Reporting from Lebanon

This blog contains Dan Winter's live reports from Beirut Lebanon. Dan is a long time peace activist from Boulder Colorado.  He has been to Iraq 3 times and Palestine once.  He is  opening a non-profit office in Beirut to provide services for volunteers and the media.  Contact him for assistance.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Cluster bombs - the gıft that keeps gıvıng

I wrote the followıng pıece, to the Denver Post, about cluster bombs.

Senators Allard and Salazar recently voted not to prohibit the United States from continuing to manufacture cluster bombs. I write from Lebanon to express total dismay at their vote. If they had sufficient information they would have voted otherwise.

Cluster bombs or cluster munitions spread bomblets - small bombs - over a wide area, many of which do not explode on impact but remain live, and lethal. When they strike the ground they explode and release deadly shrapnel. However, over 25% of the bomblets do not explode but remain live.

The live bombs, the size of cell phones, are an especial problem for civilians who work or live in the area. Children are prone to see them as attractive nuisance and kick them or try to pick them up Even to touch a bush, on which they are hung up, can make one explode. The damage is extreme or deadly to that person and others nearby. Therefore, these weapons are deadly in three ways: first, they explode in the air, second, they explode upon contact with anything and third they act as land mines when they do not explode. Some of these cluster bombs have been found, still live, from their first use, by Israel in Lebanon in 1978.

The United States manufactures and sells tens of thousands of cluster munitions. The United States conditions the sale of these munitions, to foreign countries, with the provision that the purchasing country not to use them in civilian areas. Israel has not abided by these conditions.

Shortly after the cease fire went into effect, in August, the UN's humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, accused Israel of "completely immoral" use of cluster bombs in Lebanon. He also said that 100,000 unexploded cluster bomblets at 359 sites have been found. As of September 24 the Mine Action Coordination Center, in South Lebanon, told me that the updated numbers are now one million cluster bombs at 590 sites. So far 104 have exploded kıllıng 14 and woundıng 90 - civilians.

Human Rights Watch executive director, Kenneth Roth, said "they should never be used in populated areas". There are documented cases of cluster bombs found in the middle of civilian areas ? far to numerous to be random accidents or collateral damage ? they are the result of, at best, a disregard for where they are used.

Amnesty International has called for the US to halt selling cluster weapons.

I visited a facility in the ancient city of Sidon, where they make artificial arms, legs, hands and feet. The facility produces very basic prosthesis; however, they are of great benefit to a child who had both legs amputated. The center has lost its funding, from the Lebanese government, for staff and material. The staff has been reduced from 12 to 3 and must now charge for a service they previously provided for free. I was told that they expect a large influx of patients due to the continued explosions from cluster bombs.

The victims are still in hospitals recovering from the amputations. What seems particularly grievous, on the part of Israel. is that over 80% of the bombs were dropped in the last 3 days prior to the cease fire - after it was known that a cease fire would be in effect. In addition the United Nations has repeatedly asked that Israel turn over maps detailing the areas it targeted with cluster bombs. Israel has not complied in any meaningful manner. A good source of information can be found at www.stopclustermunitions.org

The United States is just one of just one of less than ten countries that have refused to sign the International Land Mine Treaty. This is indeed interesting given that an American received the Nobel Peace Prize for her world wide work on the issue. The production, sale and use of cluster munitions must be included in future discussion of the land mine issue.

I sincerely hope that Senators Allard and Salazar will not only change their vote on prohibiting cluster munitions but will now lead the United States senate in such an endeavor.

Dan Winters is in Lebanon representing The Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center and the Colorado Coalition for Peace and Justice in the Middle East. He has a blog at www.daninlebanon.blogspot.com

Dan C. Winters; 1450 Ithaca Dr; Boulder, CO 80305 303 444-8405
Carolyn Bninski of the Rocky Mtn Peace & Justice Ctr can verify that I am in Lebanon

Monday, September 18, 2006

TELL US OR WE KILL YOU AND YOUR FATHER

I went to the ancient city of Baalbek deep in the Bekaa Valley. Baalbek was, and is, the seat of the Hezbollah party. There were 7 of us in a mini-van from Beirut - about a two hour drive. 3 Dutch human rights observers, an American-Palestinian, and 2 women from the International Action Center (IAC) of Ramsey Clark. I knew one of them, Sara Flounders, with whom I had been in Iraq in 2001with a Ramsey Clark delegation. The main reason was to see and talk with ordinary citizens and anyone else about their experiences.

We did spend one hour at what The Lonely Planet guide calls "Baalbek, Is the most impressive ancient site in Lebanon and arguably the most important Roman site in the Middle East. Its temples were built on an extravagant scale that outshone anything in Rome".

We arrived in Baalbek in mid-morning. We saw some of the damage inflicted by the Israeli Army. By comparison it was nothing like what we saw in other towns (I previously described the total destruction of Aaita Al Shaeb in my blog at http://www.daninlebanon.blogspot.com/ titled The Painted Lady). 'Nothing like' is a rather strange term when describing the destruction of people's lives and property. But in war we often use relative terms.

For background: About 10 days into the war the Israeli military surprised everyone with a raid, by helicopter, on Baalbek. They entered a hospital, searched homes and took five men to Israel. At the time it was thought that Israel was looking for high officials in Hezbollah or even for Nasralla himself.

When we got to Baalbek 75 year old Hajj Abrahim Jamal would translate at the home of Mr. Hassan Nasralla (not THE Nasralla). Mr. Nasralla had his eldest son taken to Israel during the raid.

I will now write what Mr. Nasralla said via Hajj Jamal (Hajj is a prefix of honor or to designate someone who has been to Mecca - he said he had been there).

"American F16 planes fired on the town and then the helicopters landed. The F'16's continued to circle above the city. Perhaps 200 soldiers left the helicopters and some surrounded our small section of the town. They told all 14 of us to get out of the house and stand in the street with our hands in the air. They asked where is Nasralla - and I answered I am Nasralla. But they were not looking for this Nasralla.
I have three sons - the 5 year old - with his hands in the air cried don't kill me.

Next they put plastic handcuffs on five men including my eldest son (not sure of his age - Dan) and also our 13 year old son. The marched them up the mountain. We did not know if we would see them again. They walked the men for over an hour and then halted. My 13 year old son was pulled aside and a soldier put a rifle to his head and demanded to know where Nasralla was. My son did not respond. The soldier, still with the rifle at my sons head again demanded to know where Nasralla was and said if you do not tell me who is Hezbollah I will kill you and then go back and kill your father. My son said I am not Hezbollah. (my thoughts > it is not possible for me to put myself in the boys place - just consider that the boy had every reason to believe that he would be killed and still kept quiet - Dan).

At this point the soldier told my 13 year old to go back down the mountain, still with his hands behind his back. On the way home an Israeli drone flew overhead. A few minutes later the road in front and behind was struck by some kind of explosive from the drone. My son was not injured and returned to us.

The 5 other men including my older son were taken to Telavive (bad spelling) in Israel.
They were released about 21 days later and returned via the UN forces and then the Lebanese Red Cross. My son said he hardly slept during his captivity because of worries for his wife and child. My son said that they were subject to repeated interrogation but they were not otherwise ill treated.

We did not get to the hospital; however, we were told that some of the equipment had been destroyed by the military; however, the damage was 'light'. We were not able to confirm this.

In conclusion, he said, most Lebanese Shiites like Americans but not George Bush.
I was shocked, simply shocked at this view of our beloved president (just in case there is an unauthorized reader of my emails !!!).
Peace, Dan

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Southern Beirut

1 of 1: < Prev.| Next >  

S. Beirut

 
Their were buildings (7-10 floors each) from what you see in the background all the way to the foreground.  Destroyed. Most of the rubble removed.  This was one of the largest areas destroyed.  However, a number off areas, in south Beirut, were destroyed.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
You can bomb the world to pieces but you can not bomb it to PEACE.

Monday, September 11, 2006

From South Lebanon

THE PAINTED LADY – South Lebanon

She had been a painted lady of delicate colors.
Not sexual but quite sensuous.
Now the mascara had run onto the alabaster
and she wore her age with scant dignity.

This is how I saw but one of many houses destroyed in the city of Aaita Al Shaeb in the very south of Lebanon. The windows were gone and the fire had blackened the façade beneath. This is (was) the town near where the two Israeli soldiers were captured. I say “was” because very little of the town was left.

I went to four towns over the weekend with a group of Lebanese volunteers bringing medicine, food, clothes and water to the south since the cease fire began. There had also been international volunteers with them on previous occasions. Now there was enough water and food and clothes but not enough medicine – especially medicine to treat chronic illness.

I spent some time just walking with residents or on my own. I was told of who lived here and who died there – that “my uncle was killed during the first week” and that a new born had not been spared. Many would not stay and some could not leave.

In this town, perhaps more of a village, of Aaita Al Shaeb (population about 1,000) I was told that only 15 houses had escaped damage – I only saw one. House after house and street after street suffered from massive damage. The “less damaged” houses had one or two rooms left somewhat intact. No house had running water (bottled water was available) and there had been no electricity since early July (over 6 weeks). Perhaps 10% of the population had stayed or returned.

One story that stayed with me was that of an 84 year old woman. A missile hit the house next door to her but did not explode. It came through two wall of that house and through the wall of her kitchen still unexploded. Later that day she was found, in good health, with her ear to the missile trying to hear if it was ticking. I saw it, from a distance, and it was about four feet long leaning at a diagonal angle in the corner of the kitchen with part of the head badly dented. In the army I had some training in ordinance disposal but to me there did not seem to be a good way to defuse it. I was later told that the missile would be blown up in place along with what was left of the house.

The Israeli military evidently wanted to make it clear that Aaita Al Shaeb would suffer the consequences of "allowing" Hezbollah to capture 2 soldiers. Survivors took us to the edge of the valley facing the direction Israel had come from. One Israeli bulldozer was torn and hardly identifiable. It, and others, had come up from the valley and started to bulldoze houses. The villagers said Israel was going to try to level the entire town. Hezbollah fighters counter-attacked with small arms fire and RPG's forcing Israel to abandon trying to obliterate the town. Israel forgot that when people fight for their homes, their stores, their town - then every inch is revered and has a place in their hearts and it is not so easy to defeat them. The fight went from house to house and from street to street. Israel used tanks, our jets and our bombs to take a terrible toll on the village. The village was destroyed but I think the "victory" left the taste of salt in their mouths.

I walked alone on one especially wounded street with my camera in my hand.I wondered if there were enough film in the world to capture the image of shattered walls, twisted steel, deserted store fronts and mangled cars. And then I started to cry. I never knew you can cry for buildings

Friday, September 08, 2006

Going to South Lebanon

Today, Friday, I am going with a group of volunteers (Lebanese and internationals) to South Lebanon. I will probably not be able to write to the blog prior to this Monday the 11th.
Peace, Dan

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Conditions in Lebanon

I have gotten this information from the European Union sponsored web site via the Lebonese Ministry of Social Affairs. www.lebanon-support.org Dan
CONDITIONS IN LEBANON

In South Lebanon:

Large scale destruction of many villages and the main towns
Major highways cut off at certain strategic points
The already poor infrastructure (water, electricity, social infrastructure, etc.) partially destroyed
Prevalence of unexploded ordanance and landmines, as well as hazards from debris
Damage to agricultural land and fear of losing some crops due to lack of irrigation during the events

In the Southern Suburb of Beirut
Complete destruction of some residential and commercial blocks as well as heavy destruction of some of the previously most densely populated neighborhoods
The already poor infrastructure (water, electricity, social infrastructure, etc.) partially destroyed
Prevalence of unexploded ordanance, as well as hazards from debris

Other Areas
The region of Bekaa has seen its share of destruction similar to that in the South, although intervention in the region is not as wide as in the other areas, and data is lacking. There is a similar situation in Akkar.
On the other hand, local reaction from civil society has been quick. Several trends in recovery work can be identified:
Local NGOs, CBOs, and committees have already begun the process of looking into shortages that might affect food security and shelter and are coordinating localized relief efforts.
The initiative of Hizbollah through its social organizations to put all resources available into the reconstruction of homes and the return of refugees is already in place and their primary mapping of needs is in its final stages.
National NGOs and international partners, especially those who already have structures in the concerned areas, are in the process of reactivating their local chapters and networks.
Focus of the relief operations of international agencies is shifting to the South (there could be a negative impact on other regions

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The taxi driver in Beirut

The Taxi Driver in Beirut

The wisdom of the taxi driver is legendary. This is, of course, exaggerated; however, I have found the Beiruti drivers to be very informed as to what is going on here – and in the world. Taxi rides are inexpensive. You can go quite far for $2-3 and most of them speak at least some English and many speak it quite well (it is easy to find an English speaker in Beirut; however, I have not yet traveled in Southern Beirut yet – or for that matter in South Lebanon)

In the cab I have been welcomed when asked where I am from – much as in the rest of the Middle East. Next I am asked for my opinion on the situation in Lebanon vis-a-vie the war with Israel. After I express my opinion that Lebanon should not have been attacked I am usually given their view. The basic idea is that the US supports Israel no matter what and that the lives of the people, in Lebanon and Palestine, are not important. They also say that this attitude will hurt the US. Many are at a loss of why they have been attacked again.

I am staying, as previously written, near the downtown area. This is a predominantly Christian area. Everyone wears western style clothes – not only to work but in the surrounding residential areas. I have seen no burkes in this Christian area and very few head scarf’s.

It is difficult to make contacts with the volunteer community – a good number have returned to their home countries after the end of the war. I have been looking for an office; however, a one month rental is not an easy thing to find. I have had a bit of a problem with soreness in my hips – I think from traveling with my heavy backpack and 2 carry on bags – it has diminished since I checked in at the hostel.

By for now. Dan

Monday, September 04, 2006

A View from Downtown Beirut

Downtown Beirut is a constant hub of building and reconstruction. It makes Denver,Colorado, in the late 70's, look like a tinker toy construction project. I can stand in one spot and see 8 counstruction cranes at work. I can move 200 yards for a different view and see 10 more at work. move 500 yards and see 10 more. From my youth hostel I can see one tower of about 40 floors under construction.

None of this building is due to the current war. Beirut has for the past few years been undergoing rebuilding and new construction. First, was rebuilding from the Israeli invasion of the 80-90's. Then the tearing down of old buildings (scrape offs) for new buildings. Much money was invested by Harari who was killed last year.

The older building, within perhaps 1/2 mile of a rather small central business section, where people with less money lived are 75% gone. In the 60's - 70's in major cities this was called urban renewal. We called it "black removal" (predates DWB).

This is taken for granted - by those with the $ - strange but those who must move just do not understand the dynamics of a "vibrant" economy and do not have the same outlook !!!!!!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Arrived in Lebanon

Hello everyone.
Well I arrived in Beirut after a long trip. Started in Denver, Colorado on Sunday Aug 27 and the final leg took me from Cyprus on September 1. Incidentally, my wedding anniversary (number 44) was Sep 1.

I found room in a really cheap hotel for the first night. The hotel needs considerable repairs before it can be condemmed !!!!

Beirut is a large city and metropolitan Beirut has well over 1 million people. It is summer and hot but not impossible to go out.

I have found an organization that may benefit from the contributions collected by The Front Range Coalition for Peace & Justice in the Middle East (can we find a shorter name ).
More details later.

Peace, Dan