March 14th 1989, The Liberation War.
On March 14, 1989 General Michel Aoun declared his “Liberation War” against the Syrians with the full support of the Iraqis and the Palestinians. Everybody was expecting him to launch his assault on the Karantina. He changed course to everyone’s surprise. Geagea was also surprised. Geagea had reluctantly followed, though he taunted General Aoun for getting involved in something much too big for him, a war lost in advance without proper alliances and preparation.
All things considered, Aoun gained Christian public opinion. Once again, the Christians were torn apart between two Christian leaders who were opposed over the “domination” of the Christian people. Geagea wanted to humiliate the Lebanese Army, thereby undermining Aoun’s ambition. However, the General Aoun’s popularity was growing without military victories or political attainments, contrary to Zahleh 1981. Geagea later claimed he was saving the Christian ranks already shattered. The “Doctor” was shrewd in pointing out that this new outburst of violence froze the Lebanese Forces/Lebanese army conflict and furthered off the ultimate confrontation.
Despite the Syrian blind shelling and land and sea blockade, Aoun gained Christian public opinion and lined up an all out support from the people and Christian leadership. This support was antagonistic to towards the Lebanese Forces and Geagea in particular.
This effected Dany Chamoun, Fuad Abou Nader, Massoud (Pussy) Askar, as well as members of the Gemayel family. What became commonly known as the “Aoun Phenomenon” was born, specially after the Battle of Souk Al Gharb won in extremism on August 13, 1989.
Geagea’s hatred for the General was fermenting and he no longer bothered to veil it. He kept a low profile and hardly participated in the offensive. Damascus riposte was the bloodiest and fiercest in the Christian regions, without discrimination, had ever suffered. The region suffered and sustained inexorable blind shelling of residential areas coupled with a naval and land siege. Danger was everywhere. Agony was in the air. There was no safe spot to hide. Shelters were crammed with haggard civilians.
Around the clock radios blared military marches and news flashed about human and material losses. Yet people in despair, and utter dejection kept bragging, “We live like rats, but long live the General. He seeks national sovereignty, battles for liberation and struggles for Legality.” The General’s massive errors no longer counted.
The agony was continuing and waves of Christian families were fighting their way out of the “Pays des Codres”, aboard the only ship that sailed out of the port of Junieh every night at the cost of their lives. Christian families, wanting to forget Lebanon, shame, corruption, foul play, terrorism, drugs were running away, shunning the tragic fatality that swooped down on them because of the Christian chieftains whose only strategy was to fill their pockets and buy up Lebanon. The war against the Syrians had taken its toll. Over a thousand civilians were killed, 20,000 houses destroyed. The Christians stopped counting. The streets, frequented by rats and cats, were stinking with unwanted roadblocks of household rubbish laying out in huge heaps.
By mid-summer 1989, in the middle of the whirlpool, the Americans almost carried the deputies, elected 23 years ago, to the Saudi city of Tadf where they were pampered, paid and prayed for. The Maronite deputies signed the Taef document, that turned over the Lebanese Constitution, to the great disappointment of the Moslem M.P’s. They were shocked, but scared of the Syrian guns still pointed at them and their families. The last conspiracy, camouflaged into a salvation board, worked out. The Syrians and the Militias were hauled over the coals for the sake of appearances, just as long as Aoun would be ousted.
The Christians realized that without Aoun, the gangsters would be back in full force. They were aware that the Lebanese Forces were contaminated by money and power. Geagea was high and mighty but needed “respectability”. Hobeika had his place in the sun. The “Doctor”, short of a feudal background, sought a minister’s portfolio, at any cost, to seat his prestige.
He betrayed his fragile alliance with the General and delegated his lieutenant, Nader Succar, for regular talks with the Syrian Intelligence officers commanded by Ghazi Kanaan, while his gunners fired a shell every now on then, often on the wrong side.
The plotters conspired from October 23, 1989, until January 31, 1990 when Samir Geagea ran out of patience, budged his troops, and went into action against the General and the Christian people without discrimination. The Syrians were rejoicing. All the military, logistic and human forces were engaged in this mortal inter-Christian “duel”.
Geagea was victorious from the beginning of the offensive. His men stormed and took hold of the Lebanese army barracks of Amshit, Sarba, Safra, Halate and the Naval Base of Junieh. In no time at all, this sweeping victory was won by treason. Christian Lebanese army officers had changed sides and were responsible for the cold-blooded killing of many honest and heroic LA officers, specially those in Amshit Base. Aoun had managed to take over Ayn Remaneh, the south east suburbs of Beirut named “Citadel of Resistance” by Bashir Gemayel. The General was confined in a pocket handkerchief territory, and wild dreams. Hobeika was on the lookout.
On April 9, 1990, Samir Geagea announced that he joined Taef, and was ready to hand over all of the Institutions under his control to the State Authorities. The news came as a bombshell. Aoun, trapped, opened up on Elie Hobeika, Walid Jumblat and the SNSP. The Syrian trap was closing in on both of them. Hobeika’s turn had come to infiltrate and do the Syrians a precious service.