During my last visit to Beirut, I asked a Lebanese friend why the digital billboard downtown marking the number of days since the February 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri had been switched off if Hariri was still dead. My friend suggested that stopping the clock gave the appearance that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, charged with prosecuting Hariri’s murderers, was actually accomplishing its task.
Were Lebanon not plagued by severe electrical shortages, digital billboards might be set up to count a number of things, such as the number of political assassinations that have gone unsolved since the start of the Lebanese civil war, the number of days suspects in the Hariri case were imprisoned without charges, or the number of visits current Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has made to Syria after accusing that country of killing his father.
As for rumors of the court’s intention to pin blame for the crime on Hezbollah, Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has countered these by revealing aerial footage—alleged to be intercepted from Israeli surveillance aircraft—of the area in which the late Hariri’s motorcade met its fate. Hezbollah might further highlight its technical aptitude by introducing a digital timekeeping component to its own ubiquitous martyr posters, which would additionally provide unique chronological opportunities in the event of future threats by Israeli army chiefs of staff to turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years.