Hanna Saleh

Only Radical Change Can Save Lebanon?

Many rolled their eyes as they heard Prime Minister Najib Mikati claim that anyone shown to have been involved in the killing of Irish UNIFIL peacekeeper Sean Rooney would be punished! No one in Lebanon was surprised to see him angrily ask what has happened to the investigation days after the crime against the UNIFIL forces in South Lebanon was perpetrated. No one has been arrested since the horrific crime that Hezbollah claims the “people of the area” had committed, as it always does when the UNIFIL is attacked in an area under the control of the statelet! This is despite the fact that leaks affirm that the UNIFIL vehicle was chased and had 27 bullets fired at it, leaving no room for doubt that this was a deliberate attack planned in advance by professionals!

Mikati’s irritation aside, citizens remember the promises that the investigation into the August 4 port blast that destroyed a third of the capital and led to mass extermination would conclude in five days. 28 months on from the crime, the people of Lebanon have seen nothing but the obstruction of the investigation and efforts to impede justice. This comes after the tyrannical authorities manage to arbitrarily end the investigation and prevent the judicial investigator from uncovering the truth about a blast of nuclear proportions.

Subsequent crimes that could well be linked to the port blast and the political activities of some victims were not seriously investigated either. No one has been accused no motives have been established. Nothing has come of the investigations into the assassinations of Lokman Slim, the photographer Joe Bejjani, and retired customs colonel Mounir Abou Rjeily. Meanwhile, the case file of Antoine Dagher, the former Head of the Group Ethics & Fraud Risk Management Department at Byblos Bank, found that “the surveillance cameras in the building and its surroundings were down.” All of this attests to the fact that the rule of law is weak when the militants of the statelet are accused of being behind the crime!

For decades, no one has been found guilty of a single of the many crimes that have shaken Lebanon. No one has been held accountable for the financial and political crimes that have drained the country’s resources either, while the authorities began putting their hands on people’s bank deposits in 2011. People are killed daily, and no one has been held responsible. There are no suspects. Thus, no one has been detained despite the fact that, in the blink of an eye, the vast majority of the Lebanese people went from living comfortably to being destitute.

In the early nineties, the General Amnesty Law was issued, closing the door to accountability for the crimes of the civil war, and many of the perpetrators went from killing and abducting people based on their identity to rulers of the country. They barricaded themselves behind legal immunities, special courts, and the amnesty law… After deliberately destroying the economy, the parliamentarians responsible for these crimes obstructed investigations into the looting and passed legislation to provide amnesty for it.

The hardships of the Lebanese are the result of an imbalance that began with the nullification of the constitution, the reinforcement of the sectarian-quota-based spoil-sharing regime, and the passing of legislation that legalized corruption- these are the claims of former prime minister Fouad Saniora. This process was facilitated by the Syrian regime’s representative in Lebanon, who controlled Lebanon’s decision-making and government, dazzling the Lebanese with slogans like “one nation in two countries.” This imbalance created a subjugated political class that suspended democracy, curtailed freedoms, and made partisan and syndical organizing impossible. Nothing changed after the earthquake of the “independence uprising” that led to the expulsion of the Syrian regime army.

The parties to the spoil-sharing regime then moved to conclude the sectarian “quadripartite agreement”, which brought together the “rival” March 8 and March 14 forces. The uprising was betrayed, killing a genuine opportunity for correcting the national imbalance of power! This imbalance was subsequently deepened with “national unity” governments that united the parties of the sectarian-based-quota spoil-sharing regime. These authoritarians considered the government their personal property, which they could use as they liked.

The politicians consistently prioritized their interests and their hold on power, allowing the borders to be violated, robbing the people and pillaging the country’s resources, and putting their hands on its public beaches. They used amoral, opportunistic technocrats to do their bidding. With the deal to bring Aoun to the presidency, they covered Hezbollah’s hijacking of the state with its arms, monopolizing decision-making, and perpetuating misgovernance. Instead of going down the path of success and development, they brought the country into the axis of resistance…

For this reason, even before the October revolution, but especially after it, there has been no vision for how to protect the people from the crushing collapse. Even the current caretaker government, Hezbollah’s government, has prioritized erasing billion of dollars in depositors’ money and imposing taxes that eat up income and line the pockets of those who became wealthy through the spoil-sharing regime. All of this is at the heart of the so-called “recovery” program.

October opened the door to change. The dispute is now between the sectarian mafioso alliance led by Hezbollah and the majority of the people, who have confidence in the revolution that arrived to clean up corruption and push for sovereignty and judicial accountability. The fact that parties to the regime left the Eden of power three years ago changes nothing! They are responsible as well. They had been gambling with deposits since 2011 to cover the state deficits and their looting, as well as the prosperity of the statelet’s parallel economy. By 2018 alone, the banking cartel had racked up 25 billion dollars in profits. They accumulated wealth as the country made losses. After the revolution, they smuggled tens of billions abroad, robbing depositors of their life savings. Those who want to agree to a “solution” with those responsible for the state of the country (and did it deliberately) are misguided.

The governments that were formed after October 17 considered the problems facing the country a detail. They covered up their crimes, announcing that the country’s gas wealth would solve the problem one day and claiming that the world would save us from the collapse another day. Meanwhile, the people were stranded outside of hospital doors! The corpses of those feeling on “death boats” were not recovered, leaving them to be eaten by the fish in the sea! This corruption is protected by the statelet’s arms, and it has left the people to fend for themselves after having been fooled by claims that the “Lira is fine!”

Change must encompass the relevant stakeholders if it is to be comprehensive. The balance of power must be changed, and the “historical bloc” must crystalize. We will not see another moment like that of October 17, and only the emergence of political parties that represent October and push for accountability and justice, protecting the freedom to disagree and retrieving the hijacked state, can reinstate citizens’ confidence in the state. The ultimate prerequisite for ending tyranny is the emergence of organized political movements that embrace the values crystallized by the revolution, reaffirming that the Lebanese people are employees working for the mafioso alliance protected by Hezbollah’s arms! Only then will targeting the UNIFIL become difficult and will the truth emerge. Until then, justice will continue to be obscured, and accountability will remain impossible... If this does not happen, as Rafik Koury has said, “the race to become president of the republic will finish off of the republic!”