onLebanon’s Fucked. But There’s Still a Drop of Hope If…

It’s been a while fam. I’ve been trying to get the pieces of my life back together after it was thrown into a million broken, hopeless, angry little pieces like most of you in Lebanon and abroad.

It’s time to write something though about the absolute disaster Lebanon finds itself in right now. Partly to catalog all the horrific crimes being committed against Lebanese, residents of Lebanon and the diaspora, but also to try and explain why I’m not completely out of every last drop of hope. At least not yet.

Before that, let’s try to figure out the Sulta in Lebanon’s modus operandi (M.O.)

The Usual Sulta M.O. Got Tweaked A Little

If there’s one consistent thing about Lebanon’s ruling elite for the past four decades, it’s how they manufacture crises to stay in power.

Since the 1990s, they’ve pushed the country to the very brink multiple times, knowing that a foreign power will swoop in and bail them out at the eleventh hour…

Just count how many constitutional amendments in Lebanon after the Civil War included the words “for one time only” and you’ll get what I mean.

Think of the French-led conferences like Paris 1 and Paris 2. Think of the billions-worth’s deposits at the Banque du Liban central bank by oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

All those events and bail outs occurred right after foundation-shaking crises presided over by the same group of old men still holding onto power more than 30 years later.

The difference this time though, is that Lebanon is not a top priority for anyone. Heck, even when Lebanese issues are given some attention, like after August 4, the French president Macron came to Lebanon twice. Turns out it was to lend the ruling elite a hand after the catastrophic blast that was their fault. Oh, and even with his two on-the-ground visits, when the local leaders hide in their palaces, Macron STILL he got humiliated and led on for over 13 months.

That’s until he finally struck a deal with the Iranian regime at the Lebanese people’s expense, and the birth of Najib Mikati’s third cabinet was finally allowed to happen by Hezbollah and its subordinates in the Sulta, from Aoun to Hariri and everything in between.

Now that we’ve discussed how Lebanon’s criminal, murderous regime has operated since they switched out their militia fatigues for ill-fitting business suits, it’s time to discuss the disastrous situation we’re all in right now.

Not a single thing of what’s happening was a surprise. I can’t even count the times I overheard people in the streets saying “they’ll make the people desperate and in need to the point where it’ll be cheaper to bribe them” and that’s exactly what’s happening right now.

Complete darkness, endless queues for fuel that’s there, but just being hoarded or used to buy loyalties by the sectarian parties after the steep decline they started truly going through on that mid October night in 2019.

No medicines, and when a theater piece of cracking down on cancer drug hoarders, it ends with not even a slap on the wrist for these politically-affiliated petrol, medicine and food hoarders, waiting for subsidies to lift to make even more profit on their goods imported using subsidies that used to be your and my bank account once…

Are people falling for it? Some definitely are, and you saw that with the humiliating debasement of so many people publicly, by prostrating themselves in front of the manhole cover where Nasrallah is hiding, and saying shit like “Khosh Amdid” cause Hezbollah sold them Iranian fuel it had smuggled in from Syria (where most of our missing fuel was smuggled to in the first place).

But, not everyone. That’s why you see ads and posts of the Aounists paying for fuel, food, phone credits and even tuitions in something called Lebanese German University. That’s why we see everything from the COVID-19 vaccine to tiny bottles of petrol, branded with the sectarian parties’ outdated, ugly logos, some even hailing it as a “divine victory” to have secured a few dozen trucks of fuel in the same year the UAE sent a probe to Mars with a fraction of the money we spent (that was stolen) to give us a total of 0 hours of electricity a day.

All Hope Lost…

We’re kinda fucked, right? A cabinet worse than Vase Diab’s was formed. Aounists got all their demands after Hezbollah made good with Macron.

Many people left, many more are leaving.

Numbers at protests dwindle, the only brief pauses from the cascading disasters befalling a captive population oppressed by a powerful few that are willing to burn it all to the ground rather than concede, even marginally, to the will of the people.

Detentions, assassinations, overt threats, bogus charges, a coordinated smear campaign on prominent dissenting individuals (both in traditional media, and the social one).

Hezbollah decides he wants the Aug 4 investigation stopped, and the entire sectarian party apparatus take turns in doing every dirty little trick to derail any chance of justice. From Hariri suggesting a constitutional amendment (that’s not needed) to lift MP immunities, to Hezbollah’s guy actually threatening the investigating judge, to Machnouk’s bogus, chickenshit move to suspend the investigation, that was succesfully shot down.

Any prospect of your stolen money coming back is gone, or at least you’re finally accepting this years-old reality.

It’s just the worst it’s ever been, and that’s what many of those who lived through the Civil War are saying. Worst part? There’s no war right now, no invasion, no natural disaster…. Just incredibly incompetent and malicious old men owned by foreign regimes even worse than they are.

But, I don’t want to depress you even more than you already are. Nor repeat what you all already know and feel. I feel it too, which is why been taking the time to think well about what’s happening and what’s next, and despite how hopeless it feels, I don’t think all is lost yet.

All Hope Lost? Not Yet.

I know this might sound a bit philosophical, but I think the problem with both the Sulta and the folks opposing them, is they’re stuck in a loop of doing the exact same things over and over again.

Pull a watered-down, Assadist-style of oppression, the opposing groups and people respond with condemnation press releases in fus’ha and maybe a few dozen on the ground when it’s particularly bad.

The Sulta M.O. we discussed above, remains also in use.

The problem is that the situation is so dire and extreme, that these mostly performative “rafe3 3atab” moves make us feel good, but don’t do much to change anything. More radical solutions, more progressive and ambitious ones are needed to overcome the current feeling of hopelessness, if not complete despair.

The problem though, is that the Sulta, the pandemic, the shortage in basic necessities and overall complete burn out by most Lebanese means street pressure will be less often and more targeted, such as the protest under Fahmi’s house for example.

However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Think of it, why the fuck would we waste more time in the streets, getting gassed, beaten, Hezbollah’s Captagon Boys sent to beat protesters up, to demand change from the very same old men who got us in this mess in the first place. Old men that have done absolutely nothing to change over almost four decades.

Listen to the Indicators

Historic popular protests in every single district for months without end might not be happening, but something far more consequential has.

Almost every single election since October 17, 2019 (except LAU this week) has been overwhelmingly won by those opposing the past 30 years’ Sulta. Every single university, every single union and syndicate, heik, even every unreliable online poll.

Whenever people are given a choice between the Sulta and Thawra, they’re choosing the Thawra. Every single time, no matter what the Sulta schemes and disinforms, they are being routed from everywhere they don’t directly control (by force or corruption).

That might not be representative though, right? These universities and unions don’t represent the entire country. Really? Like if it was only the elite, expensive private universities, I’d say maybe, but it was across the board wherever elections are happening, so I would beg to differ.

That’s not what made me certain though. As you know already, over the years I am proud of our ability to have sources in as many places as possible and an ability to cross-check those leads. What was most surprising was the trend seen in several sectarian parties’ internal polling ahead of the 2022 parliamentary elections.

Hezbollah, Aounist and Lebanese Forces internal polling over the past few months indicate a worrying trend in districts that are usually comfortable for them are no longer so.

This explains the turns each side is taking in doing stuff like hampering the investigation and making sure every attempt at any type of reform is shot down by sides that pretend to be adversaries when they’re more like a tag-team.

They need to boost their chances. Add to that the almost 1 Billion USD share Lebanon is getting from the World Bank and IMF, some of which will not be stolen, but used as a bribe via the planned “rations card” for Lebanon’s lowest income families. Why pay bribes from your own stolen money I guess, when you can fund it via the World Bank and IMF…

That might seem like a bad thing at first sight, but if you pause and think about it, we’ve never really won a single seat. Two years ago, all this would have been unthinkable. Today, the sectarian parties need to do all that and more to improve their standing. They feel threatened. Hezbollah is openly threatening people now. It used to do that in the shadows…

After patting yourself on the back though for having such a profound impact on the ruling sectarian parties, it’s time to discuss something a bit unpopular now. It’ll also explain why I haven’t been talking about the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Elections are One Battle, not the Entire War

One thing I worry about a lot is when people put their hopes up on one major event. Why? Because I feel it’s setting yourself up for disappointment.

Democratic elections are the foundation of everything we want for Lebanon. Their importance cannot be overstated. However, only focusing on the elections without everything else around it, is naive if not living in complete denial. After all, these old men’s sectarian parties “won” elections before, no?

Casting a ballot into a box isn’t the only part of an election. Even Bashar El Assad has those. The whole point of an elections is to be free and fair. Free as in no one being oppressed. Fair as in bribery cannot be the single deciding factor, instead of policy, popularity and longterm vision for the country.

Of course, those are minor concerns when you consider who is running the elections. If 2018 was any indication, we know the Sulta is capable of making ballot boxes disappear, kicking out independent observers during the ballot count and even when you take it up to the judiciary, a sectarian-party-appointed judge will dismiss it.

You think after everything that happened since Oct 17, these same war criminals, murderers and thieves will not cheat in the upcoming election? You think characters like Fahmi, or whatever the “new” Interior Minister is called, will not doing everything in their power to make sure that these elections are neither fair nor free?

Elections are a Battle We’re Not Ready For

If you thought the Sulta cheating in the elections was the worst part of this blog post, you’re wrong. It’s this next one, because it has to do with the Thawra parties and other parties opposing the current ruling regime but were once part of it.

Let us not sugarcoat it, but get right to the chase. None of you can name more than 10 men and women you think might run for parliament representing you, and not the sectarian political parties. That’s a problem with as little as 6 months till the election.

Now, before you crack your fingers start typing, “we don’t vote for people, we vote for platforms!” Sure you do, but you need to know the face of that platform’s name before you tick that box behind the curtain. Not parachute them the last second, no questions asked. If anything, that is more similar to the Sulta’s methods of filling in the seats not occupied by the main war criminals: by just switching up names and the partisans just “zay ma hiyyeh” it into the ballot box.

We need to know our candidates, vet them publicly, ask them the tough questions, see how they perform under pressure, etc. Not just some executive board handing down the names to check off weeks or days before the day.

The problem making this happen is a failure of most cadres of these parties to gauge what their base wants. Partly because of a lack of democratic framework within many of those groups to make decisions backed up with evidence. Partly because of the usual problem, inflated egos that refuse to make decisions with a vote, and instead believe their own interpretation must be the one the party/group goes with, and we end up doing nothing.

A good mini example is the Engineers and Architects union elections. For over. a year, Thawra and Thawra-adjacent parties have aligned themselves on the spectrum, with some leaning towards a less hostile stance to Hezbollah, and others finally accepting that Hezbollah is a main part of the problem, and not exempt, just like the rest of them.

In the Naqaba elections, a broad, loose coalition was formed, and included the Kataeb party trying to rebrand itself the past few years. Everyone involved knew about this, it was even publicly discussed and mentioned on MTV’s Thursday evening talk show.

The result was astounding. The voters had said their word: they liked this broad, loose coalition that included everything from the political spectrum that agree on the broad-strokes, or at least the current establishment needs to go.

Naturally, this angered the more puritanical elements in the Thawra, unwilling to listen to changing circumstances and instead choosing to stick to the contrarian position of rejecting the status quo, not building whatever comes next. Under pressure, some groups like Li Haqqi, claimed they had no clue Kataeb was in on the loose coalition (supporting, but without any candidates) and they publicly bashed this resounding victory, much to the delight of the LF, Aounists and Hezbollah.

Now, that’s what I call a chickenshit move, that transformed what was a big takeaway from potential voters in the parliamentary elections, into a chance to score points (that you can’t redeem anywhere) against rival Thawra groups. That in turn did two things, it shook the trust among the Thawra groups, but also showed the Sulta how easy it was to rattle and disenfranchise some groups which couldn’t handle taking a difficult position that one needs to in political life sometimes when the voters approve of it.

Proof that’s what voters want? The disappointing results of LAU, which only a year before, under a broad coalition, made history. This year, for unworthy reasons, the campaign was split into two, and the LF ended up taking the share that should have been ours and there was an overall dip of 15% in voter turnout.

Simply put, the voters are repeating time and again that they want a broad coalition, not many tiny clusters of proto-parties who think they know best.

And before you furiously rebut, let me tell you I was like you, I didn’t think we need a coalition and that we could do it as-is. However, that’s not how democracy works, and when most of the folks I want to represent or be represented by indicate where they lie, my role is to make sense of that and see how it can be implemented in our goals for a free, secular and fair Lebanon we want.

So, pause a bit, and read the data. Go meet your voters in your districts. I know you’re all super smart and definitely know what’s best, but that means nothing if you can’t get people on board. Instead, you should understand what your constituents and supporters need and want, and figure out how to make it happen.

A Final Message

Cut the shit. Deflate the egos. Humble yourselves. We have bigger fish to fry than silly purity tests and dick-measuring contests. As long as it doesn’t go against the essentials, like:

  • Freedom of speech and assembly
  • Secular laws to replace our sectarian nightmares
  • Social justice for all communities in Lebanon
  • Sovereignty from influence and control of foreign regimes
  • Accountability for all past and current crimes and corruption

We should be good. We can argue about the details of that after we eject the war criminals and thieves, not before we do.

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Gino Raidy

Gino Raidy

Everything you love and hate about Beirut

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