I have been following events in Lebanon very closely for quite some time, but I have been especially concerned about developments since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. There are two points about recent events that continue to gnaw at me.
The first is the alleged Syrian connection. While the Bush administration and many in the US media have either implied or alleged that the Syrian government was behind the assassination, going so far as to assert that this connection is obvious, I remain unconvinced. What I keep asking is this: what would the Syrians have to gain by such an assassination at this time? Syria has been ‘under the gun’ of the Bush administration for quite some time. The so-called “Syrian Accountability Act,” which imposed sanctions on Syria, was one step in an escalation of tensions. The allegations by the Bush administration of Syrian collaboration with the Iraqi resistance, and their simultaneous underplaying of Syrian assistance to the USA in anti-Al Qaeda operations, has set the tone for relations between the two countries. Thus, my question remains: what would the Syrians have to gain by such an assassination right now?
To be honest, it seems that there are other parties that have a greater interest in such an assassination precisely because the Syrians would be blamed. A focus on Syria would increase the likelihood of US military (covert or overt) action against Syria and further the country’s isolation. And, of course, there is no Soviet Union for the Syrians to turn to for assistance. It, therefore, makes little sense that the Syrians would carry out such a high profile action at this time when they would know that the ramifications could be disastrous.
The second point concerns the demand for a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. Leaving aside, for a moment, the Syrian rationale for their troops being in Lebanon, it should go without saying that all countries should enjoy the right to national self-determination. That should mean that countries do not invade one another, or station their troops in a permanent occupation or semi-occupation of another country.
That said, we now are treated to regular sermons by the Bush administration about the unfair and illegal existence of the Syrian deployment of troops to Lebanon without any acknowledgement that (1) the US is occupying Iraq, with no end in sight, and (2) to the south of Lebanon there is an occupation and military deployment that has been going on since 1967. Needless to say I am referencing the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
What is so striking about the Bush silence (and hypocrisy) around the Syrian troop question is that in 1967, shortly after the 6-Day War during which Israel occupied vast tracks of Arab land, the United Nations issued a resolution calling for the immediate end to the Israeli occupation and their pull out from the territories. In the nearly thirty-eight years since then, the Israeli government has ignored this resolution and all subsequent calls for withdrawal, and instead instituted an internationally illegal program of establishing settlements on Palestinian land. During this time the US, under various administrations, has done nothing to pressure the Israelis to withdraw: no sanctions, no coalition of the willing, no nothing.
So, we are told that somehow Syrian troop deployments in Lebanon are bad, while Israeli troops and settlements on Palestinian territory are either acceptable or are to be treated with respectful silence.
When one considers these facts, and contrasts them with the actual statements by the Bush administration, does anyone have to ask why the US has so little moral credibility when it comes to international affairs? Does anyone have to further ask why the US is increasingly hated in the Arab and Muslim worlds? In an era when those in power do not seem to be constrained by the facts on the ground, perhaps an answer to these questions is too obvious to verbalize.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the president of TransAfrica Forum, a Washington, DC-base non-profit organizing and educational center formed to raise awareness in the USA regarding issues facing the nations and peoples of Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. He can be reached at [email protected] or 202-223-1960, ext 131