issue 258 - August 1994
We need war
In Lebanon, perceptions are as important as facts. Christians today feel
threatened and many are leaving the country. Tony Fadoul is 27 years old,
a Christian and an ex-militiaman who still prefers war to peace.
Chris Martin talks to him to find out why.
GYSEMBERGH / CAMERA PRESS
We are a Christian Maronite family. We lived in a small village in the north of Lebanon until 1980. We left because of the threat from Syrian soldiers who had come to the country in 1976. It was not a direct physical threat but we felt constantly intimidated by them. My mother felt scared that something would happen to us if we stayed, so we moved to a Christian area not occupied by the Syrians.
Nearly all of my family were involved with the old Phalange Party. Both my uncle and father were members so I was exposed to it from a very early age. I always knew that I might join and always felt that to be a part of the Lebanese Forces – which began as the military wing of the Phalange Party– was an honourable thing. They were fighting for us Christians and I don’t see anyone else who will look out for us.
I had been out on small missions with older guys for quite a while but I became a full-time member in 1987 when I was 20 years old. They gave me a uniform, a gun, my own jeep and responsibility for about 15 people. We were paid around $60 a month and given free medical insurance. Some people did it for the money but most genuinely believed in what they were fighting for. I was studying at university at the time and was being supported by my parents so I didn’t need the money at all. I wasn’t alone in being a university student either. I would say that as many as 15 per cent of the students were involved with the militia.
I saw some terrible things while I was serving. We were stationed at a road-block and there would often be shootings there. I have been ordered to shoot people and I’ve done it. We didn’t have to accept the orders of the commanders but we nearly always did. It might be hard for you to understand but we believed in what we were doing. Some people were chicken and ran away but they were few.
For the most part though the tasks were less dramatic – guarding checkpoints and waving cars through, basic security things. You have to remember that there was no government then and someone had to police our streets and look after people, keep law and order. That’s what we did, protect our own people.
I left the militia in 1991 and I’ve been lucky, getting a good job in a firm that pays me $600 a month. Actually, I haven’t really left. It’s more that I’ve stopped taking an active part since the war ended in 1991. I still believe in the Lebanese Forces and would gladly go back and fight for them if they asked me to. I feel no guilt about fighting for them. Not at all. I am proud of what I have done. I regret the fact that the Lebanese Forces are not operational now.
Part of this comes from the sense of identity that you feel when you’re with the militia. It affected my life in many ways, almost like being in a family. When you are with people and you are being bombed you learn about them and get a special feeling of sharing and caring for those who share your beliefs. There was a sense of purpose in those days, having a commander to follow, feeling that you were doing something for your people that was respected. I feel lost without that identity.
It’s not just for me personally, though. I believe in the Christian cause in Lebanon and that the Lebanese Forces are the only way that we can rule the country. The situation now is a disaster; I hate it. I’m living in a country that doesn’t belong to me any more.
You might think I’m extreme in saying this but talk to others and you find they hold the same views. I’m just a normal guy. I’ve got a decent job, a girlfriend, I live with my family and I don’t break any laws. I want to have children like anyone else but I want them to be secure in a Christian Lebanon.
What will happen when Hariri goes? Can we really expect the Syrians to look after our interests? I believe that we have to be strong as Christians and that the Lebanese Forces are the only way we will be. It’s not that I want war for war’s sake but right now I genuinely believe we need a war in Lebanon. It’s better to die standing up than sitting down.