Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘It was very hard; it was done

Biography of a period (1989-2009); (June 4, 2009)

Note:  This is a biography of ex-President of the Republic of Lebanon Emile Lahoud from 1989 to 2009 and written by Karim Bakradouni.  I had already reviewed “Shock and Steadfastness” (Sadmat wa Soumoud) in two posts and I decided to combine the two posts in tighter historical chronology and further expansion.

Before 1989

The mother of Emile Lahoud is from Armenia and his wife is Armenian and he speaks Armenian. In 1954 Emile miraculously recovered from meningitis while studying in London and thus decided to enjoy life to the hilt.  He spent his adolescent years riding a convertible white jaguar; he had a chalet on the beach and partied all night long. Lahoud married Andree Amadony in 1967.

Emile Lahoud would repeat this anecdote, countless times, for whoever cares to listen; when a schoolboy, he got into a fight and had his regulation school overcoat ripped. His father, General Jamil Lahoud, asked him “Is your conscious at peace?” The reply was affirmative and the father said “Don’t you worry then; you will have another coat made”

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 just to save appearances of normalcy.  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.

General Emile Lahoud, Army Chief

Emile Lahoud ascended the military ranks normally and was the first Chief of the army who came from the ridiculously 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.

Walid Jumblat, leader of the Druze sect in the district of Shouf, offered General Lahoud a bullet proof car on account that their fathers were close friends.  Lahoud returned the car a few months later when he realized that Jumblat is in the habit of blackmailing for political gains.  The government had ordered the army to recuperate all public facilities and Lahoud recaptured the palaces of Al Amine and Beit El Dine to the growing angst of Jumblat. Another time General Lahoud sent an army support to accompany the Druze Sheikh Akl Bahjat Ghaith to his home because Jumblatt forbade the Sheikh from entering his hometown.

Mr. President of the Republic

Lahoud was elected President of the Republic by the majority of 118 out of 128 deputy votes after revising an item in the Taef Constitution. Item 49 in the Constitution denied candidacy to any a high ranked employee before resigning his post for a period. General Lahoud was elected President on October 15, 1998 and his first public oath in the Parliament said: “The President of the Republic is the only official to swear allegiance to the nation and to obey the law.  Thus, since I will be under the Law then I expect everyone else to emulate my subordination to the Law of the Land” President Lahoud had a program of fighting corruption and made it clear and loud in his speech that didn’t mention the ex-President Hrawi or the ex Hariri PM in any sections of the speech.

When ex-President Hrawi urged Hafez Assad to change his choice Asad said: “The Lebanese public polls selected Emile Lahoud for President and I want him there” The Syrian President had complete confidence in the former Army Chief that he will first, resume his policy of strengthening and unifying the Lebanese army and will refrain from drawing the Lebanese army in internal infighting such as with Hezbollah and thus save the Syrian army any uncalled for problems, and second, that Lahoud will never contemplate unilateral negotiation with Israel.

Hafez Assad was not concerned with the Lahoud’s program for drastic reforms and fighting corruption.  Thus Lahoud had to deal with a rotten political system in Lebanon that constituted an insurmountable barrier to change: the Taef Constitution robbed the President of valuable powers that were transferred basically to the Prime Minister and the cabinet combined.

Hariri had proclaimed three months ago that “I will return Prime Minister whoever is elected president to the Republic” Hariri had returned from a long trip visiting important capitals and secured assent to be accepted as Prime Minister but only 83 out of 128 deputies selected him directly and the remaining deputies allowed the President to vote for them.  Cocky Hariri went publicly asking that another round of consultation takes place because he wanted as many representative votes as the President of 118 deputies.  Lahoud reacted by publicly accepting Hariri refusal and appointed Salim Hoss as prime Minister with 95 deputy votes. This tactic of Hariri backfired as he realized that Syria could easily deal with another Prime Minister.  Hariri was positioning himself for a vaster role as co-partner in the coming Middle East peace accord that he sincerely believed was almost agreed on.

It was a tradition since independence for the newly elected President of Lebanon to pay an official visit to France first of all.  Chirac was highly displeased that Lahoud did not mention France contribution to the April 1996 agreement to localize the confrontations in south Lebanon and for not consulting him on the government that excluded Rafic Hariri.  Consequently, Chirac took it personally and canceled the appointment for a formal visit to France.  Later Chirac was pressured to dissociate France interest in Lebanon from his personal animosity with Lahoud and the Francophone convention took place in Beirut in 2000.

In June 1999, assassins of the extremist Sunni movement “Osbat al Ansaar” killed four judges within Saida Court House and fled to the nearby Palestinian camp of Ain Helwi.  Lahoud understood that it was a trap to inciting the Lebanese army to start a war on the Palestinian camps; instead Lahoud focused on encircling the camp to apprehend the assassins.

As this nasty trap failed to divide the government then Israel launched destructive raids on Lebanon’s infrastructure targeting the electrical power plants and water pumps. Lahoud asked the Lebanese to contribute to a bank account in order to support the State treasury to rebuild what was demolished; (I remember that I contributed $100 while in the USA).  The Lebanese overseas contributed 50 millions dollars to that fund.

The president of the Parliament Nabih Berri told Lahoud “You are an excellent soldier but lack political acumen”.  Lahoud replied “If I managed to become Chief of the army and President of the Republic with lack of political acumen then how my path you have unfolded if I was cleverer in politics?”  In another moment Berri told the author “Lahoud plays it dumb but he is aware of all the political details and smarter in politics than most Lebanese politicians.  For example, Lahoud retains General Jamil Al Sayyed, Director of the General Security in Lebanon, in all his discussions with foreign personalities so that Al Sayyed would testify to the Syrian officials.”  Berri had no liking for the strong Shiaa man Al Sayyed.

Lahoud finally met with Rafic Hariri in the summer Palace of Beit El Dine after months of avoiding face to face encounter. Lahoud told Hariri “From the first moment I knew that you wanted as much weight among the deputies as I obtained in my election for the presidency so that you may force on me your conditions. I kept the honest and performing high officials that you appointed and will dismiss anyone that is not up to his responsibilities.  I intended you to be my first Prime Minister but I was in no mood to be subjected to any conditions.  I know that you are spending lots of money on the media to ruin the image of this government but this not the way to behave with me.”  Two days later president basher Assad paid Lahoud a quick visit to Lebanon and publicly supported the president and Hoss PM.

President Lahoud decided to spend part of summer in the Presidential Palace in Beit El Dine and for that purpose had to relocate the bust of Kamal Jumblat off the entrance and waited for Walid to ship it somewhere else at his own responsibility. Walid said “I will never forget what Lahoud did for the duration of my life!”  Walid Jumblat tried scare tactics on Lahoud by assuring him that the Syria President is terminally ill and that his son Bashar will not succeed his father Hafez and that General Hekmat Shahaby and Abdel Haleem Khaddam will take over the regime.  Lahoud retorted “Bashar will be the next appointed President and I am trying my best to take on the responsibilities of the Presidency and to recapture the dignity of the State under one leader”  Jumbalt said “I don’t like the military”.  Lahoud replied “I don’t like the militias”.

Once, Lahoud saw on the TV Hoss PM meeting Jumblat who was in jeans.  Lahoud sent his assistant to inform Jumblat that he will not be welcomed in the Presidential Palace if he ever arrives not wearing a tie.   President Lahoud comprehended that Walid Jumblatt’s attitude, as his father Kamal, amounted to a historical trend of blaming the Christian Maronite sect for having robbed the Druze out of the leadership of Mount Lebanon.

In November 1999, the French Foreign Affairs Hubert Vedrine had a lengthy discussion with President Lahoud.  Vedrine had toured several capitals and his impression was that a resolution of the Middle East crisis was less ripe as he expected.  Ehud Barak of Israel was sending tactical contradictory messages hoping for starting any kinds of negotiations with either Lebanon or Syria so that he won’t have to withdraw unilaterally from Lebanon and give Hezbollah the impression of defeating Israel by acts of resistance.  Barak would not pronounce on the complete withdrawal from the Golan as requested by Hafez Assad and President Lahoud would not negotiate without Syria’s approval. Consequently, Barak was forced to withdraw from Lebanon without any pre-conditions in May 24, 2000 because Israel was in fact paying a high price in Lebanon for insisting on keeping the Golan Heights.

Vedrine and Lahoud discussed the Palestinian problems.  Vedrine was offering the suggestion that Lebanon refrains from adamantly proclaiming that every Palestinian in the refugee camps should leave Lebanon; Verdrine wished that Lebanon should just be satisfied maintaining the Constitution requirement of the Palestinian rights to return.  Lahoud stated that the Palestinians are procreating three times faster than the Lebanese and constitute now 10% of the population or 400,000 and this fact is a highly “explosive bomb” that has the potential to destabilize the Lebanese social and political fabrics.

Lahoud confirmed that the Palestinians in the camps are suffering a harsh life but arms in the camps are no longer directed toward Israel since the Oslo Agreement in 1993.  It appeared that the financial compensation was already settled among the donating powers but the potential Palestinian State would be small and economically fragile to sustain the relocation of all the Palestinian refugees.

In October 2000, Hezbollah took prisoners three Israeli soldiers in the Shabaa Farms and then lured the retired Israeli Colonel El Hanane Tanenboum to Beirut.  Albright demanded the release of the Israeli prisoners and Ehub Barak gave an ultimatum within 4 hours. Lahoud answered the US Ambassador Satterfield “Consider the 4 hours have ended.  I will not negotiate the release of the Israeli prisoners” Lahoud was in strong position because the Lebanese army was not on the borders so that Israel could not exercise any pressures on the President.

In August, 2001, Patriarch Sfeir visited the Shouf for 3 days and was welcomed with mass rallies. On his last stop in the town of Kahaleh demonstrators jeered the names of Bashar Assad and Syria.  A few demonstrators were incarcerated. On August 7, confrontations in front of the Palace of Justice in Beirut resulted in ugly visual brutality by security forces wearing civilian clothes.  Both Lahoud and Hariri realized that they were targeted and that any impression of loss of control over the security services is bad omen.

In the morning of September 11, 2001, Larsen and De Mistoura (UN representative in Lebanon) met with Lahoud.  De Mistoura told Lahoud that Ariel Sharon is preventing his Foreign Affairs minister Shimon Peres to meet with Arafat.  Larsen asked Lahoud how he foresees the coming events.  Lahoud replied “The reactions of the Palestinians to the brutality of the Israelis are the consequences of despair for any peaceful resolution. It is no longer acceptable that Israel control the world”  Lahoud went on “Reactions of despair might reach the USA as what happened to the Twin Towers previously” By the afternoon, the Al Qaeda was blowing the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and Bush Jr. was taken to hiding for the day.. Larsen called and asked “How did you know what will happen this afternoon?” Lahoud replied “If I knew then I would have been more powerful than the USA”.

The ex-President Emile Lahoud fought the good fight to keep the right of return of the UN resolution 194 alive during his tenure. For example, before the Summit of the Arab League in Beirut of April 2002, the Saudi Foreign Affairs Seoud Al Faissal visited President Lahoud on March 22 and handed him the project of the Saudi Monarch of “peace for land” without a specific clause of “the right of return” within the main paper.  President Lahoud refused the project.

Lahoud was then subjected to all kinds of pressures and diplomatic maneuvering to let the written project “as is” with no modifications but he didn’t relent. The Arab leaders suggested including the “right of return” as a separate clause to no avail. The Saudi Prince Abdallah was forced to include the clause as intrinsic part of the peace for land PROJECT.  Lahoud denied a direct TV message of Arafat from Rammalah until the the clause of “right of return” is included: Lahoud sensed that if Arafat des not mention the clause then the Arab States would go along; a fact that does not suit Lebanon’s interest. The USA vowed to make the tenure of Lahoud a period of hell for foiling their major political goal.

During the summet Hariri complained to the Syrian President “I cannot go on with president Lahoud: he treatd us as kids.”  Lahoud replied “This is an internal affair.  We don’t need to our spread our dirty clothes.”

Lahoud and Hariri reached a deal for the State to own wireless communication, the only sector still generating profit to the State.  Hariri told Lahoud “I decided to extend your tenure for another 6 years.  I will also build the longest bridge in the world between Kasleek and Tabarja and I’ll name it Emile Lahoud.”  Lahoud replied: “I am not asking for anything. You are an excellent contractor but you need to know me first.  If you are right then I will support your for nothing in return, otherwise you will have to convince me or kill me.”

In October 2002, Lahoud personally inaugurated the Wazani water project in south Lebanon simply because the US Ambassador warned him “not to go for fear on his life.”  On October 18, 2002, Lebanon welcomed the Francophone Summit of 43 States.

In 2005, a French boat was crisscrossing the coast for a while.  Lahoud had a talk with the captain who admitted that Hariri PM had asked him to explore the availably of gas offshore.  Hariri was “secretly readying to invite foreign company to exploit any gas fields.  Lahoud told him: “Gas is a strategic material and should not be in the hands of foreign investors”

In March 2006, The Arab States leaders met in Khartoum (Sudan). President Lahoud included the clause “We confirm that the Lebanese Resistance is a true expression of the Lebanese people rights for liberating his land and defending his honor against the successive Israeli incursions and expansions.”  Seniora PM insisted on erasing the term “Lebanese resistance” on account that it is under discussion.  Seniora failed lamentably and the Arab Summit sent him packing to Lebanon. Seniora tried to take the issue in the Parliament but Nabih Berri reminded him “The right of the Lebanese resistance is in the government declaration.  If you want to rescind it then you have to resign. What you did in Kharoum is not an error but a capital sin.  The issue of the Lebanese resistance is no longer under discussion because it is here to stay.”

The political parties allied to the government of Seniora PM and Saad Hariri lost their case of removing President Lahoud before the end of his tenure because they had no substitute.  George W. Bush tried to strengthen Seniora’s morale by welcoming him as an exceptional head of state.

“The Table of Dialogue” among the leaders of the political parties met in May 2006 and the General Secretary of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasr Allah, explained in details for over 70 minutes the military status of the Lebanese Resistance. The meeting was adjourned to June 8 so that the government could prepare an alternative “Strategic Defense Plan”.  The Syrian President Bashar Assad sent a letter to the meeting saying: “Syria has no problem of opening an Embassy in Lebanon if you consider it necessary since the distance between Beirut and Damascus is shorter than Damascus to its closest main city Homs.  Syria is ready as long as this demand is not attached to any foreign pressures and conditions.  Syria is ready to resolve all border disputes that are not under Israeli occupation such as the Sheba3a Farms”

In mid June the army intelligence agencies uncovered an Israeli spy ring that confessed of aiding and executing assassinations.  Lahoud said “Nobody would believe me when I said that Israel’s Mossad is behind the assassination of Rafic Hariri in collaboration with Islamic extremists.”  Bashar Assad said of President Lahoud “He is a man that never let his morals slumber under no conditions or situations. Syria had the hardest of tasks dealing with Lahoud.  Lahoud’s steadfastness and recalcitrant attitudes worn us out because he does not change his convictions.”

Israel started her 33 days of destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure on July 12, 2006.Nasr Allah proclaimed: “We have the two soldiers’ prisoner and the entire world will never recover them without indirect negotiation.  We have no intention for any escalation of the war and our reactions are calm and balanced.  If Israel decides for an all out war then they should expect many surprises.”  President Lahoud declared that Hezbollah will win the war and Israel will fail in all its objectives; Israel had planned for this war for a long time but Tsahal wil never manage to corner the resistance.  The Defense minister Murr asked for $36 millions for 5 units of ammunitions for 5 days since the army had but only one unit and $7 millions for transport gas.

Seniora PM wanted the government to state that it was not aware of Hezbollal’s actions and would have not agreed and thus would take no responsibilities. Lahoud gave a long interview to CNN.  On July Seniora PM proposed a program to sending the army to the south. Lahoud replied: “Israel and the US want to get what they failed in peace time to sending the army to be a police force for Israel’s security. Israel had repeatedly humiliated the Lebanese army when it was stationed in south Lebanon. Now Israel is threatening but has refrained from invading Lebanon since the army withdrew and the resistance is in place.”

During the July 12, 2006 war with Israel President Lahoud said “Tomorrow war academies will teach how tiny Lebanon defeated mighty Israel.  Our citizens have the right on their side and they are willing to die for their rights and dignity under the sun”

Lahoud cowed under the UN pressures to preventing detention of the four highest ranking military and security officers without any concrete charges pretending that he could not violate the Constitution.  The fact is that Syria was in no mood to get deeper in Lebanon’s quagmire and Lahout had no potential leverage to effectively challenge the international schemes in Lebanon and Syria.

Lahoud said in the last week of his presidency “I adhered to four constants: protecting the resistance, coordinating with Syria, insisting on the “right of return” for the Palestinians, and straightness in governing. I was demanded to crush Hezbollah, to antagonize Syria, to facilitate the settlement of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and to dilapidate the financial grants for the benefit of multinational facilities.

Friday, November 23, 2008 was the last day of Lahoud in the presidential Palace in Baabda. There was no official scheduling for visitors. A few Deputies tried to convince him to form an interim government but he refused to repeat the ill fated decision of Amine Gemayel in 1988 that wrecked Lebanon with two de facto governments.  The evening supper was restricted to the close family and grandchildren.  Lahoud’s wife Andre said that she never felt any warmth or soul in the Palace.  At exactly midnight President Lahoud left the Palace; over 300 journalists and reporters were waiting outside. To a question on the future of Lebanon Lahoud answered “I am convinced that the Lebanese resistance will win, Lebanon will win, the illegitimate government will end even if supported by the US and Israel and a constitutional government will finally be installed and overcome the problems.”

The Army Chief Michel Suleiman was to institute an emergency state until the formation of a legitimate government but he apparently he was promised the Presidency if he disobeyed the order.  Michel Suleiman was indeed appointed president 6 months later on May 25, 2008.

(The conflict between President Lahoud and Rafic Hariri PM could be resumed in two concepts of what Lebanon represented.  Hariri viewed Lebanon as Prime Real Estate destination for those who could afford it; a center for the multinationals for banking, trade, and services as Dubai was transformed; a luxury State for the well to do: investment had to be focus in select urban areas along with the necessary infrastructures to attract foreign investment. Lahoud wanted a State governed to represent the majority of the Lebanese who were robbed of their savings and barely surviving in a State that refuses to invest in agriculture, small industries, and in rural areas.  The conflict was mainly between preserving a dignity within our means and an open market for exchange of people and goods.

Hariri was made to be convinced for a time that peace treaty in the Middle East is a matter of months and Lebanon should be prepared for the next phase; President Lahoud was more objective in his reading of the political climate: there were no peace treaties and Lebanon is going to be used as a field of armed conflicts for the divergent regional interests.  Lahoud wanted the closest ties with Syria as the main protector in this dangerous period for security and also relying on a well organized resistance movement (Hezbollah) to give the opportunity for the Lebanese army to re-organize and achieve the re-unification process.  Hariri was made to believe that the main obstacle for incoming foreign investment is the military strength of Hezbollah that vowed to resist any Israeli incursions in Lebanon.

By the time Hariri awoke from all the foolish lures of those he was in close contact with he was sent to the dogs and eliminated ruthlessly:  Hariri was assassinated on Feb. 14, 2005.  Lebanon was plunged in a state of total confusion and unprepared for the uncertain future.

It was a hard process to regain dignity and recapture most of the occupied lands; it was done.  It was even harder to assume the Presidency; it was hardest to institute a functional government. It is a long process but Lebanon is lucky that a local resistance movement was steadfast in its purpose and won the challenge.




June 2023

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