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Macron in Beirut – Some moved to tears; It makes my stomach churn.

August 7, 2020

Beirut – after the blast. Largest explosion in an urban area since the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (photo – EPA)

A kind of master of theatrics, French President Macron flew to Beirut in a show of support and solidarity with the people of Beirut. Long time friends – some with diplomatic experience – were “moved nearly to tears” by Paris’s show of support and contrasted it with President Trump’s apparent lack of interest or concern.

I found Trump’s off the cuff remark along the lines that the generals told him it was “a bomb attack” – rather than the result of human error – curious and of interest, but one that could be interpreted in different ways.

Of course French regional interest in the Middle East, and France getting a jump on its allies had nothing to do with Macron’s visit. Nothing at all. Just remember how the French were over anxious to bomb Libya and send in their special forces to kill Khadaffi to position themselves for the spoils of that intervention.

Macron’s visit did not move me to tears, rather it made my stomach churn. And his remark in Beirut about how he’d “roll up his sleeves, and take over!!’ did likewise to many Lebanese, reminding them – as if they needed reminding of France’s colonial legacy in Lebanon and Syria.

What’s he up to?

What’s NATO up to and how will they, once again, using the well worn but completely cynical pretext of humanitarian intervention, find a pretext to send troops that will one day a week deal with the crisis in Lebanon but six days a week set their sights on turning back the advances made by Washington’s foes – Hezbollah, the Syrian government, Iraq and of course Iran? The U.S. and Israel’s hands have gotten burnt though military intervention in Lebanon in 1983 and again in 2006. Perhaps they’ll be more prudent this time? Dunno.

135 dead, 5000 wounded, 300,000 people displaced from their home and the port of Beirut which supplies 80% of Lebanon’s food supply, that part that is imported, is in tatters. The hospitals are already overworked, the wave of anger of the entire country exploding to unprecedented levels. This Lebanese government is, as they say, toast.

And into this vacuum, grave dangers for Libya-like NATO intervention, which will be cheered on by many as they cheered on the overthrow of Khadaffi.

Do I know all this for a fact, of course not, but there other examples, aren’t there?

Concerning who is responsible for this horrific event. Hold your fire; already competing narratives are at work. Teasing out whether it was massive incompetence and corruption by the Lebanese harbor authorities, ie, a non military incident as both the Israelis and Hezbollah originally stated, or something darker more insidious, ie, sabotage of some sort, remains to be seen.

What is clear is that a political vacuum has been created that is extraordinarily dangerous for Lebanon and the Middle East region as a whole. Keep in mind that just prior to Beirut explosion that Lebanon was already “on the edge” – if not at the very precipice of an out of control situation. With the explosion, the crisis has come to a head.

Concerning who is responsible for this horrific event. Hold your fire; already competing narratives are at work. Teasing out whether it was massive incompetence and corruption by the Lebanese harbor authorities, ie, a non military incident as both the Israelis and Hezbollah originally stated, or something darker more insidious, ie, sabotage of some sort, remains to be seen.

At this early date it is a mistake to get wedded to this or that scenario. I have confidence that the causes will be determined and I am guessing that it will be clarified in the not too distant future.

I do assume, from experience, that neither Washington nor Tel Aviv are in any way innocent players in the affairs of Lebanon but that doesn’t add up too much. While they both try to distant themselves from the actual explosion there is little doubt that both Washington and Tel Aviv will try to use the Beirut explosion – a la 9-11, New Orleans – in a “Shock Doctrine” manner to advance their own agendas.

As to what that means in terms of responsibility for the Beirut blast, I don’t know and think that it is a mistake – to rush to judgement.

for one of the better analyses of the situation – The Graystone with Aaron Mate – on the Beirut explosion

5 Comments leave one →
  1. William Conklin permalink
    August 7, 2020 5:47 pm

    What a tragedy and in the worst part of the world for this to happen. Thanks for the update, looking forward to your future essays on this event.

  2. Sergio permalink
    August 9, 2020 3:59 pm

    Maybe a political vacuum is exactly what is needed before a non-sectarian system of governance can emerge.

    • August 9, 2020 4:17 pm

      Sergio – your instincts/politics are admirable, I share them… objective conditions suggest they are about as likely to happen as socialism in the USA. Of course – to my mind – a Lebanese non-sectarian system of governance is a goal. I doubt we are anywhere near that – and in fact miles away. …
      It’s a bit like the call for a democratic secular state in Palestine – Yes, keep your eyes on the prize, of course. And no doubt Lebanon needs a more functional system of governance with the old one having proven to be a spent political force, and this long before this tragic explosion.
      That said, the more immediate challenge around which both domestic and international players will be circling – if you excuse the expression – like flies around shit – is the nature of the investigation of the explosion. Will it be domestically organized and if so, it seems to me the only respected organization in the country is, for all its limitations, – the military. Or will it be an international tribunal. If it is the latter it is even more open to manipulation by whomever – the U.S., Saudis, French – all of whom are calling for it. Macron’s dramatic and from my immodest point of view – completely opportunistic and self serving entry on to the scene, is the opening opening salvo of international elements (the ones mentioned in the last sentence) trying to manipulate the process. Their goal is very clear already – they show their hands too early: put the blame on Hezbollah, the main thorn in Israel and U.S.’s side so as to discredit the organization, weaken it and along with it, the Axis of Resistance.
      Another player – as much of a supreme opportunist as Macron – to watch is Turkey’s Erdogan who cannot resist meddling in Lebanon now as he has in Syria and now Libya. Watch how he tries to strengthen the position of Lebanese Sunnis, especially those in the north – and turn them against Hezbollah. Perhaps it is wishful thinking but again, my take is that rather than getting his butt whipped in both Syria and Libya… now he can add Lebanon to the list, but not before his intervention will cause great damage and more human suffering – in the name of neo-Ottomanism. Some friends I have are impressed with him – I find him, like Trump – out of control, out of his league and reaching above his political means, surviving mostly now on $$ from Qatar, and curiously enough UK.
      If there is good news about all this – and I doubt it – as Lebanon, always a political football is even more so today – after three days of speculating that the explosion would be used for a U.S. and/or NATO military operation in Lebanon I am beginning to sense – given the statements, the news – that this is, at the moment not in the offing – and that outside political pressure maximization is the tactical flavor the day, at least for the coming period.

      • August 9, 2020 4:49 pm

        A country torn, ripe for the picking. Let’s hope this outside pressure has a modicum of kindness in it.

        • August 9, 2020 5:00 pm

          Ah kindness… let me answer with something I was told by a Tunisian Jew living in L.A. – the 2011 Arab Spring had just broken out. I asked him if – as I then feared – that despite getting rid of the tyrant, Ben Ali, that the political situation might still deteriorate (which it has). He thought for a second and said… first it’ll get worse… then it will get better. Lebanon, like Iraq, Syria and Libya before it – I fear, has just entered a period of its crucifixion..
          I don’t think kindness is going to be a particularly telling factor in what is to follow, especially given the players involved but still, this is a country hat not so long ago had an incredibly cruel history (stoked by many of the same foreign elements that are getting involved now) and they have learned much already from past sufferings. Then there are several Israeli invasions (1982, 2006). They, the Lebanese people, have a rich experience to draw from – and ultimately, kindness, decency whatever you want to call it, I do believe will win the day… but not before they spend their time at the gates of hell.

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