As predicted, Hezbollah is taking the lead in reconstruction in a significant way. Let’s run through this, because it is important.
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 ”œunlimited budget” for reconstruction.
Not only did the US give Israel the green light to bomb the hell out of Lebanon, but it and its allies aren’t giving the Lebanese government that sort of money, are they? And note also the oil money connection – Iran could afford to give Hezbollah all those weapons because of the price of oil. It can afford to give Hezbollah all that money because of… the price of oil. Meanwhile the US is broke and most European countries have significant budget deficits and high unemployment. While there is a demand side surge that contributed to high oil prices in the last few years, US actions, both monetarily and militarily, have contributed significantly to the rise in prices. And in so doing, the US gave Iran billions which Iran used to fight America’s proxy, Israel, and win.
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.
One day – roads clear.
In Taibe, a town of fighting so heavy that large chunks were missing from walls and buildings where they had been sprayed with bullets, the Audi family stood with two Hezbollah volunteers, looking woefully at their windowless, bullet- and shrapnel-torn house.
Has FEMA even let most of the poorest people who fled Katrina go home, let alone helped them rebuild? As we go through this article remember that comparison. If you had lost your house and had to flee a disaster, who would you rather have helping you, FEMA, or the “terrorist organization” Hezbollah?
In Bint Jbail, Hezbollah ambulances ”” large, new cars with flashing lights on the top ”” ferried bodies of fighters to graves out of mountains of rubble.
Oh, so they aren’t just doing the repairs, they’re also burying the bodies. I would add that they have those ambulances because they also provide most of the medical care in southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s reputation as an efficient grass-roots social service network ”” as opposed to the Lebanese government, regarded by many here as sleek men in suits doing well ”” was in evidence everywhere. Young men with walkie-talkies and clipboards were in the battered Shiite neighborhoods on the southern edge of Bint Jbail, taking notes on the extent of the damage.
”œHezbollah’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 ”œthe gross vacuum left by the state.”
Hezbollah was not, she said, a state within a state, but rather ”œa state within a nonstate, actually.”
One of the biggest problems that we have when dealing with organizations like Hezbollah is our refusal to see beyond the legal forms. Because the UN recognizes a Lebanese “government” in Beiruit, and recognizes a State called Lebanon led by that government we think it’s the government. But when you look at the reality on the ground you find that Hezbollah is far more of a government in southern Lebanon, on every metric except legal ones – they run the military, they run the hospitals, they pick up the trash, they give out pensions, etc… I know regular readers are probably sick of me beating this dead horse, but it’s worth beating a bit more because this has a lot to do with why the US is losing in Iraq, with the rise of Hamas and the Islamic Courts Union, and even with the resurgence of the Taliban.
Sheik Nasrallah said in his speech that ”œthe brothers in the towns and villages will turn to those whose homes are badly damaged and help rebuild them.
”œToday is the day to keep up our promises,” he said. ”œAll our brothers will be in your service starting tomorrow.” …
…Hezbollah men also traveled door to door checking on residents and asking them what help they needed.
Although Hezbollah is a Shiite organization, Sheik Nasrallah’s message resounded even with a Sunni Muslim, Ghaleb Jazi, 40, who works at the oil storage plant at Jiyeh, 15 miles south of Beirut. It was bombed by the Israelis and spewed pollution northward into the Mediterranean.
”œThe government may do some work on bridges and roads, but when it comes to rebuilding houses, Hezbollah will have a big role to play,” he said. ”œNasrallah said yesterday he would rebuild, and he will come through.”
Notice the outreach to communities other than the Shia. Smart, very smart. And notice that a Sunni considers Nasrallah a man of his word.
Defense Minister Elias Murr said Tuesday that the government would not seek to disarm Hezbollah.
”œThe army is not going to the south to strip the Hezbollah of its weapons and do the work that Israel did not,” he said, showing just how difficult reining in the militia will most likely be in the coming weeks and months. He added that ”œthe resistance,” meaning Hezbollah, had been cooperating with the government and there was no need to confront it.
Sheik Nasrallah sounded much like a governor responding to a disaster when he said, ”œSo far, the initial count available to us on completely demolished houses exceeds 15,000 residential units.
”œWe cannot of course wait for the government and its heavy vehicles and machinery because they could be a while,” he said. He also cautioned, ”œNo one should raise prices due to a surge in demand.”
Nasrallah just imposed wage and price controls on Southern Lebanon. And you can bet that his imposition will be obeyed. Notice also that the government has no intention of confronting Hezbollah’s military.
One of the great ironies of this whole episode is that the Americans thought Israel would damage Hezbollah so the Lebanese government could disarm them. Hezbollah’s success has significantly weakened the government, and given Hezbollah an effective veto in a lot of situations. And Hezbollah’s success in rebuilding will seal the deal.
Support for Hezbollah was likely to become stronger, Professor Saad-Ghorayeb said, because of the weakness of the central government.
”œHezbollah has two pillars of support,” she said, ”œthe resistance and the social services. What this war has illustrated is that it is best at both.
Referring to Shiek Nasrallah, she said: ”œHe tells the people, ”˜Don’t worry, we’re going to protect you. And we’re going to reconstruct. This has happened before. We will deliver.’ ”
What Hezbollah recognizes is this – power flows from the bottom up. This is the antithesis of the way that the US government operates, where job one is to take from the poor and middle class and give to the rich. Hezbollah takes care of the people. In return… the people take care of Hezbollah.
The US government uses money to cut people out, Hezbollah uses money to bring people in.