Samir Geagea, the Last Relic of a Dirty War
If there’s an oddity about former Lebanese militia leaders turning into suit-and-tie wearing politicians, the former Christian militia leader, Samir Geagea, deserves the richest degree of attention. The 59 year old has spent most of his life in a militia identified with violent sectarianism of a colossal proportion. Today, with his blood soaked hands, implications in notorious civil-war era massacres, years in solitary confinement and now a mouthpiece for belligerent politics – he’s about as old school as they get.
During Lebanon’s disastrous 15-year civil war, the deadly Christian-Muslim tussle resulted in the death and displacement of thousands of people. This was also the peak of Mr. Geagea’s notoriety. He was second-in-command of the Lebanese Forces, a militia designed to defend Christian communities, from what it deemed as dominance and to an extent, annihilation, from Muslims and their allied Palestinian fighters. In 1994, four years after the official end of the Lebanese civil war, he was tried and found guilty for ordering several politically motivated assassinations. He was sentenced to four death sentences, each of which was commuted to life in prison.
The Cedar Revolution, following the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafic Hariri, must have come as a divine intervention for Mr. Geagea. The Lebanese Parliament decided to grant amnesty to the former warlord for his civil war era crimes, and he came out with unalloyed delight to walk straight into a political coalition with his new ally, Saad Hariri – the son of the slain former premier.
But if anybody thought that by releasing Mr. Geagea he would now somehow become an advocate for a peaceful pro-Lebanese and nationalistic ideology, they could not have been more wrong. The Lebanese state, which he had fought so hard to turn into a fiefdom of Bantustans and checkpoints, was certainly not welcome to give him lessons in patriotism and respect – so long as the prevailing political balance was not flipped is his favor. Indeed, the very idea of connecting this man with the words reform or democracy is a ludicrous one.
Having been deprived of the leadership of the bulk of the Christian communities in Lebanon by his former nemesis, Michel Aoun of the Free Patriotic Movement, and being outwitted militarily by the Islamic movement Hezbollah, Geagea set his sights on being confined to advocating pitiful arguments akin to schoolgirl bickering in a manner which seemed to pit Lebanese against Lebanese, albeit unsuccessfully.
This is simply because both his detractors as well as his political opponents refuse to dignify him with a response. And it comes with good reason. For all his talk of a democratic Lebanon, it is hard for any peace-loving Lebanese citizen to forget that this was the very man at the heart instigating a psychosis of death, hate and destruction. He has an abundance of like-minded followers who have been manipulated to stir up their militaristic passions.
It started during the deadly 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war. The WikiLeaks saga now tells us that Mr. Geagea was already conspiring against his fellow Lebanese in Hezbollah by blaming its initiation of the war as leverage for turning the mind of Lebanese public opinion against it, thereby presenting it as an internal menace and potentially laying the ground for sectarian and domestic strife. Perhaps his eventual restraint, along with that of his March 14 allies, was derived less from sensitivity to their adversaries potential discontent than from a desire not to have their party offices windows smashed.
By 2008, and in the post-war reconstruction phase, a 17-month long political crisis between the Geagea-allied March 14th Camp and the Hezbollah-allied March 8th Camp finally spiraled out of control. Once March 8th fighters, dominated by Hezbollah, had overrun March 14th militiamen in Western Beirut and its surrounding hilltops, Geagea although uncharacteristically silent, had reportedly amassed somewhere between 7,000 to 10,000 armed thugs ready to confront them on the pretext that the Lebanese army might fail to protect it from a possible onslaught into his Beirut bastion. In addition to this, he proposed to the same foreign diplomats that an Arab peace keeping force should be stationed in Lebanon to protect the incumbent government.
It clearly showed the reckless and delusional climax that Mr. Geagea had reached. Firstly, there was never any threat to the Christian areas except in the mind of Geagea himself. Secondly, his armed men would not stand a chance of matching the power of Hezbollah. Thirdly, he pulled the rug out from under his own teachings by calling for foreign interference in Lebanese affairs. But even after his maneuvering came to a historical failure, the man who considered himself to be the torch, the teacher and the extinguisher, embarked on a mischief- stirring hike to the west and its Arab allies.
Unfortunate for him, every time he appeared to be bending over backwards to concede to his hosts demands, it was always in the interests of them securing another one. It seems he forgot the old diplomatic lesson of never relying too much on anyone, for the worst situation can be to become seized by hysterical fear and start banging on the doors of others to come to your rescue. Mr. Geagea seems to have forgotten that such entreaties inevitably invite conditions.
Today, Mr. Geagea has become an outspoken critic of anything and everything which he cannot control. The Hariri tribunal, the issue of sub-state weapons and armed groups, proportional representation in Parliament, executive procedure and even oil and gas disputes with foreign nations. Every sentence he utters is tinged with intellectual and moral cowardice. He argues that he’s attempting to overturn Lebanon’s degenerate mendacious democracy, yet he fails to offer even a scintilla of positive rationality towards national integration and cohesion.
The sheer lunacy in his almost daily media appearances must make him crestfallen by his own rhetoric. He can no longer befog his words with bitingly delivered sound bites. The era where militiamen were never more alive than when watching their enemies die, is now long gone. His few remaining supporters should accept that he is not man who will propagate policies designed to better the politics of Lebanon but instead will only push for creating what he knows best: pandemonium.