There’s more going on here than what meets the eye and people know it. If your news is run by the state, the state only tells you what it wants you to hear or know. The Middle East has been unstable for years. There’s been war for generations, that’s all many of them know. The streets are filled with protests, upset over the blast and decades of corruption. Dion Nissenbaum of the Wall Street Journal said it best: there’s more questions than answers.
Protests can turn deadly
In the United States, power changes hands with little or no bloodshed. Other nations might not be so lucky. A dozen officials have resigned with more to follow. Protestors were met with tear gas and live bullets.
One protestor said, “And then, yesterday, as soon as we arrived, they started tear-gassing us. There was sound bombs. There was live bullets. Not what I expected at all from a country who has already lost so much.”
The Prime Minister offered to walk with the protestors
Reporter Emma Murphy asked, “But are you going to go onto the streets today or this weekend and speak to people about the tragedy?”
Prime Minister Hassan Diab responded, “I’m not sure when I’m going on the streets, but I’m part of the people.”
Murphy: Are you afraid of people’s fury?
Diab: I’m not afraid of people’s fury, but, of course, I have —
Murphy: But do they have a right to be furious?
Diab: Absolutely, they have the right to be angry and furious, not just because of this. This is absolutely diabolical, what happened. But, however, they are also furious even before that for three decades of unbelievable corruption.
Protests over the years have netted attempts at reasonable government
The people keep attempting. Nissenbaum continued, “Yeah. You know, one thing to remember about this government is that this is meant to be a technocratic government. It was installed after last fall’s very joyful and peaceful anti-corruption protests that brought down the former prime minister, Saad Hariri. So this was a government that was meant to step in and fix the problems, and not be too tied the politicians that have run this country for decades. And there was wariness when they started, that they really weren’t going to be able to do that.
And as you just laid out all of the problems, there’s hyperinflation. The currency has collapsed. People can’t buy basic goods. The power outages here are up to 22 hours a day. This was all before the explosion. And then this incredible tragedy happens on this beautiful city, and people at first think, you know, it must be Israel, it must be part of a war. And when people find out that it appears to be the result of government negligence — we still, of course, have to find out what the trigger was for this, but the fact that they stored all of this ammonium nitrate in this warehouse for years, knowing that it was a powder keg, it’s just basically been the straw that’s broken the camel’s back here, and people now have absolutely no faith in this government. They’re out in the streets. People are disillusioned, disenchanted, and, you know, they’re going to look for some sort of change again.”
Political forces pulling the nation everywhere
Nissenbaum resumed, “So, what happens when this government falls is it becomes a caretaker until they can put in a new caretaker government, and then you have the negotiations start over who’s going to be in the new caretaker government. And the last time they did this, they ended up with this government, that really didn’t have the confidence of the people.
So, there will be continued protests for an effective government. And you already have intense pressure coming from Paris and Washington for the new government to try and distance itself from Hezbollah, the militant and political group here that has significant power and is allied with Iran. So, you’re facing a number of pressures on Lebanon from various points. You’ve got U.S. and France trying to put pressure for their agenda. You’ve got people in the streets looking for some sort of systemic changes to the political sectarian system here and the corruptive system here that’s created this layer upon layer of problems for this country. It’s difficult for many of us here to see things getting better in the near term for Lebanon.”