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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 9-Aug-2020
9-Aug-20 World View -- Beirut Lebanon police clash with furious protesters following Tuesday's catastrophic explosion

Web Log - August, 2020

9-Aug-20 World View -- Beirut Lebanon police clash with furious protesters following Tuesday's catastrophic explosion

Why was 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertilizer in Beirut's seaport for years?

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Beirut Lebanon police clash with furious protesters following Tuesday's catastrophic explosion

Protests in Beirut Lebanon's Martyrs' Square on Saturday.
Protests in Beirut Lebanon's Martyrs' Square on Saturday.

Police are firing rubber bullets and teargas at protesters in Martyrs' Square in central Beirut, Lebanon's capital city. One person was killed and dozens injured on Saturday, as government buildings were occupied by protesters.

There is a growing anti-government fury in Lebanon, following the catastrophic explosion on Tuesday at the Beirut seaport. Hundreds were killed, thousands were injured, hundreds of thousands are now homeless because their homes were destroyed.

The exploded materials were 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer that had been stored in the seaport since 2013. As a point of comparison, Timothy McVeigh used only about one ton of ammonium nitrate fertilizer to destroy the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995.

There is a growing fury in Beirut that the politicians who have been destroying Lebanon's economy for years by lining their own pockets have allowed this to happen. A lot of people knew about the stored fertilizer, and a lot of people complained about it during the last six years, but nothing was done. It was just allowed to sit there, without proper precautions taken. Meanwhile the corrupt élite politicians just continued growing fat and happy, allowing the economic collapse to worsen month after month, allowing garbage to pile up around the city, taking kickbacks for approving defective fuel oil so there's been no electricity, and still going on tv and spouting the usual unbearable self-serving crap that comes from all politicians who are incapable of accomplishing anything but the enrichment of themselves and their cronies.

Even before the explosion, even before the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic, the country Lebanon was already on the verge of collapse. Nearly 50% of the population are living in poverty. Lebanon has two problems. The Iran-controlled terrorist group Hezbollah runs the country, but is receiving less money from its puppetmaster Iran, thanks to US sanctions. And second, there is massive government corruption, stemming from its "confessional system of government," where power is divided based on sectarian affiliation or confession (Sunni, Shia, Christian), as I've described in detail in the past. The confessional form of government has worked fairly well in resolving disputes in both Iraq and Lebanon, but it gives each sectarian group unrestricted access to the funds of the portions of government it controls, leading to a situation where government officials take all the money for themselves, and let the people starve and freeze in darkness. Now, for the first time, there is massive anger growing against Hezbollah in both Lebanon and Iraq, and Lebanon's government may collapse completely.

The country has been in free fall for months. The currency has collapsed. The unemployment rate is over 30%. A tainted fuel oil scandal revealed enormous corruption -- bribes, forged documents, and falsified tests. There have been anti-government protests for months, and after the explosion they are now propelled by a new fury.

The 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertilizer was left sitting in a storage warehouse, adjacent to a fireworks factory, in the midst of a densely packed residential area. 300,000 people lost their homes from the explosion, hundreds were killed, and thousands were wounded. 85% of the country's grain storage was destroyed. Several hospitals were destroyed. The explosion was far larger than anyone had ever seen, and property was damaged and windows broken all across the city, and for miles around. The explosion could be heard as far away as Cyprus.

Public officials in Lebanon are all trying to cover their asses to claim that they had nothing to do with storing 2750 tonnes of fertilizer in the seaport for several years, and each one is pointing to someone else to blame. Citizens in Lebanon are blaming the entire government, and demanding that all of it be thrown out.

It's interesting that none of Lebanon's politicians is willing to come to Martyrs' Square to talk with the people. The only politician who did so was France's president Emmanuel Macron, who visited Beirut on Thursday and poignantly went into the square to talk to the people that Lebanon's leaders didn't dare talk to.

Marwan Bishara at al-Jazeera is reporting that Hezbollah officials are referring to the protesters in Martyrs' Square as "the scum of the earth." We'll discuss this more later.

Why was 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertilizer in Beirut's seaport for years?

The sequence of events was so ridiculous that it would be a joke if it hadn't ended in catastrophe. Here's a summary:

Theory of Government in Lebanon - Generational Dynamics

Imagine if there were no checks and balances in the US constitution. Donald Trump would have been able to impose all sorts of immigration and other policies with no resistance from the courts or Democrats. Similarly, if the Democrats were in power, they would be able to impose far left Socialist green new deal policies without resistance. It's the checks and balances in the US constitution that prevent radical policies from being implemented, and force compromises.

China illustrates what happens when there are no checks and balances. An example of what happens is Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward policy in 1958-60. This may have been the stupidest, most destructive policy of any nation in the history of the world, and it resulted in tens of millions of unnecessary deaths of innocent Chinese, from starvation, execution and torture, all to impose a Socialist ideology. China's economy still has not recovered from the disaster. It happened because there were no courts to stop it, and any politician who pointed out to Mao that it was failing was tortured and executed. Today, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and dictator Xi Jinping are repeating mistakes in the same way -- genocide, executions, torture, invasion, annexation, and so forth -- and there are no courts or opposition to stop him. China is headed for another disaster. That's what happens when you don't have government checks and balances like the United States.

So that brings us to Lebanon's "dynastic confessional" system of government. Lebanon's "confessional" system of government is defined in its constitution, which requires that the three main government offices be occupied by specific sectarian groups:

Because each sect has complete control of one portion of the government, there are no checks and balances and corruption is rampant, with the leaders of each sect able to steal as much money as they like from their own part of the government.

As time goes on, each sect creates its own dynasty within the section of government that it controls. So one way to think of Lebanon's government is, not as a dictatorship, but as a triple dictatorship, which each dynastic sect have complete dictatorial control over one part of government, with complete power of corruption, and no controls, no checks, no balances.

This system of government was set up that way for a reason. Recall that several paragraphs back I referred to Hezbollah politicians referring to the protesters as "scum of the earth." The different sects of Lebanon are not capable of simply getting along with each other. The level of mutual hatred between the sects runs extremely deep.

Recall Lebanon's last generational crisis war, the civil war of 1975-90, mainly between Muslims versus Christians, killing some 200,000 people. A major event occurred on September 15-16, 1982, when Maronite Christian militias massacred 2-3,000 Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps. This act has haunted Lebanon to this day.

That was less than 40 years ago. Most of the people today vividly remember the horror of that mass slaughter, and many are still traumatized by it. 15 years ago, when I wrote about the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. I quoted Lebanese President Émile Geamil Lahoud as saying:

"Believe me, what we get from [Israeli bombers] is nothing compared to [what would happen] if there is an internal conflict [a new civil war] in Lebanon. So our thanks comes when we are united, and we are really united, and the national army is doing its work according to the government, and the resistance [Hizbollah] is respected in the whole Arab world from the population point of view. And very highly respected in Lebanon as well."

In 2006, the people of Lebanon were still more sickened and horrified by what they had done to each other in 1982 than in the bombing by Israel's warplanes. The Lebanese feared, above all else, a repeat of something like the 1982 massacre at Sabra and Shatila, and considered that to be a worse possibility than Israeli bombers.

Some 14 more years have passed, but those feelings still remain. There's a terror in the population that a spark will be lit, and there will be another huge, bloody massacre of Lebanese people by other Lebanese people, as happened in 1982.

Lebanon's political situation is complicated in another way. Lebanon has become a vassal state of Iran, which uses Iran to fight its Mideast wars. Iran itself has turned into a full-fledged vassal state of China, who is buying Iranian oil as long as the Iranians do as they're told. A political change in Lebanon could have some kind of chain reaction in Iran and China.

Seeking a political solution in Lebanon

Lebanon is in a generational Awakening era, a time when older traumatized generations who had survived the war do anything possible to prevent it from happening again, while the younger naive generations rebel against the strict rules and institutions that their parents had put in place. In America and Europe, the last Awakening era was the 1960s, following the horrors of World War II.

One thing that WON'T happen in this current crisis in Lebanon is a new civil war. There are too many people who are still traumatized by the memories of the last one, and they won't let it happen again.

But what does happen during an Awakening era is a political climax -- a regime change, a "velvet revolution," "palace coup" or non-violent coup that fundamentally changes the government in a significant way. In America, this was the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974. Another example is Germany's change of government that led to the Weimar Republic in 1918.

So today's protesters in Martyrs' Square are seeking a major political reform: Repeal the dynastic sectarian form of government and replace it with a real democracy with checks and balances.

A solution of this kind will probably be adopted, but it has the problem that it will tear down the firewalls between the sects that the strictly confessional government provides. This would normally lead to low-level clashes among the sects, and then full-scale sectarian civil war again probably around 2040.

The future of Lebanon

Beirut seaport after the explosion on Tuesday (EPA)
Beirut seaport after the explosion on Tuesday (EPA)

It's hard to overstate how devastated Lebanon is. The economy was in a state of collapse before Tuesday, and now hundreds of thousands more are homeless and the food stocks have been destroyed. Lebanon is desperately in need of international aid.

Lebanon has been negotiating for a bailout with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for years. The problem is that there's no point in giving money to Lebanon's corrupt government, since it would just go into the coffers of the cronies of the sleazebag Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, and the others. So the IMF refused to provide money to Lebanon unless Lebanon reforms, which was never going to happen.

On Sunday, Emmanuel Macron will lead an international donors' conference. Macron has already promised that aid to Beirut will not fall into "corrupt hands," but whether there are any non-corrupt hands left in Beirut remains to be seen.


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