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The People of Coffins and the Ammonium Nitrate Republic

The People of Coffins and the Ammonium Nitrate Republic

Monday, 2 August, 2021 - 08:30
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Messages flooded his phone. The callers informed him that a strange smell was pervading the country. A strong and confusing smell. Deep anger and violence. Sadness mingled with dark resentments. The smell of widespread oppression and deep desire to object, to protest against the officials’ and politicians’ contempt of the blood of the martyrs, of the tears of mothers, the wails of widows and the sorrow of orphans. An odd and unique smell.


No state has ever shown such contempt to its people as the “Ammonium Nitrate Republic” has to the martyrs of the Beirut Port blast. The truth is it has shown contempt to everyone without exception and squandered the blood of all martyrs without exception.


The callers spoke of suspicious movements in coastal and mountain cemeteries. They spoke of mysterious contacts between the dwellers of coffins. It is as if they exchanged passwords and kicked off the execution phase. The callers later reported seeing coffins moving out of cemeteries and heading towards the capital. They did not recommend opening fire at the moving coffin dwellers because they have been repeatedly assassinated by the officials and politicians. The callers recommended intensifying security measures around public institutions, including the government Grand Serail, parliament and presidential palace.


The officials issued strict instructions, but they avoided identifying the potential attackers. They sufficed with tightening security at public institutions. They refrained from speaking of an imminent attack by the coffins because that could scare away the reinforcements that were sent to confront any possible coup.


His telephone was ringing off the hook. His callers informed him that the coffins have taken the shape of balls of fire, light and blood and that they were careening towards Beirut. They reported that the checkpoints did not dare to stand in their way. The coffins were now gathered at Martyrs’ Square in Beirut. The official was exasperated. What was it with this country and its constant need for more martyrs? What was it with this country whose corrupt figures bathe in the blood of martyrs? He remembers that he must conceal his emotions.


They were a people of coffins. They approached the Grand Serail and laid out accusations against every one who kept the building vacant in a city that has been dizzying between graves, wounds and funerals. This is the most violent authority in the world, even though cowardice is its highest honor. A weak and sterile authority, which possesses a massive ability to show contempt to blood, tears and pain.


The coffins drew near the esteemed parliament and they spat out profane accusations against the MPs. The martyrs were heard saying: “The parliament is a major partner and among the architects of the collapse. All of the government’s policies of waste and collapse bare its signature. All the odd financial policies have its approval.”


The official began to grow very worried. He has a feeling that the people of the coffins will not rest until they reach the presidential palace. The commander of the presidential guard met the news with evident confusion. Bullets may scare the living, but not martyrs. It is not wise to shoot at coffins. He ordered that checkpoints be reinforced to ward off any odd movement.


But what is written cannot be changed. A wave of coffins overwhelmed the checkpoint leading to the presidential palace. Soon the coffins invaded the palace’s main yard. The guards noticed that every martyr brought with them a widow, bereaved mother and orphan.


After a terrible silence, the official went out of the palace and stood staring in awe. He could not believe his eyes. His hands clearly began to tremble. He asked the people of the coffins to form a committee and prepare a list of demands to refer them to the concerned sides. The coffins roundly mocked his request.


They said: “We are martyrs, we no longer have demands. Rather, we are here to accuse you of also killing the living by starving, displacing and humiliating them and of hiding behind your immunities. We accuse you of being cowards and of knowing for years of the dormant ammonium nitrate threat at Beirut Port. None of you dared to raise your voices.”


Another martyr harshly said: “The explosion stripped you of your privileges and titles, so don’t be late in appearing in court. There is no point in avoiding it.” Another was heard saying: “How do Aoun and Hariri have the right to use up months of the life of a stricken country in spiteful political bickering? At any rate, this is not odd. Hariri is a partner in making the collapse and Aoun is the main architect of the presidential and government vacuum. He kept on rattling the republic until he received a state stripped of its dignity. How can Aoun accept for history to remember him as the president of the Ammonium Nitrate Republic?”


One of the martyrs brought with him on the first anniversary of the port cataclysm the latest report on the losses. The number of port blast fatalities stood at 214. The wounded at 6,500. Over 70,000 people lost their jobs and 73,000 apartments were damaged. The damage also affected 106 health establishments and 163 schools. He does not like skepticism. He thanked the international report for pointing out that the ammonium nitrate that detonated at the port was only 20 percent of the shipment that was unloaded by the lowly foreign ship. No state agency wants to think about the circumstances that saw the disappearance of the original amounts that had left the port without authorization. These are among the state secrets that include the identities of assassins and perpetrators of horrific bombings.


The people of the coffins demanded the president to come outside and personally address them. His aides warned that appearing before them is fraught with dangers and that the martyrs could commit acts that the living avoid. Moreover, the president has nothing to say to the people of the coffins. The situation of the state today is worse than what it was when he assumed the presidency. The same goes for military and civil institutions.


As for the people.


Not since the independence has such collapse, hunger, darkness, humiliation and lack of security and medicine all come together under one presidential term. The youth of the “great Lebanese people” have never jumped on to the “death boats” to rid themselves completely of the country of “forensic audit” that takes place after the death of the patient.


The problem does not lie in the coffins in the presidential palace yard. Rather, history will attest that the current corrupt political class built a massive coffin 10,452 kms in size to match the map of an entire country that used to be called Lebanon. It is the end of a presidential term and the end of a republic. Some avow that it is the end of a country.


Aoun’s story is occasionally painful for his rivals and always painful for his supporters. It would have been better had he never entered the presidential palace the way he chose and the way he had to.


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