View Full Version : Hezbollah: The 'Party of God'
07-17-06, 08:28 AM
Hezbollah: The 'Party of God'
Updated 7/16/2006 11:41 PM ET
Q: What is Hezbollah?
A: Hezbollah is a coalition of radical Shiite Islamist organizations that was founded in 1982 in response to Israel's invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon. It has political, armed and welfare wings. Its name means Party of God.
Hezbollah's political wing holds 23 seats in Lebanon's 128-member parliament. Two Lebanese Cabinet ministers are Hezbollah members.
The group runs free schools, clinics, hospitals, orphanages, agricultural services and an extensive social welfare network designed to aid Lebanese Shiites. Shiites, about a third of Lebanon's population, are among the poorest Lebanese.
The group, which the Council on Foreign Relations estimates has several thousand members,operates mainly in southern Lebanon, parts of Beirut and the Bekaa Valley.
Hezbollah's armed wing has carried out or has been linked to hundreds of terror attacks. Among them:
•The 1983 suicide bombing that killed more than 200 U.S. Marines in their Beirut barracks.
•The kidnappings of Americans in Lebanon in the 1980s.
•The 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847.
When Israel withdrew its forces from southern Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah claimed credit for driving the Israelis out.
Q: What does the group want?
A: In addition to its professed desire to destroy Israel, Hezbollah wants a Lebanon that is an Iranian-style Islamic republic.
Q: Where does Hezbollah get money and arms?
A: Iran and Syria are its main backers. Iranian Revolutionary Guards helped form the group and maintain close ties with it. A United Nations Security Council resolution, adopted in 2004, called for its disarmament.
Q: Can the Lebanese government control Hezbollah?
A: Hezbollah and its fighters operate with impunity in much of Lebanon. The government and its armed forces — composed of mainly Sunni Muslims and Christians — have been reluctant to try to force it to disarm for fear of sparking another civil war.
Q: Who leads Hezbollah?
A: Hassan Nasrallah is the group's senior political leader. Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah is its spiritual leader.
07-17-06, 01:43 PM
July 17, 2006, 5:44 a.m.
Payback by Proxy
Unfinished business with Hezbollah.
By James S. Robbins
In the global struggle against terrorist groups, Hezbollah has been something of a blind spot. A long-time cats-paw of Iran, espousing a radical ideology, the western anchor of the Shiite crescent, Hezbollah has enjoyed virtual immunity in the war on terrorism.
Until last week that is.
In response to a small-scale incursion and kidnapping of two of its soldiers by the terror group, Israel has unleashed a massive response seeking a more thorough solution to the Hezbollah problem. Vladimir Putin showed his keen eye for the obvious when he stated, “it is our impression that aside from seeking to return the abducted soldiers, Israel is pursuing wider goals." No kidding, and long overdue at that.
It’s not as if the United States doesn’t have a bill of particulars against Hezbollah. This group has been responsible for more American deaths than any terrorist group after al Qaeda. Let’s not forget the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing that took the lives of 241 Marines. Or the bombing of our Beirut embassy, which killed 63, of whom 17 were Americans. Or the bombing of our embassy in Kuwait. Or the kidnapping, torture, long term captivity and ultimate death of Beirut station chief William F. Buckley. Or the other Americans taken hostage in Lebanon in the 1980s. Or the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, in which Petty Officer Robert Stethem was beaten, shot, and thrown out of the aircraft onto the tarmac of the Beirut airport. Or Kuwait Air Flight 221, which resulted in two USAID officials being killed. Or the 1990 murder of Colonel William R. Higgins. More recent reports have Hezbollah supplying snipers to insurgents in Iraq to pick off Coalition (principally American) forces. Three of the FBI’s 29 most wanted terrorists are Hezbollah operatives, one of whom, Imad Mugniyah, is a senior leader who participated in most of the abovementioned actions and may have ties to al Qaeda.
It is strange that the U.S. hasn’t made more of a point of targeting Hezbollah in the global war on terrorism, since before 9/11 the organization practically defined the term. Despite all that Hezbollah has done to the United States, they were never called to account. The best we could do back in the 1980s was “arms for hostages,” which was a fiasco that nearly brought down President Reagan.
It was interesting to hear various U.S. and European officials talking about Israel exercising restraint or making a “proportional” response to the kidnappings in the first days of the crisis. Proportionality is a recognized principle of just-war theory. And it is often completely inappropriate. I recall attending a lecture on laws of war and asking an Air Force officer what he thought about it. He said, “Pilots don’t believe in proportionality. We like disproportionality. All of our guys come home, none of their guys do. That’s how we do business.” I mentioned the 1982 Israeli-Syrian air war over Lebanon, in which Israeli flyers scored 87 victories while losing no fighters. “Exactly,” he said.
It is particularly inappropriate for the U.S. to introduce an abstract limitation like “proportionality” in these circumstances. Traditionally, the American way of war is not limited. We do our best when we use overwhelming force, in wars that by their nature give us the opportunity to do so, like the Second World War. We do less well when circumstances or policies cause us to limit the use of force. Vietnam is the classic example. Rather than seek to settle the war by removing the root cause, namely the Hanoi regime, we sought to micro-calibrate a response just enough to ensure we would not be defeated in the South while resisting widening the war to the North. Alas, we were up against an enemy more concerned with total victory than with “sending a message,” so when our political will finally weakened we abandoned our allies and suffered a humiliating defeat. But we did not approach operations in Afghanistan or Iraq (at least in phases I-III) with a view towards proportionality — we used what we needed to win. Israel should have the same opportunity to pursue victory.
Incidentally I was amused by Hezbollah spokesman Husayn Rahhal’s statement that Israel “is trying to test our ability to deter. It is trying to change the bases of the conflict in order to have alone the ability to deter.” No, Israel is trying to defeat you, destroy you, and everyone like you. One may take issue with some of Israel’s specific target choices — imposing a land, sea and air blockade on all of Lebanon might be overkill. The country is in very difficult circumstances, and this won’t help.
It is a shame too, since there is a clear community of interest between Israel and Lebanon on the Hezbollah issue. The terrorist group, frequently lionized in the Western press for its health, education, and welfare programs, refuses to commit to peaceful participation in politics. Beirut has been unable to comply with UNSCR 1559 (2004), which called for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias," or resolution 1583 (2005) which called for Lebanon to “fully extend and exercise its sole and effective authority throughout the south.” The government has skirted these requirements by redefining Hezbollah as a “resistance group” rather than a “militia,” hence not covered by the resolutions. So now we are in a situation where rather than the Lebanese government being able to use Israeli assistance to clean out Hezbollah, it is placed in a no-win situation while the two powers battle it out. And that is the best case scenario; there are many that are far worse. For his part, Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah is calling for all Lebanese to unite behind his struggle, saying that yes, he undertook the kidnapping on his own initiative, and brought about this unexpected Israeli response, but it would be pointless now to argue about whose fault the whole affair is.
But with respect to blame, many fingers are pointing right where they should — to Tehran. Hezbollah is a creature of Iran’s, and the timing of the crisis was well calculated to draw attention away from the uproar over the Iranian nuclear program. Israel’s resolute response is a message of its own, that it will not tolerate Iranian-inspired provocations. And from Arab capitals one hears talk of the unseen or unmentioned forces behind the crisis, a reference not to Zionist conspirators but Iran. Most astonishing was the scene at the meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, where instead of the usual blanket denunciation of Israeli aggression, there was a split between those who defended Hezbollah and those who regarded the group as chaotic and destabilizing. Among the latter group were Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Iraq, and the Palestinian Authority. OK, then they got around to denouncing Israel, but the split in the Arab ranks was noteworthy, especially who sided against Hezbollah. Nasralluh denounced the “Arab rulers,” stating with pride that yes, his group is adventurous, and that he is not counting on any help from them, whom he lumped in with Israel and the U.S.
This showdown between Israel and Hezbollah had to happen sooner or later. With Iranian influence spreading through the region it is just as well it began now. Perhaps Israel can achieve what we could not over twenty years ago and take Hezbollah out of the regional equation. If in the process we get a little payback by proxy then it’s about time.
07-17-06, 01:59 PM
Axis of Appeasement
By Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | July 17, 2006
Hardly had Israeli jets crossed Lebanese airspace last week, in belated retaliation against Hezbollah terrorists to match the ongoing battle against Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, then the Jewish state's detractors on the far Left launched their smear offensive.
Literally within hours of Israeli strikes on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, the left-wing blogoshpere was atwitter with talk of a looming " Israeli quagmire." Israeli defense strategists had given no indication that a formal occupation was their intention, but that failed to restrain the keyboard commandos from condemning the Israeli Defense Forces' supposed lack of an " exist strategy." In what may well be a record in the annals of left-wing defeatism, Israel had lost the war before it had even begun.
The reliably unhinged Juan Cole, giving voice to another popular reaction on the anti-Israel amen corner on his Informed Comment blog, denounced the Israeli attacks "despicable," and added that "[t]he Israelis are actually talking about causing 'pain to the Lebanese.'" Conveniently, Cole provided no source for the incriminating quote. Nor was there any merit to the charge. In contrast to Hezbollah guerillas, who had used southern Lebanon as a base of operations for firing rockets on Israeli civilians, Israel has unfailingly taken precautions to avoid civilian casualties, even at the risk of injury to Israeli troops. Last week, for instance, Israeli planes dropped leaflets cautioning residents to avoid areas where Hezbollah operates--this even as the Shiite terrorist outfit, demonstrating its usual contempt for innocent life, positioned itself in the midst of densely populated civilian areas so as to draw Israeli fire and exploit any unintended civilian deaths for propaganda purposes. At the same time, Hezbollah continued its aerial bombardment of Israeli civilians. Last Thursday alone the terrorist group fired over 100 Katyusha rockets into northern Israel, each one intended to claim a civilian life, killing two Israeli women and destroying Israeli businesses. Not that one would know it by reading the more incensed anti-Israel screeds. Some attacks, evidently, are more "despicable" than others.
Rather than confronting the bare fact of Hamas and Hezbollah's relentless aggression, left-wing commentators indulged their sizeable penchant for conspiracy theorizing. Thus Juan Cole stated his confidence that the Israeli attacks were premeditated, writing that "it is clear that the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon has given an opening to Israeli hawks to invade Lebanese territory again." Cole could not be troubled to explain why Israel waited more than a year after Syria's May 2005 withdrawal to carry out its alleged plan.
Likewise, Tel Aviv University linguistics professor Tanya Reinhart , a protégé of Noam Chomsky, assured her readers that the "Israeli army is hungry for war." Of Israel's military campaign in Gaza, a clear attempt to halt Palestinian rocket attacks and to secure the release of the kidnapped Corporal Gilad Shalit, Reinhart claimed that it had been conceived far in advance. In Reinhart's version of events, the Israeli "army was preparing for an attack months earlier and was constantly pushing for it, with the goal of destroying the Hamas infrastructure and its government."
The absurdity of Reinhart's speculation quite apart, it's hard to see why an Israeli assault on the Hamas government would have been unjustified. Hamas after all is committed to the annihilation of Israel and the Jewish people, a mission that the terrorist group's ascent to power has done nothing to alter, as evidenced by the fact that it has discharged some 800 rockets into Israel in just the last year while encouraging suicide bombings and, most recently, raids into Israeli territory. For her part, Reinhart maintained that Hamas since its election had embraced peace and "did not participate in the launching of Qassams, except under severe Israeli provocation," a statement that was equal parts false and self-negating.
Where conspiracy theories ended, the far-Left's notorious double standard for Israel and its terrorist enemies began. Writing in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Sandy Tolan, a professor in the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California-Berkeley, was full of spleen against "extreme Israeli measures in the name of security." But if Palestinian terrorists deserved any blame for the current conflagration--and it was unclear from Tolan's op-ed that they did--it was for the trivial offense of lobbing the occasional "crude Qassam rocket falling harmlessly, far from its target." By contrast, Israel stood convicted of allowing "hundreds of shells [to] rain down on the Palestinians." Such mitigating details as the distinction between defensive strikes on terrorist targets and an intentional murder campaign against Israeli civilians did not intrude on Tolan's David vs. Goliath narrative. Sounding a similar theme, the Nation's Marwan Bishara explained that, "Whether we like it or not, Hamas, like Hezbollah, is mostly a byproduct of an oppressive occupation, not the other way around." Notably absent from Bishara's preferred plotline was the fact that the end of the "occupation" in Hamas's domain of Gaza last year and Hezbollah-run southern Lebanon in 2000 did not correspond with the end of the respective terrorist groups' militancy--and, it could plausibly be argued, succeeded only in fueling it.
Nowhere was the far Left's glorification of terrorism and reflexive hostility to Israel more transparent than on its ideologically affiliated blogs. Posters on the DailyKos continued that site's well-documented dalliance with political extremism, with perhaps the most inflammatory entry asking readers to "imagine a world without Israel." (It's impossible to imagine the Kossacks wishing for a world without Palestinian terrorism.) Another leftist blog put the received political wisdom yet more bluntly: "The Israeli response to legitimate Palestinian resistance (and Lebanese too, there are still outstanding issues there) is, as always, diproportionate [sic] and reactive."
When news reports failed consistently to portray Israel as the brutal aggressor crushing the will of the Palestinian "resistance" and waging "full frontal assault against the people and territory of Lebanon" (as liberal blogger Steve Clemons put it), anti-Israel partisans turned on the mainstream media. Fringe polemicist Kurt Nimmo lamented that "the corporate media spin of Israeli mass murder in Lebanon, undoubtedly supported by the Israeli people, continues unabated." On the Huffington Post, journalist Eric Boehlert complained that the coverage was slanted in favor of Israel: "At this point I don't think its' even controversial to suggest the Arab-Israeli conflict is told in the United States mostly through the eyes of Israelis, and that's especially true on cable news channels." As an example of a pro-Israel media outlet, Boehlert pointed to CNN--a claim that would doubtless come as a surprise to supporters of Israel who have followed the network's consistently critical coverage over the years.
Superficial differences notwithstanding, the far-Left's response to Israel's two-pronged military campaign has been informed by one unifying theme: the Jewish state has no right to defend itself against the terrorists openly seeking its destruction. This consensus is not entirely to be regretted. As their country opens a new front to vanquish a terrorist foe, Israelis can take some comfort in the understanding that, in the streets of Gaza and southern Lebanon as on countless blogs and op-ed pages, their enemies remain the same.