Chapter 7:

The Assassination of Bashir Gemayel - 1982.

When asked, H.K. denies responsibility for the abduction of the four Iranian diplomats, as he denies charges of every one of his crimes he ordered to preserve his sanctimonious image. On May 31, 1990, the White House confirmed, in an official statement, that the four Iranians had been killed, though no one paid heed or really wanted to believe it.

By then, power had gone to H.K’s head. Nothing could happen without his knowledge and permission. Powerful and mighty, he was the only decision maker in the Christian regions. His objective was total hegemony over the Christians. The unscrupulous power-seeker had to wash away the past and everything standing in his way, following his crimes in the “Al Amn” security building, then against the Palestinians, he committed equally gruesome felonies against all the Lebanese Christian people and combatants. He murdered his way to the top and hen-pecked his men into the most bitter defeat. His conduct was crowned with the assassination of the president-elect Sheikh Bashir Gemayel.

The two persons who actually burnt down Lebanon, and cursed its people were “H.K.” Elie Hobeika and Assaad Hardane. Assad Hardane masterminded Bashir’s death among many of his crimes against the Christian people!

On August 23 1982, Bashir Gemayel, Israel’s protege was elected President of the Lebanese Republic. That was the miracle! For some, it was supreme victory, for others, utter defeat. Sure of his success through muscle, money, and persuasion, he showed obvious signs of independence from the Israelis. This new approach somewhat assured him of the support of the mainstream Moslem leadership, and won him over the United States government’s unmitigated support. H.K. enjoyed a strong windfall when the United States backed his operations. He did not have any compunction to flatly turn down Israel’s insistent demands for an immediate peace treaty.

On September 1, 1982, Bashir Gemayel held that ultimate meeting with Israel’s Premier Menahem Begin in Nahariya. The meeting was later proclaimed a “bad” meeting for both sides. The Israelis were stifled with his ingratitude. He was steadfast in his position: He believed that he had a better and stronger ally, the World’s Number one superpower, the United States of America.

The Israelis struck hard and leaked news of the meeting and what had been agreed upon. The president elect was so taken in by his capacity to win, dazzle and impress that he did not realize the Israeli command had decided to pull out the carpet, from under his feet. But the Syrians did. They had never accepted his election to the highest state office. Their agents were not dearth. It was time to strike, and eliminate the ultimate Christian leader-president who was then unpunished. Use of their agents within the Lebanese Forces was carried out to even the score. The purpose of the attack was two-fold. First, to tarnish Israel’s reputation world-wide, and with the Lebanese Forces stymied, then shroud the Christian ranks with further confusion and disruption. The Syrians could then force their way back to recover full control of Lebanon, and tighten their grip on it.

On Tuesday September 14, 1982, at precisely 4:10 P.M, an explosion destroyed the three-story building that housed the main East Beirut branch of the Kataeb Party. Bashir Gemayel was inside the building for one last meeting with the party members and supporters. Bashir, the 34-year-old president-elect, nine days before he was due to take office for his six-year term, had grown careless in the prevalent euphoria of his newly acquired power and position. Oversight on Bashir Gemayel’s part and his new antagonism towards the Israelis, allowed his enemies to successfully attack and kill him. Bashir was careless. The Special Security Unit conducted by Elie Wazzen, alias “Abbas”, who coordinated with H.K supplied Wazzen with information. Elie Wazzen profited during the year he commanded the unit, because he orchestrated all arms deals. The least he could do was to take good care of his “master” when the need arose!

The explosion was reported a few minutes after it took place. Elie Hobeika dispatched me to inspect the premises. I was accompanied by the Israeli Liaison officer called “Mandy”. As we struggled through the rubble, we saw bits of arms, legs, heads and shoulders strewn among the collapsed pillars. A gray-black cloud of dust and smoke billowed through the neighborhood. The street in front of the collapsed building was crammed with hysterical people crying and bellowing. Sheikh Bashir’s wife, Solange, arrived a few minutes after us. Karim Pakradouni, Gemayel’s close political adviser shuttled in his Range Rover between the explosion site, Rizk Hospital and Hotel Dieu before identifying the President -elect’s obliterated body.

By 6:00 p.m., the tension had become unbearable. The rescue workers were trying to clear the rubble under arc lights. I was there with “Mandy” who could not keep from crying. A wave of hallucinations seemed to take hold of the crowd. Everybody, even the most noted international pressmen, dreamed they had seen an ambulance carrying Bashir away, an ambulance which, in fact, never existed except in their ravaged minds. Later, a helicopter flew overhead and was driven off by the random shooting. Rumors started circulating like a flash in the pan, when somebody in the panic-stricken and angry crowd shouted that it was an Israeli helicopter sent to take Bashir to a hospital in Israel. But none of this was true and we knew it. The Israelis had the confirmation of Bashir’s death long before the Lebanese forces did. They had the firm certitude at 8.30 p.m. while the Lebanese Forces command waited until Gemayel’s body was removed at 10:00 p.m. and carried by a Red Cross ambulance to the Hotel-Dieu.

Collective hallucination mixed with mass hysteria and chaos blurred common sense. There, clamped down in front of the battered building, stood aghast rescue workers, family members, mentors, Kataeb party officials, members, supporters, friends, medical teams, military and militiamen.

Instead of six years in office, Bashir, had only 23 days, but 23 days during which a myth was born. A myth that would soon become a stumbling block and an element of strife and conflict within the Christian ranks: Christian decision-makers, Lebanese forces, clans, Presidency.

The assassination of Bashir Gemayel pushed his tough, ruthless and bloodthirsty lieutenants, and the Israelis into a hysterical rage and enraged them to vow vengeance. Sharon and Begin panicked. It is true that Bashir had disappointed them by turning down their peace treaty proposal, but they knew he would restore peace, law and order and shake off the Palestinian and Syrian tutelage. He was likely to bend in the end because with him they secured, at least a friendly Christian-dominated regime in Lebanon.

In the meantime, Gemayel’s political adviser Karim Pakradouni, and the Lebanese Forces commander Fady Frem had in the meantime agreed to contain the militiamen. Shooting was prohibited. Meetings at the highest levels were held through the night. Beirut Radio, Kataeb Party’s Radio Voice of Lebanon, Bashir’s Radio Free Lebanon interrupted their usual programs and broadcast classical music without one single comment.

The assassination of Bashir Gemayel destroyed the Christians ultimate dream. It sullied Israel’s honor, undermined American credibility and above all, ushered to an era of bloody inter-Christian feuds, treason and battles that led to the collapse of the power of the Lebanese Christian people who were burnt down by the leaders who took over.

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