Saturday, October 15, 2016

October 13, when the garbage crisis started

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On Monday October 15 1990, two days after the Syrian invasion of Lebanon’s last free region, An Nahar wrote: “Aoun left and the garbage stayed”. The legend says that Ghassan Tueni himself wrote, under a pseudo, this short article that announced the start of Lebanon’s garbage crisis. A crisis that, 26 years later, would still be unresolved.

West Beirut along with all the Lebanese regions under Syrian occupation and governed by the political establishment born of the Taef agreement were drowning in garbage – a very similar situation to what we’ve seen last summer, and still see today.

An-Nahar, October 15 1990
Ironically, the areas under the Lebanese army control didn’t have this problem. Nor did the regions controlled by the Lebanese Forces militia. Nor even South Lebanon, under Israeli occupation. This problem was limited to the regions “ruled” by the pro-Syrian "government” – in reality, an ensemble of warlords and corrupts politicians. 

In other words: from the very start, the political establishment born of the Taef agreement was not only incapable of solving any problem, but was creating new ones. With the exception of a very few honest politicians – like former Prime minister Salim el-Hoss – the rest were only interested in stealing anything they could lay their hands on.

After giving a “Lebanese cover” to the Syrian invasion of the Lebanese presidential palace and the last free regions defended by the Lebanese army, this corrupt political establishment took advantage of the brutally repressive Pax Syriana to rob the country blind.

While thousands of soldiers and civilians were being massacred in Baabda, Hadath and Dahr el Wahech, these politicians were planning the biggest robbery in the history of Lebanon: building the Lebanese state to fit their personal financial ambitions. The waste crisis was most visible example.

Garbage was left to rot in order to create an official structure that would profit warlords and corrupt politicians, by legally transferring public money into their pockets, factually robbing the Lebanese state. This moneymaking structure would be called Sukleen.

After the Syrian withdrawal, on the aftermath of the 2005 popular uprising – Infidadat el-Istiklal, the Independence uprising, also called the Cedar Revolution – the political establishment that collaborated with and profited from the Syrian occupation, divided itself into two opposing forces: March 8 and March 14.

These two opposing forces have been ruling Lebanon ever since, and the garbage crisis they, or their predecessors, created in 1990 is still not solved, while many of them have made a fortune out of it over the years. And continue to do so, 26 years after October 13.

© Claude El Khal, 2016