Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Confluence and Perversity in my head.

Okay. Let me start this article by saying, for those of you with a fresh case of hateraid, that this is NOT me praising Hezbollah. In fact, I should be able to clear that up with the first moments of my piece.

We are quickly approaching the 1 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and, as I noted on jspot, we are ringing it in with landmark federal cases protecting insurance companies, sending their stocks up almost whole dollars at a time and no doubt setting off the clinking of highball glasses in offices everywhere. All this while thousands of Katrina survivors still haven't put the pieces back together, while the Ninth Ward looks like it could pass for a war zone.

I'll come back to that in a second. But first, this:

My bud and Jewschool honcho Mobius compiled a few mainstream media pieces a few weeks ago that detailed instances of how Hezbollah would fire its rockets from civilian locations and then disappear when in the ensuim moments, IDF warplanes would bomb the locations where the missiles were fired from. Using Lebanese citizens as human shields seems horrific to me. While I'm not saying I agree with all the actions Israel took, I also think picking someone's house, firing a long range rocket from it and then disappearing is a great way to put civilians in danger. But it makes for great press, is a real easy way to say Israel is targetting civilians.

This would seem like a pretty bad way to build support for yourself in a country, or at least in the sections where you're using human shields without their permission/approval. So aside from waging a popular war against a hated enemy, how do you build support for yourself?

How about like this?

Nehme Y. Tohme, a member of Parliament from the anti-Syrian reform bloc and the country’s minister for the displaced, said he had been told by Hezbollah officials that when the shooting stopped, Iran would provide Hezbollah with an “unlimited budget” for reconstruction.

In his victory speech on Monday night, Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, offered money for “decent and suitable furniture” and a year’s rent on a house to any Lebanese who lost his home in the month-long war.

“Completing the victory,” he said, “can come with reconstruction.


While the Israelis began their withdrawal, hundreds of Hezbollah members spread over dozens of villages across southern Lebanon began cleaning, organizing and surveying damage. Men on bulldozers were busy cutting lanes through giant piles of rubble. Roads blocked with the remnants of buildings are now, just a day after a cease-fire began, fully passable.

In Sreifa, a Hezbollah official said the group would offer an initial $10,000 to residents to help pay for the year of rent, to buy new furniture and to help feed families.

Genius o'clock on Hezbollah's part. Sure. It is the IDF that actually bombed Lebanon, and Hezbollah, with a little help from its friend Iran, swoops in immediately to begin reconstruction. These folks are angry, hurt, devastated, confused. They were used and targetted. Some are undoubtedly angry at both sides, and there are those that may never forgive either side. But with Israel already depicted as the aggressor (although for me and a lot of us, this conflict has been going back and forth so long it's like the scene in Tim Burton's Batman where Jack says "I say you made me, you gotta say I made you.") and they're the ones that actually bombed your house, who are you going to believe?

So Ruby, what does this have to do with Katrina? Glad you asked.

In the Times piece sited earlier, several professors talked about why this is significant, because Hezbollah succeeds where the Lebanese Government does not.

“Hezbollah’s strength,” said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a professor at the Lebanese American University here, who has written extensively about the organization, in large part derives from “the gross vacuum left by the state.”

Hezbollah was not, she said, a state within a state, but rather “a state within a nonstate, actually.”

Hezbollah is actually acting on this where the Lebanese government has previously failed, and many believe will continue to fail. Hmm, can you think of any other governments that have failed to show with their actions that they are serious about restoring life after a disaster? Is it crazy that underfunded (but amazing!) non-profits like Common Ground are the ones really taking the lead on dealing with Katrina and not the largest government in the world? Again, Hezbollah uses awful fighting tactics that endanger the lives of people who didn't sign up. I'm not saying they're good. But it seems that when it comes to rebuilding, they've actually got some competancy:

Sheik Nasrallah sounded much like a governor responding to a disaster when he said, “So far, the initial count available to us on completely demolished houses exceeds 15,000 residential units.

“We cannot of course wait for the government and its heavy vehicles and machinery because they could be a while,” he said. He also cautioned, “No one should raise prices due to a surge in demand.”

Think about that. Can you see this American administration saying hey guys, don't price gouge?

For the first time, I now see Katrina not only as a massive human rights issue, not only as an environmental issue, but yep, a security issue. Millions of Americans were devastated by that storm and most of them have still yet to recover. Our government cuts housing subsudies, clsoes down volunteer camps, suspends wage standards laws in the region, and declares thousands of public housing units unlivable. In Lebanon, Hezbollah declares money will be made available immediately for rent and furntiure, that their army will fan out immediately to help rebuild, and that businesses souldn't price gouge. Who's doing the right thing in this specific situation? This is insane to me, that I watch an organization who uses human shields pledge to do more than this US Administration has done to this day in the Gulf?

This type of vacuum is one that could easily be preyed upon by some other country or organization as well; what's more loyalty building than helping someone rebuild their home? it's a year later and the Gulf is still devastated. I wonder how lower Lebanon will look in a year.


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