Some people worshipped him; some disliked him. He was a leader to many; to others, he was an enemy to be eliminated. But above all, he was a man who carried a dream and who had conviction, strength and popular support to make that dream a reality.
He had already begun weaving the threads of a new fabric for his country when his life was cut short by those who feared the changes he proposed. But his spirit lives on in those who knew and loved him. Out of the wound in our bleeding hearts, out of the tears in our children's eyes, out of our strong attachment to our land, he emerged and struck lightning in the sky giving us hope and a dream, a beautiful dream of a free 10452km2; Lebanon. Free of all foreign occupation and brotherly presence.
He gave us the dream of a strong unified Lebanon whereby all its different ethnic and religious groups could coexist in peace and harmony.
After the Cairo Agreement, the situation in Lebanon was steadily deteriorating, with continued violent outbreaks of fighting between the armed Palestinians and the Lebanese Army. Attacks by the armed Palestinians against Israeli targets across the Lebanese-Israeli border grew more numerous and deadly. After the Lebanese-PLO war broke on in April 1975, Bashir joined his fellow militia members of the Kataeb party in defending the Christian areas against the PLO attacks.
When William Hawi, Commander-in-Chief of the Kataeb Military Council was killed in the Lebanese Forces siege of the PLO stronghold in Tell Zaatar in July 1976, Bashir was chosen to succeed him. By August 30, he was appointed head of the unified command of the Lebanese Forces, a coalition of the Christian militias of the Kataeb Party, National Liberal Party, the Tanzim and the Guardians of the Cedars.
On July 7, 1980, these Christian militias were unified into one as the Lebanese Forces with Bashir Gemayel as their Commander-in-Chief. By January 1981, Gemayel also held positions as Chief of the Kataeb Security Council and member of the Kataeb Political Bureau.
As Commander-in-Chief, Bashir went on strengthening the military branch of the Lebanese Forces, instituting military training in schools of the Christian sector to build up reserves. He also gave the Lebanese Forces a broader political dimension and popular basis. He organized public services in the liberated areas (Eastern Region) to substitute for the lack of government provided services. These included a public transportation system; a popular committee to provide the daily needs of the population such as water, electricity, road maintenance, garbage collection, sewage, social relief services, etc.; two radio stations and a television station; and a small airport.
Under President Elias Sarkis, a Council of National Salvation was formed in June 1982 which grouped the major militia and political leaders in an effort to draw up measures to end the seven years of war which had shaken Lebanon. Gemayel participated on the short-lived Council as the representative of the Lebanese Forces.
As Commander-in-Chief of the Lebanese Forces, Bashir had many opportunities to meet foreign officials both abroad and in Lebanon to discuss his vision of Lebanon. Most notably of these were several trips he made to the United States, where he consulted with officials from the State Department, the White House, Senators and Congressmen; his visit to Saudi Arabia in July 1982 to consult with King Fahd; his meeting with European Christian Democrat Parliamentary groups; and his meetings with US, UN and Arab envoys who were working on finding solutions to the Lebanese crisis.
Bashir officially announced his candidacy for President of the Republic of Lebanon on July 24, 1982. On August 23, 1982, Gemayel was elected President of the Republic in a second ballot by a vote of 57 for with 5 abstentions.
During the next few weeks, he held countless planning sessions and intensive meetings with Christian and Moslem leaders, preparing plans for the rebirth of Lebanon. He began rallying l Lebanese people, Moslems and Christians alike, around him as no other leader in Lebanon had been able to do since independence.
Nine days before he was to be inaugurated President, Bashir attended his usual discussion session at the Kataeb office in Ashrafieh. A powerful explosion on the second floor ripped through the building, killing Bashir along with 26 others. The hero and hope of Lebanon was dead and all Lebanon mourned.
It was later discovered that two members of the National Syrian Socialist Party one of whom was related to the owners of the building in which the Ashrafieh Kataeb offices were located, were the instigators of the bombing and that Syria was behind the assassination.
Bashir was frank and direct in his dealings with people. His zeal for the Lebanese cause, an independent Lebanon free of all foreign occupation, inspired many. This goal took him around the world, meeting with Arab and Western leaders, in search for solutions and support. He was a bold man, charismatic, decisive. He maintained a clear political course, attracting young, dynamic and specialized individuals to the cause. He was forthright and realistic, a man who refused compromise or half-way solutions. He was open to dialogue and not afraid of criticism.
The Lebanese emigrants had a major role to play in supporting the Lebanese cause, Bashir believed. He instituted offices in many countries overseas, including the Unites States, France, Brazil, West Germany and Italy to keep those governments informed about the Lebanese communities there active in working for the liberation of their mother country, Lebanon.
Gemayel consistently worked for free, democratic, independent Lebanon, pluralist in nature and strong, secure state. He believed that Moslem and Christian can live together in peace and that Lebanon need to maintain good relations with the Western World as well as the Arab World. He advocated the withdrawal of Syrian forces occupying Lebanon since 1975, the withdrawal of Israeli forces occupying Lebanon since June 1982 and disarming of the Palestinians while on Lebanese soil. When Bashir Gemayel announced his candidacy for the presidency, he went beyond confessional conflicts and personality quarrels. He pursued a very sublime goal to unite all the Lebanese, defend the country's sovereignty and champion a modern and democratic Lebanon. Exhausted by so many years of war and terror under foreign occupation, the Lebanese yearned for independence, freedom and peace. This could only build upon a country at peace with itself. For this purpose, Gemayel ordered the Lebanese Forces as they prepared to reenter their villages to refrain, under heavy penalty, from any wrong doing to their Lebanese brothers. He firmly warned against any breach of discipline.
"Those against whom you fought; those who demolished your houses, desecrated the tombs of our grandfathers... we must respect their dead without any feeling of vengeance. They destroyed our homes, but we shall protect their homes... We must secure freedom and protection for every Lebanese without discrimination." (June 17, 1982).
In the Middle East, where tyranny, fanaticism, turmoil and intolerance exist, Lebanon was unique in his attempted to be the country of stability, liberty and tolerance--peaceful by vocation, democratic by tradition and liberal by civilization. Bashir Gemayel was seen as the man to restore this freedom and peace to his country. His candidacy was not only a bet on the future of Lebanon, but also on the interests of the Free World and above all the United States.
Bashir Gemayel's sole purpose from founding the Lebanese Forces was that he wanted an organization, a party that would always be ready, able and willing to stand in defense of Lebanon. He wanted it a strong political party and a strong military power whenever the Lebanese army failed to defend the country as was the case in 1975. The Lebanese Forces was created to make sure that what happened in 1975 never happens again and that the reasons, which lead to the starting of the war be resolved in a final and permanent way.
The Lebanese Forces was needed and Bashir saw to that need. When the Lebanese army unwillingly was divided there was a strong need for someone to protect the true and free Lebanese from Palestinian fighters who sought their Palestine through our Lebanon.
The Lebanese Forces and its allies resisted and liberated all of what was once known as the liberated areas where no foreign armies existed and where the Lebanese government and institutions were working freely and where the Lebanese Army had a presence.
The Lebanese Forces fought everywhere on the Lebanese soil trying to resist both foreign and local threats to Lebanon and its independence, in many cases our resistance was successful and we liberated our land due to the fact that the people of certain areas backed us and stood behind us and supported us and unfortunately we were not successful in others due to the fact that many local threats were a knife in our back working with the invaders against their fellow Lebanese.
In the summer of 1978 Bashir Gemayel and the Lebanese Forces launched the war that was later known as the one hundred days war which ended in a great big victory for the Lebanese Forces commanded by Bashir. Syrian and Palestinian forces were taken out of East Beirut and from then on wards it BEGUN.
Bashir resisted the Syrians and Palestinians anywhere they existed and anywhere he could attack them starting from the north, passing through Beirut all the way to the south and the mountain.
Bashir Gemayel gave his life for his dream and ours, he gave his daughter's life and set the example. He paved the way and believed in us to accomplish the mission.