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According to a United Nations press release dated August 30th, 2006, some 35,000 Lebanese also remain displaced in Beirut according to estimates by the non-governmental organization Caritas.
Ipsos, a global survey-based market research company, polled 600 Lebanese in mid-August and found that 67% believed the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon should act as observers rather than an intervention force.
An Auto-biography of War
Amira W. Pierce
I have trouble answering the question: “Where do you come from?”

If I want to keep it short, I say, "Virginia," since the suburbs of DC is where my parents bought a house when my sister and I were little, where Lara and I made friends and spent half of our childhood. Or sometimes I say New York, which is where I spent six years after leaving home, starting with college.  Or sometimes I explain that my mother is Lebanese, that I was born in her country in 1980 and have spent time there most years of my life. And my father is from outside Atlanta, that he worked as a diplomat, which is how he met my mom in the first place, and so we lived in Saudi Arabia, in Sudan, and in Indonesia.  Oh, and after New York, I spent nine months in Cairo and a summer in Lebanon and now I'm in San Francisco.  

What all this means in the context of what I want to tell you is that in most of these settings, I have been proximate to a moment when the skein of regulated society is broken by unsettling violence, the kind brought about by political and social strife.  I am very lucky; I have never been directly involved, never been physically harmed.  Sitting here safe in San Francisco, while a lot of our world burns, starves, and explodes, surreal images occur to me as memories-  

The Lebanese civil war (1975 to 1990) was formed by ever-changing alliances between religious clans and sects, as well as the outside involvement of Israel, Syria, the PLO, and the USA.  All factions involved committed war crimes and indiscriminant acts targeting civilians. 

Lebanon, summer 1986 
The slow road from the Beirut to the south
Spreads the length of the country,
Along the beach,
Bumper-to-bumper, dented and dirty. 
Checkpoints with shacks fresh painted,
Soldiers in front, nodding us on, waving us on,
Peering in and nodding us on,
Asking for papers and nodding us,
Questions and nodding. 
And in the village one day,
After hours spent inside,
In the house's middle room,
Hours playing cards and reading books
While the grownups whisper urgency,
While the world outside booms, low and loud,
The outside world falls away in crumbs, 
After the booming stops,
When moms are making dinner,
My cousin takes me to the roof
And we collect bent bullets,
Treasures clutched in happy fists. 
The next morning a tank rolls down the main street,
Right past us on the balcony,
Staring down at the beast and eating grapes. 

The Gulf War was the reaction to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 and included economic sanctions and retaliation by a multi-national force, spearheaded by the USA.  The war was fought out on the ground in Iraq and in the sky above Kuwait and parts of Saudi Arabia.   

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, early 1991
They say the wives and children can leave,
They send special planes- 
We stay.
And when the SCUDS come at night,
Dad is supposed to wake us
And take us
To the safe room in our house,
A room where we are supposed to have canned food and water,
A room with all windows and doors sealed off
With thick, strong tape. 
When the SCUDS come at night,
Dad leaves us dreaming
And goes up to our roof
To watch American missiles intercept SCUDS,
Like fireworks. 
One night an explosion wakes me up.
The low rumble far-off finds me
Warm under my blanket,
The house quivers like a womb.
One day we go to the embassy and
They give us gas masks;
They show us how to use them:
"If you put these things on wrong,
You'll suffocate."   
We play victims for a war drill,
Two marines wheel me on a gurney
Down the embassy's long halls,
One of them curses under his breath: "Fuck..."
It is the first time I hear that word out loud,
My eyes are closed,
I am pretending to be dead. 
At home Dad helps us put the masks on.
We take photos:
Me and my sister wearing gas masks, wearing nightgowns,
All tangled hair and medical alien faces.
Mom puts the masks on a high shelf.
Some kids bring theirs to school,
Strap them on with their backpacks. 
For Valentine's Day,
My best friend puts paper missiles through paper hearts,
Writes messages across them in cursive.
Mine reads: "You are my favorite SCUD."   

The Indonesian 1998 Revolution is the name given to a number of protests and riots that began in 1996 and led to the May 1998 fall for President Suharto, who came to power in 1966 and maintained a mask of democracy throughout his 32-year rule. 

Surabaya, Indonesia, May 1998 (& an echo)
Driving home from school,
Our car gets stuck in the demos,
In the knots of men and women
Filling the streets and the city. 
Each demo is a different color-
The day they are first angry,
They wear green t-shirts,
Some with green bandanas covering noses, mouths...
They wave sticks, hold signs, yell and yell chants.
The group is a seething organism. 
We roll up the windows
And suffer some punches to our metal exterior.
I try not to look them in the eyes. 
Our final exams cancelled,
I furiously make out with my first boyfriend in a taxicab
Before they make us fly to Singapore on
A jumbo jet full of Americans. 
Dad stays and over the phone
He talks about angrier demos,
Smashed in windows, looted supermarkets,
A Molotov cocktail thrown over his office gate.
When we come back weeks later
Things that used to cost 10 rupiahs
Cost 100 now.
We carry stacks of bills. 
"The country so sad, it bleeds."
Dad writes years later, the final time he goes back,
The country seething still. 

The 9/11 Attacks were a series of assaults in which 19 men associated with the organization al-Qaeda hijacked and diverted four commercial jets on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  They crashed two of the jets into the World Trade Centers in New York City.  

New York City, September 2001 
Our first thought is that a pilot made a stupid mistake
On this ordinary Tuesday morning,
When we emerge from the subway
And everyone is looking south
Where a plane is stuck
In one of the two tallest buildings on Manhattan's skyline.
After going to two classes
The idea crystallizes
That something bigger has happened. 
Cell phones not working and somehow I find my friends.
An entire city is wandering and crying and staring
And we wander
Towards Union Square to try to donate blood,
Then downtown to a bar with peanut shells on the floor
To eat peanuts and drink Stellas and watch CNN.
In Brooklyn that night on the pier
We watch the fallen towers smoke
Against the starry sky. 
We stay in our apartment three days
In front of the television we've barely ever used ‘til now.
They are showing
The same clips again and again,
On repeat, in slow-mo, sped up, with commentary.
We call people we love who are
Not here.
We smoke cigarettes, try to write emails, to talk.
But there is difficulty doing things,
In restarting life, going back to Manhattan
Where there are "missing" posters everywhere,
Candlelight vigils, stricken faces,
A big crater downtown,
A smell my roommate knows as death
Each day when the subway passes under it. 

The April 2005 Cairo attacks, a series of three related incidents, began on April 7, when a suicide bomber set off a nail bomb in the middle of Khan al-Khalili, Cairo's most popular market.  On April 30, a man who was being pursued in connection with the April 7 incident detonated a bomb he was carrying as he jumped from a downtown bridge, killing only himself.  Later that afternoon, two veiled females opened fire on a tourist bus, injuring three bystanders.  One of the women shot the other and then killed herself.  

Egypt, April 2005 
At work behind computers and our boss comes into the office to tell us
A man has just blown himself up and killed a few, hurt even more
With a nail bomb
In the middle of the Khan,
Among hookahs and scarabs and leather and gold
And tourists
And Egyptians.
We all went to the Khan together last week,
Piled in a cab and bought scarves, a sword,
Ate kebabs in an alley, at a plastic table.
We will go next week, too. 
Still, he current of our own mortality runs through us
And we laugh it off and, back in our apartments,
Call our parents across continents and oceans.
When the second bomb goes off,
I am in the Sinai with Lisa and
We have just had the bumpiest, scariest
Ride of our lives out of the Rainbow Canyon
With two Bedouins in a four-wheel-drive. 
Stopping to fix our flat tire at a sandy way station,
I have text messages from Cairo:
"Have you heard?  A crazy man blew himself up
Jumping off Sit-Oktober Bridge and two women shot at a tourist bus..."
Dad calls from Virginia at sunset
We are eating fresh grilled fish, looking across the slow water
At Saudi Arabia as soft purple mountains in the distance. 

The Cedar Revolution was a series of demonstrations sparked by the February 14, 2005 assassination, by car bomb, of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in downtown Beirut.  In the months following the assassination, the Syrian army withdrew from Lebanon, the Lebanese people participated in their first parliamentary elections purportedly free of Syrian interference, and several more bombs went off, resulting in a number of injuries and fatalities, including the deaths of popular Lebanese political figures. 

Lebanon, summer 2005 
Hariri's grave under an awning by a monumental mosque
That he was having built in the downtown
He had reconstructed.
He and six bodyguards are now lumps,
Covered with Astroturf, draped in white flowers.
I am here for the first free elections, which means
Nightly celebrations with fireworks,
They sound like bombs and guns;
The explosions make my stomach flip,
Sound like bombs and guns,
Until I find them in the distance from balconies and rooftops.
Some celebrate by shooting guns into the air,
A girl dies from a falling bullet. 
The streets are papered with fliers and portraits and freedom graffiti.
And more deaths this summer still
As bombs go off in strategic locations.
The news blares from the tv in my aunt's apartment,
Desperate newscasters and repeated images of split open cars and buckled streets,
Groups of young men, arms on shoulders, huddling towards the microphone.
We take walks on the Corniche at sunset
As the pink and orange and purple light
Grace the ocean and the other city-dwellers who have come.
One time, we walk past the boardwalk and before I understand
What's going on
We are in front of a roadblock in front of an armed man
In front of the hotel where Hariri died months ago now,
A building right up on the beach, a building with the front sliced off
So we can see all the rooms inside,
Like a doll house,
Except the floors are bent through ceilings and frozen dripping.
There are metal rods stuck skyward, and a group of seagulls
Pecking at something on the seventh floor.  

The 2006 Israel-Lebanon Conflict began with Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers on July 12, 2006.  The incident was declared an "act of war" by Israel and began a month of heavy combat during which Israel bombed large areas in Lebanon, destroying key infrastructure and displacing thousands of people from their homes, while Hezbollah launched thousands of rockets into Northern Israel.  Both sides experienced civilian loss of life. 

Not Lebanon, July 2006 
We watch war on television,
Arabic channels beamed by satellite to California.
We call Lebanon,
We wait for news of which villages have been hit,
Who is staying, who is leaving,
Some are even going
Back home.
We wonder how it will end
And how far Nasrallah will go. 
Many support him,
Don't want to be too open about it here,
Since the man wears a dress and a big beard
And gets money from Iran,
But he is strong in a way that we admire.
We talk about the big wars from last century,
And the time of peace between then and now,
The time that is over. 
There is a gathering around the corner from my office downtown,
In front of the building that I never realized houses the Israeli consulate.
On one side of the street, they waive Israeli and American flags
And on one side Palestinean and Lebanese flags.
Voices fly back and forth, chants, drumbeats.
Two men in suits walk by me and
One asks the other
What this is about. Neither knows
And they ask a policeman, who explains...
Walking on, the first man asks, nodding his head
towards the Arab side: "What do they want from us,
Anyway?"  The other shakes his head.
A man in rags on the corner shouts: 
"Who belongs to a war?
Who does a war belong to?"

Choosing Sides
Ani Rosemarie
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