Saturday, April 14, 2007

Baby Steps

I came across an article in the Dailystar today which I thought would be interesting to highlight. The article itself is actually a highlight of a special feature series run in the An-Nahar daily to mark the 32nd anniversary of what many consider (not me but many) the event that launched Lebanon's civil war.

As part of that feature series, An-Nahar conducted interviews with three former wartime militia leaders, and asked them if they had any regrets or apologies to give for their actions in those years of blood and war. Below are quotes from the Dailystar summary article:
The paper asked Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun to describe their opinions of the civil conflict - and to apologize to the Lebanese.

[Walid Jumblatt]

Acknowledging that he had made "many" mistakes against innocent people during the war, Jumblatt said he was willing to apologize to the war's victims, "if they accept my apologies."

"Apologies and regrets cease to make any sense if recipients fail to accept them," he said.


[Samir Geagea]

Geagea, one of the major players of the previous war, said certain events from that conflict were "the shame and regret" of the Lebanese Forces.


"I consider the events of Black Saturday to be a black mark on the history of the Lebanese Christian right wing, even if the LF was not born yet," Geagea said.

Geagea said that the LF did not want the war to happen, "but we couldn't remain silent while Palestinians and later on Syrians violated our rights and our land."


"Those who launch wars need to apologize and not those who defend themselves and their land against assaults," Geagea said.


He said he still expects an apology from the Syrians "for the atrocities they committed in Lebanon," adding the LF "opposed" further wars "unless we feel we are threatened and where constitutional institutions can no longer protect us."

[Michel Aoun]

Fifteen years of exile led Aoun to reconsider his war experience, he said, and perform a self-evaluation of past stands.


"War was never an option; both the assailant and the victim suffer," Aoun said. The former army general said that all the military operations he undertook during the war "were acts of self-defense, I never attacked anyone."

In a country where accountability has taken refuge in casting all the blame on others, and where the only recount of the past is an agreement to forget but not forgive, An-Nahar's efforts at engaging those most involved in the war in a dialogue over their actions is admirable.

As for the comments themselves, aside from the self-defence argument which is employed by every faction in Lebanon and has therefore been rendered moot, where Geagea and Jumblatt appear to be sincere, Aoun's comments are indicative of the massive delusion the man, and his followers are under. For in both the wars the Aoun was involved in, there are undeniable facts as to who the aggressor was (him) and the questionable circumstances he launched them under.

Missing from the interview was Nabih Berri, the leader of a major faction in the war and a man responsible for thousands of deaths among Palestinians and Lebanese. Hizballah also apparently had no comment on their civil war actions, actions which included a violent war in their Dahieh stronghold and led to the deaths of countless Lebanese Shiites. Actions which perhaps too closely resemble the predicament in which they have once again placed their constituency.

23 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:03 PM

    thanks jade for posting this. i don't always get the opportunity to read the daily star, but the condensed version is just as good. with all the news here(u.s.) about stupid ass don imus and his remarks, i had completely forgotten about the anniversary. i have a few question for aoun.....why did he push for the syrian accountability act and yet he is NOW defending them? the presidencey? he is risking his own people to further his agenda, what a shame. and i appreciate that you mentioned that berri was left out because his party participated in atrocious acts.
    the only sad thing is that i do not believe that the lebanese people as a whole have let go of the "sectarian" animosity. perhaps im wrong, but only time will tell.
    peace
    buckeye

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  2. Anonymous11:11 AM

    Basing your whole argumentation about "a feel about their sincerity" for the Joumblat and Geagea part, and affirming for a fact that everybody knows that Aoun was the attacker, is a very critical way of seiing things, i might say, clearly here your are politically biased, and fail to see the whole picture... and might i remind you that the Lebanese army under the command of General Aoun did not commit any crimes against humanity, and respected the Geneva agreements about war principles (all military actions undertaken by the lebanese military at that time are still archived until now in the offices of the ministry of defense) .....where as our dearly "beloved" and "sincere" mrs. joumblat and Geagea were organizers and in agreement with many of the religious slaughtering in mount lebanon, sabra and chatila etc... and as for joumblat he were in total agreement, and accepted, and took advantages of the syrian egemony over lebanon for the last 15 years, so yes i ask the same question,that "anonymous said..." comment asked, but to him:
    Do you not consider Aoun's action about the syrian accountability act as proof that he do not care less about syrian's interrest comin' back to Lebanon, and as for you Jade do you not recognize the years and years of repression by the Syrian controlled Lebanese goverments (again siniora, hariri, joumblat...etc) that have repeatdly from 1992 till their departure violated human rights and rights given to any lebanese citizen for free speech...those are the people, you are talking about beeing under illusion, and so i wander who is under illusion and who isn't! this is not a subject that can be covered that rapidly, but i felt compelled to place a comment to level the one sided stories that this blog is getting...
    Ciao

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  3. Anonymous,

    Thanks for your comment, its pretty long so I might have to answer in parts.

    First of all, this post is a subjective one, not an objective one (as highlighted by it being labelled under "opinion" rather than "analysis"), and so yes, it is valid to project an argument on the basis of feeling if you've already acknowledged that you're being subjective.

    Secondly, yes you're pretty much right about the issue of massacres and criminality in the war. But my argument here is about these men's apologies with respect to the war not their actions during the war. And more specifically, my argument is about the comments they gave above...but I'll get to that at your pace, since you seem interested in other things I'll continue answering those first.

    Now as for the issue of cooperation with the Syrian regime after Aoun's exile, Geagea's imprisonement, and the Taef agreement in general, I want to make two points very clear to you:

    Under no conditions other than the ones that Aoun created would the Taef have been passed or more precisely would Syrian hegemony have been imposed on Lebanon.

    Aoun's war against the Syrians was ill-planned, and ill-advised. He pursued the war without consulting any of his domestic or international allies, and declared it on a whim - a whim generated by the Syrians' refusal to back his presidential bid. The dramatic shift in the miliatry and political balances that resulted in the aftermath of this childish war resulted in a set of circumstances in which any end to the country's civil war woes would have to pass through the road to Damascus. For his war against Geagea, Aoun once again played work horse to the Syrian regime's machinations, this time using ammos supplied to him by that regime to strike out against the Lebanese Forces, who had by that time signed on to the Taef Agreement. Again it was an unnecesarry war, and again thousands of innocent civilians died because Aoun was in a bad mood.

    So when we talk about cooperation under Syrian hegemony, we should never forget why there was Syrian hegemony in the first place.

    Any further analysis of 'cooperation' should take that into account and should not agglomerate all those who did participate in the country's constitutional institutions under the label of Syrian-hegemony collaborators. I'll quickly say that those who did resist Syria through Lebanon's constiutional instituions, e.g. Butros Harb and Nassib Lahoud, are now invariably aligned with the March 14th anti-Syrian movement.

    As for the ramblings about free speech opretion etc... Suffice it so say that it is Aoun himself who is allied with the man who imposed the most brutal restrictions on the youth supporters of the FPM.

    That pretty much covers everything but I will say one or two more things. We have a complicated past, and if one were so inclined we could get hung up on every single point, hung up to the point where we could not advance and look to the future. I sincerely believe that is the source from which the Syrians derive their confidence on their ability to re-impose their control over Lebanon. In this time of struggle for a better future I ask people to put aside the hangups and objectively look at whats best for the country and its future.

    The last thing I want to say is that this post was about apologies, and in looking at apologies we have to ask ourselves what is the point of demanding an apology from those politicians involved in the war. The point is reconciliation. In Jumblatt's comment there is a drive at reconciliation in refusing to "cheapen" these apologies by having everyone demand them and noone accept them. He has given apologies for his actions in the "Mountain War" and there has been a campaign through the March 14th movement, to genuinely achieve reconciliation on that topic. Geagea's comments I also found were aimed at addressing a major blemish on the country's history, even though he personally wasn't involved, even though his movement hadn't even been founded, he decided to apologise on behalf of all Christians affiliated with the nationalist struggle so as to promote reconciliation.

    In that respect, I found both statements sincere. Aoun's statements I found to be absolutely false (for the reasons given above).

    I'll end by saying that I competely resent your use of the word "beloved" for my commentary on these men's respective comments on the war. I can assure you I have no "love" for any of the politicians mentioned above. I have placed immense pressure on myself to seperate my feelings or personal interests from the political analysis I present, and I have continuously placed the interests of the country above my own. That is something I have yet to see from this current generation of the FPM (refer to this comments section for more on that).

    OK, my response was horridly long but I hope you took the time to read it.

    I also encourage you to take an objective look at the analysis pieces on this blog to get a clearer picture of the "stories" we're getting here.

    Enjoy

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  4. Apologies are meaningless if they are not accepted, so Jumblat was right in this one. For me I dont accept the apologies from any. I only accept them when their actions resemble their apologies. Until they show the lebanese people that they are truely sorry from their bloody history, they will remain selfish greedy blood thirsty politicians (at least for me).

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  5. Anonymous12:57 AM

    Blacksmith Jade,

    It is in my believe that all the ingredients for the Taef settlement were allready collected long time before aoun's actions during the war...

    They are some people who believe that regional politics at that time were not in favor of the Lebanese entity, and i am one of those...so for exemple when syrian troops launched their airstrikes on the house of the people (presidential palace) back in the war for liberation, you can be sure that it was with the full consent of the U.S. and Israeli goverments, esp. that we know for a fact that israeli military airplanes are masters of the sky in Lebanon, and that they were watching the syrian doin' their thing, maybe an under the table agreement b/w. the 2 parties already existed!!!

    In respect, to aoun's ill-planned war and his war against Geagea, two things i have to say about the subject:

    First, General aoun was in contact with the other domestic parties at that time, he had allready made contact with prime minister (of the other goverment) salim el hoss to stop arms and drugs traficking across all borders of lebanon (esp. ports...) in an effort to stop their outpouring into Lebanon, but more importantly to to set the grounds for mutual confidence, General aoun did his part of the bargain by ceasing control of these ports in the regions under lebanese army control, by fighting the lebanese forces, Salim el Hoss did not do the same, and by his own words he apologized to aoun after his return, on tv, about doubting the motivations behind his actions (aoun's)...

    As for international parties, he also was in contact with them as well, this confirmed by the several letters explaining the lebanese situation and sent to U.N council, french and U.S. goverments.
    (as explained above, decisions were allready taken by these parties not to help)

    Second the critical point that i have to make about the Taef is that, as you said lebanese forces did sign the taef agreement, an agreement signed by elected parlement members (20 years ago) who were given the best of treatment and massages while they were in taef...plus aoun's objection about the taef was that they weren't any time limit for syrian presence in lebanon in that agreement, which prompts serious questions!

    N.B.: By putting the "beloved" word in my previous post, i had not intented it to your opinion, but i was just using it in an ironic way!

    As you still believe that aoun's fpm followers are under illusion, i must ask if you believe that 70% fo christian votes going to aoun in the last elections are also a continuation of that illusion?
    One must ask himself that question!

    I will only add-up two more comments...
    The first, is that i do not wish to go into whose allying with who, cause if i am not mistaken everybody has made allies with pretty much everybody over the years,but in respect to today; aoun's agreement with Hezballah, is pretty much straight forward and is clearly stated in the mutually agreed paper b/w. the 2 parties, and anybody in his right mind that would take the time to read it couldn't in a hundred years find a point that is not in the best of the country!

    Second, i agree with diana, saying i quote "I only accept them when their actions resemble their apologies", until now i did not see any actions!

    Lastly, i do agree with you that on the military point of view it was an impossible task to win the syrians, and aoun, once he understood that international entities wont make the effort to prevent it, called for lebanese army surrender, so it wasn't just for the fun of it...

    I have many things to say about lebanese forces, but do not wish to flod your blog with my comments.

    Ciao
    I'll try to make my answers shorter next time ;)

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  6. Anonymous,

    Thanks for your reply. I'm on a bit of a time limit so I can't answer all your points in this reply (I will try to in the coming days) but I will shoot off a couple of quick comments.

    I think everyone agrees with Diana. As I stated before, I think the March 14th grouping goes a long way in achieving a Druze-Christian reconciliation (its not perfect but I think its working). As for Aoun and Geagea's comments, I think Aoun has a major responsibility to pursue inter-Christian reconciliation, I don't believe his comments addressed that, and if anything they cemented a uncompromising view. Geagea on the other hand has a major responsibility to address Muslim-Christian reconciliation, I think he attempted that in his comments.

    As for election results, where Aoun claims they were reactionary in view of Hariri's assassination, I think they were reactionary in view of the quadri-partite alliance. That is to say, the reason Aoun got that percentage of the vote was reactionary in part.

    I think Aoun's agreement with Hizballah isn't worth the paper its written on simply because Hiaballah has already used it weapons to compromise it through the July war which led to the deaths of over 1200 Lebanese citizens, and in view of that group's continuous efforts at what I perceive to be a campaign of deception.

    Lastly, as with the rest of Aoun's military campaigns, his surrender was mishandled and led to the massacre of a Lebanese Army regiment (I think it was the 8th?) at the hands of the Syrian army. Prisoners from that regiment remain in Syria jails, Syria continues to pursue negotiations with Israel, Hizballah continues to start devastating wars on the basis of 3 people captured by Israel years ago all the while thanking Syria for their "nationalist" stance, and Aoun continues to be allied with them.

    Sorry again for the incomplete reply, I will try to add more later if you want.

    Cheers

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  7. Anonymous3:30 PM

    Everyone please shorter comments!

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  8. Blacksmith Jade;
    Saying that Geagea's apology was sincere because he decided to apologize on "behalf of all Christians" for the events on Black Saturday is, well, simply wrong.

    Who is Geagea in the first place to "apologize on behalf of all Christians"? He's just a convicted and later on pardoned criminal. No Christian should let this guy "apologize on their behalf".
    He should just shut up and apologize for what he did, that should be enough as he has plenty to apologize for.

    His "apology" was weak and he does not admit mistakes only saying that the war was shameful for the LF. Well the LF was born during the war, so is he saying that his whole patry is shameful? His comments don't even make sense...

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  9. Jeha II8:40 PM

    I would like to say that there is a campaign of hatred and misinformation going around against Hizballah. Like Jumblatt's ridiculous claim that Hizballah is paying Sunnis to switch to Shiism.
    As Nasrallah replied, why waste time and money on something that might not even yield any or only a few results while he could tell his men to "y shiddo el himme" (i.e to go and impregnate their wives) and produce thousands of little Shia's at a time.

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  10. Jeha ii,

    No need for a campaign of "hatred and misinformation"; Nasrallah is doing a fine job alienating the rest of the planet.

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  11. Good analysis! And it goes to show brilliant minds think alike (or more modest "simple minds seldom differ"):

    http://lebanon-update.blogspot.com/2007/04/reconciliation-still-far-away.html

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  12. Anonymous11:28 PM

    Aoun is a real fart is this whole equation, he can now only run in areas controled by the terrorist network of hizballah.

    PS: All hizballah old fighters were members of Amal death squads who massacred thousands of civilian lebanese and palestian women and children in the camps in the 1980s.

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  13. wissam,

    before passing judgement on geagea you should realise that neither berri nor hassoun have apologised for anything they did in the war(that picture on the side-bar with the skull is from an amal checkpoint btw). while jumblat and geagea are taking real steps towards reconciliation, others aim to perpetuate the cycle of sectarian discord to maintain their position on the political scene (aoun, hassoun, etc.) i think we need more people like geagea who don't hide behind veiled threats and openly lie to the lebanese people (like hassoun).

    el 7aj

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  14. Anonymous1:26 AM

    BOOHAHAHAHA these comments are funny!!

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  15. Wissam I think you just proved Jumblatt's point on the subject of apologies: If people aren't prepared to accept them, theres no point in them demanding them.

    In any case, I never said Geagea represented all Christians, I said he apologized on behalf of those Christians affiliated with the nationalist struggle (a euphamism for "right-wing Christians"). And no matter what, you have to respect that it is an expression of sorrow and responsibility.

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  16. Diana6:57 AM

    but Jade this expression of sorrow and responsibility I think is completely "Di7ik 3l D2oon" (sorry I don't know how to traslate this expression to english). Not necessarily if someone says sorry it means that he honestly means it and regrets his actions. I'ld rather not hear apologies from them than fool me with their just words coming out of their mouth (for me it was provocative). Again I dont see regrets or actions to show their sorrowness!

    I am not trying to point out to any politician in specific, they are all worse than eachother.

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  17. Hi Diana,

    Thanks for your comment. Whether one accepts an apology or not will always be a personal subjective matter, and it will always entail a sacrifice on the part of the recepient as well as the issuer.

    My own thoughts on the matter have been made clear through the post and comments section.

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  18. Anonymous4:37 PM

    3aounak raje3 3a baabda ya lubnan

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  19. Diana5:39 AM

    Of course it is a personal opinion, totally agree with you :-)

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  20. Anonymous3:49 PM

    You people don't understand aoun is stupid, who hurt all lebanese. send him to iran.

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  21. well said anonymous...well said

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  22. Jimmy3:06 AM

    Aounak raje3 3a France...if they take him back!

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  23. Anonymous8:13 PM

    Allah w nasrallah even though jamblat and jaja try to make worse for the country and cause problems the sayed hasan still defends all the enemies lifes during combat and war but they all are ignorate they will get what is coming to them . The people that are suporting jaja in lebanon are ignorate he was in a lebanese jail for killing there people but yet they support him .

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