Hatem, a former member of the Lebanese Forces (LF) militia, offers astonishing details and first-hand accounts of the Lebanese civil war, a conflict that in many ways remains mysterious. His controversial and detailed account of the rise to power of LF leader Elie Hobeika (whom he once served as bodyguard)—including Hobeika's alliance with Israel and his subsequent betrayal of the Christian resistance in return for Syrian political patronage—has sparked huge controversy in Lebanon; reportedly, Hobeika offered Hatem $800,000 not to publish the book.1
Hobeika's evolution from strong proponent of the Christian-Israeli alliance to collaborator with Syria is at the heart of the book and inspiration for its title. Hatem attributes Hobeika's participation in Syria's effort to dismantle Lebanese Christian power to pure greed, just as it was for others who followed the same path, including Karim Pakradouni ("the master manipulator") and Michel Murr ("the golden goose"). He shows that Hobeika was of great utility to Damascus, overseeing the transfer of critical logistical information about Lebanese army positions to the Syrians. All this had a decisive impact, Hatem writes: "without a shred of doubt, the Syrians owed their sweeping victory of October 13, 1990, to the collaboration of Elie Hobeika."
Hobeika and the other collaborators were handsomely rewarded for their work. Hatem provides a rare window into the immense corruption of Hobeika and his Syrian-installed colleagues and how they used their position to accumulate massive wealth. Not only is Hobeika a member of parliament, but he has been a perennial minister in the governments under the Syrian occupation. Hatem's memoirs indict the entire political class in Lebanon for sacrificing its country on the alter of personal ambitions. "This book is dedicated to the glorious survivors of this temporary defeat," writes Hatem. "As I break the silence, I salute you all. May God give you the courage to return one day in honor to your homeland Lebanon."
Hatem's account of Hobeika's ruthless ascent is very credible, for Hatem himself often carried out Hobeika's orders. While he reveals all, as in his description of the LF assault on the rival National Liberal Party militia in July 1980 ("I was hypnotized. I was doing what I was told, throwing people out of upper-story windows, shooting others in the swimming pool"), Hatem absolves himself of any moral responsibility for having loyally served a notorious war criminal—perhaps the most disturbing aspect of his book.
1 Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, May 1999. The frantic reaction of the current Lebanese government to its publication provides the best indication of Hatem's credibility. On May 17, 1999, Anwar Khalil, Lebanon's information minister, issued a decree banning both the book and publication of passages from it. The information ministry confiscated copies of a United Arab Emirates daily, Al-Ittihad, which had published excerpts. Meanwhile, Hobeika himself filed a lawsuit on May 25 with the Publications Tribunal, demanding that copies of the book be confiscated and destroyed and that Hatem be prosecuted. His lawsuit accuses Hatem of "tarnishing Hobeika's human and social image" and asserts that "Israeli intelligence, whose imprints are very distinct from the first to the last page," was behind the book's publication. Ibid. Two of Hobeika's accomplices mentioned in the book, Fadi Saroufim and Joseph Asmar, filed similar lawsuits. Lebanese journalist Scarlett Haddad of L'Orient le Jour has also filed a lawsuit against Hatem, whom she accuses of slander for including her name among the scores of women with whom Hobeika allegedly had affairs.