Mleeta National Monument of Resistance - the “Miracle of Lebanon”
“the National Monument is not about war, it is about peace.”
“We are blessed” Mohammad tells me, a sentence he would repeat a number of times during our gatherings.
He is referring to the so-called “Miracle of Lebanon,” the 2006 war that catapulted Hezbollah to legendary status in the country, as it became the first Lebanese force to defeat “Israel”.
And it was a loss that led to serious recriminations in Tel Aviv as Israeli soldiers were humiliated by the resistance fighters, in a war they were expected to win, but instead, ended up weakening the Zionist regime and strengthening the very forces they hoped to crush.
The victory remains a source of national pride and certainly boosted the standing of the Shia political movement in the minds of the Lebanese people.
This was a war that pitted resistance fighters against one of the most technically advanced nations on the planet. “Israel” has the world’s fourth-largest military and, despite denials, is a major nuclear power.
But as Robert Taber points out in his seminal work ‘The War of the Flea’, a conventional army cannot defeat a resistance force fighting for a sacred cause that carries the support of the civilian population.
“Yes, here, the resistant had much more than the support of his own people,” Mohammad said, “all inhabitants in surrounding areas were part of the forces that fought against “Israel”. The resistance couldn’t have survived and arisen without the support its people.”
We are at the National Monument, in the mountainous village of Mleeta in southern Lebanon, the site of the 2006 resistance base, described disparagingly by Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper as “Hezbollah’s Disneyland.”
It was clear that the newspaper, known for supporting Nazi Germany during the 1930s has never set foot in the former Hezbollah military post that has been turned into a museum commemorating the 2006 war.
Far from the “theme park where children are indoctrinated the glory of martyrdom,” the Mleeta museum is a respectful commemoration to the Lebanese people martyred during “Israel’s” war.
In fact, it is not different from war memorials in other countries, including Britain’s Imperial War Museum or the Museum of the Battle of Normandy in France.
But not for the first time, the Daily Mail was missing the point as Mohammad explained “the National Monument is not about war, it is about peace.”
Opening in 2010 to mark the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Hezbollah’s ability to oust “Israel” from Lebanon. The popular tourist site consists of original Hezbollah bunkers and a 200 meter tunnel that was made a fully operational resistance command center.
An array of weapons, including anti-aircraft guns, that were used in the defeat of the Zionist entity are displayed on the so-called Martyr’s Hill, which also commemorates all those who sacrificed their lives defending Lebanon.
“We are blessed” Mohammad told me once again.
He is referring to the natural green blanket that provided the resistance fighters with camouflage, making the base impenetrable and undetectable despite the close proximity of the Israeli Sujud military post.
“The trees here remain green all year round, Mohammad told me, “Night vision doesn’t work. They didn’t know Hezbollah was here, they never discovered the military base” my guide explained as he pointed at the mountain opposite where the Zionist soldiers were located.
“Nature always defeats technology,” he said,” It is the master of everything. This is the nearest place to God.”
But life in the mountains was tough. The nearest hospital was over an hour away and it was difficult for those who were wounded to receive treatment.
Movements were restricted to avoid detection and it was cold - fires were not allowed to avoid them being spotted by Israeli surveillance planes.
“There were no roads as there are now,” Mohammad explained. “Volunteers were expected to make their own way here, which wasn’t easy as they would have to carry weapons and missiles too.”
A large part of the resistance was what Hezbollah leader Sayed Hassan Nasrallah has described as “the brain war” which had a huge impact on moral as “Israel” did not know what technology Hezbollah fighters were using.
His infamous statement stressing that “Israel” is “weaker than a spider’s web” is encapsulated in a showpiece at the entrance of the museum, which proudly displays helicopters and tanks downed by the resistance.
“This was a turning point in the war” Mohammad said as he indicated the destroyed Merkava tank. Known as God’s chariot, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) believed that it was indestructible.
“The resistance did something that “Israel” didn’t expect,” he added. “This was one of their most elite tanks and it was destroyed by the resistance forces. It was a harsh damage to the Israeli military and people’s moral, who turned against the war.”
The war that was supposed to be won swiftly by “Israel”, ended with a UN-brokered ceasefire and the withdrawal of IDF troops just a month after the invasion was launched.
Nearly 2000 Lebanese people were killed and around one million internally displaced as Israeli missiles destroyed civilian infrastructure.
During the war, the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada backed “Israel”. Washington provided “Israel” with precision-guided missiles as part of the so-called “War on Terror.”
The British government, led at the time by Tony Blair, shamefully blocked a move by the European Union to call for an immediate ceasefire.
This was a stark contrast to the people of those nations who demonstrated, claiming an end to “Israel’s” war.
Chants of “We are all Hezbollah” reverberated on the streets of London which provoked some controversy as leading figures in the smaller left-wing parties scurried to tell their members not to join in.
What it reflected was an expression of unconditional solidarity with the resistance party, rejecting the media’s portrayal of Hezbollah, classified as an "Islamist terrorist party."
It was a British, European, US classification that triggered nervousness around the chants.
Another guide named Mohammad - “we are all called Mohammad here” he joked - said that this was a hypocritical move designed to delegitimize the resistance.
“They are guilty of double standards” he added as we discussed Operation Timber Sycamore - the covert CIA program; millions of dollars in cash, weapons and training were channeled to a myriad of Salafi groups in Syria.
“We are against terrorism” he told me, as he went on to condemn any actions against the people of Europe, Britain and the US.
At the time of writing, Lebanon is going through another crisis - an economic crash due, in large part, to the US Caesar sanctions that aimed people’s starvation and submission, with the intention of disarming Hezbollah.
To do so would be to leave the people of Lebanon at the mercy of “Israel” and trigger a potential massacre. The monument in Mleeta serves as a reminder of why that must never be allowed to happen.
It is not up to the US - or for that matter the Western liberal left - to determine how the Lebanese people resist. The only beneficiaries of a disarmed Hezbollah are “Israel” and US imperialism.
We saw during “Israel’s” recent bombardment of the Palestinian people in the besieged Gaza strip efforts to delegitimize the resistance through the media and other channels by branding Hamas - the democratically elected government - as terrorists.
Deranged, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has used the Hezbollah bogeyman to demonize Venezuela, Cuba and other Latin American countries, insisting on having operating cells there.
This dangerous narrative shifts the focus away from the real global terrorists - US imperialism.
Washington has at least 800 military bases across the world and has funded death squads and supported coups in Latin America and the Middle East at great human cost.
Fearful of the decline of the dollar as the world currency - and with it the ability of the US finance capital to control world markets - it has embarked on a new Cold War against China and imposed crippling sanctions on other countries during the middle of the pandemic.
As Sayed Nasrallah said about “Israel”, the US is weaker than a spider’s web. But this also makes it more dangerous.
Hezbollah remains an important force in the fight against US imperialism and supporting the rebuilding of Lebanon. We might not agree on everything - in fact we almost certainly don’t. But this is to miss the point.
The future of Lebanon must be determined by its people, not external forces driven by their own imperialist interests.