Remarks by Walid Maalouf
Director, Public Diplomacy for Middle Eastern & MEPI Affairs
The Lebanese American Community of Greater Chicago
Sunday, December 19, 2004
It is a pleasure to be with you this morning. The greater Chicago area was also an attraction to Lebanese immigrants. Our communities in Illinois have a long history of assimilation into the American way of life. You have lived, worked and been involved in your local communities at all levels for more than four generations. And today your fellow Illinoisan Congressman Ray LaHood has just been re-elected to his 6 th term representing the 18 th district in the US House of Representatives. For those of you who do not know, the first Lebanese to come to America was a Melkite priest who arrived to Ellis Island in 1840 to raise funds to build his hometown church. This means that the migration from Lebanon to the United States of America started in the early 1800's. You see, you need to give those newcomers to this land of opportunity a few years to get established before asking them for donations. This human link between Lebanon and the US is now more than 200 years old and I believe that there is an American cousin, a blood related American cousin, for almost every Lebanese living in Lebanon . Today the Lebanese & Middle Eastern American communities have one Secretary in the President's cabinet, one Senator, four Congressmen and many other officials on national and local level. Speaking before you this evening as a former representative of the United States to the United Nations, and now as USAID's Director for Public Diplomacy for Middle Eastern & MEPI Affairs is an honor. More importantly, for a newcomer like me who has been in America for 24 years, to stand before you as a presidential appointee says a lot about the uniqueness of the United States of America . Isn't this a great country?
USAID Development in the region:
Our 2004 budget for the broader Middle East and North Africa is $4,755 billion. Breaking it down by countries, Afghanistan has benefited with $1 billion and in your folders you can read the Afghanistan reborn report which illustrates the implemented projects, in Egypt $571 million, Iraq $2, 463 billion, Jordan $248 million, Lebanon $35 million, Morocco $6 million, Pakistan $274 million, West Bank & Gaza $75 million and Yemen $11 million. I also must add that USAID helped with more than $300 million in humanitarian assistance, which has saved countless lives in the Sudan conflict.
Democratization in the region:
Three fundamental major achievements have taken place in accordance with the President's new policy in the region:
1. The liberation of Afghanistan from the oppressive Taliban regime. And the first free election in 5000 years. 2. The liberation of Iraq from the most lethal weapon of mass destruction -- Saddam himself and his Ba'ath party. And the schedualed election for January 30th. 3. The passage of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 to win Lebanon back into the fold of democratic nations and the Secretary-General's follow-up report to 1559 due in mid-April next year ensure that this issue will remain under the international microscope, particularly in the lead-up to next spring's Lebanese parliamentary elections.
Freedom & true democracy in Lebanon :
It has been 15 years since Syria signed the Taif agreement under the auspices of Saudi Arabia . We believe the time is past, long past, for the Syrians to observe the spirit of the Taif and withdraw all of their forces from Lebanon . We have been pressing this point home in Damascus and elsewhere. In May 2003 in Damascus Secretary Powell asked Syria to withdraw from Lebanon . Last year on December 3rd at the 58 th general assembly of the United Nations, and under item 37, the United States asked Syria to respect the sovereignty of Lebanon . This past September in Damascus again Assistant Secretary William Burns strongly urged Syria to withdraw from Lebanon . Most notably, on September 2, 2004 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1559 requiring all foreign forces to leave Lebanon , the disarmament and disbanding of all militias, and that the Lebanese armed forces be allowed to deploy throughout Lebanon , including the southern borders.
Unity among Lebanese Americans:
Unity prevails with strong leadership, with conviction, with determination, with love, with respect for each other and with strength. We must come together with one voice. We must leave our differences behind and focus on freedom and liberty for our ancestral countrymen and women. We must learn from the past mistakes and stop repeating them for the sake of the dignity and pride of our families back home.
Thank you and May God keep the United States of America the beacon of freedom.