General Michel Aoun’s Speech
at the First Free Patriotic Current
Student Conference held in Lebanon
(Free translation by: Elias Bejjani)

Dear Students, Lebanon’s youth: You are the generation I addressed and described as the “coming Lebanon”. I reprimanded Lebanon’s traditional politicians because of you and told them “doomed is the nation that sacrifices its youth for the sake of its elderly.” Today, you carry between your hands this “coming Lebanon”. You took the responsibility to organize the first Free National Current student conference under the title “beginning of the change”. We all appreciate your hard work and know that change requires constant activity, faith, commitment and tangible accomplishments. The process of change is not possible if we do not know who we are, our history, what we want, what we can and cannot do, our current social and political status and what needs to be changed.

Our meeting today although from a distance, aims to identify our friends as well as our enemies. Together we have to figure effective means to enable us to get out of this disastrous imposed national status quo. The current situation in Lebanon is very similar to the "Titanic eve", That eve all the Titanic passengers were happy, singing and dancing, and confident the ship is unsinkable, but it did sink. Lebanon’s present status is almost like that of the Titanic, it’s on the way to disaster. We have to prepare lifeboats because the situation is extremely dangerous.

Today I will share with you some memories regarding the birth of the “Free National Current”. The Current came into existence when I was appointed army chief in 1984. That day I said to my comrades: We are facing two choices, either to be a mercenary army enslaved by international powers, or be patriotic soldiers defending Lebanon and its identity. We chose to be soldiers for the nation and its identity. Since that day we started establishing and fostering the Lebanese status. The Lebanese political and social situation at that time was divided into five groups. Only those supporting the sovereignty of Lebanon were alienated in their own country. The five groups were the following:

1-The Palestinian status: It was a coalition of parties and groups siding with the Palestinian guerrillas fighting the Lebanese State to solidify the Palestinian authority inside Lebanon.

2-The Syrian status. It was comprised of some Lebanese parties; I prefer not to name them. They worked in Lebanon to serve Syria’s expansionism ambitions and its scheme to control Lebanon.

3-The Islamic status: It had affiliations and connections with Islamic fundamentalists outside Lebanon.

4-The Israeli status: It co-operated with Israel to create the wars-of-others in Lebanon.

5-The traditional political status: Generally, it represented foreign embassies’ policies in Lebanon and in specific, political traditions in obeying Western recommendations.

These fives divisions (groups-statuses) were in control of the political life in Lebanon with only the alienated Lebanese group representing Lebanon’s needs and Lebanese voices inside and outside the country. They conveyed the will of foreign powers to Lebanon. represented their goals and have never been effective as Lebanese leaders.

The political feudalism formed coalitions with all other groups to maintain its hegemonic presence. The “feudal Sectarians” gave the war their sectarian tag. The “Monetary Mafiosi” worked on weakening all other statuses forming at the same time, alliances with them all. It planned to be present and effective in every status, to guarantee its presence with any group that wins control and authority at the end.

The Free National Current was found to personify the Lebanese status. In the beginning it was limited to army circles; then it spread among the public after I became the Prime Minister. The public and the army came together and made the "Current" a generalized national perspective. It became the loud, trusted Lebanese voice in Lebanon. The international and regional powers (players) did not like this national reality. They have planned to distribute Lebanon’s land as conciliatory gifts in Middle East conflict compromises. They had already started their scheming to disintegrate the State of Lebanon.

Currently we are living the last days of the disaster that destroyed Lebanon’s role, to the extent of leaving no political existence at all. No doubt this status has instigated these powers and led us to the October 13th, 1990 events when the ‘legitimate’ Lebanese status was militarily aborted and replaced in office once more by the old traditional status. The current status transformed with its negative consequences from the May 17, Israeli status to a Syrian status at “Al-Taif” in Saudi Arabia, when the "Taif Accord" was forced on Lebanon. In both cases Western Policy was the Godfather. It pushed the traditional politicians towards May 17th and then towards “Taif”.

Currently Lebanon is suffering from a severe degradation, dragging the country into catastrophes on all levels. The national language has disappeared, the land is occupied, our independence is confiscated and our national beliefs and convictions are vanishing, no sovereignty remains, and occupied South Lebanon is mortgaged for the occupied Golan Heights. Lebanon’s enemies are dividing the country into sectarian factions in a bid to prevent any future conciliation and national unity.

The Lebanese media, in general, is not performing its national obligations. It is playing a treacherous role in normalizing the deviated statuses Lebanon is currently encountering because of the occupation. When we raise soveriegnty, independence or liberation subject with some journalists, they consider what we say a kind of fantasy. We are at the end of the 20th century and still some consider calling for sovereignty and independence, a kind of fantasy.

At the end of this century, Lebanon remains the only occupied country in the whole world, although it is a member in the United Nations and a founding member in the Arabic League. It is not a secret that degradation in the perception of national unity has reached its lowest levels. The three Lebanese Presidents (Troika) fight with each other, ministers and their Prime Minister accuse each other of thievery, corruption and embezzlement (with no role for the judicial system) while the Parliament is crippled and incapacitated. Gangs, Mafiosi and tribes in Lebanon are in more harmony with one another than government officials. Those politicians, MP's and parties who fake an opposition role, do so to burnish their image and get into office. In fact, they are much worse than those officials in office because they hide behind their false opposition.

All this political degradation is increasing on a daily basis. Every time Lebanon is close to a national event, like the imminent presidential elections, subservience and collaboration escalates more and more. What do we accomplish by talking about the presidential elections when the same newspapers that do so, talk at the same time about Syria’s role as the sole voter and about Washington’s role and France's will. We are all aware the imposed Taif Accord has marginalized the President’s role. Why then do the Pharisees keep on trying to deceive us.

If we go back to the media, we see that it functions under strict restrictions. No media facility dares to publish facts: they speak about price increases, crimes, foreign labor forces, corruption, lack of security, traffic problems, etc. But no one dares to discuss the sole reason behind all these problems: the occupation. They make the puppet regime look responsible while in reality decisions are taken in Damascus and implemented in Beirut. The Lebanese cannot change their government or the regime. There is no exchange of office between minority and majority as in every democracy in the free world.

Both those in opposition as well as those in office, all function under the Syrian umbrella, follow orders and obey the masters.

The Lebanese regime advocates for chaos to justify the Syrian occupation. Syrians form coalitions between extreme leftists and rightists to justify their hegemony. In reality there are no more leftists or rightists any more. They are all alike and their only aim is to get into office. After the Syrians became unable to create security chaos, they resorted to political conflicts to falsely convince the world the Lebanese are unable to rule themselves and are in perpetual need of a custodian.

Lebanon is currently going through an extreme state of degradation in all its institutions that form the state. Politically, socially, economically, ethically, media wise, spiritually etc. The Unions and syndicates are competing with themselves. For example, the Editor's syndicate president owns most of the newspapers, while the journalists syndicate president does not even own one. Looking at the Labor Union, we notice that Mr. Antoine Bechara, who was its president, is a partner in the ownership of companies. There are too many degraded relations. For example, the teacher's Syndicate is overseen by school owners and hospital's owners are members in the DR's Syndicate. Many things are not right in the state's institutions and they all need to be changed.

We in the "Free National Current" represent the actual Lebanese status inside as well as outside Lebanon. We need the changing power to reform the internal status. Change in Lebanon is very important and needs a great deal of effort and perseverance. It is proven fact that no change could be practiced inside Lebanon in the presence of occupation powers. They will abort any attempt for change and any change that does take place under the occupation umbrella will serve its hegemony and not Lebanon's interests.

Accordingly, our first priority is for Liberation from all foreign troops and the second is for Change. Our rights for freedom and sovereignty are the essence of the Lebanese constitution. We, the Lebanese, have every right to demonstrate our rejection of any foreign presence or occupation. We have to resort to international legitimacy, which is on our side. We have the right to call openly, with no fear or hesitation, for the immediate implementation of the UN Resolutions related to Lebanon: 425, 426 and 520. Every Lebanese has the right to demonstrate and reject the Syrian and Israeli occupations. Syria and its puppet Lebanese regime, refuse any security agreement with Israel in South Lebanon because Syria believes such agreements will not serve its interests. The question is, why do we not reach an agreement with Israel with the same conditions reached between Syria and Israel at the Syrian Golan Heights? We request a similar agreement in which we reclaim back all our occupied land, but we refuse to keep our land under occupation as the state is at the Golan Heights.

The Lebanese regime is not in fact willing to implement the UN resolution # 425 because of the Syrian pressures, although it keeps calling for its implementation. All their interpretations for 425 are false, the resolution deals merely with security issues and it is not without conditions, as they allege. It calls for provision of security on Israeli-Lebanese mutual borders as well as the Armistice agreement and the April Understanding. They accepted the terms of the April understanding which focuses on only security measures. According to this Understanding no resistance activities are allowed across the Israeli borders by any means. It made Lebanon an arena of battle. All these agreements focus on security; they all are rejected to justify the continuity of the Israeli presence in Golan Heights. The continuity of military actions in South Lebanon has non-Lebanese objectives. Israel is going to execute a large-scale plan of colonies at Golan Heights; Syria, as always, will not fire even one bullet in protest.

Internally, our platform focuses mainly on the change. The Lebanese constitution is outdated; we need a new modernized one. The judiciary system needs comprehensive reform to comply with the international human rights covenants. The people are in great need of old age pension plans, medical care insurance, free education, social service programs etc. There are no clear lines drawn between the state's different authorities. Although, according to the constitution there are independent authorities, (Legislators, judiciary, government etc.) but the government controls all the authorities and the Syrians control the government. The Parliament is in conspiracy with the government. It legislates to serve the government interests, as was the situation with "Solidare Company" owned by appointed Prime Minister, Mr. Hariri. Lebanon needs official monitoring institutions.

The media (fourth authority) in Lebanon is not free. It falls under the control and influence of money, occupation and auto censoring. It has nothing to do with free national conscience. We in the free National Current are not calling for a new media law; a penal code will be sufficient. A big ‘no’ for newspaper auto-censoring or privileges. A big ‘yes’ to transparent newspapers’ budgets. We believe every individual should have the right to publish what ever he wants, as long as he is held accountable. The media in Lebanon is facing a critical situation. While elderly and senior journalists are not happy and reminisce about the old days when they had freedom in their jobs, We find young, new journalists normalized on this degraded status. Some of these say loudly that sovereignty and freedom are a kind of mirage, and write in this track. They write about the subservience issue in the international political game as if it is a normal status instead of rebelling against it.

They write about basic human needs and rights as if they were alms from Prime Ministers and high-ranking officials.

All of these odd practices hinder Lebanese society in regaining its self-competence, existence and effective role in all domains. Newspapers do not dwell on the actual needs of the people. We read daily analysis in favor of the regime, while genuine opposition is stomped on. These journalists try to shine up the dim regime’s image in every piece of news published. Definitely such subservient media cannot play any constructive, patriotic role in any real process of change. This is, in general, the current situation in Lebanon, and the question is: how we can free ourselves and the country while our resources and media facilities are not a match to those in power? Although we own no t.v, no broadcasting station and no newspapers, we will be triumphant because we are the majority ‘s will and conscience.

Dear Students, Lebanon’s youth: You are the voice that is capable of bringing all these convictions to the public. Every one of you can tell all those he meets every day that Lebanon is occupied and then all of us will keep remembering every day that the country is not free and is occupied. We have to declare loudly every day that Lebanon is mortgaged, and we have to keep repeating these facts to ourselves and to others to be able to change the imposed, miserable status quo. It is vital that each of us is aware of his responsibilities and role in spreading the national spirit, patriotic knowledge, the resistance and the rejection of the occupation. Our collective, organized, united, determined efforts are the means for change and the right vehicle for liberation.

We, in the Free National Current practice our national struggle in accordance to the constitution clauses. We are not pro-violence to achieve objectives; our stance is strong with our legitimate rights. Accordingly we have been calling continuously for the reclamation of Lebanon’s free decision making process. The whole unhealthy situation is the result of the confiscated Lebanese free decision making. If the decision making process was in Beirut we would be able to change the government. It is impossible to change the government under such conditions because the Syrian occupant, who is the actual ruler in Lebanon, does not want this change to happen because Lebanon is just a puppet that he can manipulate easily. How can we change the economic situation and build a strong one or change the rotten status if we do not have a free decision making process. We, in the “Current” are not short of projects or planning, and our platform for the municipal and mayoral election campaign was a good example; many people adopted it.

Our aim is to reclaim free decision and fight the internal and external enemies. Reclamation of free decision has to be accompanied by self-liberation from political feudalism, sectarianism and monetary subservience. In the political feudalism the same names have been in circulation since 1860. These names are present in Lebanese political life; we ought to change them. The new Lebanese young generation comprises a high percentage of highly qualified individuals who have proven their innovation abilities worldwide. They must be given the opportunity to serve the country. The sectarian feudalism is getting stronger and stronger in our society; we are against confessionalism and fundamentalism. When too many people talk about sectarianism it does not mean this right or a righteous criteria. An English proverb says, “ten thousand cows can’t be wrong”. I say ten thousand cows remain ten thousand cows and all remain wrong because one-person alone can lead them to the slaughtering house.

When somebody speaks in a sectarian manner, we don’t react as sectarians; we maintain our rationale and respond nationally. We reject relations based on sectarianism. I personally might have differences with the Moslem or the Dorzi because of national, economic, social, judiciary, justice and freedom issues etc, but not because of his religion. Those who occupy Lebanon and want its people to remain helpless, divided, weak and Sectarian, are advocating for confessionalism…They aim to keep the conflicts raging to prevent the recovery of the nation.

Our national language will never focus on sectarianism or any denomination’s numerical rights. Our differences with others are based on performance, accountability, national issues, economical policies and social principles that govern people’s relations… never because of a religious belief. I oppose the Prime Minister not because he is a Moslem Sunni (the Prime Minister will remain a Sunni till the system is changed, then a Sunni might be the President). Once the right patriotism is fostered, national matters will be dealt with according to accountability, performance, honesty and qualifications. Thieves, no matter what their religion, should be sent to jail and good official employees must be respected and rewarded.

In the financial domain the government is borrowing billions of dollars to serve individual interests and spending very little on development.

Under the guise of reconstruction and rebuilding, Lebanon has been mortgaged. Where is the money spent, what about the development, the rural region’s difficulties, the dilemma of the displaced etc. There is no honesty or credibility in the official stance, practices or promises, and they resort to double standards. In 1993 they promised the people prosperity. We are now at the end of 1998 and nothing has changed, everything and on all levels got worse.

We are beyond the stage of offering rhetorical theories, we know ourselves well, we want the change, we know what and where to change, but our priority is for liberation. Not too long ago people started to say: “ Liberation, what for”, as if liberation is something to do with fashion. In fact this is the real problem and the actual sickness: if we can’t free ourselves from such nonsense, we cannot lead the change process and the country will remain occupied and our freedom confiscated. All we do must focus on liberation and nothing but liberation, liberation in all fields and on all levels. The Free National Current has a comprehensive platform for change in all domains and on all levels. We aim to build a state of law and institutions.

My government spent two years in office and nobody complained of any administrative deficits, although the country was in a war atmosphere. No crimes were committed, and only a husband killed his wife because of domestic problems and let me add, he is still in jail.

Our stances are free and patriotic, we condemn violence, liberation is a priority for us and next to it comes the change and reform process. Once liberation is accomplished the Free National Current will become a political party. Some are calling for the change of the current government. We believe this matter is not going to make any difference unless the whole political system is changed. A platform for radical change should be implemented.

Dear Students: I ask you to create a solid healthy public status, I ask you to foster and nurture this status with openness, respect for human rights, democracy, national education and awareness. Advocate for live national conscience conscience, codes of ethics and principles, courage to witness for truth, bravery to reject subservient attitudes and the will to fight for a free independent national decision making process.

Dear Students, organize your efforts, solidify your faith in Lebanon’s future, determine your objectives and always be proud of being Lebanese and you will not be capable of changing the occupation status in Lebanon only, but in the whole Middle East.

Long live our Students, our hope and future. Long Live Free Lebanon.