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By Christopher Bollyn
American Free Press

The U.S. media is indulging in war mongering "yellow journalism" by repeating baseless allegations that Syria is behind the "car bombing" of a popular Lebanese nationalist, while the evidence suggests that the assassination was carried out using a guided missile launched from a plane - a precision penetration bomb - a "targeted killing" technique perfected by Israel.

"An enormous car bomb blasted the motorcade of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri," The New York Times reported with authority from Beirut about the Valentine's Day massacre of Lebanon's billionaire ex-premier and at least 11 others, including 6 of his bodyguards. The Times, however, presented no evidence to support its allegation that a "car bomb" had killed the popular Lebanese nationalist. The bomb had directly struck Hariri's car in the motorcade and "ripped a 30-foot crater in the street" of one of Beirut's wealthiest sections.

Hariri was a well-known philanthropist and "the symbol of both Lebanon's political and economic renaissance," The Daily Star, Lebanon's English language paper wrote, "and his shocking death leaves the country facing an uncertain economic future."

Hariri was the driving force behind the return of foreign investment after Lebanon's 15-year civil war. Solidere, the company he founded, played a key role in rebuilding Beirut's downtown area. "Ironically," the Star reported, Hariri was killed in the waterfront hotel district he had rebuilt.

In addition to being behind Lebanon's reconstruction, Hariri was credited with stabilizing the Lebanese pound for the first time in 14 years. He kept inflation low and investments flowing in. Lebanon hosted more than 1 million Arab visitors in 2004 and had recovered its status as the Arab world's preferred holiday destination - largely thanks to Hariri.

"Responsibility for the bomb was uncertain," The Chicago Tribune opined, "but everything points to Syria and its agents." The Tribune ran the Times article on its front page. As for what "everything" was that "points to Syria," the Tribune presented its evidence: "The timing and the sheer size of the explosion - an estimated 650 pounds of dynamite that left a crater 30 feet wide and 9 feet deep - point to Syrian involvement," the Tribune wrote. "This was no amateur job."

"Mob blames Syria for Hariri assassination," ABC News reported. "[Lebanon's] Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh, [a Maronite] suggested that, based on the crater in the middle of the road and preliminary reports, the attack may have been carried out by a suicide bomber who rammed Hariri's motorcade with a vehicle laden with explosives," the U.S. mass media network reported.

However, no evidence has been found to indicate that a "suicide bomber" or "a vehicle laden with explosives" were involved in the killing of Hariri.

A now-missing Palestinian living in Lebanon taped a claim of responsibility on behalf of a previously unheard of group called "Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria. Military experts, however, quickly dismissed the Palestinian's claim saying the magnitude of the blast suggested it was the work of a technically sophisticated group, with access to high-tech explosives.

The U.S. administration of President George W. Bush was quick to point fingers at Syria. "We condemn this brutal attack in the strongest possible terms," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "This murder today is a terrible reminder that the Lebanese people must be able to pursue their aspirations and determine their own political future free from violence and intimidation and free from Syrian occupation," McClellan said.

That Syria was the "target" of American criticism was "unmistakable," the Times reported, although McClellan and other administration spokesmen admitted they had no concrete evidence of Syrian involvement.

"We're going to turn up the heat on Syria, that's for sure," a senior State Department official told the Times. "It's been a pretty steady progression of pressure up to now, but I think it's going to spike in the wake of this event. Even though there's no evidence to link it to Syria, Syria has, by negligence or design, allowed Lebanon to become destabilized."

On February 15, the UN Security Council requested an urgent report into the "terrorist" assassination and urged Syria to pull its 14,000 troops out of Lebanon. While Lebanon wants a Swiss investigation, the UN will reportedly send its own investigation team.

Bush ordered the U.S. Ambassador in Damascus, Margaret Scobey, to return. Before she left, Scobey delivered a message of "concern and outrage" to the Syrian government.

"U.S. officials were careful not to lay public blame for the atrocity directly on Syria," The Times of London wrote, "…but they left little doubt as to whom they viewed as the ultimate culprit."

But is Syria the ultimate culprit? Why would Syria murder Hariri, the architect of Lebanon's post-war reconstruction and prosperity? And why would anybody, let alone Syria, murder Hariri in such a spectacular way?

Like the 9/11 attacks, the murder of Hariri appears designed to influence world public opinion and provide a necessary casus belli to build a case and justify aggression against Syria. Why would Syria want to bring condemnation and war upon itself? Who is really interested in de-stabilizing Lebanon and Syria?

The assassination "has cast a giant cloud over Lebanon's immediate political future," The Daily Star wrote. "This outrage brings back memories of 1975 and the death of popular leader Maarouf Saad, who like Hariri came from Sidon. The murder of Saad came just three months before the start of the civil war and is still seen by many as the catalyst to the apocalyptic events which enveloped this country for 15 years."

While Israel was briefly mentioned as a possible suspect in the bombing, the mainstream media has completely ignored that possibility. The evidence, however, indicates that the Hariri bombing may have been a guided missile attack from the air, a common method of "targeted killing" perfected by Israel.

Israel has killed an untold number of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank with precision guided bombs and missiles launched from the air. Last March, in one such targeted killing, the Israeli military used a guided missile to kill the quadriplegic and wheelchair-bound spiritual head of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

"Reports from the scene said Sheikh Yassin was being pushed in his wheelchair when he was directly hit by a missile," the BBC reported on March 22, 2004.

Israeli Prime Minister Sharon dismissed accusations that Israel was involved in the murder of Hariri.

"I think that it will be unnecessary at all to answer what has been said about the Israeli participation or responsibility to what is going on in Lebanon," Sharon said when asked about the charges.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa strongly condemned the attack. "This is an ugly criminal act," al-Sharaa said. "We condemn those who are sowing sedition in Lebanon. We hope that the Lebanese people in these difficult times will be cohesive and strong and reject any internal sedition or outside interference."

Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad "expressed his deep sorrow" and described the assassination of "a man Syria considered a friend and an ally in the region" as a "horrendous atrocity." Hariri's legacy is that of "a man who helped rebuild a nation ravaged by civil war and a protector of peace between his people," a Syrian government statement said.

"This heinous act," the statement read, "…aims at destabilizing Lebanon and creating chaos, hostilities, and a sense of insecurity… This tragedy is not only a national loss for Lebanon but also for Syria and the Arab world."

While the U.S. media portrays Hariri and Syria as foes, his last press release, issued on the day of his death, suggests otherwise: "We are most keen on preserving relations with Syria and protecting its interests," Hariri said, "this stems from our deeply rooted national and pan-Arab convictions."

The bombing of Hariri's motorcade occurred in broad daylight in an exclusive section of Beirut's waterfront known as the Corniche. There are, however, no eyewitness reports or physical evidence to substantiate the claim that a suicide car bomber attacked Hariri's car.

Based on the size of the crater, estimated to be 30-50 feet across and 9-10 feet deep, an expert told American Free Press that the car bomb would have had to have been several tons in size, not the reported "650 pounds of dynamite."

The crater also shows that a ruptured water pipeline, dirt, and rubble were thrown up and out from the center of the crater, suggesting that the actual detonation occurred at some depth below the surface of the street.

Keith A. Holsapple, an expert on craters and professor of engineering mechanics at the University of Washington, examined the photographs of the Beirut crater for AFP. "There is no doubt," Holsapple said, "at least a several ton bomb would be required if it were delivered by a vehicle and detonated above the surface."

"A 50-foot crater in a wet soil would require on the order of 6 tons of ANFO (ammonium nitrate fuel oil) if the explosion were just above the surface," Holsapple said. "If the bomb was detonated just below the surface, that bomb weight is reduced to about 2 tons, and if a penetrator weapon was used, the weight would be on the order of 1 ton, to within a factor of two." A larger bomb would be required if the soil was "essentially dry at depths at the time of the event," he added.

But there is no evidence that a large vehicle carrying tons of explosives smashed into Hariri's vehicle and it is highly improbable that someone buried two tons of explosives under the street hoping that Rafik Hariri would drive by. So where was the bomb?

There is some evidence indicating that the explosion that killed Hariri detonated under the street directly below his car.

The crater that resulted suggests that a precision guided aerial bomb struck Hariri's car, passing through it and penetrating into the road - before exploding. This is also indicated by the condition of Hariri's corpse. The lower part of his body was reported to be badly mangled and damaged while his head and torso were recognizable.

"If a penetrator weapon was used," Holsapple said, "the weight would be on the order of 1 ton, to within a factor of two." A penetrator weapon is an aerial bomb, such as a bunker-buster type, which is a guided weapon that is designed to penetrate the surface before exploding.

On an information webpage entitled, "Bombs for Beginners," the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) explains how aerial bombs create craters: "The cratering effect is normally achieved by using a GP [general purpose] bomb with a delayed fuzing system. This system allows bomb penetration before the explosion. Since the explosion occurs within the surface media the energy of the blast causes the formation of a crater," it says.

A 1-ton penetrating bomb, silent and unseen, would explain the huge crater and the fact that there is no evidence of a truck bomb attacking Hariri's motorcade.

Sam Hamod, an expert on Middle Eastern affairs, wrote, "We must do as they do in other criminal cases, look at who had the most to gain from the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri. The Lebanese had a lot to lose, as did the Syrians.

"No matter where else you look, no one else had anything to gain except Israel and the U.S.," Hamod wrote. "America quickly pointed the finger at Syria, as did Israel, which was tantamount to convicting themselves because they are the only two countries that would gain by creating unrest in Lebanon."