Friday, September 20, 2013

My interview with Hassan Nasrallah, as published in Folha de S.Paulo

This is my interview with Hassan Nasrallah, as published in Folha de S.Paulo (or "the main parts of the interview", as Folha says).

Note from the Author: I will refrain from posting here the two accompanying articles, because they would have to carry a disclaimer I have no time to make right now. As a quick summary: both pieces written by me were heavily edited by Folha, prompting me to threaten a lawsuit. Folha changed several of my words because, according to the editor on an email to me, an order "came from above". One of those changes deserves a special mention: the '82 Israeli invasion of Lebanon became an "intervention." Like the Ministry of Truth in Oceania, Folha tried to change the present by defrauding the past, pretending the invasion had never happened. After several emails among me, the owner of the newspaper (Frias), its ombudsman (Ajzenberg) and my direct editor (Malbergier), I was finally allowed a mere 800 characters to write a correction on the page 3 of the newspaper. Among other things, I taught Folha that if they bothered reading Israeli newspapers, they would know that the very Jerusalem Post calls the invasion an invasion. But if reading newspapers wasn't a thing done by Folha's journalist, they could then just check the Britannica Encyclopedia. Yet should none of that suffice to convince them, they could have just read Sharon's biography - there, too, the very invader refers to the invasion as an invasion. Yeah, folks, you have no idea how captured the Brazilian media is. No idea.


22/06/2003 - 09h06

Plano dos EUA pode levar à guerra civil palestina, diz Hizbollah

PAULA SCHMITT
free-lance para a Folha de S.Paulo, em Beirute

Leia a seguir os principais trechos da entrevista que o secretário-geral do Hizbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, concedeu à Folha em Beirute, no último dia 10. (PS)

Folha - O que o sr. acha do plano que foi proposto pelos EUA para a retomada do processo de paz israelo-palestino?
Hassan Nasrallah
- Acreditamos que a intenção do plano seja liquidar a Intifada palestina [revolta popular contra a ocupação israelense] e, como os grupos palestinos, temos nossas reservas.
A proposta exige que o governo palestino e a resistência se desarmem, protegendo a ocupação israelense, os assentamentos e os soldados israelenses, e isso pode levar a uma guerra civil na Palestina.
Os palestinos e israelenses vão se sentar à mesa de negociação e vão discutir questões que Sharon [o premiê israelense] já declarou serem inegociáveis, como o direito de retorno dos refugiados palestinos, o fim definitivo dos assentamentos e a insistência de considerar Jerusalém como capital unicamente de Israel. Portanto, mesmo que a proposta dos EUA proponha um caminho para a negociação, ela vem com impedimentos decisivos.


Folha - Então o sr. concorda com a posição do Hamas [grupo terrorista palestino] de não aceitar discutir o plano?
Nasrallah
- Nós apoiamos o diálogo tanto entre os grupos palestinos como entre os grupos palestinos e a Autoridade Nacional Palestina. É claro que a recente posição do Hamas foi uma reação direta ao discurso de Abu Mazen [premiê palestino] em Ácaba [cidade jordaniana onde os premiês israelense e palestino se reuniram, com a presença do presidente George W. Bush, e aceitaram retomar o processo de paz tendo como base o plano proposto pelos EUA]. Mazen se encontrou com o Hamas antes de ir a Ácaba, criou toda uma expectativa positiva sobre a sua posição em relação ao plano dos EUA, mas depois o discurso ficou diferente. Isso fez com que o Hamas se sentisse como se tivesse sido esfaqueado pelas costas, insultado.


Folha - Existe alguma chance de o Hizbollah algum dia aceitar o Estado de Israel?
Nasrallah
- Antes de 1948 não havia nenhum Estado com esse nome. Havia a Palestina e o povo da Palestina, que incluía cristãos, muçulmanos e judeus. Eles coexistiram por centenas de anos em paz. Daí veio o movimento sionista e organizou grupos terroristas do mundo inteiro. Eles começaram a agir intimidando os palestinos e os expulsando da sua própria terra. Portanto, nós consideramos tal Estado ilegítimo, ilegal. Ele foi estabelecido usurpando a terra de outros.
Mas isso pertence ao passado. O que nós esperamos, no futuro, é a solução do problema. Defendemos a existência de um só país, que vá do mar Mediterrâneo até o rio Jordão, e que inclua muçulmanos, cristãos e judeus. Que seja um Estado democrático, em que a maioria da população possa escolher o tipo de governo que desejar, seja ele religioso ou secular, mas democrático.


Folha - O Hizbollah aceitaria se desarmar em troca de U$ 500 milhões, como foi sugerido pelo deputado americano de origem libanesa Darrel Issa?
Nasrallah
- Nós vemos essa proposta como um insulto. A resistência, as armas da resistência e a força de vontade da resistência não podem ser medidas nem substituídos com dinheiro. A resistência é uma reação à invasão do Líbano e às suas repercussões: a ocupação, os prisioneiros, a destruição da infra-estrutura, centenas de milhares de mártires e feridos, centenas de milhares de refugiados. Qualquer solução que se queira dar à resistência tem de envolver a remoção das razões que levaram a isso, não há solução através de dinheiro. Existem muitas famílias que ofereceram seus filhos como mártires na resistência. Eu sou um deles. Dá para eu aceitar vender meu filho martirizado ao sr. Darrel Issa por US$ 500 milhões?


Folha - O sr. disse, em um de seus discursos, que, no Líbano, "nós temos orgulho da unidade nacional entre as diferentes confissões". De fato, estão todos unidos contra o Estado de Israel. Mas e se a população do Líbano decidir que está satisfeita com um possível acordo de paz entre palestinos e Israel, e o Líbano decidir assinar um tratado de paz também?
Nasrallah
- O que importa é que os palestinos aceitem o acordo de paz, não os libaneses. Qualquer solução tem de ter o apoio dos palestinos, mas até agora esse apoio não existe. Não há um só palestino que aceite um acordo que não inclua o direito de retorno à sua própria terra, ou que abra mão da cidade de Jerusalém. De qualquer maneira, o que está sendo proposto agora, tanto para os palestinos como para os libaneses ou sírios, não satisfaz à maioria das populações de nenhum desses países.


Folha - Agora, com relação a algo que envolve o Brasil diretamente, o Hizbollah recebe doações da Tríplice Fronteira [região entre Brasil, Argentina e Paraguai onde há uma importante comunidade islâmica]?
Nasrallah
- Os libaneses que moram nessa área emigraram por causa das dificuldades econômicas no Líbano e por causa da guerra. Mal conseguem alimentar toda a família que têm no Líbano. Não existe doação nenhuma vinda dessa área.


Folha - A sua luta é contra a injustiça ou contra os "infiéis"? Por que o Hizbollah não combate a opressão em países árabes, como a que existia contra os xiitas no Iraque de Saddam Hussein?
Nasrallah
- O Hizbollah se estabeleceu no Líbano por causa da invasão israelense. Como você sabe, eles ocuparam uma grande parte do território libanês, entraram na capital, Beirute, mataram dezenas de milhares de pessoas, cometeram genocídio [Israel nega ter cometido genocídio durante a invasão do Líbano em 1982], destruíram várias cidades. No que diz respeito a lutar contra injustiças, existem vários aspectos da injustiça no nosso país e na nossa região, mas a injustiça pode ser combatida de maneiras diferentes. Às vezes, recorrer às armas para combater certa injustiça é prejudicial. Nós temos os meios políticos, o meio popular, até a mídia é um veículo para combater injustiça.


Folha - Se Israel deixar a área de Shebaa [região ocupada por Israel que, segundo a ONU, é síria, mas, segundo o Hizbollah, é libanesa], o Hizbollah vai continuar lutando pelos palestinos?
Nasrallah
- A razão da existência do Hizbollah é defensiva. Desde a retirada de Israel em 2000, ainda existem algumas operações militares nas fronteiras, e na área de Shebaa. Israel também mantém prisioneiros libaneses, temos o problema dos 300 mil refugiados palestinos no Líbano, sofremos violações diárias do território libanês, assim como bombardeio na fronteira e a ameaça constante de guerra. Alguns meses atrás, o Líbano quis usar uma parte da água do Wazzani, um rio pequeno que nasce no Líbano e vai para a Palestina. É direito do Líbano usar uma parte daquela água, assegurado por acordos internacionais, e o governo libanês tentou usar menos do que o que lhe cabe. Sharon pessoalmente ameaçou com guerra. Então nós estamos num país que é ameaçado e nós estamos na posição de defendê-lo. No que diz respeito à questão da Palestina, é o povo palestino que luta para liberar a sua terra, como os libaneses lutaram para liberar a sua. É claro que é dever de todos nós apoiá-los, mas ninguém deveria lutar no lugar de ninguém.


Folha - Alguns analistas acreditam que, com um eventual acordo entre Israel e Palestina, o Hizbollah perderia a razão de ser.
Nasrallah
- Isso não é verdade. O Hizbollah administra vários conselhos municipais e participa das áreas sociais, educacionais e de saúde. O Hizbollah tem uma plataforma política no Líbano e é atualmente o maior partido político do país.


Folha - O Hizbollah é a favor de uma república islâmica no Líbano?
Nasrallah
- É natural que nós aspiremos, em teoria, a um Estado islâmico. Mas nós também acreditamos que um Estado muçulmano não pode ser uma imposição. As pessoas precisam acreditar nesse projeto. Veja por exemplo o caso do Irã. Foi o povo iraniano que derrubou o regime do xá [Reza Pahlevi]. Não foi um golpe de Estado, foram dezenas de milhões de iranianos. Depois, numa eleição livre, os iranianos elegeram um conselho de especialistas, que redigiu a Constituição, adotada pelo Estado islâmico e aprovada em referendo. Se o povo libanês desejar um Estado islâmico, então eles terão. Mas isso nunca vai ser uma imposição.


Folha - Então uma república islâmica no Líbano permitiria que os cristãos tivessem seus próprios costumes, igrejas, regras sobre casamento, divórcio, herança?
Nasrallah
- Em primeiro lugar, não existe clima no Líbano para um Estado islâmico, mas eu posso falar sobre a experiência no Irã. Os cristãos têm suas próprias igrejas, sua própria entidade social e política, praticam seus ritos, até os judeus têm suas próprias cortes religiosas e membros no Parlamento, mesmo sendo uma minoria pequena. Os direitos civis são iguais aos dos muçulmanos.


Folha - Quando o seu filho morreu lutando contra Israel, a sua reação foi de uma resignação praticamente sobre-humana. Seu sorriso chegou a virar notícia. Mas, na intimidade, como Hassan Nasrallah reagiu? O sr. acredita que se deve ter prazer neste mundo, ou tudo que se espera é a vida após a morte prometida no Alcorão? O sr. consegue pensar em coisas mais temporais como a felicidade e o conforto?
Nasrallah
- Antes de o meu filho ter sido martirizado em 1997 [o verbo "morrer" praticamente não existe para se referir a muçulmanos que morrem lutando contra Israel], por 15 anos eu vinha dando adeus a outros mártires. Com todos eles eu me senti como se eles fossem meus filhos e irmãos. É claro que com Hadi tive um sentido de perda diferente, porque ele é meu filho direto. Mas todos foram martirizados pela causa em que acreditamos. Nós temos de nos satisfazer com a escolha de Deus. Eu pessoalmente sinto a dor de perdê-los, posso até chorar em segredo, mas, no campo de batalha, militar ou político, temos de ser fortes e resolutos.
Quanto à noção que você apresentou, o islã é uma religião para esta vida e a próxima. O Alcorão prega aos fiéis que aproveitem o que Deus lhes deu, as coisas boas, sem cair em pecado. O islã tem uma noção diferente do cristianismo, até no que diz respeito ao clero. Nós não temos monges no islã, reclusão. O homem [religioso] pode viver uma vida natural, casar, ter filhos, comprar e vender, ser ativo na política. Mas a vida após a morte tem uma posição especial no coração dos muçulmanos porque é eterna, enquanto esta vida é temporal, limitada.


Folha - O sr. acredita que aqueles que seguem dogmas religiosos, como rezar cinco vezes ao dia, estejam mais próximos de Deus do que, por exemplo, pessoas que não acreditam nesses ritos, mas fazem o bem a outras pessoas?
Nasrallah
- Tudo tem o seu próprio valor. Ajudar os outros tem enorme valor, não há dúvida. E oração também tem um grande valor. Deus nos pediu que fizéssemos os dois. Se praticarmos um sem praticar o outro, estará faltando algo nas nossas vidas e nos nossos valores. Nós não acreditamos que religião consiste apenas de rituais. Deus nos disse para venerá-Lo a fim de que nos purificássemos, mas não porque Ele precise da nossa adoração.
O Alcorão diz que orações previnem que se cometam pecados, coisas ruins para si e para os outros. Portanto, aquele que ora, mas agride os outros, rouba, deixa de ajudar os necessitados quando pode fazê-lo, para essa pessoa a oração não tem valor nenhum, porque a sua oração é só externa.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New Yorker's Ryan Lizza does PR, a.k.a., Read This Piece (of shisse)



I bumped into the article below when I was searching for news on the reasons why Brazil has been a major target of NSA spying. I suspected - and I still do - that it has nothing to do with terrorism. The first reason for my suspicion is what could be called an overwhelming absence of terrorist acts in the country. The second reason is that Brazilian companies are an obvious threat to US largest corporations.
But I didn't need search for long. Here was the New Yorker, with an article signed by a man I had never heard of, Ryan Lizza. His piece was entitled "What the NSA Wants in Brazil." He read my thoughts. 
And he answered them exactly as the NSA would have. This is, thus, one excellent example of how a New Yorker reporter acted like a PR flack. There is one conclusion I take from this, or rather two: This guy is either extremely naive (retarded, if you prefer the medical term), or he is on the payroll of someone. There's no other way in which I can interpret this piece of crap.

You may want to read the full article first:
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/07/why-the-nsa-really-cares-about-brazil.html
My comments are in red.
And yes, I am very aware this page design sucks, so do the colours. 


July 24, 2013
What the N.S.A. Wants in Brazil
Posted by Ryan Lizza


Well, the awfulness started early: Ryan Lizza is not asking what the NSA wants in Brazil – he is telling you what they want. And he should know – he asked them.

Of course, the question is completely pertinent: Why was Brazil the second major target of NSA surveillance in January? But if the answer was ‘to fight terrorism’, we wouldn’t need Ryan Lizza to tell us, would we? That’s the government’s job. That’s their version. But, of course, some help from the New Yorker is always welcome.  

Lizza starts by quoting an article by Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian:
“In the last decade, people residing or in transit in Brazil, as well as companies operating in the country, have become targets of espionage National Security Agency of the United States[..]. There are no precise figures, but last January Brazil was just behind the United States, which had 2.3 billion phone calls and messages spied.…”
And then he starts an ‘analysis’ that is so empty, so truly shallow yet so absurdly reliant on official sources (and boasting about them) that it makes me wonder if any editor at the New Yorker actually read it.

Here is Lizza stating his legitimate puzzlement.
“In a way, the N.S.A.’s focus on Brazil seems puzzling. Why would the United States care so much about communications traffic in a friendly South American country?”

Now guess what he does to “dig” for the answer to that conundrum?

Investigation, you say? Journalism? FOIA requests?

No. Intrepid Lizza wants to have nice lunch in Washington. What he chooses to do is go talk to the very men accused of conducting illegal espionage. Journalistically speaking, this is like relying on the wolf to understand what happened to Red Riding Hood.
 
“But last week, at the Aspen Security Conference, General Keith Alexander, the director of the N.S.A., made a little-noticed remark that helps explain his agency’s interest in Brazil. [[Notice Lizza turning a mundane remark into something falsely important. The technique is an old one: announce an irrelevant phrase as “a little-noticed remark” and your pretentious audience will make sure they noticed the remark AND its purported relevance.]] During a question-and-answer session with an audience of journalists and current and former government officials, a German reporter rose and asked Alexander this: “Why are you focusing so much on gathering data also from Brazil, since there’s not too much terrorism going on in Brazil as far as I know?”
Alexander’s answer was somewhat elliptical (emphasis mine):
You know, the reality is we’re not collecting all the e-mails on the people in Brazil nor listening to their phone numbers. Why would we do that? What somebody took was a program that looks at metadata around the world that you would use to find terrorist activities that might transit and leaped to the conclusion that, aha, metadata—they must be listening to everybody’s phone; they must be reading everybody’s e-mail. Our job is foreign intelligence. I’ll tell you, 99.9 and I don’t know how many nines go out of all that, whether it’s in German or Brazil, is of no interest to a foreign intelligence agency. What is of interest is a terrorist hopping through or doing something like that.

[[Yes, you just read that, allow me to reconfirm. Lizza calls that most tiring of all repeated arguments a “little-noticed remark”, trying to give it a false aura of secrecy when that’s the only thing we’ve heard from the government since the NSA scandal surfaced. But now, behold what Lizza wants you to believe is the General’s slip.]]
Alexander’s answer doesn’t seem terribly revealing. But embedded in it was a major admission, which is alluded to by the portions, “metadata around the world that you would use to find terrorist activities that might transit” and “a terrorist hopping through.”

“Admission?” Lizza, have you got a dictionary? Admission has to be something truthful, and more than that, it must have been given reluctantly. If one is dying to say it, or is paying PR flaks or journalists to say it, then it’s not called admission, it’s called spiel.

Who needs Hill and Knowlton when they have Ryan Lizza?

Also, notice how he uses the deemphasising “not terribly” while saying “surprising.” You confuse me, Lizza.

Now, dear reader, I bet you will not imagine what dangerous and inhospitable places Lizza goes dig up the truth:
“I asked General Michael Hayden, the former director of both the C.I.A. and the N.S.A., what he found most interesting in Alexander’s remarks. “He committed two acts of declassification,” Hayden told me, using a euphemism for when a senior official reveals secret info by speaking in public. The first revelation Hayden flagged was not terribly surprising: in an earlier portion of his remarks, Alexander mentioned that the N.S.A. knows precisely what documents Edward Snowden accessed. [[Another “revelation”, yet not “terribly surprising”. But - who would have guessed: the “revelation” is, again, self-serving. The government, via Alexander and Hayden (and via loyal Lizza), is ‘revealing’ that it knows what documents Snowden accessed. And Lizza says that like it was something he ‘extracted’ from Hayden after drugging him with pentothal. Here is a primer for you. Liz: there is no such thing as a “former” MI6, or a “former” CIA. If you think these guys cease to work for their agencies and stop complying with their vow of secrecy, well, I’ll have to say you are not terribly intelligent.]]
But Alexander’s second act of declassification was much more interesting. [[“Second act of declassification”… I swear, I’m hiring this Lizza when I open my own Hooey and Known.]]
Hayden pointed to Alexander’s comments about Brazil, and his point about not being interested in the communications of Brazilians. [[Got it, Brazilians? He is simply NOT INTERESTED.]] He asked me to think about the geography of Brazil, which bulges out eastward into the Atlantic Ocean. [[this is getting too technical for you, Lizza.]] I still didn’t understand. [[Told ya.]] “That’s where the transatlantic cables come ashore,” he finally explained. 
Indeed, they do. [[WHAT? Wait a second, Lizza. You mean to say that transatlantic cables actually need to cross the Atlantic, and for that they need to “come ashore”? But please do not be distracted by my sarcasm. This absurdly obvious line is not a sign of Lizza's stupidity - it's much more likely a sign that this "reporter" has an agenda. How else to explain "indeed, they do"?]] According to a map of the network of submarine cables that transmits our voices and our Internet data around the world, Brazil is one of the most important telecommunication hubs on earth.
(Here is a more detailed, interactive version of this map.)
[[Readers (yes, you two) do check the map, and tell me if you see anything particularly extraordinary about the cables. If you can tell a colour from another, and you can count, this map proves absolutely nothing. But Lizza saw that bunch of coloured lines interconnecting off Brazil’s bulge and got an epileptic attack.]]
Teleco, which collects information about telecommunications in Brazil, has additional details on the major submarine lines that run through the country. It reports that one of the lines, Atlantis-2, which connects South America to Europe and Africa and was created by twenty-five telecommunications companies, is part of a network that, when complete, “will form the infrastructure of the global information society.”
[[That’s what I call journalism, folks. Any doubts about what those cables are doing around that bulge? Just go to the PR firm servicing the cable company and ask! But Lizza went even further, took some time off and read the company’s brochure. Where else would he have gotten the incredibly precise and technical explanation that those cables “will form the infrastructure of the global information society.”]]

While the idea that the N.S.A. is tapping transatlantic cables is hardly shocking—there have been excellent recent stories on the subject in the Washington Post and The Atlantic—as far as I’m aware, Alexander and Hayden’s remarks last week represent the highest level of confirmation of the practice, and they help to explain Greenwald’s report on the N.S.A.’s interest in Brazil.
[[Folks, the paragraph above is a masterpiece in doublethink. It deserves an award. Please observe: NSA tapping cables is “hardly shocking”. By which we can conclude, of course, that Greenwald’s story was probably less revealing that Lizza’s very article (hard to say who wins between ‘hardly shocking’ and ‘not terribly surprising’). Greenwald’s story is not a scoop, of course, and the proof is the fact that the government itself confirmed the “hardly shocking” practice. Now the cherry on that pile of dunk: the government’s confirmation of that practice “help[s] explain Greenwald’s report on the NSA’s interest in Brazil.” Did you get the jamming of those two statements? Because the government confirmed they are tapping the cables, we know why they are tapping cables in Brazil. Lizza knows it. It’s because there are too many coloured lines on that map, and one of those could be used by a terrorist.]]
They also help shed light on an N.S.A. slide recently published by the Guardian, which appears to show that the umbrella program for this type of “upstream” collection is called Fairview and/or Blarney.
[[Now Lizza is using a revelation by Greenwald (a real one) to validate the government’s allegation that it is spying on Brazil to fight terrorism. Basically, Lizza is trying to use Greenwald unrelated stuff to confirm the government’s spiel. Mind you, this slide doesn’t show ANY indication that the government is fighting terrorism instead of, say, engaging in corporate espionage.]]
The map on this slide is a less detailed version of the one above, but it indicates the many submarine cables going to and from Brazil, and explains that the N.S.A. uses these programs for the “collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past.”
Finally, Greenwald has reported that Snowden downloaded N.S.A. documents described as the “crown jewels” of the agency.
[[And now, the final gem in Lizza’s PR for the government:]]
There has been much speculation about what these sensitive documents might be.
[[What are they, Lizza? Please reveal it to us!]]
Three former government officials told me [[Yes, shameless Lizza again goes to the wolf]] that they likely contain details of our relationships with foreign intelligence agencies, and, if so, that there might be explosive revelations about surveillance practices undertaken by Western allies that violate privacy laws and other statutes within those countries.
[[Bra-vo. That’s how you use the New Yorker to tell those foreign leaders complaining about espionage that if they but make a peep, heads will roll. And cute detail – heads could roll even if the foreign country was not cooperating with the USA. It could roll because of a penis on twitter, an occasional mistress, or even from fear of having a secret revealed.]]
Vanee’ M. Vines, a spokesperson for the N.S.A., said, “We’re not going to elaborate on remarks that Gen. Alexander made in Aspen,” and added that the agency also had no comment on speculation about other documents possessed by Snowden.
[[Ooooh, this sounded so serious. It almost made me believe that Alexander slipped. But it’s really quite intelligent, if you are very stupid: Lizza goes to two ‘antagonists’ that are actually both official sources, working for the same master. They play along well. Makes me wonder: who assigned Lizza this piece?]]

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Interview with Saad Hariri

The following is an interview I conducted with Saad Hariri in 2006, before the Israeli war in Lebanon. But it was never published. The interview had been assigned to me by O Estado de S.Paulo, one of the oldest and most respected newspapers in Brazil, a news outlet where I once was the only student to write on the op-ed page and where I also had a political column. But as it often happens in the Brazilian coverage of the Middle East, during the editing process all my questions related to Israel (and only the ones related to Israel) were cut. Even though I was offered a good amount of money for the interview, I refused to have it published, and told O Estado de S.Paulo to stuff it. (On a more pleasant note, the editor got in touch with me when he came to Beirut and we made peace during the war. Under the bombs, we felt the moment was oddly appropriate.) It’s worth mentioning that O Estado is far from being the worst when it comes to publishing anything detrimental to Israel. Something even more sinister happened between me and Folha de S.Paulo, the best-selling Brazilian newspaper where, despite having once worked there and authored a political column, I found myself the victim of the most shameless pro-Zionist editing – a story I’ll  tell once my mood is foul enough for me to reach for that ten-foot pole.

Here is the interview.


At only 36, Saad Rafiq Hariri is one of the richest men in the world –
and now a somewhat compulsory political leader. Succeeding his father,
Rafiq Hariri, the five-time Lebanese prime minister who was murdered
in February 2005, Saad Hariri woke up one day as the heir not only to
one of the world's biggest fortunes, but to a political legacy – with
all the credits and debts that his father left. Unprepared for the
public life – he admits that himself – Saad Hariri had to relinquish
an empire of companies in which he made the final decisions and
multiplied a fortune estimated in 8 billion dollars. Now, he has been
living a life that few can envy. Surrounded by bodyguards and a
security detail gigantic even for Lebanese standards, he lives under
permanent threat. And the risk extends to his closest aids – one of
whom has not left the palace since August, when he received a warning
that sounded reliable enough. Three weeks ago, mortars were found
close to Hariri's mansion (which, like others in Beirut, is a
monumental palace surrounded by destroyed houses and unfinished
buildings).
Three months after the death of his father, in an election round that
had a surprisingly meagre turnout of 28%, Hariri was elected to
parliament and became the leader of the largest parliamentary group,
welded together by their purported aversion to Syria's power over
Lebanon. Vested with that sudden significance, Hariri often looks out
of place. Despite carrying a masbaha, the traditional rosary often carried by elderly men,
Hariri is himself surrounded by men old enough to be his father or grandfather,
who continuously come in and out of his private quarters.
Yet despite the lack of privacy, he seems unaffected. At the lunch to which this reporter
was invited, as the interview took three times longer than previously agreed, Hariri
ignored all ceremony: he would call everyone to the table
and deal with politics right there, while bodyguards, assistants
and other small-rank employees would be watching TV in the same room,
as if they owned the house as much as Hariri himself. Introducing some
waiters by their name, he would insist that I tried the most varied
dishes of the Lebanese cuisine, cooked by the local chef. But,
somewhat belying the imaginary extra years suggested by the masbaha,
Hariri chose a hamburger with fries and ketchup. Throughout the
interview, when not fiddling with the rosary, Hariri would be holding
the tape recorder. His legs, incessantly fidgeting, were not
a sign of nervousness, he said – that was out of frustration for not
being able to do as much as he says he would like to.


DO YOU CONSIDER AT ALL, EVEN SLIGHTLY, THE POSSIBILITY THAT YOUR FATHER'S MURDER, AND THE OTHER ASSASSINATIONS, COULD HAVE BEEN DONE BY SOMEONE ELSE OTHER THAN SYRIA? WOULDN'T SYRIA BE SHOOTING ITSELF IN THE FOOT [with your father’s assassination]?

I don't think so. If you look at the people who have been killed, they
are from the same line of politics, and the same idea of politics. I
believe that these crimes served a purpose, you know, killing Rafiq
Hariri, Gebran Tueni, Samir Kassir, Bassil Fleihan and George Hawy,
they served one same goal. When they killed Rafiq Hariri they killed
one of – the  biggest politician in Lebanon. But killing all the
others was like killing the people who make the public opinion. Gebran
Tueni was such an outspoken person, George Hawi, Samir Kassir,
everybody read what these guys wrote, and May Chidiac used to be on
television every day, she used to be listened to. What they tried to
do was to send a clear message to journalists, to freedom of speech,
that 'this is not something that we will accept', but the Lebanese
didn't understand it and will keep on talking.


ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT IN A COUPLE OF MONTHS THERE WILL BE PEOPLE INDICTED? I SUPPOSE YOU ARE WELL BRIEFED ABOUT THE UN REPORT.

No, I am not, actually I am the worst briefed, I don't get involved, I
don't talk to them, and they don't talk to me.


SO YOU DON'T FEEL THAT YOU SHOULD BE ENTITLED TO SOME DIRECT INFORMATION?

I feel that I should be entitled and that I should know things, but I
have full confidence in them so I am not worried about the results or
what they are doing. I feel this is a team that is professional and
they would do everything possible at their hand, and they will try to
expose the criminals who killed Rafiq Hariri and the others.


COULD THE LOSS OF YOUR FATHER IN SUCH A TRAGIC MANNER MAKE YOU INTO A BITTER PERSON?

No, I can never be bitter, I cannot hate. What I want is only justice,
and the reason why I want it is because if you don't have justice then
you will have the law of the jungle to rule with, and this is the
problem that we have been suffering in Lebanon for the past 30 years.


SPEAKING OF WHICH, DO YOU THINK YOUR FATHER WAS ALWAYS TRYING TO PRESERVE THE RULE OF LAW, OR DID HE SOMETIMES BEND IT TO ACCOMMODATE PRIVATE INTERESTS AND THE SUPPOSED CONFESSIONAL BALANCE?

I think his end goal was the rule of law. And you have to understand
that Lebanon came out of a civil war that lasted for 17 years, and in
order to take a country from a civil war to a better world there is a
transition period, and this transition is not a year or two or three,
some countries took 5 years, 10 years, 15 years. But his end goal was
to take Lebanon to a place where the rule of law is the way to rule. I
think he believed that Lebanon should be the centre of the Arab world
in freedom and the rule of law even. And you can't build the country
or get to a point of economic success if you don't have rule of law.
And this is all he wanted all the time.


DOES THAT INCLUDE IMPLEMENTING THE TAIF [the agreement that ended the war and established, among other things, the end of the armed militias, the end of the Syrian occupation and the adoption of a secular government]?

Of course. The Taif has been there for so many years and we were not
supposed to sit as Lebanese, as one people and talk to each other and
resolve our problems together, like this national dialogue – people are
used to political instability and political differences, it is the
first time in the history of Lebanon that people sit together and talk
honestly, and about the problems that we never even thought we could
open to each other. And if we get used to it, we can do a lot and we can
get a lot achieved.


ARE YOU TAKING IT TO THE ARAB SUMMIT?

Yes, because there are some issues that… we got the consensus that the
borders must be delimitated and demarked. If you take the relationship
with Syria, this is something we all came with a consensus and said
'yes, we want good relationship with Syria and we want embassies',
something that we all decided as Lebanese. Now it needs to go to a
third place where the relationship between the two countries need to be
bettered and I think we need an intermediate to help us as Lebanese.


MEDIATORS?

Yes, mediators.


HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THE FACT THAT YOU COMPLAIN ABOUT SYRIA'S OCCUPATION AND YET, CONDOLEEZZA RICE COMES HERE, IN A MOST CONDESCENDING MANNER, TO LITERALLY THANK LEBANON FOR ITS DEMOCRATIC EFFORTS, AS IF LEBANON OWED THE U.S. GOOD BEHAVIOUR. ARE YOU TRANSFERRING THE SYRIAN INFLUENCE TO THE U.S.?

No, you see, I think that there are some people who try to portray
that the U.S. or other countries are trying to replace the Syrian
influence to another influence and I think the problem is that the
western influence, or what the West is trying to do in Lebanon, if you
look at it, what have they tried to do? Did they tell us 'go and fight
Hezbollah, go and fight Syria’? No, they said they are looking for
stability, they are looking to have the best for our economy, they are
looking to have the best for our security. What they have done is
served us actually, and they have helped us in ways that enabled us to
get our Lebanon back. This is Lebanon, Lebanon is for the Lebanese.
And no Lebanese wants any influence on Lebanon and the decisions we
make.


WHAT ABOUT 1559 [the UN resolution that determines, among other things, the disarming of Hezbollah] AND THE WEAPONS OF HEZBOLLAH?

This resolution was made because of Emile Lahoud, and Emile Lahoud was voted in the parliament by pure pressure.


YOUR FATHER VOTED FOR HIM.

He voted for him because he had the best interest of Lebanon, it was
either vote for Emile Lahoud's extension or have Lebanon destroyed.


WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, TO HAVE "LEBANON DESTROYED"? WHAT IF RAFIQ HARIRI HAD JUST TAKEN A STAND AND SAID "IT IS WRONG TO EXTEND THE MANDATE, AND I JUST WON'T VOTE FOR IT"? DO YOU THINK HE WOULD HAVE BEEN KILLED THEN?

He would have been killed and we’d have seen explosions in Solidere [the
downtown area rebuilt by the company founded by Rafiq Hariri] and
other places.


ON 1559, WHERE DO YOU STAND?

When you are a part of the United Nations, you must accept a
resolution as it is. You cannot accept just parts of a resolution. For
instance, the 425 is a resolution that was made for Lebanon, when
Israel occupied Lebanon in 1978 asking it to withdraw. So if you want
to be a part of the United Nations , and we want to be a part of the
club of nations in the world, then we have to accept any resolution
that comes out.


BUT HAVEN'T YOU SEEN ENOUGH EXAMPLES OF COUNTRIES THAT DO NOT COMPLY AT ALL WITH THE UN AND CONTINUE TO PARTAKE OF THIS ‘CLUB OF NATIONS’? INDIA HAS JUST SIGNED A NUCLEAR DEAL WITH AMERICA EVEN THOUGH THEY NEVER SUBSCRIBED TO THE NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY. ISRAEL KEEPS IGNORING RESOLUTIONS AND THEY CONTINUE TO BE THE BIGGEST FOREIGN RECIPIENTS OF AMERICAN AID.

We are a small nation, and they are big nations. You talk about India,
you have 1.1 billion people living there, and they have a thriving
economy. Lebanon is a small country. We have to accept these
resolutions. For instance, now on Lebanon we have had 1595, 1636,
1644. These resolutions were for the benefit of Lebanon. Look at what
they brought us: they brought us to the investigation of Rafiq Hariri
killing; they led to full cooperation from Syria to the investigative
team; and 1644 allowed us to work on the issue of an international
tribunal. So these are three resolutions that were for the benefit of
Lebanon. And Lebanon has systematically demanded that Israel complies
with all the UN resolutions.


WHICH HASN'T MADE ANY DIFFERENCE, HAS IT?

Listen, listen, in politics, I believe, one day these resolutions will
become a necessity to Israel to implement. Nothing stays the same. In
history, nations that were extremely strong became weak, and nations
that were weak became strong. And we would lose our moral ground if we
don't comply with the resolution while demanding that Israel complies
with theirs.


DO YOU CONTEMPLATE THE POSSIBILITY THAT HEZBOLLAH WILL ONE DAY WAKE UP WITHOUT ITS WEAPONS?

This is something that is interesting to me, because I believe that
Hezbollah is not in the hobby of killing. Hezbollah is a party that
presented a lot of martyrs to free the occupied lands of Lebanon. And
it was not only Hezbollah – the resistance started in 1978, when
Hezbollah didn't exist. So we have a long history of resistance. I
think our main problem is not Hezbollah but the occupation by Israel
and what it is doing to Lebanon. We believe that eventually, and
Hezbollah believes it too, that one day we will be able to free all
our lands and we will be able to live in a peaceful way. What we need
to do is to find a way to protect Lebanon if things like this happen
again. And this is the main question mark we have at the National
Dialogue when we sit and talk [National Dialogue is a series of
debates among different religious groups gathered to decide on crucial
issues like Hezbollah's weapons, the Shebaa Farms and the Palestinian refugees].
How do we protect Lebanon from the Israeli occupation and atrocities committed
against our country? I believe that Hezbollah is a party that has done a lot for Lebanon and
it can do still a lot, and the more and more Hezbollah is getting into
politics, the more it will understand the Lebanese way of ruling
Lebanon.


WHAT ABOUT THE WEAPONS?

The weapons will be resolved. I don't believe that Hezbollah is in the
habit of carrying weapons left, right and centre. They believe in
Lebanon, they believe in the nation of Lebanon and that Lebanon has to
rule itself.


OK, BUT THE SHEBAA FARMS. LET US SUPPOSE THEY ARE SYRIAN.

But they are Syrian now, under the international law today the Shebaa Farms
are Syrian.


SO, IF THE SHEBAA FARMS ARE NOT LEBANESE, THEN TECHNICALLY LEBANON IS NOT OCCUPIED, RIGHT?

Technically, but in reality you have to understand these lands are
Lebanese. And we are not saying they are Lebanese because we want to
extend our war with Israel, but in reality these lands are owned by
Lebanese people, registered in Lebanon, not in Syria. So we have the
legal right over these lands. The problem is that, because Lebanon is
small, in the past it didn't raise its voice to say 'Israel is
occupying these lands'. In the past, even if we had talked, nobody
would have listened.


IF LEBANON IS STILL BEING OCCUPIED BY ISRAEL, IF SHEBAA ARE FINALLY RECOGNISED AS LEBANESE, WOULD YOU FIND IT LEGITIMATE, IN THAT CASE, THAT HEZBOLLAH CONTINUES TO HAVE WEAPONS?

In the UN charter any land that is occupied has the right to resist.
What we are doing is perfectly legal, it is perfectly legal.


WHY WERE YOU CHOSEN TO SUCCEED YOUR FATHER, INSTEAD OF BAHAA, THE ELDEST SON?

Why? We agreed, together, the family, that they would give me this
nice job, that I sit here at the risk that people will kill me.


WHY YOU?

Because the family sat together and decided who was going to do what.


DO YOU THINK YOU WERE THE MOST PREPARED?


None of us were prepared.


AND WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU ABOUT HEREDITARY POLITICS? WHY DID YOU ACCEPT? YOU MAY EVEN END UP AS PRIME MINISTER.

I don't want to be prime minister.


YOU DON'T? TRULY?

Truly. Because I have a better title.


WHICH IS...?

Saad Rafiq Hariri.


AND WHAT CAN SAAD RAFIQ HARIRI DO FOR LEBANON?
 
What I am trying to do now. I am trying to give hope to the young guys
in Lebanon, that Lebanon is worth living for, that we could be united,
we could work out our problems with ourselves and give, you know, this
national feeling for Lebanon.


DO YOU THINK YOU ARE IN TOUCH WITH SOCIAL REALITY IN LEBANON? LET'S FORGET THE REGIONAL PROBLEMS FOR A MOMENT AND THE RELIGIOUS ISSUES. WHAT ABOUT THE PRICE OF FOOD, GASOLINE, SALARIES, SOCIAL SECURITY. CAN YOU REALLY GET OUT OF THIS IVORY TOWER AND SYMPATHISE WITH THE PEOPLE AND THEIR DAILY PROBLEMS?

I feel with what is happening and I wish I could do more. Believe me,
it is not an ivory tower, I am living in a prison. I don't go out, I
don't see anyone, I cannot do anything, I just sit here and meet
people day and night, and I try to meet as many people as I can.


ARE YOU LIVING ABROAD?

Abroad?


YES, YOU WERE LIVING IN FRANCE FOR A WHILE.

No, that was a while ago.


ARE YOU STAYING HERE FOR THE MOMENT?

I am staying here for a while.


HOW DO YOU FEEL KNOWING THAT YOUR LIFE IS IN DANGER?

Great. It’s exciting.


YOU MEAN IT?

Oh yeah.


ADRENALINE BOOSTING?

Yes, like jumping with a bungee jump – you don't know if the cord is
going to be cut off or not. [[he laughs]]


ARE YOU NEGLECTING YOUR COMPANIES? YOU ARE SAID TO BE A GREAT BUSINESSMAN.

That's what they say.


I WONDER HOW MUCH BETTER YOU ARE A BUSINESSMAN THAN YOU CAN EVER BE A POLITICIAN.

Definitely a better businessman.


DID YOU STOP LOOKING INTO YOUR COMPANIES?

I have my brothers, who are taking care of the business, and we talk a
lot. I am handing over what I was doing.


SO BASICALLY YOU ARE NOT TAKING ANY RESPONSIBILITY AS FAR AS YOUR BUSINESSES GO?

No, I am handing them over.


SO YOU ARE FULL TIME WITH POLITICS NOW?

Not now, but I will be.


NOT AS A PRIME MINISTER, THOUGH.

No.


WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT EXPATRIATES BEING ENTITLED TO VOTE?

I think that anything that can make people feel proud of being
Lebanese and connect them to Lebanon, should happen. I am with it.


BUT WOULDN'T THAT TILT THE CONFESSIONAL BALANCE?

It doesn't tilt the balance. This is all nonsense. For me there is no
Christian and Muslim, I don't believe it. And people who think like
this are sick.


WHAT ABOUT YOUR BUSINESSES IN BRAZIL?

I don't have a business in Brazil. My only business in Brazil is to
get the Lebanese people in Brazil to feel that they are connected with
Lebanon and I feel that the Lebanese who live in Brazil are very
very lucky people, because actually the Brazilians took them as they
are, and considered them as Brazilians, but I believe that we should
do much more for them as a government and try to connect them with
their country, because at the end of the day, Lebanon is their home,
like Brazil is, and Lebanon is a great country to be in. And one day
when they come here, they will see what Lebanon went through and how
the Lebanese people were able to take the burden from [meaning
to go from] the civil war to a place where all the Arab world and all
the world are coming to.


DO YOU BELIEVE THAT LEBANON WILL EVER SIGN A PEACE DEAL WITH ISRAEL, LIKE JORDAN AND EGYPT?

You should ask uh… we believe that the Arab summit that happened in
Beirut had a very good proposal for Israel.


OFFERING THEM THE CHANCE TO SIGN A PEACE TREATY WITH THE ARAB COUNTRIES IF THEY RETURN TO THE 67 BORDERS AND…

And we will be the last one to sign with Israel. We are a small
country and we believe that Arabs should take this initiative, and
they have, and then have Israel sign, do something with the Arabs. We
cannot do it by ourselves.


OK, LET ME SEE IF I GET IT RIGHT: IF ISRAEL GOES BACK TO THE 67 BORDERS AND STOPS OCCUPYING ARAB LAND, WOULD YOU SIGN A PEACE TREATY WITH ISRAEL, YOU WOULD BE WILLING TO...

If the Arabs sign, we sign. But we don't sign if they don't sign.


SO IT HAS TO BE A COLLECTIVE DECISION?

Yes.


THE MOHAMMED CARTOONS. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE ISSUE? WHERE DO YOU STAND ON THE ISSUE OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH?

Hum, tough question. I mean, to be so insensitive about Islam and draw
cartoons about Mohammed, who is the  prophet that we in Islam look up
to and think of as our prophet. I think that there is a lot of
insensitivity in the way these cartoons were done. I believe that you
cannot touch people's pride and belief the way they did. It is not
about freedom of speech, it has to do with provocation of a
civilization. And the problem is that if you provoke a religion…
Religion is one of the most extremely sensitive issues with people, and
if you are not sensitive to that, it will raise all the problems we
have seen.


DO YOU THINK THIS SENSITIVITY TOWARDS PEOPLE'S FEELINGS SHOULD BE IMPOSED BY LAW OR SHOULD BE A MATTER OF PERSONAL CHOICE?

I believe that like there are laws for anti-Semitism and all that,
there should be laws to respect religion.


WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES A STATESMAN?

A statesman?


YES. SOME PEOPLE SAY YOUR FATHER WAS A STATESMAN, I COULD HAVE OBJECTIONS TO THAT, AS I HAVE MY OWN IDEA OF WHAT A STATESMAN IS. WHAT IS YOUR IDEA OF A STATESMAN?

Why do you have objections to that?


I SAID 'I COULD'. YOU ARE THE ONE BEING INTERVIEWED HERE. ONE DAY, MAYBE, I WILL LET YOU KNOW.

Tell me now.


OH I HAVE MANY OBJECTIONS.
[[tape recorder is shut off. I tell him my objections.]]

I think a statesman is somebody people trust, people like. A statesman
takes position that benefits the country, and not for the sake of
politics.


THE 35 BILLION DOLLAR DEBT. HOW DO YOU ANSWER THE ACCUSATION THAT YOUR FATHER WAS THE MAIN PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR DEBT WORTH AROUND 180% OF THE GDP?

When you are coming out of a war and you see the devastation that
Lebanon was living in, and you want to attract people to come to
Lebanon, to bring back Lebanon to where it was, and to turn Lebanon
into the main base for the world to come to, especially after the
country was marked as a haven for terrorists and kidnappers and all of
that… What has been done since 1992 until today, if you look at the
reconstruction and the development of Lebanon, it is being quite
tremendous. At the same time you cannot ignore the fact that you came
out of a war. And coming out of a civil war means that at the
beginning you have an agreement to stop the war and start building the
government. And this is the transition you see. Part of the debt has
been to rebuild Lebanon. About 50% or 60% was to establish the
security forces. And part is to service the debt, and that is the
problem. If you didn't do anything in Lebanon when my father came, the
debt today would be about 25 billion dollars.


WHOSE CALCULATION IS THAT?

Because if you had left the airport the way it was, the roads the way
they were, the infrastructure, the telephone, the electricity, the
water and everything that was done, Lebanon would have had a debt of 2
billion or 3 billion dollars. If you calculate, every five years it
would double. Plus the interest rate, plus you don't have a GDP growth
in the country, you would have a debt of 25 billion dollars.


IS THAT CALCULATION SIGNED BY AN ECONOMIST?

You can ask any economist and they would tell you that if nothing had
been done then that would be the debt today. So you build a country
and now you need to fix it politically. And fixing it politically,
having political stability is what is going to take that debt out.
What we did in Paris 2, my father did in Paris 2 [the donor's
conference that lent money to Lebanon], was to take the debt and bring
it down to where it should be. Unfortunately, we have president Lahoud
who puts every stick in the wheel of the economy. Now we are going to
Beirut 1 to re-establish, to reinvent the economy.


BEIRUT 1 IS THE NAME OF A NEW LOAN?

Beirut 1 is the donor's conference that is going to help Lebanon, like Paris 2.


AND YOU WILL BE HEADING IT?

No, the prime minister will.


AND YOU REALLY DON'T WANT TO BE A PRIME MINISTER?

Definitely. Why should I be?


ARE YOU TIRED ALREADY?

No, I am not tired, I don't think I am ready yet and there are better
people than me to do that.


DO YOU FEEL LIKE, SORT OF, YOU FELL WITH A PARACHUTE IN THIS SITUATION?

I didn't fall with a parachute, I crash-landed.


SO IF YOUR FATHER HAD NOT BEING KILLED, YOU WOULD NOT EVEN DREAM OF ENTERING POLITICS?

Definitely not. I wouldn't be here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

My piece for Vogue Homem




Monday, May 13, 2013

Me (me me me me) test
video

Monday, April 15, 2013