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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

TDL/NYT EXCLUSIVE: LEBANESE WOMEN, CHILDREN BATTLE SEXISM, AGEISM IN THE WARZONE

By Arthur Slutzburger Jr. of The New York Times / The Dick List

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Hezbollah warriors prepare for an Israeli attack
Adnan Hajj/New York Times

BEIRUT (NYT)- Throughout history, wars have been fought and won by grown men. That is, up until recently.

In Lebanon, women and children have shattered warfare's glass ceiling, and in many areas, have surpassed Lebanese men in its conduct. The empowerment of women and children during the latest middle east crisis has gone a long way towards demonstrating that diversity on the battlefield is key to achiveing victory in modern war.

While Western militaries such as those of the United States or Israel have traditionally relegated women to support roles well behind the front lines, Hezbollah has chosen to throw women right into the front lines of battle, even if they aren't soldiers.

The results have been well beyond anyone's wildest expectation.

Lebanese women have actually been spotted in front of men on the battlefield, almost as if they were human shields. Such valor and bravery is rarely found even among elite all-male units in the West, where most soldiers try to avoid being shot. Clearly, Israel underestimated the warfighting capabilities of these modern-day Amazons, who have died at a disproportional rate to Lebanese men.

Further, Hezbollah leadership has taken to hiding among children, ostensibly because they offer such fierce resistance when attacked. In fact, Lebanese children seem to appear whenever Hezbollah is engaged with the enemy, and have fought with distinction as evidenced by the tiny bodies that turn up on Al Jazeera, the BBC, and CNN every evening.

Truly, Hezbollah's revolutionary battlefield diversity has been a huge advantage against more rigid, Western-style militaries.

"When I see women and children enter a safe-house with Hezbollah fighters, I'm not sure whether I should bomb it" said Captain Dan Shalil of the Israeli Air Force.

"You really don't want to get involved with trying to kill girls and babies."

Captain Shalil's fear is understandable. Few in the Israeli military want to embroil themsleves in a fight with Hezbollah's most zealous and dedicated warriors.

"Women and children are our secret weapons, and they are the means by which we will win this war" said Hezbollah chief Shiek Hassan Nasrallah.

After the early results, who can doubt him?