maandag 15 februari 2010

No tears for Rafiq Hariri

by Yassine Channouf

I will be brief. Rafiq Hariri is dead. He really is. And let me tell you, he was not the Awaited Imam or the Messiah, so please get over it!
What did he do to make him so 'loved', and his death even coincides with the Capitalist holiday of love: Valentine.
Well, he ruined Lebanon financially. In his case numbers say it all. The public debt of Lebanon was around $2.5 billion when he took on the office of Prime Minister in 1992. A mere 13 year later, this debt increased to almost a dazzling $ 40billion, some 185% of Lebanon's GDP. And what did he do in return for the country? Well, he rebuilt the airport of Beirut, constructed the coastal highway connecting the north of Lebanon with the south and restored/destroyed the area known as downtown Beirut. He destroyed it for the poor and low middle-class Lebanese who prior to the civil war had their own shops, cafés among others in a downtown area that was accessible for every Lebanese, regardless of the socio-economic strata they belonged to. Now, downtown Beirut is the most expensive area of Lebanon, not only real estate wise but just a simple coffee costs you fortunes in this part of Beirut. But it fits the Lebanon Hariri envisioned, a Lebanon welcoming all those who have money.
Now how did Hariri get so wealthy? A cunning and daring business man, and a keen observer of people, he liked to present himself as a philanthropist -mostly for Western establishments such as the American University of Beirut- in order to boost the image he created of him being a generous man. He became wealthy as the contractor for some of the royal princes of the House of Saud, and was sent to Lebanon as their man. In 1992, after more two decades in which he accumulated his fortune outside of Lebanon, which mounted to around $1 billion he became Prime Minister of Lebanon. He initiated certain reforms that caused the economy to grow, nothing extraordinary for post-war economies, look at the situation in Europe after both world wars for example. Hariri's secret formula for creating this economic growth was increasing the budget for public spending for 'infrastructural' works. Most of the money he borrowed to finance his vision for a Lebanese state were borrowed from his own banks, et en plus his own companies, most notoriously 'Solidere' were awarded the bulk of the reconstruction contracts. This means that Hariri, in his position as a Prime Minister, lend money from his own banks to finance Lebanese projects that his companies were carrying out. This means that from his perspective he enriched himself from the interests he gained by borrowing money to the Lebanese state which he represented, and from the construction contracts which he awarded to himself. Then there were the expropriations. He would expropriate certain areas in Beirut after the civil war, or his company Solidere would buy it for barely a fraction of its market value. After he bought the most lucrative areas of Beirut using these hideous practices he would plant massive hotels and residential buildings, infuriating the former owners of the ground Hariri bought. The sheer number say it all. His personal fortune rose from around 1 billion dollar when he first became PM, to 16 billion dollar when he died 13 years later.

Then there are the claims of his so-called independence. There was no so thing. His only interest was enriching himself. He allied himself with both Saudi and Syrian intelligence, and did not shy away from playing the sectarian game, whenever this suited him. In the Lebanese context, stating that such and such 'want to weaken the position of the Prime Minister' is easily understood. It means that others want to weaken the Sunnis. In a country ravaged by civil war, the last thing needed is a Prime Minister who claims to represent all Lebanese, using this vile language. He issued certain censorship laws and funded the most extreme Sunni fundamental groups. He was notorious for buying his votes, a trick mastered and put into effect by his son during the last elections in 2009.

And if you want to know who all came to speak in memory of Rafiq Hariri today, it was his son, Sa'ad Hariri, who reads at a fourth grade level. Samir Geagea, the butcher of the Palestinians and many Lebanese, a ruthless warlord, sadly the only one to have been convicted for his hideous crimes. The other main speaker was Amin Gemayl of the Phalange, the head of the right-wing sectarian Maronite Party which drew its inspiration from the Hitler Jugend and Franco's scouts. Amin Gemayl was president of Lebanon during the civil war, from 1982 to 1986, and he was responsible for executing Israel's vision of a Zionist-friendly Lebanon. Rafiq Hariri offered him $30 million if Gemayl would appoint him as Prime Minister. This Gemayl even signed a peace treaty with the Zionist state that was occupying half of Lebanon at that time.

Rafiq Hariri is neither the restorer of Lebanese sovereignty, nor the constructor of a wealthy country . He was a sectarian politician who abused his position to enrich himself, at the behalf of the poor of Lebanon. Under his auspices Lebanon became a ultracapitalistic country with utter disregard for the poor and downtrodden of a country ravaged by civil war. His legacy was that the Palestinians dwellers of the refugee camps were further marginalized and barred from being employed in some 70 professions-this happened after his death, but someone already paved the way. A Machiavellian politician that worked with everyone, Saudi-Arabia, Syria, France, and the U.S. after the liberation of the south of Lebanon in 2000, Hariri barely helped this underdeveloped region that was occupied for 22 years in its redevelopment. Now, befitting the warlords and sectarian feudal lords of Lebanon, his son, a man of limited political experience, is Prime Minister of Lebanon.

Heard enough of this rag? Well, I did. Let's hope Lebanon will recover soon from his rule and that this country will become the bastion for a unified Arab world, a country that cares about its poor and underprivileged and a hub for resistance against Israel. In brief: the opposite of the Lebanonthe Hariri dynasty has in mind.

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