Hazem Saghieh

'The Traitor' Samir Geagea

“Spy.” “Foreign agent.” “Traitor.” “Conspirator.” “Criminal.” “Fifth column...” These are some of the bricks of the building that is constructed, time after time, by closed regimes and parties. One of these epithets applies to anyone who does not think like them or share their opinion, and usually, all of them do.

Launching these epithets targets, most of the time, a segment of society that goes beyond the individual whom it is hoped will be politically annihilated, indeed physically liquidated if possible. It often targets a group of people who share a broadly held opinion and aims to terrorize or blackmail them, and targeting them could be aimed at paving the way for a campaign that leaves prisons brimming with innocents and could leave many heads rolling on its way. Shifting attention away from a genuinely pressing problem, rallying a particular group around the faction launching and standing behind the campaign, solidifying a shaky political situation that is in danger of crumbling, or impeding the potential emergence of democratic opposition... All of these matters become urgent needs.

The grandmasters of this school, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, have left us with too many witnesses of this approach to count. Students and imitators emerged all over the world, including, naturally, Arab countries, among them Lebanon.

To achieve those goals, an agent or a spy is also required... as are, if possible, a few gallows and corpses. Purification rituals that use others’ blood have been practiced since antiquity before modern ideologies modernized them and expanded their application.

In Lebanon, this one and only traitor is Samir Geagea. He is engaged in treacherous activity 24 hours a day. He breathes crime. The Second Republic has, since its inception, depicted him in this stark light. The fact that he had accepted the Taif Agreement did not change anything because the bigger picture demanded that particular image. That is because there was a desire to convince the Lebanese of three lies that are difficult to swallow in one go:

- That the Lebanese agree on the sanctity of the resistance’s arsenal and that it is there to protect their homeland.
- That the care Hafez al-Assad has shown us is not motivated by anything but Arab national brotherhood.
- That the Taif Agreement had ended every conflict once and for all, and we had nothing to do but enjoy the paradise we find ourselves in. Let us devote ourselves then to building and reconstruction.

The Second Republic’s system was built on these three lies, and it continued to push them until they exploded in 2005. Furthering interests required believing the lies. Besieged minds kept refusing to believe them. Samir Geagea’s treachery and numbing minds were a requisite for turning those lies into a system and noble creed.
Of course, Geagea was no saint. He came to play a role in public affairs during a civil war, and civil wars do not give rise to saints. He has murdered and did everything else the other militia leaders have done.

Nonetheless, some differences remain: they turned into permanent judges, and he turned into a permanent suspect. Murder was only attributed to him, and he was the only one who faced court cases. His civil war colleagues, while he was killing, were playing the piano. They were thus awarded weighty shares of power; as for him, he was sentenced to 11 years of solitary confinement in a cell at the ministry of defense. He alone, among Lebanese politicians, including eventual 14 March leaders, did not make a single concession, neither before his imprisonment nor after it, neither to the Assads nor to Hezbollah and its resistance. He reestablished the Lebanese Forces as a political party that engages with politics through parliament and does not resort to violence or seek its tools. Contrary to his competitors from the same sect, i.e., the Aounists, he did not fall into sectarian incitement against Muslims as Muslims or racist incitement against Syrians as Syrians.

That until very recently, extremely few people were ready to defend him facilitated Geagea’s transformation into a traitor. For the Muslims among them, it was because of sectarian sensitivities, and for the Druze and Christians among them, because of class and regional sensitivities. Others refrained from defending him because of political rivalries, new and old, legitimate and illegitimate. On the margins are those who have cultural and civil sensitivities and are looking for a Hannah Arendt and Carl Popper, or perhaps a Karl Marx, to lead the lines, either that or nothing.

Now, it would be useful if the number of those willing to defend Samir Geagea increases. All experiences tell us that continuing to depict him as a traitor is a minor reflection of the perpetuation of Hezbollah’s control over Lebanon. And it could be said that labeling him a traitor and singling him out are now among the most prominent forms of singling out the Lebanese’s national decision and demonizing it.

However, first and foremost, defending Geagea, at this moment in time, is a conscientious decision in repudiation of the culture of deception, corruption and slander whose influence on the minds of the Lebanese is growing. The first act of liberating minds from the lies is challenging the narrative of the unfit and powerful: no, we don’t believe it.