Syrian Terrorism & Lebanon's independence
By: Elias Bejjani
LCCC Media Chairman

On November 11, 2003 the Lebanese - American Lobby made history. Because of their staunch and indefatigable attempts, the US Senate, by an overwhelming majority of 89 to 4, passed "The Syria Accountability and Lebanese  Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003". With the passage of this Act and President Bush's expected signing of the bill into law, presumably a new and more principled US policy towards Lebanon in particular, and the Middle East in general, will be on its way to becoming a reality, hopefully without any alteration, hesitation or procrastination. Of course, only time will tell. Time has come to forever sever the Baathist snake's head, because only then will the world be safe from its poisonous weapons of venom, terrorism, radicalism and fanaticism.

We have endured for far too long. We have been tolerant and patient. Enough is enough! The peace-loving Lebanese people have suffered for the last thirty years from oppression and persecution, pain and torture, displacement and crime, wanton murder, assassinations and massacres. All with the blessings of the free world and the international community who now must reverse course and take a strong and principled stand in support of human rights and in defense of small nations. This is especially incumbent upon the US, leaders of the free world. Embrace; do not abandon your responsibilities. Worldwide terrorism is a preventable evil that will not end until the hitherto fallacious charade - of sacrificing principle for pragmatism and interests, and of fighting terrorism only when convenient - gives way to a real and serious effort to honestly eradicate terrorism from the entire planet. Justice is the birthright of people the world over, and without justice there will never be peace. And when it comes to justice and peace, the Middle East has been swept aside for far too long.

As long as it remains a Syrian mouthpiece with no real place at the table, an occupied Lebanon will remain the ideal breeding ground for the radical enemies of peace and freedom to plot their terrorist acts. Lebanon must once and forever reclaim its freedom, sovereignty and independence so that it can lead by example the rest of the Middle East on the path of social justice, civil liberties, democratic practices, multi-ethnic and multi-religious tolerance and co-existence.

For the past thirty years, the US, the countries of the Middle East, Europe and the international community have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear toward to the occupation of Lebanon, while appeasing and cajoling the Syrian occupier. Why? Why coddle the Stalinist Baathist Syrian regime? It has been a sham and a shame. It is time the world awoke. Terrorism must be annihilated at the roots. The world must say no to all terrorism. It must denounce the Syrian Baathist regime's economic, political, and demographic destruction of Lebanon. If the tyrant in Damascus has been deemed for decades to be a dictator who won't even safeguard his own people or his own country from terrorism, what sense then does it make to entrust him with the safety of

There are two kinds of supporters of the 30-year long big lie of Syria as a factor of stability in Lebanon. There are those who naively but honestly believed that a policy of engagement with Syria will miraculously lead to a change of heart on the part of the Syrian Baath gang of thugs, and therefore they thought that the price of sacrificing Lebanon was worth it. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity", and now we know that the policy of engagement with Syria has been just that: stupid and ignorant. For Syria has scuttled every chance that the peace process presented for an honest and fair settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over three long decades. And truth be said, Syria was allowed to burn Lebanon to the ground in the process. Those supporters of the big lie have not only been proven stupid and ignorant, but dead wrong, short-sighted, and delusional.

Then there are those who supported the big lie of the Syrian peace in Lebanon because they simply made lucrative deals off the entangled web of Syrian, Saudi, French and American interests, and as we all know, also off the backs and the blood of innocent civilians in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East. Now that the House of Saud and the Syrian Regime have been uncovered as, respectively, the financiers and the executioners of morbid plots against anything Western, the house of cards has crumbled. These supporters of the big lie have been exposed for the horrible crimes they have allowed to be committed against innocent people, against world peace, against humanity and each and every covenant of human rights and civilization.

The Syrian Baathist Stalinist regime is now living on borrowed time. Who by now does not know that the legacy of Syria is to have first created the Baath ideology, then exported it to Iraq where it created the clone regime of Saddam Hussein and was for decades in control of both countries? Is there any reason to doubt that, as a consequence of this genetic identity, the ruthlessness of Saddam does not exist in Syria? That the mass graves uncovered in Iraq containing the remains of 500,000 Iraqis, each killed with a single bullet in the back of the head, have no replicas under the sands of the Syrian desert? Is there any reason not to believe Amnesty International when it tells us year after year about the torture chambers of Syria and Iraq, with all the refinements that the Baathist thugs brought to the torture techniques they learned from their Nazi idols? There are those who today agree with the fact that the Iraqi dictatorship was evil but disagree with the American intervention in Iraq. What then do they propose for Syria? What forward-looking proposals do they have to end the Syrian occupation and destruction of Lebanon? What solutions do they envisage to end three decades of brutality and crimes against innocent Syrians and Lebanese? What motives will ever satisfy their high moral standards to warrant some intervention, if the rescue of entire peoples from the claws of inhumanity is not enough?

The free world cannot afford to rest in the pursuit of the Syrian Baathist regime and those who believe that killing innocent civilians - their own civilians and the civilians of their enemies - is a legitimate political tool. The free world cannot give concessions to terrorists nor can it reward them by giving in to their demands. This will only lead to more terror. What, we ask, have the Jews of Istanbul to do with Palestine or Iraq? By what measure of reason can blowing up synagogues in Turkey, or churches in Lebanon or Egypt, help anybody's cause? Nothing can justify these crimes. If the US is serious about peace in the Middle East and the end of the terrorist threat within its own borders, it must confront the Syrian regime by either peacefully forcing change in its rotten stone-age governance mentality through economic and political pressure, or if need be by toppling it. The Syrian leadership should understand that if it does not stop supporting terrorism, stop developing weapons of mass destruction, end its occupation of Lebanon and cease support for the terrorists operating in Iraq, it must face a serious escalation that will ultimately lead to its own demise.

The US cannot have a relationship with Syria and close its eyes to the facts: Syria supports terrorism, period! It is the sole supporter of all terrorist groups that have carried out numerous attacks against American, German, Arab and European civilian, military, and political targets. It has operated freely in the Syrian-controlled Beqaa Valley in Lebanon over the past 20 years. Most of these terrorist groups maintain offices, training camps, and other facilities inside Syria or in areas of Lebanon under Syrian hegemony.

Anyone traveling to the Middle East knows that one of the saddest stories in modern history is the story of the fall of Lebanon from paradise into hell when the Lebanese lost control over their own destiny. As the US and other free countries fight for democracy in the world, all must remember that Lebanon used to be called the Switzerland of the Middle East: A small, diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, pluralist democracy that prospered for close to 40 years when left alone. Lebanon in fact tried to officially declare its neutrality, like Switzerland, but was not allowed by the fanatic fascists of Syria and Egypt at the time, determined as they were in their racist pan-Arab Islamist nationalism to eradicate democracy, diversity, and free-market economies in their midst. The tangible and real example of a democratic and prosperous Lebanon, even as it is lost today because Lebanon has been taken hostage by Syria, is the prefect answer to those who say the Middle East is condemned to live under dictatorships.

Syrian troops and their security personnel continue to occupy Lebanon and undermine its political independence in direct violation of UN Security Council Resolution 520 that calls for strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon. The Syrian regime must step up and make a choice. It can maintain its inhumane occupation of Lebanon, continue harboring and supporting groups devoted to terror, or it can act in a decisive and clear way to restore stability and peace in the region, thereby creating a better economic future for its own people. It cannot do both. The US, Canada and the rest of the world have an obligation to make the Syrian leadership take full responsibility for its choices. Cajoling or appeasing is no longer acceptable. There will only be lasting peace in the Middle East and an end to worldwide terrorism when Lebanon's freedom, sovereignty and independence are restored.

As stated in the latest press release of November 2003 by the New England Americans for Lebanon (NEAL): "The significance of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 is in the fact that when confronted with a clear strategic choice - which it never had to confront before - Syria could not but reveal its true identity. And the United States after decades of betting on the Syrian regime, could not but redefine its policy accordingly, realizing whom its true friends and enemies were. We call on the Lebanese people to put aside the fact that the Syrian regime destroyed Lebanon with the implicit blessing of successive US governments, for history moves forward and not backward. The people and all patriotic leaders of Lebanon should begin laying the groundwork for the post-Syrian, post-Taef era in Lebanon. The true unity of the Lebanese people will soon be put to the test. Gone are the days of wheeling and dealing with the Syrian regime, which has proved itself over and over again to be of no strategic relevance to the US, an obstacle to the Middle East peace process, and nothing but a sponsor of terrorism."

**Elias Bejjani -
*Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
*Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)
*Media Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)