Friday, August 3, 2007

The Orange Seduction

Marwan Madi


The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.

Abraham Lincoln



A wise man once said opportunities in life only come once. Two years ago more than one million Lebanese went into the streets of Beirut to demonstrate against the Syrian military presence in Lebanon and against their government, following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Two years ago the land of milk and honey saw growing momentum for a Cedar Revolution that unified the nation to the cause of true democracy and freedom from foreign intervention. In 1963 Martin Luther King had a dream, two years ago, I was living mine.
That was two years ago.
As the last Syrian soldier departed Lebanon and the media hype began to wind down, the realities on the ground began to unfold. The truth is that the new democracy we have been offered is not in touch with the aspirations of all Lebanese and oddly resembles the one we had before. The truth is that we are governed by tribal leaders that have used and abused our Constitution and judiciary system in the name of special interests and political sustainability and are supported by a press that has independently chosen to pledge allegiance to one party over the other. The truth is that Lebanon continues to be a collection of mini-states. The truth is we are as corrupt today as we were before 2005. The inconvenient truth, to quote Al Gore, is that Lebanon’s Cedar revolution is hollow at best.

The failed promises of the March 14 alliance and the poor performance of the Saniora government on various issues including national security, political, economic, and social reforms, and environmental stewardship has led to the emergence of new political players that have upset Lebanon’ traditional political deal making and resulted in the defeat of some of the country’s usual suspects. And had the new electoral law been implemented in 2005, the country would have witnessed a new wave of political faces and ideals. Alas, the March 14 alliance and their representatives in parliament chose to preserve the same electoral law they earlier claimed was fabricated and imposed on the Lebanese by the Syrian regime to infringe upon our liberties.

The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) is perhaps the best example of a new untraditional player in the Lebanese political scene judging from the fierce political battles that occurred in many regions of Mount Lebanon and the North where this party was running. Led by the not so charismatic Michel Aoun, a former prime minister that launched two unsuccessful wars with disastrous impact on the country in general and the Christian community in particular, that same community he claims to widely represent today, the FPM has managed to make a strong come back to the country’s political scene as did many other parties but with this difference, the FPM is offering a political agenda that addresses the concerns of the citizens of Lebanon. The FPM has managed to bring to the table new representation and new faces that talk to the need for new and better representation in government, more accountability and zero tolerance for corruption, more jobs, a better healthcare system, and an independent judiciary system. The FPM has given their constituency an array of hope, the hope that regular people truly have a say in the direction of their country and how it should be ruled. The FPM was successful in bringing to light the need to stand to and abide by all the laws, rules, and regulations of this republic as well as respect its constitution. Through its actions, the FPM helped to bring to light a government that refuses to be held accountable for its poor performance and in many cases unlawful and unethical conduct since holding power in 2005; a government that claims to represent all Lebanese but continues to disregard the concerns of many.

A decade and a half in Paris appears to have helped Mr. Aoun, with the support of a professional team, to work toward creating a party with a mission, founded on specific goals and objectives. It appears that against all odds, the message of the FPM resonated well in the ears of the many that voted for him in the past election and would probably vote for him again in the next round.

I do not share the same moral or religious values of Mr. Aoun and I will admit that I am concerned at times with his Napoleon-like attitude, but I would be foolish not to recognize the FPM as a credible and serious player in Lebanese politics.

When the good people of Lebanon demanded change, they didn’t mean more of the same; the FPM was there to listen but most importantly deliver.

29 comments:

Arab Democracy said...

Dear Marwan

The Principles you describe are all very good. In fact the strength of the FPM program is that it adopts a populist approach to many political and socio-economical issues whith whom few Lebanese would disagree. The devil is in the details.

You cannot disregard the shortcomings of the leader the FPM has chosen for itself nor his track record. The fact that he is surrounded by individuals without personal charisma or power base is in my view a reflection of his inability to tolerate dissent or accept a challenge to his personal authority.

This 'common citizen' he has chosen to contest the seat in Metn against Amin Gemayel is the latest example of that trend. Camille Khoury (yup he does have a name) has barely appeared or spoken suring this campaign. The focus has been on Aoun and will always be on Aoun.

I am afraid the FPM would not survive the General...
And thats not necessarily a bad thing.

J.E.

Anonymous said...

Dear Marwan,

1) Last night Aoun was a "guest" in his television channel: OTV. I quote what he said:
"there is a mega US based plan that wants to create havoc in the region, from Afghanistan to Somalia, and I am the only one that stands to stop their project. They want to kill me, because I am thwarting their plans. We at the FPM are the last line of defense against the hegemonic US, imperialistic plans in the Middle East"

2) 12 days ago, when the same OTv started broadcasting, Aoun was again a guest. The talk show host, was drooling at the sight of her hero. She asked him as an opening questio:
"how do you feel when you are like Napoleon, trying to save the world. And by the way, thank you for doing so"

Yes Marwan, Thank God for Michel Aoun. He is my savior, my hero. he is our new God. He is the savior. I believ in him. God praise him. I want him to bear my children....

please Marwan, wake up...nothing is worst than crzay people.

Oops, I forgot:
In 1988 I wrote an article in L'Orient Le Jour (a lebanese daily) accusing Aoun of being a Syrian agent.Everybody thought I was crazy then. I ask you now, dear Marwan, isn't he ?

Regards,

J.B

Anonymous said...

J.E. – With regards to Mr. Aoun’s not so flattery past, you are reiterating what I have stated in my editorial. There aren’t many politicians in Lebanon that can claim to not have had a role one way or another in Lebanon’s Civil War, weak democracy, and political or economic instability. There aren’t many exceptions really. I thought, however, that the political class of yesterday decided to grant itself a series of pardons and move forward to begin drafting a new chapter in Lebanon’s future. Unless of course the political class meant everyone but Mr. Aoun, in such a case, I didn’t get that memo.

Mr. Aoun has indeed played a front-and-center role in his party; however there are many key players that have a political, social, and role, albeit small, in the FPM today. I can name a few including Gibran Bassil, Ibrahim Kanaan, Neemtallah Abi Nasr, and Ziad Abs. Nonetheless your concerns regarding Mr. Aoun’s “culte de soi” are shared by many supporters of the FPM as well as members of his staff. It doesn’t appear to be issue enough for them today, at least not to the point of voting for Mr. Gemayel. Between the FPM’s promises and what is perceived as the party of the underdog and Mr. Gemayel’s empty rhetoric and the March 14 coalition lack of touch with a significant portion of the population, voters appear to have overwhelmingly chosen Camille Khoury.

Again J.E., if you read my editorial one more time you will note that I do not voice any support for Mr. Aoun or the FPM. I am merely recognizing the reasons behind his party’s success and potential long-term sustainability.

J.B. – I don’t think a few lines on a virtual blog entitle you the right to tell me to grow up, especially when it seems clear to me that you either have not read my article in its entirety or have simply failed to understand it. I am equally stunned that the journalist you claim to be resorts to such vulgar language as “Mr. Aoun is G-d” or “You want to bear his children” or to the usual unfounded conspiracy theory arguments such as your accusations that Mr. Aoun is a Syrian agent.

Having stated the obvious J.B., I think it is fair to note that domestic issues are as important if not more important that foreign affairs in any country including Lebanon. Voters in Mount Lebanon – where I hail from - are looking for an end to the economic and political impasse in the country. They want steady jobs, food on the table, 24 hours electricity; you know the things normal people ask for and usually get.

They are also eager to see justice served and have a definite say on issues including relationship with Israel, Syria, Iran, you name it. But at the end of the day, first things are first.

I think it is only fair that we respect that.

Your Dear Marwan -

Anonymous said...

Dear Marwan,

You talk about economic development, and 24hrs electricity.

You are right. Thanks to Hezbollah and Aoun, my city center is cordonned off. Scores of people have lost their jobs because investors are afraid of Hezbollah's missiles and the elctricity company was looted by Amal and Mohammed Fneich's croonies.

Yes, dear Marwan, I also want economic development; and I don't see Gebran Bassil and Roy Hachem (Aoun's "sons") or Alain Aoun (Aoun's nephew) or even Brahim Kanaan (you know, the guy who shot his gun in a hotel, because some bloke told him I love life)
as the anti clanic type of people, and as the proponents of al islah wal taghyir

Take care,

J.B

Anonymous said...

I think J.B. you are not getting the message here. My editorial was NOT about whether I support Aoun and the FPM, rather WHY I believe many in Lebanon do.

I don't think Hezbollah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers justifies Israel's excessive attack on Lebanon's infrastructure. Nonetheless, The Saniroa government's deplorable behavior during that war raise more than one question. The government's poor performance strenghtened the position of the opposition. In the same token, the government's strubberness and unwillingness to work with the opposition is what is leading to this impasse.

Having said that, I don't think the FPM had a say or knew about Hezbollah's plans.

The lack of power and jobs, J.B., are a topic you should be discussing with the goverment, not the opposition.

I can understand that you appear to have chosen to pledge alliange to the March 14 alliance, but in doing so, you appear to have chosen to be blatantly subjective at best.

I hope when you say the opposition is corrupted you are comparing them to the Dalai lama or perhaps Mother Teresa.

Marwan-

P.S. Do you have a full name J.B.?

Anonymous said...

Dear Marwan,
i think this will be the first time that i wont be "agreeing on totally disagreeing with u".
it was smart to inaugurate your article by Lincoln's quote, that's a response to "J.B"., because it showed, no doubt, what u really think of Aoun, that is if he's adequate 4the present or not...
i always tell my friends in "14 Adar" that, now, i totally seperate two things : the "romantic ideal of 14 Adar", and its corny leaders who failed to fulfill the dreams of their "popular base", they kept on disappointing the people and misleading them.. till it got ridiculous.
In response to J.B, i think that the "Hezbollah-Tayyar Agreement" was a step to create a new non-confessional political horizon in Lebanon… this alliance was a "buffer" in so many ways during all these crises... Moreover, it “pulled” Hezbollah away from “8 Adar”, in a positive sense… I think that both Hezbollah and al-Tayyar have matured, and developed in a “patriotic” sense. I think that, they, being on the same side, will prevent them both from the “hybris” as the old Greeks used to say, that is excess, extremism etc.
Eventually Marwan, u chose to "cultivate your garden", as Voltaire says, in the voice of Candid.

Sirine

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