Texas Congresswoman Calls for Lebanon Cease-Fire

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) joins host Ed Gordon for a closer look at the State Department's position on the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Lee is among those calling for an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon.

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ED GORDON, host:

We're joined by Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee via phone from Houston. Representative Lee is among those calling for an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon. Congresswoman, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

Representative SHEILA JACKSON-LEE (Democrat, Houston): Thank you for having me.

GORDON: We should note that you're putting forth a resolution in support of the people of Lebanon. Let me ask you, what you're hearing from the White House now, Condoleezza Rice suggesting that we will see a cease-fire and possibly a resolution, a solution by the end of the week. Do you believe that to be too optimistic?

Rep. LEE: I certainly do, and I don't believe that this is a failed policy of the State Department or the secretary, but frankly a failed policy of the White House and this administration, and it's failed for a long period of time.

The whole region is in disruption starting with of course the violence in Baghdad. And so it has distracted the administration from focusing on the Mideast. We cannot wait as more human despair occurs in Lebanon for what is considered a protracted conditional cease-fire. What should've been called for immediately was a humanitarian cease-fire to provide human corridors for evacuees escaping the violence to be able to safely escape, to put in place the elimination of targeting noncombatant locations, though I know it has been said that Hezbollah has placed some cells amongst the civilian population.

And then there should've been a vigorous shuttle diplomacy with the power of the White House behind it to insist on a reputable cease-fire. Everyone recognizes the right of Israel to defend itself. And we all know that you don't' leave soldiers on the battlefield. You don't allow your soldiers to be taken and leave them without addressing it.

But this started July 12 and the United States should've moved quickly as one of the key factors of the Mideast peace discussions as evidenced by President Clinton in his series of discussions and negotiations he had. We should've been in the midst and should've called for a cease-fire.

GORDON: What of those who have suggested that we've seen the Israeli military be too zealous in their attacks back against Hezbollah and those who are concerned that the region now may find more sympathy toward Hezbollah based on the number of civilians who have died?

Rep. LEE: Well, we know first of all that Hezbollah has not changed its colors. They are aggressive. The prime minister of Lebanon has asked for the cessation of open aggression on all parties. What should be happening now is not a taking of sides, as I said yesterday to a group here in Houston, it should be moral stands being taken, a stand of courage.

And that is that we must get in the middle and demand a cessation of the hostilities by both groups. The difficulty of course is over the 10 years since the last conflict in 1996, Hezbollah has become part of the government, so it will be a protracted discussion as to how this is resolved.

Now a little muscle needs to be utilized to save lives. We have 125,000 Lebanese in schools - displaced individuals in schools across Lebanon. Three thousand injured and we are probably expecting a refugee crisis in the next couple of days.

So this requires a determined and very persistent demand. And that is that we demand that you cease-fire, the UN Security Council can deliberate for a temporary cease-fire in terms of any conditions, but that we must stop the killing. Thirty-seven children are certainly - we accept all of the remorse that has been expressed, but 37 children today or yesterday, how many more may be in the line of fire?

But I think what has failed here is not the United States' intent to do what is right, to negotiate a conditional settlement, if you will, or a permanent settlement, it is not to have taken this seriously enough to require or to demand because of our leverage a cease-fire 10 days ago so that lives could be saved and so that we could be at the table of negotiation rather than this light, tempered response that has now accelerated into a full-fledged war and of course continued loss of life both in Lebanon and in Israel.

GORDON: All right. Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas joining us via phone today. We thank you.

Rep. LEE: Thank you so very much.

GORDON: Coming up, is $5 million a good way to say you're sorry? Wal-Mart thinks so. We'll discuss these topics and more on our Roundtable.

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