March 14 in Lebanon

Lech Walesa, who rose from shipyard worker to liberator of a nation, set an example that few have had the courage to follow.  Some who have tried, such as former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, have paid with their lives.

Hariri was assassinated on February 14, 2005, almost certainly at the hands of Syrian President Bashar Assad.  One month later, tens of thousands of Lebanese protested against Syrian oppression of their land and the so-called “Cedar Revolution” was born.  The March 14 Movement, as Lebanese call it, is struggling to make Hariri’s sacrifice — and that of many other Lebanese, including 34-year-old minister Pierre Gemayel, son of former Lebanese President Amin Gemayel who was assassinated last November — the turning point for Lebanon’s recovery from terrorism and Syrian occupation.  Two days from today, their parliament may hold an historic vote, deciding whether to approve the international tribunal to complete the investigation of the Hariri assassination and bring those who committed it to justice.

Syria has long regarded Lebanon as China regards Taiwan: a renegade province properly part of the stronger neighbor.  But Lebanon is a historic country that predates Syria by thousands of years.  (Lebanon is mentioned many times in the Bible, Syria is not. Syria is another exercise in French-British map drawing.)  From 1952 until the early 1980s, Lebanon was a functioning democracy.  Its foundation was a “national pact” that enabled each “confessional” sect — Sunni and Shia Muslims, Christians and Druze — representation in a government founded on the “no victors, no vanquished” doctrine of fairness.  It bound Lebanese together on the promise that each group would reject foreign assistance to gain power over the others disproportionate to their “confessional” numbers in the population.

That national pact fell apart when Sunni Muslims decided to accept the help of Palestinian chief Yassir Arafat, his terrorists and bankers.  Lebanon descended into anarchy and became the host to Iranian-backed terrorist Hizballah.  Last year’s war between Hizballah and Israel was brought about by Syrian and Iranian governments eager to establish Lebanon as Hizballahstan, a terrorist nation legitimized by those free nations that tolerate its existence.  It would inevitably be a representative of all Islamic terrorists in the UN.  The only thing standing between Lebanon and its transformation into a satellite of the Syria/Iran terrorist axis is the March 14 movement.

Hizballah-Syria sympathizer Nabih Berri has refused to convene the Lebanese parliament to consider the resolution approving the Hariri assassination tribunal.  He met Friday with Parliamentary Majority Leader Saad Hariri to discuss how they can end the deadlock that has left Lebanon crippled by strikes and sectarian violence since last December.  Hariri, a member of the March 14 movement, is trying to reestablish the “no victors, no vanquished” doctrine in Lebanese government.  Berri is opposed for obvious reasons, and the Siniora government — still held in thrall to the military force of Hizballah and Syria — is unable to act.

The negotiations between Berri and Hariri go on amidst the power-brokering of Syria, Iran, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.  None of those nations care too much about Lebanon’s fate, and none will risk anything to help Lebanon escape domination by its terrorist neighbors.  Because of this, and because American interests in the Middle East are heavily involved, the Bush administration should act, forcefully and immediately, to stand with the March 14 forces.  Hizballah has more American blood on its hands than any other Islamofascist terrorists with the sole exception of al Qaeda.  We cannot allow Lebanon to become Hizballahstan.

It is too much to expect that the stability addicts of the State Department will want to do this. But they must, and the President should — himself — intervene with all our diplomatic might.  People such as the March 14 Movement, Hariri, Amin Gemayel and the rest — deserve our support as much as any others in the Middle East.  That support should take two forms.

First, the President should issue a statement today that supports the Lebanese parliamentarians who want to convene and approve the tribunal for the Hariri assassination.  He should urge all Lebanon’s neighbors — especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia — to throw their influence in as well, in favor of the March 14 Movement.

Second, if the vote does not occur, the President should order our acting UN ambassador, Alejandro Wolff, to request a special meeting of the UN Security Council on the problems of Lebanon and seek a resolution that will convene the Hariri tribunal under Chapter 7 of the UN charter.  As much as we rightly disdain the UN, it can at least serve as a forum for us to denounce terrorism and those who oppose democracy.  Such resolutions have the effect (such as it is) of international law.  Our effort to get that resolution will probably fail, but the opportunity to raise the pressure on Lebanon’s terrorist neighbors should not be missed. 

If all this fails, as it may, we cannot and must not give up.  Many Middle Eastern nations are unwilling to make the sacrifices and take the risks necessary to achieve democracy.  Lebanon has in the past.  We should do everything we can to help it regain what it lost.