Statement by W. Thomas Smith Jr.
regarding the Lebanon Blog Posts
Part I: Facts and Part II: The story behind the story
Part I: Facts
In my NRO post of Sept. 25, 2007, I wrote:
I was with members of the pro-democracy movement in Lebanon. I asked them how many men were in the camp. There was no way I or anyone there could have physically counted them at the time or any other time. I was told there were more than 200 militiamen there at any one time (that number - actually a number slightly higher - was told me by another source: an anonymous insider serving in the national defense apparatus). When the camp opened months earlier, the estimates were reported to be 1,000-plus. Parliamentarian Walid Jumblatt himself said, back in April, that camp is a "military camp not a sit-in protest stage." And in late November, despite the fact that the camp numbers had dwindled since I was there more than a month earlier, Hezbollah was reported by AFP as saying that its numbers in the camp were some 600. So who knows?
In an unedited e-mail of Nov. 13 sent to NRO and me, Toni Nissi, general coordinator in Lebanon for the International Lebanese Committee for UN Security Council Resolution 1559, wrote:
“There is many more than 200 fighters carrying weapons in the downtown hizbullah camp and they are prepared to attack the government palace. Also if you know the place , its a very close place to a hizbullah security square where they are deployed 24/7 hours.
“Who do they [Smith’s attackers] think they are kidding? There were more than 200 in September and October. Smith actually underreported. And the militants who have occupied downtown Beirut are armed and their weapons are hidden in their tents and in different locations. So again, Smith's attackers are flat wrong, as are any Lebanese reporters who would dare to say otherwise.”
I was told by two independent reliable sources* that the brief deployment did take place, so I reported the information I gleaned from those sources. Some in the blogosphere have accused me of saying Hezbollah "infiltrated" or "took over" parts of East Beirut. I never said or suggested anything of the sort.
One of my detractors said this event, “simply never happened,” because “every journalist in town would have pounced on that story, and he’s the only one who noticed?” Another detractor said that “on the day that Smith says Hezbollah 'deployed' to East Beirut, I was doing some shopping.”
Frankly, I too was surprised that I was the only one who learned of it. And there were other amazing stories that other journalists should have “pounced on” while I was in Lebanon. But they did not. And I’m not sure why.
Then according to Nissi in the unedited email dated Nov. 13:
“Of course they have deployed in east Beirut, they went out of there security square and made an exercice like the one they did in the south few days ago. I think they were trying how fast they are able to take over some specific places whenever they decided to take away Sciniora government by force.
Also according to Nissi in a phone call on Dec. 17, and confirming what both he and Dr. Rachid Rahme said an e-mail sent from Nissi on the same date:
“[Dr. Rahme] and I both agree 100 percent that there were 4,000-5,000 Hezbollah fighters on the road in east Beirut in a ‘show of force’ in late September.”
On Dec. 18, Nissi again e-mails:
“I believe it wasn't only a show of force, it was also an exercise like the one they did in south Lebanon, and they are doing many other exercises to test the ground and no journalist living in Lebanon or willing to come to Lebanon will dare to talk or write about [it].”
“Hezbollah made a deliberate campaign to target and discredit you [W. Thomas Smith Jr.] in the Western media. This is exactly one of their means of international influence. This is part of the war of ideas. There are quite a few American journalists who are Hezbollah sympathizers. ... Many are paid a lot of money.” In a Jan.-16 response to a report published by Stratfor (which produces strategic analysis for general and media consumers), internationally respected counterterrorism expert Dr. Walid Phares wrote: “Isn't it interesting to see how back in the fall of 2007 Western-based media, friendly to Hezbollah, attacked an American journalist reporting from Beirut, [W. Thomas Smith Jr.], for daring to mention that Hezbollah has ever deployed forces in Beirut, while according to [the Stratfor report], the organization is sending in -not only regular militiamen, but special forces.”
In a Jan.-16 response to a report published by Stratfor (which produces strategic analysis for general and media consumers), internationally respected counterterrorism expert Dr. Walid Phares wrote:
“Isn't it interesting to see how back in the fall of 2007 Western-based media, friendly to Hezbollah, attacked an American journalist reporting from Beirut, [W. Thomas Smith Jr.], for daring to mention that Hezbollah has ever deployed forces in Beirut, while according to [the Stratfor report], the organization is sending in -not only regular militiamen, but special forces.”
On Jan. 28, an article in the Washington Times stated:
“Mr. Smith's enemies — including Hezbollah, Hezbollah's sympathizers and their apologists in the West (many of whom wrongly view Hezbollah and other terrorists as less threatening than they actually are) — had to shut him up. They tried, as Mr. Smith has been savagely and widely accused of "lying" and "fabricating," though such accusations have absolutely no basis in fact.
* Smith is a Hero by Tom Harb, Secretary General of the International Lebanese Committee for UN Security Council Resolution 1559, at World Defense Review
* American Mercenaries of Hezbollah by Tom Harb at Family Security Matters
* Bernard Goldberg was Right by Carol A. Taber at Accuracy in Media
* A Clear and Present Danger to the Left by George McFarlane at The Minority Report
* War of the Words by Kay Day at Creative Writer US
* Sometimes, I'm ashamed of my profession by Kay Day at Covering Florida
* Syria's Jihadists and Hezbollah are two arms of one body by Dr. Walid Phares at Mideast Newswire
* W. Thomas Smith, Jr., The Saga Continues by Steven Foley at The Minority Report
* W. Thomas Smith, Jr. Goes on the Record by Steven Foley at The Minority Report
* A Note to Readers at NRO
* A NOTE ABOUT MY SOURCES: My sources in Lebanon included extremely reliable men and women, who enabled me to gain access to members of parliament, mayors and other municipal leaders, the grandson of a late president of Lebanon, one of the highest-ranking (perhaps the highest-ranking) Muslim clerics in Beirut, multiple high-ranking military and intelligence officers, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the head of the national police, and the special forces and counterterrorist strike force commanders. And not all of those defense types were friendly with my civilian sources, and many of my sources had no idea I was talking with the others.
Click here for The story behind the story.