"The Lebanese people have the right to determine their future, free from domination by a foreign power. The Lebanese people have the right to choose their own Parliament this spring, free of intimidation."
These are the words President Bush used to describe why it was imperative that Syria immediately withdraw all of their troops from Lebanon.
Wow, I think I might actually agree with this guy. I mean, he has a point. Last year, the United Nations passed a resolution calling for "the strict respect of Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout the country." In fact, the UN has, on at least three other occasions dating back to 1978, passed similar resolutions. Syria has no business occupying Lebanon, and it will be difficult for voters in the upcoming election to oppose Damascus with guns bearing down on them.
If Lebanon can't possibly have free elections while being occupied by foreign forces, what does this position say about the legitimacy of the recently held Iraqi elections? Can these elections even be called "free" considering overwhelming presence of America as the occupying foreign power? Not to mention the violent insurgency warning people "vote and we'll kill you."
The truth is that the American presence in Iraq is a barrier to self rule and self determination. The administration should make a plan to withdraw American forces from Iraq and replace them with international peacekeeping forces. This shift would signify the end of destruction and the beginning of rejuvenating this land -- the cradle of civilization -- ravaged by war and years of brutal dictatorship.
It seemed that Lebanon was headed toward a relatively peaceful democratic revolution akin to last year's Orange Revolution when Ukrainians took to the streets. Omar Karameh, the pro-Syrian prime-minister, stepped down under pressure from public demonstrations. But just nine days later, following giant Hezbollah-sponsored rallies, Parliament re-nominated him. Hezbollah, a radical Shiite Muslim party in Lebanon, has been considered a terrorist organization by our government for years. The organization's alliance with Syria and their 14,000 troops casts a pall across this move and the chances for fair elections in May.
Now the Syrian troops are withdrawing from the Northern and Central parts of Lebanon, but Damascus' insistence on stationing them in eastern Lebanon makes this gesture ring hollow.
I'm not the only one who sees the absurdity of this situation. Recently, referring to the President's position on Syrian troops in Lebanon, Jon Stewart of the "Daily Show" declared that the administration now sees its role as "spreading irony throughout the world."
Sarah Clusen Buecher manages the Citizen Action program for Working Assets.
© 2005 Working For Change