Among the most amusing explanations for the suicide (or murder) of the powerful Syrian General Ghazi Kanan was provided by strategic analysts, the cronies of Damascus, on the screens of some Arab satellite channels. The summary of the explanation so confidently expressed by the analyst was that Kanan killed himself due to a psychological illness. The specific analyst, to whom I refer, uttered the name of the illness in some Western language to emphasize the scientific nature of his talk. Unfortunately, however, I have not learned the name of the illness.
According to the analyst, the illness revolves around the unification between the self and the jobs, tasks, or projects that the self carries out in life. This unification becomes so intensive that the self eventually becomes at one with the project. At this stage, the failure of the project becomes a failure of the self, which could potentially lead to death of the self. According to this specific analyst, all Arab analysts and especially those Lebanese analysts against Syria should understand the case from this perspective. According to this extremely sensitive explanation, Kanan was at one with the Syrian project in Lebanon, thus when that project collapsed, so too did his soul.
This talk came not long before the issuance of the Mehlis report as many expected that Kanaan”s name would be enlisted in the report and even at the top of the list of Syrian security officers involved in Lebanon. The surprise was that the Mehlis report did not focus on Kanan, but rather stressed the names of other officials of Syrian security or their Lebanese affiliates. This means that the pre-emptive analysis by the Damascene analyst is void because it was based on the assumption that the report of Mehlis would unequivocally indict Kanan, which would put him under intense pressure only then to lead to his suicide. He feared that his name would be tarnished for the destruction of Lebanon, the same Lebanon that he had protected from division for many years.
In sum, there is no clear-cut reason to support the idea that the changes in Lebanon and the investigations into the assassination of Hariri were a direct cause in the suicide of Kanan. Such an idea is illogical. It seems that there is another reason that caused the fatal self-inflicted gunshot. Among the rumors, it is said that the death of the General, who belonged to the core political and military ruling group, may have represented an operation to get rid of a potential successor to the president in light of the American indication concerning a change in Syria”s leadership. Nevertheless, these are merely rumors.
Our case here is not to follow the various explanations and circumstances of this event, nor is it to link the event to the huge transformations that are taking place in both Syria and Lebanon. The plan is not even to observe whether history will repeat itself with regards to the relation between the Syrian Baath and its Iraqi counterpart with the same mistakes and disasters. We will merely attempt to address the mentality and connotation behind that amusing psychological explanation for the death of Kanan who was unified with his lifetime project in Lebanon.
Syria”s neighbor, Iraq is a good analogy to demonstrate my point. Saddam had been promoted in an interesting manner within the echelons of the Iraqi Baath party until he had swallowed the party, the state and eventually the entire nation. He then devoted his life to the ambitious task of creating a super military power out of Iraq. He almost joined the club of nuclear powers, and succeeded in dominating the neighboring and some of the non-neighboring states. He persistently attempted to annex Kuwait and managed to forcefully occupy it as part of the "soil of greater Iraq," as he constantly repeated in a Hitler style manner.
My point is Saddam has occupied his life with several national and international projects rather than the one only, as the case was with Ghazi Kanan who "killed" himself, or as the Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Sharaa said, was "murdered." Yet, Saddam did not kill himself or even consider it despite his humiliating defeat and the destruction of his entire life-project. On the contrary, in the first court session of his trial, he stood self-assured, smiling at the judge and taking notes. He referred to himself as "the president," protested against the delay of the court session, and entered the court with a well-trimmed beard that resembled that of a revolutionary. It was clear that he did not suffer any pains in his consciousness, or that he was suffering from depression or frustration due to the dramatic end of his projects. So why has he not committed suicide? There were many reasons for the former Iraqi president to commit suicide even before he was picked out of that pit hole in the ground. For instance he was forced to remain prisoner in his palace many years ago after attacking Iran and the Gulf, as well as sending his death squads to all corners of the world. Perhaps Kanaan was more sensitive than Saddam?
Another example is that of Osama Bin Laden. This man devoted his fortune, his name, his future, and entire life as well as his death to the project of the Islamic Caliphate based on the Taliban regime. His aim is probably to be the Caliph himself. On the path to his goal, he blew up warships and destroyed buildings. At times, he portrayed the number one enemy of Islam to be the Soviet Union but this soon changed to the United States. Then the number of enemies expanded and engulfed the entire world. There were moments were Bin Laden and his followers became convinced that their dreams have burdened reality which is unable and unwilling to sustain them. Bin Laden thought he would be victorious as when he spoke, everybody paid attention. He became the man of the moment. However, as matters stand at the moment it seems that his project has failed as his Islamic kingdom in Afghanistan has been dismantled and the super powers would never accept a Khomeni like republic in the South, nor a Talibani republic in the center and the West.
What remains of Bin Laden”s dreams are nothing but an expression of power. The most recent letter from Al Zawahiri to Al Zarqawi expressed high hopes and ambitions, yet without any concrete suggestions. The letter continued to explain ways of getting rid of the Americans in Iraq, establishing of the state of Al Qaeda in Iraq, to expand then into Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and finally Israel where it will defeat the enemy. Then the establishment of the Caliphate will come, which will spread the concept of Jihad all around the globe. This picture, which is detached from reality, is most favored by Bin Laden and closest to his heart, nevertheless has been torn apart. Why did Bin Laden not attempt suicide when his projects failed? Why could he not kill himself in an Islamic way, as there are several ways to do that?
There are other examples of those who should kill themselves if we blindly follow the analysis of the Damascene analyst. They have devoted their lives and resources to projects that have been eliminated. However, they remained healthy and continued their life journey. Many even changed their ideology and started life anew. Contrary to the Damascene analyst”s explanation, the examples are many, from Qadaffi the leader of failed attempts for Arab unity, to Hassan Al Turabi, the leader of the failed attempts for Islamic unity.
From a certain angle, political suicide is a form of realizing the political responsibility, self-respect, belief in an ideal, and a spiritual, intellectual, and emotional connection with that ideal. Such an attitude could not be seen among Arab politicians with all their political trends. So far, nothing exists that may convince me to exclude Kanan from this generalization.