the case against "realist" foreign policy. Are you going to defend Iran next? Where does it end?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 12:32 PM

Carlos: I can think of only one reason why he would object to investigating Syria.

He already said he wants Syria to take over Lebanon again so the northern border will be "quiet."

Maybe he should ask Iran to take over Gaza for the same reason.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 12:33 PM

Show Trial will come back to bite us, and bite us hard.

A valid point. But I don't see a show trial coming of this, only an investigation into the facts of the matter. Are you worried that Israel will be investigated? I'm not. Israel, a democracy, acts in the light of day-- not in the shadows like Arab thugocracies. This will not come back to bite Israel.

Posted by: Carlos at June 1, 2007 12:36 PM

I am Jewish, pro Israel, pro peace but not through appeasement and I say : Syria in the hands of Baby Assad ( I like the nickname of Baby Assad) or M. Brotherhood is a lost cause. Both are bad and suffocating for Israel and for Lebanon. Lebanon makes peace w/Israel and the whole Syria house of cards falls apart......The dream of "Greater Syria" dissolves (..though it will not go gently into the good night...... Let the chips fall wherever...........

Posted by: shula at June 1, 2007 12:38 PM

Carlos,

I just don't know how you can be so confident, given the history of UN. This sets a very bad precedent. And for what? That fscked up place masquerading as a country?

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 12:46 PM

Stymie,

Why is it up to the Lebanese parliament do decide when and how a criminal murder investigation should be conducted? Where is this heard of?

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 12:53 PM

Redaktor, it is not a criminal murder investiation.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 12:57 PM

Why not, Michael? And if not, then what is it?

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 12:59 PM

I just don't know how you can be so confident, given the history of UN. This sets a very bad precedent. And for what? That fscked up place masquerading as a country?

You make a valid point. LOL! What is good for Lebanon isn't necessarily good for Israel. Yet at the same time Hariri was not Hamas. He did not have blood on his hands and didn't deserve his fate. He deserves an investigation. The same cannot be said of Hamas. Israel is well within its rights to jdam them. The U.N.? Frak em. They will act against Israel no matter what if they get the chance, regardless of precedent. Don't worry, we'll back you up.

Posted by: Carlos at June 1, 2007 01:18 PM

Redaktor,

If the Iranian Revolutionary Guards assassinate George W. Bush, would you expect a routine murder investigation or something a little bit bigger?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 01:19 PM

Let me spell it out for you simply, Redaktor:

Assassinating elected officials in a foreign countries are acts of war.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 01:26 PM

MJT,

Then let Lebanon declare war on Syria.

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 01:37 PM

While, on the whole, I disagree with Redaktor, I do see where he is coming from. He is concerned about the precedent being set that the UN can name and try international criminals. Generally, the UN has limited its trials to "war crimes" or "ethnic cleansing" or "genocide". In this instance, there was no hot war and a single death does not constitute ethnic cleansing or genocide. At best, Hairiri's murder was an act of political assasination. Such assassinations have, historically, not been too uncommon, and Israel (and any number of other governments including the US), in particular, has resorted to this tactic in the past. I believe Redaktor is concerned that this precedent, combined with the long standing hostility of the UN and many of its member nations, toward Israel will presage similar trials against Israeli politicians, military, and leaders.

The rational for the tribunal has less to do with those operatives already in Lebanese custody. Lebanon presumably has the mechanism to try criminals caught within their own jurisdiction, but those who have escaped their jurisdiction to a hostile state that will not cooperate with bringing the perpetrators to justice. After all, if it really were a Cuban nationalist who had shot Kennedy and been caught here in the US, he would have been tried. If he had fled to Cuba and were protected by Castro, it would take international involvement and will to try the perpetrator.

Recently, a former Soviet spy living in Britain was poisoned (his name escapes me). The British authorities believe that another former Soviet spy is responsible. Some theories speculate a political assassination to protect Vladimir Putin and implicate the current Russian regime. Russia refuses to hand over the accused to Britain for trial. Would the Hairiri tribunal be precedent for a UN special tribunal to investigate the murder and try any one who is implicated, up to and including Putin himself?

It appears to me that this is the slippery slope that Redaktor is concerned about. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

I, however, think this is far more fact specific and that it is not susceptible to the broader implications set forth, above. Moreover, I believe that steps (small as this one may be) that lead to an independent Lebanon are, in the long run, to the benefit not only of Lebanon, but the whole middle east. Furthermore, I explicitly disagree with the notion that any stability to the northern border that can be provided by Assad's influence over Lebanon will benefit Israel in the long run. Israel's best interests are served by trying to build friendly relations with democratic regimes in its near vicinity and over the long term. Endlessly supporting tyranical rulers in nearby regimes for short term peace (even 60 years is short term in the life of a nation), is a certain recipe for hostile populaces on your borders, indefinitely.

I don't mean to give short shrift to the difficulties posed by seeking friendly relations with increasingly democratic neighbors. It is certainly a long and painful process and will, in itself, result in distrust as forceful steps must necessarily be taken to secure Israel's security, but selling out Lebanon to appease Assad only delays future conflict or causes it to simmer over a long period of time.

Posted by: IMFink'sPa at June 1, 2007 01:40 PM

Redaktor,

A predictable response.

Should Kuwait have defended itself without aid from Saddam Hussein in 1991?

The Lebanese government is an ally of the US and France. So the US and France will help. If you don't like it, that's just too goddamned bad.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 01:42 PM

With all due respect Michael, if Israel assassinated Ahmedinejad, would we want the UN to set up a tribunal?

Again, while I support the tribunal, I do believe the question is a lot more complex than whether your comparison concerning the Revolutionary Guard. Frankly, were the Revolutionary Guard to assassinate Bush and the person who committed the crime captured in the US, the perpetrator would be tried by US military tribunal and executed and the US would declare war on Iran. There would be no international tribunal, only vengeance and regime change.

Posted by: IMFink'sPa at June 1, 2007 01:45 PM

MJT,

Helping Kuwait is a better response and shows the political aspects of UN action. It was US influence in the UN that made that a UN action, though, it is likely the US would have acted independently without such backing.

Likewise, and mitigating Redaktor's concerns, it takes a political will, and the strong support of the security counsel, to constitute such a tribunal. Accordingly, Israel is unlikely to face such a tribunal for its defensive actions (including assassinations) unless it loses US support (the big Veto). Perhaps Redaktor is concerned that Israel cannot rely on such unwavering support of the US as long as the likes of Jim Baker are still effectively peddling their wares.

Posted by: IMFink'sPa at June 1, 2007 01:48 PM

MJT,

Your comparison with Kuwait is fallacious and ridiculous.

The murder of Hariri does not constitute an invasion or the take over of the country. If the Lebanese government is so concerned with a Syrian invasion or the take over of the country, it could close the border to Syrian goods and personnel, as a first step. But I don't see them even trying.

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 02:09 PM

Syrian-Redaktor axis -that was funny.

I've never heard of a valid reason to keep the UN in existence, though I would be happy if we could kick it out of our country and stop funding it. A hopeless wish, but one can hope. The UN may be the only thing I hold against Harry Truman.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at June 1, 2007 02:28 PM

Redaktor: The murder of Hariri does not constitute an invasion or the take over of the country

Syria did invade and take over the country.

Comparing Lebanon and Kuwait is perfectly reasonable. Both are small countries invaded and annexed by larger countries ruled by the Baath Party.

IMFink'sPa: With all due respect Michael, if Israel assassinated Ahmedinejad, would we want the UN to set up a tribunal?

No. But I would not pretend it was anything other than an act of war either. Nor would I expect the Iranian government to shrug it off or deal with it as a routine murder investigation.

Assassinating Ahmedinejad would be, at least arguably, an act of self-defense.

Rafik Hariri never threatened to nuke Damascus.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 03:03 PM

If, on the other hand, Rafik Hariri had a nuke program up and running in West Beirut and he threatened to erase all of Damascus from the face of the earth, the Syrians would have had a pretty sound reason to bump him off even if they were still illegally occupying Lebanon for their own craven reasons.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 03:08 PM

You are Exhibit A in the case against "realist" foreign policy.

I wouldn't call him a realist. I'd call him a nihilist-nationalist, and a selfish one at that. He'd rather defend himself against the possibility - even an obscure and unlikely one - of accountability against Israel, or opposition to Israel from an arguably perceived moral actor, and doesn't mind allowing the rest of the world to self-destruct - they all deserve it, along with, he probably guesses, most of his own country, the leftists, the media, cowardly politicians, activist judges, Sehpardi, freeloaders, and everyone else except his posse of strong men.

He reminds me of Dick Cheney.

Posted by: glasnost at June 1, 2007 03:26 PM

At least Dick Cheney doesn't support the Baathist domination of Lebanon. Nor does he parrot Hezbollah propaganda.

Redaktor has his own time zone.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 03:41 PM

mjt,

doesn't his link to iran give him some measure of confidence? the iranians are handling the us and israel quite well, although my guess is there is a lot of bluff involved, as is usually the case in the ME.

i dk much about the internals in syria, but my impression is that he's in quite good control, so that could not be a cause.

Posted by: fp/http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ at June 1, 2007 03:54 PM

I think that Mike is right - assasinating a national leader is an act of war, and the UN exists to stop unlawful aggression on the part of one country against another. This tribunal is not only a good thing in abstractia for Lebanon/Syria, but a good thing for the example it sets, not a bad one.

The only remaining question are the pragmatic consequences. If it kills a lot of Lebanese and Syrians, its ultimate wisdom will come into question.

Posted by: glasnost at June 1, 2007 03:59 PM

carlos,

don't be so sure.

even if israel acts in the light of day there are enough anti-zionists/semites out there who live in parallel realities.

BBC -- only hamas is more anti-israel -- has just come with the story that israel conspired with the palestinian terrorists to hijack the plane to entebbe for some cockomamy political manipulation purposes.

mental illness is taking over.

Posted by: fp/http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ at June 1, 2007 04:01 PM

fink,

which is why israel is not very likely to assassinate the jerk, isn't it?

Posted by: fp/http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ at June 1, 2007 04:04 PM

mjt,

playing the devil's advocate here: as i was suggesting earlier, if lebanon is syria's economic survival, and hariri was going to endanger it...

Posted by: fp/http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ at June 1, 2007 04:08 PM

hey, glas,

and i guess that all that you learned out of sources, huh?

rofl

Posted by: fp/http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ at June 1, 2007 04:10 PM

playing the devil's advocate here: as i was suggesting earlier, if lebanon is syria's economic survival, and hariri was going to endanger it...

Using that logic, a mafia don can kill a furniture store owner who won't pay protection money and claim "self-defense."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 04:14 PM

Morally it's the right decision. However, it is a violation of a states sovereignty and could set a precedent that will hurt nations that engage in assassinations.

Although the Lebanese don't really seem to care much for their country's (if you can call it that) sovereignty, so it's not much of a problem here.

Posted by: tg at June 1, 2007 04:48 PM

The UN is anything but a moral actor. Anyone who knows how the UN works, knows its record, knows who are its members, and can still claim that the UN could and should be perceived as a moral impartial judicial actor, is not someone I would view as sincere.

And that's the end of the discussion, as far as I'm concerned.

Posted by: redaktor at June 1, 2007 05:08 PM

mjt,

no, no, no. i was not presuming he had the right to do it!!!!!

i was just applying your own logic: you said if hariri threatened syria with nukes it would be ok. under this logic, threatening syria with economic failure would not be different FROM ASSAD's standpoint (NOT MINE). to him destruction is destruction.

my point is that if we ended up killing any politicians who threatens with destruction, we would be knee deep in UN tribunals, not to mention wars.

so in order to justify hariri tribunal we cannot except murders of even those who threaten, or it's a slippery slope.

Posted by: fp/http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ at June 1, 2007 05:18 PM

fp: no, no, no. i was not presuming he had the right to do it!!!!!

Yes, I know, you said you were playing Devil's Advocate. I'm sure Assad does see it that way. I realize you do not.

I'm not particularly worried about a slippery slope here leading to a UNSCR tribunal against Israel for killing, say, a terrorist like Hassan Nasrallah. In order for such a tribunal to pass, the United States would have to vote for it.

I'm about 90 percent sure even France would not vote for that, especially with Sarkozy and Kouchner in charge of foreign policy there.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 1, 2007 05:33 PM

I sympathize with the anti-tribunal argument offered by redaktor because I'm extremely pro-Israel. But Michael's response satisfies me because the Seniora government is also our ally. We've got to look out for all our peeps, not just Israel.

Posted by: Carlos at June 1, 2007 06:19 PM

i am not concerned about israel, but rather with a general principle.

Posted by: fp/http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ at June 1, 2007 06:42 PM

i am not concerned about israel, but rather with a general principle.

So am I. I see no comparison between Israel knocking off a nuclear mullah vs Syria killing Hariri. The act of assassination is the same, but the targets are vastly different. So I have no problem treating both actors differently on principle. One is an act of genuine self-defense, the other is tantamount to a mafiosi killing an uncooperative shop owner (as per MJT). But I do acknowledge redaktor's point that the Israel haters out there would fail to make that distinction.

Posted by: Carlos at June 1, 2007 06:47 PM

if you are, why are you back to israel as an example?

anyway, you may not have any problem, but others may.

Posted by: fp/http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ at June 1, 2007 07:55 PM

If I understood your question I'd answer it. It seems a non sequitor.

Posted by: Carlos at June 1, 2007 10:20 PM

I wouldn't dismiss a Chapter 7 resolution, Joel. It gives potential legal entry to Syria under the UN Charter. It's good step in isolating Syria.

Posted by: Abu Nudnik at June 2, 2007 09:15 AM

Anyone who knows how the UN works, knows its record, knows who are its members, and can still claim that the UN could and should be perceived as a moral impartial judicial actor, is not someone I would view as sincere.

Should is a complicated question, and it can be set aside.

Could - of course it can. The United States does immoral things regularly and is still often viewed as a moral actor. Hell, there are probably Iranians, and even non-Iranians, in selected areas, who view Iran as a moral actor.

Assad wouldn't be afraid of the UN if not for the higher level of moral legitimacy acts done under its imprimatur confer.

And you wouldn't be afraid of it, either.

We'll leave "should" aside, for now, except to say that almost everyone's hand on the international stage is a bloody and ashamed one, differing only in frequency and degree. Yet morality remains relevant and affects decisions, so clearly claims of immorality and amoralism are missing something.

Posted by: glasnost at June 2, 2007 10:09 AM

Does the creation of this UN tribunal seem to announce that Lebanon is a bit more under a protective wing of the Western powers?

And what does this say to Syrian pals in Iraq and Iran?

And how crazy could Assad get if he starts thinking he may be in danger of going to way of Milosevic?

Posted by: erik at June 2, 2007 10:41 AM

my suggestion to treat glasnost as a troll is reiterated.

Posted by: fp\http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ at June 2, 2007 11:26 AM

Glasnost is not a troll.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 2, 2007 12:05 PM

May we vote as to whether or not FP is one?

Posted by: Ron Snyder at June 2, 2007 01:41 PM

glasnost,

There's no morality in the UN, only political expediency. Political expediency that is now tied ever so tightly to political corruption and petro dollar influence peddling. Of course, YOU COULD put lipstick on a pig, strut it on the catwalk, and call it a fashion show. Who knows, some idiot might buy into it. Should you, is a more "complicated" question. But since you've already given your answer as affirmative, it seems that our conundrum has already been solved.

Posted by: redaktor at June 2, 2007 03:22 PM

There's no morality in the UN, only political expediency.

Kind of a generalization, ain't it?

Now, my quote again:

Assad wouldn't be afraid of the UN if not for the higher level of moral legitimacy acts done under its imprimatur confer.

Do you disagree? If so, why is Assad afraid of the tribunal? Or is he not, in fact, afraid of it? Would you care to construct a coherent disagreement? I don't think you do. Your loathing of the UN is cute, but it has little bearing on the dynamics of the international situation at hand, except that it leads you to sympathize with the Syrians over the UN. In fact, beyond that, it actively impedes your ability to understand what's going on here, and why.

Posted by: glasnost at June 2, 2007 10:12 PM

I'm not a big fan of the UN either, but it sure as hell beats the Baath Party.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 2, 2007 10:27 PM

glasnost,

There's nothing going on here other than a political show trial. Bought and paid for by the Saudis. Should Assad be worried? Of course he should. Anyone familiar with the UN and its Orwellian machinations would be worried. You might think it cute, but I see the implications of this as down right sinister.

Posted by: redaktor at June 2, 2007 10:34 PM

Redaktor,

Look up "show trial" in the dictionary.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 2, 2007 10:42 PM

Michael,

We all know Syria is guilty. So why bother with a trial?

Posted by: redaktor at June 2, 2007 10:51 PM

Michael --

I am surprised you missed what Baby Assad fears most: an internal coup.

The UN Tribunal could be used against him by someone who promises better, more effective leadership and getting rid of that inconvenient tribunal by sacrificing Assad. Recall that Baby Assad was not his father's first choice, but rather his elder brother who died in a "car accident" and there are likely many in the regime who would like a shot at the top seat. The tribunal is a threat and the starting gun for the internal succession race to unseat Baby Assad.

I doubt for a second that Baby Assad fears either the Israeli Government which could not find it's read end in the dark with a map, flashlight, and instructions, or the GWB Administration which is hamstrung by a Democratic Congress and Peace Now!! Media.

Now the hard men who kill for him, that's another story.

That being said, the UN Tribunal as anything more useful than a warm bucket of spit, or an excuse to grab the top seat from the Opthamologist, is a joke. What troops, political will, logistics, experienced command, and so on does the UN command to make it's demands actually stick? The UN's sorry experience in "peacekeeping" is a total joke, worse than pathetic. The Vatican's Swiss Guards are likely more militarily effective. The UN can issue at best an indictment (more likely, a "sharply worded letter of regret") and whoever runs Syria can laugh at it like he can laugh at the Holy Roman Empire.

The UN exists to: launder money for kleptocrats, various anti-Semitic, anti-American talk shops, boondoggle for corrupt politicos to live high in NYC, and sex-abuse rings for pedophiles (who've infiltrated UN Peacekeeping missions since the 1980's). The record of pedophiles preying on refugee children in peacekeeping missions particularly the well-documented Congo fiasco is instructive: effective and robust organizations do not tolerate this sort of thing, corrupt jokes do.

My prediction: there will be a SERIOUS effort to get rid of Assad by someone ambitious in his circle, and the Iranians/Hezbollah will have to decide to allow it or stop it. This is the real game boys, not the idiotic UN, which is a clown show without much meaning.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at June 2, 2007 10:55 PM

Redaktor,

Chapter 7 abrogates Syrian sovereignty and subjects a rogue state the rule of law. It creates a punishment mechanism that can be, in theory, implemented with military force.

It is step one toward internationally sanctioned regime change.

If you want Assad to stop pushing you, push back. If you keep rewarding and appeasing him he won't ever stop. That's just how the Middle East works.

I know you hate Lebanon. But you hate Lebanon in large part for what Syria did to it whether you realize it or not.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 2, 2007 11:19 PM

MJT,

I don't hate Lebanon, I just know it to be a fraud. Everything about it is a fraud and a masquerade. Just like the UN and its selective application and enforcement of the law thru its criminal members. It is deserving of derision and scorn, and nothing less.

Posted by: redaktor at June 3, 2007 07:09 AM

Just like the UN and its selective application and enforcement of the law

Selective application and enforcement of the law is found everywhere laws are made and enforced. By that reasoning, every state in the world is a fraud, so why have laws and states?

I understand hating the UN for the political limitations on its ability to follow its own charter, but I don't sympathize with it. Not even a little. On blog forums, your POV is often called a "purity troll", people who advocate to destroy basically good institutions and practices because they fail, without having anything to replace them, or for that matter really caring at all about the consequences. It's analogous to radical anarchists who want to dissolve the U.S. government because it's often slow, inconvenient and dishonest, or anti-globalization activists who know they hate the symptom but whose solutions would often involve global impoverishment.

Your contempt and scorn, in fact, blind you.

Posted by: glasnost at June 3, 2007 02:10 PM

Just like the UN and its selective application and enforcement of the law

Selective application and enforcement of the law is found everywhere laws are made and enforced. By that reasoning, every state in the world is a fraud, so why have laws and states?

I understand hating the UN for the political limitations on its ability to follow its own charter, but I don't sympathize with it. Not even a little. On blog forums, your POV is often called a "purity troll", people who advocate to destroy basically good institutions and practices because they fail, without having anything to replace them, or for that matter really caring at all about the consequences. It's analogous to radical anarchists who want to dissolve the U.S. government because it's often slow, inconvenient and dishonest, or anti-globalization activists who know they hate the symptom but whose solutions would often involve global impoverishment.

Your contempt and scorn, in fact, blind you.

Posted by: glasnost at June 3, 2007 02:12 PM

glasnost,

You're right to argue that not every law can be enforced 100% of the time, but that's not really what I was arguing. My argument draws the parallel that in the UN the thugs and the criminals are the cops and the cops get to be exempt from the law. Anyone that wants to argue that this somehow advances the pursuit of justice is not someone to carry a conversation with. And this where I end it with you.

Posted by: redaktor at June 3, 2007 02:55 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member



Testimonials

"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

"Terrific"
Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere


Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com


News Feeds




toysforiraq.gif



Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button

totten_button.jpg


Tip Jar





Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn