Another Bomb in Beirut: Roll Out the Media Boilerplate

You will hear repeated everywhere in the mainstream media all over the world that another "anti-Syrian" Lebanese leader was killed by a massive car bomb in Beiruit on Wednesday. The Guardian is early out of the blocks with this report:

An anti-Syrian Lebanese MP was assassinated today and nine others killed when a car bomb exploded in Beirut. In one of the deadliest such attacks since the murder of the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri,more than two years ago, the MP, Walid Eido was killed as a car bomb detonated as his vehicle drove by, near the seafront in the Lebanese capital.

His eldest son, two bodyguards and six bystanders were also killed in the explosion, which tore open shop fronts and sent debris raining down on the surrounding area. At least 11 other people were wounded, security sources said.

A savage act indeed. But as with so many of the series of assassinations of "anti-Syrian" politicians in Lebanon, the victim, Walid Eido (or 'Idu) was actually a passionate "pro-Syrian" politician throughout most of his career – as was former prime minister Rafik Hariri, whose assassination transformed him from a shady character hip-deep in corruption charges, collusion with Syria and murky Saudi ties into a blessed martyr for pure democracy and unfettered Lebanese sovereignty.

But Lebanese-born As'ad AbuKhalil, the "Angry Arab," who is actually related to Walid Eido by marriage, tells a far different tale of Eido's career – and Hariri's – than you will see in a Western newspaper. Here's some of the background that AbuKhalil provides:

'Idu is not new to Lebanese politics. He was involved in militia politics during the war years…and he lived his life as a staunch Nasserist Arab nationalist until his conversion three years ago. While serving as a judge, he joined the Nasserist Murabitun militia, although it is illegal for judges in Lebanon to join political parties. But he was aware of that. So he used a code name: Rudwan Sa'adah. Rudwan Sa'adah was listed as one of the leaders of the Murabitun militia during the war years. People from that era and that organization believe that he was responsible for some decrees in the realm of militia "justice" during the war years.

As a judge, he had a bad reputation -- a good reputation if you are a defendant who wanted a convenient ruling. He had a reputation for offering verdicts that suited "clients" but for a fee. It was that reputation that got Rafiq Hariri interested in him when Hariri was searching for judges who could help him in the illegal expropriation of property in downtown Beiurt. Hariri put him on his parliamentary list in the 2000 election. During those years, he was one of the closest allies of the Syrian intelligence in Lebanon. One colleague of 'Idu (a member of the Hariri parliamentary bloc) told me that `Idu was known for offering the military salute (and he would click his heels too) whenever he would meet with a Syrian mukhabarat functionary. But 'Idu was good in the quick transformation that many politicians of his ilk made after the assassination of Rafiq Hariri: he went from being one of the most passionate advocates of the Syrian regime, to one of the most passionate advocates against the Syrian regime.

It could well be that Syria is behind the latest bombing – although every such incident, beginning with the Hariri assassination, has only led to a further erosion of Syria's fading influence in Lebanon and a further isolation of Syria's ruling regime. Perhaps that regime, led by the dullard son of a former leader, is stupid enough to keep following a policy of violent aggression that is patently against its own best interests and only does it harm; after all, the American regime, led by the dullard son of a former leader, is stupid enough to do precisely this, on a massive scale, year after year.

But there are many other players in the dirty game of proxy war which foreign powers have long been staging on Lebanese soil; and Lebanon's own domestic politics, rife with unresolved conflicts spawned by years of civil war, is a fertile seedbed of factional violence. Yet the automatic assumption that every political murder in Lebanon is the work of Syria remains the unalterable basis of every mainstream news story on the subject. Once again, AbuKhalil does us yeoman service in showing the true, complex and many-shaded reality that lies behind the boilerplate.