Adonis Diaries

“Shock and Steadfastness” (Book Review)

Posted on: May 29, 2009

“Shock and Steadfastness” by Kareem Bakradouny (Book Review, May 25, 2009)


This Arabic/Lebanese manuscript “Sadmat wa Soumoud” is of 518 pages and a report of the period of former Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.  The author and politician Kareem Bakradouny is the biographer of Lahoud since he acceded to chief of the army in 1992. Bakradouny met with Lahoud every Friday from 1992 to 2007. The meetings were held first in the Kaslik swimming club till the assassination of late Rafic Hariri PM, and then at the Presidential Palace. Before heading to a meeting, Bakradouny would wait for the call and then they would talk in a small room facing the sea.  The author hand wrote the discussions and sometimes he would record them.

Bakradouny decided to postpone the military period of Lahoud for another volume. The book is divided into three parts each of three chapters.  The first part is “The Road to the Presidency”, the second part “Period of Cohabitation (with Rafic Hariri PM)”, and the third part “Period of Calamities”.


“Shock and Steadfastness” takes you from unifying the army, internal political struggle, the liberation of south Lebanon in May 24, 2000 and the negotiations for confirming the “Blue Line” on the border with Israel, the confrontation with the Moslem extremists in the district of Donnieh, the logic of statehood versus market requirements, the beginning of a string of assassinations, the pressures of the US Bush Jr. Administration, the roadblocks for extending the Presidency tenure three more years, the assassination of Rafic Hariri, the July War of  2006, the withdrawal of the Syrian troops from Lebanon, the string of assassinations, and the ceremony for leaving the Presidential Palace.

            Emile Lahoud used to never wear any coat or jacket during the coldest seasons until a friend was once shocked to see him swimming and asked him “Have you got hit on your head as a kid?”  Since then Lahoud wears a simple black leather jacket in winter time. Lahoud’s breakfast is a piece of banana and a cone of ice cream for lunch.  The main eating session is dinner.  Lahoud records on a tape the topics that he wants to approach in a discussion or matters to follow up on.

            President Lahoud ascended the military ranks normally and was the first Chief of the army who ran the tiny navy. He was appointed Chief in November 1989 after General Aoun was forced into exile to France.  General Lahoud had the task to re-unite the dismantled army after over 15 years of civil war; he combined the regiments so that they represent all the Lebanese sects and ordered the regiments to relocate every 9 months to different parts of Lebanon so that every soldier knows his country.  He negotiated the best deals for arms, medicine, and insurance.

            General Lahoud refused political deals with President Hrawy and Rafic Hariri PM for transferring officers and followed the strict military procedures.  Any high officer who refused to obey orders for the re-organization of the army was dismissed and Syria never tried to pressure Lahoud to rescinding his orders.  The billionaire Rafic Hariri used to offer the army cash money every month but General Lahoud refused saying “The State is responsible for the budget of the army” so that he can exercise his functions without undue political pressures.

            There was an international decision to contain the Islamic resistance in south Lebanon and General Lahoud refused to confront the army with the resistance fighting the Israeli occupiers.  President Hafez Assad of Syria decided to meet Lahoud for the first time; General Lahoud told Hafez Assad “I am re-building the army to resist Israel and my conscience refuses to fight those who are fighting Israeli occupation” Since that meeting the political pressures on Lahoud faded away and he could focus on the re-organization of the army and freeing the resistance from political pressures and its freedom of movement in areas not in the army control.  When Israel bombed Lebanon for 7 days in 1993, General Lahoud ordered to return fire and Israel stopped its shelling.

            Lahoud was elected President of the Republic by unanimity after revising item 49 in the Constitution that denied a high ranked employee candidacy before resigning his post for a period.  Lahoud asked the Lebanese to contribute to a bank account in order to support the State treasury; (I remember that I contributed $100 while in the USA).  He had a program of fighting corruption but the political system in Lebanon was a insurmountable barrier given that the Taef Constitution robbed the President of valuable powers and the power was transferred basically to the Prime Minister and the cabinet.  Rafic Hariri controlled the new powers were bequeathed on the cabinet combined. (to be continued)

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May 2009

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