General Michel Aoun: Fading Halos & Falling Masks

By: Elias Bejjani, LCCC Chairman

November 12/06


In a public gathering held on October 28/06, with mayors and dignitaries from the Lebanese regions of Keserwan and Jbeil, General Michel Aoun said: "There is another important matter, for every time someone slaps someone else, Syria is accused. Fourteen crimes took place in 2005, and Syria was accused, the truth remains similar to Rajeh's Story, (A Lebanese folk tale in which all wrongdoings, bad behavior and acts are attributed to an imaginary person named Rajeh)


The frame of mind and tunnel vision in which General Michel Aoun has imprisoned himself during the last 10 months are sad and extremely shocking. He has assumed the role of a staunch advocate and guardian angel for the Syrian regime and its Lebanese agents. He brags loudly about this mission wherever he goes and whenever he delivers a speech, gives a statement or even engages in private conversations. He has not only allied himself with Hezbollah and adopted its Iranian- Syrian schemes for Lebanon, but he has become an umbrella that gathers under its shade the rest of the pro-Syrian Lebanese officials, parties and politicians from all categories of Arabists and fundamentalists.

Among those new allies and comrades are his previous worst enemies, President General Lahoud, Dr. Salim Al Hoss, the three Syrian notorious mouthpieces in Lebanon, Ex MP Nasser Kandiel, Ex MP Elie Ferzli, and ex Minister Weam Wahab, and the list goes on and on.


The puzzling question that all of General Aoun's intellectual supporters are sadly asking:  Isn't he himself  who stated loudly in hundreds of statements, interviews, articles, testimonies lecture( many of them in the USA), that Syria through its agents has engineered and executed three assignations against him personally?


One wonders what has happened to this big leader's credibility and memory after his return to Lebanon in May 2005 after 16 years of exile in France.


How could he even think that the Lebanese people will buy his fishy and questionable endeavors to label the Syrian regime and its Lebanese agents as pure and innocent? How could he simply expect that they should not be automatically tagged as main suspects in any crime, assassination attempt, booby-trapped vehicles or any sort of chaos in Lebanon.


Isn't he the same man who, all through eighteen years, has been building his popularity and reputation on courageously exposing their evil and criminal terrorist roles?


No the Lebanese people are not that naive and their memory is extremely vivid; they can not forget that Syria has occupied their country for almost thirty years, destroyed its institutions, stole its fortunes, forced its youth to emigration, messed with its delicate demographic balance, enslaved, persecuted, kidnapped, imprisoned and killed thousands and thousands of innocent civilians.


How can they forget that Hezbollah, Lebanon's major threat, was and still is, nurtured, sponsored and used by Syria and Iran?


In this editorial the focus will be on the text of a lecture the General delivered at The Foundation For the Defense of Democracies-Washington DC, March 7, 2003 in the realm of his political advocacy campaign to convince the US Congress to pass the "Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003". 


The main aims of this piece are:

1- To rationally and objectively compare between what General Aoun stated and preached in that lecture, and what he has since delivered and practiced in real life and with whom he has been forging alliances.


2- A genuine and conscientious review of General Aoun's platforms, declared national convictions, promises, statements, practices and alliances in two separate eras, the first one while he was in power as PM (1988-1990) and in exile for 16 years (1991-2005), and the second one since his return to Lebanon on May/7/2005.


For 18 years he proudly and courageously carried Lebanon's cause of freedom, sovereignty, human rights, liberation and the Lebanese Christians’ attachment to the Land of the Cedars. His struggle was successful and was crowned by Lebanon's liberation from the Syrian occupation in early 2005. But sadly and to the surprise of many of his supporters, especially among his own Christian community, he suddenly turned against all his declared convictions, negated all his long time documented platforms, abandoned all his previous pro-state sovereignty stances, sided with Hezbollah and with all the rest of the pro-Syrian Lebanese officials, parties and politicians. His only focus became merely the presidency post, and accordingly he resorted to manipulation, propaganda, demagogy and denominational instigation tactics. He fell under the false belief that the Lebanese people in general and the Christians in particular will blindly walk his heretic tracks and swallow his new political choices that are in sharp contrast to their 1,500-year recent history, conscience, values and nationalism. He has ignored the solid fact that the Lebanese patriotic cause makes the Leaders and not otherwise. He has selectively forgotten that the GREAT Lebanese people are not only great in love, sacrifices, sincerity, devotion, love to their country, longing for freedom and human rights, but also great in accountability, questioning, and judgment when they sense that the leaders and politicians they trusted have betrayed that trust. They adopt harsh opposition stances towards those who underestimate their intelligence, do not honor the sacrifices of their martyrs and overstep in their political practices the boundaries of safeguarding their country's independence, sovereignty, identity and freedoms.


3- Remind the General who enjoyed our full support for many years, as well as other Lebanese politicians and leaders, in particular those of the Christian community, that their national duty and obligation is to serve both their country and people and not vice-versa. To put him on notice too that the people’s mandate given to him during the last parliamentary election is revocable at any time. Meanwhile only the Lebanese people are the custodians of the Lebanese cause and defendants. Leaders who drift away from the cause are exposed and not elected again. In this realm, Saint Peter has said: "If I wanted to cajole and appease the people’s status and ranks, I would not have been a servant for Jesus Christ".


4-Send a bold message and a notice to all Lebanon's leaders and politicians, in particular the Christians, that their Lebanese communities honor freedom, democracy and human rights. They should know that their people are not sheep that can be led blindly to slaughterhouses, and definitely not a kind of a merchandise offered in the markets for trade and for wheeling and dealing. They should never ever forget that the Lebanese people are intelligent, political well informed and, when the need arises, they can be very harsh in accountability. They are the main power that chooses the country's legislatures as well as its political leaders. Meanwhile, the people are also the power that revokes mandates given to politicians and withdraws the trust granted to them when they derail from declared and promised platforms.


5- Desensitize our own people in regards to constructive critiques and at the same time helping them to be more tolerant and patient to peaceful and intellectual opposition. Encourage them to practice accountability in its widest boundaries with each and every politician and leader. No leader should at any time take the people for granted and confiscate their free decision making process 

Below are selective excerpts from the Text of General Michel Aoun's Lecture that he delivered (en English) at the Foundation For the Defense of Democracies- Washington DC, March 7, 2003. Below the excerpts a set of  the writer's short comment related to what the General has been preaching since 1998 and what actually he has been delivering during the last 17 months.

A) Aoun: "It is both a privilege and a pleasure for me to participate in this symposium, where we can together think out loud about some of the most important subjects of our time, namely human rights, democracy, economics, and development. The fate of these issues has become increasingly worrisome in many regions of the world that are in a state of a global and fateful confrontation with terrorism. I say “global” because terrorism, by its very nature, reaches into several aspects of public and private life and knows no limit, and I say “fateful” because the outcome of this confrontation will lead to one of two critical directions and set of consequences for human civilization: either terrorism will be defeated under the leadership of the United States, and thus a foundation for positive interaction will be built among diverse societies,  or, God forbid, terrorism prevails and humanity enters into an age of darkness and decline. 

B) Aoun: The right to self-determination was in most cases hijacked by many regimes that adopted or continued dictatorial or theocratic systems of governance. These regimes rejected the Human Rights Charter, marginalized their people, and crippled their ability to develop and advance by engraining in their societies antiquated customs that were inherited from primitive and backward mentalities. These regimes are today fertile ground for the sponsorship and incubation of terrorism, and the use of it as a strategic instrument of influence in their foreign policies. 

C) Aoun: Lebanon, a small country by size but much larger in mission, was the first victim of terrorism. At the end of the sixties, Lebanon, a multicultural society, began to absorb the shocks of the conflict between the East and the West. In the early eighties it found itself at the frontlines of confrontation with Islamic fundamentalists.   
As a democracy and free market economy surrounded by autocratic regimes and directed economies, Lebanon strived to live under its secular and democratic constitution.  I 

D) Aoun: These universal values cherished in Lebanon presented a threat to the single-ideology theocracies and dictatorships that dominated the region.  Lebanon became a target for these regimes which believed it imperative to kill its pioneering role in the region. At the time, some regional and international parties believed that some benefit could be drawn from the demise of Lebanon. They remained silent and refrained from helping it. The Syrian regime played the major role in this conflict. It first claimed to protect the Palestinian Revolution against the Lebanese, and so it allied itself with the Palestinian movement until it was able to undermine the stability of the Lebanese society and destroy the country’s security institutions. At that point, it changed direction and claimed to protect Lebanon from the Palestinians, and it legitimized its entry into the country under the banner of the Arab Deterrence Force in 1976.  

Between 1976 and 1982, the Arab Deterrence Force was under the authority of the Lebanese President, but the Syrian contingent – which was the largest – operated independently of the other contingents and of the President. The Syrians shelled the residential areas and carried out massacres; they imposed censorship on the press and began shutting down some of the media. They assassinated politicians, clergymen, reporters and diplomats. They bombed embassies and chased out virtually all diplomatic missions from Beirut. They kidnapped people, both individuals and groups, and liquidated them. They incited massacres in some areas of the country and executed military prisoners. Many Lebanese nationals remain incarcerated in Syrian jails even as we speak.  
For all these reasons, the other Arab contingents of the Deterrence Force left Lebanon, and the Syrian regime managed to achieve an exclusive solid grip over the majority of Lebanon.  The Syrian regime transformed Lebanon into a refuge and a breeding ground for all types of international terrorist groups operating in areas under its control. It was in this environment that a massive drug cultivation, processing, and distribution industry prospered, and the Lebanese coast became peppered with illicit harbors controlled by various militias that used them as a launching pad for terrorist activities and other illegal activities.  

E) Aoun: In 1982, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon evicted the PLO from Beirut. The Lebanese government abolished the mandate of the Arab Deterrence Force and requested Syria to withdraw its forces. However, the Syrian regime ignored the Lebanese request in violation of UN Charter, and instead of withdrawing it re-armed the Palestinian organizations and its allied militias and political parties in Lebanon. This caused a return to the situation that preceded the Israeli invasion, namely military clashes, kidnappings and killings. It was at that time that the embassies of the United States and France were bombed, twice each by the Syrian protected and supported terrorists, and that the French and American contingents of the Multi-National Force were attacked. 
The Multi-National Force withdrew in the aftermath of these suicide attacks, leaving Lebanon to confront its fate alone. Syria then forced Lebanon to abrogate the May 1983 Accord that Lebanon had negotiated with Israel. Israel pulled back to the border zone, and Syria returned to its task of gnawing, destabilizing and disintegrating Lebanon.  This period climaxed with the Syrian invasion of the last free bastion in Lebanon on October 13, 1990 and the resulting eviction of the constitutional government.  Syria had thus completed its takeover of Lebanon.    

F) Aoun: The Syrian regime has all but eliminated Lebanon from the international political map. It has halted all bilateral negotiations between Israel and Lebanon, thus bypassing the bilateral nature of peace negotiations. It rendered the prospect of peace between Lebanon and Israel contingent upon the dragging and slow process of the Syrian track with Israel. It forced the Lebanese government to submit to its will and not implement UN resolution 426 which calls for the deployment of Lebanese Army Forces alongside the United Nations Forces following Israel’s implementation of resolution 425 and its withdrawal from South Lebanon. On the issue of the Shebaa Farms, the Syrian regime created a pretext not to disarm its allied militias, which it has used to maintain tensions at the Lebanese southern borders and terrorize those Lebanese citizens demanding the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanese soil. 

G) Aoun: It is difficult to understand how Syria could have in the first place marketed itself to the world as a stability factor in Lebanon, when the reality is that it has subverted and destroyed that stability!  We are at a loss to understand how the world allows Syria to remain in Lebanon when Syria has failed to meet any of its commitments! 

H) Aoun: Syria has created restricted zones inside Lebanon where security forces are not allowed.  These areas, primarily the Palestinian camps, have become shelters for terrorists and the heroes of organized crime where radical Islamic organizations thrive, and where sectarian hate-crimes against Christians and others opposed to this lawlessness continue to take place.  For example, 
On July 31, 2002, an employee at the Teachers Mutual Insurance Fund in Beirut killed eight of his fellow employees and injured another six.  He admitted to the judge that his attack was religiously motivated.  
On November 25, 2002, an American missionary was assassinated in Sidon. The crime was attributed to a religious motive having to do with her missionary work. 
On December 30, 2002, in one of the Lebanese Army barracks, an enlisted soldier opened fire on five of his fellow soldiers in their sleep killing one and injuring four. Subsequent investigation revealed that he was attending religious course at a Koranic madrassa inside one of the camps, where he allegedly learned that the killing of Christians and Jews would set him on the road to paradise.   

I) Aoun: This brief overview of the situation in Lebanon is a reflection of the larger context of the region.  Its roots are ideological, economical, and psychological.  And if we are to manage the present state of affairs and avert future mistakes, we must address these roots.  If we examine the origin of terrorists, it is evident that they come from states and countries with dictatorial and theocratic regimes that do not recognize or respect human rights.  A second point is the religious dimension of the suicide operation considered as martyrdom that opens the gates of paradise to those committing it.  The autocrats, whether theocrats or dictators will not admit any wrongdoing because theocrats consider that divine law is infallible and dictators will not admit that their ideological discourse is at fault.   In both cases, these autocrats pre-empt the people’s quest for the reasons behind their failure by shifting responsibility on their political opponents whose liquidation becomes justified, or on external enemies to which the people’s hostility is channeled, thus shielding the autocrats from it. 

J) Aoun: If we are to effectively fight terrorism, we have to understand that it is inseparable from the regimes that harbor it. Terrorism is an internal safety valve for these regimes and a key instrument of their foreign policy applied as blackmail to others. Therefore, the eradication of terrorism must by necessity begin with the toppling of non-democratic regimes that teach people to hate and kill and that push people to acts of suicide.  Only democratic regimes that respect human rights can provide individuals with the opportunity for positive self-fulfillment, free from hatred and violence.  This is accomplished by guaranteeing their freedom of speech and creed, and by holding them personally responsible and accountable for their behavior, both in this world and the after-world.  

K) Aoun: Indeed, democracy is not an infrastructure that one builds in few months. It is not a topography that one draws on paper.  And it cannot be achieved through a simple voting exercise.  It is first and foremost an education of concepts.  This is why any regime change must be accompanied by a fundamental change in the system of education to facilitate the learning of new concepts and applying them to public life. Democracy cannot survive in the same environment as schools that call for the annihilation of others. It is no longer sufficient to denounce the crime and arrest the criminal. We must close the schools that are teaching the criminals.  

L) Aoun: Lebanon’s experiment with democracy started in 1926 when the constitution of the first Lebanese Republic was declared. That constitution was secular in its letter and spirit, and was inspired from the Third French Republic. The Lebanese immersed themselves in constitutional governance under the French Mandate until they gained their independence in 1943.  Following World War II and the end of the French Mandate, the Lebanese practiced democracy as a sovereign nation; adding to their written secular constitution an unwritten National Pact of power-sharing between the country’s constituent communities. Lebanon became a founding member of the United Nations. Yet today, it is the only country in the world that remains under occupation.   

M) Aoun: I am personally convinced that the return of free democracy to Lebanon is also the return of the true image of the United Sates of America.  This will pay genuine homage to the memory of the fallen Americans who gave their lives for the defense of freedom and democracy in Lebanon.  They came to Lebanon for peace and real peace must be achieved; God bless their souls.

Below is this writer's short comments related to what the General has been preaching since 1998 and what actually he has been delivering during the last 17 months.

Unfortunately and sadly while the General has based his whole lecture on Syria's destructive role not only in Lebanon, but in the whole region through sponsoring, financing, harboring and using terrorist groups, he and since his return to Lebanon in May 2005 has forged an alliance with Hezbollah and all pro Syrian Lebanese politicians, officials and parties.

Aoun has made Hezbollah's disarmament conditional with what he and Sheik Hassan Nasrallah call the “strong, fair and resisting Lebanese state”, an anti-Israel defense strategy, and tied it with the fate of the Palestinian armed militias stationed in the 13 Palestinian refuge camps in Lebanon. (The Lebanese Government does not have kind of control and authority over these camps). In contrast, in his advocacy in the US, he called for a complete separation between Lebanon and the Arab Israeli Conflict.

Aoun has adopted Hezbollah's military doctrine in regards to its "Divine Victory" in the last Israeli-Hezbollah devastating war, as well as the organization's opposing and cautious stance on the UNIFIL forces mandate, its deployment areas, and its military engagement rules. He has even adopted their rejection for the deployment of the UNIFIL on the Syrian-Lebanese borders.

At the present time, he has joined forces with Hezbollah and all the pro-Syrian Lebanese politicians and parties in a bid to topple the Saniora Government and accordingly give Syria and Iran through their Lebanese allies and militias an upper hand and control on the country’s government. He is threatening, along with Hezbollah and the rest of the Syrian-Iranian sponsored Lebanese parties, to forcibly achieve this aim through ongoing demonstrations and sit-ins.

Aoun has backed off on all the kind of advocacy that he presented in his lecture at the Foundation For the Defense of Democracies as well to all that he has delivered in testimony in front of the US HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS in September 18, 2003.

He is now appeasing and cajoling the Syrian regime, embracing Hezbollah and all the pro-Syrian Lebanese politicians and parties. He has reached a state where openly and boldly he is refusing all accusations to the Syrian regime and its Lebanese agents in regards to 14 horrible crimes that Syria executed in Lebanon during the last two years among which the assassination of ex-late PM Rafic Hariri, while he himself for the last 16 years has been alleging that Syria and its Lebanese agents have attempted to assassinate him three times, destroyed the country, kidnapped, murdered, and committed in cold blood each and every atrocity ever heard of.

He has reached a state of extreme hypocrisy when he, in a TV interview, even stated that his own party does not have any detainees in Syria, while he has in too many documented speeches and lectures claimed that his party initially was created more than 20 years ago among soldiers and officers. (His FPM party was officially licensed this year)

In his lecture he spoke about education of concepts and stated that any regime change must be accompanied by a fundamental change in the system of education to facilitate the learning of new concepts and applying them to public life. He also bragged that democracy cannot survive in the same environment as schools that call for the annihilation of others. The irony here lies in the fact that these schools in Lebanon are located in the cantons of the General's new allies and in particular in areas that are completely under Hezbollah's military control. Apparently the General has been hit with a selective kind of amnesia to forget his own words: "It is no longer sufficient to denounce the crime and arrest the criminal. We must close the schools that are teaching the criminals".  

In his lecture, the General gave the US a leading role in fighting terrorism, yet he has allied himself with the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis of evil. In the lecture he said: "I say ‘global’ because terrorism, by its very nature, reaches into several aspects of public and private life and knows no limit, and I say ‘fateful’ because the outcome of this confrontation will lead to one of two critical directions and set of consequences for human civilization: either terrorism will be defeated under the leadership of the United States, and thus a foundation for positive interaction will be built among diverse societies, or, God forbid, terrorism prevails and humanity enters into an age of darkness and decline". One wonders if the man is the same man at all and one actually questions his motives for such a drastic change of both doctrines and tactics!!

N.B: To read the complete text of General Michel Aoun's Lecture (subject of this editorial) that he delivered (en English) at the Foundation For the Defense of Democracies- Washington DC, March 7, 2003, CLICK HERE         To read the Arabic Translation CLICK HERE

*Elias Bejjani
Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)
Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)

LCCC Web Site
CLHRF Website