Exclusive Interview With Gabriel Issa

On January 27, 2005, Oroom forum did an interview with one of the Lebanese American Council for Democracy – LACD Founders Mr. Gabriel Issa about President General Michel Aoun.


Q- Describe to us General Michel Aoun.

A- This is the toughest question that you have asked me. I am afraid that whatever I say about General Aoun, I wouldn’t be able to do him justice.

There are things that everyone knows or has heard about him. He is nice, caring, forgiving, compassionate, passionate, proud, honest, simple and unpretentious. He is also smart, wise, cultured, clear-minded, analytical, intuitive and has demonstrated quite an impressive political clairvoyance. Let us not forget patriotic. Many people don’t know this, but he is very funny too. He always has jokes.

Some people used to portray him as extremist. To the contrary, I find him to be quite moderate and I think recent days have proven that. Sometimes people misconstrue his passion or his firmness for extremism. Even with all his passion for his country and his patriotism, he can still be very understanding and accepting of the views and concerns of those who disagree with him. I have found him to be more so when he is in a position of strength. He is very firm on certain issues but that does not qualify him as extremist. Being firm on issues that are just is an admirable quality of fairness and an antithesis of extremism which, by definition, comprises unreasonable and unjust demands.

This is a tough question. I can go on forever but I will end it with what I think is General Aoun’s two most important qualities. I admire most in him his humanity and simplicity.

When I talk about General Aoun’s humanity, I am not talking about his unwavering advocacy of the respect of human rights. I am rather talking about his deep-rooted belief in human values as the proper foundation for relations between people. As religious as he is, he refuses to accept religion as the yard stick by which you measure other humans. Nor does he believe in other divisive antiquated notions, such as tribalism, sex, race, age, or what have you, as an adequate basis for such relations. He believes, almost to the point of obsession, in human values being the real common denominator between people.

As for his simplicity, I think it emanates from being at peace with his own beliefs and is a manifestation of an unshakable self-confidence. I have seen him content with the simple life that he leads, not that he could not have chosen a much more lavish one. At a restaurant table full of gourmet food, I have seen him set his eyes on a head of tomato, slice it and start eating it with the biggest appetite. The best part is when he transfers half of the tomato to your plate presuming that you, like him, would gladly forgo all the other sumptuous dishes for a ripe red tomato. You might think this is petty, but it does tell you a lot about a person.

Before you visit him at home, as a common person, you get nervous not knowing what to expect. After all, you are about to meet a unique leader and an idol to many Lebanese. You sit there and discover a simple father, mother and children no different than any average Lebanese family. I have seen him prodding and encouraging a simple layperson intimidated by his presence as if to tell him “be yourself; you are no less than I am”. I have also seen him get infuriated by any show of arrogance or condescension from very influential people as if to tell them “spare me your nonsense; you are no better than anyone else”.

I remember visiting him with an influential American friend who had a lot of admiration for General Aoun but had never met him or seen a picture of him. The General was so unpretentious when he received us that, ten minutes into the conversation, my friend addressed a young officer present in the room as “General Aoun”. You would think that an incident like this would have upset him. He just laughed it out.