A button away from the CL’s final on the remote control

While the eyes of Europe have turned to Athens for the evening in order to follow the final of the UEFA Champion’s League opposing Liverpool FC to AC Milan, a button away on my remote control is CNN broadcasting images of yet another terrorist bomb attack in Lebanon. This time in East Beirut. Hundred of demonstrators, curious and passer-bys are gathered there, making calls on their mobile phones, taking pictures with their digital cameras or yelling in front of the cameras. In a few days, more than 60 people have died in northern Lebanon, a mark never reached there since the end of the civil war in 1990.

belllebanon.jpg

image: Steve Bell for The Guardian

A week ago, a close half lebanese half danish friend of mine left Copenhagen to visit her family there for a few weeks. She left the notoriously insouciance of safe and quiet Denmark for a place which makes the media highlights for its recent upsurge of violence. Ever since, I have kept an eye on the news preoccupied by the growing instability and the possible consequences for her, her family and friends.

After all, and as we all witnessed last year, civilians are always the first victims of such fightings between regular army and extremist groups. Unfortunately, listening to a refugee from the Nahr Al-Bared camp, quoted in the NYT it won’t be different this time: “The army and Fatah al Islam would fire on each other, but the bombs and bullets landed on us. We were waiting for death.”

Yesterday, because an explosion occurred in Beirut, I sent her an SMS asking how things were. Beyond the relief of getting an instant reassuring reply, the end of her message got me pondering for a while: “I wish I could see an end to all this mess“.

But could that be more than a wish ?

Pessimistic, I wonder how it could when for a year at least we have let the precarious but real political equilibrium found by this country and its diverse ethnic and religious groups fall into a rather bleak future. This country which could have been a reason for hoping, an example for the entire region, has come to symbolize many of its dead-ends.

However inextricable the situation may seem, I hope that this time western governments won’t merely wave press releases stating how much they/we “regret” the way events unfold.

During all his campaign, Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s new president has loudly voiced his ambition to base his policy international affairs primarily on moral principles. The recruitment of M. Kouchner, founder of Doctors without Borders and long-standing advocate of humanitarian intervention – a man less than accustomed to diplomatic faltering – for the job of Foreign Affairs minister has confirmed Sarkozy’s willingness to move away from too often accepted cynicism like Chirac’s unbalanced approach toward Putin’s Russia ; Putin whom Sarkozy openly and forcefully criticized for his orchestration of military repression in Chechnya. So today, let us hope that the intentions claimed will also lead to a clear involvement, along with the US, the EU and the international community at large, in Lebanon.

Yes, let us hope that unlike last year, when Isreal-lead war seriously shook-up the Lebanese social fabric, this time a quick and unequivocal commitment of the international community prevents the collapse which some already tragically foresee, like these 2 journalists who blog from Beirut: “We are heading straight to a civil war”, they write.

Now the game is over, Milan has won, cameras are on Berlusconi who stands by Platini and hundred of millions are religiously watching the show. Let us not prevent Berlusconi from covering up civilians’ voices in Lebanese begging us for help.

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Let this diversity of opinions be propounded to, and laid before him; he will himself choose, if he be able; if not, he will remain in doubt. "Che non men che saver, dubbiar m' aggrata." ["I love to doubt, as well as to know."-- Dante, Inferno, xi. 93] for, if he embraces the opinions of Xenophon and Plato, by his own reason, they will no more be theirs, but become his own. Who follows another, follows nothing, finds nothing, nay, is inquisitive after nothing. "Non sumus sub rege; sibi quisque se vindicet." ["We are under no king; let each vindicate himself." --Seneca, Ep.,33]"
Montaigne - Essais I, XXVI, Of The Education of Children
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