The other day I received an appeal from the American Task Force for Lebanon (ATFL) requesting tax deductible donations to assist in clearing mines in Lebanon.
During the 2006 war, Israel air-dropped and ground-launched cluster munitions into South Lebanon. These munitions are supposed to open in mid-air so that the bomblets contained inside scatter and explode. Except the bomblets do not always explode.
HERE ARE THE GRIM STATISTICS: From August 14, 2006 to March 31, 2009: 21 civilians were killed; 204 civilians were injured...
Hardly more than a year and a half into the mine clearing operation,
Since March 2008, the ATFL has been working with the U.S. Department of State, Congress, and Lebanon's Ambassador to the U.S. to ensure that additional funding is available to continue the clearance operations in Lebanon. Thankfully, in 2008, the Department of State provided $825,000 from the global de-mining budget for this urgent, life-saving cluster munitions clearance operation.
In 2009, the ATFL again worked with the State Department, which was able to secure an additional $1.5 million for the demining operations in South Lebanon. However, these funds are not sufficient to clear the remaining cluster bomblets strewn in South Lebanon.
When we asked the State Department for more funding, they challenged us to raise funds for the demining operations and committed to match what we raise at the rate of two-for-one.
As I reported last month, the funding shortfall is well in excess of US$300,000. More importantly, according to Christina Bennike, country programme manager for the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), the largest international demining organisation working in Lebanon, ‘…with 20 demining teams working in Lebanon clearing 800 square metres per working day, clearing the remaining 12 million square metres of affected land will take over eight years to finish’.
If it costs $300,000 to field ten teams for one month and it’s going to take 20 teams eight years to complete the demining, that would bring the total cost to some $8.64 million. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, the arms and legs of Lebanese kids are not in the same league as the mansions and yachts of the banksters. Still $200k, or even $1.5 million, seems a trifle stingy for the US government, which did after all supply the cluster bombs in the first place.
The other grim statistic ATFL cites is ‘14 deminers were killed; and 43 deminers were injured’ since the 14 August 2006 ceasefire. While Briton and Bosnian deminers are sacrificing their feet and their lives, nobody is calling for the Israeli government, who are even more directly responsible for the bombs, most of which they dropped in the last two days of the war with the clear intention of creating the disaster we are now observing, to contribute to the clean up operation.