Linda Heard is a British editor, journalist and columnist currently based in Cairo where she is a correspondent for the English-language Saudi daily The Arab News...
Linda’s road has often been a lonely one since she refuses to align herself with any political system, party, activist group, or campaigning society. Without the constraints of ‘belonging’ and having to toe an official line, she strives to be an objective observer of the international political arena [Neo: Thesis].
...“When I hear the hauntingly beautiful call of the muezzin, I know I’m home,” she is known to say. [Neo: Anti-thesis]
Due to decades of witnessing so many good things about Arab culture - hospitality, compassion, charity and respect for family values - Linda feels that the Arabs, and even Islam, are currently being maligned by leaders of Western powers to suit their own power-led agendas. [Neo: Syn-thesis?!]
Palestine is occupied. Iraq is occupied. Afghanistan, the Middle East, Gulf and the Caspian are seething with US military personnel, pilots, submarines, Apache gun-ships, fighter jets and spy drones. Iran and Syria are being threatened [Neo: Oh No!!! Heaven forbid!]. And yet, it is absolutely imperative that Syria quits Lebanon tout suite, or so goes the White House line.
Naturally, the vast majority of the Lebanese want a complete Syrian withdrawal in the same way that Palestinians want to reclaim their land and Iraqis want the invaders out (except those in government suffering from severely twisted arms [Neo: by the hands of the terrorists or the Americans?!]). What human being on earth wants foreigners dictating their “do’s and don’ts” or telling them how their country should be run?
But there is a fundamental difference between the Syrian “occupation” and the others previously mentioned. The Syrians were invited into Lebanon in 1976 when the country’s civil war was at its bloodiest to bring stability [Neo's Newsflash: The Israelis were also invited to protect the Christians and were greeted with rice and flowers in 1982]. Over time, this it helped to achieve [Neo: would you also credit Israel with that?! Would you also credit the USSR for promoting global stability through MAD - technically true but odd...].
Furthermore, the Syrians have long said they have a plan for a staged withdrawal [Neo: staged over another 31 years, no doubt], which is more than one can say for the Americans in Iraq. Indeed, its troop levels are already substantially down.
...Put simply, the Syrians have overstayed their welcome, although given that Lebanon doesn’t possess an army to speak of, it has always maintained it would leave when the Israelis quit Lebanese land (there is still the Shiba Farms issue outstanding) and the Palestinians received their much-coveted state [Neo: Hold on a sec, the problem with Israel giving back Shiba Farms to Lebanon is that Syria is the country that is laying claim to the small land area. Further, the UN confirmed it was never part of Lebanese territory and as such concluded that Israel withdrew in full. So, no issues are outstanding! And as for the "much-coveted" Palestinian state - what does that have to do with Syria's occupation of Lebanon. Are they holding a fellow Arab country at ransom for the sake of a third Arab national group]. At the same time, Syria has long been attempting to hold peace negotiations with Israel, which still occupies its strategic Golan Heights, but has been constantly rebuffed [Neo: For two important reasons: 1) Sharon is not going to offer Assad a breather when the pressure cooker is on 2) Barak's attempts proved that Israel cannot negotiate on two fronts at the same time for internal reasons].
In addition, Syria was a main player in the “war on terror” during the months following the Sept. 11 attacks in the US [Neo: Interesting hypothesis] when both No. 10 and Buckingham Palace received Bashar and his wife as honored guests. What has changed?
...Then along came the tragic assassination of Lebanon’s former and widely beloved Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut’s downtown, which he so lovingly restored. Who did it?
“Syria,” said the US in nonverbal terms by withdrawing their ambassador and demanding the immediate Syrian pull out of Lebanon. No proof, nothing.
In the same way that individuals have been branded as terrorist supporters and bundled off in chains to Guantanamo, Bagram or Abu Ghraib, so Syria has been effectively labeled Hariri’s killer [Neo: I can't pin point why, but this victim story isn't working for me. Maybe if I see Assad sexually humiliated...].
For its part, Syria maintains Hariri was a friend [Neo: That's news to us all including Hariri and Syria itself] and has pointed out that it wouldn’t be in its interests to have him killed, especially in the light of so many international knives out for its blood. What could Syria possibly have to gain? We shouldn’t forget, too, that Bashar is highly educated and intelligent, not someone who would be stupid enough to believe Syria could get away with such an outrageous act [Neo: So, unlike the past half a dozen political assassinations committed by Syria, they now have a dentist at the realm who wouldn't dare do anything but remove Hariri's plaque].
Unfortunately, those Lebanese, who have united against Syria following Hariri’s demise, have fallen right into the trap.
Once again, Syria is not the aggressor here... [Neo: "Once again", let's ignore its acts of aggression of 1948, 1967, 1973, 1974, 1982, 2003, etc.] It is time for the Lebanese to decide where they stand during these threatening times. Their choices are thus. They can go shoulder to shoulder with their Syrian cousins, or trust the Americans and the Israelis to secure their safety and future prosperity?... [Neo: I think Lebanon is making its choice loud and clear. Long live the Cedar Revolution!]