"With a victory like this, who needs defeat?" concluded an article by Lebanese publicist Husam Itani in Al Saffir, a pro-Syrian Lebanese daily that can hardly be dubbed "anti-Hizbullah."
If a publication such as Al Saffir can publish such a scathing critique of Hizbullah's victory rhetoric, it is clear that once the clouds of smoke and dust settle from the recent war in Lebanon, the burning flames of public criticism of Hizbullah and its leader Nasrallah will be exposed.
"As the number of deaths rises while new problems continue to surface such as water pollution and unexploded ordnance across Lebanon, the level of complexity of reconstruction efforts become clear," Itani goes on. "Especially as senior leaders begin to count their profits from corrupt dealings while there remain those intent on presenting the recent events in Lebanon as peripheral, choosing against dimming the shining glory of victory."
"We would be revealing no secret by saying that at least a portion of the recent declarations and behavior reveal an unmistakable disregard for human life."
Unmistakable as well, is the fact that critics of Syria and Hizbullah, such as Walid Jumblatt, questioned even at the height of the war (Al Mustaqbal, 21 June) "to whom would Hizbullah attribute a victory?" Jumblatt took his critique even further, saying: "Even Adolph Hitler conjured feelings of pride in his nation—and then dragged it into war," A few days ago, the Druze leader also called on Nasrallah to take responsibility for the mistakes he has done, and step down from his post.
Such statements leave no room for any doubt: The Lebanese nation has put an end to rhetoric and empty slogans such as "honor" and "victory." The tremendous number of deaths and widespread destruction, along with frustration and fear about the future have now gained a central place in Lebanon's public discourse.
As for the public standing of the central figure leading Lebanon into the current cycle of bloodshed, it is clear that irreversible damage has been done; Nasrallah has proven himself to be increasingly concerned with apologies rather than the steadfast leader that he was famous for.
The deterioration of Nasrallah's public image is all the more obvious against a backdrop of successful leadership of other high-profile Lebanese figures. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has proven himself to be a statesman able to lead the country responsibly while forging national unity and pride. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has also proven himself to be a responsible public leader, guiding the nation in times of crisis to rationale and action. No doubt Berri has managed to garner support within Lebanon's Shiite community to the detriment of the Hizbullah chief. Nasrallah, on the other hand, is depicted in Lebanon as one who draws support solely from figures seemingly by now outdated, such as President Emile Lahoud who became an ardent supporter of Lebanon's opposition forces, at the expense of real Lebanese interests.
Thus, the Hizbullah leader has found it increasingly difficult to convey a positive side to the unending images of death and destruction in Lebanon.
Word in Lebanon has it that Hizbullah is experiencing a crippling morale crisis amidst growing political criticism. No doubt, the majority of public critique names Israel as the ultimate destructive force behind the war; however, beneath such arguments also lies growing criticism of Hizbullah and its leader who vowed to rehabilitate the country, a promise he may not be able to realize in full.
Will Nasrallah succeed in reclaiming his pre-war standing amongst the Lebanese public? Will he survive the waves of criticism in the public and justify the destruction wrought on Lebanon? The majority of voices in Lebanon express doubt that he will, claiming that the once legendary leader has finally reached the end of his prominent political road. The question that now remains is, when exactly will Nasrallah grasp the fact that his failure has been exposed, and how will he handle such a realization when he does.
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