Saturday, January 29, 2011

A tale of two disasters

Reading 's Ken Silverstein's 2007 in-depth examination of Islamist parties in Egypt and Lebanon (h/t Conor Friedersdorf), I came across this capsule account of Hezbollah's response to the 2006 Israeli attack (well financed by Iran) and couldn't help thinking of poor Haiti:
When I visited Lebanon last November, three months after the end of the war, bombs from Israeli warplanes had left the Dahiyeh pockmarked with ten-foot-deep craters; whole buildings had been reduced to tangles of concrete and cables. Damage was heaviest in the Haret Hreik, Hezbollah’s political zone, where entire blocks lay in ruins. The six-story building that housed the party’s TV station, Al-Manar, or The Beacon, had been completely obliterated. But the postwar cleanup began almost immediately: Hezbollah dispatched teams of engineers to evaluate damage and estimate the cost of repairs or rebuilding. Within days residents received cash payments of up to $12,000 for homes that had been destroyed or damaged. At the peak of the cleanup, hundreds of trucks a day were carrying rubble to dump sites along a seaside road leading out of the city. I drove by the area and saw three vast mountains of building ruins, a melancholy mix of concrete, furniture, appliances, and clothing. 
 Compare any one of many accounts of stasis in Haiti one year after the earthquake:
Reconstruction work has barely begun, profiteering by Haiti's tiny and notoriously corrupt elite has reached epic proportions, and a national cholera epidemic has added to the misery of the quake-crippled country.

A political impasse since a disputed presidential election on November 28 has fueled further instability.

"God made the earthquake, but it's our leaders who are selling our misery," said Sephonese Louis, 58, one of the protesters in the Champs de Mars, Port-au-Prince's central plaza where thousands of families made homeless by the quake live in a sweltering tent city,

Clinton acknowledged disappointment with the commission's work. "Nobody's been more frustrated than I am that we haven't done more," he told reporters on Tuesday.

Denis O'Brien, a supporter of Clinton and chairman of the Irish-owned cell phone company Digicel that is Haiti's biggest foreign investor, told Reuters that most members of Haiti's ruling elite families have done little to help.

"They're making massive profits on the importation of goods, products, services, everything ... Profiteering at a major scale is going on here," O'Brien added.

Jimmy Jean-Louis, a Haitian-born actor who now lives in Los Angeles but was visiting his homeland, said not much had changed since the disaster. "Everything went down on January 12th," he added. "It might stay down for years to come." 
Hezbollah's success is due in large part to its outperformance of similarly corrupt and ineffective government. In fact it's not uncommon for insurgent groups of rigid ideological strip to put the governments they seek to overthrow to shame with their ability to deliver services. 

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