CSI Beirut

Another day, another assassination, another mystery. Living in Lebanon is beginning to feel like being unwillingly cast as an extra in a big budget (and fatal) Hollywood production.

But tragic as it may seem, this script fails miserably on plot. It’s definitely not as interesting as the hit TV series this post is named after. That’s because the investigations always seem to lead to nowhere. Yesterday’s killing of police Captain Eid will be analyzed and reanalyzed by the expected legions of talking heads and political pundits. Some will say it’s an attempt to derail the investigation into the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in which Eid was reportedly a key investigator. Some will blame Syria and others will point the finger at Israel. But who will demand evidence in either direction? And where is CSI Beirut anyway? What have they been up to lately? Any leads?

The Lebanese people have been patient enough it seems. It’s only been 3 years, 8 assassinations, 4 attempted assassinations and dozens of often forgotten non-lethal explosions, unexecuted plots and arms cache discoveries since Hariri’s killing in early 2005. It would seem CSI Beirut should make the Guinness Book for witnessing the highest number of successive unsolved crimes in history. Unlike other parts of the world, where terrorists either claim responsibility or at least some are apprehended, in Lebanon there has not been scarcely a single, actionable piece of evidence or arrest that has been presented to the public.

The only pattern, it seems, is intensity. It all began with bombs that went off late at night killing no one, then morphed into assassinations of journalists and public figures, then the target switched to politicians and now, beginning with the killing of a prominent army figure last month, it is security personnel—those meant to keep us safe—that seem to be in the cross hairs. Incidentally, last week also witnessed the first attack on a diplomatic mission, yet another new dimension of violence, reinforcing an attack on Spanish peacekeepers late last year.

No doubt it’s been a tall order for Beirut’s forensic scientists. But still.

One would think something concrete, anything, would have been made public by now: an eye witness testimony or useful snippet of surveillance video perhaps?

It’s not as if the Lebanese police are acting alone, either. In addition to the ongoing, multi-year UN investigation (the head of which is about to be replaced for a third time), America’s FBI has also been brought in to help.

When I arrived on the scene of the latest bombing, I was struck by the amount of debris that was lying around outside the upside down yellow police tape—pictured below.


This consisted of what seemed to be mangled pieces of vehicles. It would be a good idea to inform the machine gun toting officers manning the perimeter, I thought.

“What,” they asked suspiciously.

“You might want to pick it up,” I suggested.

“Why, do you want us to sell metal?” they joked, smirking at one another.

“Maybe it’s important, as an indication of the blast,” I said.

“They will pick it up later,” an older officer chimed in. “What do I care,” he added with a shrug, digging into the dirt with his boots. “Let them pick it up. It’s not my responsibility.”

Sadly, this phrase is one so often used and abused in Lebanon, whether at the workplace or in the highest chambers of political power. One wonders if the assassinations are not only a gauge of geopolitical conditions, but also a result of deeper problems that lurk in the psyche of a country that is unable to even elect its own president.