On reading the Lebanese press, in particular the local political news page with its stories on the garbage crisis, the quarries, the sewers, the electricity, the cell phone, the money laundering, etc., one feels utter disgust verging on nausea. Same thing with watching the news on any of the television channels and getting a glimpse of the fascinating politicians of Lebanon; nausea here quickly turns into sickness to the stomach. A few examples:
The garbage issue has become an insoluble and chronic crisis as piles of the stuff have grown into mountains year after year, dotting the Lebanese coast north to south, beginning with the Beddawi dump in Tripoli, the dumps at Bourj Hammoud and the Normandy in Beirut, and ending with the dumps of Naame, Sidon and Tyre in the south. The latter three are by far the frontrunners in that they are like the New York or Chicago skyscrapers, even matching in their majesty the Jupiter Temple of Baalbeck!! Not to mention the stench that wafts from these peaks and pollutes the cities and towns of Lebanon. And these shores that once sent civilization and the alphabet to the nations of the earth, here they are today – in the age of Taef – dispatching plastic bags with their refuse to neighboring countries. Last year, when these Lebanese products reached the Turkish shores, Ankara sent cables of protests to the so-called Lebanese government in an attempt to salvage its tourist season!!
Add to this unique feat in the annals of tourism the story of sewers and waste water running down the streets and between homes, proudly making their way to the sea without any prior treatment. Some of these waters have even carved small falls that have yet to be flagged as dangerous because they have not matched the height of the Niagara Falls!
As to the crisis of the stone quarries, it has become a headache because behind each quarry there is either a local lord or zaïm, or a government official who care nothing for the law. They go on chipping at the mountainsides, grinding the rock and disfiguring the environment, and erasing the last remnants of Lebanon’s natural beauty. Our green mountains have become dry desert mountains.
Then there is the electricity and its chronic power outages, and the rising taxes that are constantly slapped on owners because the state is unable to collect taxes from certain security quarters such as the Southern suburbs of Beirut, some Baalbeck-Hermel areas, and the rest of the Palestinian camps with their capital in Ain-Hilwé where the tax collectors dare not go…Not to mention the government officials and those with connections whose taxes are de facto waived because they can simply get away with it.
What of the cell phone issue and the fierce battles being waged around it by the wolves in power who simply want to monopolize it? They lately turned all debates on it into closed sessions so that no one knows the profits involved or the means to break through its walls.
And last but not least, the Medina Bank finance scandal that stole the show in the theft of depositors’ monies and commissions, such that it had become the kingdom of money laundering and illegitimate get-rich schemes.
Such are the proud harvests of Taef and its regime that stands clueless as to how to solve the simplest of problems that even the Third World has beaten us to. As if a resolution of the problems of sewers and garbage collection is linked to a regional settlement or to major worldwide milestones or the success of the roadmap!!
We don’t know what reports Western ambassadors in Beirut send back to their governments about the administrative state of affairs of Lebanon, forgetting for a moment the politics, the economy, the finances, the social and the security issues which we know are abysmal. What we know is that these governments, and the US Administration in particular, insist on supporting this rotten regime and refuse to deal with any other, arguing that it is the best regime for maintaining stability and civil peace, “preventing a return of the civil war” and other such inane arguments. We challenge these governments to conduct a poll of the Lebanese people and see what support they have for the regime. Probably not more than 5% of Lebanon’s people will, keeping in mind that this minority will be the men, henchmen, cronies, and other profiteers and parasites of the regime who thrive on the country’s miseries.
It is no secret that the majority of the Lebanese people know this false peace for the big lie that it is, and in an ironic twist feel nostalgia for the miserable days of the war. Governments can continue supporting this rotten regime, but the people will continue their war against it until the day of reckoning, which appears to be very close. Then, there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Lebanon, at your service,
July 25, 2003