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Broken Cedars By: Elias Bejjani
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, November 08, 2006


All through their 7,000 years of struggle and deep-rooted history, rich culture, and radiant civilization, the Lebanese people have never ever surrendered to despair or lost hope in safeguarding their beloved Lebanon and carrying it always to resurrection and to a new life again and again after each and every agony. They have always believed in themselves and maintained their unshakable faith and hope and trust in Almighty God no matter what hardships they encountered.

Hundreds of occupiers, tyrants, invaders and barbarians conquered their country, the Land of the Holy Cedars, all through history, but ultimately all these foreign powers were forced to leave with defeat and humiliation. Meanwhile, they miraculously turned each and every difficulty to their own country's advantage that rose alive from the ashes victorious exactly like the phoenix bird. No power was able to kill or even tame the Lebanese people's love for peace, their longing for freedom and solid belief in human rights and democracy.

Last year another occupier, the Syrian Baathist, was forced to withdraw from Lebanon after thirty savage years of occupation, persecution, merciless destruction and murder on all levels. In the aftermath of liberation, many Lebanese patriotic leaders and citizens returned from exile, while others were freed from imprisonment. General Michel Aoun, an ex-Army Commander and Prime Minister who spearheaded the liberation struggle during his 16 years of forced exile returned as a great hero, while the majority of the Lebanese people in general and the Lebanese Christian communities in particular envisaged him as a saving leader. They fully supported him and invested in his platform of advocacy, promises, and salvation plans. To their disappointment, and merely a few months after his return, Aoun gave them the cold shoulder, turned on all his convictions, changed skin and walked a political and national track that totally negated all that he stood for since 1988.

In a series of editorials, I am endeavoring, from my position as one of his previous staunchest supporters in the Diaspora to honestly and fairly expose the man's questionable and confusing change to the Lebanese people. I intend to shed light on his record in all domains and on all levels (promises, convictions, and platform) while in exile and after his heroic return to Lebanon.

Readers' responses to the previous three editorials that I have already published were numerous, colorful and educational. They ranged between extreme approval, appreciation, opposition, denouncement and accusations. But what was almost common among the majority of the readers responses is their question: "if you say General Aoun is not worthy of our loyalty and trust any more, then who is the substitute, what are our other options, we do not trust his opponents?"  My answer to all of them was and remains: "You are the substitute, you made Aoun what he became, and you can no doubt help new leaders and political parties to emerge. You can, and should, freely pick the leaders and parties that genuinely speak your minds, empathize with your pains, suffering, hopes and aspirations. In many of my answers I quoted Saint Luke 13,18-21: "Then he said, "What is the kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and 'the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.'" Again he said, "To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like the yeast that a woman took and mixed (in) with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened."

My dear Lebanese people in both Lebanon and the Diaspora, you are the seed, you are the yeast. Do not fall prey to the already made and tailored choices for you. Trust yourselves, witness for the truth and work on your own choices. Chose freedom, human rights, equality, democracy and, most importantly, never abandon your national, ethical and moral convictions. Support and side with your Lebanon's deeply rooted cause and only the leaders who honor this cause.

In this editorial I will dissect General Aoun’s testimony to the US congress House Subcommittee on International Affairs given on 9/18/2003. It is an extremely valuable factual testimony which sheds light on the constants of the Christian Lebanese conscience and the suffering of Lebanon, the Home of the Cedars, and its people. It is a documented record for all Lebanon's pains, agony, dimensions and causes, and specifically as it pertains to the destructive role of  the Syrian regime in the murder of the Lebanese state, entity, identity, economy, peace and coexistence for three decades, as well as the criminal missions the Syrian regime has assigned to its Lebanese and Palestinian agents and puppets including terrorist and fundamentalist groups, Mafias, money sharks,  politicians and parties, officials and all symbols of its Hitlerian thirty years occupation of Lebanon.

I do not exaggerate, when I state in clear conscience, that this testimony, this covenant, shows verbatim the Parisian General Aoun before Lebanon's liberation in all his dimensions of steadiness, honesty, integrity, struggle, and vigor. It shows the qualities that made him the first leader par excellence in the Lebanese Christian society, which granted him its full support, trust, and love. All these attributes and the public affirmations of constants made him the General that I personally supported with full conviction. Me, the Lebanese living in the Diaspora since 1966. I strongly defended his platform, struggle and thesis and preached them truthfully and staunchly for 16 years on a daily basis.

This Parisian General carried the heavy burdens of the Lebanese cause, which manifested itself in the understanding of many through him, until he delivered the cause to the beaches of Liberation, and returned as a hero to a liberated Lebanon last year to start a new phase of his political activity. A phase that sadly negated and blemished his entire record of achievements. To the surprise of many of his supporters he turned into an ally and a cover for the Shiite Hezbollah organization and all the parties and politicians who were Syria's agents and tools of occupation and persecution all through its 30 years of occupation of Lebanon, including the Lebanese Syrian made and appointed president, General Lahoud.

However, and with the same truthfulness and transparency, I, myself, and many other Lebanese activists in Lebanon and the Diaspora who had supported the General all through his exile years all decided in faith and conviction to peacefully, publicly and democratically oppose him strongly due to the fact that we consider that he has changed his direction, sided with Hezbollah and all of Syria's Lebanese made politicians, officials, militias and political parties. In our measure of constants, propositions, alliances, truthfulness, and practices, we cannot relate anymore to this man. He is not the General that we knew and supported. He is a new man in both conduct and speech. Meanwhile he has become quite disconnected in organizational matters, and in the manner of relationships with others, especially with his supporters who now oppose him and do not see righteousness, prudence or wisdom in his new political choices and stances.

The General's testimony to the American Congress contradicts all his new post exile positions and actions, practices and goals, constants and promises, thesis and alliances. It clearly shows that he has turned a blind eye, a cold shoulder, a numbed conscience and a deaf ear to all matters, issues, principles, aims and beliefs that he defended and advocated since 1988 until his return last year to Lebanon, including his identifying the participants and conspirators against Lebanon's freedom by their names without any compromises or sweet talk, and most importantly his witnessing for the truth, and the willful detachment from all individual interests and personal gain.

Therefore, our people who are shocked by the General’s contradiction of his own thesis, see in this testimony, a judicial case that comprises numerous potential charges on whose basis they request to hold him accountable in front of the Christian Lebanese conscience court. Charges that include the breaking of promises, the reneging of the cause and identity, the alliance with the enemies of peace, freedom, and democracy, the joining of the Syrian-Iranian Axis of Evil, and the incitement of his followers towards objectives un-comprehended by the people.

One wonders, is there truly any justification to the General's current path which is contradictory to his history and struggle and all that he preached since 1988?

Does he really believe that the Lebanese people, including and all his other fervent previous supporters are naive, superficial, and ignorant, and their vision blinded to the level that they fail to understand his newly adopted objectives and goals?

Let us recall some of the new General's puzzling and bizarre positions on the current unfolding events, and then read carefully in the text of the testimony to see the deadly contradictions. We can only sadly become bewildered and ask ourselves the following questions:

1- Was the General's statement wise when he recently declared publicly that Syria is now in Syria, and that all problems between Lebanon and Syria can simply be resolved over a cup of coffee in Damascus with Syria's president Bashar Assad? And what about the General’s below statements in the testimony:
 
A) Following a Syrian withdrawal, it is quite conceivable that the Syrian regime will leave behind many of its instruments of terror and destruction as well as its paramilitary/intelligence apparatus. Therefore, it is imperative that Syrian withdrawal be accompanied by a complete disarmament of all armed elements. Only the legitimate armed forces of Lebanon can be entrusted with providing security to the Lebanese people. They are certainly capable of doing so when provided with a strong political leadership duly elected by the Lebanese themselves, rather than appointed by an occupying power as is the case today.
 
B) Like an organized crime syndicate which uses fear, intimidation, and violence as instruments of pressure to buy silence from otherwise good and honorable people, the Syrian regime uses these terrorist organizations as instruments of pressure in a foreign policy strategy that has earned for Syria a "no questions asked" attitude from the free world with regard to its occupation of Lebanon and its persecution of the Lebanese people.

2- Is the General’s recent statement true, when he declared that the criminal repercussions on the Syrian regime disappeared after the withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon, and since then the Lebanese government has become the responsible party? But what about his testimony statements:

A) Equally important, Lebanon will need certified tribunals to investigate and bring to justice all criminals who committed war atrocities and crimes against humanity.
 
B) Two Lebanese presidents-both of whom can be accurately described as unwilling to take their orders from the Syrian intimidators-were assassinated immediately upon their elections.
 
C) Ambassadors, journalists, and political and religious figures from all denominations who dared to oppose Syria were kidnapped, tortured, imprisoned, and/or assassinated. And this is in addition to the tens of thousands of Lebanese who perished in countless massacres, in months upon months of random Syrian artillery shelling of civilian areas, and in countless booby-trapped and bombed cars.
 
D) For twenty-seven years, the Syrian Regime has played the role of both arsonist and firefighter. Syria starts fires in order to give itself a pretext to extinguish them and thus justify its continuing occupation of Lebanon. And any Lebanese who dares to expose or resist Syria's hegemony is simply eliminated. Syria's occupation of Lebanon has been detrimental and costly to both American and Lebanese interests in five major ways.
 
E) First, Syria's hegemony over Lebanon has turned the country into a fertile ground and safe haven for terrorism. In the 1970s and 1980s, Lebanon was the first victim of Syrian terrorism. And this was one of the main reasons in 1978 to list Syria as the first terrorist country on the US Department of State list of terrorist states. Back then, Hizballah and Hamas did not even exist.

F) Under Syrian occupation the human rights of the Lebanese people have been systematically violated. An exhaustive description of the crimes committed by the Syrian Regime and its goons in Lebanon would take thousands of pages and dozens of hearings.
 
2- Is it true what the General presently alleges in regards to his current allies: (a) They are pure and honest Lebanese. (b) They are only friends with Syria while their decision making process is free and independent? Aren’t they the same people who were called by him as “Syrian Instruments”? Wasn't he who said in the testimony:

A) One cannot rationally dissociate the Syrian regime from terrorism. Syria provides safe haven for a myriad of terrorist organizations, directs their operations, and uses occupied Lebanon as their main field of training and operation. 

B) Most puzzling and frustrating for the Lebanese people is that there are supporters of the Syrian Regime in positions of authority, both in Lebanon and in the U.S., who assert that Syria provides an element of stability in Lebanon. These supporters turn a blind eye to the fact that Lebanon has become unstable only as a result of Syrian hegemony over it. Today, the Lebanese-Israeli Border is a lit fuse that can erupt into a regional war at anytime. And why this present state of affairs?
 
3- Isn’t it true that Syria and its instruments who have attempted to assassinate the General himself three times are the same parties behind the assassination of Lebanon's late PM Rafic Hariri, and behind the bloody series of assassinations and explosions during the last two years, since the attempted assassination of cabinet member Marwan Hamade and until today? Aren't these the same allies of the General today? Let us recall two statements in his testimony:
 
A) Let us not forget that Syria's proxies in Lebanon were responsible for attacks against the American Embassy and the Marine compound costing hundreds of Lebanese and American lives.
 
B) One cannot rationally dissociate the Syrian regime from terrorism. Syria provides safe haven for a myriad of terrorist organizations, directs their operations, and uses occupied Lebanon as their main field of training and operation.

4- Is what appeared in the General’s testimony in regards to the principle of state, sovereignty, independence, and security, compatible with the links that he has established between the fate of Hezbollah’s weapons, the Palestinian weapons, the strong Lebanese state, and the public consensus about a newly developed Lebanese defense strategy? Does he remember what he loudly uttered in his testimony?:
 
A) Lebanon has been carrying an enormous burden as a consequence of the prolonged Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Lebanese cause is a cause in and of itself. It is not and should not be linked to the resolution of any regional or global conflict or crisis. Lebanon, alone, is a legitimate and pressing issue by every standard of international law.
 
B) Only the legitimate armed forces of Lebanon can be entrusted with providing security to the Lebanese people.
 
5- One wonders if the General, through his close alliance with Hezbollah, the armed militia of the Axis of Evil in Lebanon, and through his questionable stances in regards to the UNIFIL forces deployed in the South, is now showing his gratitude for both President Bush and the American people who through both their houses of Congress passed the "Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003"? Does he so easily dismiss his below testimony statements:
 
A) I come before you today to urge you to be true to America's nature, to aid those aspiring to freedom, to strike a blow to terrorism, and vote to pass the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003.
 
B) It is an honor for me to bring you the voice of the Lebanese people, a people longing for freedom and suffering under occupation. I have come here today to convey their gratitude for your initiative in introducing the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, and to urge the immediate passage of this bill into law. This piece of prospective legislation is crucial, as it establishes for the first time a clear United States policy regarding Syria's occupation of Lebanon.

C) Lebanon must be saved, because it is right to save Lebanon; a nation which cherishes American principles and human values that we all believe in. To save Lebanon is to lend credence to what President Bush declared in his speech on September 11, 2002 and I quote:

"We will use our position of unparalleled strength and influence to build an atmosphere of international order and openness in which progress and liberty can flourish in many nations. A peaceful world of growing freedom serves American long-term interests, reflects enduring American ideals and unites America's allies."
 
All that I request from the Lebanese partisans, and specifically the supporters of General Aoun, with many of whom I have deep friendship, mutual respect, and history of common struggle, to make a rational and calm reading, without pre-judgment, pre-conceptions, or emotional justifications, to the General’s testimony, and then compare it in the same framework with the truthfulness of his present practices, alliances, positions, and thesis since his return from exile, and specifically since his return from his unsuccessful visit to the United States in the Fall of 2005.

To read the actual General Aoun's English tesimony the subject of this critique CLICK HERE
To read its Arabic translation CLICK HERE
To read my first critique in the series CLICK HERE

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Elias Bejjani is a human rights activist, journalist and political commentator.


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