Thursday, March 11, 2021

On why I disagree with the late Ghassan Tueni

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

I know it seems pretentious to argue with someone who is considered heavy-weight intellectual such as Ghassan Tueni. But I do, vehemently so. 
OK, let me explain my main contention: 
I do not think ours in Lebanon was a war "pour les autres" (a war of others).
Say what you want about the vested nature of the "international forces", about Lebanon being at a "cross-current of politically competing nations", about this and that nation giving arms to this or that faction (or to both!), about each part having a different allegiance to diverging ideologies (the pan-Arab vs the "in3izaliye" - or the isolationists), about the flip-flopping power-hungry nations which swarmed in our orbit or us in theirs, say what you want about this.
It is, in the end, the average Lebanese who carried the gun, who was part of a militia, who went behind barricades, who stormed hotels, who ambushed regular people, who planted wire-bombed cars (the story of Samira Ibrahim going back home after planting the car with the explosive that killed 59 people and injured 135 while eating ice cream and singing as if nothing happened, still sends chills to my spine), who also got "war trophies" (a person I know tells the story of an elderly woman sitting on a chest filled with gold and jewels, when they came to make sure the house was safe, the woman was killed and the chest vanished), who berated and humiliated other religions (the old cheikh whose half-beard was shaved at a checkpoint), the closed roads and tunnels, who imposed local "taxes" (with one such man telling my own mother "either you pay or we get the money in other ways"), who implicated God in their acts (such as the now late Jocelyne Khoueiry who included the "mystical" narrative to the Lebanese Forces).
Do I go on?
Already it is incredibly difficult to recount the above (if you have not lived the war, you do not know how eternally-perpetuating and taxing it might be).
So yes, by saying it was the war "of others" ("Pour les autres"), or - as his popular theory he uttered many times states: harb el akharin 3ala ardina (Other people's war on our soil) this implies the exoneration of those who went to war, who contributed to it. An easy, moral, and ethical way out. Something in the line of "oh-it-wasn't-you-it-just-someone-else-was-responsible". Something that resonates with Adolf Eichmann's defense of "I was just following orders".
Other people's orders because it was other people's war.