Interview with Franklin Lamb in Beirut on the latest Wilkileaks from US Embassy Beirut and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL)
Franklin Lamb, a former Assistant Counsel of the US House Judiciary Committee at the US Congress and Professor of International Law at Northwestern College of Law in Oregon, earned his Law Degree at Boston University and his LLM, M.Phil, and PhD degrees at the London School of Economics. Following three summers at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Lamb was a visiting fellow at the Harvard Law School's East Asian Legal Studies Center where he specialized in Chinese Law. He was the first westerner allowed by the government of China to visit the notorious "Ward Street" Prison in Shanghai. Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and works with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign-Lebanon and the Sabra-Shatila Foundation. His new book, The Case for Palestinian Civil Rights in Lebanon, is due out shortly.
Q: Lebanon, for well-known geostrategic reasons is fixed in the cross-hairs of the conflict of the Middle East. Some analysts believe that there is more foreign intervention in Lebanon than is any Middle East country except Iraq. As tensions rise between Iran and America for influence in Lebanon, the issue of loyalty to Lebanon or Israel has entered the public discourse with new intensity. One issue hotly debated today in Lebanon is whether there were political leaders within the Lebanese government who assisted Israel in its invasion of Lebanon in 2006? Were there?
Franklin Lamb: Yes. Several members of the pro-US-Saudi March 14th "Team" regularly met with US officials during the 33-day conflict including then US Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman and then Undersecretary of State David Welch. Meetings, often secret, were also held after the 33 day conflict. At these meetings some of the Lebanese officials tried to influence the terms of the cease fire. Some Lebanese officials wanted to delay a ceasefire in the hope that Israel would perform better and destroy Hezbollah, the political adversaries of the March 14 group.
Some Lebanese asked the US Embassy to forward advice to Israel or, in the case of Samir Geagea, asked Jeffrey Feltman to tell Israel not to bomb Christian areas as that would increase Christian support for the Lebanese Resistance but rather to instruct Israel to direct their bombings against Hezbollah areas.
Today the same individuals continue to meet with US Ambassador Maury Connelly and with now Undersecretary of State Jeffrey Feltman.
Most were asked for their advice and gave it while others wanted the US and/or Israel to take certain actions that would undermine the National Lebanese Resistance lead by Hezbollah while enhancing the political position of the person and his political allies or confession
Q: Who are these people and what would possibly be their motive for this serious accusation?
Among those who have been publicly identified and have admitted the accuracy of Wilkileaks cables and media reports include Lebanese Forces leader, Samir Geagea, former Prime Ministers Fuad Siniora and Saad Hariri, current care taker Labor Minister Boutros Harb, then Minister of Defense Elias Murr, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt, and half a dozen others.
Their common motive was to see Hezbollah defeated so that their team could continue to govern Lebanon without serious opposition. Some no doubt felt Hezbollah's defeat would be good for Lebanon and expressed the view that Lebanon would benefit more from US-Saudi affiliation than building relations with Iran.
Q: If these men helped Israel or gave them a "green light" to commence military operations against Lebanon, what are their critics in Lebanon and the Lebanese media saying about their actions?
FL: Critics of the pro-US March 14th team are claiming that those who aided Israel have and direct shared legal responsibility for the deaths of the 1,200 Lebanese civilians who were killed in the invasion.
Q: Walid Jumblatt is head of Lebanon's Progressive Socialist Party and the most prominent leader of the Druze community. Here's an excerpt from a Wikileaks cable that suggests that he felt Israel should have continued the war.
Excerpt: "Jumblatt noted the heavy destruction of Lebanese infrastructure but bemoaned the irony that Hezbollah's military infrastructure had not been seriously touched. Jumblatt explained that although March 14 must call for a cease-fire in public, it is hoping that Israel continues its military operations until it destroys Hezbollah's military capabilities. "If there is a cease-fire now, Hezbollah wins," said Jumblatt. "We don't want it to stop".Responding to Jumblatt's complaint that Israel is hitting targets that hurt the GOL while leaving Hezbollah strategically strong, the Ambassador asked Jumblatt what Israel should do to cause serious damage to Hezbollah. Jumblatt replied that Israel is still in the mindset of fighting classic battles with Arab armies. "You can't win this kind of war with zero dead," he said.