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The Daily Star
FRIDAY, 18 APR 2014
01:33 PM Beirut time
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Collateral damage
Omar and his brother Rani, stand by the coffin of their murdered father, former Lebanese finance minister Mohammad Shatah during his funeral at the Mohammed al-Amin mosque in downtown Beirut, on December 29, 2013.(AFP PHOTO/STR)
Omar and his brother Rani, stand by the coffin of their murdered father, former Lebanese finance minister Mohammad Shatah during his funeral at the Mohammed al-Amin mosque in downtown Beirut, on December 29, 2013.(AFP PHOTO/STR)
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Politicians in Lebanon are well aware of the precarious security situation and the threats to their lives daily, which was brought into dramatic focus with Friday’s assassination of former Minister Mohammad Shatah.

Although special precautions are taken against such terror attacks, these measures can’t provide total protection from harm, as Shatah’s killing proved.

But other people perished in Friday’s car bombing in downtown Beirut – Shatah’s bodyguard, Tarek Badr, and six innocent bystanders.

One of them was Mohammad Shaar, a 16-year-old, whose photographs – before and after the blast – were circulated widely on social media.

Shaar represents the ordinary people from across the political and sectarian divide who continue to pay the ultimate price for merely residing here. They’re the people who wake up every morning and leave for school or work, or for a bit of socializing with friends, without being certain if they’ll return home at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, government officials and politicians issue worthless statements about the security situation, claiming things are under control. On other occasions, they just shrug and lamely ask, “What can we do?”

The Lebanese are sick and tired of all these worthless words and want to get on with their lives. They have been promised that efforts are being made to improve the economic situation, defend national sovereignty or lure tourists, somehow, to the country. These are all luxury items in the context of the current situation, because the authorities are unable to stop people from becoming mere collateral damage.

For nearly a decade, a string of political assassinations and bombings have claimed innocent lives – the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri killed over 20 people. Horrific bombings struck around the country this year, leaving in their wake victims from all sects, regions and political persuasions.

Ending this saga of death and destruction should be the top priority because no promised improvements will mean anything if the people aren’t around to enjoy them. The measures that have been used to defend Lebanon against terror haven’t worked, and officials must change their approach to produce a solution. The killers continue to kill because they’re fully confident they’ll never be caught or punished for their heinous acts.

If Lebanon’s leaders can’t stop citizens from becoming collateral damage, they are telling people: If you’re rich enough, send your children away because we can’t guarantee their security and if you lack these resources, take whatever job opportunity you can get abroad, no matter how menial, because you’re on your own.

Ordinary people who obey the law, play by the rules and hope for a better life have no prospects. With every passing day, Lebanon is being emptied of its most valuable resources. The only future may be one where the thugs call the shots.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 30, 2013, on page 7.
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