Tires are burning, smoke is rising towards the sky. It is October, the 18th day of the month, the capital city of Lebanon, in the past known as the “Paris of the East”, is covered in smoke.
For years I was warning that the country governed by corrupt, indifferent elites, could not hold together, indefinitely.
For all those five years when I was calling Beirut home, things were going down the drain. Nothing was improving: almost no public transportation, electricity shortages, contaminated and erratic water supply.
Periodically, garbage has been piling up along the streets and suburban roads. Once an airplane lands and the doors open, the terrible stench of garbage welcomes us, residents of Beirut, back home.
Almost everyone knew that all this could not continue like this, forever.
The city was suffering from 4th World diseases, while simultaneously being flooded with Land Rover SUVs, Maserati and Porsche sports cars, and Armani suits.
Beirut has almost collapsed to Jakarta levels, although, one has to admit, with extremely smart, highly educated and sophisticated elites, capable of conversing simultaneously in three world languages: French, Arabic and English.
Also, with first-rate art galleries, art cinemas, posh bars and nightclubs. With lavish marinas and the best bookstores in the entire Middle East.
Some say that Beirut has always been in possession of brain and guts, but something happened to its heart.
Now nothing really works here. But if you have millions of dollars, it does not really matter; you can buy anything here. If you are poor, destitute – abandon all hope. And the majority of the people here are now miserably poor. And no one even knows precisely how many are destitute, as a census is forbidden, in order ‘not to disturb religious balance’ (it was, for years, somehow agreed on, that it is better not to know how many Christians or Muslims are residing in the country).
It is certain that most of the people are not rich. And now, outraged by their rulers, corrupt politicians and so-called elites, they are shouting, loudly and clearly: “Enough!”, Halas, down with the regime!”
The government decided to impose a tax on WhatsApp calls. Not a big deal, some would say. But it was; it is, it suddenly became a big deal. “The last drop”, perhaps.
The city exploded. Barricades were erected. Tires were set on fire. Everywhere: in the poorest as well as in the richest neighborhoods.
“Revolution!” people began shouting.
Lebanon has a history of left-wing, even Communist insurgencies. It also has its fair share of religious, right-wing fanaticism. Which one will win? Which one will be decisive, during this national rebellion?
The Communist Party is now behind several marches. But Hezbollah, until now the most solid social force in the country, is not yet convinced that the government of Saad al Hariri, should simply resign.
According to Reuters:
Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said… that the group was not demanding the government’s resignation amid widespread national protests.
Nasrallah said in a televised speech that he supported the government, but called for a new agenda and “new spirit,” adding that ongoing protests showed the way forward was not new taxes.
Any tax imposed on the poor would push him to call supporters to go take to the streets, Nasrallah added.
So far, the rebellion has left countless people injured, while two Syrian immigrants lost their lives. Some local analysts say that this is the most serious uprising since the one in 2015 (which included the “You Stink!” campaign, reacting to the appalling garbage crises in Beirut and to the worsening social disaster), but others, including this author, are convinced that this is actually the most serious political catastrophe Lebanon has been facing since the 1980’s.
One hears anger, on every corner of the capital, in cafes and local stores:
Trust is broken!”
Even those who used to be far from any political activities are now supporting protesters.
Ms. Jehan, a local staff member at a UN office in Beirut, is one of those who found herself on the side of the rebellion:
What is happening to Beirut and all over in Lebanon is good. It is about time we stood up. I will go too. This has nothing to do with religions. It is about our shattered lives.”
Reading Western mainstream media, one could begin to believe that Lebanon’s main problems are issues like foreign debt (Lebanon is, on a per capita basis, the third most indebted country on earth. The debt stands at 150% of its GDP), miniscule real reserves (US$ 10 billion), and the way the country interacts with the donors and lenders. IMF and its “advice” are constantly mentioned.
But even news agencies like Reuters have to admit that the entire mess is far from just about structural problems:
As dollars have dried up, banks have effectively stopped lending and can no longer make basic foreign-exchange transactions for clients, one banker said.”
The whole role of banks is to pour money into the central bank to finance the government and protect the currency,” he said. “Nothing is being done on the fiscal deficit because doing something will disrupt the systems of corruption.”
And here is the key word: “Corruption!”
Lebanon’s elites are shamelessly corrupt. Only such countries like Indonesia are able to compete with the Lebanese troglodyte clans, when it comes to stripping the entire nation of its riches.
Almost nothing is clean, or pure in Lebanon, and that is also why there aren’t any statistics available.
Money comes from the monstrous and ruthless exploitation of natural resources in West Africa. Everybody knows it, but it is never addressed, publicly. I worked in West Africa, and I know what the racist Lebanese ‘business people’ are doing there. But money stolen from the Africans does not enrich Lebanon and its people.
It ends up in the Lebanese banks, and spent on lavish yachts, tacky and overpriced European sports cars, and inside bizarre private clubs in and around the capital. While many Lebanese people are near starvation, airplanes flying to Nice, Venice or Greek Islands are constantly packed with la dolce vita seekers.
Lebanon makes billions of dollars from narcotics, particularly those cultivated and refined in the Beqaa Valley. They get exported mainly to Saudi Arabia, for the consumption of the rich, or injected into the battlefields in Yemen and Syria, so-called combat drugs.
Again, everyone knows it, but nothing is done to stop it. Hundreds of families, from farmers to politicians, got filthy rich on that trade. This adds a few more super-yachts at the proverbial Beirut marinas.
Then, there is ‘foreign aid’, ‘European investment into infrastructure’, Saudi and Qatari money. Most of it goes, directly, into the pockets of corrupt officials, to the so-called ‘government’, and to its buddies, contractors.
Almost nothing is built, but the money is gone.
Lebanon has railroad employees who are getting their monthly paychecks, but no railways, anymore. Train station had been converted into vodka bar. Lebanon begs for money so it can host refugees from all over the region, but much of the money ends up in a few deep pockets. Very little goes to the refugees themselves, or to the poor Lebanese people who have to compete for low-paying jobs with the desperate Syrians or Palestinians.
The poor are getting poorer.
Yet, Ethiopian, Philippine and Kenyan maids are dragging the groceries of the rich, wiping spit off the faces of babies born into elite families, and cleaning toilets. Some get tortured by their masters, many commit suicide. Lebanon is a tough place, for those who do not look Phoenician or European.
And the slums in the south of Beirut are growing. And some Lebanese cities, like Tripoli in the north, look like tremendous slums, altogether.
Ali, a receptionist at a hotel in downtown Beirut laments:
I work here as a receptionist for 14 hours and earn only 540 USD every month. I need a minimum of 700 USD to survive. I have a sister in US and want to visit her only for a week, but there is no way I can get visa. I am only 24 years old. I see no future in this country, like so many thousand others protesting in the streets of Beirut.”
According to various estimates, Lebanon may collapse as early as in February 2020. No more money can be looted. The end game is approaching.
If it does collapse, the rich will have their golden parachutes. They have their families abroad: in Australia, Brazil, France. Some have two passports, others have houses in the most desirable parts of the world.
The poor will be left with absolutely nothing: with a carcass of a country, previously looted by its own elites. There will be rotting, ageing Ferraris, all over, but one cannot eat carcasses of cars. There will be lavish but abandoned swimming pools, right next to polluted and destroyed beaches.
People know it, and they have had enough.
Mohamed, a worker at a Starbucks cafe in Beirut is determined:
This is terrible but it is about time. We can take no more. We need to change the country, drastically. This time things are different. Not about who we worship but about our daily lives.”
Lebanon, in comparison to other shamelessly-capitalist countries, is well-educated. People here cannot be fooled.
The rebellion against the elites has just begun. People want to take back their country.
First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook – a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences
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From Iranian Islamic Communist press attache in Paris, Ramin Mazaheri, the real scoop on Lebanon:
Iranian communist Ramin Mazaheri, points to a contending primate in the room; a 100 kilo chimpanzee — France:
A clip from Ramin’s post:
“What most Lebanese know quite intimately is that they no longer have a “real” economy. Their export capabilities are so woeful that scrap iron was their third top export in 2017, at just $179 million.
This is unsurprising, because Lebanon’s longtime function was to serve as France’s Middle East banking haven, with Switzerland-level secrecy laws dating to 1956. However, they have increasingly been replaced by Qatar and other Persian Gulf nations. Banking is still a strong sector of their economy, but now mainly due to the huge number of remittances (only 4 million Lebanese live in Lebanon but there are an astonishing 8-12 million living as expatriates).
All this wouldn’t be a problem if Lebanon had a strong government to centrally plan and direct their limited economy, and also a government which cared for their 99% instead of their 1%, but Lebanon has neither of these things. The reason for this has nothing to do with Hezbollah, but everything to do with the real root of the current protests. After the Taif Accords in 1989 and the fall of the USSR in 1991, Rafic Hariri, who became Lebanon’s richest man/prime minister thanks to earning billions via construction with the House of Saud, embarked on the massive “Horizon 2000” privatisation plan, which sold off the major industries and real estate of the Lebanese people. Hariri, in classic Western fashion, privatised the people’s wealth mainly to himself, but also to French companies.
Hariri’s “There Is No Alternative” (to neoliberalism) plan also included massive efforts to attract foreign investment, which ballooned the national debt “
Iranian communist? Only possible outside of Iran; those inside are dead or hiding.
Anyway, Hezbollah is run by Macron-France, right? 😀
Saker Vineyard have put up a thread on these latest Lebanese disturbances. The gorilla in the room of course is Hezb’Allah. So far, the Rev.Nasr’Allah has called the peoples’ grievances legitimate; but Hezb is obviously the only part of the Lebanese govt that is not corrupt. So, is the AZC now going to hijack this popular movement and turn it into a campaign against Hezb? Anon BTL:
“The magical word ‘fighting corruption’ of the thieving governments who lead ‘lavish lives’ in some ‘Green Zones’ ‘out of touch with the real people’, that is the banner of any ‘popular/populist’ ‘revolution’ from Paris to Hong-Kong to Venezuela and Chile, should have alerted everyone, but it doesn’t. It shows in fact the ability of the US-Israeli propaganda machine to obscure the real targets and the unfortunate propensity of the ‘downtrodden masses’ to fall for it and offer themselves to be the cannon fodder, as well as of the global ‘Left’ who would support it internationally.”
Good one, and more in line with reality than what else is been written lately.
Some few things, why I never go into details, like fractions, tribes, religion, lagnuages, etc is that this are not vital for the politics of an nation, what is vital is how you run an nation, the reason for this corruption is greed, and raw political power, since then you have an foot inside where destitions are made, and whom cares about political jockeys when its the byroCrauts that runs the entire nation, they deside where the mooney go, and the polticians just points into whatever direction and the mooney follows that path.
Its an copy of others, like whats going on in South-america, like the latest attacks on Bolivia where the problem is oposit to Lebanon, its doing really well, and thats because it have an Gov run by people whom knows what this is about, nationalising.
And yet its been attacked.
If you read the latest article written about it, its perfectly sumerised in Escobars Burn NeoLiberliasm Burn.
I leave out ISISrael for an reason, since ISISrael is having the same problems, why we dont read about it is because of the same fundamental issue, aka propaganda.
They are infact ruining their own “homeland”, yeah, I warned them, stupid ignorant Jews.
Its about Greed in an world run by psycopaths, and they have mooney, and now they have the control.
That, gentlemen and ladys, is the problem.
No better understanding of Beirut’s current dilemma than from the Independent’s Fisk, who has lived there for years.. No Lebanese faction is currently immune, even Hezbollah..
Other current quality journalism comes from the Independent’s Cockburn, who is there in Baghdad..
How was the Independent able to retain such free-reporting voices as these two, in an otherwise bent MSM sink-hole? Quite a paradox, imo..
Robert Fisk survives because he has to drink from the same bowl of Kool-Aid punch that sanitises the White Helmets jihadists as first-response humanitarian workers and demonises the Syrian government as a dictatorship.
See here how Fisk rationalises the paradox of refugees from the alleged chemical weapons attack on Douma in early 2018 telling one and all about having suffered from the attack while residing safely in camps in Turkey while people actually in Douma interviewed by Fisk have no memory of such an attack:
I don’t grasp the context which you mention. His report clearly refuted the official narrative, as he often does.. When it can’t be clearly shown as obvious porkies, then he might do a skillful tap dance around the subject, as vexarb so cleverly stated..
Your posts are vastly informative, from a wealth of resources..
In China, all western msm is blocked, even my premium vpn.
It is refreshing to occasionally come across a Fisk, Vanessa Beasley, Vltchek, Pilger or Pepe Escobar on an alternative site, before they are also blocked.. Cheers !
Fisk and Cockburn are very skilful tap dancers; they never step on the lines around the tiles on which they dance. When I was following NATZO’s war against Syria, reading both SyrPer News and the Indie, real hot news on SyrPer occasionally re-appeared a few weeks later as some guardedly-worded, insider-sounding “report” [no comments allowed] from one or other of the Indie’s dancing duo.
You see the same phenomenon of self censorship with people like Chomsky and Galloway. Trying to pick their battles and avoiding traps that are constantly being set for them.
No American and UK flags?
No ‘President Trump, please liberate Beirut’?.
I think Lebanon is one of those places you really do have to see to have an
understanding hence grateful for sharing this insight.
Difficult to cheer on a demonstration these days as who knows if there are hidden sinister elements to it.
I guess one immediate concern is an element of this could be certain foreign powers are plotting moves in the background to hijack this.
Interesting but maybe not surprising reaction from Hezbollah who seem to be taking their responsibilities seriously.
One thing I do sense from demonstrations in the Middle East and N Africa lately is the people are now wise of the ‘Arab Spring’ route and seeing things hijacked and spiral out of control. Hopefully this means the the protests will focus on the main concerns, i.e the abuse of power by the elites, rather than escalating to sectarian issues. Despite this and the political system bringing paralysis to every day life I think the Lebanese are resilient and intelligent enough to avoid this. Hopefully the people will rid themselves of the parasites and eventually find a better system for all to live better lives and make their country stronger.
A mess in the world, even the ME not yet blamed on Israel till now!
Count down 9,8,7,6,……
The jews are behind this because they do not want a strong arabic state
Not blamed on Israel …till you mentioned it. As you intented.
Could be coming to a town near you soon.
I know. It sounds like California.
San Francisco most of all.
Knee deep in human faeces outside the gated communities of all the Hollywood luvvies.
Coming soon to a city near you.
If it isn’t there already.
There are (a lot) more beggars here than there are in Africa and India.
Hey, this is capitalism!
Suck it up!!
If you don’t like it, go live in North Korea!!
Sorry, just quoting a certain woman Tory MP.
Mark: “If you don’t like it, go live in North Korea!!”
I remember not so long ago OffG published a very favourable essay on NK by Andre: photos showed people who were clean, cheerful, comfortable, safe, well fed, well housed, relaxing on roller skating rinks; he showed fotos of broad streets with little traffic. It seemed a much nicer place than Andre’s Indonesia, his Hong Kong or his Lebanon.
Link to Andre’s NK idyll:
Just remembered: NK was the place of which POTU$A Harry Truman (homicidal maniac in a business suit) said “we bombed till there was nothing left to bomb” — but they kept coming. And still do so.
Yes, they certainly like to sneer at poverty and hardship in places like DPRK and Cuba.
I sometimes wonder how much better off DPRK might have been if it hadn’t been bombed back to the Stone Age and a substantial proportion of its population wiped out.
Or if it hadn’t had to maintain a million strong army to deter further US military adventures.
Or if it hadn’t been subjected to over 60 years of economic warfare and economic strangulation.
The standard of living would probably be a little bit higher.
Internal controls might even have been relaxed.
The same applies to Cuba.
60 years of economic strangulation have cost it over $1 trillion.
About $100,000 per head per Cuban.
It’s like slashing somebody across the face and then sneering at them for being ugly.
But then that’s all in character for our American chums.
Like Tillerson gloating over Korean fishermen drowning because sanctions had forced them to take risks.
Or Allbright casually dismissing 500,000 dead Iraqi children under 5.
Or Mnuchin casually threatening further strangulation of Iran’s economy.
Charming people, these Americans, and their Israeli masters.
But what goes around, comes around.
Maybe one day soon, they’ll have to watch their children die for lack of food and basic medicine.
Maybe a lot sooner than anyone thinks.
edited by Admin to correct typo
The 1% get the peaches; the 99% get the punches..
The rich get the prunes, the others get the shits..
It’s the same the whole world over / Isn’t it a bloomin’ shame?
It’s the rich wot gets the pleasure / It’s the poor what gets the blame.
Lebanon is a very artificial country created on religious grounds by the Catholic French colonialists to provide an enclave for the Maronites. That wouldn’t be too bad in itself, but they insisted on including a much larger area than was justified containing all sorts of communities who could have no possible interest in such a project. By rights it should have remained part of Syria.
Lebanon has never been a functioning sovereign state. It is incapable of forming a coherent government providing basic services for its people. It is just a patchwork quilt of mutually antagonistic sectarian and tribal factions, each looking after their own interests, with a hopelessly corrupt and incompetent leadership. Each faction is a state within a state and a law unto itself, often with its own quasi government, militia and services. This state of affairs has been institutionalised in the constitution of the country. About 4 million live in Lebanon, but there are 20 million plus Lebanese living abroad, rather like the Jews.
Periodically the state disintegrates into civil war, with foreign powers picking over the carcass. I spoke to a UK soldier who served there during the period of maximum violence around the time of the Marine and French barracks bombings in the early 1980s. (The UK government, in its infinite wisdom, sent a small force with a few armoured cars there to join the French and Americans. Miraculously, they came out without a single casualty.) He explained the situation to me. In a country about the size of Wales with a population around 3 million, 5 foreign regular armies and air forces (not including the Lebanese) together with about 200 private armies, militias, terrorist groups, and heavily armed mafia clans and criminal gangs, were fighting it out, changing sides with bewildering regularity, at each others’ throats one day and in bed with one another the next. One of the most fearsome of these bandit groups was the Bekaa Valley drug farmers’ militia, which was laudably and unusually non sedctarian. They didn’t mind paying bribes, but would react ferociously if anyone tried to interfere with their drugs business. They would happily take on both the Syrian Army and the Israeli Army. It was impossible even to work out what was actually happening on a day to day basis, much less control it.
The only purpose of the Lebanese Army was to provide a guard of honour for visiting dignitaries. At this time the Lebanese Air Force, which had only two aircraft, ceased to exist. Its two Hawker Hunters were sent to bomb a target. One was shot down and the surviving pilot, deciding discretion was the better part of valour, buggered off. He defected and landed in Cyprus. The Lebanese Army website contains an appeal from its commanding general for foreign donations of equipment……”the government can’t afford to buy us any equipment, so if you’ve got anything spare and can give it to us buckshee, we’d be grateful……..” America gave him some clapped out Korean War vintage tanks for a nominal $1 each.
The only reasonably honest and competent organisation in the country is Hezbollah. Without them, Lebanon would still be under Zionist occupation and covered with illegal settlements. It rebuilt the country after the 2006 war and provides essential services. The government does nothing. It provides nothing. It does not build infrastructure. All this, including the defence of the country, is undertaken by non government organisations and private individuals. It is all one dog eat dog free for all.
Foreign powers meddle in this madhouse at their own peril.
I should think the real issue is why the French colonialists created Lebanon for the Maronite Christians by cutting it out of Syria. They would not have created an enclave for the Maronites unless they saw a benefit out of carving territory from Syria and declaring it a separate country to be dominated by that group; otherwise, why not go ahead and balkanise Syria into lots of statelets, each and every one of them an ethnically and/or religiously homogeneous community? The Alawis would then have their own separate state, the Druzes would have theirs, likewise the Shi’a Muslims, the Sunni Muslims and all the various Christian sects including even the Armenians and Assyrians could have had their own states. The answer must have been, that the Maronite Christians were supposed to be the ears and eyes of the French state in Lebanon and to govern or help govern that state for the French.
Significantly though, no population census has been carried out in Lebanon since the 1930s when the state came into being.
I think it was Orientalist romanticism and nostalgia for the Crusades, if that makes any sense.
You are far less cynical than I. I didn’t think the French had such sentimental feelings for the Krak des Chevaliers castle. Oh wait, that’s in Syria … so why didn’t the French draw up the boundaries of Lebanon to include the castle?
At the time, mid 19th century, they tended to engage in these exotic and quixotic foreign adventures, like the ill starred entanglement in Mexico, in a search for la gloire and prestige. Napoleon III wanted to emulate his illustrious namesake. Of course, the French only claimed the area as the spoils of war under Sykes Picot after WW1, but they were active in the area long before that.