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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

AOUN between 2002 and 2016: A SELLOUT MASTER

[I found this piece from my archives from 2002 when Aoun was still in exile in Paris. In the interview with Assafir below, Aoun spells out clearly his positions on Hezbollah, the Shebaa Farms, Israel, Syria and other subjects. Compare these positions to Aoun's positions today, and see how his handler Gebran Bassil has turned the old man's principles around for mere political gains. Draw your own conclusions as to the lack of integrity. How can a man, a military man to boot, radically change his principles upside down?. Now that he is the president of this tormented country, he has - just yesterday to an Egyptian media channel - accused his own army of being incapable of liberating the fake-occupied Shebaa Farms in the south, which he himself described in 2002 as a lie on the ground that the Shebaa Farms are not Lebanese, simply to justify his alliance with the Iranian outlaw militia Hezbollah. President Michel Aoun has finally confirmed that he is nothing more than a puppet of Iran

[Note: Highlights are my own].
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Translation of excerpts from a televised interview with MTV, by: Assafir Daily (Lebanon)  10/04/02

Aoun: The Shebaa Farms are not Lebanese and the Resistance (Hizballah) Prolonged the Occupation
  
General Michel Aoun appeared live yesterday from Paris and presented his views and positions regarding the developments in the region.

Aoun described the martyrdom missions executed by the Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation as "suicide missions" and not "missions of martyrdom". He added that such operations "reveal an uncivilized conduct," and that the use of booby-trapped vehicles against Israel is an act of terrorism.

Aoun, in a televised interview with MTV, fiercely attacked Hizballah and Syria and accused them of nurturing the rejectionist discourse of the Palestinians. He also accused them of wanting to annihilate the Israelis, and of prodding the Palestinians to destroy a whole population.

Aoun criticized the military operations undertaken by the resistance (Hizballah) in the Shebaa Farms stating that "the Farms issue is a lie: the Shebaa Farms are not Lebanese; let Syria give us an official document that these Farms are Lebanese then we will work at liberating them."

Aoun described Hizballah's and Syria's position regarding the developments in occupied Palestine as "an extremist position stemming from either political recklessness or collusion with Israel." Aoun criticized "the rejectionist discourse that rejects even the human Israeli existence; such as the Hizballah discourse that considers the killing of anyone in the Israeli society as «fair game', and the discourse of President Bashar Assad that is identical to Hizballah's and proclaims that «there are no civilians in the Israeli society'. Aoun added: "We reject this kind of discourse. We reject such policy of extermination. Such things are contradictory to any human or civilized conduct. They are calling for the destruction of a whole people through terrorist means, and this is unacceptable. The use of such means released the destructive military power of Israel and legitimized it."

He also stated that the military victory of Israel "will not eliminate the Palestinian State nor the rights of the Palestinian people. However, those goals cannot be reached by the extermination of Israelis and wiping out Israel, as Hizballah and Bashar Assad want."

And regarding the resistance (Hizballah) that liberated the South from Israeli occupation, Aoun said: "The resistance prolonged the occupation. There was an Israeli proposal of withdrawal in 1994. Why did Lebanon withdraw from the negotiation process? Lebanon attached itself to the Syrian tractor and dissolved its own political and diplomatic identity, the resistance prolonged the occupation and damaged Lebanon economically". He called for the "disarming of Hizballah that keeps threatening us with civil war."

Aoun attacked Syria fiercely and said: "Is it allowable for Syria to kill in the name of brotherhood? Is it allowable for Syria to occupy Baabda (Presidential Palace) in the name of brotherhood? Why did it greet me with hostility from my first day as head of the interim government?"

 Aoun described the Lebanese constitutional institutions as "farms" and said: "The Baabda farm (Presidential Palace) needs to be liberated, so does the Kraitem (Cabinet) and the Nejmeh Square (Parliament) farms. There is no free decision in any of these places."[Today, Aoun and Bassil have created their own farm in Rabieh].

On the future of the region Aoun said: Peace in the Middle East is a civilizational condition that must evolve against the politics of violence. It rests on the acceptance of the "other", the right to be different, and the democratization of the political systems.

It is impossible to build a new Middle East with a war mentality. Competition through development and pluralism, which arises from the acceptance of those who are different, the plurality of races, genders, and origins, and the freedom of creed, is consistent with the stipulations of the Charter of Human Rights.

I do not trust states that engage themselves in the path of peace and try to develop their systems, but that do not recognize the right of freedom of creed, which by the way is not limited to religion, but also includes political and all other forms of freedoms. There are underdeveloped autocratic and theocratic states that are anachronisms and are incompatible with the times in which we live. The Bin Laden school is such a belief system and it cannot survive. The slogan of war on Christians and Jews is an aberration that cannot survive, neither in the East nor in the West. Lebanon is the only oasis for the reconciliation of cultures because of its Moslems and Christians who have lived the experience and found it to be viable.

Aoun said his return to Lebanon is tied to "changes on the ground" he expects to happen soon and which are linked to regional developments. 

[Background]
PRIME MINISTER OF LEBANON (1988-1990)
Aoun finished his secondary education in 1955 and enrolled in the Military Academy as a cadet officer.  Three years later, he graduated as an artillery officer in the Lebanese Army. In June 1984, nine years into Lebanon's civil war, General Aoun was named commander of the Lebanese Army. In the fall of 1988, Syria and others created a political crisis by preventing the Lebanese Parliament from convening to elect a new president (Lebanese presidents are not popularly elected).  Damascus staunchly opposed the election of any candidate unwilling to sign a treaty recognizing Syrian hegemony in Lebanon.  In order to break this impasse, just 15 minutes before the expiration of his term, outgoing president Amin Gemayel appointed Aoun as interim prime minister until Parliament could elect a new president.  Although Aoun's government was constitutional, Syria backed the formation of a rival regime, supported by Syria's client militias.  While Aoun's government was officially recognized by several countries, most countries declined to formally recognize either regime. In an effort to assert the authority of his government, Aoun sent his army to close illegal ports run by both Christian and pro-Syrian Muslim militias.  After fighting that destroyed much of Beirut, General Aoun agreed to an Arab League-brokered cease-fire in September 1989.  After the cease-fire, a Saudi-sponsored meeting of Lebanese parliamentarians was held in Ta'if, Saudi Arabia, ostensibly to approve an agreement providing for the unification of Lebanon and the withdrawal of Syrian forces from the country. Aoun rejected the agreement, mainly because it failed to provide for a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon by a date certain.  However, the agreement also stipulated constitutional changes that Aoun believed should be subject to a popular referendum, a procedure that Syria opposed.  Foreseeing that the Lebanese parliamentarians would bow to Syria's will, Aoun dissolved Parliament, but it met anyway in Syrian-controlled territory in November 1989 to elect a new president and remove Aoun from office.  Aoun remained in office, however, and fought Syrian-led efforts to remove him.  In October of 1990, and with a green light from the United States and Israel, Aoun succumbed to Syria's superior military force and took refuge in the French Embassy.  He was allowed to leave Lebanon for exile in France in August of 1991 and has been there ever since. He returned to Lebanon in May 2005 following the Hariri assassination and the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon. He founded the "Free Patriotic Movement", today headed by his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil. 
 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Sectarian Proportionality: Oxymoronic Reform



Many well-intentioned people are calling for modifying Lebanon’s electoral system to one based on the principles of “proportionality” (an-Nisbiyah النسبية) and “one-man, one-vote”. 

Proportional representation is an electoral system in which candidates or parties gain seats in parliament in proportion to the number of votes cast for them. Under the one-man, one-vote principle voting districts for a legislature need to have about the same population size. The idea behind the rule is that one person's voting power ought to be roughly equivalent to another person's voting power within the state, AND one’s person’s vote to be reflected in a fair and equal representation of each individual voter in parliament.

The devil being in the details, however, below are some of the built-in contradictions between the proportionality and the one-man, one-vote principles on one hand, and the sectarian foundation of the Lebanese entity on the other. A lack of awareness of those contradictions denotes either ignorance or ulterior motives on the part of those calling for proportional and one-man, one-vote representation. If it is ignorance, these people need to inform themselves better. If it is some other motive, then they need to be more honest, speak up clearly and declare their otherwise commendable goal of sacking the sectarian basis of government in Lebanon.

1- Proportionality is extremely difficult to implement in a sectarian system. For it to work, any district that is not drawn along sectarian lines would immediately violate Lebanon’s sectarian basis of government. Any district that is heterogeneous would require two seats for the principle to be applicable. For the sake of example, if a district is majority Christian and has only one seat in parliament, you would be forcing the Muslims in that district to be voting for a non-Muslim representative, which violates the sectarian setup of the country. If you then must assign a second seat to satisfy the Muslim minority in that district, you would in essence be splitting the district in two, one Christian and one Muslim, each of which would obtain a separate representative. You might as well redraw the boundaries and create two districts. In other words, for Lebanon, you would need to draw the boundaries of the districts according to two implausible criteria: They each need to have a homogeneous sectarian population (all Maronite, all Druze, etc.), AND they need to be all of equal population size.

2- The Lebanese constitution gives مناصفة (fifty-fifty) to the Christians (i.e. half the seats in parliament) even if, by any account, Christians no longer make up 50% of the population.  So, in order for proportionality and the one-man, one-vote principles to apply in Lebanon, you would have to artificially create more Christian districts to meet the fifty-fifty rule, and those districts would in reality represent less than 50% of the people. In other words, you would have to invent virtual Lebanese citizens who would be Christian by faith, to whom you would ascribe parliamentary representation.

3- Lebanon’s parliamentary representation and so-called democracy are a fallacy. Rather than being a “demo”cracy in which the object of government is the individual, Lebanon’s form of government is a plutocracy-oligarchy-theocracy hybrid.  Since the core of the Lebanese system of government is the religious-tribal identity, rather than a national identity, then the one-man, one-vote and proportionality principles cannot be implemented. As a Lebanese individual thinks of himself or herself first as a Sunni or a Maronite or a Druze, and second as a follower of a local, village, tribal or religious boss, and only then beneath these other layers of identity, as a Lebanese, then the one-man, one-vote and proportionality principles are just an absurdity.

In other words, those calling for the proportionality principle should start by eliminating the sectarian basis of the constitution and the country, and that requires a major upheaval because the Lebanese, in their primeval underdeveloped state of societal and political development, remain attached to their religions and religious bosses like stink on a monkey. 

But are there alternatives that may provide for a modus vivendi between archaism (religious-tribal identity) and modernity (individual identity)? Below is a modest proposal that has been on the market for a while, but which has found no currency because the establishment (religious and tribal) sees it as a threat that would undermine its monopoly over power.

In the Lebanese system, the object of government is NOT the individual; rather, it is the religious community. Lebanon, as a political entity, is NOT constituted of individual persons; it is constituted of religious communities that willy-nilly were forced into a vague federation around 1923.  Individual rights do not really exist in Lebanon; they are subsumed under the rights of the religious community to which any one individual is forced to belong from birth. Within each religious community, individual rights are merely assumed or vaguely referenced, but are rarely, if ever, enforced. Parliament in Lebanon is more like the Upper Chamber or Senate of genuine democracies in which considerations of history, legacy, and social makeup recognize alternate elements alongside the individual citizen as constituents of the state and as sources of legitimacy and authority. In Lebanon, parliament is not a House of Commons or House of Representatives representing individual voters free of their religious affiliations; it is a Senate representing only the religious communities.

The solution therefore, perhaps, lies in a bicameral system – a people’s assembly (House) AND a religious communities’ assembly (Senate). In the former, one may apply the one-man, one-vote and proportionality principles regardless of sectarian identities, while in the latter only the religious consideration is the criterion for representation. For example, in the English system, the House of Lords gives consideration to the monarchy and the nobility, while the House of Commons represents individual citizens. In the American version, the Senate considers the States as a parallel constituent alongside the individual citizen who is represented in the House of Representatives. By population, the largest state (California) and the smallest state (Alaska) each gets two senators in the senate. In Lebanon, a Senate would represent the religious communities, say 2 or 3 representatives per community regardless of its size, while the House would represent individual voters without any consideration of religious identities. Obviously, the sectarian virus is so ingrained in the Lebanese ethos that even with a bicameral parliament you’d still have to face the sectarian monster. How do you draw the districts without regard for religious identity? How can “secular” candidates run for elections if the voters insist on associating them with a religious or sectarian identity? Those perhaps would be smaller devils to deal with piecemeal. For now, the country needs a miraculous leap out of the swamps of backwardness and into the light of modernity.