Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hobeika - Super Agent

The Middle East is full of intrigue, or so we are told. Dens of spies, spymasters, vast conspiracies - these are the warp and woof of the place, we imagine. On January 24, 2002, Super Agent Elie Hobeika was blown up in his car near his home. His body was flung 60 meters by the blast, possibly landing on a nearby balcony - so far that was he expelled from his previous spy status.

Elie Hobeika was the incarnation of duplicity in the shifting sands of the Lebanese civil war. He is reported to have executed the Sabra and Shatila massacres of Palestinian refugees after Lebanese President Bashir Gemayel was assassinated by a large detonation at his party's headquarters in East Beirut. Hobeika is even reported to have been behind this very act, killing the President he later revenged by assisting the convicted perpetrator to gain access to the necessary explosives and to the site.

He is reported to have worked with the Syrians to help destroy the Christians' military power which he had previously built up. He was notorious for having been involved in the bombardment of the mainly-Christian town of Zahleh by Syrian and pro-Syrian forces. Finally, he was named as member of the government of President Hrawi - a man from that very Zahleh - and so became Minister of Electricity of Lebanon.

Beyond these major events, Hobeika may have been involved in untold numbers of extra-judicial killings, kidnappings, briberies and blackmail. He exercised each and every one of these crimes with a great passion and a kind of blindness one only sees in saints and the greatest criminals. He was so efficient at the task that every side - Lebanese, Israeli, Syrian - is reported to have gladly drawn on his services.

No one dared touch him until that January 24, a decade or more after his major crimes. Many are convinced that former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon ordered his death after Hobeika agreed to testify against the Israeli leader in a Belgian court over the Sabra/Shatila massacres. Others believe the Syrians took advantage of his expendability to signal that Lebanon remained very shaky and needy of their presence, or to confirm that the Israelis are still meddling in Lebanon. So clear are the muddy waters of Middle Eastern politics. Hobeika's assassination was cloaked in the confusion and duplicity of his very life.

There are some who believe that Hobeika worshipped regularly at the tomb of the Maronite Saint, Mar Charbil, whose corpse remains miraculously uncorrupted by the ravages of time, and that Elie held a bottle of oil in his palm and recited prayers before entering battle, where he would often be seen to laughing like a hyena at times of extreme crisis, shouting "You fools! You don't know what you're doing!".

Some women were also strangely captivated by the green-eyed man, loving him with a desperation suitable to his extreme criminality. Despite the logical pleading of family and friends, these women would gladly go to his bed for the experience of Hobeika. He was greatly feared when he walked his own neighbourhood; all knew of the wrath and vengeance that awaited any who would dare cross him.

There are many who cheered and sighed 'good riddance' when he died. Most of the Lebanese political elite - except the brother of the assassinated Bashir and including many former enemies - attended Hobeika's funeral.

A woman with henna-coloured hair, whose age has only softended her magnificent figure, is reported to be seen placing a red rose at his grave at regular intervals.

(Most of this entry is true; the additional fictions are in line with the general course of events)

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