The sun stated to rise over the eastern hills of Beirut, the beams cutting through the clouds of dust that hung in the air from the Israeli bombs that fell several buildings. Most of the automobiles on the streets in this southern neighborhood of Beirut were crushed under rubble. There were even fee appliances on the street, like refrigerators and stoves as well as furniture. On this strip, the center of the Beirut Shia community, there were sofas and upholstered chairs. An odd collection of pancake cars, kitchenware, living room furniture and an occasional bed. And everything was covered in light grey dust, the product of blown concrete and wallboard. In the center of this street were the remains of what was once a very large building, formerly fourteen stories tall and a block. It had been the offices of Hezbollah, as well as the Hezbollah health clinic and various charities. A pyramid of rubble, maybe four stories in height, formed a symbolic citadel in the center of the Hezbollah neighborhood.
Several armed Hezbollah officers were picking through the rubble, removing cinderblocks and twisted metal. When they created a large enough hole in the bottom of the pyramid, it became apparent that they were revealing a steel door that was unscathed by the pounding received by the building. The door opened, and the Hezbollah officers immediately snapped to attention and saluted with their right hands, a ritual that seems to have been adopted by all the military cultures around the world.
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah emerged from the steel door. Nasrallah was covered with dust, his hair was filthy from the lack of bathing in the last two weeks, and as he collected himself, adjusting his shirt and torn pants, he spit out a large wad of wet wallboard dust that he had sucked into his lungs as he hoisted himself up the six flights of stairs from the deep basement bunker below the building. Nasrallah rubbed his eyes and saw the Hezbollah officer holding the Hezbollah flag. There was another officer holding the Lebanese flag. The officers awaited instructions.
"Today we plant the Hezbollah flag on top of this building to show the world we have not only survived, but that we declare victory," said Nasrallah.
"Yes, sir," said the officer holding the Hezbollah flag.
"And when do we hoist the Lebanese flag?" asked the officer standing next to the soldier holding the Lebanon flag at an angle, letting the tip of the flag drag on the dust pavement.
"When the time is right. But that time is not now. Get the cameras and let the CNN reporters into the area so they can show the world that we declare victory. But get to the top of the this mess with the Hezbollah flag before CNN gets here, and put away the Lebanon flag. When CNN arrives, we shall plant the flag," said Nasrallah.
The soldier holding the Lebanon flag ran down the street to hide it. And the officer with the Hezbollah flag started to climb the pyramid of rubble to get ready to plant the flag at the top.
"And get me cleaned up for CNN. I can't claim victory looking like this," said Nasrallah.
One of the Hezbollah officers thought that Sheik Hassan Nasrallah was a genius. Nasrallah always made it a point to appear filthy and bedraggled for his army, showing them that he was in the fight along with them. But for the world, he would clean up and show them that he came out of battle unscathed. The Sheik was a master of leadership. They had fought hard, thought the officer. And though his Shia neighborhood lied in ruins, though Lebanon’s ecopnomy was destroyed, though hundreds of civilians’ lives were killed and thousands misplaced, Hezbollah was declaring victory. As the officer stood among the Shia ghost village in southern Beirut, he felt pride . He was not sure what the victory was, but it did not matter, because he felt pride as he watched his fellow officer stumble up the rubble to plant the Hezbollah flag. Afterall, a flag is more important that food, running water, hospitals and schools. A flag meant you were a survivor. And to survive means pride. And to feel pride is really what it was all about.