Lebanese persistence and American perceptions

Question what constitutes collateral damage and what is viewed as heinous war crimes.

Ramla Bile

Fifty-six massacres shook Lebanon this summer, the bloodiest being the massacres in Srifra, Qana and Qaa. These names bear immense burden to the Lebanese citizens, but perhaps remain foreign to Americans.

For those who did not follow events that unfolded in the Middle East, a conflict between Israel and Hezbollah resulted in significant and certainly incalculable destruction to the state of Lebanon. Almost 1,200 people died; a third of this number represents children. Roughly 4,000 individuals suffered injuries while a million people – a quarter of the country’s population – found themselves displaced. Beirut became a haven for half a million refugees who sought asylum in the city.

There was a shocking assault on the infrastructure of Lebanon. Some airports, bridges, water plants, fuel stations, hospitals and electrical facilities sustained a large amount of damage, while others were completely destroyed.

Several cities were cut off from contact, and people were trapped as 120 bridges and 94 roads ceased to connect communities. Throughout Lebanon, over 30,000 homes and businesses were destroyed, and the Lebanese government estimates that three-fourths of the country remains unemployed.

In addition to these assaults, flagrant environmental concerns remain from an oil spill along the coastline and an attack on a major power station.

But what cannot be measured is the loss of historical sites, number of lives lost and the violated sense of security the Lebanese people have been experiencing. The indiscriminate bombardment instilled fear within the citizenry.

The Lebanese people continue to live with this fear, as an estimated 8,000 to 9,000 munitions remain ready to maim and kill at any moment.

If these numbers and facts alone do not produce concern or responsibility in the American public, let us take a moment to reflect over our own recent experiences. This past Monday marked the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, a day that the international community and certainly Americans will never forget. On that day, Americans experienced a similar violation of security.

It becomes imperative to not only question in what ways our perception shapes how we view conflicts, but also to put into perspective the suffering of others. The best way to perhaps convey such a similitude is to contemplate about the ramifications of a similar bombardment on American soil.

What if Americans were the victims of indiscriminate assault and suffered significant civilian casualties? What if a similar conflict left a quarter of the country displaced, and three-fourths of the population unemployed? What if there was a wave of migration from the West Coast to East Coast, and suddenly a quarter of the population sought refugee in the nation’s capital?

If American children “accidentally” perished at the hands of soldiers, would it be possible for us to overlook this loss as a matter of “collateral damage”? If not, how are we able to morally justify the atrocities in Lebanon this summer when our taxes facilitated such destruction?

Lebanon is a resilient nation that has overwhelmed greater offenses, whether invasions or colonization. Lebanon survived the gruesome massacre of Sabra and Shatila. Lebanon will recover, but will the guilt of our silence allow us to move forward, and when, if ever, will we realize that all human life is equally valuable?

Ramla Bile is a member of the Daily’s Editorial Board. She welcomes comments at [email protected]