Friday, October 27, 2006

Letter from Lebanon--#42 The Aftermath [part I]

Regular reader and visitors, all know Rosie by now. For those who don't, Rosie is an American woman, married and living in Lebanon. During the July War, she was writing and dispatching letter, by email, and through my blog here, telling the real story of the war, and what was really happening.
Rosie is back in Lebanon now, and again trying to help the country that she became to love dearly. Here's another one of her amazing and powerful letters.
z.
----
October 26, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

I have been in Lebanon just over a month, although it feels as if it’s been a year. My head is about above water now, but am still treading. I also waited before writing another letter so that I would have the chance to go around Lebanon, see and listen to people, get a feel of what is happening here. And that I’ve begun to do.

Letter from Lebanon--#42 The Aftermath: The July War, aka The 34-Day War--Part I

Every morning as I place my hand on the television remote control, I hesitate before I turn on the news. I have a moment of dread: What horror will I wake up to this morning? Soon the feelings pass and I can relax one more day in this war-ravaged yet wonderful country.

People are still very tense. The war and the current political situation remain constant topics of discussion and concern. You can hear the anguish in people’s voices. At my first book club meeting since the summer my friends and I talked about our war experiences. How did we escape? Who stayed? For the first time in eight years, we never even got to the book. We all had so many stories to share. We needed to talk.

On the other hand, a major shopping mall that I go to is bustling. It had been also the Moslem holy month of Ramadan, which may be the one of the reasons for the surge of activity. One Saturday evening my husband asked the waiter at one of the restaurants why it was so crowded. The waiter replied that it is always like this. If you would have been in that shopping mall, you would have never guessed that the country just went through one of its worst wars. But the packed mall does not necessarily translate into increased purchases. I think the mall is a safe outlet to get out of the house with their families. Where else can they go?

While parts of Lebanon seem bustling however, the realities of the war are still ever present. The news reminds us of what the war damages Lebanon faces. We read and hear about which repairs and rebuilding need to be done and who from the foreign community is helping. Every time I go to the grocery store I am reminded of the war because it’s the rare day that I can find fresh milk. Since I have been here I have been able to buy only four cartons of fresh milk; I usually buy three a week. Lebanon has two main dairies that produce fresh milk for drinking. But the one that was flattened by the Israelis, which is my favorite produced 85% of the total fresh milk supply. The Israelis knew exactly what they were hitting when they struck the dairy six times. The Israelis wanted it destroyed because they had lost the contract to supply milk to UN soldiers so they thought what the heck, no one can get to us, we’ll jus t destroy our competitor. Nice side work for the Israelis.

So let’s see exactly what was accomplished by the 34 day onslaught by the Israelis. Their first publicly stated goal was to get the release of the two kidnapped soldiers. Failed. As the war continued, their second publicly stated goal was to crush Hizbullah so that they could be disarmed. Failed. Then as the war continued with failure of both of the previous two goals, they decided to invade Lebanon and push Hizbullah behin d the line of the Litani river, creating a “safe zone” of about 20 kilometers from the Israeli border. That was pretty much achieved. You notice that I write “publicly stated goal” because what they said and what they were doing were two different things. What you heard and what reality is are strikingly different. Israel used the term ”terrorist” and “hiding arms” for each and every excuse to strike, but those of us here knew that they were purposely destroying the infrastructure of Lebanon, with impunity, as the West, in particular the United States not only supported Israel but provided deadly bombs. And how are the Lebanese expected to believe the United States is an ally?

What was the cost to Lebanon? The true cost will not be known for generations. Thousands of people were evacuated. Many returned, but some did not. The youth, the future of the country are questioning their security and their ability to obtain a good job. They are not fools. They need to look out for themselves. So besides the material costs, which I will get to in a moment, there is and there will continue to be a signific ant brain drain. The Lebanese love their country, but in the end, they have to survive and those who can afford it will look outside the country to continue their education and for employment. And most likely they will never return. They will no longer be able to trust the security of the country because of its belligerent neighbor Israel. Because of the meddling of Syria and by implication Iran. And because the United States is constantly stirring up the pot. (Israel had already made several attacks after UN resolution 1701 and continues to violate Lebanese a irspace and always with impunity.)

Other costs to Lebanon:

  1. Over a thousand, mostly civilians lost their lives, although the true number is still not yet clear and is probably much higher. Thousands more were wounded, including many children.
  2. Thousands of homes destroyed—about 130,000 Total villages were decimated. Schools, hospitals, businesses. Completely destroyed.
  3. Unemployment is rising and has a ripple effect since businesses were destroyed.
  4. When Israel bombed the Jiyyeh power plant in the South, they caused one of the worst environmental disasters in history. Oil has blackened the sea and nearly three quarters of the Lebanese coastline, reaching up to the historic town of Byblos. Fishing, a primary source of food and employment has come to a screeching halt. Fish markets have closed. Those that remain open sell imported fish.
  5. Over 90 factories were destroyed.
  6. Economic costs are reaching into over $8 billion.
  7. Eighty bridges and 94 roads were damaged or destroyed.
  8. In the last four days of the war, when Israel knew that it was coming to a close, they purposefully and illegally dropped thousands of cluster bombs in civilian areas in the South. The UN states that among 800,000 and 1,200,000 cluster blomblets were showered over Lebanon. Compare that to 20,000 cluster bomblets launched in Kosovo! Cluster bombs are bombs about the size of a tennis ball with a small wire protruding. The problem is that nearly 30% of these bombs did not explode upon the initial drop so there are thousands of these bombs hanging from trees, in the ground tucked here and there, ready to go off. Over 100 people have already died since the cessation of the war due to these cluster bombs! Israel refuses to give their bombardment map sheet that would in dicate where they dropped the bombs. Israel also has refused from their 15 year occupation of the South to give Lebanon the plans of where they planted land mines. So now the Lebanese in the South cannot till their soil, pick the fruit from the trees or take a walk in their own gardens because of these cluster bombs. Between the land mines and now the cluster bombs, the South is a walking Russian roulette.
  9. Israel also fired illegal phosphorus bombs. Over the course of the war, a friend stated that from her home she could see different colors of smoke rising from exploded bombs—gray, black, white smoke—and wondered what they were? What poisonous vapors were spreading? The furniture on the balconies became black from the pollution created by the bombs and debris. ; Washed white again, only the next day to be blackened. What was or still is getting into people’s lungs?
  10. A friend told me that during the entire period of the war her jasmine plant did not bloom once. Two weeks after the cessation of the 34 day war, it finally bloomed. If only the country could bounce back as quickly.
A friend told me that during the entire period of the war her jasmine plant did not bloom once. Two weeks after the cessation of the 34 day war, it finally bloomed. If only the country could bounce back as quickly.
More on the aftermath in the next letter. Your comments are always welcomed. Please keep the word spreading.


Rosie AKL
Rosie.AKL@gmail.com

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15 Comments:

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Mirvat said...

why does it already feel like a hundred years ago?

 
At 11:32 AM, Blogger _z. said...

Because we are still in disbelief, that this could have happened to us again; that somebody can still do this to us and get away with it (H.A + IDF)... it is something we want to put behind us... and forget.

 
At 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

O.K we agree you are poor country, we pity on you, every one wants to hurt you, you are angels... but what would you do now?
you have three options...
1) you can sit and cry, and do nothing about the situation.
2) you can go and demonstrate against hezbolla, bring back the two soldiers, and make peace with israel.
3) you can demonstrate in favor of hezbolla, and prefer to the next round.
but you can't enjoy from all the worlds...you can't let the hezbolla control in the south shoot on israel, sit in your parlament, snatch soldiers and then expect that israel will not do nothing about this, so its like or you pro hezbolla, or you anti hezbolla and if you are.. do something about this...stop cry 'cause as you have seen...everyone care only for themself...even the U.N., israel will not solve your inside argument.
so you can call them nazis, and facist, but its will not help you...take responsibility on your actions. 'cause nobody will help you, only you.

 
At 2:11 PM, Blogger _z. said...

anonymous.

spoken lke a true advocate of the free world... so we're either with you or we are terrorists... is that how it is? there's a whole world in bteween you know.

If you visited my blog more often, you would know that I am by no means a supporter of Hezbollah... not at all. However, you can't ask me to chose between you and my countrymen...

listen to me carefully:
we are NOT a poor country,
we DON'T need your pity,
YES everybody wants a piece of us
and NO we are NO angels.

I don't like the tone of your recommendations or the "choices" you gave, and it is certainly not up to you to give advice, therefore, and very kindly, I am just going to ask you to sod off.

and please, next time, if there is a next time, please sign your name, any name, any fake name...

 
At 6:00 PM, Blogger Mirvat said...

anon i pity your stupidity and your poor simple mind for once!

 
At 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No I don't read you blog, actually I even don't remember how did I came to this artical.
I am sorry if you don't like my tone, but this is what I think...why do you hurt so much that someone write diffrent opinion than your? you should be happy that someone read your blog and interested.
I don't pity on you, but I don't understand why you write this letter...
I only said that blame israel in every thing will not help you.
recently I read blogs and opinions from lebanon and its always look like everybody is blame except of lebanon...if its israel, hezbolla, syria, iran, U.S...but who choose hezbolla? are you consider hezbolla to Lebaneses? if you are, so what do you want? you start this war... and if you are not so why don't you do something about this and blame israel all the time.
I only write what I feel.
if you want to hear only how good you are, fine... but why did you put an option to respond?
to say that everybody want piece of you its little arrogant, I mean you have nice country but lets not exaggerate... israel never want parts from you, we came to lebanon only when someone bombed us, if this the PLO and if this hezbolla...stop to be so paranoid.

n.b- my name is Alon if its help you for something.

 
At 6:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I red Rosies letter with care and I took in her report that was written carefully whithout useles bias.
But one little fabric of "anon's" ramblings stirred up the mud in my soul and made me ask again:
Why did Hisbollah took the fucking chance - and stirred the pebble that never should have been rolled?!
Don't they know by now that the Israeli state has become a beast?
Stay away from the beast - that's all I can say.

PS, I am musing about putting up a post about the Israeli wall in Palestine- it makes me so sick that words can not describe it, but I will try.

 
At 11:25 AM, Blogger jooj said...

It is always good to hear the thoughts of foreigners living in Lebanon, esp. unbiased ones like Rosie's.

Anon comments reminded me of the times of war. Same argument, same choices, same shit.

Zee, do you really believe this was all triggered by HA's act and not preplanned? the beast never left us alone.

 
At 12:35 AM, Blogger _z. said...

Alon,

of course I appreciate debate, and discussions. This is why i write. however, what ticked me in your comment, is the patronizing tone you took. However, now I realize, that this is the way you express yourself, and therefore I take my anger back.
Just for clarification Alon, I did not write this letter. Sure I adopted it and decided to publish it here, because I think there is a lot of truth in it, it is very heartfelt, and it carries a nice, dare I say objective, view from a foreigner, living in Lebanon.
I DO blame Israel for the disproportionate response in Lebanon, but we are no saints either. And there is a lot of blame on Lebanese... all of them.
Welcome to my blog, by the way.


zee, your question is most valid. I wish I could answer you. My only explanation (which is the commercial one) would be pressure from syria and/or Iran.
But as jooj said, the beast never left us alone either. there is a lot of unfinished business. It was a volcano waiting to erupt.

jooj, every country SHOULD have a retaliation plan. Of course they were ready. How can you live in the Middle East without being ready for defence and offence.

 
At 10:04 AM, Blogger Ghassan said...

funny. after reading the letter... I realized that I just don't want to know about it. It never happened period. isn't this terrible!

 
At 10:09 AM, Blogger Red said...

The effect of those 34 days will be felt for a long time to come, I fear...

I was reading this Robert Fisk article the other day (I'm sure you must have seen it). This sentence sent shivers through me:

"The language now being used in Lebanon by the country's political leaders is approaching the incendiary, lethal grammar of pre-civil war Lebanon."

It's scary. And Rosie's letter does nothing to allay my fears. Pardon my naivety, but shouldn't the UN intervene and force Israel to relinquish the bombardment sheet plans? Can't there be sanctions against this sort of uncooperative behaviour?

 
At 12:46 AM, Blogger _z. said...

It's terrible alright ghassan.

Red,
I too, fear another civil war coming. The same elements of 1975 are boiling. Let's hope we are wrong.

When did the UN have power over anything Red. Forget about the UN! nobody listens to them anyway.

 
At 11:30 AM, Blogger Red said...

Eh, I knew I was going to sound like I was born yesterday with my naive UN comment as soon as I typed it. But some injustices are so outrageous, taking a stand seems like common sense to me, beyond any politics or warring factions.

 
At 1:01 PM, Blogger _z. said...

not naive at all red, please don't say that. your inquisitive questions are always challenging. They sometimes put me to shame, because I can never answer them properly.
But really the UN is a useless, very expensive referee, that no one listens to. the latest example is the war in Iraq. The UN was FIRM against any intervention in Iraq... look what happened. (Of course, this is not to say that saddam is a nice dude, but you know what I mean...)

 
At 8:20 AM, Blogger Lirun said...

alon's "intonation" is indeed a translation issue.. he was writing heblish.. dont be offended..

his point is the same point i make to mirvat on her blog (i know you're reading ya habibti) that you should be careful to acknowledge all sides..

i hate the outcome of this war and i hate what it has done to lebanon..

but i fear that this is really the same lady as she was before the war only wearin a different outfit..

before she was in begnin pijamas.. and now she is wearing combat but israel surely isnt the cause of lebanese factionism and israel's point in the war was that it was not prepared to sit idolly as the junk yard for katyushas as lebanon undertook cosmetic political surgery..

during the war i felt that we had gone in too deep and that out respose was too intense.. but again.. look at the outcome.. i have no idea how to measure our response..

while we are asked not to undertake reconnaissance flights - NO ONE is asking anyone to return our kids..

everyone can always evoke sentiments of "poor me" the question is truly however:

what are we doing to make our region better going forward..

 

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