Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ackerman on the Third Anniversary of Rafiq Hariri's Assassination

Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, issued the following statement today, which will be printed in the Congressional Record:

Remembering Rafiq Hariri and the Importance of Lebanon

February 14, 2008

Madam Speaker, I rise today in a mixture of sadness and outrage to commemorate the third anniversary of Rafiq Hariri's assassination.  Sadness because the former Prime Minister, a man of vision and courage, was cut down in his prime as he stood up for the idea of Lebanon as a nation free from external control, a sovereign, united and independent Lebanon that would regain its rightful place among the nations of the Middle East. 

Three years ago a massive car bomb deprived the Hariri family of a husband and father, and deprived the Lebanese people of a leader.  It would prove to be the first in a dozen political assassinations that have plagued that nation for the last three years orchestrated by the enemies of a free and democratic Lebanon.

And it is this fact, Madam Speaker that fills me with outrage and should fill all our colleagues with outrage as well.  Lebanon's future continues to be strangled by Iran and Syria whose agents, Hezbollah, Amal and Michel Aoun, are trying to take through violence and intimidation what they cannot achieve at the ballot box.  The slow strangulation of the state has left Lebanon without a President for almost three months, paralyzing the nation and raising the specter of renewed civil war.

On the third anniversary of former Prime Minister Hariri's murder the international community must renew its commitment to the people of Lebanon and again speak out against the campaign of naked aggression that has left the March 14 movement only two parliamentarians away from losing their hard won majority.  We must renew our demand that Damascus and Tehran lift their boots off Lebanon's neck.  And we must ensure that justice is done in the case of Rafiq Hariri and all the other victims of the 3 year campaign to deny Lebanon its rightful place among free and independent nations. 

Toward that end, the United States and the rest of the international community must make it crystal clear to Syria that the Special Tribunal established by the United Nations Security Council to investigate the terrorist attack on February 14, 2005, is not a bargaining chip to be traded away.  The interests of justice in this case far outweigh any concession that the government of Syria might hope to offer.  The guilty must be held accountable for their crimes.

The international community has spoken frequently and eloquently through United Nations Security Council resolutions in support of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon, and has demanded the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon.  These goals and this unity of purpose must not be abandoned or allowed to wither either from self-interest or distraction.  The enemies of Lebanon believe they have time on their side -- that they merely need to wait us out and Lebanon will once again be theirs to control. 

The conflict in Lebanon is not a sideshow in the Middle East, it is the main event.  Lebanon is where Tehran intends to fulfill its aspirations for regional hegemony and Shiite dominance.  There is too much at stake for Lebanon, and for the entire region, for the world to leave the Lebanese to the mercies of the radical mullahs in Tehran, the thugs in Damascus and their terrorist allies, Hezbollah.

I urge all my colleagues to not only remember Rafiq Hariri and his sacrifice but to speak out in support of the legitimate democratic aspirations of the people of Lebanon.  They want only what we enjoy every day, -- a free, sovereign and democratic state, the servant only of its own people and the master of its own destiny.  It's worth fighting for.