Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"What is obvious to everyone covering this conflict is that children are bearing the brunt of it."

President Bush laments the "loss of innocent life" in Lebanon*. Let's put that in context:

Unicef says that 37 of the 60 dead in Qana on Sunday were children, and everywhere you go, it seems that it is the children who are being killed, injured and displaced. Yesterday the Lebanese government said that of the 828 of its civilians killed in the conflict so far, around 35% have been children - that's around 290. Unicef also estimates that about a third of the dead have been children, although it bases that figure on the fact that an estimated 30% of Lebanon's population are children, rather than any actual count of the dead. There are no official figures yet for the number of wounded children, but they will certainly exceed the number killed; as for those displaced, Unicef says that 45% of the estimated 900,000 Lebanese to have fled their homes are children.
Better yet, let's put a human face on it:

On Monday I met Ali (he didn't give me a second name), who is nine and had been hiding in the basement of his house, along with his aunts, his grandmother and an uncle with learning difficulties, for 20 days in the village of Bint Jbeil. While the family hid below, war raged above: the village has suffered the heaviest shelling of anywhere in the south of Lebanon, as well as intense street battles between Israeli soldiers and Hizbullah fighters. When Ali emerged from the basement on Monday, during a brief halt to the aerial bombardment, he was visibly frightened and shocked, and seemed unable to recognise his surroundings.

As he made his first steps on the big chunks of rubble and concrete strewn everywhere, clutching a bottle of water in one arm and a blue bag in the other, he began shaking and crying. His grandfather, who was leading him through the rubble, collapsed in the shade of a doorway, and Ali and other family members continued their walk to the Red Cross vehicles - parked a kilometre away, at the edge of the village, beyond the edge of the vast and almost impassable rubble field - without him. I walked with them.

As we walked, jumping from one boulder to the other, Ali said: "My father and mother went with my other brothers and sisters to another town. They said they will come and get me when the bombs stop."

In the scorching sunshine above, Israeli jets were flying, their sound mixed with that of the drones. Suddenly a thud came from the hills and Ali froze. "They are going to bomb again!" He started to cry. "Why are the Israelis hitting us? Do they hate us? My cousin Mahmoud called me on the phone and he told me that the nuclear bombs are really big. Are they as big as these rockets?" It's hard to convey quite how shocked, perhaps quite literally shell-shocked - this little boy was. He was almost delusional.
Just remember a cease-fire would do no good at all, according to our President.

Apparently innocent life is only valuable when you can mourn its loss.

*From that link:

But Washington has also decided to accelerate the supply of lethal weapons to Israel -- "perhaps intended to kill the very Lebanese the United States is planning to feed and shelter," says one Arab diplomat at the United Nations.

"It is U.S. hypocrisy at its worst," he told IPS, speaking on condition of anonymity, because his country receives millions of dollars in U.S. economic aid.

"The right hand obviously does not know what its left hand is up to. Or does it?" he asked.

Irene Khan, secretary-general of the London-based Amnesty International (AI), is equally harsh in her reaction. ''It is ridiculous to talk about providing humanitarian aid on the one hand, and to provide arms on the other,'' she says.
"No one likes us, I don't know why/We may not be perfect, but heaven knows, we try..."

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