Why America Needs Hezbollah
By Ted Rall
08/18/06 -- --
Hours after a ceasefire halted a five-week war between Israel and Iranian-backed Islamic militias in Lebanon, reported the New York Times, "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 ceasefire began, fully passable." Who cares if Hezbollah is a State Department-designated terrorist organization? Unlike our worthless government, it gets things done!
The citizens of New Orleans desperately need Hezbollah's can-do terrorist spirit. Outside the French Quarter tourist zone, writes Jed Horne in The New Republic, what was until 2005 our nation's most charming city and cultural center remains "a disaster zone, an area five times the size of Manhattan."
One year after the routine matter of a Gulf Coast hurricane, half the city's population remains refugees--screwed over by a government that hasn't lifted a finger to pretend that it cares. Horne describes "Vast swaths of a city emptied as if by a neutron bomb, with only the fecal brown floodline up under the eaves to suggest what went so very wrong--that, and the ghostly dried brine still coating the dead lawns and landscaping."
New Orleans is a dead city. Incredibly, the politicians don't give a damn. "Now most of the water has gone," the British Daily Mirror newspaper informed readers on the storm's anniversary, "but little else has changed. Driving through the streets, it is shocking to see how much devastation remains and how little rebuilding has taken place."
Americans watched incredulously as their government responded to the desperate pleas of sick and starving Katrina victims by herding them into internment camps, and then issued them $2000 debit cards--an insulting pittance--to compensate them for losing everything they owned. Anyone could see that the federal government had failed its obligation to protect its citizens. Not only had officials refused to shore up crumbling levies, they didn't even try to send in relief after the long-predicted flood. The United States of America, however, is led by men who see things very differently from, well, everyone else. They actually think that Hurricane Katrina victims received too much.
"If you put $2,000 in someone's hands, that's a lot of money," Federal Emergency Management Agency Director David Paulison explained during a July 23 announcement. Due to Bush Administration budget cuts, the victims of future disasters will have to make do with a mere $500.
You know the U.S. has gone Third World when bombed-out Lebanese get a better deal than we do. Remember how hurricane victims couldn't get through to FEMA's perpetually busy hotline? Promising that Hezbollah personnel "in the towns and villages will turn to those whose homes are badly damaged and help rebuild them," Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah ordered Hezbollah militants to canvass damaged neighborhoods and begin repairs at once. Hezbollah gives out "decent and suitable furniture" and a year's free rent to all Lebanese who lost their homes. Unlike the racist government officials who managed the botched response along the Gulf Coast last year, where whites were rescued while blacks were shot, the Shiite terrorist group's offer also applies to Sunnis, Christians and even Jews.
"Hezbollah's reputation as an efficient grass-roots social service network," reported the Times, "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. Hezbollah men also traveled door to door checking on residents and asking them what help they needed." With terrorists like that, who needs FEMA?
A year after Katrina, officials are still pulling bodies out of the rubble. Dozens of corpses remain unidentified; the president, governor and mayor continue to pass the blame for their willful inaction. George W. Bush still refuses to accept responsibility. Just one day after the Lebanese ceasefire, however, Sheikh Nasrallah had already delivered a thorough accounting of the damage caused by Israel's bombing campaign and launched a comprehensive rebuilding program. "So far," said the Hezbollah leader, "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."
As often occurs during emergencies in the U.S., price gouging for housing, water, gasoline and other essentials was rampant during and after Katrina. Bush did nothing. Nasrallah, by contrast, warned businesses not to exploit the situation: "No one should raise prices due to a surge in demand."
Never argue with a man who buys AK-47s by the boxcar.
"Hezbollah's strength," says Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a professor at the Lebanese American University in Beirut and an expert on the organization, in large part derives from "the gross vacuum left by the state."
Sound familiar? It does to the people of Ladysmith, Wisconsin. The rural town, destroyed by a tornado in 2002, has been abandoned by the government to whom its people paid taxes all their lives.
Maybe we can commission Hezbollah to rebuild the World Trade Center.
Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge. Visit his website www.tedrall.com