Sunday, January 14, 2007

Seperating the Myth From Reality V.4: Amin 'Hairdresser' Gemayel


(Earlier Episodes: Bashir's Federational Plan: One Lebanon - Five Inside States; 14th of March Blunders: Monopoly of Victims to Preserve Supporters, and General 'Psycho' Aoun)

Pic Found here

When the head of the Phalange Party Pierre Gemayel made his son Bashir the contact between the Israelis and the Phalange (check notes of Shai Feldman, Ehud Ya’ari, and Joseph Abu Khalil), Amin (Bashir’s brother) was the link to the Syrians. I would like to note that the first to contact the Israelis were neither Bashir Gemayel nor Joseph Abu Khalil, rather it was George A’dwan, who was then the leader of al-Tanzeem militia.

Pierre Gemayel secretly organized his plan to send two of his sons to separate nations that each would invade Lebanon to support their platform. Pierre Gemayel opposed Kamal Junblatt’s reform platform which was establishing optional civil marriage, isolating the religious figures, equality between all sects, and of course recruitment in the public sector is based on merit criteria. Pierre’s obsession was to preserve the status quo (something I will discuss in details when I tackle the National Pact of 1943, The Ta’ef Accord, and the Brotherhood Treaty) whereby the Christians dominated everything politically and recruitment to remain in parliament 6 Christians to 5 Muslims. Amin Gemayel was supposed to continue the same.

When Amin Gemayel’s secret missions to Syria were taking place in parallel to Bashir’s to Israel, ironically both the Israelis and Syrians knew about those visits. The contacts between Amin and the Baathis broke after Syria flipped to form the Rejection Front (in reaction to Sadat’s peace treaty process) and failed to win over the Christians afterwards. After Bashir started to ascend the rank and file of the Phalange Party, and had his breakthrough after the 100 days war in East Beirut, he purified or crippled all rival Christian parties. The last person to remain standing was his own brother in Matn who also had his own private Phalange Militia. Bashir subdued Amin Gemayel’s region to his to complete his “Marounstan” (as called by a foreign journalist) and eventually became the perfect candidate to the US. The reason I am mentioning Bashir now because after the Zahle clash with the Syrians, Bashir Gemayel emerged as the Presidential candidate to Lebanon against his own brother Amin, and the Sham’ouns. The Frangieh Clan lacked a candidate because Sulieman Frangieh’s reign ended drastically against him (another episode to be written about) while his Son Tony was brutally butchered by the commands of Bashir Gemayel.

While Amin’s role after 1980 evaporated, he would soon appear as the next candidate after his brother was assassinated in September 14, 1982. Amin Gemayel was not really loved by the Americans. Since today I am not fully pressured, I will tackle Amin Gemayel’s history at ease using references from the US archives and to be exact the book of Philip Habib (the US diplomat to Lebanon) called Cursed is the Peace Maker (written by Roy Boykin), and other books and documentaries to attempt to construct Amin Gemayel’s blunders which like all the warlords, deserve to be persecuted as a war criminal.

The Americans didn’t like the fact Amin Gemayel became a president because he was not strong enough to face (in their perspective) the Syrians, PLO, Israelis and local parties as well as establish a centralized government. Actually, it was during Amin Gemayel’s reign that Lebanon became divided into Cantons and Militia mini-government that never happened before in Lebanon’s history.

The Lebanese didn't like the fact Amin Gemayel was a president. The Sham'ouns were running against the Phalange for elections, Moris Draper says that they intervened to see Amin making it. Amin Gemayel was considered the first President to belong to a Militia Party to become a President. His cabinet was composed of his close men or his brother's. The whole parties regarding Amin Gemayel as a Phalange rather a Lebanese President. His brother technically didn't become a president because he was assassinated prior to talking the Presidential position. I have to mention that till this day a lot of people mourn his death or celebrate it as his controversial Character still is disputed despite the fact that 14th of March pethatically are trying to make him a 14th of March founder (idiots).

Opinion of the US on Amin Gemayel

These opinions reflect on Amin Gemayel’s character from the US administration:

“Habib felt that Lebanon’s new president, Amin Gemayel, was in no position to stand up to Begin (MFL notes: Israeli Prime Minister during the Israeli invasion” and Sharon (Minister of Defense). It wasn’t just that his country had no clout. Lebanon’s political weakness gained nothing from Amin’s personal characteristics. Contemptuously nicknamed “Travolta” and “the Hairdresser”, Amin was not the stuff of which leaders are made, says Ryan Crocker, the political officer in the American embassy. It was never intended, even in the Gemayel clan, that he should be president.” But with Bashir’s death on September 14, Amin had suddenly found himself in that seat. Amin sincerely wanted to be a good president, says Dillon, but didn’t know how. He was jealous of Bashir’s success, afraid of criticism, mistrustful of anyone who had been on good terms with Bashir, and secretive. Some unqualified people, when thrust into power, recognize their limitations and surround themselves with the best advisers they can find, Crocker says. That was not Amin’s approach. He “did have little trusted entourage,” says Crocker, “who were people even worse than he was.” (Roy Boykin, Cursed is the Peacemaker, P. 279, Applegate Press).

Amin Gemayel’s Reign of Terror Upon Election

Over here, residents of East and West Beirut would disagree. East Beirut enjoyed the Israeli presence and protection while West Beirut was being bombarded like hell.

When Amin Gemayel was elected, he declared the re-unification of East and West Beirut and officially declared that the War is over. The Lebanese Army entered West Beirut and replaced the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Eventually, the residents of West Beirut will experience the most horrific terror since Sharon bombarded West Beirut with 14 hours non-stop with artillery shells while East Beirut spent their times partying as if there was no war.

Statistics, when the Civil War was over with the Ta’ef Accord, reflected that 17,000 Lebanese remained missing. During Amin’s early reign, a large faction disappeared with a accusation going to the Lebanese Forces or Lebanese Army. In Aljazeera’s documentary War of Lebanon, Amin Gemayel begins his talk that his reign was a good reign, no breaches of security occurred. The next scene on the documentary shows the relatives of the kidnapped demonstrating and a wave of terror struck. To be exact, militants came, under army coverage, kidnapped several people, political and non-political masses. Some kidnappings took based on the identity card. When Amin in the documentary was asked about the kidnappings, he said it was not the government. Johny Abdu, head of the intelligence, explained that the kidnappings did take place. Factions of the Lebanese Forces entered West Beirut with the Army, and were dressed like the army, used to beat people in the open light. The army or Lebanese Forces, with Gemayel’s blessings occurred.

Afterwards, there was an attempt to assassinate Walid Junblatt. The Aljazeera documentary placed the assassination attempt which appeared live with Junblatt bleeding carried while Junblatt was screaming loud. Junblatt accused Amin Gemayel with the attempt and vowed vengeance. The accusation is not tangible since there is no proof if it was Amin or the Lebanese Forces, but the suspects are in this sphere. Junblatt later would attempt, along with his allies the Lebanese Communist Party, Order for Communist Work, PLO returnees, and Syrian artillery bombardment to get rid of Amin once and for all. We shall return to that scene later.

Almost Signed a Secret Deal With The Israelis

This is not to be mistaken with the 17th May Accord. When the evacuation of PLO was almost complete under the Habib plan, Phil. Habib returned to the United States. Meantime the Israelis started negotiations with Amin Gemayel through a mediator called Sami Marun, a Lebanese merchant who had contacts with both. The United States didn’t know about it, and the Cabinet of Amin Gemayel had no clue about it. I have to say that Habib and Sharon didn’t like each other, to be exact, they hated each other. Habib was offering a diplomat solution to the Israeli invasion, Sharon wanted a military solution.

The US administration then was calculating how to achieve a peace solution whereby the Lebanese government would not be isolated from its Arab neighbors. More importantly, Habib wanted to see the Syrian and Israeli forces withdrawing outside Lebanon. Without US support, no deal can take place between the Israeli and Lebanese government. The Israelis on the other hand wanted to establish an Israeli satellite government in Lebanon while integrating both economies at the same time.

When Habib and Draper were speaking to the Israeli cabinet, for once they were smiling and someone even chuckled in tiny laughter. After Habib spoke for a while, Begin looks at Ariel Sharon, and tells him to speak. Sharon raises a three paged agreement between the Israeli government and Amin Gemayel, something that slapped the US diplomats in the face. For starters, the diplomats didn’t want to see any formal deal with the Israeli because they knew that it will not hold; Syria will not allow it, and they knew that Amin Gemayel was just a voice of the several voices of the militias in Lebanon. Actually, Syria would benefit from the negotiations between the Lebanese and the Israelis at a later stage to impose its strength after the Soviet Union, under Andropov, was fully re-armed with its latest state of the art weaponry. Habib, keeping his coolness in front of Sharon and Begin, tells Draper to take the chopper, they are going to Beirut to yell at Amin Gemayel. It has to be noted, Philip Habib was so raged he forgot that he had aerial frights.

Yelling At a President

This scene at Cursed is the Peacemaker is a hilarious scene. Those who are not acquainted with Philip Habib’s attitude then they will through this scene as I will type it in this section. The funny part was Amin Gemayel being yelled at as a kid while seemed Amin forgot he was a President.

“Once he got out of earshot of the Israelis, Habib grabbed the first phone he could find and barked, “I’m choppering up to Beirut, and I want an immediate meeting with Gemayel – alone. Despite his fear of helicopters, he was in no mood to delay, and they were the fastest way to get to Beirut. A night’s sleep and a one-hour flight did nothing to improve his mood. Once he got to the palace, he left Dillon (US ambassador in Lebanon) and Kreczko out in the waiting room and strode into Amin’s office with only Draper to have it out with him in private.

Through the walls Kreczko could hear Habib “screaming” at the President. “What the hell is this?!” he yelled. “You signed an agreement! You didn’t tell me anything about this. What have you done?”

“This is not an agreement”, Amin said, mortified that he’d been found out. “It’s nothing. It’s just some guidelines for the negotiations. Besides, they were supposed to remain secret!”

“Well, they were made public by Mr. Sharon.”

“I didn’t sign it. They wanted me to sign it, but I didn’t sign it.”

“What in God’s name were you doing? You didn’t tell us anything about it! Do you realize the position you’ve put me in? The way you’ve undercut the United States’ ability to broker this?”

Amin soon asked several advisors to join him in the office. Soon Dillon and Kreczko joined them too. After a while the foreign minister, Elie Salem, arrived fresh off the plane from Washington. He came bounding and boisterously started shaking hands all around and howdying everybody – until he suddenly noticed the somber air in the oom and how hurt and withdrawn Amin looked.

“What is in the name of Christ is going on?” he asked. “Who has died and was left unburied?”

Habib recounted the story, building up to “[Sharon] allowed me to talk and talk, and then you know what he said? You won’t believe it! Elie, he said, ‘ Habib you are not needed anymore. Your mission has just ended.’” Habib, who had gotten a coy of the paper from someone since his meeting with the Israelis, then handed Salem his copy, turned to Amin, and said “Mr. President, it seems you do not need me, good luck to you and to Sharon, I am going home.”

“Calm down!” Salem shouted at Habib. “Let me read this!”

As foreign minister, Salem had known nothing about this agreement or the secret talks that had led to it. When he finished reading, he said the agreement is unacceptable in every way: Lebanon would not normalize relations with Israel, would not sigh a peace treaty, and would not allow a continued IDF presence on its territory. This paper was a grave mistake, he said, and Lebanon should return to having Habib mediate with the Israelis for them.

Habib seemed relieved to hear that. Amin tried to paper over his mess by backpedaling further, which only made Salem angrier. When the president said that this was just a list of talking points, Salem said, “What talking points? We have nothing to talk about under such headings… Who interjected such irresponsible thoughts into a delicate diplomatic process?” Salem considered resigning on the spot, Amin asked him to say and do whatever he thought was necessary to bury the Sharon paper and rescue the Habib mission.” (Roy Boykin, Cursed is the Peacemaker, P. 281-283, Applegate Press).

Amin Gemayel as a Character

Nevertheless, this should give my readers an idea what kind a president we had. He was scolded as a kid by several people, including his own cabinet, and almost signed a Peace Treaty with the Israelis without anyone aware of it. Legally under the Pre-Taef Accord, he could sign any treaty he wanted since the elected President is stronger than his voting Parliament. Ironically, it was the United States that saved Lebanon from that bi-lateral Peace Treaty because even the United States administration couldn’t digest it as it was full of blunders.

Amin Gemayel and the 17th of May Accord

The negotiations did start between the Israelis and the Lebanese while Assad vowed to give it a chance when Shultz, Secretary of State, contacted him. Moreover, the Israelis were demanding joined economy, joined revenues, a lot of privileges, and even imposing the head of the treacherous militia, South Lebanese Army (SLA), as a minister of Defense or Army. The US diplomats came to the aid of the Lebanese, while Amin Gemayel had a different issues to worry about, specially with the Israelis threatening to do a pull-out towards 40 KM area in South of Lebanon. The Israelis suffered major casualties in Beirut from the Resistance Front For the Liberation of Lebanon, headed by the LCP, OCW, and SSNP. The Islamic Resistance (a cover for Hezbollah) would be handle the Israelis in the South.

As negotiations lasted for a year, and the Israelis demanding impossible demands, Shultz came into Lebanon and imposed on the Israelis to hurry-up. The Israelis added one last item that they are allowed to remain freely in Lebanon as long as the Syrians were there. Assad considered that point a veto to the deal because he knew that the Syrian Army can take casualties up to 20,000 soldiers, while the IDF couldn’t even handle 200. The Parliament met and voted on the17th of May Accord, and only the president is still needed to sign on it. Actually, till now (Post-Taef Agreement) the Lebanese President is the only recognized authority to officially get the deal occurring (something that seriously needs to be talked about).

When Junblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party and Berri’s AMAL explode to shoot down the deal and the Israelis pulled back, Amin Gemayel preferred not to make the Syrians angry since it is clear that the Israelis were totally weak to remain Lebanon as an operation against the Israeli intelligence in Tyre took place killing 70 Israeli agent.

Amin Versus Walid

Actually, when the war of the Mountains, as a result of the sudden Israeli pull-out, occurred, the most brutal massacres occurred. The citizens paid the price, and the death toll among Christian citizens was large. As always, Jaajaa who was never able to win a battle at a regional level, got evacuated to East Beirut (and there he kicks out Elie Hobeika who switched allegiance to the Syrians).

Nabih Berri supported the Phalange government in the hope of getting a piece of the cake. He was criticized by Syria and his allies. He demanded the Lebanese army to sit in the South, and AMAL already demolished, prior to 1984, the Arab Front backed by Iraq. When a Shiite feudal lord was preferred over Berri, who had grass-root support, by Amin Gemayel, Berri decided to switch sides with the Syrians to take his shot at Amin Gemayel, this also is a blunder by the President to safeguard his allies.

Walid Junblatt’s PSP and his allies marched towards Baabda in order to oust Gemayel. Amin Gemayel out of desperation pays the bomber-carrier, New Jersey, 300 Million US dollars, to bomb out the marching militias. So Gemayel became the first Arab President to ask the US army to bomb his own country and paid them 300 million dollars to do so.

The Divided Lebanon

Lebanon after AMAL and the Leftist Parties did their insurrection to force Amin not to sign the peace treaty, each Militia opened a Canton in Lebanon, and each area became subdued to a party, which had its own mini-government, taxes on the residents, while each party had its own naval port to do business trade (another topic that deserves a post on its own). This situation lasted till 1987 in Beirut.

Meanwhile Amin Gemayel more than once tried to handle Hezbollah, and every time the Lebanese army was slapped in the face. The final confrontation between the Lebanese army and Hezbollah at Dahhieh almost ended with the collapse of the Army as the Shiites departed.

Amin’s final blunder as a president would be having two legal prime ministers. We have to remember, the Sunni PMs had no militias of their own, and they were just pictures. When Salim el Huss decided to resign, Amin Gemayel decided to appoint Aoun as a president. This logic has been inherited from Lebanon’s first “independent” president Bshara el Khoury. If the President cannot be Maronite, then the Prime Minister is. As Amin rejected Huss’s resignation, Huss decided not to return as a Prime Minister till Michel Aoun was appointed as a Prime Minister then Huss announced himself as a Prime Minister. Hence, we had two prime ministers, again special thanks to Amin Gemayel.

Amin Gemayel Current Status

Amin Gemayel after his reign ended with a divided Cantons of Lebanon, would travel to France till the Syrians would allow him to return in 2000 to support his son Pierre Gemayel in parliamentary elections. He prepared Pierre as his heir, just as Bashir’s son Nadim and Amin’s younger son Sami proved that they still have a long road to go before entering the arena of politics.

Amin’s spark returned in 2006, after his son who was a minister, got shot. For starters, Amin Gemayel is the candidate to take his son’s shoes at Matn area as a member of Parliament. Even though he is a 14th of March (Anti-Syrian, pro-anything against Syria except Israel), meetings with Hezbollah increased after his son was assassinated. Rumors are spreading that he will return as a president as a conciliation between 8th and 14th of March. Probably Aoun can not object to this fact if he was indeed to be chosen since it was Amin Gemayel who literally created Aoun and preserved his health at Deir al Salib when Aoun’s nerves collapsed in 1985-1986.

Nevertheless, Amin Gemayel is like any other war figure of the Civil war walks freely without being persecuted for the war crimes taking place in Lebanon (like the majority of the 8th and 14th of March figures).



Liliane said...

Pretty amazing! He messed up pretty much, and from what you wrote it sounds like he really had no clue what he was doing.

One thing though, you confused me with the whole 2 prime ministers thing, you said that he will appoint Aoun as PM, then you said after Huss's resignation, Amin wanted to appoint him as president?

MarxistFromLebanon said...

Salim el Huss resigned just prior to the end of AMin's mandate, Amin refused to accept it, but when his mandate was almost over (last day), he appointed Aoun as a Prime Minister (Maronite) while Huss backed out of his resignation

Liliane said...

Okay now I get it, the missing clue was the fact that Amin's mandate was about to be over! Capito, gracias.