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Time for a Lokman Act 

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He was not anti-Hezbollah or Iran he was a pro free and democratic Lebanon. Never served anyone’s agenda other than Lebanon’s interest according to his own vision shared by many.

 

The famous WikiLeaks papers didn’t reveal anything we didn’t know about Lokman Slim since he personally articulated in many occasions the source of the funding for his projects. He was transparent and open about his views that many thought at one time they were too extreme and out of touch with new political realities.

This foggy situation prevailing in Lebanon between the state and non-state actors, mainly Hezbollah, should come to an end because it is letting assassins get away with murders. It is also providing the international community with an excuse to not do anything and limiting their actions to calling upon the Lebanese state to investigate and serve justice.

Lokman represents the shared values between Lebanon and the US we brag about in conferences and statements. His highly praised projects occasionally received American funding which Lokman never tried to hide. He was running the most transparent projects in Lebanon to prevent conspiracy theorists from acting against him and to protect his staff.

Unfortunately, transparency and integrity did not shield him. Calling upon the Lebanese government to investigate and bring criminals to justice is a reminder of other statements that went unanswered following the several assassinations that targeted democracy activists.

Teethless diplomatic talking points will embolden assassins and depress freedom activists. The US has a moral obligation to people accepting to receive support from Washington, in order to convince the world that support for democracy and freedom activists are not seasonal and are not only to serve short term US objectives.

American values and reputation are challenged. It is very evident that the Lebanese state is crippled at best and an accomplice most of the time. The law is only enforced against small shops and traffic violators, unless you bribe the officers.

This joke called the Lebanese state has to be called out and exposed. The sooner we acknowledge this fact the sooner we can save the Lebanese people.

The Biden administration vowed to place human rights at the forefront of its foreign policy while trying “to repair” America’s moral authority and global leadership. This is an early challenge for the administration to put their money where their mouth is.

I am certain a bill introduced in Congress will enjoy a bipartisan support and the administration should not try to water down or exert effort to make it non-binding.

The international tribunal that was created by the US after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri may have revealed how and who did commit the crime, however it failed to deter terrorist organizations from resorting to violence in order to achieve political gains and intimidate opponents.

The Lebanese public opinion jury has reached the conclusion of who killed Lokman, but only an act similar to the Magnitsky act, aimed at punishing those in charge of Lebanese security apparatus and judicial system if they fail to do their jobs, could be meaningful. This time the punishment should include enablers and reluctant leaders in position of authority.

If the US fails to act in an effective way, it would result that no one in the future will dare believing the American moral claims. A cold and timid reaction to this crime is not in the interest of the US as it is trying to face emerging competitors around the world.

Lokman and what he stood for deserve a law that can preserve his achievements and empower the people who choose to continue following his brave path. He deserves a law to save what’s left of American moral credibility and to save the remaining believers that the US is the leader of the free world.

A law, similar to Magnitsky act, that would call upon the Lebanese government to uncover the crime within a specified deadline or fear being called a pariah state and stop any dealing with its institutions, is a must.

The Biden administration said it is conducting a policy review of the US foreign policy. It is time to assess the policy toward Lebanon and see if the American policy since 2005 has been effective in serving American stated objectives and making Lebanon a stable, sovereign and free nation.

Pro-democracy and freedom activists in Lebanon need protection or fear being exterminated by forces of darkness.

I had the privilege to attend several evenings at Lokman’s place in the southern suburb with close friends like Shbib and Mahmoud, similar to his last gathering before he was assassinated.

He always had clarity and I was occasionally skeptical and cynical.

I asked him once if he was afraid to stay in the heart of the area controlled by the people he is undermining and discrediting. He was betting on that those he is criticizing are rational and his transparency would shield him. It was a detrimental mistake.

When you bet on your adversary’s logic and rationale, you become hostage to their political mood and assessment of the threat engulfing them.

We all loved Lokman after his death and most Lebanese discovered him after the assassination. We, who knew him closely, envied him for his courage when he was alive.

*Mouafac Harb is a veteran American-Lebanese journalist. He contributes a weekly column for The Daily Star.

 

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