Lebanon at a Crossroad

Is this yet another chapter of The Arab Spring? And if it is, then which Arab Spring are we talking about – that of the desperate people fighting for better world, or that of the sinister interests that are injected by the West and by the Gulf States?

Lebanon at a Crossroad

In Beirut, ambulances are howling and poisonous black smoke is hanging over the city. Tires are burning and water cannons are aiming at determined protesters. Rubber bullets and live ammunition are used indiscriminately.

“You Stink!” That is the name of the movement, of the “original protest”. Few days ago, people went to the streets, demanding the end to protracted garbage crises. For 18 years, the government was unable (or unwilling) to build a permanent garbage-recycling site. For 18 years, poor villagers near the “provisory” garbage dumping grounds were suffering, getting poisoned, dying from unusually high level of cancer and from respiratory diseases. Then, finally, they said “No!” They blocked the site. And after they did, the garbage began accumulating on the streets of Beirut. Instead of finding a permanent solution, the government distributed rat poison over the piles of trash. People in the capital began getting sick.

But it is not only garbage that is making life in the capital, and in fact all over the country, almost unbearable.

Infrastructure of Lebanon is collapsing: there are water shortages and constant electricity blackouts. There is hardly any public transportation, almost no green public areas. Health and education are at disastrous levels.

Lebanon is perhaps one of the most capitalist countries on earth. There is almost nothing public, nothing socialist left here, anymore. And capitalism in Lebanon, as everywhere else, simply does not work.

The country hardly produces anything. There is more Lebanese people living abroad than in Lebanon itself, and it is remittances that are keeping the state afloat. There is also substantial income from the shady businesses in West Africa, in Iraq, income from banking and from narcotics grown in Bekaa Valley.

But all this is not enough.

Now the country is totally broke. Government sources claim that the Lebanon's public debt currently stands at about 143 percent of gross domestic product, and that next month the salaries of public workers may not be paid.

Lebanon is divided along sectarian lines: Christians, Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, and Druze. Because of sectarianism, there is never real true national unity.

It appears that people had finally enough of the divisions, too.

I spoke to several demonstrators. They demanded a new start for Lebanon: the end of sectarian politics, the end of corruption, and “more social programs”.

Their demands appear to be legitimate.

But in Lebanon, one cannot be certain of what lies below the surface. There are rumors that each religious group is now sending its fighters to the barricades.

Competing political interests are pulling this tiny country in different directions.

Who is who and who is with whom, is often extremely difficult to define.

Allegiances of the Christians are often with the West. Sunni Muslims are extremely close to the Gulf States, and to the West, too. Shia Muslims, including Hezbollah, is allied with Iran.

Hezbollah is the only sound social force in the country. It is also aiming at uniting Lebanon, reaching out to non-Shia groups. Hezbollah is fighting ISIL, a terrorist army that was supported and trained by the West, and by NATO. Hezbollah is antagonistic to the interests of the West and of Israel in the region; therefore it is on the US list of the terrorist movements.

Lebanon is squeezed from all sides. Civil war in Syria triggered by the West forced around 2 million Syrian people to cross the border and to seek asylum in tiny Lebanon. ISIL is trying to grab the territory in the North of Lebanon. Israel is constantly threatening to invade. There is renewed fighting in the Palestinian refugee camps in the South of Lebanon. The West and the Gulf States are trying to maneuver and to control Lebanese political elites.

Only a united Lebanon can prevail. Only a Lebanon that is free of imperialist manipulations.

Many protesters fighting in the center of the capital are “genuine”. Others are not. The situation used to be the same in all other “Arab Spring countries”: initial desire for justice, reforms and social policies came truly from the people. But infiltration from political (mainly pro-Western) groups followed shortly after.

All of the Middle East is now watching. The following days and weeks will be decisive. Lebanon may rise, or it may fall.

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Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. Discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western Terrorism. Point of No Return is his critically acclaimed political novel. Oceania - a book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about Indonesia: “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Press TV. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and the Middle East. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.
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