Hezbollah is here (Magazine review)
by Seth Rogovoy

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., October 30, 2002) – Until September 11, 2001, the Lebanese-based Hezbollah was the terrorist organization responsible for the greatest number of American deaths at the hands of terrorists. Hezbollah’s best-known attacks include those on the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, dozens of hostage-takings and murders in Lebanon and elsewhere, airplane hijackings and the truck-bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.

New Yorker

Hezbollah is “the most successful terrorist organization in modern history” and “a role model for terror groups around the world,” according to Jeffrey Goldberg’s exhaustive, two-part report in the October 14/21 and October 28 issues of the New Yorker.

With financing from Iran and protection from Syria, which gives Hezbollah free reign in the South Lebanon region that it occupies, Hezbollah operates a worldwide terrorist network, primarily focused on its struggle with Israel but also operating in Europe, South Asia and South America, where Hezbollah scored its deadly attack on the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in the mid-1990s.

Among Hezbollah’s far-flung operations are its satellite TV station, Al Manar. The station, which can be viewed in Europe and the U.S., offers a steady stream of inflammatory programming encouraging hatred of Jews and attacks on Israelis that has garnered it the nickname “the suicide channel.” Goldberg visits the station’s studio in Lebanon, where a technician was creatively editing news footage of terrorist attacks into music-video-style montages with names like “Death to Israel” and “We Will Kill All the Jews.”

Hezbollah’s 40-year-old spokesman, Hassan Ezzeddin, explains that Hezbollah terrorists have the advantage over their Israeli combatants because they embrace death. “Once you have in mind the goal of dying, you stop fearing the Jews,” Ezzeddin tells Goldberg. “The Jews are sons of pigs and apes” is a typical comment from one Hezbollah fighter, none of whom bother to hide the fact that they don’t distinguish between Israelis and Jews.

The subtext of Goldberg’s article is clear – in the run-up to war against Iraq, we may be overlooking a more immediate and tenacious enemy with links to Al Qaeda. In fact, the Bush administration is already onto them. “Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage recently called Hezbollah the ‘A-team’ of terrorism and Al Qaeda the ‘B-team.’,” writes Goldberg, who notes that the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Bob Graham, of Florida, has urged the administration to shift its focus away from Iraq and onto Hezbollah and its sponsors in Syria and Iran.

Goldberg’s gripping, two-part series ends with the seemingly innocuous story of a cigarette smuggling ring in the U.S., wherein half a dozen Arab men bought cigarettes in bulk in North Carolina and sold them illegally in Michigan. The profits, as it turned out, were funneled to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In other words, they’re here.

The Jerusalem Report

The Russian police investigating last weekend’s terrorist hostage-taking in a Moscow theater might want to talk to some of their sources in the Arab world. In fact, they might want to pay a visit to Gaza, where Gamal al-Geridli, the former Palestinian ambassador to Sarajevo, is being held in a safehouse by the Palestine Authority on unspecified charges.

As it turns out, Geridli was doing more than representing Palestinian interests in Bosnia. According to “Whisked Away” by Pazit Ravina in the November 4 issue of the Jerusalem Report, he was using his position to finance and support Islamic terrorist training camps in Bosnia that acted as feeder schools for mujahidin bound for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kosovo and Chechnya.

It gets even better. Geridli wasn’t acting alone, but in concert with Abu Mala, a Sudanese native who ran the Bosnia-to-Chechnya operation for Al Qaeda. So what you have is a high-level Palestinian diplomat working with Al Qaeda to destabilize the Putin government in cooperation with America’s enemy number one, the most notorious terrorist gang on earth.

Talk about your axis of evil. No wonder the Palestine Authority sent an envoy to Sarajevo recently to “disappear” Geridli, before his out-of-control antics made it even more difficult for them plausibly to deny any connection between the P.A. and Al Qaeda.

The Atlantic Monthly

In “A Post-Saddam Scenario” in the November issue of the Atlantic, author Robert D. Kaplan suggests that given the particulars of recent Iraqi history -- particularly its pro-Western, secular march to modernization in the postwar period under Prime Minister Nuri -- “our goal in Iraq should be a transitional secular dictatorship that unites the merchant classes across sectarian lines and may in time, after the rebuilding of institutions and the economy, lead to a democratic alternative.”

Kaplan says that among the collateral benefits stemming from a successful military invasion and regime change in Iraq would be a chastened Iran that would back away from its ardent support of Hezbollah. He allows himself some dizzying wishful thinking that the fall of Hussein and a subsequent, American-induced Israeli withdrawal from disputed territories could even bring about an informal, Near Eastern alliance of non-Arab nations including Iran, Israel, Turkey and Eritrea. To quote the Beach Boys, wouldn’t it be nice?

Mostly, though, what Kaplan is concerned about is that Americans face the reality that the liberation of Iraq will unleash a whirlwind of unintended consequences – many of them good, for sure – that will require our stewardship in the region over the long haul.

“The Middle East is characterized by many weak regimes that will totter on until the next cataclysm – which the U.S. invastion of Iraq might well constitute,” writes Kaplan. “The real question is not whether the American military can topple Saddam’s regime but whether the American public has the stomach for imperial involvement of a kind we have not known since the United States occupied Germany and Japan.”

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on November 2, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

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