During a most boring statistics class today, a close friend was sitting on the desk next to me surfing the net rather than taking notes (a sin i unfortunately share with him). Half way through the arduous 50-minute block, he nudges me with his elbow and tells me to look at the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN)’s Pat Anderson’s website. I stared at his fancy computer screen and saw how much us Lebanese love to forget the past. The website featured an interview of General Michel Aoun in which he declared that Hezbollah was not separate from Syria and was a terrorist group. I googled it and checked out the various sites that came up. To my surprise, the interview was actually in Tayyar.org’s archives. I thought I’d share it to provide you with some alternative and forgotten words that once made major headlines in both Lebanon and abroad. You can check out the website here.
Now what I don’t understand is how people can simply forget that not even a year ago while in exile, Aoun was condemning the Syrian presence in this country. Additionally, when the Syrian troops finally withdrew, the first thing Aoun mentioned upon his return to Lebanon was the he was responsible for their withdrawal. This was said during his interview at the Rafiq Hariri International Airport. He actually did not mention the other people who actually did the work, namely Walid Jumblatt and Saad Hariri. As an exile, the only thing Aoun did to get rid of the Syrians was make a few press statements in Paris. However, we’ll let that go for the sake of this analysis. The bottom line is that this interview says a lot about how far away Aoun has drifted from his original agenda and prerogatives. He has gone from anti-Syria and anti-Hezbollah to Hezbollah puppet and Syrian yes-man.
This is highly problematic, particularly because so many of his Christian supporters left the anti-Syrian March 14 Camp when his demands were not met while Prime Minister Fouad Seniora was composing his cabinet. By leaving March 14, these Christian Aoun supporters left their natural affinity to an independent Lebanon behind and replaced this affinity with one not only just to Syria but to Iran as well.
Another comment that is worth noting is that Aoun encouraged the United States Congress to pass the Syrian Accountability Act. He also asks that the United States and its people “pray” for the Lebanese. Today, Aoun criticizes Seniora’s government and the March 14 Camp of being pro-Western and pro-American. Not exactly consistent, Mr. General, are we?
How loyal is Aoun to his Christian prerogatives?
Lebanon’s Former Prime Minister Seeks Freedom from Syria
September 12, 2002
CBN.com Syria is a nation which is known to support terrorism, but for years its agenda of subversion in Lebanon, Israel, and elsewhere has gone unchecked. Now Congress may vote on the Syria Accountability Act. To learn more about the persecution of Christians, and the threats posed by Syria, Pat Robertson spoke with General Michel Aoun, the elected Prime Minister of Lebanon who was forced from power when Syrian forces seized control of Lebanon.
PAT ROBERTSON: Just think, Lebanon was a model country, a beautiful country, and the Christians elected the president. The Christians have roughly half of the population of Lebanon, its a little less than 50 percent now. But they are second class citizens, theyre being trampled underfoot by the Syrians, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it.
With me is General Michel Aoun who is the former prime minister of Lebanon and the former commander-in-chief of the armed forces. General Aoun, delighted to have you with us on The 700 Club, welcome. Tell me about Hezbollah. We hear about the terrorist group Hezbollah. What relation do they have to Syria?
GENERAL AOUN: Hezbollah is not a separate entity from Syria. It is under the Syrian operational control.
ROBERTSON: The so-called terrorist group is under the operational control of Syria?
AOUN: Yes, 100 percent, no question about that.
ROBERTSON: I understand that Damascus is the headquarters of a number of other terrorist organizations that have received aid and assistance from the Syrians. Can you tell us what they are, those other terrorist organizations?
AOUN: There are about 11 organizations of terrorism in Damascus. Among them, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Democratic Front and the General Command Front of the Palestinians [Liberation Army], all of them are listed in the United States as classified as terrorist organizations.
ROBERTSON: I understand that there were estimated as many as 10,000 Katyusha rockets that were moved from Syria into Lebanon to reinforce Hezbollah against Israel. Is something like that the case?
AOUN: Yes, since Lebanon was occupied by Syria, they extended the base of their terror operations to Lebanon, and they are stationed in Syria, but they act from the Lebanese territory.
ROBERTSON: Bashir Assad [leader of Syria] made a shocking statement that you called into account. He said that all Israelis are combatants and therefore theres no such thing as an innocent civilian in Israel. Could you comment on that?
AOUN: Yes, during the Arab Summit in Beirut last March, I think, he made this declaration that there is no civilian in Israel, all of them are military.
ROBERTSON: So you can shoot any one of them you want to as a combatant?
AOUN: He did not say it like that directly, but it means that.
ROBERTSON: All right. What happened and how did Syria get control of Lebanon? Lebanon was essentially a Christian country. How did they gain this dominance in the country?
AOUN: They first destabilized the country by opening the Syrian borders to the Palestinians and they came from Syria with the refugees who were stationed in Lebanon. Together they destabilized Lebanon and called it a civil war, but it was not a civil war.
ROBERTSON: Then they came in to stop the so-called civil war that they engendered?
AOUN: They created it. That’s what we call in military terminology “indirect strategy.” You make a problem and then you come to solve it.
ROBERTSON: What is the danger to world peace? We are engaged in a war on terror and yet the Syrians are in the United Nations Security Council how can that be?
AOUN: Its a big contradiction that we have to solve in the world. Because people, the terrorist regimes, they are still, you know, having good stature in the world. And there are terrorist regimes like Syria that are generating terrorist organizations. Therefore, I propose a plan that first, to disarm the organizations; second, to democratize the regimes; and then to help them to develop their country.
ROBERTSON: What do you think of President Bush’s initiative to go against Saddam Hussein to help democratize Iraq? Is that a wise course or not?
AOUN: I would like personally to see that all of the United Nations resolutions be implemented. And if Iraq complies with these resolutions, maybe it would be a happy end for everybody.
ROBERTSON: Okay. What is happening to the Christians? When I was there in 1972, Beirut was the Paris of the Middle East, a beautiful city, and then little by little its been torn asunder. What is the role of a lot of the Christians now? What is being done to them in Lebanon?
AOUN: They are rejected as second class citizens and they don’t enjoy liberty and freedom. And they are threatened.
ROBERTSON: We have pictures of Lebanese Christians being beaten by Lebanese soldiers who were apparently in the employ of Syria. How does that happen?
AOUN: There are some collaborators in Lebanon, especially among the politicians. We have a puppet government, and they represent the Syrians instead of representing the Lebanese people. They do everything that they are asked to do. Between those, they have some military units especially organized for that. And between these military units, we have many intelligence agents and they participate all the time to torture and arrest and beat people.
ROBERTSON: Arrest, torturing, and beating, and no more freedom of speech now.
AOUN: No, no more.
ROBERTSON: This resolution is before the Congress, the Syria Accountability Act. What would you like to see done and see America do?
AOUN: First we would like America to support this bill, to vote for it in the Congress and the Senate. And also to pray for the Lebanese, you know, to liberate Lebanon. Because Lebanon is a pluralist society that may help spread the human values all around.
ROBERTSON: You are a man of great courage, and I thank you for being here. Many times your life has been in danger and you have been extremely brave, so thank you very much for being with us. God bless you.
Ladies and gentlemen, what the General was speaking about, there is an initiative now before the United States Congress called the Syria Accountability Act. It is supported by 150 Democrat and Republican sponsors in the House of Representatives and a remarkable 35 sponsors in the Senate. The principal sponsor in the Senate is Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat of California and Senator Rick Santorum, a Republican from Pennsylvania. So it is a bipartisan initiative.
This picture on your screen that you see shows, on the one hand, there is a rally of the Christians to pray and celebrate and mourn with America for its attack on September 11th. And on the right hand side are the Syrians and those opposed to the Christians, burning the American flag. So that’s the choice we have.
Folks, this bill is kind of like a no-brainer. But we understand theres a gentleman named Dave Satterfield [U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs] in the State Department, who is opposed to the Christians in Lebanon. And he wants Lebanon to stay under the Syrian domination. But I don’t think one holdover from the Clinton administration should stop a bill that has this kind of broad sponsorship in the Congress. And I understand the White House is asking Henry Hyde not to bring it forth in the House.
But it needs to come out in the House of Representatives, and the President needs to get behind it. He’s a Christian and hes against terror and to think that there are 11 terrorist regimes being given sanctuary in Syria, which in turn is tied in with Iran, which in turn is tied in with, I’m sure, Al Qaeda and the other terrorists that have been coming against America.
This is the bill. I think you ought to call not just your congressman, but the White House. This has overwhelming sponsorship. It is called the Syria Accountability Act. I would like you to call the White House and say the President should to stand on the side of the Christians in Lebanon, and get Syria out of Lebanon, and be free as it should be, and have its own government and its own authority as it had for many years. And the Syrians are invaders and they ought to come out of there. The White House phone number is 1-202-456-1414, fax number is 1-202-456-2461.
Or you can write to the White House, and address it President Bush who I know would be on the side of freedom and liberty, and this would be a blow against terror. We want to shut down 10 or 11 terrorist organizations currently headquartered in Syria, if you can believe it, a nation on the United Nation’s Security Council. Write or call the White House, also let your congressman or senator know. This needs to get passed. If the State Department doesnt like it, thats tough luck. I think its time we stand up for freedom around the world, and not just kowtow to terrorist regimes who we think might help us somewhere along the way. No way! Syria is bad news and we need to hold them accountable and get them out of Lebanon.