It looks like many bloggers may have been a bit too quick to pile on W. Thomas Smith, Jr. Tom Harb, Secretary General of the International Lebanese Committee for UN Security Council Resolution 1559 and John Hajjar, U.S. director for the World Council of the Cedars Revolution, have written a long piece that details why they believe the recent attacks on Smiths reporting from Lebanon are nothing but hit pieces:
Back in September, a reporter for National Review Online and former Marine, W. Thomas Smith Jr. landed in Beirut and began a three-week journey to report about the deeper end of Hezbollah’s deployment. Smith wasn’t the only American or European journalist who had crossed the psychological-warfare defense lines of Hezbollah and filed stories about the real situation, but he was the first reporter who is now under heavy fire from Hezbollah propagandists and their American mercenaries for having “penetrated” the second line of defense of Iranian propaganda in Lebanon.
The first line is when a journalist asks for Hezbollah’s permission to cover the organization but fails to follow the party line in his or her stories. The punishment is usually not to be granted another permission to walk in Hezbollah’s zones. But to those who come closer to the organization’s buildings, observe closely their urban movements, and never ask for any permission, the punishment is capital. Top dogs are unleashed against such journalists for the “kill” — the moral, professional and political kill. Smith is today in the cross hair of the “mercenaries” who in turn deliver the blows from Hezbollah’s propagandists.
It was a matter of, “Smith reported too much: Let’s get him.”
So who is doing the attacking?
Leading the charge is Thomas B. Edsall from The Huffington Post. Edsall enlists Michael Prothero and Chris Allbritton, two journalists who have no real Middle East training but who at least went to Lebanon, and filed articles from there.
But readers would be amazed to learn who these writers are, and at whose service are their pens. This is precisely where readers will begin to understand that the attacks on Smith are in fact at the “service” of Hezbollah. Edsall — eager to score points on his political enemies in American politics (Bush and the conservatives) and in a rush to settle some scores with The National Review — hastily hired two members of Hezbollah’s media mob who are all over the Internet defending the Iranian-funded militia. Instead of succeeding in nailing some sort of “victory” over Smith’s daring reporting, Edsall has opened a Pandora’s box on himself, Mrs. Huffington, and on the hidden media mercenaries, now fully exposed to the readers’ scrutiny on aiding Hezbollah against its victims.
The writers then go over the three points of contention by the left:
Smith’s September 29 report that between 4,000-5,000 Hezbollah gunmen had “deployed to the Christian areas of Beirut in an unsettling ‘show of force.’
Research: Smith was reporting about the presence of thousands of Hezbollah militants who cross from the southern suburbs to East Beirut. After checking, we know these movements have been occurring for months, as hundreds –sometimes thousands – of Hezbollah supporters walk (and travel on motorcycles) from their neighborhoods to downtown Beirut to visit or replace the hundreds of militants who are camping in front of Prime Minister’s building. If these moves were not exciting for journalists Prothero and Allbritton, that is their problem. Not so for Smith who — according to his account – got this information from neighborhood watch teams in the East sector and from NGOs. It would have been more useful for Edsall to invite these witnesses to write about Hezbollah’s moves on Beirut’s streets instead of subcontracting two media sympathizers of Hezbollah to ratify these stories.
September 25 report that “some 200-plus heavily armed Hezbollah militiamen” occupied a “sprawling Hezbollah tent city” near the Lebanese parliament.
Edsall must be joking. Which part of this statement is he worried about? Is he rejecting the fact that 200 Hezbollah militiamen occupy downtown Beirut or is it that they may be armed? Well, first, he needs to spend more time watching CNN, the BBC, or al Jazeera to actually “see” that there is a tent city in Beirut, and that the occupiers were way more than 200 persons in September and October. Smith actually underreported. There are hundreds and sometimes more than a thousand present in that part of downtown. And when the Hezbollah coalition holds rallies, tens-of-thousands appear on TV. As to weapons, Edsall might read more reports on Lebanon and understand that Hezbollah is a militia that owns 20,000 missiles, and that its leaders have openly threatened to take the city center of Beirut. Hence, the militants who occupied downtown Beirut are armed and their weapons are hidden in their tents and in different locations. If journalists boast otherwise, they need to go there along with NGO and UN observers and enter these tents. Short of such investigative reporting, attacking Smith for daring to state the obvious, is an insult to common sense and to the Lebanese People who have been suffering from violence for too long.
In addition, Smith’s critics contend that Smith’s self-reported exploits — if true – endanger the press corps in the troubled region.
From all accusations this one is certainly the most ridiculous and uncovers the degree of collaboration between the accusers and the Hezbollah propaganda machine. For if a courageous American journalist goes freely wherever he wishes and was successful in reaching very close to Hezbollah’s military positions and writes about it, he should be treated as a hero by the press corps: not as badly as the crowd at the Huffington Post and their associates have done.
And if Prothero and Allbritton spend their time in Beirut cozying up to Hezbollah’s media department and filing stories in defense of the Iranian-funded militia, that is their choice, but not the choice of independent-minded US journalists who take risks to inform their readers about the real situation on the ground. Prothero and Allbriton do not represent the press corps nor do they represent professional journalism. They are friends of Hezbollah.
They then go into quite a bit of detail exposing the writers who helped The Huffington Post “expose” Smith, Michael Prothero and Chris Allbritton, as rabid anti-Isreal Hezbollah supporters. Including examples of writing that promote Hezbollah as a resistance movement, additionally:
Prothero has been accused in “letters to the editor” of being a staunch defender of Hezbollah and by pro-Jihadist readers as an advocate for their cause in Lebanon.
Allbritton has written many pieces and has his opinions well-shaped. He attacks presidential candidates because they expose Islamist terrorism. He praises Syria as a serious player in the Middle East. He criticizes the Kurds in Iraq, and sees Iran as a partner for stabilization.
Writing for the San Francisco Chronicle on July 28, 2006, Allbritton said “87 percent of Lebanese said they support Hezbollah in its fight against Israel.”
But the Lebanese majority in parliament has criticized Hezbollah for igniting a war without any authorization. It took some research to realize that the so-called Beirut Center for Research and Information he quoted is a Hezbollah front.
Oddly as Allbritton accuses Smith of lying about weapons being distributed in Beirut he wrote this:
The old weapons have been taken out, dusted and oiled up, and new weapons have been bought in alarming quantities,” said Omar Nashabe, who writes on security issues for the opposition Al-Akhbar. “They are ready to burn the country again.” Even private citizens are getting in on the action. In downtown Beirut this week, two armed drivers argued over the right of way on one of Beirut’s many narrow streets. The argument ended with one of them shot dead. Hezbollah is preparing for something. Last weekend, the group staged a massive military exercise on both sides of the Litani River, south of which the group is not supposed to wander while armed. So, the fighters didn’t carry weapons when they cross the river. Both Israeli military observers and members of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) watched the exercise, which was personally overseen by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.
So Allbritton denies Smith the right to “talk about it,” because perhaps he wants to talk “about it”?
Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review under the title “Lifting the Cover of the Hezbollah PR Effort” on July 27, 2006, Paul McLeary describes how Albritton admitted that Hezbollah controls the journalists in Beirut, but omitted to state how he (Albritton) and the Hezbollah media guys are friendly. Last but not least, see whose sites link with him: Electronic Intifada, the pro-Jihadist website, antiwar, and none other than the chief apologist for Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and other terrorists, Juan Cole. So the bottom line is this witness from Beirut is nothing more than a “friend” to Hezbollah.
Tom Harb and John Hajjar also expand on the obvious misquoting by the Huffington Post writer of Smiths work. Allbritton said that Smith wrote that 4,000 Hezbollah gunman “took over” East Beirut. Smith never said there was an invasion and that the Hezbollah fighters took over the city but even more humorous is the fact that Allbritton has described Hezbollah being seen all over the city himself.
Edsall wrote in The Huffington Post that Smith wrote that these 4,000 armed Hezbollah fighters took up positions in East Beirut on one day in a show of force. Again, Smith never wrote that. Instead he wrote that Hezbollah were all over the city. He never wrote there were armed divisions inside Beirut.
Smith might have been more specific in his description, but Edsall and his crowd must stop fabricating new ones. True, there was no Hezbollah division marching in Beirut — Smith never suggested there was — but what Hezbollah’s friends refuse to report to their readers in the US is that a militia has indeed deployed in downtown. Smith’s military slang description of what took place in late September angered Hezbollah, because it probably preempted their real plans already visible on the streets.
And this kind of stuff should make you angry:
Allbritton wrote that “by openly bragging about how he conducts ‘reconnaissance’ on Hezbollah ‘strongholds’ and describing what weapons he’s carrying, he’s making it difficult for every journalist here to do his or her job. We’re all under suspicion anyway, and his public cowboying doesn’t help at all.”
Oh please, a cowboy snatching a flag from Nasrallah will make lives more difficult to journalists who are living in Lebanon and whose passports are already with the organization? Who are we kidding here? And what job are these Hezbollah accredited journalists doing? Defending Hezbollah’s image? Hiding information about the organization? Where is the reporting about the Iranian Pasdaran walking around in Nabartieh, Tyre, Baalbeck and the 20,000 missiles? Why aren’t these American journalists visiting the Syrian-Lebanese borders — like Smith courageously did – and reporting from there? Where is their investigative work on the assassination of many Lebanese legislators? All their job seems to be is to rail against the Cedars Revolution and praise the achievements of Hezbollah, warning about its disarming.
Did Smith play loose with a few facts? Hard to say at this point seeing as how the ones accusing Smith of these violations have some questionable allegiances. But it does appear many of us were too quick to demonize Smith.
The bottom line is crystal clear: There is a lynch mob out to demonize Smith for having dared to play “cowboy” in Beirut and snatch a flag from the terrorists. Edsall, Prothero and Allbritton are to be condemned for what they wrote and ought to apologize to Smith for trying to destroy him and his reputation.