Guilt by Proclamation


Even before the body of Rafik Hariri was laid to rest, Washington 's warmongers began cranking up their propaganda machine to suggest Syrian complicity in Mr. Hariri's death.

The Bush Administration's expression of outrage might have been convincing if it had not been preceded by two years of anti-Syrian haranguing coupled with threats of economic ruin, political isolation, military invasion, and the passage of the Syrian Accountability Act.

It was a familiar modus operandi for Washington . Select your target. Demonize your target to make an attack upon it palatable. Then attack. Oh yes, continue to demonize your target because each of the pretexts you fed to a gullible public in order to gain support for your deed will quickly be disproven.

American preoccupation with destabilizing Syria is as old as Israel . Coincidence? Not really. America has spent decades trying to destabilize and isolate Syria because Syria has had the courage to stand up for its national rights and the rights of other Arabs. This stance was destined to place it in constant confrontation with the U.S. , which has allowed itself to be exploited by Israel to promote Israeli hegemony in the region.

American attempts to implement regime change in Syria have been ongoing since the 1950s.[1] In this campaign, America has employed various tools, including CIA covert operations, U.S. supported Israeli aggression and assistance to Muslim fundamentalists engaged in bombings and assassinations of Syrian government officials. Prior to U.S. intervention, Syria was forced to fight for its freedom from decades of French colonial domination.

The King-Crane Commission was appointed by President Wilson to make recommendations about post-war Syria . Its findings argued against the partitioning of Lebanon from Syria . Citing common language, culture, religion and history, King-Crane argued that Lebanon would be better served inside Syria than separate from it. Conversely, they concluded that Syria would also be better served by such an arrangement. On this and many other prophetic points, King-Crane was ignored in favor of preserving European colonial prerogatives.

It was France that illegally and unilaterally divided Lebanon from Syria following the Allied victory in World War I. Despite the petitions of the vast majority of Syrians, including those residing in the Lebanon region, Syria was divided into Lebanon , Palestine , TransJordan and what is currently Syria . Palestine and TransJordan fell under the colonial rule of the British, who ultimately handed Palestine over to European Zionists seeking to form a Jewish state. These acts stripped Syria of the majority of her coastline and resources, as well as her demographic, economic and strategic strengths. Lebanon was left small and weak by design. A weak Lebanon would necessarily become dependent upon its French matriarch. Admired by western nations as the Paris of the Middle East , that same moniker would make Lebanon reviled by Arabs as a European vassal in the heart of the Arab world.

Syria has experienced a unique relationship with Lebanon ever since it was amputated from Syria by France . Small and weak Lebanon hoped that its prowess in commerce, a precarious internal balance of communal politics known as the confessional system and a policy of external neutrality could keep trouble from its doorstep. However, Lebanon 's small size, communal rivalries and self-denial formed a powder keg. The influx of thousands of Palestinian refugees during the early 1970s became a burning fuse.

In 1975, Lebanon exploded into full scale civil war. Predictably, the severing of Lebanon from Syria left it vulnerable to this very fate. On one side were Maronite Christian forces, on the other an alliance of Lebanese Muslim and Druze forces that were eventually joined by Palestinian fighters. While the camps appeared to be drawn along religious lines, some of Lebanon 's Christians openly opposed the Maronites. When the ruling Maronites appeared to be facing imminent collapse, they requested Syrian military intervention. Let me repeat that: Lebanon 's Christian politicians requested Syrian military intervention.

This was the inception of the Syrian military presence in Lebanon . Syria came to save the precarious balance of power which Lebanon had lived with for decades, and to prevent the further disintegration of a neighboring country that had historically been an integral part of its own nation. In a rare convergence of interests, both Israel and the U.S. tacitly supported Syrian intervention since it was aimed at suppressing the growing military advantage of forces considered hostile to the Israel/U.S. axis.

Israel had been stoking the fires in Lebanon for some time, and took full advantage of the civil war to pursue its own strategic goal of crushing Palestinian nationalism and creating an Israeli ally on Syria 's doorstep. Israel and Reagan-era hawks aligned themselves with Lebanon 's Maronites. Emboldened by this support, and mistakenly believing that Syria would not react, the Maronites went on the offensive against the opposing coalition. When the balance began to shift, Syria clamped down hard on Maronite forces to preserve balance and order. Indeed, of all of the intervening parties, only Syria demonstrated the commitment to preserve balance within Lebanon . A testimonial to Syrian neutrality was the fact that its forces found themselves alternately fighting both of the warring parties. When either side sensed that Syria was an obstacle to its domination of the country, it turned on Syria .

In 1982, Israel launched a full scale invasion of Lebanon and attempted to install a puppet Maronite regime with U.S. support. The invasion and its political goals were foiled by Syria , which ultimately found itself aligned with the Maronite's indigenous foes. The cost to Syria was immense, both in casualties and money. Yet, the cost of failure would have been even greater. Syria could not permit the creation of an Israeli puppet state on its border, nor could it permit the continued disintegration of Lebanon to serve as an excuse for hostile forces to intervene there.

In 1989, Syrian and Arab League efforts led to a formal end of the civil war and the elimination of the old power-sharing system ' a system which had allowed Maronite domination to continue based upon an outdated 1950s census. New elections resulted in a Parliament that reflected current Lebanese demographics.

Fifteen years after it invaded, Israel was finally driven from Lebanon , not by Syrian forces, but by the efforts of the indigenous Lebanese resistance. Since that time, Lebanon has remained relatively stable and prosperous, and cross-border clashes with Israel have been virtually nonexistent. Syria has helped to maintain that environment.

So why the big push for Syria to leave now? France, the U.N. and the U.S. have all joined in the call.

France 's interest in having Syria leave Lebanon is as old as Lebanon itself. Having created Lebanon for the very purpose of having a foothold in the Arab world, France is not about to abandon its creation. Old habits die hard.

The U.N.'s adamancy can be seen in the context of its recent retreat from independent action. The U.N. is faced with embarrassing revelations over its role in the oil-for-food program. Neocons have spearheaded calls for Khofi Anan's and Mohamed Al-Bareidi's heads on a platter. The U.N. is very interested in lowering the heat created by the Bush Administration. What better way to appease the Administration than by giving them international cover for their campaign against Syria ?

The Administration's imperative is obvious. Isolate, diminish and pressure Syria to enhance Israeli control and give the Administration a freer hand in the region generally.

Israeli influence and control over U.S. Middle East policy is at a zenith. Neocons, fresh from the destruction of Iraq , are salivating over the prospect of repeating their program in Syria . The assassination of Mr. Hariri has provided a pretext. Tucked in quietly among the neocons are those Lebanese Maronites who were defeated and discredited in their prior attempts to dominate Lebanese politics. They correctly view Syria 's presence as an obstacle to their ambitions.

Did Syria orchestrate Mr. Hariri's murder? Only a select few know for sure, but the Syrians have a reputation for being extremely shrewd when it comes to political maneuvering. It is highly unlikely that they would plan or support an act which they know full well would provide the excuse for letting the neocon attack dogs off of their leashes. Furthermore, if Syria had the legendary stranglehold it is claimed to have over Lebanon when Mr. Hariri was alive, what would it gain by having him killed?

One could hardly claim that Syria introduced violence to Lebanon . The Lebanese have shown that they need no instruction in the art of blood-letting. Inter-communal and intra-communal fighting has been the hallmark of the Lebanese landscape for decades. There is little reason to believe that an aggrieved group would not revive the tool of political assassination when the need arose. It is just as likely that the assassination was the work of disgruntled Lebanese, the Israelis or their neocon proxies, all of whom had greater means, motive and opportunity to commit the crime. [2]

While conceding that it has no direct evidence of Syrian involvement, Washington does not let that get in the way of a well-devised plan. Syria will be accused and convicted by neocon proclamation. Actual guilt is irrelevant in the ongoing campaign to demonize and eliminate Syria as an obstacle to Israeli/U.S. hegemony in the Middle East.

[1] See Eveland, W., Ropes of Sand, W.W. Norton & Company, 1980

[2] Why 'Mr. Lebanon ' Had Many Enemies, The Observer International, February 20, 2005

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John Peters's picture
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John Peters is an attorney in Michigan, a Libertarian, and a freelance author.