From Now Lebanon New Opinion
The case for Samir Geagea has become a cliché and goes something like this: the Lebanese Forces leader and March 14 MP is credible because he is the only Lebanese militia leader to have been imprisoned for crimes committed during the Lebanese Civil War. The fact that much of his 11 years in prison was spent in solitary confinement has also added to the aura of penance that surrounds him, as did his September 2008 public apology on behalf of the Lebanese Forces for their actions during the conflict.
His supporters say that only a man like Geagea, who, in 1994, was given four death sentences that were commuted to life imprisonment for his alleged role in four political killings, and who has plumbed the depths of despair, can have discovered the enlightenment that has defined his political ideology since being released from incarceration on July 18, 2005.
The reality is that only Geagea knows if this newfound, almost Zen-like, persona is genuine. It certainly has not stopped allegations that the LF still has a strong paramilitary element that is ready to counter any domestic threat. But since his return to the political scene, Geagea’s position has always been centered on the state, its good offices and its obligation to serve the citizenry.
This is why it was not surprising to hear him on Wednesday bemoan the fact that “some in Lebanon insist on confronting global arrogance, while we yearn to live a normal life.” Geagea was speaking to a student delegation at the Lebanese American University in Jbeil, where he also said that those supporting confrontation should “free us from their arrogance before disposing of global arrogance” … “Our real battle is confronting poverty, ignorance, inequality and environmental damage.”
The cynic might argue that Geagea was, like any polished politician, merely reaching out to the next generation of Lebanese. No doubt Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) peddles a similar line to its fresh-faced followers, while even Hezbollah, with its narrow and often blood-soaked ideology, exhorts its supporters to fight its own brand of “poverty, ignorance, inequality.”
But away from the rhetoric lies the reality. Lebanon’s political dynamic has, in recent years, pitted a fractious (and admittedly impotent) March 14 against an armed and threatening March 8 that has done its level best to ensure that two democratically-elected governments never had a chance to be held accountable for their election promises, which presumably involved giving us what Geagea called “a normal life.”
But the simple truth of the matter is that the vast majority of our politicians, including many in March 14, are incapable of committing to this very fundamental ideal of providing the “normal life.” The country is in political gridlock over a murder case it is paying others to investigate, while our so-called national dialogue to discuss what we have all agreed are the major obstacles to national unity is an insult to the nation’s intelligence and a waste of taxpayer money.
Say what you want about Geagea. It is true that his brand may be so corrupted that he has no real political capital left with which to convince the majority of Lebanese that he is more than a reformed thug. But on the evidence of his words and his actions, he has become, if not a moral compass (can such a thing even exist in Lebanese politics?), at least a voice of reason amid the mayhem that defines our “abnormal” lives.from Now Lebanon.