Friday, 28 September 2012

A Trip With The General

Michel Aoun, God protect you!
 (N0) "Our Lebanon" - (N0) "Your Lebanon"- (N0) "Their Lebanon"
One Lebanon for all
Published Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Al-Akhbar’s editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin recalls his first hostile encounter with General Michel Aoun. Amin, a young journalist, was also a member of the Communist party which tried to assassinate Aoun. Now, a fresh attempt is made on Aoun’s life, in a political setting much evolved from that of 23 years ago.

It was shortly after the election of Elias Hrawi as president of the republic [in 1989]. The country was about to close the last chapter of a bloody civil war.

The presidential palace in Baabda was under the control of the rebel general Michel Aoun, who was dividing his time between meeting crowds of young people who saw in him hope for a lost state, and a military and political battle to reach a solution different to that which was later reached in the 1990 Taif agreement.

Aoun was holding a press conference at the palace; I attended on behalf of al-Nidaa newspaper along with my colleague Younes Awde from Sawt el-Shaab radio [outlets which were politically opposed to Aoun]. We tried to remain calm on “enemy territory”
It was difficult to keep calm all the time. His replies focused on what he believed were the underlying messages in our questions.

He thought that May Kahale, Elias Hrawi’s skillful advisor, had fed us questions to deliberately annoy, embarrass, or disturb him. At that age, it was difficult for us to convince the “general” that we were not merely journalists, but also members of a political party involved in the conflict.

I would call Aoun’s media consultant Youssef al-Andari, from time to time to ask about the latest news. Some time later, the assassination attempt [against Aoun] occurred.

At al-Nidaa’s offices, we had never heard of François Halal, the would-be assassin. I decided to call Andari, as usual, to ask him about the general and the attempt on his life.

“Are you calling to make sure your crime was successful?” he responded.

A few minutes later, we were told that Halal was a member of a secret Communist Party unit tasked with assassinating Aoun.

Only the late Suhail Abboud looked shocked. The rest of the guys were euphoric, but worried that the operation had been unsuccessful.

I did not know where to stand. My solid commitment to the leadership’s decisions meant that I supported Halal. But my trust in my mentor Suhail makes me at least remember his protestation every time I think about the attempt.

Years passed before I met Aoun again at his home in Paris. He spoke confidently about returning to Lebanon as a leader, not a refugee asking for forgiveness.

He spoke of the civil frame of the movement he would lead. He said he would also be the voice of those who lost their role following the sectarian Taif compromise. He did not deny that his following was dominated by Christians, and that this was a problem.

In Beirut, his rhetoric was considered delusional. Nobody, in power or outside it, wanted to admit that Aoun was popular among Christians.

When the tide turned and he was allowed to return to Beirut, everyone conspired against him. It began with his Christian political adversaries – and they were numerous – and then France, which tried to contain his popularity with the help of the US and Saudi.

Following the quickly decided [2005] parliamentary elections, he showed his real power and became a target of assassination attempts once more.

I clearly remember his reaction when his list lost in Baabda due to Hezbollah’s support for his adversaries.

He told me he did not hold a grudge against Hezbollah. They had their own calculations that he understood but did not agree with. He also believed they would know very soon the gravity of their error.

Once again, I felt that he was not made of the same cloth as the traditional politicians we had gotten used to, old and new feudal lords or party members dreaming of a seat in parliament.

nasrallah__aoun__400I found him capable of setting the ground for those who would bolster the civil face of the state in the bitter war against sectarianism and its leaders.

The Resistance was a little late, but it finally understood that Aoun could be more than a balancing factor against the March 14 alliance.

While Aoun’s July war stance came as a surprise to most, I remember very well the short text message sent out to Aoun supporters:
“Just like the general who was left alone facing the world on 13 October [1990], here is Hassan Nasrallah against the entire world. Be with him.”
It was difficult to accept the idea that Aoun was capable of a political position that does not support resistance against Israel.
Those who spread this idea were saying that Aoun was marching “against history.”

They wanted to tell us that some Lebanese were condemned to be eternal supporters of occupation. Aoun spoiled their poisonous brew.

Just like he survived next to the Resistance before and after the July war, he survived the attempts to sell the state to the corrupt, sons after fathers after grandfathers. He is traveling against history indeed.

A few years ago, former Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir spoke at a sermon where he described Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. He reminded everyone that the faithful walk a different path than the rest of world.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks to his followers saying: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven [...] The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. [...] No one can serve two masters [...] You cannot serve God and mammon [material wealth].”
Michel Aoun, God protect you!

Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

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