In the wake of the massacre of innocent civilians, including women and children, in Houla over the weekend, Syrian envoys across the globe are packing their bags and preparing to head home as the international community finally wakes up to the brutality meted out by the Assad regime.
One man, however, is staying put. Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary Ali Abdel Karim Ali, head of the Syrian mission to Lebanon, is not calling in the moving men just yet. Lebanon, it appears, doesn’t have the stomach to give his Excellency his marching orders, despite his country’s gross violations of Lebanese sovereignty and its citizens’ rights, let alone its crimes against humanity.
The question is: Has Lebanon become so inured to the notion of mass killings to the extent that it can still deal with a country that, on a daily basis, puts its citizens to the sword simply because they want change? It would appear so.
Have we lost sight of our territorial integrity to the point where we just stand by and do nothing when, as has happened in the last month, Lebanese citizens have been both murdered, kidnapped and detained by Syrian soldiers on Lebanese soil? It would also appear so.
Because those Lebanese who are not drinking the Baathist Kool-Aid, those who have a mind of their own and who can separate the factual wheat from the propaganda chaff, know that their government is a partner in Syria’s bid to crush opposition to its 40-year rule and emerge from a 15-months crisis that has claimed over 13,000 lives on both sides. And it makes them sick and ashamed.
Our government—a motley crew if ever there was, that came to power using the veiled threat of violence to do Damascus’s bidding—has stood by when its citizens, peacefully demonstrating their support for the Syrian opposition (a right guaranteed under the law) are attacked by pro-Assad thugs on the streets of Beirut.
It does nothing when Syrian exiles are harassed and abducted, even as they believed they enjoyed the protection of the Lebanese state. It does nothing when Lebanese are gunned down from across the border. It does nothing when Syrian soldiers enter Lebanese territory and detain Lebanese citizens. It does nothing as ordinary Lebanese are vulnerable to the whims of a Syrian regime that cares not one jot for its neighbor’s territorial integrity. But then again, why break the habit of a lifetime? The government has done nothing—politically, socially or economically—for the past year.
Last week, as tensions from Syria spread into Lebanon, first into Tripoli and then the streets of Beirut, the government once more did nothing. In particular, Marwan Charbel, a man whose appointment as interior minister must surely rank as a low-water mark in Lebanon’s already dubious culture of awarding government portfolios, has hardly convinced us that he has a firm grip on the security situation.
But why stop there? In a country where political excellence and the notion of grooming our best and brightest for public service is non-existent, and where mediocrity is a level to which most governments can only aspire, when it comes to being useless, this current administration takes some beating.
We cannot even do the basics. We cannot complain when someone insults our national integrity, and we don’t have the courage of our convictions to speak out against brutality unless it is perpetrated by that tired old bogeyman Israel.
Where is our sense of tolerance? Where is our rule of law? In fact, where is our national soul? The harsh truth is we sold that and everything else with it.