Interview with the leader of
the Guardians of the Cedars Party,
Mr. Etienne Sacre,
also known by his nom-de-guerre
The interview was conducted
By: Elias Bejjani, Media Committee Chairman for the LCCC
(Lebanese Canadian Coordinating Council), on September 3, 2003
LCCC extends its very special thanks to Dr. Joseph Hitti who put the time, the knowledge and the effort into translating this interview.
LCCC: It is our pleasure here at the LCCC to have the opportunity to have this in-depth and comprehensive conversation with you, through which we hope to convey your ideas and views as leader of the Guardians of the Cedars Party to the Lebanese people in occupied Lebanon and in all the countries of the Diaspora. And let me begin by asking you to describe Abu-Arz the man to our readers: Where were you born, your education, family status, and the reasons behind your involvement in political action, hobbies, etc.
ABU-ARZ: I do not like to talk about myself, so I will only say that I was born in Ayn Ebel in 1937. I completed my school education in 1957, and briefly joined the General Security Agency, moving between several posts along the border, the last of which was in the Bekaa Valley where I was commissioned to track members of the Syrian National Party in the aftermath of their failed coup dEtat in early 1961. I was then transferred to the Presidential Palace where I was tasked with a special mission toward the end of the term of President Fouad Chehab and early into the term of President Sulayman Frangieh. It was at that time that I saw firsthand the worsening of the political climate in Lebanon, even at the highest levels. I then resigned and began working in the private sector, starting an insurance company in 1972. But the mounting clashes between the Lebanese Army and the Palestinian organizations led me to make a compromise between my professional and patriotic activities, and I worked with Mr. Saïd Akel to launch a political party called the Lebanese Renewal Party that included several leading figures from among all confessions and regions of Lebanon.
At the same time, and when the conspiracy to neutralize the Army and eventually dismantle it began, I started buying weapons and ammunitions on the black market and mobilizing and training young people in private camps, until the conflagration of April 13, 1975 that began the war. We then went into the battle under the name of Guardians of the Cedars, alongside the Phalangists, the Liberals, the Tanzim, and others, taking fighting positions in Ashrafieh, Sin el Fil, and downtown Beirut. We then expanded and grew until we were present in fixed positions in all villages and towns of the Eastern sector, as well as a number of villages and towns that had fallen under the Palestinian-Syrian occupation in the Western sector, the South, the Bekaa, and the North. After the crushing victory we achieved in Tel Al-Zaatar, Nabaa, and Jisr El-Basha, young people came to us from all over the place and we began graduating new volunteers and distributing weapons and equipment, as well as literature and books describing our ideas in accordance with our famous slogan: The word has espoused the gun, and the Guardians of the Cedars were born.
LCCC: Who are the
Guardians of the Cedars? And what are their objectives?
ABU-ARZ: The Guardians of the Cedars (GOC) were born as an idea in the early 1970s with the founding of the Lebanese Renewal Party as I mentioned earlier. It was later formally created as a party with the start of the events of April 13, 1975. Its beliefs are inspired from the ideas of Mr. Saïd Akel whom we consider our spiritual father. I was the one to establish the party, organize its cadres, define its principles, write down its ideology, and lead it in all the political and combat battlefields with a group of young people of the first hour. In 1976, I participated in the establishment of the Lebanese Forces with Sheikh Bachir Gemayel, Danny Chamoun, and Dr. Fouad Chemali, and we offered the GOC headquarters building as headquarters for the Lebanese Forces for several months until the latter was transferred to the office of Sheikh Bachir in Ahsrafieh, and later to the Qarantina building.
As to the objectives of the GOC, I summarize them as a belief in God, people, and Lebanon, and this ideological trinity is based on three fundamental universal tenets: Love, knowledge, and freedom. Politically we are a secular movement that believes in Lebanese nationhood over at least 10,452 Km2, comprising a single 7,000-years old Lebanese nation that has existed uninterrupted in its human and cultural dimensions, and whose great cultural heritage has contributed to the rise and dissemination of world civilization, beginning with Greek civilization, through Roman civilization and on to Western civilization. For the sake of accuracy, we hold that the culture of the West traces its roots to the Lebanese-Phoenician civilization, and not to Greek civilization as is commonly believed today. This is a major historical fallacy that ought to be corrected once Lebanon recovers its political health and returns into the hands of its own educated people and is no longer held by the scum who run it today.
One of the objectives of the Party is to evict all foreigners and parasites that are present on its soil, beginning with the Palestinian refugees and the Syrian invaders and others. We have to limit to 5% of the population the proportion of foreigners that Lebanon may contain at any one time, and then only if the interests of the country dictate it. We have to establish a secular state that has nothing to do with sectarian religious quotas and apportioning. We have to implement mandatory free education (from kindergarten) through specialization, and establish scientific research centers to attract and keep the Lebanese brain power that is scattered in the Diaspora across the globe. We want to build a professional army that believes in God and in Lebanon, and that is strong and capable to deter anyone with ambitions no matter how powerful they may be. We need to organize the Lebanese Diaspora so it becomes effective in international venues and forums and can protect the interests and cause of Lebanon in the decision-making capitals of the world. We must provide for free medical care for all the Lebanese in addition to providing a safe and secure retirement for the elderly. We must adopt the Lebanese language as the official language of Lebanon, withdraw Lebanons membership from the Arab League, and return to Lebanon its true unadulterated identity. Finally, we seek to ratify a peace treaty with Lebanons neighbors, including Israel and contiguous Arab countries, on the basis of mutual interests and the principle of equality.
We strive for a political system that is a free liberal presidential democracy in compliance with the Articles of the 1926 Constitution, and we must throw away the Taef system since it is a bastard child of two non-Lebanese parents.
How does Abu-Arz see the present situation in Lebanon, and what is his relationship with
the regime in place since 1990?
ABU-ARZ: The present situation in Lebanon is the worst in its modern history. The destruction is ongoing at the political, financial, economic, social, and security levels. Add to that the pervasive corruption that has metastasized like a cancer throughout the body and institutions of the State, and the empty treasury and the deficit that has reached close to US$34 Billion. As to the infrastructure, it is rotten exactly like the State, and the provision of social services, such as electricity, water delivery, telephone, roads, and others is nil. The living standard is atrocious, unemployment is at its highest and taxes keep on climbing. The emigration of young people has become akin to the bleeding of a dying country, and Lebanese lands are being sold wholesale to Arab nationals, while Syrian workers fill up the country and compete the Lebanese out of their livelihood. Terrorist and fundamentalist organizations have become little states of their own within the Lebanese State under the sponsorship of the Syrian occupation and its supervision. And so on and so forth, and we do not exaggerate by saying that the Taef regime is a political gang that has perfected treason, vileness, banditry, and the selling out of ones country to the level of a profession.
As to my relationship with this regime, it is similar to that of the great avenger waiting for D-day to pounce on this gang and hold it accountable for its great crimes against the nation. We hope that the hour has drawn close, because the Lebanese people can no longer put up with oppression, humiliation, poverty and hunger.
Do you consider Lebanon today a sovereign, free, and independent country?
And if not, what are the reasons?
ABU-ARZ: There is no need for this question as everyone, even the Syrian agents, know that Lebanon has become a free-for-all forsaken country with no freedoms or democracy whatsoever. The law of the jungle is the rule and the principal reason is the Syrian occupation that has succeeded over the years in Syrianizing Lebanon and converting it into a police desert-like state that is as bleak and depressing as the Syrian regime and the other desert-like Arab regimes. It succeeded, as part of this program, in installing the scum of Lebanese politicians in the decision-making positions.
Your organization says that the Syrian threat against Lebanon is greater than the Israeli
threat. What are, in your opinion, the ambitions of Syria in Lebanon, and how do you
explain the slogan of one people in two states?
ABU-ARZ: The Syrian threat to Lebanon, and the ambitions of Syria over it, are as long and old as history itself, and for this reason Syria has refused to recognize the existence of Lebanon and continues to consider it one of its provinces. Indeed, the weakness of Lebanon originates in the strength of Syria, and the strength of Lebanon finds its roots in the weaknesses of Syria, although the reverse is not true, and that is a historical constant. Whereas Israel, contrary to all that is said and propagated by Syrias agents, has no ambitions in Lebanon, the proof being that Israel withdrew in 2000 to the demarcation blue line that was certified by the United Nations. If Israel had any ambitions in Lebanon, it would have stayed in it like it has stayed in the Golan.
As to the slogan of one people in two states, it is an absolute and complete fallacy, because the Lebanese people in their distinct heritage, traditions, and geography are the complete opposite of the Syrian people.
Much has been said about the Shebaa Farms after the Israeli withdrawal in 2000, whereas
Hezbollah uses the occupation (of the Farms) by Israel as an excuse to continue what it
calls its resistance. What is the truth on this subject, now and in the past?
ABU-ARZ: The Shebaa Farms issue is a Syrian lie concocted and marketed by the regime in Damascus to link its conflict with Israel, via a group of Lebanese agents, and to link the Syrian and the Lebanese tracks (in the peace process), and to resolve the dispute over the Golan at Lebanons expense.
still wonder about the reasons for Israels withdrawal in 2000 and the manner it was
carried out without any coordination with the South Lebanese Army and according to an
agreement with Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria under international supervision and the
involvement of the European envoy Terje Larsen. How does Abu-Arz understand this event, he
who has called for establishing relations with Israel and an alliance with it?
ABU-ARZ: Israel withdrew from South Lebanon in 2000 for two primary reasons. First, Israel has no political ambitions in Lebanese territory and waters, which was mentioned earlier. Second, the enormous popular pressure inside Israel in which the Israeli people demanded its government to withdraw its army from Lebanon. In addition, the false promises made by Hafez Assad to Israel through the US administration that he intends to establish a peace treaty with it if it withdraws from Lebanon, and there is a background to his lying, namely first that he wanted revenge for the resounding defeat he was dealt in 1982, and second that he now wanted to monopolize of Lebanon all for himself, and that is exactly what happened.
I think Israel committed a monumental mistake in the shameful way in which it withdrew, for it should have acted to maintain and strengthen the South Lebanon Army instead of forcing it to withdraw with it and dismantling it in this dishonorable manner. I also think that it is now paying a heavy price for this fatal mistake through the Palestinian Intifada that erupted precisely on the heels of this withdrawal. It has dragged Israel into a dangerous war of attrition and strengthened the so-called Hezbollah by making a hero out of it to the point that Hezbollah is now a daily threat to its stability.
Everyone knows that your organization sees in Hezbollah not a resistance movement but
rather an Iranian-Syrian terrorist group. Could you give our readers a clear perspective
on this fundamentalist party?
ABU-ARZ: The so-called Hezbollah group is a dangerous movement for the future of Lebanon, especially its social wing which has allowed it to infiltrate and spread inside Lebanese society, and disseminate its ideology of establishing an Islamic Republic on the long run The war that Hezbollah fought in the South is in my opinion a futile war, because the real occupation was not there. The real occupation was, and is, in Beirut, the Mountain, the Bekaa, and the North. I regret to say that the thousands of young men who perished in the South are victims and not martyrs.
Does Abu-Arz believe that the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty
Restoration Act, which at this time enjoys a vast majority in the US House of
Representatives and Senate is Lebanons anchor of salvation from the Syrian
ABU-ARZ: The Syria Accountability Act is one of many means we employ in our political and diplomatic war against the Syrian occupation, through the enormous potential of the Lebanese Diaspora all over the world, and in this case, the United States of America in particular. It is regretful, however, that the American administration from the 1960s and till today remains under the influence of Saudi Arabia, in spite of the events of September 11, and this constitutes a significant obstacle to a change in the hostile US foreign policy toward Lebanon, which in turn prolongs the Syrian occupation. Keep in mind that the conspiracy to eliminate Lebanon as a national entity is a Saudi-designed conspiracy, executed by the Syrians under the sponsorship of the United States. Saudi Arabia is the mastermind of the conspiracy, and Syria is its executioner.
LCCC: The Lebanese judiciary, the judiciary of
the Taef regime, has issued an unjust sentence against you. Could you shed some light on
the background to this sentence and the objectives behind it?
ABU-ARZ: It is only normal that court sentences be issued against me because I rejected the Syrian occupation since its beginning in 1976, when all the Lebanese parties agreed to it and especially the Lebanese Front. I declared then a disobedience movement against that occupation and I moved my senior staff and my militiamen to the mountains of Aqura. I continued resisting and opposing the Syrian occupation until 1990 when I moved to the Jezzine district after the fall of the Eastern Sector to continue the struggle against the Syrian occupation and its fundamentalist and terrorist offspring As to the court sentences, they are issued against me from Damascus by way of the Lebanese judiciary that has become a political tool in the hands of Syria that manipulates it at will against its enemies. I consider these sentences badges of honor on my chest.
What are the activities that the Guardians of the Cedars carry out these days in the
effort to liberate Lebanon from the Syrian occupation?
ABU-ARZ: After our withdrawal from the South in May of 2000, our activities became limited to the political and diplomatic arenas, always aimed at the liberation of Lebanon from the Syrian hegemony and its local agents, this bunch of political dwarfs who not only provide cover for the occupation and defend it, but who have sold Lebanon with its people and institutions to Syria. They then transformed Lebanon into a free-for-all orgy of looting, embezzlement, fraud, cronyism, and illegitimate wealth acquisition, and into a farm that is inherited from fathers to sons, and to a pitiful mockery of a State whom freedom has abandoned and that is ruled by a camouflaged dictatorship, after it eviscerated and emptied democracy of any substance.
An English language book was recently published about you under the title "The
Conscience of Lebanon: A Political Biography of Etienne Sakr (Abu-Arz). Would you
please summarize its contents, tell us about the author, and how one can obtain a copy?
ABU-ARZ: The author of The Conscience of Lebanon is Dr. Nisan, a professor of political science at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an expert in Middle East politics and Lebanon. The publisher is Frank Cass, which is one of the most important publishing houses in England. One can obtain a copy at this time through the Internet on the web site of the publisher at HYPERLINK http://www.frankcass.com www.frankcass.com and later on in libraries throughout the world. The book is a narrative of the life of Abu-Arz and a history of his struggle from the 1960s and until 2000, with all the major stations and prominent positions he took along the way. There are also a few chapters on the history of Lebanon and its internal conflicts and political structure.
In your organization, you speak at length about the Lebanese nation and the
distinctiveness of Lebanon. Could you please explain your concept of this national
identity with a focus on your rejection of an Arab national identity?
ABU-ARZ: We base ourselves on history and geopolitical science to assert that Lebanon has been Lebanese from ancient times and no external qualifiers should be appended to its name. All those attributes that were attached to it since the Ottoman occupation, through the French occupation, and ending with the Syrian-Arab occupation are fallacious attributes that have no basis in fact. We state that the Lebanese people in all its communities and classes constitute a single self-standing distinct nation that has no connection to the so-called Arab nation, and that the latter is itself a fiction that has no basis in history or geography. This fictional so-called Arab nation or Arab world is a plethora of incompatible and discordant nations and ethnicities that never did, and cannot today, make up one single nation. It is for these reasons that all attempts by any two Arab countries at unification ended up in disastrous failures ever since the days of Abdel Nasser in 1958 and to this day.
And if the Syrian and Lebanese were one people, as the liars tell us, their peoples would have united by themselves spontaneously without the need for all these armies, tanks, rockets, and bloody battles that have raged between them and us, and without all the blood that was shed across the regions of Lebanon. And so we unambiguously assert that Arabism is one huge lie, and Lebanon has nothing to do with it, especially after the so-called Arabs took turns to destroy it, directly and indirectly, and each in their own way.
As to the distinction between Syria and Lebanon, it is simply flagrant. It is sufficient to take a look at the two mountain chains, the Eastern chain and the Western chain, that stretch from the far north to the deep south without interruption to realize the extent of the natural geographic separation between the two countries. Add to that the fact that Lebanon is a mountainous cluster whereas Syria is a vast flat desert, and there lies the huge difference between the mountain and the desert. There is no exaggeration in saying that the war of Syria on Lebanon is a historic war that stems from the hatred that the desert has for the mountain.
How do you describe your relations with each of His
Beatitude Patriarch Sfeir, General Aoun, President Amin Gemayel, Chairman Carlos Edde, the
Lebanese Forces, and the Qornet-Shehwan Gathering?
ABU-ARZ: The only measure of my relations with people is the Lebanese cause with all that it is sacred in it, and to the extent that people are closer to it they will be closer to me, and to the extent that they are removed from it, they will be distant from me. In fact, I do not care much for my personal relations with people. I care much more for my relations with them at the patriotic level. I also do not want to fall into the trap of a personal contest with anyone or engage anyone in endless arguments that will distance me from the cause and distract me from it. All that I will say is that most of those who say they are the opposition are far from authentic opposition. Some of them have gray and ambiguous positions, and I hate wavering and ambiguity, while others have soft and compromising positions and I hate those too especially when they call themselves moderate. Moderation when it comes to the truth is utter and blatant heresy. You are either with it or against it, and there is no room for middle ground. I hate those who stand in the middle ground. I follow what the the Holy Bible says: (Revelation 3:15-16) "I know what you have done: I know that you are neither cold or hot. How I wish you were either one or the other ! But because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth
And here I ask : How can you be in the opposition and support the Syrian occupation at the same time, or worse, be neutral? How can you be in the opposition and support the Taef Agreement and its Syrian offsprings ? And how can you be in the opposition and participate in elections sponsored and organized by the Taef regime and, behind it, the Syrian occupation ?
In all modesty, I say that the political path taken to this day by the Guardians of the Cedars has not changed since 1975, and will not change in the future. We represent the true opposition that accepts no compromise. In other words, we said in 1976 that we are against the Syrian occupation in all its facets and forms. We reject the phrase "Syrian presence" that is used by most opposition figures, and we reject the widely used phrase "redeployment with establishing excellent relations with Syria", since this linkage indicates evasiveness and hand-kissing, and I despise evasiveness especially when it relates to the highest interests of Lebanon. There is also much double-speak and sitting on the fence, and I think this type of politics has contributed enormously to bringing the country to its present predicament. I always prefer to rely on what Christ said, "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes', and your 'No' be 'No' ; for anything beyond this comes from the evil one" (Matthew, 5:37). I also believe that the forces of evil have seized control of political life in Lebanon because everyone now says half truths, adopts half-way positions, and agrees to half measures, and this is something I truly despise.
For this reason, we decided since 1990 not to recognize the Taef regime and not to work with it period because it is an extension of the Syrian occupation. We refused to participate in the dummy elections of 1992, 1996, and 2000, neither by voting nor by fielding candidates. We refused to recognize the outcomes of these elections, namely the Taef ministers and members of parliament and all the other institutions that were spwaned by it. We continue to recognize the legitimacy of General Aoun as the interim prime minister of the Lebanese government according to the Lebanese constitution. And when some "moderates" accuse us of extremism, we tell them: "If taking an absolute position on the side of the truth and proclaiming it is an act of extremism, then we are very proud to be extremists And if sitting on the fence next to the truth and mumbling it only by hint and insinuation means moderation, then we are proud to be non-moderates." And to close this subject, this condition of "political castration" that is the norm in Lebanon these days is a symptom of a disease. It must be terminated so that things straighten out.
How do you see the future of Lebanon? What Lebanon would you envision?
ABU-ARZ: Lebanon is a holy land from ancient times, with no less than the Bible testifying to that by praising it dozens of times. Lebanon is the land of saints since they started appearing on its soil alongside the existing political scum which by itself is a unique phenomenon in these dark days and the Church has been beautifying them one after the other. Moreover, the forces of good remain abundant in Lebanon in spite of all the surrounding political prostitution. There is an enormous reservoir of effective vital forces that remain mobile inside Lebanon and in the Disapora and they believe in the cause and its sanctity. The blood of those who gave their lives and whose voices cry out from the graves, and the sacrifices of the handicapped and the honorable fighters that were offered on the altar of Lebanon, all of them will not be in vain. Lebanon has resisted death for the past three decades, it did not die, and it won't die as its enemies wished. Truth and rights never die so long as there is someone defending them. From all these standpoints we say that Lebanon will come out alive from its ashes exactly like the Phoenix, and will fly high again bearing the standard of its historic mission as a disseminator of peace, love, and knowledge to the far-flung corners of the world. It is only a matter of time, and not only will we bide our time and refuse to acquiesce to evil, but we will continue to carry the cross until the very end. For the road to Gogotha has to come to an end and the hour of resurrection has to be near.
In conclusion, would you like to make some final comments? And do you have a message to
the Lebanese Diaspora?
ABU-ARZ: I do not like the words "Diaspora" and "emigrants"" and I do not use these terms. I prefer the term "World-wide Lebanese Presence" or the "Lebanese World" as we refer to it in our terminology, because it is a distinct entity given its sheer number of 15 million people, the preeminence of the Lebanese communities in those countries where they settled and the positions of power they have achieved, and the diverse civilizational contributions that those Lebanese helped disseminate in all fields, especially in scientific research
To those Lebanese I say: Unite because division has taken us down to the abyss of death with which Lebanon is struggling today. Learn from the mistakes of the past and do not repeat the same mistake. Carefully choose your leadership and hold them accountable if they fail. Expose evil and do not compromise with it. Continue the struggle without despair, fatigue, or complaint. Believe in the cause because it is sacred. And believe in Lebanon because it is the home of God on earth.
I'll see you all in Beirut.