Beirut has suffered a catastrophe that will live long in the memory – and the repeated betrayal of its citizens is a travesty

 

Lebanon’s people face a terrible mix of long-term economic ruin, a pandemic and now a devastating explosion. All presided over by a ‘government’ unworthy of the name, says Robert Fisk

The impact of the explosion on Lebanon’s capital has been severe

The impact of the explosion on Lebanon’s capital has been severe ( AP )

There are some moments in a nation’s history which are frozen forever. They may not be the worst catastrophes that have overwhelmed its people. Nor the most political. But they capture a society’s endless tragedy.

Pompeii comes to mind, its Roman confidence and imperial corruption suddenly overwhelmed by an act of God – so calamitous that for ever afterwards we can see its citizens’ ruin, even their bodies.

It needs an image, something which can focus our attention in a mere second on the folly which lies behind a human calamity. Lebanon has just provided that moment.

It’s not the numbers that matter in that context. Beirut’s suffering on Tuesday does not come close to a casual bloodbath in the country’s civil war – nor the often daily savagery of death in Syria for that matter.

Even if its total fatalities – from 10 to 60 to 78 last night and, quite possibly, into the hundreds today – are counted, it will scarcely register on the Richter scales of war. It was not, it seems, even a consequence of war, not in the direct sense that one of the world’s maddest leaders has suggested.

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