Tuesday, March 15, 2005

W. Bush, The Middle East Peacemaker

The dominoes continue to fall as planned by the Condi-Rummy-Cowboy-Axis-of Democracy:

BEIRUT - Flags fluttering, horns honking, and fingers flashing V for victory, Lebanon's opposition converged on downtown Beirut yesterday in the biggest democratic protest in the history of the modern Middle East.

Their numbers - about a million strong - were a retort to the rival protests staged last week by the terrorist group Hezbollah, and a message to each other and the world that the Lebanese people are serious in their demands for - as the crowd chanted over and over - "Freedom, Sovereignty, Independence."

....Among the most promising aspects of this opposition movement is the extent to which it has brought together disparate factions, namely Christians, Sunni Muslims, and Druze. Previously, the democratic opposition was predominantly Christian.

....In recent weeks, both President Bush and Secretary of State Rice have often urged Syria's speedy departure and lent support to Lebanon's democratic protesters. That's a notable departure from U.S. policy over the past generation, which, under the banner of supporting the status quo, gave a nod to Syria's chokehold on Lebanon. It was not until 2003, as Mr. Bush prepared to overturn the Middle East apple cart by overthrowing Iraq's Saddam Hussein, that America began to describe Syria's presence in Lebanon as an "occupation."

....Unlike the Hezbollah demonstrators with their chants of "Death to America," many in the crowd were friendly to Americans. "Thank's Free World," (sic) said one poster, held high by a woman in a bright red jacket, Rawya Okal, who told me: "We thank Mr. Bush for his position."

Overhearing this in the throng, a middle-aged man in a green baseball cap, Louis Nahanna, leaned over to say, "We love the American people" - adding, "Please don't let Bush forget us. Your support is very important."

Asking more people what they thought of Americans turned up the same refrain. From a young driver, Fadi Mrad, came the message: "We want to change. We need freedom. Please don't let Bush forget us."

From a group of young men came not only the message "Our hope is America," and "We believe in democracy in the Middle East," but also praise for Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. There was also an invitation from one of them, young Edgard Baradhy, for his heroine, Ms. Rice, to come to Beirut "and I am ready to take her for coffee."

You and about a million other guys, Edgard.

And, in the latest development, Syria seems to be getting the message:

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) -- Syrian military intelligence started clearing out its headquarters in Beirut and vacated another office in the Lebanese capital Tuesday in line with key demands by the United States and Lebanese opposition.

The evacuation of the Syrian intelligence service, a widely resented arm through which Damascus controlled many aspects of Lebanese life, has been a key demand of the opposition, which orchestrated a gigantic demonstration Monday in central Beirut.

Syrian agents appeared to be preparing to leave their headquarters at Ramlet el-Baida on the edge of Beirut. Belongings and furniture were loaded into three trucks.

In the city's commercial Hamra district, about two dozen Syrian agents vacated an intelligence office during the afternoon, hours after trucks loaded furniture and belongings.

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