Wednesday, March 12, 2008

'Lebanon after the Bush Regime'

By Friends of Lebanon

Friends of Lebanon's Lebanese flag logoOn 12 July 2006 a brutal war was launched on Lebanon. What at first appeared to be just another Israeli temper tantrum, however, soon showed itself to be the frontline of a more insidious battle plan. The US government under the leadership of George W Bush was five years into its so-called war on terror. (1) Eight days before the outbreak of the war in Lebanon—a war even Israel would later concede was planned at least months if not years before—Bush announced: “We're engaged in a global struggle against the followers of a murderous ideology that despises freedom and crushes all dissent, and has territorial ambitions and pursues totalitarian aims. … And against such an enemy there is only one effective response: We will never back down, we will never give in and we will never accept anything less than complete victory." (2)

The Bush government has made clear that it considers these “followers of a murderous ideology” to be anyone in the Middle East who does not yield to US doctrine. It thus considers half the population of Lebanon to be its enemy: the half that is labelled the “opposition parties.”

Although the opposition stance derives from internal political issues rather than from international relations, the Bush government has repeatedly denounced their actions and labelled them as the enemy. Exaggeration? Absolutely not. Take for example the 3 August 2007 executive order “Blocking the Property” of the opposition parties, in which Bush states that they “constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat." (3)

This destroy-the-enemy-dogma explains the US support for the 2006 war. It also explains the millions of dollars in military and intelligence aid to defeat the opposition. The Bush government has in fact shown such inordinate interest in Lebanon that Lebanon has become a Petri dish in the American experiment on the Middle East. It is so prevalent in White House business that it would take a full book to discuss the convoluted narrative. (4)

The underlying theme of such a narrative would be manipulation of a foreign country to serve the interests of the Bush regime. The exploitation is so rampant that Bush’s statements immediately following the assassination of PM Rafik Hariri (14 February 2005) expressed not sorrow for the loss of a great man, but the opportunity to discredit and destroy Syria (presumed guilty by Bush) for what he repeatedly calls a “terrorist act,” rather than an “assassination.” (5) Though they had met several times and maintained amiable relations, it seems Bush viewed Hariri’s death as a fortuitous chance to further Bush’s own political agenda for the region. In fact UNSCR 1559 (2 September 2004), which in part calls for the removal of foreign (ie Syrian) military presence in Lebanon, is mentioned in Whitehouse business only once, the day after its passing, in the 5 ½ months prior to Hariri’s death. (6) But It came up 25 times in the 5 ½ months following his death.

Friends of Lebanon's official logoMarking the beginning of the end of the Bush regime, January 2008 has brought only the same old platitudes and power plays. On 9 January, Bush began his visit to the Middle East. Maybe the atmosphere of American presidential election campaigning inspired him. His 6-country visit seemed a campaign of his own, with smiles and handshakes over promises of support and weapons, lots of weapons. He did not visit Lebanon. Perhaps there was nothing left to do.

Or perhaps he was anticipating the warning of the US Embassy in Beirut to maintain a high level of vigilance, especially when planning travel. The 15 January roadside bombing near the US embassy has served only to intensify the political situation. The fact that US staff were neither killed nor injured in the explosion—though it tragically cost three Lebanese civilians their lives—suggests that the incident was either the act of a frustrated amateur or was a deliberate miss. Accusations and innuendo are creating even more hurdles to overcoming the simmering stalemate which Lebanon endures.

US Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman, for instance, was quick to colour the incident. In his farewell visit with Speaker Nabih Berri, Feltman reinforced the “enduring nature of U.S. support for Lebanon”. He went on to say the bombing “was an attack against the idea of a secure, prosperous, united, democratic, sovereign Lebanon, where citizens can live free of fear of assassination and terrorist attacks. I am convinced that this attack, like the murders and attacks that preceded this one, will not succeed in weakening the Lebanese determination for independence, security, and democracy. And this attack certainly will not weaken the international partnership for Lebanon. This attack will not undermine U.S. resolve to support Lebanon.” (7) The same old platitudes and power plays. One has to wonder if that was a promise or a threat.

Meanwhile, not so subtle in his determination to impose his own agenda, Bush stated bluntly “We support the Siniora government and the efforts of the March 14th group to come together to elect a President, pursuant to their constitution.” (8) We must inevitably infer from this comment, then, that the opposition parties should not be involved in electing the President of Lebanon, as he clearly states that he supports the March 14th group to come together to elect a President. That a foreign country should arbitrarily dictate who can choose the Lebanese President is nothing more than old-fashioned imperialism. It is the gravest insult to the Lebanese people.

So will the end of the Bush regime offer change for 2009? To some extent that would depend on his replacement. Then again, are the American media and political systems capable of respecting an autonomous Lebanon? Is Lebanon capable, in the end, of self-analysis and self-reliance? There will and always should be some people for and some people against the status quo government. That is the nature of democracy: equal rights amongst the people to decide how they are governed. But that requires the freedom to disagree, the freedom to discuss, the freedom to choose, and the freedom to change.

End Notes:

(1) Highlights: 18 Sep 2001US Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists; 26 Oct 2001 USA Patriot Act: (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism); 7 Oct 2001 US Invasion of Afghanistan; 18 Mar 2003 Invasion of Iraq; 5 Sep 2006 US National Strategy for Combating Terrorism
(2)
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/09/20060905.html
(3)
http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/legal/eo/13441.pdf
See also
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/11/20061101-1.html
(4) Just to offer an idea, a search for “Lebanon” in www.whitehouse.gov (a compendium of official US statements from the current government) brings up 644 speeches, news releases, and proclamations.
(5) The President was shocked and angered to learn of the terrorist attack in Beirut today that murdered former Prime Minister Hariri and killed and injured several others. Mr. Hariri was a fervent supporter of Lebanese independence, and worked tirelessly to rebuild a free, independent, and prosperous Lebanon following its brutal civil war and despite its continued foreign occupation. His murder is an attempt to stifle these efforts to build an independent, sovereign Lebanon free of foreign domination. The people of Lebanon deserve the freedom to choose their leaders free of intimidation, terror, and foreign occupation, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1559. The United States will consult with other governments in the region and on the Security Council today about measures that can be taken to punish those responsible for this terrorist attack, to end the use of violence and intimidation against the Lebanese people, and to restore Lebanon's independence, sovereignty, and democracy by freeing it from foreign occupation. (14 February 2005 )
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/02/20050214-4.html
“The United States and France join with the European Union and the international community in condemning the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, and in their support for a free, independent, and democratic Lebanon. We support the U.N. investigation into this terrorist act and urge the full cooperation of all parties in order to identify those responsible for this act. We urge full and immediate implementation of UNSCR 1559 [2 Sep 2004] in all its aspects, including its call for a sovereign, independent, and democratic Lebanon as well as for the consolidation of security under the authority of a Lebanese government free from foreign domination. Lebanon's forthcoming parliamentary elections can mark another milestone in Lebanon's return to independence and democracy if they are free and fair, conducted without outside interference, and guaranteed by international observers. The implementation of UNSCR 1559 is essential to the organization and success of these elections. The people of Lebanon deserve this opportunity, and we stand with them in their aspirations for freedom, sovereignty, and security. (21 February 2005)
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/02/20050221-1.html
“In Lebanon, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in peaceful protest over the brutal assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri. For years, the Lebanese people have suffered from the aftermath of a horrific civil war and occupation by Syria. Lebanese citizens who have watched free elections in Iraq are now demanding the right to decide their own destiny, free of Syrian control and domination. Syria has been an occupying force in Lebanon for nearly three decades, and Syria's support for terrorism remains a key obstacle to peace in the broader Middle East.” (5 March 2005)
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/03/20050305.html
See also Press Briefings on 14 and 15 February 2005
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/02/20050214-6.htm
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/02/20050214-4.html
(6)
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/09/20040903-4.html
(7)
http://lebanon.usembassy.gov/latest_embassy_news/press-releases08/amb011708.html
(8)
http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/mideast/notes/Jan16.html

[Source: http://www.friendsoflebanon.org/index_files/News6.htm]

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