Extending the Dear Leader syndrome of the Kataeb of the previous post to Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM)'s Jebran Bassil
In the previous post, I said, "The Aoun farm is an example of the latter where the godfather (Michel
Aoun) bestows political power on other males around him who have married
his daughters because he has no sons. This lateral extension of
political power in the Aoun farm is actually quite interesting because
it has three prominent male figures other than the alpha male: Alain
Aoun (a nephew), Jebran Bassil (son-in-law) and Shamel Roukoz (another
son-in-law who married an already married daughter of Michel Aoun after
evicting a former son-in-law Sami Nader who had a fallout with the
godfather). In other words, forced marriages and divorces are another
way of acceding to the inner sanctum of the Mafia godfather."
Not unlike medieval lords. But the thing with the FPM is a real shocker, because Aoun claims to want to "reform and change" the system. Many believed he will go after such elements of the Lebanese rotten system as corruption, cronyism, feudalism, clientelism, the incestuous role of organized religions in civilian affairs, and all their consequent ravages and obstruction to the fashioning of a modern state.
As it turned out, and as he is showing us, Aoun's definition of what reform and change is somewhat moot because - if I understand his recent history since returning from exile in 2005 to the present - what he actually means by "reform" is the objective, not the process, of political life. Aoun wants a return to pre-1980s Lebanon, with a presidential system rather than a parliamentary one, for the sole purpose it seems to rehabilitate the Christians into a prominent role rather than the Dhimmi condition to which the Taef Agreement has relegated them. Aoun does NOT want to reform the mechanics of Lebanese politics; he just wants a Christian president with more power than he currently has.
Do as I do, don't do as I say. In Aoun's lens, all the ills of Lebanon, namely corruption, cronyism, feudalism, clientelism, the incestuous role of organized religions in civilian affairs, etc. are just fine. The goal justifies the means. Looking at the way and the means by which Aoun has so far acted, one clearly sees that he has no intention of fixing HOW things operate in this rotten Lemon Republic, because in his own little farm, Aoun practices corruption, cronyism, feudalism, clientelism, the incestuous role of organized religions in civilian affairs, etc. because he only wants a Christian president who is "strong" (again, in the Aoun dictionary of politics, "strong" means a cruel warlord thug with a dubious criminal past), and it doesn't matter how he gets there.
At this time, the FPM is believed to be torn apart between an entrenched guard, the inner sanctum of the Aoun mini-dictatorship on one hand, and a disillusioned real reform-minded opposition on the other. The latter is really what propelled the FPM forward, because many of Aoun's followers actually followed him because he said he was against all the other political farms of the Hariris, Jumblatts, Gemayels, Frangiyehs...But with almost ten years of hindsight into Aoun's performance, both inside the FPM and outside, this opposition is disillusioned and threatening to crumble the entire edifice.
The Aoun inner sanctum consists of nothing but family members: Jebran Bassil (son-in-law), Naim Aoun (nephew), Shamel Roukoz (second-hand son-in-law), Alain Aoun (another nephew).... Having released yesterday a plan for internal elections within the FPM, Michel Aoun is gambling on forcing his family members into every position of power he can muster. He wants Jebran Bassil to succeed him as head of the FPM, even though in the founding conference of the party in Paris in 2003, Aoun made it clear, slamming his fist on the table to quiet the rabid hounds eager to secure their political futures, that anyone who wants to become someone must prove himself in parliamentary elections. Jebran Bassil has run two or three times for the Batroun Parliament seat and failed each time. Yet Aoun continues to force him into cabinet posts (Energy, Foreign Affairs). So, Aoun broke the rule he himself set because he wants only family members. Aoun also forced his daughter Claudine to divorce Sami Nader (a former true reformist who had a fallout with Aoun) and marry Shamel Roukoz an army general whom Aoun is now slating to become Army Chief).
Now, some may argue that these two individuals (Bassil and Roukoz) are fine people, and their kinship with Aoun should not be a hindrance to their access to political posts. Granted. But first it is the perception of cronyism that is the problem, more than cronyism itself.
Second, Jebran Bassil is no more an exceptional individual than many other capable member of the FPM. Bassil has made a fool of himself many times on trips abroad and those who know him see in him a vulgar thug who has no merit whatsoever. It is rumored that Bassil orders $500 bottles of wine and lavish dinners costing thousands of dollars on trips abroad. Bassil proved himself to be a streety sexist thug when he was caught on video gesturing to the Emirates UN Envoy about what a fine feminine specimen is a certain Caroline Ziade, member of the Lebanese UN delegation in New York. And this is probably the tip of the iceberg. Just look at the mansion he built himself in Batroun... you wonder where all the money is coming from.
Shamel Roukoz is by all appearances tough and a capable military man, currently leading the Commandos of the Lebanese Army. But army insiders tell stories about him running away from the front line and worrying more about his own immediate entourage than about the soldiers at large or the mission he is entrusted with.
But, in Lebanon the one-eyed man is king. There are probably very few individuals who are not tainted by corruption and filth, and these tend to be ostracized by the establishment because they do not play by the rules or because they are a serious threat to the putrefying status quo. In other words, even if Bassil and Roukoz are not the greatest individuals, that does not mean that their enemies or opponents are any better. But no one more than Aoun makes the "change and reform" claims, and that is why Aoun should be held to a higher standard.
The question is: Is there enough latitude for the anti-Aoun, anti-Bassil FPM insiders to actually reform the farm before they try to reform the country? We will soon find out because Aoun is 80 years old and is, by the admission of some of his people, no longer fit to be president or even head of the FPM. He must realize this as well, and has therefore embarked on ensuring his succession to his immediate family cronies.
When Aoun signed his Memorandum of Understanding with Hezbollah in early 2006, many, probably the best among his followers, abandoned him on ideological principles grounds. If he proves that the FPM is no more than a family business pretending to be a reformist movement, by forcing his family members on everyone else, then the FPM will again lose many of its good elements, thus reducing what was a promising left-of-center Christian party to another Kataeb (Gemayel), Future (Hariri), Ahrar (Chamoun), Socialist-Progressive (yeah sure)(Jumblatt), or Marada (Frangiyeh), etc... Aoun's peregrinations in war, exile, then return would all have amounted to opening a new Christian political farm, when the desired goal is to abolish this and all other Bronze Age primitive practices so ingrained in Lebanese society and political culture.
Hanibaal Barqa Atheos