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2003-04-20 - 12:10 a.m.

Armitage claims that Hezbollah may be the terrorist "A-team," while Al Qaida "may be actually the B-team"

Monkey Media: 04/17/03

I've tried to gather a few thoughts and links about Hezbollah. I was motivated by an astonishing quote from Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in a syndicated op-ed piece in today's N&O (NewsObserver.com). Armitage claims that Hezbollah may be the terrorist "A-team," while Al Qaida "may be actually the B-team." (note: this was also quoted in an article in September 2002, U.S.: Hizbullah greater long-term threat than Al Qaida) The jaw-dropping reversal flies in the face of so many facts it's difficult to know where to begin, except to marvel at the N&O's willingness to carry water for extreme hawks who want us to believe Syria must be the next stop on Bush's shock-and-awe tour.

The history of Hezbollah (a group you may recall from its local cigarette connection) is worth exploring here. The Shiite militant organization, also a political party, arose as a specific response to Israel's misguided 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Hezbollah was fueled by the horrific civilian massacres at Sabra and Shatilla and by the Israeli army's bungled handling of the local Shiite population, many of whom, believe it or not, intitially greeted the Israelis with support.

Is Hezbollah really more of a threat to the U.S. mainland than Al Qaida? Get real. Throughout its history, Hezbollah has focused primarily on a military campaign in and around Lebanon, although the Iraq invasion has led to new calls for action against Western troops in other Arab lands. Meanwhile, Al Qaida has repeatedly stated its intent to continue bringing terror to Western civilians in their own countries. Acknowledging the distinction may be gruesome Realpolitik, but that's how the hawk game is played, isn't it? Armitage is a fool if he believes Hezbollah is more of a threat to the United States than Osama's crew.

Sadly, Armitage has company. Florida Senator Bob Graham has been calling Hezbollah "the No. 1 threat" to the U.S. for months now, citing the 1983 suicide bombings that killed 260 Marines and 59 French paratroopers as proof that we need to send missiles into Hezbollah's Syrian training camps right away (look for John Edwards to begin espousing a similar hard line soon). Today's N&O op-ed also uses the 1983 bombings, but neither source bothers to mention that those horrible deaths were in part the result of a number of confused moves by Ronald Reagan's White House, which may have been deliberately manipulated by Ariel Sharon to force the Marines to take sides in a conflict in which they were supposed to be neutral. As if that wasn't enough, the Marines were given absurdly restrictive rules of engagement [search for the second occurence of "White Card"] and left as sitting ducks for terrorists already angry at outside invaders in their land. Don't believe me; here's Caspar Weinberger, Reagan's equivalent to Donald Rumsfeld, telling it to PBS' Frontline:

So you have a force that was almost a sitting duck in one of the most dangerous spots in the Mideast, and therefore one of the most dangerous spots in the world, unable to protect itself. It was a disaster waiting to happen. It didn't require any degree of prophecy on my part or others, but I felt very strongly that they should not be there...

Marines that are properly armed and have rules of engagement that allow them to defend themselves are quite a different thing than Marines who are forced to sit on a Beirut Airport and not do anything effectively. And that was proven, to the extreme unhappiness of everybody, to result in the kind of tragedy that did happen...

Beirut was an absolutely inevitable outcome of doing what we did, of putting troops in with no mission that could be carried out. There was no agreement on either side of the pullback. You didn't need a buffer force. There's nothing more dangerous than in the middle of a furious prize fight, inserting a referee in range of both the fighters, both the contestants. That's what we did.

Once again: Hezbollah arose after Israel 1) invaded Lebanon in what Israelis themselves call "a war of choice," 2) aided a group of thugs who "raped, tortured, mutilated and massacred" hundreds, if not thousands, of unarmed Palestinian civilians at Shabra and Shatilla, and 3) began treating the local Shiites like crap. And now people are suggesting that the United States should take on the job of dealing with the mess Israel created for itself? Absurd. [link]

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