On August 4, 2020, at 6pm, in warehouse number 12 at the port of Beirut, we were all born, or rather, we all died and some of us came back to life among corpses made of broken glass, concrete fragments, and ammonium nitrate deposits.
We were left with nothing but trying to measure the magnitude of the disaster that struck our city. This did not happen as a result of a natural disaster; nor did it result from an accident or a welding error; nor did it simply result from the widespread state of corruption entrenched by the neoliberal regime that has governed our country for more than 30 years.
This explosion is a crime committed against the people. There are those who ignored it, those who perpetrated it, those who benefited and will continue to benefit from it, and even those who are justifying it.
It reflects the core of the system that governs our lives: a neoliberal sectarian regime where thirst for capital accumulation and power comes at the expense of our lives and livelihoods.
August 4 exposed the disposability of our bodies, the vulnerability of our cities and the criminal depth of the ruling mafia. The explosion did not occur in a void, its shockwaves have cut through an already exhausted society. We have lived through the highs of a popular uprising and the lows of the repressive counter-revolution since October 2019. We have endured a deepening economic crisis and a financial free fall further precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic since February 2019. We are also trapped in endless geopolitical wars and imperial power struggles that have destabilized the whole region. It is in such a context that the President of our Republic described the August 4 explosion as an opportunity that will “unlock the grid” of financial aid to Lebanon. This is the nature of disaster capitalism: our misery is their opportunity to reproduce themselves and sustain their power.
On August 4, 2020, an explosion struck at the heart of Beirut and war was declared against the people, a war with hundreds of deaths, thousands wounded and disabled, hundreds of thousands displaced, many still missing, and immeasurable losses. This war could have been avoided but we know that our bodies and lives are all disposable for this regime. In light of this renewed truth, thousands are now contemplating immigration. Unable to survive here, they will leave, while those who have overseen the country’s ruin remain to gamble with the little, we have left, selling the country to the highest bidder.
On August 4, 2020, the regime declared that there is no limit to its criminal intent. We are not looking for an investigation. The truth is clear. It is engraved on the bodies of the dead and the wounded, in the destroyed streets of the city, in the eyes of the survivors, in the living memory of the victims. We do not need an investigation as we do not trust any inquiry commission set up by a regime that has coopted the judiciary and dismantled the justice system to protect its interests. We know all too well that the warlords who passed an amnesty law in 1990 to absolve themselves of the crimes they committed against us during fifteen years of civil war will not bring us justice.
On August 4, the cold-blooded mafia regime confirmed that it is not only corrupt, profit hungry and morally bankrupt; It is murderous. It is impossible for us to coexist with it. Over a month has passed since the explosion, and we are still tending to our wounds, searching for the missing, and burying the dead. Over a month has gone by, and the regime is still in power, manipulating the investigation, extorting aid, and trying to get away with their crime.
Over a month later, one thing remains clear: it is either us or them.
In October of last year, we took to the streets to demand their fall. Hundreds of thousands of protestors gathered in squares across the country to say we have had enough: “All of them means all of them,” this was our slogan, and it still is: they are all responsible, and they must all be held accountable. In the face of our revolt and our collective indignation, the regime responded with violence, unleashing its security apparatuses to crack down on dissent. They used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse us; they used live ammunition to kill us and intimidate us. They beat us and arrested us in their desperate attempt to break our revolutionary will. And when all else failed, they warned us of civil war. The warlords themselves cry war in the face of revolution, making empty promises of reform, and setting up puppet governments that sink us further into total collapse.
A week after the explosion, the puppet technocrat prime minister resigned, leaving us with nothing but a human catastrophe and a financial collapse that his cabinet failed to address for months. For months, all the government did was protect the interests of the mafia regime. A week after the explosion, the prime minister resigned under popular and international pressure, threatening us with chaos and uncertainty.
He left us under emergency law, ratified by parliament and unconstitutionally extended, granting exceptional powers to the army.
Rather than providing a much-needed framework for relief and rescue, the regime’s only concern was to camouflage its failure. In their meaningless speeches, political leaders described the catastrophic explosion as an opportunity to end the economic siege on Lebanon. After failing to secure bail out funds, they now circle like vultures assessing the gains to be made from our carnage. Rather than assuming responsibility, the regime responded with a law that expands the jurisdiction of military courts over civilians, giving power to the army to close spaces of assembly, set curfews at any given time, prohibit gatherings deemed to threaten security, censor publications and media, impose house arrest on anyone engaging in “threatening” activities, and enter homes at will. The police state long in the making found an opportunity to entrench itself in the carnage.
On August 8, when thousands of us gathered in downtown Beirut to mourn our dead and demand justice and accountability, the police state met us with tear gas, live ammunition, and birdshot. Many of those who were shot or injured had survived the explosion; many had been volunteering in rescue and relief efforts. Under this regime, we cannot even mourn in peace.
On August 4, 2020, the explosion that the regime caused in the heart of our capital severed the last thread that connected us to it. A hundred years after the founding of Lebanon, the port’s explosion destroyed all the tenets of a long defunct social contract: sectarian coexistence, resistance, and national sovereignty. All this has expired, and one thing has become fully clear: we are under occupation.
On August 4, 2020, the regime lost all its legitimacy and we entered into open war with its politicians, its parties, its banks, and its media. No legitimacy will be restored by mock investigations, ballot boxes, or rescue governments. Legitimacy belongs to those who are fighting for social justice. And the justice we believe in leaves no one behind. The justice we believe in will never be served at the expense of the most dispossessed.
On August 4, 2020, the regime declared war on us. We declare today the beginning of our battle for liberation.
This article was written by the Leftist Intersectional Front in Lebanon.
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