The NY Times today runs a heartbreaking story about Lebanese children who survived the horrors of the shooting war only to die thanks to U.S.-provided cluster bomblets dropped by the IAF. The kids see what looks like an interesting and unusual object in the rubble and decide it’s worth a look and…:
Marwa al-Miri, 10, and her 12-year-old cousin Sekneh could not resist the chance of a treasure hunt when they were finally allowed to go out and play on Thursday evening, three days after returning home to Ayt el Shaab.
Almost everywhere the girls and their playmates looked in their rubble-strewn town there was a gem — papers and books covered in dust, dented appliances and, best of all, the occasional toy. Even the metallic gray canister that Marwa held up, the size of a battery with a head that looked like a cigarette lighter, had some allure for the children.
But when she pitched it to her 10-year-old friend Hassan Tahini, it exploded in a loud bang that brought out all the adults in the area. In a split second, Hassan was on the ground unconscious, his gut split open; Marwa was screaming in pain with shrapnel wounds in her legs; and Sekneh was riddled with shrapnel in her chest and struggling for her life.
“It looked like a little can; it was interesting,” Marwa recalled Friday, moaning in pain at Jabal Amel Hospital in Tyre, where the three children were being treated.
Thousands of so-called bomblets, smaller than a hand grenade but far more deadly, have turned homes, schools and even hospitals in southern Lebanon into virtual minefields, threatening communities for months, possibly even years to come, say human rights campaigners and mine cleanup groups.
Israel’s response is:
It dropped cluster bombs during the monthlong war, but…tried to avoid using them in civilian areas.
And the towns and villages where it dropped these potential child-killers were NOT civilian areas?
I call cluster bombs “the gift that keeps on giving”–death, that is. It’s a fine bequest we’ve provided for the Lebanese. We helped wreck their country; and now we help things along by killing their children. Condi, George and Dick should really be proud of themselves.
That’s why I find today’s story that the Bush Administration is scrambling to generate a serious reconstruction plan for Lebanon that would supplant or at least compete with Hezbollah to be so hollow and self-interested as to be simply laughable:
The Bush administration is scrambling to assemble a plan to help rebuild Lebanon, hoping that by competing with Hezbollah for the public’s favor it can undo the damage the war has inflicted on its image and goals for the Middle East.
Administration officials fear that unless they move quickly to demonstrate U.S. commitment, the Lebanese will turn more fully to the militant group, which has begun rolling out an ambitious reconstruction program that Washington believes is bankrolled by Iran.
American officials also believe that the administration must restore its influence to keep a newly assertive Syria from undermining U.S.-supported reformers in Lebanon.
A major rebuilding investment would put the United States in the position of subsidizing both the Israeli munitions that caused the damage and the reconstruction work that will repair it. Such a proposal could meet with resistance from Congress, but administration officials said that the need for action was urgent.
“People have been seized by the need to do more, in a tangible way, and they’re working feverishly on this,” said a senior administration official who asked to remain unidentified because he was speaking about plans still in development. “They know we’re in a race against time to turn around these perceptions.”
U.S. officials and private experts agree that the administration faces an uphill effort trying to outdo Hezbollah, which has a broad local base, well-developed social service programs and the confidence of many Lebanese.
“Hezbollah is deeply integrated into Lebanese society,” said Jon Alterman, a former State Department official who is head of Middle East studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
“We’re coming in when there’s a sense that we stood by the destruction of Lebanon by an ally, with U.S. weapons, and didn’t complain. So we may be too late.”
After Hezbollah grabs all the headlines and beats us to the post, only then do we decide to steal their thunder and gin up a previously non-existent reconstruction program. Besides, how are you going to compete with an indigenous, well-organized organization well-funded by outside interests willing to provide seemingly unending amounts of cash? While we are foreigners with no base in the region and the ones who helped kill them in the war. Isn’t that a bitter irony? And a little desperate to boot?
It reminds me of Amir Peretz’s recent statement that now would be a fine time to begin talking to Syria about making peace. Because you got your ass whupped and you want to do something, anything to try to find a silver lining from this dark, ominous cloud of a failed war.