Frontline World


Lebanon, May 2005



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Anonymous - Chicago, Illinois
Seelye's documentary is excellent. Very concise yet packed with invaluable information. It proves that the Syrian government needs to change. All the people who were interviewed in Syria are scared people who would never voice their real opinion, not on camera or even in public. It is a very known fact that Assad threatened Hariri telling him that he would break Lebanon if his politics were opposed. You can't get more dictatorial than this. But is he really a strong dictator? Or is he just a scared dictator? A dictator does not send messages and threats, a dictator executes. Let's never forget that his father Hafez, much like Saddam in many ways, massacred his own people and the people of Lebanon.

The culture in this whole area of the world is one based on honor and religion. And in Bashar's eyes, change has to be done in an honorable way. Not through defeat. It's his party that needs to fall -- a party that an educated doctor like Bashar, who has studied in England, cannot be so convinced about. Some believe that we were lucky it wasn't someone like his late father that took over the Syrian regime. And if we watch the facts and read between the very few lines that Bashar al-Assad provides, isn't it almost clear that Bashar himself is seeking a regime change? Isn't it almost obvious that he is not free in his own moves?

Fear is what I see, and fear is great when we remind ourselves that we're all humans. In a world where a car accident can be arranged; a world where a human life is cheaper than a bullet; a world where a car bomb is as easy as lighting a cigarette, as easy as the one that killed prime minister Rafiq Hariri, the United States has to get the obvious message: Bashar needs its help. This is a historical turning point that will change the future of the entire Middle East, and the world. The United States has to keep the pressure on Syria, through diplomacy -- and sanctions if necessary -- but not war and chaos. We have an opportunity for "the change" today and it's now or another 400,000 years from now or never.

Larry Tawil - Minneapolis, Minnesota
I was astounded at just how quickly Damascus bowed to Lebanon's demand and scrutiny from the global community in vacating the country. No doubt that pressure from the United States in some form or another played a part in this, especially given the strategic reasons for Syria's deployment there as defense against Israel and as peacekeepers among the various factions in the south.

Equally astounding is the paradox accentuated by the move that Israel's refusal to vacate its occupied territories and the Golan Heights (which rightfully belong to Syria) according to U.N. and world community demands remains unchanged. The Israeli military occupation is older than that of Syria's in Lebanon; it has utterly failed in protecting Israelis from terrorist/freedom fighter (take your pick) attacks; their ongoing presence is the single most potent reason for Middle East tension and bitterness.

Anonymous - Monument Beach, Massachusetts
This is for Kate Seelye whom I knew as a young girl when I was living in Damascus, a member of the American Womens' Club and was acquainted with her parents. I looked forward to her piece on Lebanon and Syria, and I hear her regularly on NPR. So it is established that I am a fan. I was disappointed by the piece because it did not show how sinister the Syrian regime really is, and how deeply they are/were imbedded in Lebanon. Of course the merchant would say, "there is no opposition, and there is no need for one, since we all love our president unconditionally." Wow! Who would say otherwise on international television? You can say she showed a dissident but she did not mention how ruthless a background Mr. Assad descends from, and how nothing has changed in his father's cabinet. I could go on and on. Ms. Seelye covered a lot of ground literally, but the survey was too superficial. I look forward to more in depth exposure, so that the average viewer who hasn't spent half their adult life in the Middle East gets a more thorough analysis of how complicated things really are. Thanks a lot.

Thomas Chell - Clinton, Tennessee
Thanks so much for the wonderful program in which Kate Seelye reported from Lebanon. I could not say enough to express my appreciation to her for all she has done in connection with this reporting. Also the Liberia story was very informative.


James Morris - Los Angeles, California
Kate Seelye's Frontline World piece, which aired tonight was nothing short of Zionist propaganda against Syria. There is no proof that Syria was involved with the Hariri assassination. Israel and the U.S. Neo-cons (via the JINSA/CSP/PNAC) in their 'A Clean Break'/war for Israel agenda (which esteemed U.S. intelligence writer and author James Bamford discusses on pages 261 to 269 of his book A Pretext for War, which I would like to send to Ms. Seelye) were served by having Hariri out of the way as conveyed in articles written by U.S. intelligence writer Wayne Madsen.

Drew Abas - Loveland, Ohio
How can James Steele describe 1 million people, one quarter of the population of Lebanon demonstrating for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon Zionist propaganda? And no where in her report did she declare Syria's involvement in Hariri's assassination. It was these same 1 million Lebanese making such charges, true or not. NOT reporting this would have been propaganda of another feather. Did we watch the same show?


Michael Dowd - New York, New York
I agree with James Morris and would like to point out that it is remarkable that not once during this entire program discussing the politics of Lebanon and Syria is Israel mentioned. For instance, why did Syria enter Lebanon in 1976? Also interesting is the fact that all the anti-Syria graffiti and placards are written in English. Ms. Seelye's documentary is an excellent example of pure Zionist propaganda.


Editor's response:
Actually, we do mention Israel in the story, saying that Israel still occupies Syria's Golan region. We also say that Syria entered Lebanon as peacekeepers in 1976. They clearly overstayed their welcome. There was no shortage in Beirut of anti-Syrian graffiti and placards in Arabic, we chose to show some signs in English simply because they were easier for our audience to read. Many groups, including Hezbollah, carry signs in English because they want to deliver their message to American TV viewers.

Anonymous - Billings, Montana
I watched the report of Lebanon on PBS. It was great to be able to see all that on TV and see all the footage of how the Lebanese people were united. I hope Lebanon will be again the Paris of the Middle East. Thank you!


Chahe Demian - San Francisco, California
I read your article titled "Lebanon's History of Occupation," and would like to thank you for portraying the situation in Lebanon. The Syrian army entered Lebanon in 1976, and since then has played the role of an arsonist and a firefighter at the same time. About your mention of a renegade general, allow me to make a small correction, the "renegade" general was none other than the legitimate prime minister of Lebanon, and the commander of the Lebanese army, His Excellency General Michel Aoun. I am sure you saw his portrait carried by at least one half of the millions who demonstrated in downtown Beirut.

He was ousted in 1990 with the blessing of President George Bush, in favor of gaining Syria's silence during the first Gulf War. He is the only leader that has inspired the current freedom movement from his exile for the past 14 years. His testimonies at the U.S. Congress led to the adoption of the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Act. For all of us Lebanese Americans, he is a national hero and our only hope to unite the country, fight corruption, and turn Lebanon into a symbol of democracy in a region where democracy is much needed. It is one thing not to like some of his previous actions or words directed toward U.S. foreign policy, specifically from 1989 to 1990, when he realized that President Bush was willing to sacrifice the only democratic Arab country and donate it to a totalitarian dictator like Hafez Al Assad. But post 9/11, we all understand who is right and who was wrong, so I kindly ask you to reconsider your classification of "renegade".

FRONTLINE/World Correspondent Kate Seelye responds:
In his fine book on Lebanon's civil war Faces of Lebanon William Harris notes that General Aoun "deserves note as the only democratic populist in the contemporary Arab world." However, Harris also writes that Aoun led Lebanon into a "military adventure with no hope of success" that turned many in Lebanon, as well as some in the international community (primarily the United States), against him. This is perhaps why Aoun is sometimes referred to as a "renegade general" by western analysts and reporters -- a characterization that some understandably find objectionable.


The following are responses to the moderator question, "Do recent events in Lebanon reflect a move toward democracy in the Middle East?"

Christopher Rushlau - Portland, Maine
Kate Seelye on Lebanon. It is astonishing unless you are a conspiracy theorist that Seelye got all the way through the article (on the Web site) without using the word "Israel."

Pete McDonald - Chelmsford, Massachusetts
Bad timing. It is more likely that Lebanon will once again become a safe haven for terrorists bent on the destruction of Israel. The U.N. should have placed more emphasis on helping Syria create a stronger Lebanese government in control of a well-equipped army and a dependable internal security force. Ethnic divisions within Lebanon limit national population cohesion. Without the Syrian army present Israel may need to take action against Lebanon within 3 to 5 years to accomplish that task if the predictable insurgency materializes.


Maya Mroue - Pennsylvania
In response to Pete: As an American from "the land of the free;" I am very disappointed by your comment. What do you mean by: the U.N. "helping Syria create a stronger Lebanese government?" This goes against all principles of freedom. Can't you see that this whole "revolution" was to free ourselves from Syrian occupation. And, please, don't bring Israel in the picture. Why is it always about Israel? This does not concern Israel. If anything, it opens negotiation for Lebanon and Israel to have diplomatic relations. The last thing we need is "Israel taking action." This has only lead us to war and destruction in the past. We can take care of ourselves, we don't need Syria and we certainly don't need Israel! So please, stay out!


Kurt Hill - Ypsi, Michigan
Lebanon's Shia population has to be convinced that they are wanted and needed at the new Lebanon government table. Second, the Shia leadership has to be convinced that armed conflict will not get the country moving in the right direction, especially since Syria's military/intelligence group seems to be moving out. The object is to show unity via the political way versus the armed stronghold way. The Shia should be invited to share in the piece of the pie and begin to help the poor upgrade their lives. So convince the Shia's that they don't need to bully their way into power or else Lebanon will be occupied again by U.N. forces or even Syrian forces to keep the peace. But yes, they do have the makings of some sort of democratic process to include all and keep the peace.

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