There appears to be three different political camps in Lebanon at the moment:
1. Hizballah, Amal
2. Future, LF, PSP, Shehwan, Takatul Trablus
3. FPM, Skaff, Murr
At least two of these groups use the concept of "justice" in their rhetoric profusely.
Group 3 (specifically, FPM) has been using it ever since Paris.
Group 2 has been referring to justice since Hariri Sr.'s murder.
In fact, looking back at post-assassination rhetoric, it appears that "justice" has never been as popular in political discourse as it is today - everybody who's somebody in Lebanon seems to be referring to it or some other word that implies it. The climax of this sudden spurt of popularity was reached when FPM refused to join the government apparently because Seniora did not give FPM the justice portfolio.
Considering such high drama, it occurred to me that the concept of "justice" as it applies to Lebanon had to be given a little bit more thought by all of us. Especially after one considers that the Aoun Camp (plus Lahoud) appear to have a different, or rather more comprehensive, notion of justice than the Hariri camp. Before I continue however, I must share an assumption I have with all of you. It is important to share it because of its relevance:
Lahoud is most likely guilty. He, in my opinion, at the very least, had the power to stop the assassination, but chose not to.
Okay, now that I have that out of the way, I will continue with my thoughts:
- I think that Aoun and Lahoud came to an agreement in Paris. Part of that agreement could have been a pledge from Aoun to do the following: Call for (or rather, continue to call for) Comprehensive Justice.
So, what exactly does this notion of justice mean in the context of Lebanon? Well, it basically means exactly what Aoun has been saying since he came back to Lebanon: that every single politician in Lebanon is guilty of some sort of crime that exists in the books. In previous posts dating back to Aoun’s arrival, I expressed exasperation and bewilderment with Aoun's resolute determination to "find out where all the money went" during the 90’s. At the time I wondered why Aoun, who appeared to be on the side of the opposition, was turning everybody in that camp against him. I also wondered why Aoun was so determined to look back when all of us (and I mean ALL OF US) were so excited about the future, and about turning the page and starting off with a clean slate.
Today, after the drama of the elections and Aoun's entry into Lebanon's political landscape his behavior is beginning to make sense. But, if such a 'pledge' really was taken by Aoun, why did he do it? How did it benefit him, and how did it benefit Lahoud?
I'll start with Lahoud because it is easier.
Lahoud may be guilty of assassinating Hariri, or at least not preventing his assassination. However, if comprehensive justice is called for, then the rest of the political elite could also come under investigation by the courts since they are most likely guilty of all sorts of crimes – corruption comes to mind, but so does abuse of power. Therefore, if the courts go after Lahoud, they ought to go after Jumblatt, Berri, Seniora, etc.... This move would benefit Lahoud because it would ultimately create a nullification effect. Everyone is interested in self preservation, and no matter how much Sa'ad wants to avenge his father's death, he will not destroy his father's work doing it.
All right then. What about Aoun? How does he benefit out of this?
This question is a little trickier to answer. But, we shouldn't forget that Lahoud remains a very powerful man. The sources of his power are his position as head of state and supreme commander of the armed forces, relationships with officers is the security services, relationships with Syrians in high places, etc.... Lahoud could have made Aoun's return much easier than would have been the case otherwise. More importantly however, I believe that Aoun did not want to throw his lot in with the "opposition". He believed, and eventually proved, that he was much more influential and powerful than the opposition recognized. Therefore, Lahoud was probably seen as a useful counterbalance that could be used during negotiations with the opposition, and probably, even the elections. Aoun's rhetoric about the corruption of all politicians in Lebanon w/o exception, about Hariri Sr. being Rustom Ghazale, and the non-existence of the opposition were very good indicators of his strategy.
Okay... Now back to the concept of Justice:
We, as observers, now have to make the decision: which position appeals to our own morals and standards, not forgetting the interests of Lebanon as a country.
There is no doubt that Aoun's version of justice makes sense. Justice should not be blind, and if Hariri & Co. want to see justice done for Hariri Sr. (RIP), they should not limit their desire, but rather expand it so that all injustices are corrected. If they are as clean as they say they are, then the Hariri click should not fear for themselves. I personally identify with this line of argument very much. Justice is Justice is Justice. If one person is subjected to Justice, yet another is not, then the implementation of justice becomes an injustice.
I suppose most people agree with that line of reasoning as well. But if that is the case, why doesn’t Aoun or Lahoud simply come out and say outright that Justice for one should mean Justice for all? Obviously, the reason is that such a move would mobilize the constituents of the targeted politicians - as it already has. Even supporters of Hariri would be outraged by the equation of the assassination with corruption files. The ultimate consequence of such an initiative would mean that the judiciary would never be able to carry out its mandate and prosecute those individuals because such a move would be politically impossible.
So which form of justice do we support?
1. The limited type that seeks retribution for Hariri’s murder
2. Or the comprehensive (but impossible) type that seeks not only Hariri’s murderers but all other politicians who have committed crimes
My moral sense says comprehensive justice is the better option. My pragmatic sense tells me that comprehensive justice is impossible to attain and is merely being used to stifle the more limited justice that would come out of Hariri’s investigation. But what benefits would emerge for Lebanon if the Hariri family was able to get its retribution? Well, it could set a precedent for Lebanon and the Middle East. If the murderers (including Lahoud, if he is convicted) are sent to the Hague, a strong message could be sent to people across the region: political violence as a means to resolve internal political conflict is obsolete because murderers will be held accountable. This sort of justice would, in my opinion, correlate with our priorities for local politics: First we should destroy those who kill their critics, rather than challenge them politically. Then we can/should go after those who are incompetent and who steal our money (a natural progression: it cannot be the other way around).
There is the answer to my question with regards to justice. In the context of Lebanon today, I choose limited over comprehensive justice. It may ultimately be unjust. But, it is definitely a step in the right direction, a step towards the kind of political process that I would like to see develop in Lebanon.