Friday, March 18, 2005
The safety of a police state: I've written before that a newspaper's letters to the editor columns are akin to a community forum (or should be). I think it's important to publish letters from individuals on the extremes. The public needs to know there are crazies out there -- on both sides.
In this spirit of inclusiveness, I bring you this letter in Wednesday's Union-Tribune from Chuck Goria.
A safer Lebanon because of Syria
True story: Seven years ago, my daughter and I visited my aunt and cousin in Lebanon. My cousin, a Lebanese Christian woman of 60, drove us throughout the country, which is not much larger than Southern California. Although there was much rebuilding going on, there were also bombed-out homes and buildings everywhere.
One day when my cousin was driving us back to Beirut, we approached one of the many checkpoints along the main Damascus-to-Beirut highway. It was manned by Syrian soldiers, armed with automatic weapons. My cousin wasn't paying attention and barreled through the checkpoint at over 50 mph. After going about 100 yards past the checkpoint, she realized what she had done and looked in her rearview mirror. One of the Syrian soldiers, about 25 years old, was waving his arms.
Unlike the recent incident involving the shooting of two Italians running a checkpoint, this soldier didn't fire on us. And he didn't have the military vehicles chase us. He just waved his arms.
My cousin decided to turn the car around and go back. The soldier and my cousin had a brief conversation in Arabic and we were on our way. I asked her what he had said. She said that he had told her, "Ma'am, you shouldn't drive so fast through here. You could hurt someone."
Officials demanding that Syria end its occupation of Lebanon should visit the country first. Not all occupations are the same. The Syrian occupation of Lebanon has been marked by peace and reconstruction and is hardly oppressive. It came about because various Lebanese factions, with the complicity of the Israeli military, were blowing each other up along with virtually everything else in the country. Syria's occupation ended the violence and has prevented its resumption. The occupation has made the Lebanese safer, even if only going through checkpoints.
Yes, and East Germany was so safe -- as long as you didn't try to scale the Berlin Wall.
As far as Syria's occupation "halting the violence" -- tell that to Rafik Hariri.