Two weeks ago President George W. Bush banned Lebanese and Syrian officials — whom Washington accuses of undermining the Lebanese government — from entering the United States.
The list of Syrian officials the United States considers to have meddled in Lebanon includes Assaf Shawkat, director of Syrian military intelligence and brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar Assad; Hisham Ikhtiyar, adviser to Assad; Jama’a Jama’a and Rustum Ghazale, top Syrian military intelligence officials.
On the Lebanese side the ban included Abdulrahim Murad, former Lebanese minister of defense. Also included was Assad Hardan, former Lebanese minister of labor. Another was Assam Qanso, former Lebanese minister of labor. Another was Michel Samaha, former Lebanese minister of information. Nasser Qandil was also banned. He is a former Lebanese member of parliament. And finally Wi’am Wahhab, former Lebanese minister of environment.
The U.S. action was billed by the administration as a move instructing Damascus to “stop fomenting instability in Lebanon,” where Washington is trying to shore up support for the ailing government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
The Bush Administration has the right to grant or deny individuals a visa to enter the United States as the law of the land dictates. And, it could have dealt with this issue in the proper way, by denying these individuals visas to enter the U.S. once they have applied for one. Unfortunately, it opted to make an insignificant political statement while making a mockery out of U.S. policies and principles, not to mention the obvious violation of its own declared mission and objectives of spreading democracy and tolerance in the world and especially in the Middle East. This mission has cost American taxpayers billions of dollars and thousands of lives.
Those banned individuals, in particular the Lebanese ones, are political leaders who have not been charged, accused or convicted with any crimes whatsoever by the Lebanese government or the international community. Their only crime, according to Mr. Bush, is voicing their views and opinions in opposition to the policies and practices of their own government, which is a fundamental democratic right.
Bush’s ill-advised action not only backfired and brought his diminished credibility overseas down to a record low, but it boosted the credibility of the banned individuals, their popularity having soared among the Lebanese and Arab masses who already are skeptics and suspicious of U.S. policies and practices in the region. It also had the opposite effect on the embattled Siniora government.
White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters that “This is a tool the United States has to demonstrate its desire for them to stop meddling in Lebanon.” How could a Lebanese political leader, a former cabinet or parliament member, be meddling in his own country’s affairs by simply making a political statement or objecting to a policy in his own country?
This is a “desire” that defies basic democratic rules. We hope this strategy will not be applied to the Democrats or any opposition party member on Capitol Hill or around the country.
It is a fact, unfortunately, that most Americans didn’t know of this decision or its implication on U.S. interest and image abroad. When it comes to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, Americans have always been sold short on facts.
This administration has continuously lied to the American public about its objectives and missions abroad. It fabricated evidence, twisted facts, made up stories and changed them to fit its narrow and questionable agenda. It has abused the constitution and grossly violated its essence. It has squandered U.S. credibility and lost valuable old friends and allies. Its actions so far have produced worldwide upheavals and resulted in less security for Americans at home and abroad.
A few former Bush aides have written books that have uncovered a trail of lies, deception and incompetence in his administration. The most recent book is authored by former CIA Director George Tenant and reveals that the Bush administration went to war in Iraq despite the agency’s recommendations against such a move and the warning of its dire consequences on the war on terror, the disintegration of Iraq and the destabilization of the region.
Tragically, Bush is staying the course. He is busy meddling in the petty local politics of a small country like Lebanon, destabilizing it by dividing its people and pushing them toward another civil war. He is losing the war in Iraq while squandering American fortune and wasting the lives of tens of thousands of Americans and Iraqis. In the midst of this comes a serious warning of a new threat assessment from U.S. counterterrorism analysts saying that al-Qaeda has used its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border to restore its operating capabilities to a level unseen since the months before Sept. 11, 2001.