Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 1st, 2014

A Talisman for Tolerance – Lebanon loses Mohamad Chatah

December 27, 2013

Lebanon lost Mohamad Chatah and many others today.

As at other such moments, the embassy went into a high gear – checking staff were safe, searching hospitals for Brits, updating travel advice, considering a public response, assessing the facts, analysing the implications.

In between, like so many others here, we try to deal with the shock. And we grieve.

I visited former PM Siniora to condole with him, and with many other former colleagues of Mohamad’s. It was poignant to see May Chidiac and Marwan Hamade, both of whom have so narrowly escaped assassination themselves. I offered condolences on behalf of the UK, and later at a local hospital offered blood on behalf of myself.

Only later today ,was I able to start to reflect properly on the loss of a good friend. Few people are both wise and smart. Mohammad was both.

Above all, he was a moderate. At any moment of jeopardy, including assassinations, he came into his own. He would always be working on a creative Lebanese fix to avoid a breakdown in dialogue or security. He was always trying to keep channels open even while others shut them off.

This made him a target for those who would rather see Lebanon divided and violent. (Like the obscurantist Wahhabi Saudi monarchy?)

I had many of my best arguments with Mohamad.

He was confident enough in his views to admit when he was sometimes wrong.

And confident enough in the weaknesses of the arguments of others to tell them so, me frequently.

He was recently at a dinner I held on Iran where he took on his political opponents with relish. As he left, I said to him that I hoped he hadn’t felt outnumbered. ‘No’, he twinkled, ‘those are the kind of odds I like’. Another time, I pressed him on the need for a political deal, and received a lecture as a modern day Chamberlain on the perils of being intimidated into accepting the wrong deal.

We often spoke about security.

We would meet for lunch with our fleets of armoured vehicles outside. Unlike many politicians (and some diplomats) he didn’t see the security paraphernalia as a sign of importance, or bravado. He knew the risks, and feared them.

His courage was that he faced down that fear again and again, every time he got in his car, issued a statement, tweeted about Syrian regime repression, or appeared on television.

Once when I asked advice on a particular threat, he quoted Mandela – ‘courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of it’.

It is a bitter irony, that Mohamad would have recognised, that a man who was so critical of the brutality and militarisation of Lebanese politics should be a victim of just that.

Mohamad was rightly skeptical of Middle East conspiracy theories on assassinations.

I’m sure he would not be surprised to see many already springing up about his own. However, conspiracy aside, he did argue that there has been a systematic effort to kill, terrify and silence many of Lebanon’s brightest and best. He is not wrong.

Is the best response to just to put a brave face on it and carry on?

After all, this is Lebanon, and the country has learnt to grieve and continue. I don’t think we should. I think we should be outraged that this has happened again. That more wives and children will go home tonight without husbands and fathers. That Lebanon has lost another patriot, another talisman of tolerance.

Mohamad would not expect to be remembered as some sort of Saint. He was used to the rough and tumble of raw Lebanese politics. I hope people will read again what he has written about Lebanese citizenship.

That his death makes people more intolerant of intolerance. And that the moderation he stood for can be strengthened rather than cowed by his murder. It is no consolation tonight, but justice is the most powerful revenge. This may seem hopeless. But Mohamad also quoted MLK – ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice’.

Tonight the Lebanese state paid its financial contribution to the Special Tribunal. Every year we go through great drama over whether this will happen. Today was a reminder of why it must.

We are not close to ending the culture of impunity. But that is no excuse not to continue to try.

I hope this won’t be another Lebanese murder where everyone condoles and blames, but nobody is held to account. It is time to end the brutal and broken form of politics of which Mohamad Chatah was an eloquent and decent critic.

I would tease Mohamad that a wily colleague had advised me not to trust any Lebanese politicians. I never told him that I distrusted him much less than most. RIP.

Note: Read more and Exclusive photos

History of the USA Presidential Institution… Part 2

Initial Constitutional text on the USA Presidential Institution.

Description of the articles in the initial Constitutional text related to Presidential power and the central executive institution

In August 1786, Daniel Shays, a retired officer, lead a revolt of the debtors in Massachusetts in order to block actions of the creditors in courts. The proprietors, rich elite classes and politicians who defended the concept of public order were terribly worried of this turn of events.

What to do in periods of crisis, economic and foreign wars on the US territory?

The “Founding Fathers” or the 55 delegates that met for weeks agreed on this Constitutional text:

1. The name of the Executive chief will be “Mr. President”. President means “the one sitting ahead’.  The Constitutional Congress, the Constitutional Convention, the heads of the States of New Hampshire, Delaware, and South Carolina had presidents.  You may call “Mr. President of the Federal Executive branch

2. Who can be candidate for the Federal Executive?

The candidate must be over 35 of age, born in the USA, and a citizen residing for the last 14 years. Many foreign revolutionaries were already citizens but didn’t reside that long such as the Prussian von Steuben.

Mind you that women, Indians and Black slaves were not considered citizens or eligible to vote.

3. Duration of the tenure?

It was decided to be 4 years. The Constitution didn’t mention for how many times a President could seek re-election.  The two strong Presidents, George Washington and the third president Thomas Jefferson were elected for another term, but their second terms were plagued with problems and they ended “lame ducks” and refrained from seeking a third term.  This implicit custom of not running for a third term was not in the Constitution.

4. The modality of the designation?

The option of a popular vote was discarded by the southern States on the ground that they were less populated in number of White eligible voters. And many delegates had strong reservation on the ability of non educated citizens to do the “right choices”.

The option that Congress should elect the president went contrary to the separation of powers: Legislative, Executive and Supreme Court.

It was agreed on an indirect ballot alternative: Each State designates a number of Grand Electors (equal to its senators and representative in the Federal Congress). These Grand Electors would constitute the Collegiate electorates.

The smaller States were favored since each State is attributed 2 senators. For the popular votes in each State, a White voter was valued as three fifth of a women or black person.

Each State had the autonomy for its designation process system for selecting candidates. Even the dates of the ballots were not initially uniform.

The Grand Electors served for a mandated single term in order to avoid the creation of a powerful political force.

Each State selects two candidates: One from the southern and one from the northern States and sends the results to the Senate.

The candidate who receive the absolute majority of vote is elected and the second in number of votes is appointed Vice-president. Otherwise, it is the Chamber of representatives that decides among the first 5 candidates.

In case of death, impeachment or incapacity of serving, the Vice-President takes over the Executive power, followed by the President of the Senate pro-tempore if the Vice also vacate the post in an untimely manner. Actually, the initial Constitutional text was not that explicit on who takes over, but it became a custom after the first Vice-President replaced the President.

5. Impeachment process is in the hand of Congress of representative and presided by the chief of Supreme Court.

6. What are the powers of the President?

The Constitutional text reserved only 5% to the executive compared to 25% for the legislative. Congress was to vote on laws, taxing, declaring wars, external commerce…

The President has the power to choose the department chiefs with the consent and counsel of the Senate and nominate the ambassadors to foreign countries and receives the foreign ambassadors.

He will commission all the Federal public employees and nominate the federal judges in the Supreme Court.

He will execute the laws that were voted by Congress.

He can participate in the legislative process, intervene and influence the program of the Congress.

All laws must be signed by the Presidents

The president had a veto power over the laws sent to him by Congress within 10 days. Congress will have to secure two third of the two assemblies in order to break the President veto.

He is the military chief of the armed forces and decided on the war strategy…

The President will inform Congress on the “State of the Union

The President has the power to convoke both legislative bodies when he deemed it a national crisis.

Congress has no power to force the a government to resign.

Congress fixed the sum of $25,000 as the yearly salary of the President.

The President has the power to conclude treaties with the consent of two third of the present senators.

The President can gratiate federal criminals…

Slowly but surely, strong president encroached on the power of the legislative when not in session, during war crisis, loopholes and all kinds of excuses.

The next posts will describe how the first strong Presidents modified the Executive rights and power

Note: Read Part 1  ttp://




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