_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________PERSPECTIVE
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Dear Friends,

I am writing to share my happiness and hope in the future of our country.
I also want to share my eagerness to see the Lebanese people and specifically
the current opposition build on the historic chance that we are being given to
build a Lebanon that we can be proud of

Today we are entering an unprecedented era of hope:

As many of you I grew up in a country where war and violence were part of my
daily world since I was a little boy. I hardly remember a time when the school
year was not prematurely ended b/c of fighting and I have rarely lived in the
same place for more than 2 years. Up until now it seems sometimes difficult to
adapt to an 'uneventful' peaceful environment

But what was probably more difficult for me than the war was the way it ended.
After hundreds of thousands lost their lives, youth, mental sanity, here we were
in a country governed by a ruthless dictatorship and where the only remaining
armed militia approved by the government is one calling for an Islamic state
they intend to obtain 'democratically' by encouraging demographic growth
resulting, as a bi-product, in a generation of young people for the most part
poor and lacking specialized skills. A breading ground for more misery,
frustration and fanatism

Like many of you I have decided at a certain point to look for my future abroad,
in a country where opportunities still exist and where one can freely oppose a
regime or a policy without ending beheaded in the trunk of their own car. My
departure was a sign that I am not ready to give in, accept the sick reality of
oppression, corruption and religious fanatism. I must admit that while in my
heart I prayed for a change, I had little hope for it and was preparig for the
time the rest of my family would have to follow me

Today a miracle seems to have happened and God finally listened to the prayers
of many Lebanese. The unfortunate decision of a poisonous insect (Usama Bin
Laden) to sting the powerful elephant (US) finally made the US aware of the
danger and determination of religious extremism and its threat to democracy and
freedom. Those are diseases we had been struggling with for years in Lebanon.
The decision of the current US to spread freedom as an antidote to fanatics
suddenly made the prospect of a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon became a reality.
I was afraid, their presence was going to be comparable to the 500 years of
Ottoman occupation b/f them.

The last uncertainty disappeared with Bush's victory that sealed the direction
forward for our region. I was holding my breath riveted to the TV screen on
Tuesday night with in the back of my mind the echo of the latest defiant
statements the Syrian leadership had issued few days earlier. Probably betting
on a regime change in the US. They were wrong .. thank God

When I read today the press articles mentioning the role the Lebanese American
community played in the elections (specifically in Ohio significantly
contributing to Bush's victory) and the continued commitment of Pres. Bush to
getting Syria out of Lebanon, I feel proud and optimistic (a feeling I haven't
had for years)
I am proud that so many Lebanese b/f me have left the country and stayed
faithful to its spirit of democracy and freedom. They came here in numbers,
found their place in the US society and did not forget about Lebanon. Their
styles differ (some are more hawkish others more diplomatic) however we all owe
a great deal to organizations like the Lebanese Kataebs, USCFL, Lebanese
American Council for Democracy, the Lebanese Forces, Aounists and others for
pushing relentlessly in a consistent direction at a time where many others back
home have decided to side with the prevailing forces on the ground even if it
comes at the expense of their values

However, although the stars seem to be aligned today as they never were before,
the battle is not won yet and I am eager to see us take advantage of this
opportunity and take ownership of our destiny rather than act as observers
standing on the sidelines:

If, as I strongly believe, Syria will be out of Lebanon and the Hizbollah will
have disarmed by this time next year, the success of the recently liberated
country will sit squarely on our shoulders. The ability of the free Lebanese to
proactively prepare for the post Syria era is going to play a crucial role in
determining the end state for our country

As such, it is not too early for the Lebanese opposition to start rallying
support from different political and religious groups in the country around a
clear and unequivocal vision of the Lebanon of tomorrow upholding principles of
democracy, liberty, rule of law, tolerance and accountability.

In addition to a common vision a plan is needed for both the transition phase
and the end state: a well planned approach will help us avoid the bumps along
the way and mitigate risks of instability, frictions among different
communities, or senseless attacks on Israel's Northern border that Syria would
undoubtedly try to create on its way out to justify its presence

On the positive side, our politicians have mastered the art of aligning their
ships with the prevailing winds: Jumblatt's latest political swings are a clear
example of this phenomenon (and his mastery at predicting weather changes better
than the most sophisticated satellites). As such, I wouldn't be surprised if
they are already working the phones to make sure the US administration
understands how committed they are to a fee and democratic Lebanon. They should
be an easy bunch to handle during a transition period.

Hizbollah, the wild card in this equation, is also believed to be pragmatic,
i.e., willing to give up its weapons and become a strictly political party
rather than face a military defeat and be banned

Finally, key leaders in the Lebanese Army need to be committed to and part of
this planning to make sure stability will reign during the transition phase

I do not know whether such planning has started but I strongly believe it is
time for it to start if we are serious about building on the chance we are being
offered

Best,

Philip Farah