CLAO"S letter to President Clinton

This letter was published in the Washington Times by the Council of Lebanese American Organizations (CLAO) on November 22, 1995

Dear President Clinton:

Three Million Americans of Lebanese descent are deeply disturbed by U.S acquiescence and inaction regarding the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Continuing efforts by Syria to annex Lebanon violate the basic principles of international law and deserves the utmost attention of the United States and the world community.

Syrian forces should withdraw immediately, completely and unconditionally from Lebanon. Peace, stability, construction and prosperity can only be achieved when Lebanon's future is solely and firmly in the hands of the Lebanese.

While peace is, and should be, the goal of Arabs and Israelis alike, it is equally important that Lebanon not pay the price for any settlement in the Middle East. Lebanon's independence and sovereignty must not be sacrificed on the altar of expediency no matter what the rationale or motivation.

Why should we care? Lebanon is one of America's oldest allies and a founding member of the United Nations. It is the only country in the Arab world with a vibrant civil society, a precondition for any form of democracy and the best antidote to religious fanaticism and militant extremism both of which breed terrorism, disorder and instability. As you know Mr., President, Lebanon used to be the freest society in the Arab world. It is the national interest of the United States that a free, open and pluralist society of Lebanon be revived and sustained.

The United States should help to free and rejuvenate Lebanon and its civil society by securing the withdrawal of all foreign forces and work to promote genuine Lebanese reconciliation and the holding of internationally supervised free elections. The United States should also assist to strengthen the Lebanese armed forces, not as a tool of government repression, but as an independent and patriotic institution.

Since it was international negligence, among other factors, that led Lebanon to its present state, we strongly feel as Americans that the United States should be bound and committed to assist in restoring Lebanon's freedom, independence and sovereignty.