Hedonism and War
refugee camps are up in flames, across the
country, a result of the disputes between the
rival factions, but also of ‘unsavory’
influences from abroad. As everyone knows here,
there are, for instance, the Al Qaida-affiliated
militants hiding in the South.
are Israeli incursions into Lebanon, both by
land and by water. There are also drones, flying
habitually from Israel into and through the
is great tension between Israel and Hezbollah,
over Syria, but not only.
Lebanese forces are fighting DAESH, mainly in
the Northeast of Lebanon, on the mountainous
border with Syria. Hezbollah is fighting DAESH,
too, but ‘independently’.
7th year into the war in Syria, there are still
more than 1 million Syrian refugees living on
Lebanese territory, some in awful conditions and
many with extremely uncertain future. The exact
number is unknown (UNHCR stopped the
registration of all new arrivals approximately 2
years ago), but is believed to fluctuate between
1 and 2 million.
is mounting tension between the Syrian and the
Lebanese communities, as they are now competing
for already sparse jobs and public services
(including such basic utilities like water),
while Palestinian refugees have been stranded in
Lebanon already for decades, with very little
social, political and economic rights.
is a drug epidemic, from its production (mainly
in the Bekaa Valley), to its unbridled
consumption in Beirut.
government has finally been formed in December
2016, after more than 2.5 years of absence of
any functioning administration. However, the
Prime Minister is a Sunni Muslim,
who is openly hostile to Syria and has directly
expressed support for the recent US attacks
against the neighboring country. Mr. Hariri has
long been accusing Hezbollah and Syria of
assassinating his father,
Rafik Hariri, in February 2005. Mr.
Hariri has dual citizenship, that of Lebanon and
also of Saudi Arabia where he was born (in
Riyadh). On the other hand, the President of
Lebanon is now a Maronite Christian, 83-years
old Michel Aoun,
who came to power thanks to the unfailing
support given to him by Hezbollah, the fact that
puts him at odds with the Prime Minister.
is an ongoing struggle, even deadlock, amongst
the ‘political parties’ (in Lebanon often
synonymous with sectarian divisions), over such
varied issues as the electoral law, waste
management, international political alliances,
foreign military funding, gender-based
discrimination, employment as well as all basic
social services (or acute lack of them).
is literally surrounded by perpetual conflicts.
Syria, the country in great agony is right ‘next
door’, north and east of tiny Lebanon, while
mighty and aggressive Israel is threatening the
country from the south. The United Nations
troops are patrolling the so-called “UN 2000
Blue Line” or the de facto border between
Lebanon and Israel. In fact, UNIFIL (United
Nations Interim Force In Lebanon) has for years
been ‘covering’ a large part of the country’s
territory. It all feels like a war zone.
the region consists of a series of temporarily
dormant conflicts that are ready to explode
again, at any moment, with destructive,
occupied and devastated Golan Heights is just
across the borderline, too. Officially, The
Golans are still part of Syria, but the Israelis
have already purged most of its population,
resettling it with their own citizens. During my
visit, some 4 years ago, the situation was
already dire, the area scarred by barbed wires,
with Israeli military posts and vehicles
everywhere. Many local houses were destroyed, as
‘punishment’. If you drive to the geographical
extreme, you can see the Golan Heights from
Lebanon. You can also see Israel, while Syria is
‘always there’, right behind the majestic and
peacekeepers come from all parts of the world,
including South Korea, Indonesia and Europe.
Right before the Coastal Highway ends, near the
city of Tyre, the motorists pass through the
last Lebanese checkpoint. The UNIFIL protected
area begins, with armored vehicles, sandbags and
watchtowers. It reads, on the concrete blocks
intended to slow down the traffic:
“Peace to Lebanon, Glory to Korea!”
Palestinian refugee camps are overflowing.
Syrian refugees (some in awful conditions) are
working like slaves in the Bekaa Valley, begging
for money in Sidon and Beirut, or if they are
wealthy, renting lavish seafront condominiums on
the Corniche of the capital city.
all the bravado, Lebanon is scared; it is
Everybody knows that Israel could hit at any
moment, again. It is said that Israelis are
already stealing Lebanese oil from the seabed,
but the weak and almost totally defenseless
country can do almost nothing against one of the
mightiest military forces on Earth.
over the country, there are ‘dormant cells’ of
ISIS (DAESH) and of other extremist militant
groups, overflowing from war-torn Syria. The
ISIS is dreaming about a ‘caliphate and the
access to the sea’. Lebanon is right there, a
Russia and China are keeping a relatively low
profile here, not too interested in operating in
this divided and uncertain political climate. In
Lebanon, there are very few permanent loyalties
left;allegiances are often shifting andare
frequently dependent on outside ‘funding’.
Arabia and Iran are always present here, and so
is the West. Hezbollah (on several ‘lists’ of
the terrorist organizations of the West) is the
only pan-Lebanese force capable and willing to
provide at least some basic social services for
the poor, as well as determined military and
ideological defense against Israel.
political analysts are predicting that Lebanon
will collapse, totally, and soon. But it is
still here, determined and defiant. How, nobody
knows. For how long, is a total mystery!
Patrolled by the UN, overflowing with refugees,
Lebanon is shining into the night. Its Ferraris
are roaming through its streets, without
mufflers, until early morning hours. Its
nightclubs are seducing hedonist visitors from
the Gulf. Its art cinemas are as good or even
better than those in Paris. At the AUB Medical
Center, the best Middle Eastern surgeons are
treating the most horrid war injuries from the
war and self-indulgence are living side by side.
Some say it is nothing else other than a bare
cynicism. Others would argue:
“No, it is
life! Life of the 21st century world; exposed,
brought to the extreme, but in a way honest.”
Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker
and investigative journalist. He has covered
wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three
of his latest books are revolutionary novel
and two bestselling works of political
Lies Of The Empire”
Against Western Imperialism”.
View his other books
Andre is making films for teleSUR and Al-Mayadeen.
his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and
DRCongo. After having lived in Latin America,
Africa and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides in
East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to
work around the world. He can be reached through
views expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and do not necessarily reflect the
opinions of Information Clearing House.