Rep. Christopher Cox

U.S. House of Representatives

Honoring the Life and Legacy of Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri

February 16, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from California for yielding me this time. And I want to thank the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. Rahall) for bringing this resolution to the floor today.

   The former prime minister of Lebanon, who died so tragically, was a visionary for his country, for the region, for the world. He was an entrepreneur who understood the importance of markets and a free economy to the future of Lebanon and the future of the Middle East. He was a philanthropist, who, from his personal fortune, personally paid for so many to be educated both in this country and around the world, with only one condition, that they come back to Lebanon and help build a free democratic society there.

   His murder on Tuesday in Beirut was a loss for Lebanon to be sure, for the Middle East as well, but also for the international community, for everyone in the world who loves freedom and democracy. We are gathered today to honor his memory and to call for the swift pursuit and punishment of those responsible. More importantly, we are here to do justice to Mr. Hariri's dreams of a free, independent, and sovereign Lebanon.

   I first met Rafik Hariri during a visit to Lebanon 12 years ago. He was impressive because, as someone from the private sector, he dedicated himself, at great risk in the midst of civil war, to bringing warring factions together. He was, as has been stated here, a principal architect of the Taif Accords. As prime minister, he put in place the kinds of initiatives that would make Jack Kemp proud, recognizing the power of incentives, recognizing that if people could be given reason to share the Lebanese hope that reconstruction was possible to invest their money not just from Lebanon but from around the world, that even in those horrible ashes of war, we could see spring up new entrepreneurship, new hope, and new opportunity.

   His tireless work on behalf of peace in a country that was wracked by a vicious civil war and his diligent pursuit of freedom and independence for his countrymen, all at great risk to himself and to his family, was always inspiring. His broader work to open the Middle East to enterprise and economic prosperity should serve as an example to people throughout the Middle East and around the world that the path to prosperity requires free minds and free markets. It is time that we help bring his dreams to fruition.

   I had the opportunity to meet more recently, in December of 2003, with President Basheer Assad of Syria; and I shared with him our concerns, our American concerns, about the continued military occupation in Lebanon which Rafik Hariri worked diligently to bring to an end.

   Mr. Hariri's funeral in part turned into a protest against the continued Syrian occupation. The 200,000 people participating in the procession make it clear to the rest of us around the world that those in Lebanon, just as we here in America and in nations around the world, deserve the right to self-determination. For 25 years Lebanon and its people have been denied this freedom.

   This resolution honors a great leader of Lebanon whose principles are, first of all, fundamentally consonant with Lebanon and the Lebanese spirit and culture, but, second and equally importantly, completely consonant with what we every day in this United States Congress fight for for our fellow Americans and for people around the world.

   I urge my colleagues to support this resolution to honor Mr. Hariri and to support the people of Lebanon.

See the original in the Congressional Record on Page H671

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