BEIRUT: Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi marked Army Day with a pledge to defend the country from all threats, while blaming the cancellation of the annual celebrations on the presidential vacuum.
“Fellow soldiers, in a country that is confronting terrorism and Israeli threats alongside internal and external wars, the military institution stood firm against any attempt aimed at tampering with its coexistence. On Aug. 1, we feel deeply proud that the Army is the symbol of this experience, for the salvation of Lebanon rests solely on its shoulders,” he said in his Order of the Day on the 69th anniversary of the Lebanese Army's creation.
Kahwagi pointed out that “the critical circumstances that we are facing with respect to the vacancy in the presidential post made it incumbent upon us to cancel Army Day celebrations.”
He said the presidential void also denied graduating officers the chance to receive celebratory swords, since the ceremony could only be organized under the patronage of the president of the Republic.
“The first of August is a date engraved in our memory, and we have previously gone through this experience when the war was devastating the country and prevented us from graduating officers,” he said.
Despite the lack of ceremony, Kahwagi stressed that “The [Army’s] anniversary will survive,” pledging that the Army “will keep the promise of defending Lebanon against all threatening dangers weather internal or external.”
The Army commander recollected the bitter experiences that Lebanon had faced in the past, vowing to keep the “Army as a symbol of national unity, diversity and coexistence which constitute the basic principles of Lebanese civilization.”
“The military institution has proven, despite encountered ordeals and repeated attempts at damaging [the country], that coexistence is a deeply engraved truth and conviction,” Kahwagi said, stressing that through its intrinsic structure, "the Army interprets the truth [of coexistence] day after day and endeavors to implement it on the ground."
Prime Minister Tammam Salam called Defense Minister Samir Moqbel and Kahwagi, greeting them and praising the Army’s efforts in “safeguarding the nation’s security and stability and enhancing unity among its people.”
He also expressed regret that the Army's day was not accompanied by a celebration this year, which took away some of the day’s symbolism. Referring the lack of a ceremony due to the presidential void, Salam called on all political parties to “put the nation’s interest above all considerations and to proceed to elect a president as soon as possible.”
In an interview Friday, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea praised Salam’s decision to avoid organizing an Army Day ceremony in light of the presidential void, stressing however that the “Army’s day exists in the heart of each one of us.”
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri saluted the Army’s leadership and members, expressing respect to the martyrs who had fallen performing their duties.
Berri hailed “the Army’s handling of both the security and the defense responsibilities at this special political moment.” He stressed that safe-guarding security stability in Lebanon is the key tool to confront Israeli aggression and the “takfiri attacks threatening to divide the region.”
Defense Minister Moqbel also greeted the Army in a statement Friday, calling for “preserving its unity” and praising its sacrifices. He described the institution as the “hope of all Lebanese and the bridge of salvation toward civil peace.”
The Lebanese Army was created on Aug. 1 when the the Special Troops of the Levant, an armed unit under French Mandate control, was handed over in 1945 to the government of Lebanon after it gained its independence.