Lebanese Resistance Regiments
|Lebanese Resistance Regiments|
أفواج المقاومة اللبنانية
|Participant in Lebanese civil war (1975-1990)|
Lebanese Resistance Regiments flag (1975-1991)
|Active||1975 – 1991|
|Group(s)||Lebanese National Movement, Front of Patriotic and National Parties (FPNP)|
|Leaders||Musa al-Sadr, Hussein el-Husseini, Nabih Berri|
|Headquarters||Jnah (Chyah, Beirut)|
|Originated as||1,500 fighters|
|Allies||Lebanese National Movement (LNM), Lebanese Arab Army (LAA), Popular Nasserist Organization (PNO), People's Liberation Army (PLA), Popular Guard, Toilers League, Zgharta Liberation Army (ZLA), Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Syrian Army|
|Opponent(s)||Lebanese Front, Lebanese Forces, Lebanese Army, Al-Mourabitoun, Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), Sixth of February Movement, Organization of Communist Action in Lebanon (OCAL), People's Liberation Army (PLA), Hezbollah , Syrian Army, South Lebanon Army (SLA), Israel Defense Forces (IDF)|
The Lebanese Resistance Regiments (Arabic: أفواج المقاومة اللبنانية | ʾAfwāj al-Muqāwama al-Lubnāniyya, أَمَل ʾAMAL), also designated Lebanese Resistance Battalions, Lebanese Resistance Detachments, Lebanese Resistance Legions and Battalions de la Resistance Libanaise (BRL) or Légions de la Resistance Libanaise (LRL) in French, but simply known by its Arabic acronym أَمَل ʾAmal which means "Hope", were the military wing of the Movement of the Dispossessed or Movement of the Deprived, a political organization representing the Muslim Shia community of Lebanon. The movement's political wing was officially founded in February 1973 from a previous organization bearing the same name and its military wing was formed in January 1975. The Amal militia was a major player in the Lebanese Civil War from 1975 to 1991. The militia has now been disarmed, though the movement itself, now known as the Amal Movement (Arabic: Harakat Amal), is a notable Shia political party in Lebanon.
- 1 Creation
- 2 History
- 3 Military structure and organization
- 4 Weapons and equipment
- 5 Administrative organization and illegal activities
- 6 Split with "Islamic Amal"
- 7 The Amal militia in the Lebanese civil war
- 8 Disbandement
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
The Amal militia was founded in 1975 as the militant wing of the Movement of the Disinherited, a Shi'a political movement founded by Musa al-Sadr and Hussein el-Husseini a year earlier. It became one of the most important Shi'a Muslim militias during the Lebanese Civil War. Amal grew strong with the support of, and through its ties with, Syria and the 300,000 Shi'a internal refugees from southern Lebanon after the Israeli bombings in the early 1980s. Amal's practical objectives were to gain greater respect for Lebanon's Shi'ite population and the allocation of a larger share of governmental resources for the Shi'ite-dominated southern part of the country.
At its zenith, the militia had 14,000 troops. Amal fought a long campaign against Palestinian refugees during the Lebanese Civil War (called the War of the Camps). After the War of the Camps, Amal fought a bloody battle against rival Shi'a group Hezbollah for control of Beirut, which provoked Syrian military intervention. Hezbollah itself was formed by religious members of Amal who had left after Nabih Berri's assumption of full control and the subsequent resignation of most of Amal's earliest senior members.
Harakat al-Mahrumin (حركة المحرومين | The Movement of the Dispossessed) was established by Imam Musa al-Sadr and member of parliament Hussein el-Husseini in 1974. On January 20, 1975 the Lebanese Resistance Detachments (also referred to in English as 'Battalions of the Lebanese Resistance') is formed as the military wing of the Movement of the Disinherited under the leadership of al-Sadr. In 1978 the founder al-Sadr disappears in mysterious circumstances while visiting Libya and was succeeded by Hussein el-Husseini as leader of Amal.
In 1980 Hussein el-Husseini resigned from Amal leadership after refusing to "drench Amal in blood" and fight alongside the PLO or any other faction.
In 1980 Nabih Berri became one of the leaders of Amal, marking the entry of Amal in the Lebanese Civil War.
In summer 1982 Husayn Al-Musawi, deputy head and official spokesman of Amal, broke away to form the Islamist Islamic Amal Movement. In May 1985, heavy fighting erupted between Amal and Palestinian camp militias for the control of the Sabra, Shatila and Burj el-Barajneh camps in Beirut, sparking the so-called "War of the Camps" which lasted until 1987.
In December 1985 Nabih Berri of Amal, Walid Jumblatt of the Druze Progressive Socialist Party, and Elie Hobeika of the Lebanese Forces signed the Tripartite Accord in Damascus which was supposed to give strong influence to Damascus regarding Lebanese matters. The agreement never came into effect due to Hobeika's ousting.
Heavy fighting erupted between Hezbollah and Amal in the wake of the "War of Camps" to which Hezbollah was opposed to. Syrian forces entered the area to help Amal against Hezbollah, Syrian troops killed dozens of Hezbollah members in which they claimed the members attacked them while Hezbollah claimed they were killed in cold blood. Fighting between the two factions lasted until 1989.
On February 22, 1987, Amal and the Druze PLA again turned against each other in what became known as the "War of the Flag". The conflict was sparked by an incident early that day, when a PLA fighter walked to the Channel 7 TV station (French: Télé Liban – Canal 7) building in the Tallet el-Khayyat quarter and replaced the Lebanese national flag hoisted there by the PSP flag, which was interpreted by Amal militiamen as a deliberate act of provocation. A new round of brutal fighting soon spread throughout western Beirut, and although Amal forces initially managed to restore the Lebanese national flag on the Channel 7 building, they were subsequently overpowered by an alliance of PLA, LCP/Popular Guard and SSNP militias, who quickly seized large portions of West Beirut. Eventually, the fighting was curbed by the massive deployment at West Beirut of Syrian troops under the command of Major-General Ghazi Kanaan, assisted by Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) gendarmes.
On February 17, 1988 the American Chief of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) observer mission in Lebanon, Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, was abducted and later killed after meeting with Amal's political leader of southern Lebanon. Amal responded by launching a campaign against Hezbollah in the south, It was believed that Hezbollah abducted him; Though the party to this day denies it and insists that it was done to create problems between them and the Amal movement. In April 1988 Amal launched an all-out assault on Hezbollah positions in south Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut. Early in May 1988 Hezbollah gained control of 80% of the Shi'ite suburbs of Beirut through well-timed assaults.
In 1989 Amal accepted the Taif agreement (mainly authored by el-Husseini) in order to end the civil war.
In September 1991, with background in the Syrian controlled end of the Lebanese Civil War in October 1990, 2,800 Amal troops joined the Lebanese army.
The origins of the Amal movement lie with the Lebanese cleric of Iranian origin Imam Musa al-Sadr. In 1974, the Harakat al-Mahrumin (Movement of the Deprived) was established by al-Sadr and member of parliament Hussein el-Husseini to attempt to reform the Lebanese system. While acknowledging its support base to be the "traditionally under-represented politically and economically disadvantaged" Shi'a community, it aimed, according to Palmer-Harik, to seek social justice for all deprived Lebanese. Although influenced by Islamic ideas, it was a secular movement trying to unite people along communal rather than religious or ideological lines. The Greek-Catholic Archbishop of Beirut, Mgr. Grégoire Haddad, was among the founders of the Movement.
On January 20, 1975, the Lebanese Resistance Detachments (also referred to in English as 'The Battalions of the Lebanese Resistance') were formed as a military wing of The Movement of the Disinherited under the leadership of al-Sadr, and came to be popularly known as Amal (from the acronym Afwaj al-Mouqawma Al-Lubnaniyya). In 1978, al-Sadr disappeared in mysterious circumstances while visiting Libya, the Amal movement's regional supporter at the time. There are credible allegations that Yasser Arafat asked Gaddafi to "disappear" al-Sadr. Hussein el-Husseini became leader of Amal and was followed by Nabih Berri in April 1980 after el-Husseini resigned. One of the consequences of the rise of Berri, a less educated leader, the increasing secular yet sectarian nature of the movement and move away from an Islamic context for the movement was a splintering of the movement.
Military structure and organization
The movement's militia was secretly established on 20 January 1975 with the help of the Palestinian Fatah, who provided weapons and training at their Beqaa facilities. The formation of Amal was revealed in July that year when an accidental explosion of a landmine at one of the Fatahland camps near Baalbek killed over 60 Shia trainees, which caused considerable embarrassment to Fatah and forced Al-Sadr to admit publicly the militia's existence. When the civil war finally broke out in April 1975, Amal's strength stood at about 1,500–3,000 armed militants, backed by a motor force of gun-trucks (a.k.a. technicals) fitted with heavy machine guns, recoilless rifles and anti-aircraft autocannons.
By the mid-1980s however, the movement totaled 14,000–16,000 militiamen trained and armed by Syria, of which 3,000–6,000 were full-time uniformed regulars and the remaining 10,000 part-time male and female irregulars. Amal's regular forces were bolstered by 6,000 ex-Lebanese Army soldiers from the Sixth Brigade, a predominantly Shia Muslim formation that went over to their co-religionists following the collapse of the government forces in February 1984. Commanded by the Shi'ite Major-General Abd al-Halim Kanj, and headquartered at the Henri Chihab Barracks at Jnah in the south-western Chyah suburb of West Beirut, this formation was subsequently enlarged by absorbing Shia deserters from other Army units, which included the 97th Battalion from the Seventh Brigade. Outside the Lebanese Capital, Amal militia forces operating in Baalbek and Hermel received support from certain elements of the mainly Shi'ite First Brigade stationed in the Beqaa Valley.
Weapons and equipment
Most of Amal's own weapons and equipment were provided by the PLO, Libya, Iran and Syria or pilfered from Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Internal Security Forces (ISF) reserves after their collapse in January 1976. Additional weaponry, vehicles and other, non-lethal military equipments were procured in the international black market.
Amal militiamen were provided with a variety of small-arms, including MAT-49, Sa 25/26 and Crvena Zastava Automat M56 submachine guns, M1 Garand (or its Italian-produced copy, the Beretta Model 1952) and SKS semi-automatic rifles, AMD-65 assault carbines, CETME Model C, Heckler & Koch G3, FN FAL, M16A1, AK-47 and AKM assault rifles (other variants included the Zastava M70, Chinese Type 56, Romanian Pistol Mitralieră model 1963/1965, Bulgarian AKK/AKKS and former East German MPi assault rifles). Several models of handguns were also used, including Tokarev TT-33, CZ 75, FN P35 and MAB PA-15 pistols. Squad weapons consisted of Heckler & Koch HK21, RPK, RPD, PK/PKM, Rheinmetall MG 3, FN MAG and M60 light machine guns, with heavier Browning M1919A4 .30 Cal, Browning M2HB .50 Cal and DShK machine guns being employed as platoon and company weapons. Grenade launchers and portable anti-tank weapons consisted of M79 grenade launchers, M72 LAW and RPG-7 rocket launchers, whilst crew-served and indirect fire weapons included M2 60mm light mortars and thirty 120-PM-43 (M-1943) 120mm heavy mortars, plus Type 56 75mm, B-10 82mm and M40A1 106mm recoilless rifles (often mounted on technicals). Soviet PTRS-41 14.5mm anti-tank rifles were used for heavy sniping.
Armored and transport vehicles
Amal's technicals' fleet consisted mostly of M151A2 jeeps, Land Rover II-III, Toyota Land Cruiser (J40), Jeep Gladiator J20, GMC Sierra Custom K25/K30, Chevrolet C-10 Cheyenne, Chevrolet C-15 Cheyenne, Chevrolet C-20 Scottsdale and Chevrolet C/K 3rd generation light pickup trucks, and Chevrolet Series 50 light-duty, Dodge F600 medium-duty and GMC C7500 heavy-duty trucks, partially supplanted in the 1980s by Volvo Laplander L3314A light utility vehicles, Dodge Ram (1st generation) pickups, Santana 88 Ligero Militar jeeps, Nissan Patrol 160-Series (3rd generation) pickups, and M35A1 and M35A2 2½-ton 6x6 cargo trucks. The Sixth Brigade aligned an armoured battalion fielding Alvis Saladin and Panhard AML-90 armoured cars, AMX-13 light tanks, M48A5 main battle tanks, and three to four mechanized infantry battalions on M113, Alvis Saracen and VAB (4x4) armored personnel carriers. The collapse of the Fourth Brigade in February 1984 also allowed Amal to seize an additional number of AMX-13 light tanks and AMX-VCI and M113 APCs.
In addition, the well-equipped Beirut-based Amal forces also operated 30 or 50 Syrian-loaned T-55A MBTs, and three ex-PLO ZSU-23-4M Shilka SPAAG tracked vehicles seized from the Al-Mourabitoun in April 1985, whereas their guerrilla units fighting in the south of the country were able to add a few M113 Zelda and M3/M9 Zahlam half-tracks captured from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and their South Lebanon Army (SLA) proxies.
Amal also fielded a powerful artillery corps equipped with Syrian-loaned Soviet 130 mm towed field gun M1954 (M-46) and eighteen 122 mm howitzer 2A18 (D-30) pieces, plus towed Type 63 107mm, truck-mounted BM-13 122mm and twenty BM-21 Grad 122mm multiple rocket launchers, whilst the Sixth Brigade aligned an artillery battalion equipped with US M114 155 mm howitzers. Soviet ZPU (ZPU-1, ZPU-2, ZPU-4) 14.5mm and ZU-23-2 23mm Anti-Aircraft autocannons (mounted on technicals, M35A1/A2 trucks and M113 APCs) were employed in both air defense and direct fire supporting roles.
Administrative organization and illegal activities
Amal's main sphere of influence encompassed the Shia-populated slum districts located at south-western Beirut of Chyah, Bir Abed, Bir Hassan, Ouza'i and Khalde, with the latter including the adjoining International Airport, which they brought under their control in late February 1984. Outside the Lebanese Capital, they also operated at Baalbek and Hermel in the Beqaa, and in the southern Jabal Amel region, notably around the port cities of Tyre and Sidon, and in the Iqlim al-Tuffah region down to the UNIFIL zone.
In addition to Syrian backing, Amal received some financial support from Libya and Iran – first by the Shah in 1975-78, replaced after 1979 by the new Islamic regime – and from the Lebanese Shi'ite immigrant community in West Africa. Additional revenues came from protection rackets (Arabic: Khuwa) imposed on Shia neighborhoods and from tolls levied in illegal ports such as Ouza'i in Beirut, along with Zahrani, whose harbour and the adjacent Tapline oil refinery were employed in the contraband of fuel, and Sarafand (used for smuggling imported cars and other goods), both located south of Sidon.
The Movement had its own civil administration and assistance networks, gathered since the mid-1980s under the authority of the so-called 'Council of the South' (Arabic: Majliss al-Janoub). Headed by Amal's vice-president Muhammad Baydoun and based at the Christian town of Maghdouché near Sidon, it was responsible for running schools, hospitals, and conducting public works on Shia areas. Amal also run from its headquarters at Rue Hamra – located on the namesake district –, in association with Zahir Al-Khatib's Toilers League a joint television service (Arabic: Al-Machriq).
Split with "Islamic Amal"
In the summer of 1982, Husayn Al-Musawi, deputy head and official spokesman of Amal, broke with Berri over his willingness to go along with U.S. mediation in Lebanon rather than attack Israeli troops, his membership in the National Salvation Council alongside the Christians, and his opposition to pledging allegiance to Ayatollah Khomeini.
Musawi formed the Islamist Islamic Amal Movement, based in Baalbeck. It was aided by the Islamic Republic of Iran which, in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, strove not only to help Lebanon's Shi'a, but to export the PanIslamic revolution to the rest of the Muslim world, something Musawi strongly supported, saying, "We are her (the Islamic Republic's) children."
We are seeking to formulate an Islamic society which in the final analysis will produce an Islamic state. ... The Islamic revolution will march to liberate Palestine and Jerusalem, and the Islamic state will then spread its authority over the region of which Lebanon is only a part.
About 1,500 members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard or Pasdaran, arrived at the Beqaa Valley at the time and "directly contributed to ensure the survival and growth of al-Musawi's newly-created small militia," providing training, indoctrination and funding. Iran was in many ways a natural ally of Shia in Lebanon as it was far larger than Lebanon, oil-rich, and both Shi'a-majority and Shi'a-ruled. And of course, founder Musa al-Sadr had come from Iran. Iran's generous funding meant generous pay for the militias recruits—$150–200 per month plus cost-free education and medical treatment for themselves and their families—that "far exceeded what other [Lebanese] militias were able to offer." This was a major incentive among the impoverished Shi'a community, and induced "a sizable number of Amal fighters [to] defected regularly to the ranks" of Islamic Amal, and later Hizb'Allah.
By August 1983, Islamic Amal and Hezbollah were "effectively becoming one under the Hezbollah label," and by late 1984, Islamic Amal, along with "all the known major groups" in Lebanon, had been absorbed into Hezbollah.
The Amal militia in the Lebanese civil war
In March–April 1985, Amal militia forces joined in a Syrian-backed coalition with the Popular Nasserist Organization (PNO), the Al-Mourabitoun and the Druze Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) militias, which defeated the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) attempts to establish bridgeheads at Damour and Sidon.
The War of the Camps
The War of the Camps was a series of battles in the mid-1980s between Amal and Palestinian groups. The Druze-oriented Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and Hezbollah supported the Palestinians while Syria backed Amal.
First battle: May 1985
Although most of the Palestinian guerrillas were expelled during the 1982 Israeli invasion, Palestinian militias began to regain their footing after the Israeli withdrawal firstly from Beirut, then Sidon and Tyre. Syria viewed this revival with some anxiety: though in the same ideological camp, Damascus had little control over most Palestinians organizations and was afraid that the build-up of Palestinian forces could lead to a new Israeli invasion. Moreover, Syria's minority Alawite regime was never comfortable with the Sunni militias in Lebanon, traditionally aligned with Egypt and Iraq. In Lebanon, Shia-Palestinian relations had been very tense since the late 1960s. After the multinational force withdrew from Beirut in February 1984, Amal and the PSP took control of west Beirut and Amal built a number of outposts around the camps (in Beirut but also in the south). On April 15, 1985, Amal and the PSP attacked the Al-Mourabitoun, the main Lebanese Sunni militia and the closest ally of the PLO in Lebanon. The Al-Mourabitoun forces were vanquished after a week of heavy fighting and their leader, Ibrahim Kulaylat was sent into exile. On May 19, 1985, heavy fighting erupted between Amal and the Palestinians for the control of the Sabra, Shatila and Burj el-Barajneh camps (all in Beirut). Despite its efforts, Amal could not take the control of the camps. The death toll remains unknown, with estimates ranging from a few hundreds to a few thousands. This and heavy political pressure from the Arab League led to a cease-fire on June 17.
Second battle: May 1986
The situation remained tense and fights occurred again in September 1985 and March 1986. On May 19, 1986, heavy fighting erupted again. Despite new armaments provided by Syria, Amal could not take control of the camps. Many cease-fires were announced, but most of them did not last more than a few days. The situation began to cool after Syria deployed some troops on June 24, 1986.
Third battle September 1986
There was tension in the south, an area where Shi'as and Palestinians were both present. This unavoidably led to frequent clashes. On September 29, 1986, fighting erupted at the Rashidiyye refugee camp near Tyre. The conflict immediately spread to Sidon and Beirut. Palestinian forces managed to occupy the Amal-controlled town of Maghdouché on the eastern hills of Sidon to open the road to Rashidiyye. Syrian forces helped Amal and Israel launched air strikes against PLO position around Maghdouche. A cease-fire was negotiated between Amal and pro-Syrian Palestinian groups on December 15, 1986, but it was rejected by Yasser Arafat's Fatah. Fatah tried to appease the situation by giving some of its positions to Hezbollah and to the Al-Mourabitoun. The situation became relatively calm for a while, but the bombing against the camps continued. In Beirut, a blockade of the camps led to a dramatic shortage of food and medications inside the camps. In early 1987, the fighting spread to Hezbollah and the PSP who supported the Palestinians. The PSP, having won numerous battles, quickly seized large portions of west Beirut. Consequently, Syria occupied west Beirut beginning February 21, 1987. On April 7, 1987, Amal finally lifted the siege and handed its positions around the camps to the Syrian army. According to the New York Times (March 10, 1992, citing figures from the Lebanese police), 3,781 were killed in the fighting.
On February 17, 1988, Lt. Col William R. Higgins, American Chief of the UNTSO observer group in Lebanon, was abducted from his UN vehicle between Tyre and Nakara after a meeting with Abd al-Majid Salah, Amal's political leader in southern Lebanon. It soon became "clear that Sheikh al-Musawi, the commander to Hezbollah's Islamic Resistance, had been personally responsible for the abduction of Lt. Col Higgins in close cooperation with both Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, the local commander of Hizballah's military wing, and Mustafa al-Dirani, the former head of Amal's security service." This is seen as a direct challenge to Amal by Hezbollah, and Amal responds by launching an offensive against Hezbollah in the south where it "scores decisive military victories ... leading to the expulsion of a number of Hizballah clergy to the Beqqa". In Beirut's southern suburbs however, where fighting also raged, Hizballah was much more successful. "[E]lements within Hizballah and the Iranian Pasdaran established a joint command to assassinate high-ranking Amal officials and carry out operations against Amal checkpoints and centers."
By May, Amal had suffered major losses, its members were defecting to Hezbollah, and by June, Syria had to intervene militarily to rescue Amal from defeat. In January 1989, a truce in the "ferocious" fighting between Hizballah and Amal was arranged by Syrian and Iranian intervention. "Under this agreement, Amal's authority over the security of southern Lebanon [is] recognized while Hizballah [is] permitted to maintain only a nonmilitary presence through political, cultural, and informational programmes."
Upon the end of the war in October 1990, Amal militia forces operating in the Capital and the Beqaa were ordered in March 1991 to disband and surrender their heavy weaponry, a decision that came a few months after the Movement's leadership had already announced the dissolution of its own military force. The Sixth Brigade was re-integrated into the structure of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) whilst an additional 2,800 ex-Amal militiamen joined the re-formed Lebanese Army in September of the following year. Despite the order to disarm, Amal guerrilla units in the south remained in place until the final Israeli pull-out in May 2000. One of their last significant operations was the Ansariya Ambush on September 15, 1997, where Amal commandos under Hezbollah command successfully ambushed an Israeli Shayetet 13 naval commando force.
- Battle of the Hotels
- Lebanese Civil War
- Lebanese Communist Party
- Lebanese Forces
- Mountain War
- People's Liberation Army (Lebanon)
- Popular Guard
- South Lebanon Army
- War of the Camps
- Weapons of the Lebanese Civil War
- Mostafa Chamran
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- Moustafa El-Assad, Civil Wars Volume 1: The Gun Trucks, Blue Steel books, Sidon 2008. ISBN 9953-0-1256-8
- Naomi Joy Weinberger, Syrian Intervention in Lebanon: The 1975-76 Civil War, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1986. ISBN 978-0195040104, 0195040104
- Joseph Hokayem, L'armée libanaise pendant la guerre: un instrument du pouvoir du président de la République (1975-1985), Lulu.com, Beyrouth 2012. ISBN 9781291036602, 1291036601 (in French) – 
- Judith Palmer-Harik, Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism, I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, London 2005. ISBN 978-1845110246
- Samer Kassis, 30 Years of Military Vehicles in Lebanon, Elite Group, Beirut 2003. ISBN 9953-0-0705-5
- Samir Makdisi and Richard Sadaka, The Lebanese Civil War, 1975-1990, American University of Beirut, Institute of Financial Economics, Lecture and Working Paper Series (2003 No.3), pp. 1–53. – 
- Seyyed Ali Haghshenas, "Social and political structure of Lebanon and its influence on appearance of Amal Movement", Iran, Tehran 2009.
- Steven J. Zaloga, Tank battles of the Mid-East Wars (2): The wars of 1973 to the present, Concord Publications, Hong Kong 2003. ISBN 962-361-613-9
- Robin Wright, Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam, Simon and Schuster, New York 2001. ISBN 978-0743233422