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Lebanon: Who Killed Francois Hajj and Why?

Lebanon grabs the international headlines again, with another assassination. Who was killed and why? Who is blaming whom and what have the region's bloggers got to say.

Lebanon's army chief of operations General François Hajj, who was tipped to be the next head of the country's army, was killed in a car bomb-assassination. According to news reports: “it was the first time that the Lebanese army, which is widely seen as the only force capable of holding the country together, had been a target, representing the worst crisis since the civil war.” Hajj‘s assassination also has a rippling effect on the doldrums paralysing the selection of Lebanon's next president. The 55-year-old Maronite Catholic was a potential candidate to succeed the army commander Michel Suleiman, who could be appointed president.

The region's citizen journalists were quick to point fingers at everyone – from Israel and the US to the usual suspects – political foes, Syria, Iran, Hezbullah and Al Qaeda.

Assassinating Salvation:

Blacksmith Jade expresses her shock and is clear about who she thinks is behind the carnage. She writes:

It’s not easy to quantify the sense of shock, desperation, and fear that this most recent ‘hit’ [on Lebanese Army Brigadier General Francois el Hajj] by the Syrian killing machine has rendered on the country.

Indeed, for a country now all too used to the roving bands of assassins striking at its politicians [while other politicians quickly move to exploit their murder], this latest assassination has struck a particular chord. Echoing off the Army’s recent victory against a malicious terrorist cell in Nahr el Bared, and striking at the one institution in which most Lebanese had placed their faith for their salvation. A salvation they had pursued so far as to propose the amendment of the constitution, in order to bring to the nation’s head the man at the head of that [perceived] salvation.

This latest assassination is what it always is: Syria’s use of death, terror, and destruction to try and keep the Lebanese “in line”.

Complete Brutal Domination:

Along similar lines, and in more detail – including how inter-Arab relations come to play, Tony Bey explains the motives behind the assassination here.

The bottom line is that Syria's only conception of its relationship to Lebanon is complete brutal domination, where Syria decides every single minutae of Lebanese life, including who gets to be president, prime minister, speaker, Army Commander, security officials, election law, cabinet make-up, cabinet portfolios, cabinet policy statement, etc. This is precisely the threat Bashar relayed to Rafik Hariri in their last meeting before he ordered his killing: I alone decide who Lebanon's president is, and if you disagree, I will break Lebanon over your heads.

This is the framework within which the assassination has to be placed, along with another parallel, inter-Arab framework..

3.5 Theories on Who Killed Hajj:

Beirut Spring‘s Mustapha shares with us his 3.5 theories on who the assassins could be. They range from Syria, to Israel and America to Al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalists. The final 0.5 “suspect” is former President Fouad Siniora, who gets an honorary mention here:

Honorary mention, Theory 3.5: The Evil Saniora

Who killed him: Fouad Seniora’s negligence
Why he did it: To undermine the Christians and monopolize power.
Why it’s plausible: It’s always Seniora’s fault
Who believes this theory: Michel Aoun
Why the theory could be in doubt: …

His readers add a few more “suspects” in the comments section.

Lebanese-Palestinian Politics to Blame?

Lebanese commentator and Angry Arab, Assad Abu Khalil, weighs in. He blames Lebanese-Palestinian politics for the incident.

Who killed Francois Al-Hajj, chief-of-operations for the Lebanese Army? Nobody knows of course. He certainly was not close to the Hariri camp; and there is the widely circulated reference to an article in As-Siyasah (from January 26th, 2007) in which he was identified as an enemy of March 14. Personally, I think the explanation may be found not in Lebanese politics, but in Lebanese-Palestinian politics. I had predicted when the Lebanese Army (supported by March 8th and March 14th–government and opposition alike) was destroying the Nahr Al-Barid camp that the horrors would produce a new vengeful organization, just as Black September was born out of the Jordanian massacres of Palestinians. Al-Hajj had a key role in the Lebanese Army operations in Nahr Al-Barid.

Bombs Give Way to Other Bombs:

Egyptian D B Shobrawy tackles the issue from a different aspect. He explains:

People have trouble understanding the fragility of the Middle East sometimes. Lebanon especially is a country whose political structure demands chaos. The constitution requires a Maronite Christian president, a Sunni prime minister and a Shi’a speaker. Positions along religious lines go straight down to the military as well. The most powerful position in the country is represented by a small minority and I dont have to tell you how sensitive religious identities are in this region…Now consider that the different groups in this country have a very difficult time getting along and EVERYONE has guns in their home. A friend of mine has a couple AK-47’s, a M-16, some other assorted machine guns, 3 Desert Eagle’s and 2 rocket launchers…and his family are a bunch of well off bankers and business owners.
All we can do now is sit and wait to see what happens next. Bombs have a way of giving way to other bombs, hopefully this bomb doesnt give birth to more.

Video Footage:

Finkployd, from Lebanon, brings us video footage from the assassination scene in this post.

Simple Idea for the Simple-Minded:

Frustrated with dead-end investigations into car bombs, Lebanonesque‘s JoseyWales shares his thoughts on how to pin down culprits:

Asking for special or expanded powers to search for weapons, explosives and political assassins is still not high up on the government’s priority list…
After your now routine car-bomb and routine condemnations, the other very familiar story: people arrested in connection with the exploded car, people claim they sold the car to unknown, people released, end of story and end of investigative track…
It’s getting to be boring by now, in each car-bomb murder the sales chain ends with a guy who sold it to “unknown” for cash.

(H)ow about making it ILLEGAL to sell to “unknown”, like after the 4th or 5th or 6th car-bomb. We are now at number 12 or 14 depending on how you count.
How difficult is it to pass a law that puts the (or some) responsibility of these crimes on the last KNOWN idiot in the chain of sales. You are selling your car? By law, you will need to know the name of the buyer and ID him/her. Make a lapse punishable by 10 years in jail or even by a death sentence for all I care.

More reactions can also be found here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

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