Q) During the war, many things were committed. Why is the “crime” of the Lebanese Forces appear to be greater then others?
A) The crime of the Lebanese Forces is greater because they portrayed it as being so. The government that existed between 1992 and 2005 made the Lebanese Forces the central target. This was to the extent that the Lebanese Forces’ officials [with the exception of] a very small minority were hunted down, investigated, and encroached upon for minute incidents related to the war, and these incidents were taken out of the natural context of the war, and placed within a criminal context. The crimes of the Lebanese Forces were exaggerated by authorities that had been pushing these incidents in this direction for 15 years. Let us not forget that I was subjected to five trials, and five circumstantial decisions and judgments were issued against me. Every trial continued for some year and a half, and while preserving the form required for the trial, they were in fact not real trials. They took place in the light of investigations, which we know how they were conducted. The ordinary citizen used to sit before the television watching one trial after another, with an increasing belief that there was what is called things committed by the Lebanese Forces. Because of all this, the crime of the Lebanese Forces appears to be greater, while history – not me – is the one that will judge that might be the smallest in the light of what took place during the Lebanese war. Worse than this is that everybody forgets that I assumed the leadership of the Lebanese Forces in 1986, and they hold me responsible for deeds that I was not at all present when they took place, while those who committed them became their allies.
Q) Who, for instance?
A) My weak point is this way in political and media dealings. Many of the politicians in Lebanon do not have something positive to present, as they do not offer either a plan of action or a political stance, and hence most of their political work consists of attacking the others and accusing them. I am very weak in this way of operation. I can say about others that I do, or do not agree with their stances and actions, but I do not get into naming names, despite the fact that these names exist. Some of them now died, but they have links to many major things that happened, but they became allies of those who today accuse me of these deeds and others. Anyway, I believe that the next step we ought to take is to form a fact-finding and general reconciliation commission, similar to that which was formed in South Africa after the collapse of the apartheid regime. Within the context of this commission facts and incidents will emerge, and on the basis of this reconciliation will take place.
Q) Why did you apologize if the crime of the Lebanese Forces was not the biggest?
A) This is because we want to lay the foundations for a sincere, serious, and responsible policy toward the people. During the war there were decisions that were taken along the days – my days and the days of others – which were not correct; in fact they were wrong. Therefore, regardless of what the other groups say, we ought to be sincere with ourselves. We ought to apologize for the negligence, mistakes, and things we committed, which were not proper, regardless of the behavior of others.
Q) Why apologize at this time?
A) I have adopted this way since I was released from prison. On a number of occasions I talked about this issue, whether in media interviews or press interviews. However, I have noticed that not many people have “picked up” the idea that was in the midst of other issues on which the light was more focused. Therefore, after four or five months of thinking, I decided to take this initiative within the context of a public occasion when all eyes would be focused on this speech, and in the presence of all media organs. I did not find any better occasion that the memorial mass of the martyrs of the Lebanese Forces, which is an annual occasion we have never stopped except under difficult and overwhelming circumstances. Thus, I set aside a special part for this, and I talked about it calmly and clearly so that our stance would be clear for everyone once and for all.
Q) You wanted to turn a new page?
A) Certainly, the timing was suitable, the party attendance at the celebration was large, and the media coverage was extensive.
Q) How was the apology received?
A) It was very good, contrary to what some people imagined. This apology was addressed to the Lebanese people and the human conscience through a mode of behavior that ought to be now adopted across the Middle East as a whole. Regardless of the politically motivated and intended criticism by individuals who do not understand the meaning of the stance I adopted, I have received good and positive reactions from the Lebanese at home and abroad. This is to the extent that I once met a Lebanese journalist who is working in the Gulf, and he said to me, “I have received what I was entitled to.” When I asked him about the reason, he explained that he once was insulted at a military barrier when he was passing together with his wife during the war, and that despite the fact that he was a supporter of our political line, that incident remained a thorn in his side that was removed by the apology.
Q) In the light of the reconciliations that took place in the Islamic street among the sides of the former “quadripartite alliance,” have you at any moment feared that this alliance might come back in the upcoming parliamentary elections?
A) Not for a single moment did I fear that the existing reconciliations would be an introduction for a new quadripartite alliance. This is because I know my allies in the 14 March Forces, I know how deeply they think, and I know their strategic and stage-by-stage aims. On the other hand, the field reconciliations that took place were not surprising after the events of 7 May. The demographic mixture in Beirut requires the representatives of the Future Trend, Hezbollah, and Amal Movement to sit down together. The same applies to the situation in Khaldah, Baysur, and Aliyah between Hezbollah and the Progressive Socialist Party after the tensions that took place, and the blood that was shed. Moreover, all the political statements, and what we know through our means, confirm that these are field reconciliations, and every team stresses that it is remaining within its alliances.
Q) Has the meeting, which took place recently between you and Deputy Walid Junblatt, removed the fears that Junblatt would “turn against” his allies?
A) The image I have has been free of fear since before the meeting. This is because we are in continuous touch, and the meetings between our two teams are continuing on a regular basis. The meeting that took place in Mirab was within the framework of these regular meetings, many of which take place away from the media eyes.
Q) Do you think it is possible to establish a comprehensive Christian reconciliation in the light of the existence of two contradictory projects on this arena?
A) Yes, there are two major projects, and neither we nor the team of General Michel Awn have hidden that there is a disparity between them. We invite the people to participate in the elections on their basis. The situation on the Christian arena is natural, and is normalized between all sides, with the exception of the Lebanese Forces and Al-Maradah Group. General Awn himself has said that there is no revenge between us, and that we reconciled when he visited me in prison, and when I visited him after my release. When we meet during the dialogs, this takes in a natural and amicable way. The only difference between us is the political disagreement. The existing tension with Al-Maradah Group has been reflected in a regrettable incident in Al-Kurah, which claimed casualties from both sides. Therefore, there is a need to establish reconciliation between the two sides. We have agreed immediately to the resolutions of the meeting, which was held under the auspices of the Maronite Association, and I am waiting for the allocation of the time and place to meet Minister Suleiman Franjiyah.
Q) Is there a possibility of meeting soon?
A) I am waiting for the reply of the Maronite Association. As for them, I believe that they do not object.
Q) It is rumored that Minister Franjiyah rejects the meeting?
A) This surprises me. As far as we are concerned, this is a procedural issue. The chairman of the Maronite Association (Joseph Tarbiyyah) has conveyed to me that Franjiyah has the same wish. I personally am ready, and I am waiting.
Q) It seems that the result of the elections in 2009 will be decided in the regions of Muslim majority. Do you think that you are capable of breaking the 70 percent share of the Christian vote achieved by General Awn in 2005?
A) Whatever happens, there will be no 70 percent shares. The results of the 2005 elections certainly will not be repeated on the Christian arena, because the picture has become different from that of 2005. The only question is about the extent of this difference.
Q) Why have you announced your abstention from becoming a candidate in the upcoming elections?
A) First, I do not have a natural tendency to assume official positions. There is another and more important reason, which is that we still are heavily involved in party work, and the circumstances have not yet allowed us to dedicate ourselves to the establishment of an aspired for party formulation, and to hold the first general congress of the party. This is due to the consecutive developments, and assassinations. The last time we decided to call for a general congress was in the spring of this year. We decided to open the door for joining in June 2008, and to hold the founding general congress in October, but the May events took place, and the party work rushed in another direction. After that came the Doha conference, the presidential elections, and the formation of the government. When I decide to assume a parliamentary or ministerial position, I have to perform my duties in full, and at the moment I cannot do this. However, in one way or another we will fight the elections by candidates in all constituencies.
Q) Will you have candidates in all constituencies?
A) We will have direct candidates in some regions, and will support our allies in other regions, specifically the candidates of the 14 March Forces.
Q) When will the next general congress of the Lebanese Forces convene?
A) It will convene after the parliamentary elections, because now all the efforts focus on preparing for these elections. These elections are the first ones we actually fight in all regions. This is because in the previous elections we were still a dissolved party, our leaders were being hunted down, and I was in prison.
Q) What about the Al-Shuf constituency?
A) The talk circulating about this constituency is not correct. Some people look at the events in a distorted way.
Q) There is talk about nominating National Liberal Party Leader Duri Sham’un as a candidate in Al-Shuf, which is the seat currently occupied by Deputy George Adwan, member of your bloc, and your deputy in the Lebanese Forces?
A) The world is big enough for all. There is no problem with Duri Sham’un. Some people are creating a problem that does not exist.
Q) Therefore, there will be a candidate for the Lebanese Forces and another for the National Liberals. This means that you will have to take some of the share of Deputy Junblatt?
A) Without getting into the details, I would like to assure you that the 14 March Forces will fight the elections under unified lists?
Q) What will happen if the 8 March Forces wins the elections?
A) We will go to them and congratulate them for this win. However, their win means that Lebanon will take a completely different direction.
Q) What do you mean?
A) The state will revert to the form that has existed since 1992. The strategic direction will be the return to the unity of fate and course with Syria, and the domestic situation will restore the form of the security regime.
Q) What will happen if the 14 March Forces wins?
A) First of all, I hope that they will congratulate us, but not in the same way they did during the past years. Our win will mean the confirmation of our national, popular, and parliamentary legitimacy, which we obtained in the 2005 elections. This will allow us to continue our procession in the same direction, which we have adopted since then. These elections are held on the basis of an electoral law in whose drafting everybody participated. Therefore, there is no longer an excuse for anyone to say that “we have stolen this legitimacy at a moment of time when everyone was distracted after the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.” This success will show the 8 March Forces that there is no escape from the historic transformation which has started in 2005.
Q) What is the guarantee that this will happen? You had the parliamentary majority, but you were not able to govern?
A) Now, after all the security incidents they fabricated, they returned to the dialog, and to the arbitration of the people and not of the street. This is a state from which they will not escape easily. During the 2005 elections there were some mistakes by the 14 March Forces, but now we know these mistakes, and we know how to avoid them.
Q) Mistakes like what?
A) There were tactical mistakes; things that should not have happened, a quadripartite alliance that should not have taken place, and a government that should have been formed in a different way.
Q) Do you expect calm elections?
A) This is my hope. However, when the date of the elections is near, and when these people become certain that the situation is not suitable for them, I am afraid that they might stage something. We will continue to work toward the parliamentary elections whatever happened. Whoever tries non-peaceful methods will lose.
Q) What are your fears?
A) I fear that somewhere violent means might be used when they become certain of the nature of the situation on the ground. This will not dishearten us, and we will continue.