By William Caraccio
Before August 5, 2020, the Gemmayzeh neighborhood just south of Beirut’s main port could be characterized by stone churches and clustered restaurants, with Lebanese locals as well as tourists populating the historic cobblestone streets. Now, after a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate unexpectedly exploded on Wednesday, killing over 150 and displacing some 300,000, Gemmayzeh is nothing but rubble. No people, no buildings, no bustling restaurants or towering cathedrals–just scraps. While Lebanon’s painful history of civil unrest and domestic terrorism may come to mind in light of the Beriut bombing, officials point to another, perhaps even more devastating cause for the explosion of the ammonium nitrate on Wednesday–incompetence and corruption at nearly every level of the Lebanese government. While the claim that the catastrophic explosion was unintentional–a mere result of lazy municipal management–is yet to be confirmed, the facts overwhelmingly point to this conclusion. According to the New York Times, “Lebanese officials knew the dangers posed by storing ammonium nitrate at the port, but failed to act.” With no known terrorist organizations having claimed responsibility for this cruel act, most have accepted the idea that the Lebanese Government is to blame. Suffice it to say, Lebanese have had enough of their dysfunctional government. Since Wednesday, protests and riots have sprung up across Beirut as well as the country of Lebanon itself, a clear indication of how public opinion has turned against the Lebanese government in the wake of the explosion.