Thursday, August 03, 2006

Exchanging open letters: On Lebanon, the U.S.

The Daily Star , Thursday, August 03, 2006

An open letter to the American president

By Salim El Hoss
Special to The Daily Star

Dear Mr. Bush,

We heard you express your regrets regarding the casualties of Israel's ravaging war against my country, Lebanon.

I hope you have been furnished with a true profile of the atrocities being perpetrated in my country. You pose as being at war with terrorism. Let me honestly tell you: Charity starts at home.

Israel is wantonly indulging in the most horrendous forms of terrorism in Lebanon: indiscriminately killing innocent civilians at random; not sparing children, elderly or handicapped people; demolishing buildings over their residents' heads; and destroying all infrastructure, roads, bridges, water and power arteries, harbors, air strips and storage facilities. Nothing moving on the highways is spared, not even ambulances, trucks, trailers, cars or even motorcycles, all in violation of the Geneva Conventions and human rights.

The displaced population has reached more than one fourth of the total population of my country - all suffering the harshest and most miserable of conditions. The victims include thousands of killed and maimed.

If this is not terrorism, what is?

Israel's savage assault has been labeled retribution for Hizbullah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers. This smacks of collective punishment, which constitutes a brazen violation of the Geneva Conventions and human rights. Furthermore, the alibi is far from plausible. The two Israeli soldiers were abducted for the express purpose of reaching a swap of hostages with Israel. In fact, Israel had acceded more than once to such swaps in the past. Why would a swap of prisoners be acceptable at one time and a taboo, rather a casus belli, at another? This created a conviction among the Lebanese that the sweeping assault against them was premeditated, and the abduction was only a tenuous excuse.

Israel is indulging in terrorism at its worst, at its ugliest, using the most lethal and sophisticated weapons you have supplied them.

We the Lebanese are justified in seeing in Israel as a most atrocious terrorist power, and seeing in you a direct partner. Mr. President: You are indeed a terrorist practicing the worst variant of terrorism as you condone the annihilation of my country, precluding a cease-fire to be announced, supporting the aggression against my people politically and diplomatically and bolstering Israel's destructive arsenal with the most lethal weaponry.

Mr. President: You are not fooling anybody with your alleged war against terrorism. In our perspective, you and Israel are the most unscrupulous terrorists on earth. If you want to fight terrorism, we suggest that you start with your administration and your hideous ally, Israel.

You repeatedly claim that Israel is acting in self-defense. How preposterous! Self-defense on other people's occupied territory is tantamount to one thing: blatant aggression.

You call Hizbullah a terrorist organization. We call it a legitimate resistance movement. There would have been no military wing of Hizbullah if there had been no Lebanese territory under Israeli occupation, if there had been no Lebanese hostages languishing in Israeli jails, and if Lebanon had not been exposed to almost daily Israeli intrusions into its airspace and territorial waters, and to sporadic incursions into Lebanese land and bombardment of civilian targets.

You cannot eliminate a party by demolishing a whole country. This would have been achieved peacefully by Israel withdrawing from the land it occupies, releasing Lebanese prisoners, and desisting from further acts of aggression against Lebanon.

Israel is the most horrendous terrorist power. And you, Mr. President, are unmistakably a direct partner, and hence a straight terrorist.


Salim al-Hoss, former prime minister of Lebanon

August 1, 2006

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_ID=1&article_ID=74444&categ_id=5#
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Beirut, August 3, 2006

An Open Letter to Dr. Salim al Hoss, former prime minister of Lebanon

Dear Dr. Hoss:

Your open letter to the president of the United States (Published on the front page of the Daily Star, August 2, 2006) presents a strong complaint incorporating the sincere and emotional grievance of many, if not most Lebanese. President Bush is urged to reflect on the case you made and to come to his own conclusions.

Yes, Israel bears responsibility for the tragic events you describe. But the equal responsibility of the notorious Lebanese political establishment for the ongoing tragedy cannot be ignored. And, Sir, you have been a pillar of this establishment since you first took the office of prime minister nearly thirty years ago.

As you know, Israel did not come into existence on July 12, the day the current chain of the events you described commenced. As a matter of fact it was proclaimed in 1947. Since then, countless, essentially similar, events, took place in Lebanon and around the region both in the form of regular wars or of military reprisals. The Lebanon-Israel armistice agreement of 1949 collapsed in the late sixties and Israel simply stopped recognizing it. Lebanese territory was repeatedly assaulted and occupied by Israel’s armed forces, particularly from the year 1978, which brought about Resolution 425. Under all these conditions, how come the government of Lebanon, controlled by the same political establishment that, at least from 1976, included you, totally failed to provide the necessary protection to the people of Lebanon and particularly the population of the South? How come Lebanon, through its government, failed to build the most essential military defenses on its Southern border or on the coastline, and has no air defense system to speak of? How come no public shelters whatsoever were built conforming to recognized safety standards to protect and secure the constantly threatened population all the way from the South to the North of the country?

I would like to remind you that the sincere and emotional complaint you made, eloquent as it may be, is not much different in substance from official statements recently issued by other Lebanese politicians and the Lebanese government including the sitting prime minister. Unfortunately, this has been the daily bread which the Lebanese people have been force-fed with from the year 1947. Complain, complain, complain, but do nothing! For why did the Lebanese not get, in addition to all those complaints, some statesmanship from the political establishment that rules the country since its independence day? Why was there no official action or credible plans to protect the people of Lebanon from Israel’s war machine? Why did the political establishment never allow the emergence of a responsible and effective Lebanese government that upholds the rule of law and protects human rights?

Dr. Hoss:

It is undeniable that Israel bears the direct responsibility for its recent action through superior fire power that killed and massacred countless innocent Lebanese civilians, men, women and children, and especially children, in violation of every conceivable rule. But you must agree with me that the Lebanese political establishment is at least equally, if not more, responsible, both morally and legally, and stands guilty of gross failure and wanton negligence characterized by reckless indifference to the consequences of its failure and negligence.

Moreover, I believe that complaints such as the one you made in your open letter to the American President often tend to cover-up criminal responsibility on the home front. Hence I ask you to join me in calling for the investigation of all Lebanese politicians who held public office as members of the government of this country over the past four decades. Such investigation must be followed by prosecution and trial of those indicted for their responsibility for the crimes of wanton negligence and reckless indifference against Lebanon’s suffering men, women and children. This prosecution is doable. It falls within our own reach and can cover crimes which are punished against under Lebanon’s penal code.


- Muhamad Mugraby

The author is an attorney at law, former professor of law, and president of the Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law, Beirut.

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