As usual, George Bush is pushing his luck. Posturing as the liberator of Lebanon, he seems intent on implementing his neo-con inspired vision to impose regime change in Damascus.
Successive American administrations have demonstrated zero interest the sovereignty of Lebanon. It should never be forgotten that America comes to the Lebanese table with a sordid history that Bush and his merry band of Likudniks would rather ignore. It was Henry Kissinger who laid the red carpet for Syria’s intervention in 1976. And it was the United States that gave the Israelis a green light to invade Lebanon in 1978 and 1982. It is also worth noting that Israel’s brutal eighteen-year occupation of the south was paid for with American tax dollars. So, Washington’s sudden concern with Lebanon’s territorial integrity should be taken with a grain of salt coming from an administration that continues to libel the Lebanese resistance as the enterprise of ‘terrorists’.
To dodge his unenviable record in Iraq, Bush will hitch a ride on any bandwagon to escape the Mess on Potamia. Americans loved the Iraqi elections but – thanks to developments in Lebanon -” they are now distracted from paying attention to the results -” which remain uncertain and unattractive.
For the callous, it must be entertaining to watch American media barkers howl about a democratic Intifada breaking out in the Middle East as a direct result of the invasion of Iraq. Indeed, it would all be very comical if the whole messy affair was not so bloody and the policy makers and pundits were not so delusional.
But the killing fields in Iraq have nothing to do with the recent peaceful demonstrations in Lebanon. The spontaneous popular uprising in Beirut was fueled by the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri -” not in response to George’s rhetoric or his ‘shock and awe’ performance in Baghdad. Crediting Bush with the ‘cedar revolution’ is as valid as blaming him for the Tsunami in Asia.
If American journalists had a clue, they would pay attention to what the Lebanese are demanding -” a rapid withdrawal of the Syrian military forces and Syrian intelligence operatives and a transparent investigation to determine who was responsible for murdering Rafiq El Hariri. Period. None of them are rallying around Bush’s agenda to disarm the Lebanese resistance. Hezbollah continues to be as popular in Lebanon as the French resistance was in the streets of Paris.
George Bush should hire a translator and have him explain what Rafiq El Hariri’s sister has been saying on Al Mustaqbal -” a satellite channel owned by the late Prime Minister. Bahia Hariri, a member of the Lebanese parliament, has a clear message that has been echoed by virtually every Lebanese faction. The consensus in Lebanon is that Syrian forces must be withdrawn by a date certain -” but in dignity. Even the opposition insists that Syrian-Lebanese relations will improve when Lebanese sovereignty is no longer compromised. The primary concern of all factions is implementing the Taif agreement -” not in bowing to American dictates to disarm the Lebanese resistance. Before his death, Hariri spared no effort to resist the neo-con campaign to criminalize Hezbollah and other factions who participated in the struggle to liberate Lebanon from Israeli occupation.
Under the cover of UN resolution 1559, both Washington and Tel Aviv are also demanding that Lebanon be forced to absorb Palestinian refugees. Those who mourn Rafiq El Hariri have not forgotten his adamant refusal to accept this naked assault on the Palestinian right of return.
To be fair, one can’t blame George for grasping at straws. Fifteen hundred American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis are already dead because of his warped neo-con fantasies. No WMDs have been found and Bush has a nasty insurgency on his hands. Bin Laden is still on the loose and anti-American sentiment is on the rise. Oil prices are sky high and the dollar is on skid row. Iraqi elections were held without Sunni participation but Washington is still trying to manipulate the disturbing results. The neo-con faithful are depending on a poison pill called Ahmed Chalabi to derail the ascension of clerics to the Iraqi throne. For all these ‘achievements’, The American taxpayer is stuck with a 200 billion dollar bill -” all of it borrowed money.
Bush and his willing enablers are also taking credit for the ‘Prague spring’ in the Kingdom of oil and in Egypt. Saudi Arabia is holding a few municipal elections -” for half the people (no females allowed) and half the seats (the rest are appointed by the Saudi nobility). As for Egypt, Mubarak has made a ‘revolutionary’ proposal to amend the constitution to allow for multi-candidate presidential elections instead of referendums. It is still a proposal. It doesn’t include term limits -” insuring that Mubarak gets a fifth term in office. The Government controls most of the media outlets and has already launched an unofficial campaign on behalf of their favorite son. Draconian emergency laws dating back to 1981 are still in effect – which means any potential challenger will have to communicate with his constituency using hand signals. Three out of four Egyptians have never bothered to vote and it is not clear whether they will be allowed to register for the next election. And potential candidates will still need government approval before they run. As for Ayman Nour, who decided to prematurely declare his candidacy -” he is still behind bars in Cairo.
So much for the ‘democratic Intifada’ in the Middle East -” which is the ‘new new reason’ for the invasion of Iraq. Is it not incredible that George Bush recognizes that free and fair Lebanese elections can not be conducted under Syrian occupation while insisting that Iraqi elections were just dandy under the barrel of American guns? While pushing for an immediate withdrawl of Syrian forces from Lebanon, Bush refuses to schedule an American retreat from Iraq.
For thirty-eight years, Israel has conducted a violent campaign of creeping annexation and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and Gaza. Two generations of Palestinians have endured the brutality and humiliation of the American financed Israeli iron fist. Yet, Bush’s proclaimed love of liberty always seems to run out of steam at the Israeli border and near the oil plantations of the Gulf.
The Bush administration’s sudden determination to implement United Nations resolutions is also a rare treat. Since 1967, the United States has sabotaged all UN resolutions calling for an end to the Israeli occupation of Arab land -” including the Syrian Golan Heights. In fact, America has paid virtually every dime related to the cost of the Israeli occupation and the building of illegal Jewish settlements. Every American administration dating back to Johnson has supported the vicious repression of the Palestinians. Even Jimmy Carter refused to extend his passion for human rights to the West Bank and Gaza.
Securing cheap oil and fulfilling Israeli territorial ambitions remain the twin pillars of American foreign policy in the Middle East. Every thinking Arab including the Lebanese understand this basic reality. The only thing that has changed since 9/11 is the derogatory anti-Arab racism has become so pervasive in America’s popular culture. This new element allows this administration to construct gulags in Abu Ghraib and Guantanmo and to erase towns like Falujah from the face of the map. War crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan are not issues that concern CNN’s pundits or the simpletons who imbibe their noxious brew as gospel truth. Millions of Americans continue to get their news from Rupert Murdoch – a racist pornographer and a favorite of the Bush administration.
‘Bush The Liberator’ might fool most Americans all of the time -” but in the Middle East, he continues to be denigrated as a venomous villain. At best, they take him for an ignorant fool. At worst, they see him as a dangerous messianic outsider who is slavish to the whims of Ariel Sharon. True enough, the vast majority of people in the Middle East would like nothing more than to retire their autocratic governors. But they aren’t holding their breath for a savior to come galloping out of the White House.
The heroic multitudes that took to the streets of Beirut after the vicious murder of Rafiq El Hariri are an inspiration to all those who yearn for democracy in the Middle East. But George Bush’s invasion of Iraq has nothing to do with this marvelous and spontaneous Lebanese uprising. The neo-con media operatives need to abandon the quixotic search for a ‘new new reason’ to justify the invasion of Iraq. At the very minimum, they should stop looking for justifications on the brave streets of Beirut.