Showtime has become one of the most reliable providers of content that draws heavily from real-life events and dramatizes them in such a manner that people can’t really tell reality from fiction. After Waco: The Aftermath, Showtime brings us Ghosts of Beirut, another show based on heavily researched true stories that focus on the decades-long conflict in Lebanon regarding the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Uncountable were suffered by either side as one man, Imad Mughniyeh, orchestrated brutal terror attacks, pulling strings from the shadows while rising up the ranks in Hezbollah. Here’s what happens in Ghosts of Beirut Episode 1.
The Iranians In Turkey
In 2007, a group of men wearing US Army gear drove into a civilian administration center in Karbala and took away two US liaison officers. The attackers also managed to injure two US army men, and by the time CIA officer Lena reached the location where the attackers’ cars had been abandoned, the hostages had been killed and left inside the vehicles. She calls a number and confirms that the person behind this attack was Imad Mughniyeh and that she’s 100% sure about it as the title card rolls.
In a Turkish safehouse, Lena is asked to question the Iranian deputy general Ali-Reza Asgari about the Lebanese attackers, but Asgari refuses to cooperate and instead goes personal with Lena. Lena is adamant that the man knows where Imad, aka Radwan, is because he was the one who recruited the man who’d go on to be the second-in-command for Hezbollah. Lena goes on the offensive and threatens to throw the warmongering Asgari right back into Iran, where he’d crawled out of after stealing millions of dollars. The deputy general begins his tale of how he met Imad and how he was recruited.
Who Is Imad Mughniyeh?
In 1982, in Beirut, Lebanon, a young Asgari and his associate Mohtashmi-Pur watched as garage worker Imad shooed away some corrupt soldiers forcing an old fruit seller to pay bribes, and approached him. Asgari was a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, while his partner, Mohtashmi, was the Iranian ambassador to Syria. After introducing them to his brother-in-law Mustafa and his brother Haidar, Imad learned from the two men that they had a camp in Baalbek and that Imad was needed there. He’d be joined by several of the oppressed Muslims terrorized by the Israeli government’s autocracy while occupying Lebanon, and Imad’s burning hatred against the Israelis doesn’t go unnoticed by the two recruiters. Imad later takes his wife Saada to a garage, where he shows her a massive collection of various kinds of guns and ammo, but she’s scared.
The American Peacekeeper
Elsewhere, CIA operative Robert Ames, who’d tried brokering peace in war-torn countries, tried the same for the Israelis and Arabian nations because of the brutalities of the ongoing tension. Ames had it on good authority that an old police station in Baalbek Valley had been purchased and would be used as a camp—the same camp where Asgari had invited Imad. In Beirut, Ames meets a PLO official and suggests the possibility of Israel withdrawing from Lebanon at the insistence of President Reagan.
Imad takes Mustafa and Haidar to the Baalbek camp, where he trains young Muslim men to shoot at enemies using rifles and quickly rises towards the ranks till he’s a commander, whom the young people look up to. They’ve got a singular goal: to free Lebanon of foreign presence. For the time being, it’s the Israelis, but it won’t take long for the enemies to be the American peacekeepers. Bachir Gemayel is elected president in Lebanon, but within a few weeks, he is assassinated, which sends shockwaves through the country. The Gemayel loyalists brutally massacre 2,000 Palestinian refugees in western Beirut, throwing a wrench in the USA’s peace accords. Imad and Saada visit a woman who lost her children at the hands of Gemayel’s militants, and Imad contemplates vengeance as Saada holds the wailing mother.
From the get-go, Imad was determined to use terror to free the country, no matter the means necessary. He suggested the plan of suicide bombers who’d drive cars loaded with bombs into the Israeli army encampments and detonate them, killing the Zionists, but suicide is considered a sin in Islam, his brothers argued. Imad, however, rationalized this terror act by saying it’d be martyrdom, and whoever sacrificed their lives by killing Israelis would be granted paradise. Imad drove to a faraway town to the house of a man named Ahmad, who’d lost his family to Israelis and only had his younger brother Ali. Imad promised the best education and a bright future for Ali, and Ahmad would become a hero in Lebanon if he sacrificed his life.
A few days later, Ahmad drove a vehicle rigged with explosives into the Israeli military headquarters in Tyre, Lebanon, and exploded the car, resulting in the deaths of at least 28 people. While the Israelis insisted that it was caused by a gas leak, one Israeli officer, Meir Dagan, believed otherwise. He contacted Ames and drove him to Ahmad’s town, where the walls were covered with the “martyr’s” posters. The Israelis maintained the “gas leak” because they didn’t want Ahmad to be made into a hero across Lebanon, but Dagan warned Ames that the Israelis had been targeted now and the Americans wouldn’t be far behind because these people are fanatics and their fires are being stoked by Khomeini. Ames warns his bosses about Islamic Jihad and returns home for family time.
What Happened To The US Embassy In Lebanon?
However, while playing basketball with his kids, Ames is dragged back to Beirut because the Peace Corps has been greenlit. Inside the US Embassy in Lebanon, Ames learns that the investigations by the US officers have returned no results. The US officials don’t want to agree that it might be Jihad at all, while Ames questions why Khomeini didn’t start his actions against the invaders right in Lebanon. Just at that moment, Imad’s car passes by the US Embassy and signals a truck waiting in an alleyway—it’s the same truck that Imad had supervised, loading a heavy number of explosives inside. It’s lunchtime, and Ames stays back in the office as the other officials start leaving for lunch. Gunfire and commotion can be heard outside. Ames opens his mouth to let out a scream as an explosion blackens the screen. Imad’s car drives by, and the camera pans into his cold, merciless eyes—the eyes of a man who’d just orchestrated mass murder.
Robert Ames died that day inside the US Embassy because of the truck bomb. The truck had been instructed to drive straight in and hit the walls of the building before hitting the button that set off the explosion. Not only Ames but all the CIA operatives and other important officers who were looking into the peace treaty were killed in the explosion, and the tragic irony of this was that they were discussing how Lebanon could be freed from the Israeli occupation. This started a series of deaths that’d go on for several years more until justice would be brought down on Imad Mughniyeh, aka Radwan.
From the very first episode, Ghosts of Beirut aims for a somber approach that can perfectly represent the condition of the Israel-Palestine crisis. Using live TV footage from 1982 as well as interviews with the people who were present during those times of unrest, the showrunners showcase the severity of the situation Lebanon was undergoing back then. The slow building of tension that leads Imad to resort to extremist violence against the ones he considers illegal occupants of his land shows the exact transformation from words to action. By the time he orchestrates the explosion of the US Embassy, he’s no longer a man who values the lives of others; now he’s just recklessly killing. Fantastic camera work, a background score that resonates with the situation, and gritty acting make Ghosts of Beirut a must-watch if you wish for a deeper look into the Israel-Palestine crisis.