By Ghassan Karam, Special to Ya Libnan
The 22nd of November, 1943 is a bitter sweet occasion for all Lebanese, or at least it ought to be. It was 66 years ago today that Lebanon won officially its independence. Lebanon was the first Arab country to gain its independence from under the French mandate. Such a glorious occasion is to be reserved for celebrations and reflections. Celebrations for the great opportunity to act as a sovereign power, as an independent one and as a power that takes decisions based on common good. It is an occasion to reflect on what has been accomplished and what is yet to come. It is an occasion to express thanks to the founding fathers as represented by the duo of Khoury-Solh for all their sacrifices and their deep belief that they could form a nation out of the area of land called Lebanon.
The first three decades after the birth of the nation were full of trials and tribulations, ups and downs that are to be expected as a new nation is growing up and trying to establish an identity of its own. These years witnessed many mistakes committed by all sides. Christians in general and Maronites in particular were more than glad to exploit their preferred status and rule as supremacists which led to deepened hatred , alienation and divisiveness. The Moslem Sunnis overcompensated by resisting the emergence of a Lebanese identity and thus throwing their lot with Nasserism and Pan Arabism. The Shiites on the other hand were the odd man out, exploited and not taken seriously by both sides. Maronite Hegemony begot the 1958 conflict which ended only when the Marines landed in Beirut. The road to independence and nation building regrouped under president Fouad Shehab who was able to introduce some reforms and to keep the country together. But the regional effects of the 1967 defeat of the Arab armies which led to the rise of the PLO and Palestinian resistance was too much for the young, small and fragile country to handle. A civil war that lasted 15 years started in 1973 and did not end until destruction and exhaustion had forced all sides to seek a new constitution in Taif.
The age of Syrian suzerainty had already started in 1975 as the Syrian army entered Lebanon on behest of some Lebanese political groups but that “temporary” presence became deeply entrenched after 1991 with the complicity of the United States. Then 2005 witnessed the passage of 1559 by the UN security Counsel and the Syrian Accountability Act by the US Congress which led to the assassination of Premiere Rafic Hariri. This tragedy emboldened the Lebanese opposition to call for massive demonstrations which helped force Syria to withdraw from the country. Bashar Assad, the Syrian President, promised that Syria would be back. Well guess what. He has kept his word, thanks to Hezbollah, Amal, FPM and a few other Lebanese factions and Lebanon’s promise of independence and sovereignty is just that. The dream of a Cedar Revolution ebbed and flowed for 4 years. Its official death notice was the formation of a “national unity cabinet” two weeks ago.