Come with Me from Lebanon
by Ann Zwicker Kerr
Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1994. 322 pp. $28.95.
Reviewed by Hilal Khashan
Middle East Quarterly
On January 18, 1984, Malcolm Kerr, president of the American University of Beirut since 1982, was assassinated in his office on the campus by two unidentified gunmen. That event must have made his wife--the author of this book--averse to Lebanese society and politics, for her dislike punctuates the memoir under review. She tells of "manipulative and opportunistic" AUB students, corrupt and gossipy Lebanese politicians. Ann Kerr considers it futile for foreign states to try to bring factious Lebanese groups together. She recalls a 1958 observation by a "very un-Lebanese looking policeman [an Italian brought over; one of a group to help relieve Beirut's traffic jams] in a spic-and-span white uniform" trying unsuccessfully to solve a traffic problem caused by two Lebanese drivers. The problem started, went out of control, and was eventually resolved by motorists in a traditional fashion while the policeman was busy blowing a whistle.
The section with information about the assassination of AUB's president is the most important. The author reminds us that relations between Malcolm Kerr and Amin Gemayel (the Phalangist President of Lebanon) were bad, mainly because the former was sympathetic to Lebanese Muslims and favorably disposed toward the Palestinians. The author reports that a former AUB administrator (who later became a cabinet member) planted the idea that Malcolm was opposed to the Gemayel regime. Although informed opinion in Beirut (especially in its Christian half) implicates the regime with perpetrating Kerr's assassination, the author does not press the issue of who did the killing beyond citing a few words from a letter sent to her by her husband: "I am planning to stay in this job for a long time, provided by new-found enemies [the Phalangists] don't manage to get rid of me."
Ann Kerr was not oblivious to the risks that went with her husband's job. Aside from living in a combat zone, she was haunted with the possibility that he might be assassinated. Though not convinced that he should stay in Lebanon, since AUB was no longer performing the functions for which it was created. However, she admits to not objecting because she wanted her "crack at being the President's wife."
Related Topics: Lebanon | Hilal Khashan | March 1995 MEQ
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