Geagea and Aoun’s New Love Fest: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Samir Geagea and Michel Aoun

In a widely predicted move, LF leader Samir Geagea and FPM leader Michel Aoun came out with a political understanding yesterday that saw the former supporting the latter for Lebanon’s presidency, after about 33 failed attempts at electing a president and 30 years of the same practiced politics.

Lebanon’s Christian field was predominantly supportive. After all, the whole burying the hatchet fest that we saw on TV was done because Christianity, and Christians sure love seeing #TeamJesus in all its glory on Lebanese TV.

The Good:

We can now say that on January 18th, 2016, after around 30 years of feud, Samir Geagea and Michel Aoun finally saw eye to eye in something. A more zealous response would be: LET THEM KNOW NOW THAT CHRISTIANS WILL NEVER BE PUT ASIDE AGAIN, etc. But that’s not really the case.

It’s good to see a semblance of unity occur regardless of what that unity might mean. It’s good to see Geagea and Aoun talk things out.

But.

The Bad:

Many think that this move was visionary. The fact of the matter is it’s nothing other than reactionary to Saad Hariri nominating Sleiman Frangieh for president a few weeks ago. The only disturbance in the presidential race, protracted and dull as it was, was Saad Hariri’s deal back in November-December. That disturbance became the catalyst behind both the FPM and the LF’s deal today in order to “reclaim” their constitution-given Christian right.

How good can a move made in reaction and spite be, rather than it being foreseeing and contemplative, especially in the grand picture of Lebanese politics that not only requires foresight to navigate its murky waters? Why don’t you refer to Jumblat for that?

What this move does is not elevate the level of politics that Geagea and Aoun are practicing. It’s not a good thing that Lebanon’s Christian community is now practicing the same kind of tribal politics that the country’s other factions do. By “uniting,” Geagea and Aoun moved from their failed politics on a national level to failed politics on a sectarian level.

Yes, they were Christian leaders first and foremost, many of their policies had inter-sectarian tendencies. How will they move from here? Not in that way, clearly.

The move also comes to the backdrop of a 10 point agreement that the two forged over the past 6 months. It reads as follows:

Geagea Aoun Agreement

The agreement’s key points then are the following:

  • No use of weapons in case of conflict,
  • Supporting the Lebanese army in governing the entirety of Lebanon’s territories alone,
  • A Switzerland-esque foreign policy to get the country to avoid struggles,
  • Supporting UN resolutions,
  • A new electoral law.

Sure, those headlines are all wonderful, and looking at them with no critical thought warrants giving their alliance a second thought. But you can’t not be critical of Lebanese political talk, and the question therefore becomes: how will they do them?

The difference in ideology between Geagea and Aoun is not only related to their Civil War days: the two were supremely divergent even in times of “peace.” They have not agreed on an electoral law other than the Orthodox Law, and even that agreement was more about whose balls are bigger rather than it being done with political wisdom. They have not agreed on which kind of foreign policy they see best for the country. They have not agreed on which way is best to actually get the army to be the only rightful security force in the country, and how to implement all kinds of UN resolutions (hinting at ridding Hezbollah of its weapons).

Alliances need to have a minimum of common ideology. Establishing them just for the sake of common interests in the short run will prove, in the long run, to be detrimental, especially when it affects an entire community (in this case Lebanon’s Christians).

Is this how Christian rights are restored? By making Lebanon’s Christians more exclusive rather than inclusive? By making them more sequestered? By thirding the country instead of keeping it halved? By turning Christians from the entity that governed Lebanon’s dichotomy to another destabilizing agent in an unstable country?

Ignoring the differences that these two presented to Lebanon’s Christian community is the first step towards removing any semblance of democracy from that community. Difference is not to be feared in political contexts. Disregarding it is what’s scary.

The Ugly:

Geagea and Aoun made peace. But I have to wonder: what kind of peace?

They’re making the kind of peace that requires us to bury our heads in the sand, like the perpetual ostriches that our Lebanese existence has made us into; the kind of peace that does not deal with the past requiring such a peace to be made in the first place, effectively making it a recipe for impeding disaster.

The argument goes: other factions have done these peace making deals before, and as such Christians doing it should be celebrated. Making peace is good. But is it?

Is the peace made by Lebanon’s other war factions actual peace? The idea of making peace invokes stability. Is the country stable? Is making peace in spite of history not through it, as all those other factions have done, putting the country on the right path towards healing post our civil war?

I look around and see people from different sects still hating each other, still worried about the intentions of one another. I look around and see a political discourse that still gets those who have supposedly made up after our civil war to fear each other.

What kind of peace are they talking about then?

There are things that are a little too late, and this is one of them. Where was the common interest of Lebanon’s Christian community 30 years ago when these two were actively working on canceling each other out, when their wars tore apart Christian communities and left thousands of victims in their wake?

Yes, this is not the time to bring up war-time memories, but healing only starts with remembering.  Would there have been a need for such a “deal” to be made in 2016 had those two actually cared about the community they’re panicking about today back in the 1980s?

Peace cannot be made by those who only know war.

The Uglier:

I’m afraid to inform you my fellow Lebanese that this “alliance” does not, in any way, affect your life as a Lebanese in the ways that actually matter.

It will not bring you electricity.

It will not fix your garbage crisis.

It will not make your internet faster so you can stream Netflix.

It will not increase your minimum wage.

It will not make your passport worthwhile.

It will not stop the “SSSS” checks on your boarding passes and “random” checkups in airports.

It will not stop ISIS.

It will not extract the oil from our fields.

And, ironically, it does not even guarantee that a president be elected.

Our Lebanese reality cannot be changed when the same people who have been practicing their failed politics over us for 30 years start practicing their politics together.

The Funny:

To end this on a happier note, I can’t but share a few of the lighter tones with which some Lebanese handled the news, in the joke that this actually is:

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Lebanese Propaganda 101: Sa7eb Mabda2

Lebanese highways change a lot in the space of a week. Not the roads, obviously, but all those billboards overflowing on their sides sure do.

While going back home North yesterday, one particular billboard caught my attention: sa7eb mabda2, with Samir Geagea looking pensively at his shoe.

You’ll notice the first of those in Dbayyeh with others sprinkled from there onwards to Batroun, each bigger than the one before it. I haven’t gone past Batroun but I’m assuming they should, theoretically, round up the Lebanese geographical bible belt.

Here’s the billboard in question:

Sa7eb Mabda2

The businessman in question, Ibrahim El Saker, is obviously vying for some political power through his politician of choice. Forming our new government is in progress, as I last heard, and many cabinets are up for grabs. Why not him?

In case you don’t recall, he’s the same businessman who also flooded the highways pre-theoretical parliamentary elections last year with billboards declaring that same politician as the savior of Lebanese Christian. I always thought that guy was Jesus.

Of course, with everything that’s happening in Lebanon lately (can you imagine they’re banning alcohol-mixed energy drinks?), such posters are very low on the importance scale. But it’s the concept behind them that’s sad: the fact that some people have a need to show their undying devotion to their politician by spending a ton of money on flashy billboards; the fact that such billboards are actually allowed to grace our highways; the fact that the entirety of the situation we’re in hasn’t deterred people from actually viewing our politicians as men of principles.

It’s silly, I guess, to assume that we could have regulations to counter such propaganda, especially given that such regulations would be put in forth by those who are served by this propaganda. It’s even sillier to assume that those with money and decent enough means won’t do such things to try and get positions of power. It’s their country, we just live in it. They don’t even care about the unnecessary provocation that such campaigns entail at a time when such provocation is the last thing we need. Of course, the people behind such billboards and messages probably couldn’t care less since they are immune to whatever might happen subsequently to their schmoozing.

In another world, I’d have liked to believe our politicians are beyond such petty, silly and immature tactics. But our experience with them over the past few years has proven that they are not beyond such childish games. It’ll only be a matter of time before the next one comes up with flashier and bigger slogans while we observe and watch as they play their little “mine is more popular than yours” game as the country burns.

This isn’t about Samir Geagea and his poster. It’s not about him being a man of principle or not. Any Lebanese politician could have such propaganda take place any time, any day. I’m not venturing out around Beirut and the country much but I would assume each specific region’s politician of choice has his own set of billboards proclaiming him as the next coming of the Messiah, proclaiming their turf and making you feel like an outsider in the process.

Of course, our politicians and their posters are getting increasingly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Their supposed “principles” – whether in action or on billboards – aren’t translating to our political and social realities in any way whatsoever, leaving the country in limbo, on the precipice of collapse and the people in it on guard all the time, at the ready to latch at each other’s throats when the green light is given. What principles are we talking about here? I guess the first one that comes to mind is “all flashiness and no substance.” Now how about you print that on a billboard with all their smiling faces?

 

The Cost of Running An Ad on Lebanese TV During A Lebanese Politician’s Interview

MTV hosted Michel Aoun on Walid Abboud’s show “Bi Mawdou3iya” yesterday and he discussed the current debacle in the country regarding the electoral law and whatnot.

So because we live in extremely sensitive times, Lebanon’s main political foe for Michel Aoun is, naturally, going to seek out airtime as well. Samir Geagea will be on “Bi Mawdou3iya” as well tomorrow, all to MTV’s delight.

This isn’t about what both politicians want to discuss (or not discuss). It’s not about their propositions and constant tug-of-war leading nowhere. In order to announce the episode, I stumbled on the picture that follows.
The most interesting part of the picture to me was the cost to run an ad on MTV during Samir Geagea’s show. Two 30 second ads can cost you up to $5000.

20130521-122129.jpg

Every single second of commercial break is probably sold by now. This is how much audience our politicians bring in. Too bad there’s absolutely no tangible and efficient measures that are brought with them and the income they bring to the TV stations they appear on.

The Hypocrisy of the Lebanese Forces

Some LF supporters protesting against the visit in Elige yesterday

Michel Aoun is visiting Elige. A headline that, in any normal setting, would just be that: something to get the press to talk.

But this is Lebanon and Michel Aoun visiting Elige, a convent in Jbeil where many Lebanese Forces martyrs are buried, sparked immense controversy among Christians first and foremost.

He is not allowed to visit and desecrate the place VS he’s going there ghasb 3annkon.

Mante2 bila33e men l meyltein.

My readers already know that when it comes to how I lean, Michel Aoun doesn’t get my vote. And I’m definitely not voting for his party next year. But regardless of me preferring the Lebanese Forces over his party, there’s something that I felt gnawing at me yesterday as I contemplated the Elige dilemma. And it is hypocrisy.

The Lebanese Forces are hypocrites when they ask everyone to put their war crimes where they belong – in the past – but they cannot do the same for the war crimes of others. I, for one, am sure Michel Aoun did not kill most the martyrs buried in Elige and I’m also sure he wasn’t a civil war saint either as his supporters would love to potray him. Michel Aoun may have spoken harshly against those martyrs before. He may have humiliated their memory and he may have been a “Michel Aoun” about them. But that’s on him. And if he wanted to visit their graves to pay tribute and maybe – just maybe – apologize for what was said against them (you know that would work well with his electoral plan), then what’s the harm in that?

Lebanese Forces supporters should know how well Samir Geagea’s apology played out. He’s the only politician so far to have spoken in such a way about the civil war.

The problem with many Lebanese Forces supporters is that when you speak out the words Michel Aoun to them, their blood pressure starts to rise. It’s the same with those who support Aoun when you say those two syllables… Geagea. You see them throw a fit even worse than that of an Lebanese Forces supporter. You see them shiver and inundate his supporters with all kinds of stereotypes. According to them, I am an illiterate high school dropout .

The divide between the supporters of both groups is way too great and it has never been more obvious than with Aoun’s “planned” visit to Elige. However, the Lebanese Forces cannot simply ask everyone to get over the “Geagea is a murderer” stereotype (one that I, for the record, do not agree with) while they have no problem hanging the dirty laundry of others for everyone to see if it serves some purpose that they think they have.

He who lives in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

The Lebanese Forces are also hypocrites on another front: had one of their allies, say Walid Jumblat, decided to visit the martyrs at Elige, would they have reacted in the same way? One would say Jumblat’s party has killed way more Christians than Aoun. But I’m not a civil war expert so take that with a grain of salt. And for the record as well, I want to keep my civil war knowledge as limited as possible for the time being. Odds are the Lebanese Forces would have saw Jumblat’s visit as a great step towards national unity. But not Aoun’s.

And let’s assume in a hypothetical scenario that in the coming few months Samir Geagea decided to have an electoral tour in Zgharta. The Lebanese Forces supporters there, fewer than those who support Sleiman Frangieh, would want that visit to happen. And yet the same outrage that was sparked with Aoun’s planned visit to Elige would happen. The Lebanese Forces supporters would be on the other side of the debate right now. Now, ponder on this: would you have wanted Geagea to go there or not? If yes, why can’t you extend the courtesy to someone else?

The Lebanese Forces are proud of going “7asyou la yajro2 l akharoun.” They should have done that regarding Elige and actually did what others wouldn’t do unto them: let it pass and let the people judge.

It is sad that in 2012, almost all parties are still ready to use up civil war arguments to prove a point to their supporters. The Lebanese Forces supporters are now proud that they stopped Aoun’s visit. The Aounists now hate those war criminals even more. The idea that those “ze3ran” are the reason the country is ruined is at all time high in their minds. It is said the civil war has become in the past. Elige would most definitely disagree with those who say so.

Michel Aoun’s Assassination Attempt. Fiction or Reality?

Color me confused but I have absolutely no idea what to make of it.

News of an assassination attempt, his fourth in total, against Michel Aoun, the head of FPM, surfaced yesterday evening. It was followed by news denying it happened for security reasons apparently. Then Aoun confirmed to a crowd in Batroun that it did during an FPM dinner. Then this morning LBC denied it happened: there was no convoy passing and no shooting. And now the minister of interior affairs is saying that the assassination attempt happened. And it seems that the car that was shot hasn’t been given in to the authorities for examination yet as it is on a mission. Why would a car that was shot be on a mission?

So which is it? Was the head of FPM targeted or not?

I think Michel Aoun was targeted. Why? Because any attack against any of Lebanon’s top Christian leaders (Aoun and Geagea) would be enough to send the country into chaos and that is what many want to do. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the people targeting him were the same people who targeted previous people in the country. Of course Aoun wants you to think it’s the bad Sunnis because that would play well with his base who will eat it up.

Geagea was targeted back in April (click here).

Either way, I hope Michel Aoun, regardless of whether I like him or not, is safe and I also hope he won’t milk this attempt into electoral gains as it has become customary. But it seems to have already started. I also hope people don’t start doing what Aoun’s supporters did when Geagea was targeted and start making funny comics out of it (click here).

One thing has to be said though, the Lebanese Forces website is sure handling this way more professionally than Tayyar.org did when Geagea was targeted (click here).

 

Spare Us The Samir Geagea Hate

I told a civil war story last year that I made ambiguous on purpose to reach a certain conclusion, which was that everyone’s to blame for the Lebanese civil war if we really want to move the country forward.

However, I recently realized that Lebanese need a scapegoat for them killing each other. Their scapegoat was chosen to be Samir Geagea.

For some, Geagea killed them because they were of a certain religion, region, background, etc. For others, their sense of guilt kicks in and Geagea killed the aforementioned people because of their religion, region or background, as well as some of them who were “strong” enough to defy him.

The murderer! The liar! The assassin! The faithless! The abomination!

For many apparently, Samir Geagea was fighting the air during the Lebanese civil war. He was drawing his weapons against everyone but no one was drawing their weapons against him or his party.

For many it seems, Samir Geagea and his party were busy ruining the country all by themselves during the Lebanese civil war. No one else did anything worthy to be mentioned.

For many, the only war criminal of the Lebanese civil war is Samir Geagea. As if it’s possible for Samir Geagea to lead a whole civil war all by himself.

You defend Samir Geagea? You’re an accomplice to his murders. You complement him? They expected so much more of you. You admire him? You need to learn your history.

Because they know their history very well, I’m sure. Every single Lebanese now has a PhD in Lebanese civil war times and I was out of the loop. It’s sad.

The illusion that some people are innocent because they were legitimate needs to be removed. A bridge needs to be built and people need to get over that idea en masse. The fact that certain parties were violent to certain guests on our land can only be explained by the actions of those guests in a land that’s not theirs. The actions of certain parties cannot be taken out of the context during which they were carried out and treated as stand-alone events. It simply doesn’t make sense, regardless of how hideous those acts may be.

The civil war is an uncivil epoch.

No one in the civil war was a saint. If those involved had been as such, it wouldn’t be called a war and we would have had a very civil era. It’s far from being the case.

So let me put the situation today in the following manner.

If during the war your car was ruined? Blame Geagea. Your house was set on fire? Blame Geagea. You got stopped at a checkpoint? Blame Geagea. Your great-great-great-cousin, 2 degrees removed got killed? Blame Geagea.

Geagea barely escapes death? Blame Geagea. Anyone else barely escapes death? Blame Geagea.

Blame Geagea for everything – because that is the way we move forward.

If you’re one of those people who still consider the civil war in making their political choices today, then I pity you. If you’re one of those people who still need a scapegoat for your own mistakes just so you can please your conscience, I pity you.

Spare us the Geagea hate. Spare us the mindless, useless and retro attitude. If your mind is still in the civil war, perhaps getting it out of there is the first step towards building a country, instead of preaching about the importance of change and reform in moving Lebanon forwards.

Change and reform begin on the inside. Change your mentality. Reform your hate. And then come talk to me.

The ironic thing is that Geagea is the only one among all Lebanese political leaders today that went to jail for some of his supposed actions. Everyone else faced next to negligible consequences.

Tenzeker w ma ten3ad? At this rate, yeah right.

Tayyar.org: Not Sure If Tabloid or News Site

Tayyar.org is nowhere near my go-to site when it comes to Lebanese news (nor is Lebanese-forces.com for that matter). But you’d expect a self-proclaimed reputable website to at least be respectable enough not to post a picture like this on their Facebook wall:

To make things even more “appealing,” they had this news shared next to the picture calling the whole affair a “masra7iye” – Lebanese for play.

And then I remembered something: their timeline cover picture. So for reference, here it is:

Underneath their title, the words: Precision, Speed & Credibility are typed out. I really have no idea how a mocking picture of the head of one of Lebanon’s main parties can be considered as precise, speedy or credible.

I guess the admins who run that page and those who run the corresponding won’t stray much from the morals set by the leader they follow, nor are the people that follow said leader.

So for all matters and purposes, Tayyar.org is not a news website. It might as well call itself TayyarJaras.org – but wait, that would be degrading to Nidale el Ahmadieh’s tabloid. So let us tweak that a little bit and make it: TayyarJorsa.org – for yes, jorsa is what they are.