Paintball Journalism? Former Ranger, Journalists Trade Shots With Hezbollah | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Paintball Journalism? Former Ranger, Journalists Trade Shots With Hezbollah

Play associated audio

"Paintballing With Hezbollah Is The Path Straight To Their Hearts," says the headline at the Vice.com newssite.

In a quest to get to better know members of the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, four Western journalists and a former U.S. Army Ranger last year arranged to play paintball in Beirut with some men who said they were among the group's fighters.

In his account of the experience, journalist Mitchell Prothero writes that "my motivation for brokering the match was largely driven by the simple journalistic need to better understand the group."

The journalists and former Ranger Andrew Exum fared well, winning four games to the Hezbollah fighters' three. The two sides seemed to respect each other, judging from Prothero's account. During a break they shared some laughs. But, Prothero writes:

"At the very end of the evening, things take a chilling turn. The Boss [from team Hezbollah] walks over and takes Ben's gun away from him while criticizing his marksmanship. In an exemplary display, the Boss takes careful aim at a rope hanging on the other side of the arena and fires shot after shot, squarely hitting the rope each time while chanting Yahoud ('Jew') on each pull of the trigger. He seems to think it's funny, but no one else laughs."

A month later, Prothero reports, he was with the Boss again:

"I press him on what he thinks could stop this cycle of violence in the south. What if the Israelis left Lebanese lands, made peace with the Palestinians, and never threatened Lebanon again?

" 'Some guys would consider violence the solution to the religious questions, like liberating Jerusalem. But doing so would mean the end of the Resistance,' he says.

" 'So, peace?' I ask.

"He thinks for a second. 'Sure,' he replies, without much conviction in his voice."

Exum (who blogs at Abu Muqawama) spoke with NPR's Steve Inskeep on Monday, for a report due on Tuesday's Morning Edition.

"A group that's killed Americans, that's killed Israelis, that is committed to the destruction of Israel ... but then you and some other people hit on a rather unusual way to get to know Hezbollah," Steve began.

"I was in a bar in Beirut, talking with a bunch of journalists — many of whom had been frustrated by the inability to get to know Hezbollah at the unofficial level," Exum said. They came up with the paintball challenge.

One thing he now believes, Exum said, is that "at the human level" the men he met were "just very similar to ... the 18- and 19-year-old Americans that I led into combat."

We'll add the as-broadcast version of Steve's conversation with Exum to the top of this post after it has aired.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

From Sizzling Fajitas To The Super Bowl, How Sounds Help Sell

Joel Beckerman is a composer who specializes in sonic branding. His new book is called The Sonic Boom: How Sound Transforms the Way We Think, Feel, and Buy.
NPR

Sandwich Monday: The Primanti Bros. Pitts-burger

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try a sandwich from the famous Primanti Bros. of Pittsburgh.
NPR

Close Iowa Senate Race Could Come Down To How Women Vote

Joni Ernst, who's an officer in the Iowa Army National Guard, presents herself as mother, soldier, leader. But many women aren't responding to that.
NPR

Tunisia's Emerging Tech Sector Hampered By Old Policies

When Tunisia's young people protested in 2011, they had one key demand: jobs. Now, despite new political leadership, that demand remains unmet — even in tech, the sector that offers the most promise.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.