How do you save a truly corrupt country like Lebanon? It’s a question with an almost impossible answer

The poison that is killing the country will require an international reaction not seen in decades if it is to be leached out, writes Robert Fisk

The blast at Beirut's port has killed dozens and injured thousands

The blast at Beirut’s port has killed dozens and injured thousands ( AFP via Getty )

 Well, we can all agree that the sea took 70 per cent of the blast!” a close Lebanese friend announced to me this week, with intriguing if doubtful science. I had asked him – because I knew the answer – which of Lebanon’s religious communities had suffered most grievously from the explosion that changed the nation. Or did not change the nation, as the case may be.

Like everything in Lebanon, his calculation may have been right. Because Beirut, like Tripoli – and Haifa, for that matter – is built on one of those ancient east Mediterranean promontories, like “the face of an old fisherman” as Fairouz memorably called her capital city. The great clap of sound may have embraced more salt water than buildings. And the fish, so far as we know, are not religious.

But my acquaintance – a Sunni Muslim, a civil servant of many years, a reader of books rather than memos – was quick to caution me. “Let’s not see this in civil war terms. But yes, the Christians were hit worse because they live next to the port in the east of the city, the Maronites mostly. The Muslims side of Beirut lost its windows, the Christians lost their lives.” But even that wasn’t quite true.

Categories: Arab World, Asia, Lebanon

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