Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Syria's "Me-Too" Demonstrations

The Axis of Evil strikes back, though in a tame, weakened form. A decade or two ago, anti-Syrian demonstrations would have been put down by brute force. Now, the Syrians try to play by the rules of a whole new game, trying to show that they have broad popular support by getting their Hezbollah lackeys to stage a pro-Syria street rally—in awkward, self-conscious imitation of the recent anti-Syria demonstrations.

The Hezbollah rally is big, but don't let that fool you: it is the product of an entrenched organization practiced at the old ruse of staging "spontaneous" mass demonstrations. The anti-Syria rallies are far more significant precisely because they are, in fact, spontaneous. Most important, the pro-freedom demonstrators are the ones setting the agenda, not just on the style of the demonstrations, but on the substance.

Hezbollah is a factional militia—yet its supporters wave the Lebanese flag, a symbol of anti-factional "national unity." It is in favor of perpetuating Syrian tyranny—yet its rent-a-mob holds up pictures of pro-independence leader Rafik Hariri, whom even they must know was assassinated by Syria. And Hezbollah is funded and controlled by Syria and Iran—yet it steals the slogan of "no foreign interference."

Most of all, the Syrian-staged "me-too" demonstrations, by the very fact that they copy the style of the opposition's peaceful demonstrations, grant the premise that the desires of the Lebanese people ought to be consulted—a premise no dictatorship or terrorist organization can accept if it wants to survive.

"Thousands Answer Hezbollah Call in Beirut," Tanalee Smith, AP via Washington Times, 3/8/05

"Nearly 200,000 pro-Syrian protesters waved flags, chanted, and whistled in a central Beirut square Tuesday, answering a nationwide call by the militant Shiite Muslim Hezbollah group for a demonstration to counter weeks of massive rallies demanding Syrian forces leave Lebanon. Loudspeakers blared songs of resistance and organizers handed out Lebanese flags and directed the men and women to separate sections of the square. Demonstrators held up pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad and signs saying, 'Syria & Lebanon brothers forever.' Black-clad Hezbollah guards handled security, lining the perimeter of the square and taking position on rooftops....

"Large cranes hoisted two giant red-and-white flags bearing Lebanon's cedar tree. On one, the words, 'Thank you Syria,' were written in English; on the other, 'No to foreign interference.'... Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group, has been mobilizing its followers from across the country for the protest, also meant to denounce the UN resolution that also called for dismantling militias—a point Hezbollah sees as aimed at its well-armed military wing.... In the outlying heavily Shiite regions of the Bekaa and the south, loudspeakers urged followers to travel to Beirut for the protest. A newspaper reported that convoys of Syrians were being brought across the border in buses to participate, but that could not be confirmed."