Remarks by Walid Maalouf
Director, Public Diplomacy for Middle Eastern & MEPI Affairs
The Arab American Community of Southern California
Friday, November 12, 2004
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I am so delighted to see, this evening, that several organizations have come together to prepare and participate in this event. Our communities in California 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. My mother's uncles migrated to San Francisco in the 1890 and since that time I have had family in America . For those of you who do not know, the first Lebanese to come to America was a Mel kite 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 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 & Arab 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?
President George W. Bush recognizes in his National Security Strategy that development and diplomacy are as important as defense for building a safer, freer and better world. To this end the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development have put together a strategic plan that builds on President Bush's three Ds - Defense, Diplomacy, Development - to create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community. The goals of the strategic plan are: to achieve peace and security, advance sustainable development and global interest, promote international understanding and strengthen diplomatic program capabilities. These goals are being pursued in the Broader Middle East and North Africa through USAID programs in Afghanistan , Pakistan , Egypt , Iraq , Israel , Jordan , Lebanon , Morocco , Palestine and Yemen . The total budget of USAID has grown in the last three years from $8 billion to $14 billion. You can clearly see the commitment of our Administration toward a better way of life for all human beings around the world.
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.
So our priorities for this region are to support the rebuilding of Iraq and successful transition to self-rule through democratic processes; to increase support for democratic reforms in the Middle East through stronger civil society, improved administration of justice and more effective legislatures; to expand education programs to improve quality and give youth the livelihood skills to participate in a productive society; and, finally, to support economic policy reform, free trade agreements, and business development programs for job creation.
USAID is working hard in this region because we want to lift the people out of poverty, protect their human rights, eliminate trafficking in people and drugs, encourage greater political participation, economic opportunity and educational development. Our activities will help the East and West come closer together.
The new forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East is as important as Ronald Reagan's famous phrase: "Mr. Gorbachov tear down this wall". President George W. Bush is now tearing down all the walls and barriers that have slowed the advance of freedom, the advance of civil society, the advance of democracy, the advance of liberty and self-government, the advance of equality for women, and last, but not least, the advance of a lasting peace in the Middle East.
In more than six major speeches the President spoke about his vision of democracy in that part of the world. He is consistent in his approach and determined to succeed in this major change. On May 24 th at the United States Army War College , the President said: "We believe that freedom can advance and change lives in the greater Middle East, as it has advanced and changed lives in Asia, and Latin America, and Eastern Europe, and Africa . We believe it is a tragedy of history that in the Middle East -- which gave the world great gifts of law and science and faith -- so many have been held back by lawless tyranny and fanaticism. We believe that when all Middle Eastern peoples are finally allowed to live and think and work and worship as free men and women, they will reclaim the greatness of their own heritage. And when that day comes, the bitterness and burning hatreds that feed terrorism will fade and die away. America and all the world will be safer when hope has returned to the Middle East ".
The democratization of the Broader Middle East and North Africa is important and necessary. Leaders throughout the last six decades have done hardly anything to change the political systems to catch up with the needs of their people. And the President realizes that America and our allies excused and accommodated the lack of freedom in the Middle East , hoping to purchase stability at the price of liberty, and of course we got neither. Moreover, monarchs were toppled by revolutions in claiming Arab nationalism. But those revolutions did not produce any evolutions. Rather, they produced in the long-term fanatic extremism. Arab nationalism started under the Ottoman Empire to preserve the Arab heritage; unfortunately after that era, many Arab dictators used this nationalism to their personal advantage and their interest but never for the interest of their people. They furthermore fought western openness from within. Today this Arab nationalism does not exist, and all those who espouse a free open society were not able to get any changes off the ground. So, what is left?
This is why the broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative is a must. There are responsive audiences to the President's vision from all religious backgrounds. The most responsive audience in support of this idea comprises the educated, the business community and the middle class. Some Arab governments are with it and some are against it and of course the extremists will do everything in their power not to let it happen. The G8, in their meeting in Sea Island , Georgia , have supported these initiatives and on December 11, the Kingdom of Morocco and the US , as President of the G8, will co-host the first "Forum for the Future" in Rabat , Morocco . This Forum is the centerpiece of the "Partnership for Progress and a Common Future with the Region of the Broader Middle East and North Africa" which was launched by President Bush and other G-8 leaders at the Sea Island Summit in June 2004 with leaders of seven countries from the region -- Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Yemen.
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. 2. The liberation of Iraq from the most lethal weapon of mass destruction -- Saddam himself and his Ba'ath party. 3. The passage of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 to win Lebanon back into the fold of democratic nations.
Another important and positive change toward a lasting peace in the region is that President George W. Bush put forward a road map to solve the Palestinian Israeli conflict which was supported by those directly involved and by all the nations of the world. He is the first US President to call for the establishment of a Palestinian State living side by side in security, peace and prosperity with Israel .
My friends, the Fertile Crescent is still unstable. 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 border.
Yet as the Secretary-General noted in his report of October 1 st , Syria has failed to implement 1559. Therefore, on October 16 th , the Security Council unanimously requested a follow-up reports every six months from the UN secretariat. Syria 's reaction to this - continued interference in Lebanese political life. On October 26 th Deputy Secretary Armitage dismissed the formation of a new government in Lebanon saying "it was made in Damascus ". Our policy remains clear; the US firmly believes and strongly reiterates that the Governments of Lebanon and Syria should accept and implement resolution 1559 immediately allowing the Lebanese to govern themselves free of the specter of foreign meddling. The Secretary-General's follow-up report to 1559 is due in mid-April next year, ensures that this issue will remain under the international microscope, particularly in the lead-up to next spring's parliamentary elections.
My friends this is what President George W. Bush said about the people of the Middle East:" In their need for hope, in their desire for peace, in their right to freedom, the peoples of the Middle East are exactly like you and me. Their birthright of freedom has been denied for too long. And we will do all in our power to help them find the blessings of liberty".
It was an honor to serve the President at the 58 th general assembly, and today I am committed to help President Bush win the war against terrorism and democratization in the Middle East . In my capacity as a public diplomacy officer and with your help and the help of every free Middle Eastern soul, we seek to catalyze the broadest spectrum behind democratic reform within the region. We must improve knowledge of American political values in the broader Middle East and promote a better understanding of the policy goals of President George W. Bush's initiatives.
These are historic times; change is taking shape. There is no turning back. I believe democracy will lead to peace, to great economic returns, to freedom of the self and the opportunity for personal achievement, to equality, security and self-determination for all the nations in the region.
Thank you and May God keep the United States of America the beacon of freedom.