If you live in Beirut, you know that motorcades are a very common sight . A long trail of - always - black shiny SUV’s snaking their way through traffic, with loud sirens, honking and beeping along the way. It’s very intrusive, but politics is a dangerous business in this country, and it seems that moving from one place to another in this town is considered hazardous to a politician’s health.
These motorcades come in all sizes, depending on the importance of the person traveling in the motorcade. The American ambassador used to travel in a really heavy-duty one, with U.S. marines popping out of the roof of some cars with machine guns screwed to the top. They’d have security guys sitting at the window who’s stick M16’s out of the window and swivel the muzzle in all directions, screaming loud and gesturing wildly, ‘shooing’ all other road occupants off the road. You did not want to mess with those guys.
Either the ambassador does not leave the embassy compound anymore, or he’s not visiting this part of town anymore, or he has down-scaled his operation, but those obnoxious parade are a thing of the past.
These days it is 5 or more vehicles, with a policeman on a motorcycle in the front and one in the back.
Hariri’s motorcade was a little larger; he usually had 10 cars, with all types of smaller vehicles and police cars attached to it as well. When he’d pass by, your cell phone didn’t work because he had some type of device that blocked all radio traffic out of fear that they would use a bombing device with remote control. The theory was that if the remote control didn’t work, neither did the bomb. Well, that theory proved to be incorrect; he was blown up by a massive bomb, detonated with a remote control. Or at least that is what the UN thinks. Partially. They actually do not know yet. They’ve been investigating for a year and-a-half now.
When driving through town, they literally push everyone of the road, and that annoys me to no extend. Once, a long time ago, I was on my way back home after work, and it had not been a particular good day. Just as I drove into my street, the Hariri caravan announced its arrival. He’s the only big shot living in my part of town, and since I am not near the parliament or ministry building, the only one using this street would be him. I was not very much in the mood that, and decided that this was not a great day to vex a Dutch lady with some stupid idiot that needed to pass by and who thought he was infinitely more important than I was.
So I decided not to stop, and continue. Since some people had doubled parked, I ended up blocking the whole friggin’ motorcade. Well, I was still young and pretty in those days, and a lady after all, so I figured they’d treat me some respect while kindly asking me if I could please back up now that I had blocked the road. Are you kidding? These gorillas were on top of me in a New York minute, yelling their lungs out, waving their guns at me, ripping me out of my car seat, shoving me aside and being incredibly rude and impolite.
Very unsettling, I must say.
So I do not bother motorcades anymore, these gentlemen have no humor.
I doubt whether all these security measures are very helpful. Rene Mouawad (he’d been president for 9 days) was blown up while sitting in his car, Gibran Tueni (anti-Syrian journalist) was blown up in the car, and so was Hariri. And it all happened while traveling in their motorcades.
And what is most annoying are those people that slip into the vortex of the last motorcade car. It may be smart, this way they get through traffic at exactly the same speed as the politicians, but it’s aggravating all those poor suckers (like me) that just got ditched off the road.
One good thing though; those that were following Hariri’s motorcade are probably having their DNA analyzed now by the UN.