An exclusive interview for Commander Etienne Sakr - Abu Arz, 15 January 2009
The Honorable Mr. Pierre Atallah.
1- What is the status of the Guardians of the Cedars Party?
The question is indeed more painful than it is embarrassing. It is painful because of the feeling by party members that the generous sacrifices they made for Lebanon during the war, without anything in return, particularly the dead martyrs and the handicapped, have all been in vain. The dream that we promised them has also faded, namely to build a new and modern state that is worthy of those sacrifices and the aspirations of the Lebanese people. Underlying this feeling is that the state which came to being after the war is much worse than the state that existed before the war, and this is what really hurts me, my comrades, and the Lebanese in general.
The party’s supporters and partisans who are in Lebanon and in the Lebanese Diaspora worldwide feel alienation and estrangement, as well as disgust and frustration, not to say despair, at this situation. The feelings of alienation and estrangement stem from the absence of the party’s president from the headquarters in Beirut (19 years to date) and the inability of the presidential board which we formed in 2005 to substitute for the president, which is due to three reasons. First is the fact that the president is also the founder of the party, which makes filling the vacuum difficult and complicated. Second, the wrongful judicial pursuits against members of that board as a result of the press conference they held in September 2005 and from which they were exonerated. And third, the decaying political environment in which the country finds itself, and the control exerted by parties with non-Lebanese allegiance over every facet of public life, prevent the Guardians of the Cedars Party – which holds Lebanese nationalism as its sole ideology – from maneuvering in an environment that is 100% hostile to its own.
As for the feelings of disgust and frustration, they are shared by the majority of Lebanese, having reached this point after losing any hope in change, particularly through the existing political establishment which is corrupt in its vast majority and by any measure of corruption, and whose sole concern is to renew its grip on the country every 4 years. People are despondent and disheartened. Young people’s ambitions have become limited to securing emigration visas that get them out of the hell in which the political establishment keeps them. Life without hope is a true hell, let alone the stifling living conditions that continue to humiliate people and that have eradicated the middle class. The wealthy have become wealthier and the poor have become poorer.
2- Has your cause won?
The answer is no, at least for now. If our cause had won, Lebanon would be in great shape. But right now, unfortunately, the anti-Lebanon side has won, which is the side whose allegiance is to outsiders before its allegiance to Lebanon. The sectarian, religious and fundamentalist mini-states have won over the one Lebanese state; the private armies have won over the one Lebanese army; the security zones have won over broader national security; and the political merchants and traitors to their nation who have generated this sick, impotent, corrupt and dismembered state have won over the capable, clean and healthy state for which we have always called in our conferences, statements and party literature. All of this reinforces in us the idea that the state of clinical death in which Lebanon finds itself, rather to which they have brought Lebanon, is no longer responsive to ordinary medicine; it requires another kind of treatment, or divine intervention maybe. Who knows?
Hence, in short, the Lebanese Resistance which we launched in 1975 has failed. The so-called Islamic Resistance has instead succeeded, even though the chances for success were stronger for the former than they were for the latter, and this is due to the stupidity of political Maronitism, at both its spiritual and temporal levels, which became adept at missing all opportunities. In addition, the struggle between Maronite leaders for power and money has been ongoing since the early 1940s and to this day. This is the bitter truth that ought to be said, and incidentally, “The Bitter Truth” is the title of the new book which I will publish upon my return to Lebanon.
3- Are you with March 14 or March 8?
A question that many ask us every day. The March 14 group believes in an Arab Lebanon allied with the Saudi-Egyptian axis, and we all know the negative role played by that axis at the time of the Palestinian-Syrian war against Lebanon and during the infamous Syrian custody over Lebanon. The March 8 group also believes in an Arab Lebanon allied with the Syrian-Iranian axis, and no one is oblivious to the danger posed by this axis to Lebanon, in the past, at present and in the future. We, on the other hand, believe in Lebanon’s Lebanese identity, in a constant and absolute faith, and we believe in a complete and final Lebanese nation that belongs to no other nation. We declared this belief from the first day we took up weapons, i.e. on April 13, 1975, we continued tirelessly to reiterate this position, and we will never abandon it, regardless of the cost, the pursuits and persecution campaigns to which we are subjected. Speaking of pursuits, we draw the attention of the “honorable” regime that it has to hunt down the intellectuals of Lebanese nationalism, the likes of Charles Corm, Michel Chiha, Youssef al-Sawda, Said Akel, May Murr and others, and ban their books from the schools before it thinks of hunting down the Guardians of the Cedars. Let us not forget Fakhreddine, the founder of modern Lebanon on the basis of Lebanese nationalism.
Going back to the struggle of the axes between March 14 and March 8, the axis to which the Guardians of the Cedars Party belongs is the one extending from the Orontes River in the north to Naqura in the south and not one inch farther. The two axes of March 14 and March 8 belong to the same political school that is responsible for converting Lebanon into this crippled and disfigured state. Without false modesty, I say that the honorable Lebanese, deep down in their hearts and even though they don’t express it, belong to the school of the Guardians of the Cedars
4- What is your position vis-à-vis General Aoun and his visit to Syria?
No doubt that General Aoun today is not the General we knew during the battle of liberation of Tal Zaatar as chief of operations in Mar Shaya Monastery. He is not the General leading Battalion 13 which defended the frontlines after the two-year war. He is not the General who led the 8th Brigade in waging the glorious battles of Souk al-Gharb. He is not the General who led the War of Liberation against the Syrian occupation, militarily and politically, from inside and outside Lebanon. As for the arguments he gives to justify his new positions – such as: the problem with Syria is over after it evacuated Lebanon; or we must turn the page of the past and look to the future; or his defense of the weapons of the so-called Hezbollah and hischoice of the Syrian-Iranian axis, or his demands to release the four officers.... etc. – they are groundless and unconvincing arguments.
We say that Syria has not left Lebanon. It remains very effectively involved in Lebanese security and politics. Its ambitions of hegemony over Lebanon remain where they are, albeit in a different approach. Also, looking forward to the future should not make us forget the past. We must benefit from the lessons of the past in order to handle the future in a sound manner, especially since this past is full of tragedies that have afflicted every Lebanese home and family. How can we seek reconciliation with Syria when it continues to hold our young men in its prisons? How can we forgive Syria when we have yet to hear one word of apology for all the individual crimes and the collective massacres it perpetrated against us like the hordes of Tatars and Mongols once did? How can we defend an axis that brought us nothing but destruction? How can we demand the release of officers whom the international investigator ordered to be held? Is it reasonable that international investigators are biased to one political side against another?
Making pretexts and arguments with the goal of justifying or covering for one’s actions is one thing. But to actually believe them is another. As for the visit to Syria, we commented on it at the time, and we said that we reject it in substance and in form. Attached is the text of our statement.
5- Why doesn’t Abu Arz return to Lebanon?
When I went to Jezzine in 1990, after the fall of the Eastern regions to the Syrian occupation, judicial warrants were issued against me in absentia on charges of dealing with Israel. Everyone knows that when dictatorial regimes occupy a country, they resort to eliminating their opponents, either by military liquidation or by way of the judiciary. We thought that these warrants will be dropped with the fall of the Syrian occupation, but these warrants remain standing, which goes to show that nothing has really changed in the Lebanese regime. The regime in power today is one way or another an extension of the regime that existed before the liberation, and this is truly unfortunate.
It is incumbent on me to clarify here this ambiguous aspect that has become the hallmark of our political history:
1- We dealt with Israel in the same way that all the parties of the Lebanese Front dealt with it: Phalangists, National Liberals, Tanzim, Lebanese Forces, and others. No more, no less.
2- We say that we dealt with Israel and our relation with it remained one of peers, in contrast to those parties which dealt with Syria and were tools, let’s say “cheap tools”, in the hands of Syria.
3- We dealt with Israel for the purpose of defending Lebanon and to serve Lebanon’s highest interests. Others dealt with Syria against Lebanon and in order to achieve personal goals at the expense of Lebanon’s highest interests.
4- Syria’s agents occupied the highest positions in the state. They pilfered the country’s resources together and in collusion with the Syrian occupation, while we went into exile enduring the anguish of separation and the harshness of life.
Consequently, we leave it to the people to decide who is the agent and who is the patriot. We accept the people’s judgment because, as a matter of principle, all authority comes from the people.
6- What is your position on the weapons of the Resistance?
We don not consider Hezbollah a “resistance” in defense of Lebanon. It is an Iranian detachment holding a fundamentalist ideology that is alien to Lebanon. Its weapons, therefore, are a danger to the country, today, tomorrow and forever. Those weapons must be removed in application of resolution of 1559. Otherwise, there will never be a State in Lebanon, and all the talk about coexistence between the State and [Hezbollah’s] mini-state is nonsense and merely delays the solution. As for the “defense strategy”, it is a ridiculous contrivance whose objective is to throw a smokescreen; pursuing it is like pursuing a mirage.
Lebanon, at your service
January 15, 2009