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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/3/17

Lebanon facing Long 'Independence' odds given Iran's regional Triumphalism

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Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution His eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei receives Hizbullah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution His eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei receives Hizbullah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
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By Franklin Lamb,Tehran.

In many respects the people of Lebanon are gifted if not blessed. Most of whom this observer has been honored to meet are strikingly intelligent, creative, often charming, sometimes cunning and devious, hardworking, ingenious, adaptive, and good natured--much like most people in this region including dear friends in Syria.

And all want a real country, and many are working to confront would-be hegemonizing local Iranian militia to get one.

Many analysts argue that Lebanon simply cannot be independent without and effective colonizer unless it can develop its own civil society, which historically has been identified with reform but largely impotent. A free civil society facilitates alliances between divided communities, to build a real country of free and equal citizens with a government that transcends communitarian loyalties. Including civil society organizations becoming more widespread and popular, because it is a pillar in the struggle against corruption and exploitation and gives more opportunities to a larger part of the population. One nearly universally held view of Lebanon's population is that the state must have a monopoly over its armed forces and be able to impose the State's authority over all parties, including foreign sponsored militia.

There are currently 8,000 civil society groups registered with Lebanon's Ministries, but unfortunately, most are severely stymied by corrupt and sectarian officials who bar many of their reform initiatives. Some of which recently have included women's rights, garbage collection, water quality, protection for foreign domestic workers, the right to work for Palestinian refugees, and opening Parliament to a modicum of public scrutiny and financial as well as judicial accountably.

According to the Lebanese Center for Human Rights, that amounts to 1.3 associations per 1,000 inhabitants--about six times the number per capita in Egypt. Deeply regrettably, the war in Syria, has deepened even further Lebanese parliamentary gridlock and has dramatically escalated sectarian tensions, while it has weakened the advocacy role of Lebanese civil society organizations.

In 1999, a Lebanese chapter of Transparency International, known as La Fasad, became active in Beirut. These days, La Fasad works on promoting laws in Parliament to provide public access to information, reminding this observer of the US Freedom of Information Act. True, their efforts meet with resistance from some quarters, but, as one lawyer involved in the initiative recently emailed, "If they don't want to steal, why don't they let us watch?" Indeed.

To note just one of scores of examples. For the past many years certain Lebanese political "leaders" have blocked a solution to the massive garbage crisis leaving exposed mountains of rotting garbage to create many communicable diseases for the people of Lebanon. Until today these "Political Lords" continue to negotiate the amount of cash that is guaranteed to come to them if they deign to sign-off on a "garbage collection contract", quite likely to be awarded to relatives or political friends.

According to a just released (12/1/2017) Report by Human Rights Watch, Lebanon's lack of a garbage disposal system and open burning of mountains of waste poses serious health risks.

The main problem according to HRW is "decades-old, across the board government failure. The crisis escalated in 2015 when waste management collapsed across Lebanon, was a particular threat for children and old people, and constituted a human rights violation. Nadim Houry, HRW's interim Beirut director reported that " authorities are doing virtually nothing to bring this crisis under control".

The report, entitled "As If You're Inhaling Your Death" quoted research by the American University of Beirut (AUB) that found that nearly 80% of Lebanon's garbage is improperly dumped or landfilled where 10% to 12% is considered impossible to compost or recycle thus causing the "vast majority" of Lebanese residents living near open dumps, whom HRW researchers interviewed, suffer from serious respiratory problems. HRW claims that Lebanon's government continues doing nothing to prevent open burning, to monitor its impact and inform the population of the risks.

Consequently, despite widespread Lebanese civil society initiatives for reform, many have become cynical or even bitter, wanting to emigrate at the first opportunity believing that Lebanon offers no future for themselves or for raising a family. Much of Lenson's civil population has lost confidence that they can change the continuing rampant corruption by some of the Warlords from their 15-year civil war that witnessed 15 million Lebanese flee to other countries. Over the past nearly four decades, self-anointed Political Lord, s politically employing primogeniture and widespread wasta (nepotism and influence peddling) have by design become deeply imbedded in the halls of power.

A common clich'e in Lebanon these days has it that, "Lebanon has never been a real country, is not a real country today, and quite likely will not be in the future."

Earlier this month, 11/22/2017 was Lebanon's 43rd Independence Day from French Colonization. Like every year on Independence Day, the Lebanese wondered what kind of independence they were celebrating. One dear friend of this observer who attended the annual Independence Day parade with her secondary school students wrote this observer from Beirut saying:

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Since 2013, Professor Franklin P. Lamb has traveled extensively throughout Syria. His primary focus has been to document, photograph, research and hopefully help preserve the vast and irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts in (more...)
 

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