Friday, March 28, 2008

So You Wanna Be a Hizballah Fighter?

Hizballah's state-within-the-Lebanese-state -- its hospitals, schools, banking system and even its consumer goods stores -- is a closed society that's off-limits to outsiders. But no part of the structure is more closed and more secret than the military wing, access to which is extremely limited for an American journalist such as myself. But my assistant, Rami Aysha, grew up in Haret Hrek, the mostly Shia Muslim suburb of Beirut that is Hizballah's main stronghold in Lebanon, and at my request, he spoke to a few Hizballah fighters in his neighborhood, some of them former school chums, about the process by which they became members of the formidable anti-Israeli militia.The two phases in the development of a Hizballah fighter are like Boy Scouts and Boot Camp. During the first phase, Hizballah recruiters keep an eye out for young Shia Muslim students in both Hizballah-run schools and the national school system. They look for energetic kids, violent kids, and smart kids, from the age of seven into the late teens, and begin taking them on field trips and workshops where they are given a through ideological indoctrination, and then as they get older, a brief introduction to the AK-47 assault rifle.

Two important themes stick out: from the beginning, the training stresses the path to martyrdom, which is achieved through honesty, prayer, and combat. And from the start, Hizballah organizes its child recruits into the basic cellular structure of the organization. Each is assigned to a cell of about five kids, with each cell having its own kid commander, and their own missions: usually games and exercises like treasure hunts. This stage ideological training can last for years, or it can be done in as little as 9 months, depending on the zeal of the recruits and how much free time they have from school.

Hizballah trainers constantly separate the wheat from the chaff. Those who pass all the ideological training tests, move on to learn the basics of warfare: weapons training and outdoor maneuvers for a total of at least 9 months, much of it in the Bekaa valley. All along the way, the trainers are on the lookout for those with special abilities. The lazy ones -- with the ability to sit for hours on end without getting bored -- are chosen as lookouts to watch Israeli troop movements; the brave ones are chosen for attacks, the smart ones are chosen for intelligence and security; and the smart and unpredictable ones -- the guys who don't look or act or behave at all like fighters -- get chosen for what is called reverse security, or counterintelligence.

When they graduate from military training, the new fighters are broken up and sent off to join cells out in the field or overseas alongside veterans. Of all the fighters, about one in ten is chose to be a commander, and goes to Iran for a few months of special training. The number of Hizballah fighters is a secret, but in a recent speech, the group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, hinted that there are tens of thousands of them.

Though men make up the majority of Hizballah's frontline fighters, there are plenty of female fighters as well, mostly reservists. And even if don't carry weapons themselves, women are the ticking time bomb of Hizballah. They vote, and (especially if they are married to another member of the Resistance thanks to a Hizballah mating service) they'll give birth to the next generation of fighters.

--Andrew Lee Butters with reporting by Rami Aysha/Beirut

Gust Comment: I don't understand why anyone thinks that Israel can reach a 'peaceful settlement' with the 'Palestinians' that will not involve these people returning to Israel whether as residents or as terrorists (and probably as both). Imagine (and it is purely fantasy) that Israel reaches a 'peaceful settlement' with Fatah that either limits or bans the return of the 'refugees' to Israel. Does anyone believe that that Lebanon and Syria and even Jordan would not immediately open their borders and let these people go streaming across on suicide missions? Suppose a child aged 10 comes up to a group of IDF soldiers or a group of civilians with a bomb vest tied to him (an incident like this actually happened in Lebanon in the 1980's). Clearly the IDF would have no choice but to shoot him. Now, imagine pictures of that child being shot being broadcast around the world on YouTube and the like. Does anyone doubt what the public relations effect would be? (And I'm not even taking into account the possibility of a child with limited mental capacity being used as a suicide bomber - that's a whole separate ball of wax). Do you think I'm exaggerating? If so, read this.

The war between Israel and its neighbors is not going to end without there first being a decisive victory one way or the other. That's how World War I ended and that's how World War II ended. Israel won a decisive victory in 1967, but did not take - or was prevented from taking (probably a more accurate description, but the leadership at the time was also complicit) - the opportunity to impose terms of surrender on the Arabs. Until that happens, we will never have peace here. There is no 'settlement' that can be reached until the Arabs understand that Israel and the Jews are here to stay and that there is no going back to the homes they abandoned in 1948 and 1967.

One final point. The whole set of presumptions that underlies Oslo, the 'road map,' Annapolis and all of the 'peace making' efforts by the West in recent years is that the 1948 conflict has been settled, everyone has accepted that Israel is here to stay, the only dispute is about territory etc. What these articles should show you - especially those of you who have never been exposed to 'Palestinian refugees' living outside of Israel, Judea, Samaria and Gaza - is that NOTHING has been settled. The Arabs are still fighting the 1948 war. And it's not just the 'Palestinian refugees' who are fighting. The whole reason that countries like Lebanon and Syria leave their 'Palestinians' in 'refugee camps' and refuse to grant them the most basic rights as citizens is to make sure that they keep harboring resentment against Israel and that they keep training their children for war against Israel (and the West) on behalf of the Arab (and Muslim) 'nation.' And Israel and the US and all of the other Western countries continue to blindly fund UNRWA and other international organizations that perpetuate the fomenting of war against themselves.

Don't expect anyone in a position of power to wake up to this reality anytime soon either.
Thanks to MrLA26

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