The day after the quick removal of Mustaqbal’s mercenaries from West Beirut, a Saturday if I am not mistaken, there were no cats on the streets. The roads from Hamra to Gemmayzeh were totally deserted. At the start of the bridge of Beshara el Khoury coming from Burj el Murr, the main road was blocked by big piles of sand, and one had to go through a little street to the right in order to cut through around the bridge and end up at the other side. After passing by a couple of smiling Amal kids with talkie walkies, I ended up facing from a significant distance the UN building in down town. The UN building in down town is the biggest masquerade ever. They are more guarded than guantanamo’s prisons. But that’s a different story.
Anyway, there were a couple of guys standing under the bridge, and judging from their clothes, they were Hizbullah militants. As I was a bit lost I approached my car from them and asked one who came forward to me: “How can I get to the other side?” The guy smiled at me and said: “What side are you talking about?”. And so because I am of the humorous type (as many of you have noticed), I said to him as I waved with my hand to the direction of “The East”, “you know… The Other side”.
And this is when he answered with a big laugh: “no, you have to be more precise! Are you scared? you know, even if you are a fan of Samir Geagea (min shabibet Geagea), I have a legal obligation (Taklif Shar’i) to do everything possible to get you safe where you need to go”. This last part was said with such pride that it was spilling over all the traits of his face. I quickly answered that I’m no fan of him, that I was just talking metaphorically, and that I needed to get to next to Gemayze. So he explained to me how to get there.
Why am I telling this anecdote? Many people heard of the “Taklif Shar’i” Hizbullah militants follow, and how it is connected to Shi’a legal principles etc. But I don’t find all these essentialist and culturally-narrow theories satisfying. I want to know in what way does this differ from any code, any disciplinary mode prevalent in military organization or any institution for that matter. What type of training other armies go through (the American army for example), and what are the similarities and differences in terms of crystallizing respect of authority and self-control? What’s the resulting relation between self, group, and organization? How is the carrying of weapon add dimensions to all that? I think it is a good starting point (not the only one by all means) to understand why is Hizbullah so well organized (compared to a chaotically disorganized Arab world).