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Lebanese reject U.S. intervention

Huge Beirut rally rebuffs ‘Gucci revolution’

Published Mar 9, 2005 2:41 PM

The Lebanese people converged on Beirut from all the poor areas of the country on March 6 in a massive anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist showing. They gave a resounding rebuff to efforts by the Bush administration to isolate Syria, attack Hezbollah and set the stage for expanding its war for “regime change” in the Middle East to Damascus.

Organizers said 1 million demonstrated. Even the most moderate estimate by the big business press was half a million. Overhead panning of the demonstration by video cameras showing it overflowing Riyadh Solh Square in central Beirut for as far as the eye could see in all directions. The demonstration was close to one quarter of the entire population of Lebanon, which is estimated at 4.4 million.

A demonstration of similar proportion in the U.S. would be in the range of 50 to 60 million.

Two giant cranes held banners saying "Thanks to Syria" and "No to foreign interference." The demonstration was an answer to the demands by the Bush administration and its allies and stooges that Syria remove its troops from Lebanon and that Hezbollah be disarmed.

Reuters of March 8, referring to a speech by Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, reported that "Nasrallah said no one in Lebanon feared the United States, whose troops left Beirut in 1984"--a few months after a car bombing which killed 241 Marines at their headquarters in Beirut. "We have defeated them in the past and if they come again we will defeat them again," he is reported to have said.

Placards at the rally, according to the AP, said "Syria & Lebanon brothers forever," "America is the source of terrorism," "All our disasters are from America," and "No to American-Zionist intervention, yes to Lebanese-Syrian brotherhood."

Nasrallah answered the Bush administration, which has been trying to get rid of the present Lebanese government, claiming it is a puppet of Syria. Pointing to the crowd in the square he said: "I ask our partners in the country or those looking at us from abroad: Are these hundreds of thousands of people puppets? Is all this crowd agents for the Syrians and intelligence agencies?" ( AP, March 8)

Hezbollah a national liberation movement

Hezbollah is a mass organization of the Shiite population, which is the poorest sector of Lebanese society and was traditionally excluded and discriminated against. It provides social services, has members in parliament and maintains it own armed force of 20,000.

Organized in 1984 out of scattered groups of resistance to Israeli occupiers, it created an armed organization of national resistance which fought the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and finally drove them out in 2000. For this it is revered, not only in Lebanon but throughout the Arab world.

It is the largest, most organized and disciplined political force in Lebanon and is popularly regarded as a national liberation organization, essential to holding the Zionist occupiers at bay. It has been labeled a "terrorist organization" by the U.S. government, which has demanded that it be disarmed.

Syria has supported Hezbollah as well as other organizations fighting for the liberation of Palestine and against the Israeli occupation. Syria sent troops to Lebanon in 1976 at the request of the Lebanese government to separate combatants in a civil war. It became part of an Arab Deterrent Force authorized at Arab summit meetings in that year.

The civil war, fomented by French and U.S. imperialism and Tel Aviv, lasted until 1989, when it was settled under the protection of Syrian troops. A national accord was created called the Taif Accord of 1989.

The current Bush administration, in league with French imperialism and with the support of the feudo-capitalist oil monarchy of Saudi Arabia and compliant capitalist regime of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, launched an all-out offensive to attack and isolate Syria after the assassination of the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik al-Hariri, in February. The U.S. and the reactionary forces in Lebanon tried to frame up Syria for the killing and took the political initiative to demand the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.

A 'Gucci Revolution'

The capitalist media had made a cause célèbre out of earlier demonstrations in Martyrs' Square that were organized on the model of the pro-imperialist demonstra tions in Serbia, Georgia and the Ukraine and dubbed the "Cedar Revolution."

Those demonstrations, tiny by comparison to the one called by Hezbollah, had such an obviously reactionary class and political character that they were an embarrassment, even to the capitalist media covering them.

For example, the BBC news of March 3 said that the "Cedar Revolution" was being referred to as a "mini-Ukraine." They described it as follows: "Some people here are jokingly calling the phenomenon 'the Gucci revolution'--not because they are dismissive of the demonstrations, but because so many of those waving the Lebanese flag on the street are really unlikely protesters."

"There are girls in tight skirts and high heels, carrying expensive leather bags, as well as men in business suits or trendy tennis shoes.

"And in one unforgettable scene an elderly lady, her hair all done up, was demonstrating alongside her Sri Lankan domestic helper, telling her to wave the flag and teaching her the Arabic words of the slogans....

"But what has been fascinating to observe is how Lebanon's middle and upper classes have been woken from their usual lethargy by the assassination of Hariri."

A Reuters dispatch of March 8 was in a similar vein. Reporting on one of the tent camps in Martyrs' Square of the forces echoing imperialism's demand for Syrian withdrawal, it was described as "a home from home where protesters, most of them westernized, middle-class students, study, eat, drink, sleep and even work on their laptops." They were being given tents, blankets and mineral water by "foreign organizations."

These foreign organizations are well known in Ukraine and other places where certain NGOs provide a cover for imperialist subversion.

These reactionary forces have respon ded to the anti-Syria, anti-Hezbollah offensive launched by the occupying butchers of Iraq in Washington and former colonialists in Paris who once ruled Lebanon and Syria.

Their social base lies mainly in the Maronite Christian and Druze political forces. These forces were described by Fadi Agha, the foreign policy adviser to Lebanese President Emil Lahoud, in an interview: "I would add that many of the leaders of the so-called Cedar Revolution (a term coined in Washington) are those who took Lebanon to 17 years of civil strife. ... These are the same warlords, sectarian barons and opportunists who led us once before to ruin." (CounterPunch, March 5/6)

Three elections, three occupations

In an outrageously arrogant statement, U.S. President George W. Bush has demanded that "All Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel must withdraw before the Lebanese elections [in May--F.G.] for those elections to be free and fair." (Reuters, March 8)

But a million people have given the lie to Bush by voting with their feet in Riyadh Solh Square. They made it clear they are against U.S. imperialist attempts to divide the Syrian and Lebanese people and set the stage for either a civil war in Lebanon, the overthrow of the Syrian government, or both.

The hypocrisy of Bush to demand an end to foreign forces in order to have "free and fair elections" is beyond measure. The U.S. has just engineered an election in Iraq under the guns of 150,000 troops, after killing over 100,000 Iraqi civilians, jailing and killing resistance fighters in the thousands, and running the country from U.S. military headquarters and the U.S. Embassy.

Last year Washington stage-managed an election in Afghanistan after bombing the country mercilessly, sending in occupation forces and rounding up German and other NATO imperialist powers to occupy the capital and surrounding regions. The elections in the West Bank and Gaza were carried out with the guns of the Israeli military in the background, armed to the teeth by the Pentagon.

Three elections under three occupations by imperialist oppressors--and Bush wishes to ignore them. Whatever the problems with the Syrian military presence in Lebanon, Syria is not an imperialist oppressor garnering super-profits from Lebanon. Whatever national advantages Syria gains from being in Lebanon, it also functions as a defender of Hezbollah and the national liberation forces in the country and as a barrier to aggression by the Israeli settler state. That is what the Bush administration is opposed to.

In fact, the Bush administration's demand for withdrawal of Syrian troops under the terms of UN resolution 1559, passed in September 2004, is part of Washington's design to disarm Hezbollah, thus diminishing the resistance to a U.S. intervention in the region and opening up the door for renewed Israeli aggression against Lebanon.

Bush has not mentioned one word about the occupation of Syria's Golan Heights by Israel, territory taken by conquest in the 1967 war of aggression against Egypt and Syria, which Washington supported. Bush has not said one word about enforcing the piles of UN resolutions condemning the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Syrian withdrawal and national sovereignty

But Washington has suddenly focused its attention on and become a determined advocate of UN resolution 1559. That is because this resolution is a toned-down replica of the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, in which the U.S. Congress demanded not only that Syria remove its troops from Lebanon, but that Hezbollah and all organizations waging the armed struggle for Palestinian liberation and against Israeli aggression be disarmed. Severe sanctions were applied to Syria by Washington under this act.

In watered-down form, resolution 1559 calls for both Syrian withdrawal and the disarming of Hezbollah. According to the Reuters dispatch, "Nasrallah said he had no problem with a Syrian pullout under the 1989 Taif Accord that ended Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war, but would have no truck with a UN resolution adopted September that called for a Syrian withdrawal and militia disarmament."

The Taif Accord is an agreement between the two governments and calls for eventual Syrian withdrawal of troops to be negotiated between them. The mass demonstration in Beirut was called in front of UN offices there to make the point that Lebanon is fighting for its sovereignty and any withdrawal must be under an agreement signed by the Lebanese government with Syria and not at the command and under the terms dictated by Washington, Tel Aviv (silently), Paris or other European imperialists.

It also makes clear that Hezbollah will not accept any UN-mandated disarmament. Hezbollah is repeatedly described as a terrorist militia. It is nether terrorist nor a militia. It is an armed national liberation movement dedicated to fighting imperialism and Zionism.

The Bush administration is trying to overturn the Lebanese government and get it to sign a separate peace with Israel, setting the stage for "regime change" in Syria. But the mass demonstration in Beirut against U.S.-French-Israeli interference under the guise of the UN resolution shows that Washington has made the same monumental miscalculation in Lebanon that it made in Iraq. It totally discounted the role of the anti-colonial masses and their determination and capacity for resistance.

Bush was deceived by momentary political victories in getting his imperialist junior partner in France to collaborate and getting the collaboration of bourgeois elements in Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But that was the upper crust of society in the Middle East, which has a material class interest in collaborating. Now the lower stratum of society has spoken in Lebanon, just as it is speaking the language of resistance in Iraq and Palestine. Bush and the Pentagon are courting an expanded disaster in the Syrian-Lebanon region if they mistake governments for the masses.

The anti-war movement should add the slogans of "U.S. hands off Syria" and "Hands off Lebanon" to its demand to end the occupations in Iraq and Palestine. That is the only way to safeguard the interests of the oppressed and the workers in the Middle East and right here at home.