The New York Times simply refuses to deal with "enemy" Muslim states with any sense of objectivity or fairness, reaffirming its deep-seated bias again on Sunday with the publication of a one-sided article about the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on its fifth anniversary.
The article entitled "A U.N. Betrayal in Beirut" by op-ed contributor Michael Young argues that the original United Nations-authorized Hariri investigation, which pointed the finger of guilt at the Syrian government and its Lebanese allies, was correct but was then undercut by U.N. officials for political reasons.
The hero of the Times op-ed is German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, who headed the initial U.N. inquiry and was subsequently replaced by Belgian investigator Serge Brammertz, who is portrayed as an incompetent who squandered Mehlis's supposedly courageous work. Young wrote:
"Mr. Mehlis had few doubts about Syria's involvement, and said so in his first report. He asked for President Assad's testimony (over Syrian protests), interviewed Syrian intelligence officers in Vienna and arrested suspects. When Mr. Mehlis stepped down from his position in December, 2005, he felt he had enough to arrest at least one of the intelligence officers.
"However, the investigation wilted under his successor. " Mr. Brammertz issued uninformative reports and displayed a lack of transparency that discouraged potential witnesses, unsure of whether he had solid evidence in hand, from coming forward; " he failed to follow through on the interviews with the Syrian officers; and though he met with President Assad, he apparently did not formally take down his testimony."
Young's narrative fits with the Times' previous hostility toward the Syrians regarding the Hariri case and other issues, much as the Times regularly tilted its coverage against Iraq prior to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and currently slants its reporting against the government of Iran.
On the Hariri case, the Times would have its readers believe that U.N. leaders lost their nerve and dumped a brilliant prosecutor in favor of an incompetent to sabotage the case.
But what Young and the Times failed to disclose on Sunday was that Mehlis's initial investigation amounted to a rush to judgment that relied heavily on two witnesses whose testimony was later discredited or retracted. His successor, Brammertz, had no choice but to retrace Mehlis's steps because there had been so many slip-ups.
The murder mystery began on Feb. 14, 2005, when an explosion destroyed a car carrying Hariri through the streets of Beirut.
Because Syria was then on President George W. Bush's hit list for "regime change" and Syria was considered a front-line enemy of Israel speculative evidence of Syrian guilt was an easy sell to the U.S. news media. When Mehlis's preliminary report was issued, there was little U.S. media skepticism about its assertions of guilt regarding Syrian leaders and their Lebanese allies.
"There is probable cause to believe that the decision to assassinate former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri could not have been taken without the approval of top-ranked Syrian security officials and could not have been further organized without the collusion of their counterparts in the Lebanese security services," declared Mehlis's report on Oct. 20, 2005.
Despite the curiously vague wording "probable cause to believe" the killing "could not have been taken without the approval" and "without the collusion" Bush immediately termed the findings "very disturbing" and called for the U.N. Security Council to take action against Syria.
The U.S. press joined the stampede in assuming Syrian guilt. On Oct. 25, 2005, a New York Times editorial said the U.N. investigation had been "tough and meticulous" in establishing "some deeply troubling facts" about Hariri's murderers. The Times demanded punishment of top Syrian officials and their Lebanese allies.
But Mehlis's investigative report was anything but "meticulous." Indeed, it read more like a compilation of circumstantial evidence and conspiracy theories than a dispassionate pursuit of the truth.
As a wealthy businessman with close ties to the Saudi monarchy, Hariri had many enemies who might have wanted him dead for his business or political dealings. The Syrians were not alone in having a motive to eliminate Hariri.
Indeed, after the assassination, a videotape was delivered to al-Jazeera television on which a Lebanese youth, Ahmad Abu Adass, claimed to have carried out the suicide bombing on behalf of Islamic militants angered by Hariri's work for "the agent of the infidels" in Saudi Arabia.
However, Mehlis relied on two witnesses Zuhair Ibn Muhammad Said Saddik and Hussam Taher Hussam to dismiss the videotape as part of a disinformation campaign designed to deflect suspicion from Syria.