Boston, Massachusetts
Joseph Hitti
New England Americans for Lebanon
September 23, 2002

THE INEVITABLE FAILURE OF THE PRO-SYRIAN APOLOGISTS

American apologists of the Syrian tyranny are led by former US ambassadors to the region, David Satterfield, Edward Djeredjian, and Richard Murphy, and their Arab-American poodles of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). Other apologists include the country-club-style wealthy hypocrites of the American Taskforce for Lebanon, kowtowing to billionaire Issam Fares of the Lebanese government and the Syrian Embassy in Washington DC, among other "special interests" groups. In addition, there are those academics, media pundits, and State Department "Arabists" whose impoverished intellectual horizons lead them, in knee-jerk opposition to a perceived pro-Israeli slant in the US political discourse, to blindly support the Syrian totalitarian regime. Oblivious to the fact that the Assad regime has, since its inception in 1970, been no less than a clone of the Iraqi regime, these pseudo-intellectuals and political mercenaries rush to over-simplify complex political problems they are unable to comprehend, and in the process, abandon any creative attempt at imagining other alternatives to the simplistic dichotomy - pro-Arab vs. pro-Israeli - under which they operate.

The Syrian regime is documented to have committed the same identical crimes as the Iraqi regime, crimes ranging from mass murder of its own people (Hama, 1981), flagrant persecution of human rights activists (Riyad Turk), and the brutal and destructive 30-year long occupation of Lebanon that remains by far a greater war of annihilation of a once prosperous, tolerant, diverse, and liberal country than the 6-months Iraqi mayhem in Kuwait in 1990.

As an example of the paucity of their moral and intellectual capital, the pro-Syrian apologists are frantically trying to abort the first US law ever under consideration that will impose sanctions on Syria. The bill and its sanctions, mild by comparison to those imposed on Iraq, call for the US government to hold Syria accountable for its actions for the first time in more than 30 years. The Syria Accountability Act of 2002 - HR4483 and S2215 - sponsored by Richard Armey and Eliot Engel of the House, and by Barbara Boxer and Rick Santorum of the Senate, has to-date garnered 160 co-sponsors from the House and 40 co-sponsors from the Senate since April 18. Hearings were held at the House International Relations Committee last September 18, after pressing requests from the Bush Administration caused delays. In fact, the State Department representative scheduled to testify, former Ambassador David Satterield, failed to show up and submitted instead a half-page statement declaring that the State Department agrees in full with the tenets of the bill, but considers its "timing" to be inappropriate.

Counter to reason, the pro-Syrian apologists have not changed their tune for close to two decades now, even after September 11. Having literally completed the delivery of Lebanon into the hands of the Assad dynasty in 1990, with promises of a Syrian withdrawal that were never kept, Satterfield, Djeredjian and Murphy now lead the posse against the Syria Accountability Act of 2002, trying to convince the American people that Syria is a decent country with an accountable government that can continue to indefinitely "stabilize" Lebanon, as it has done since ca. 1970. The flagrant contradictions in this position are primarily reflected in the fact that it is State Department, and not the Congress, which has kept Syria high on its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The sum of this untenable position is that the State Department, the primary diplomatic and foreign affairs body of the US government, wants the American people to believe two completely opposite propositions:
1. Syria is a terrorist state that supports Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and others who have killed, bombed, hijacked, and kidnapped hundreds of American citizens over the past 2 decades, and
2. Syria is a useful partner and a source of intelligence in the War on Terrorism that has saved American lives!

In fact, the coincidence is too great to go unnoticed: In the early 1970s, Hafez Assad seized power in Damascus, Syria embarked on its program of "stabilization" of Lebanon - first by proxy PLO and other Palestinian contingents of the Syrian Army, then directly and with the Hezbollah proxy - and Lebanon began its descent into the well-known spiral of violence, form which it never emerged. Erroneously referred to as the Lebanese "civil war", the conflict was essentially a war of the rejectionist Arabs against the only liberal Arab country in their midst. Not only was Lebanon a playground of freedoms and a platform of challenging novel ideas for otherwise socially and politically frustrated and oppressed Arabs, but the country offered a dangerous prototype of coexistence, diversity and tolerance, that existed nowhere else in the region. Lebanon promoted, practiced, and lived "in the gut" an East-West dialogue between moderate Christians and Moslems. Lebanon was - at least until the Syrian stranglehold - the only place where Moslems cohabited with unsubjugated Christians, and were therefore a living challenge to the tenets of the ever omnipresent threat of Sharia or Islamic Law under which all other Islamic countries operate. As a result, every fugitive dissenter, poet, political reformer, and free-market enthusiast escaping his or her own Arab country, found shelter in Lebanon's constitutively open environment by virtue of the diversity that makes up its society.

Today, thirty years into the Syrian program of "stabilization" of Lebanon, Syria is firmly in control of Lebanon's political and military institutions, educational programs, trade policies, and foreign affairs. Radical Islam and terrorism flourish, and terrorist groups and former warlords are now legitimate members of government who granted amnesty to their own militias, but exiled, killed or jailed their Christian opponents. The state is absent from the entire swath of land in the south of the country, in contravention to international law, having ceded its authority there to Hezbollah even after the pretext of the Israeli occupation had evaporated with the Israeli withdrawal of June 2000. Ethnic and religious persecution is the norm now under a police state previously unknown in Lebanon, with human rights abuses and repression replicating a Syrian-style totalitarian system. Twelve years after the Syrian Army evicted the legitimate government of Prime Minister Michel Aoun and replaced it with a government of Syrian stooges (presently President Emile Lahoud and Prime Minister Rafik Hariri), Lebanon remains at the mercy of a pro-Iranian Islamic terrorist group, Hezbollah, and a cohort of other terrorist groups that Syria activates or de-activates at will to make a point, give in to international pressures, or exert pressure on Israel. And throughout that tragic history, Syria always offered a credulous international community the best deniability argument any occupier can have: Blame the victim. "The Lebanese are unruly", say the Syrians and their American apologists. "Eruptions of violence are proof that the Lebanese cannot rule themselves", they have told successive US administrations. "Remove the Syria Army from Lebanon and the latter will once again fall into sectarian violence that threatens US interests in the region", declared an editorial in the Baath Party mouthpiece "Tishreen" last week. Fact is the only armed groups in Lebanon today who can initiate such violence are the pro-Syrian terrorist groups, which is pure unadulterated evidence that Syria has been, and continues to be, the arsonist fireman who starts the sectarian fires in Lebanon, then turns to a naive West and asks to be watched while it puts those fires down.

One needs to look a little closer to the "violence" to see the hands of Syria. As it was in the early 1970s, Lebanese violence always appears "balanced": A tit for tat, an eye for an eye. In June, for example, a car bomb killed a pro-Syrian Palestinian activist on the same day that the decomposing body of an anti-Syrian Lebanese activist was found ten days after he had disappeared. This latest violence between pro-Syrian and anti-Syrian forces in Lebanon, happening all of a sudden at the same time that Syria is under intense pressure to demonstrate its allegiance to the war on terrorism, is precisely the indicator that it is engineered by Syria itself to maintain the justification for its occupation. The reality is that Syria has an extensive network of intelligence agents that activates the violence through the kidnapping, bombing, harassing, assassinating, or jailing of people at will, to maintain a climate of fear and modulate public opinion against a backdrop of mounting pressures from the US and the Syria Accountability Act itself.

The pro-Syrian apologists have argued for decades, as they argue today in their effort to defeat the Syria Accountability Act of 2002 that, first, Syria is a factor of stability in Lebanon, upon which the US can depend to keep Hezbollah and the other terrorist groups under check. Second, they use a Realpolitik argument to defend a policy of engagement with Syria, even at the cost of the ruin of a country like Lebanon that once was has been a bastion of freedoms, diversity, free market economy, and friendship with the West. Both arguments have failed the test of time. Hezbollah and the terrorist groups wrecked havoc in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East during the 1980s and through the middle 1990s. Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to claim their responsibility for acts of terrorism inside Israel from Damascus. The policy of engagement has been a major US foreign policy blunder since of all countries bordering on Israel, Syria alone refuses to make peace. Egypt and Jordan have made peace with Israel, and Lebanon attempted to sign a peace treaty with Israel in May 1983 only to be forced by Syria to abrogate it. Even the Palestinians in their currernt predicament under the Palestinian Authority do not dispute the ultimate objective of a negotiated settlement with Israel.

At its foundation, the argument of the pro-Syrian apologists is oxymoronic: The US cannot depend on a state-sponsor of terrorism like Syria to keep terrorist groups under check. It is the equivalent of asking Slobodan Milosevic to invade Bosnia-Herzegovina and keep the Bosnian Serbs under check! Why would people, including senior State Department officials, feel compelled to subscribe to the anomalous concept of Syria as a factor of stability in the Middle East remains somewhat of a mystery. Unless one invokes conspiratorial secrets and shady deals. Or it may simply be the perfectly human quality of refusing to accept failure, and in this case, the lack of character of Richard Murphy, Edward Djeredjian, and David Satterfield that leads them to continue defending an indefensible position simply because it would not look good on their resumes! Mr. Djeredjian, Murphy, and Satterfield have built their careers on that concept, and they are not about to desist from it at the twilight of their careers. Call it stubbornness if you will, but September 11 did not give these bureaucrats sufficient pause to think about how the world has changed, and how Syria needs to be held accountable after 30 years of mayhem, hatred, death, and destruction in Lebanon and the Middle East at large.

An assortment from the Syrian basket of terrorist-totalitarian delights:
1 - Syria mass-murdered 20,000 Syrian civilians in the city of Hama in a 48-hour long siege in 1981.
2 - Syria has put on trial a 72-year old human rights activist and dissident, Mr. Riyad Turk, who spent 17 years in jail without a trial ever, was released in 1998 declaring that Syria is a "kingdom of silence" and that he will never feel genuinely free unless "Syria converts itself from a tyranny to a democracy". He was then arrested again eight months ago. Charges against him: "Weakening the national spirit, stirring up sectarian tensions, transmitting or exaggerating false information with the intent to weaken the pride of the nation and bring harm to the dignity and position of the State". He faces life in prison.
3 - Hezbollah continues to fight Israel unabated, first with an arguably justifiable alibi of the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon, but now with only their blind hatred of the Jewish State and in their desire to transform Lebanon into a small clone of Iran.
4 - Terrorist groups that Syria started and supported for 30 years now have continued to derail the peace process. Syria, in tandem with Iran for that matter, has fueled the anti-peace process or "rejectionist" camp that refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist, with weapons, logistics, and the ideological umbrella to spread their venom of hatred and violence.
5 - Syria's sponsorship of Hezbollah and similar groups in Lebanon has led to the death of thousands of innocent foreigners, not the least of them being the 241 US marines who were killed by the first ever suicide bomber, a Hezbollah terrorist, who blew himself up in a truck bomb on October 23, 1983 at the US Marines barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

Under the tenets of the US war on terrorism and UN resolution 1397, Syria must not just "contain" Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, it must close them down and deny them safe harbor and support. Murphy, Satterfield and Djeredjian argue that Hezbollah is a "resistance" movement that must simply be contained. For the Lebanese people and the proponents of a legitimate Lebanese government extending its authority and exercising its sovereign rights over the territory of Lebanon, the fundamental problem is the issue of the violation of all norms of international law and conduct. How can a perfectly sovereign founding member of the UN such as Lebanon be occupied militarily, politically and economically by one of the most vulgar tyrannies of our time, such as Syria? Syrian officials have repeatedly made public statements to the effect that Lebanon is a part of Greater Syria that must be "returned" to Syria, that Lebanon and Syria are "one nation in two states". President Hafez Assad, Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass, and Vice-President Abdel-Halim Khaddam, have never shied away from declaring that their presence in Lebanon is intended to reunite the "separated twins''. In fact, Syria never recognized Lebanon's right to exist since the independence of Lebanon in 1943, refusing throughout the decades since to exchange ambassadors between Beirut and Damascus. That is, in the hearts of many Lebanese, the gravest danger to Lebanon’s right to exist as a diverse multi-ethnic, multi-religious, diverse nation.

The parallels between 2002 and 1990 are as unmistakable as they originate with the same foreign affairs thinkers of State Department. With a wink from the Bush Administration in 1990, interested in securing Syrian membership in the anti-Saddam coalition, the Syrian airforce - suddenly unhampered by the Israeli-imposed no-flight-zone over Lebanese airspace - bombed the last legitimate government of Prime Minister General Michel Aoun into exile and secured a compliant puppet government at the helm in Beirut. Today, State Department Arabists want an "encore" for that act of international piracy and violation of the rights of the Lebanese people. They are arguing, one more time, that the US must cajole the Syrian regime - still on their own list of terrorist states - by not opposing its occupation of Lebanon, in order to secure some vague and undefined support the Syrians are supposedly providing in the war on terrorism. The Arabists are telling the American people that the big lie about Lebanon must continue. That the betrayal of the most fundamental principles upon which this country is founded must continue. That the agony of Lebanon must proceed. That the only hope for a Christian-Moslem dialogue towards moderation and coexistence must be assassinated. That terrorism pays off. That we must reward Syria for dangling in front of our credulous eyes a couple of petty bits of anti-terror information, after it has written and monopolized the encyclopedia of terrorism.

Copyright 2002 New England Americans For Lebanon. All rights