Wikileaks founder Julian Assange may have scooped a rare interview with Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah recently (it was sometime in late February in fact) but he did Lebanon few favors. He focused on Nasrallah’s stances on Syria for the main part, ignoring the party’s awkward domination of Lebanese politics, its illegal weapons and its links to the murder of a former Lebanese prime minister.
Assange was, as ever, blinded by his default agenda of going after those evil Americans and ended up painting a warped picture of Nasrallah as a modest and reasonable revolutionary, one who is unfairly vilified. Western liberals and America haters might applaud, but the interview will not have fooled those Lebanese whose aspirations to build a genuine sovereign and democratic nation have been suffocated by the party’s refusal to fully join the national consensus.
Naturally, it did not suit Assange to quiz Nasrallah on the fact that four Hezbollah members have been indicted by an international court for their involvement in the 2005 killing of former PM Rafik Hariri. Nor did he ask Nasrallah about the legitimacy of his party’s impressive arsenal, one that Hezbollah continues build in preparation for a final showdown with Israel few Lebanese want but one in which they would have little say should it come to pass. At the end of the day, Assange is all big picture. He and Nasrallah both enjoy sticking it to the US, so who cares about the uncomfortable details?
Assange referred to Nasrallah as a “leader in war” but forgot to remind viewers that Nasrallah is not a public official and certainly has no constitutional right to a say in Lebanese foreign affairs. There was no mention of the 2006 war with Israel, a conflict that Hezbollah started unilaterally and that cost Lebanon over 1,000 dead.
Most of the discussion surrounded Hezbollah’s more hagiographic achievements, its martial heroics in its battle with Israel in the Jewish State’s self-imposed security zone in South Lebanon in the 1980s and 90s. There were certainly no problematic questions about the party’s activities on the streets of West Beirut and elsewhere in the country at the end of the first week of May 2008, when, in its bid to topple a government with which it had finally lost patience, the weapons it said it was loathe to use on civilians were used to kill innocents.
Of the Resistance itself, we were treated to a description of local farmhands turned guerilla fighters to defend all that they held dear, bamboozling the Israelis with their humorous local jargon. It might not have been the French freedom fighters taking on the occupying Nazis, but then again that is the sort of narrative Nasrallah wants Western liberals to buy into.
Another sleight of hand was Nasrallah’s heartfelt claim that his party never got involved in the grubbiness of local politics until 2005, and only then to protect the integrity of the Resistance. What he failed to mention was that until then his party’s activities were underwritten by a Syrian presence in Lebanon that had lasted one year shy of three decades. Still, clearly there are occupiers, and then there are occupiers.
And what of his views on Syria? Nasrallah, the reasonable chap that he is, demanded that both sides enter into dialogue, reminding us that President Bashar al-Assad has pledged “radical reform,” the inference being that the regime is ready to talk but it’s those dangerous rebels who just want to prolong the bloodshed.
For the Assange-ites, it was an answer that fitted neatly into a worldview of Nasrallah being a humble man from a poor, multi-confessional suburb of Beirut. It was a place, he said, where he first identified the injustice meted out to the Palestinians. What a guy!
For the record, Hezbollah is a militant theocracy with a supreme leader. It has bulldozed its way to the top of Lebanon’s political system by showing a complete disdain for the democratic process and total reliance on the very real threat to deliver violence to whoever stands in its way. It has created a compelling narrative for its rank and file, one built around purity, heroism, martyrdom, resistance and dignity, but the reality is that its military wing is an adjunct of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and a pawn in Tehran’s regional standoff with Israel.