I had the misfortune of spending my youth dodging bombs and bullets in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. As the Iraq misadventure continues on its bleak trajectory, I thought it might be useful to offer a little perspective on the day-to-day dynamics of sectarian strife.
While "civil war" is a unitary term that connotes a single event of fixed duration, the daily reality is that life goes on, albeit in fits and starts. Ceasefires are punctuated by artillery battles punctuated by peace summits punctuated by assassinations punctuated by more ceasefires punctuated by car bombs, and on and on.
One day we'd see kids playing in playgrounds, parents shopping for food, sunbathers on the beaches, the next we'd huddle in bomb shelters as rockets rained down on the city. One day we'd drive to a mountain village to visit with friends, the next we'd hear about people being shot at or kidnapped or disappearing on the same roads we traversed a day before. One minute we'd be sitting down to a quiet meal, the next we'd be racing for the basement as salvos of missiles slammed into buildings and streets and shops and homes.
The violence ebbs and flows, but for ordinary citizens - the lucky ones who survive - what remains is the misery and uncertainty, the demoralization and despair. With regional forces acting as puppet-masters, the victims are the people, the residents of the bombed out and burning cities and towns and villages. And the hatred cuts deep. Village pitted against village, cousin pitted against cousin, friend pitted against friend, neighbor pitted against neighbor, the wounds, physical and emotional, will last long after the violence ends.
So to the cheerleaders of this tragedy, I wish you could have lived it before you so glibly inflicted it on others.