The Human Rights Watch Film Festival is going on now. I went to my first movie (I got the movie pass for 5 films) on Tuesday. I went to see the independent film, Remnants of a War. The film discusses the aftermath of the Lebanon-Israel War in the summer of 2006.
Did you know that Israel dropped 1 million cluster bombs on Southern Lebanon during the war? One. Million.
35% of them failed to detonate.
Cluster bombs are highly unreliable. While they are relatively cheap to make, they don't always work. The cluster bombs that do not explode on initial impact can explode later, at any time. A six year old Lebanese child died in 2007 after finding a cluster bomb, mistaking it for a toy, and playing with it. The cluster bomb (essentially a bomb that contains many, many, many smaller bombs in it) exploded in his hand. This death is only one of the many deaths that continue to occur throughout Lebanon as a result of the cluster bombs littering Southern Lebanon. The majority of cluster bombs Israel used in 2006 were American. Many of those used in 2006 dated back to the Vietnam war. Old. Unreliable. Deadly. Not a good combination.
Teams of cluster bomb clearance experts have gone in to Southern Lebanon to train the locals on how to find and destroy these bombs in the hopes of preventing more deaths. Their work was made even more difficult because Israel refused to release their military target maps for years. The military target maps would have shown the detonation teams where the cluster bombs were dropped. Israel finally released them last month. Unfortunately, some of these teams have been disbanded due to lack of funding. Their work is not complete. Unexploded cluster bombs still litter the landscape.
Following the war in 2006, and the devastating effects the cluster bombs had on the Lebanese people, the Cluster Ban Treaty was drafted. While the Cluster Ban Treaty has received worldwide support from numerous countries, Russia, China, Israel and the US have still not signed. The main US argument is that cluster bombs remain an important arsenal for the US army. The weapon is unreliable and yet, the US refuses to ban their use during war.
The end of the documentary nearly brought me to tears, one of the Lebanese they were interviewing was speaking, and he said:
"Would the Americans...accept to live like this? Just as they love life, we love life. Just as they like to live with dignity, we like to live with dignity".
People are still dying, three years after the war. This needs to change. Civilian lives cannot continue to be lost. No one deserves to live with the fear that every day-- walking their dog, working on their farm, driving their car--could be their last. Please call your Senate and House representatives and tell them to support the cluster bomb ban.
I love life. I like to live with dignity. I am no more simply because by a geographic fortune, I was born in the US. My life would be no less worthy, my dignity no less significant, had I been born in Lebanon. We must not turn a blind eye to this injustice. As history has shown, it could be us tomorrow. By speaking for the people of Southern Lebanon today, we give voice to our future tomorrow.