bashir_United States of America

Lebanon and the United States of America

The relations between Lebanon and the United States had a high priority rating on Sheikh Bashir's agenda, and occupied a sizeable portion of his time and efforts. At one stage of the Lebanese crisis, Bashir openly accused the United States of working towards the partition of Lebanon. This charge was leveled at the USA in a reply which he gave to those who were accusing him of seeking the partition of Lebanon on a sectarian basis. With the utmost frankness he declared

"There are some wicked tongues and people of bad faith who have branded me as the champion of partition. When we took control of the eastern zone of Beirut, they explained this as 'partition'.... and said that the Americans will be happy, because they could now slice the cake, and give a piece to all the jolly jokers who where waiting for their share, : a slice to the Palestinians (thus taking them off the backs of the Jews...),a slice to the Syrians (to woo them away from the Kremlin...), and a slice to the Israelis (to win over the Jewish lobby in the States...). And then we would be bundled into the 'ghetto' of the Kesrouan, or forced to emigrate..."

In the context of Lebanon's partition, Bashir had much to say, and he did so on several occasion. In fact, some of his views on this crucial subject were noteworthy, particularly when he denounced Henry Kissinger's plan to solve the Middle-East problems. He vituperated : "If Henry Kissinger is so fond of the Palestinians, he can give them one of his 50 States ! But certainly has no right to decide the fate of a people to which he does not belong, or to be generous with a land that is not his own!"

Bashir's accusations against the United States were not restricted to matters of partition only, but encompassed other issues as well, some aimed at solving the Palestine problem, others detrimental to the interests of Lebanon, and all, in bulk, savouring of a clean-cut policy to uproot the Lebanese from their land... He charged the State Department with shortsightedness and duplicity : "They have given priority to everybody's problems but ours : to solve the Palestine problem, they want to give Syria a slice of Lebanon to make up for the Golan Heights : Israel would get its fair share too. And the Christians would end up between the Metn and the Kesrouan districts... and if anybody does'nt't like it, he can clear out, and immigrate with his family to California, like the Vietnamese boat-people!"

In addition to this, Bashir was convinced that the Americans considered the Lebanese as a backward underdeveloped people who are in need of a guardian to exercise some form of trusteeship over them. He stated : - "Ther are many who brand us as 'isolationists'... others call us feeble-minded imbeciles, arguing that we do not deserve self-rule and are incapable of handling our own affairs.... Some voices, even if the USA were heard to express these opinion."

Bashir positively states that a certain stage of the crisis, the USA had adopted a policy favouring the aggressions against the Lebanese Christians in their predominantly Christian regions, and denied them the basic right to defend themselves.

He complained : "When our Christian district of Ashrafieh was being shelled night and day, when our people were being slaughtered and our families had to spend days and weeks in bomb-shelters, with women and children going hungry and thirsty and lacking the basic essentials of life, the USA was condemning our resistance and denouncing our steadfastness. This is tantamount to condoning the aggression against us...". In this connection, Bashir considered that the Lebanese Resistance was, in a way, a form of resistance against American policies which tented to empel the Lebanese, willy-nilly, to acquiesce to its plans for the area : "We are now also confronting America which is out for our blood : It wants to sacrifice us on the altar of the Middle-East question, in order to implement its plans over our dead bodies..." And to the resistance fighters he said : "Train well, and fight hard, for the Americans want to partition our land, and all the west is conspiring against us, to carve up our country..."

This was the negative aspect of Lebanon's relations with the United States. It now remains to be seen how these negative relations developed into positive and friendly contacts later on.

The harmonization of views between the United States and Lebanon (or, more specifically, the State Department and Sheikh Bashir Gemayel), is due to a radical transformation in U.S. foreign policy vis-a-vis the Lebanese question, taken as an incidence of the more global Middle-East problem. At first, the United States had considered the Lebanese question as part of the broader Middle-East problem, and therefore felt that the latter should have precedence over the former. Whereas Sheikh Bashir considered that the solution of the Lebanese question was the key to the settlement of the more global Middle-East issue. Longing the solution of the former to the latter would therefore relegate the solution of the Lebanese question ad infinitum. And this, in turn, would expose Lebanon to numerous dangers, the most imminent being the quest for a solution to the Middle-East at the expense of Lebanon. Furthermore, it had become obvious that the Middle-East would not regain stability unless peace and stability were first restored to Lebanon. This is how Bashir expressed it : "We are the Saints and the demons of the Middle-East, we hold the olive-branch in one hand and the sword in the other. We can wield the flame-thrower just as skillfully as the extinguisher... The area is a keg of gunpowder, and we hold the match in our hands.... If Lucifer wants to breathe his flames on our necks, we can set the whole of Hades ablaze.... So beware of any solution to the problem that does not take historical facts and the peculiarities of the Lebanese war into consideration."

When Alexander Haig, U.S. state secretary, subsequently declared that the fact of restoring peace and security to Lebanon would achieve the same result for all the countries of the region, Bashir wholeheartedly agreed with him and supported the new policy of the United States saying : "Mr. Alexander Haig is quite right in proclaiming this new attitude loud and clear. In fact, that its exactly what we have been saying for the past seven years!"

Bashir did not minimize the role of the Lebanese communities in the USA : he considered that his fellow-Lebanese living in the United States had an important role to play, and distinguished two stages in this context : the first stage, in which the Lebanese overseas communities would not play any role at all, i.e. the passive stage; and a positive stage in which they would promote the cause of their father land and lobby for a modification in U.S. foreign policy dealing with Lebanon. He said : "Two years ago, we were not present in the American Forum. The Palestinians have their lobby, so do the Jews, the Kurds and the Copts... As for us, whenever a representative of this country goes to the States, it is usually to collect donations to fix the belfry of such or such a Church, or to obtain a grant for some school or other in a village... But when our presence there became larger, people began to sit up and take interest in the Lebanese Cause..."

Bashir's approach was not limited to this alone : he called for an efficient reorganiztion of the overseas Lebanese collectivities in the United States because, according to his views, they represented a non-negligible source of political and financial power. He suggested :

"There is a vital necessity to reorganize the groups of Lebanese emigrants in a practical and modern manner, in order to create our own lobby, to promote the cause of our country in America. We cannot ignore the fact that the United States constitute the world's center of gravity and that their influence in the Middle-East conflict is preponderant." He stressed the importance of maintaining the best relations with the United States, particularly in Lebanon itself through the medium of U.S. Ambassador Philip Habib and the United States' Embassy in Beirut. No effort must be neglected to enlist the active political support of the greatest nation in the world for the Lebanese cause. Bashir was confident that such good relations existed already:... "We entertain excellent relations with Philip Habib, with the United States' Embassy in Beirut, and with the State Department in Washington through our offices abroad. We enjoy close relations with all the centers of power and gravity throughout the world."

With regard to Ambassador Philip Habib's mission in Lebanon, Bashir expressed the wish to see these efforts continue : "I hope that Ambassador Habib's mission here will be pursued until we clear up all our problems with his help. In our present predicament we Lebanese are in dire need of friendship from abroad, to assist up in overcoming our difficulties and help us stand on our feet again..."

Bashir's concern for the Lebanese problem did not prevent him for one instant from feeling preoccupied about the general Middle-East issue, and wishing to see it solved in a satisfactory manner. This was manifest in his attitude to the Egypto-Israeli Camp David accords, which "demonstrated that the people of this region are thirsting for peace, and that its conclusion was in the interests of both parties"...

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