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Scare campaign against Hezbollah echoes buildup to Iraq invasion

Published Aug 3, 2006 10:12 PM

The U.S.-funded client state of Israel is using U.S.-built jets to rain U.S.-supplied bombs, death and terror upon the civilian population of southern Lebanon.

But viewers who tuned into Good Morning America July 28 were greeted by Richard Clarke, a former top Bush administration advisor and now ABC News consultant, frothing about the alleged threat of a terror attack on U.S. soil by Hezbollah (Party of God), the political and military organization defending Lebanon from the U.S./Israeli invasion.

Clarke not only raised the threat of Hezbollah “sleeper cells” inside the U.S. He also warned of armed Hezbollah guerrillas crossing the borders from Mexico and Canada.

Offering no evidence for any of this, Clarke claimed Hezbollah was working hand-in-hand with Al-Qaeda, the group accused of masterminding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He said both of these organizations were being sponsored by the government of Iran.

Finally, he warned that Hezbollah, acting on behalf of Iran, could take action to “draw the U.S.” into a war with Iran.

Clarke gave an astounding, breathless performance. Interviewer Diane Sawyer accepted his dramatic conclusions without a single challenging question.

A more astute journalist might have asked, for example, why the government of Iran—a developing country of 68 million people—would so deliberately provoke the world’s nuclear superpower into attacking it. Or why Tehran’s Shi’ite Islamic government would be supporting Al-Qaeda, which the Bush administration claims has been killing Iraqi Shi’ites friendly to Iran?

But no such questions were forthcoming.

Demonization campaign

Clarke is no lone voice from the fringe. His alarm-filled appearance on a popular morning talk show is part of a much bigger campaign by the Bush administration, the Republican and Democratic political establishment, and the corporate media to demonize the Lebanese people’s resistance movement and frighten the U.S. population into quietly going along with whatever atrocities may come next—whether it’s Israel’s July 30 massacre of more than 60 civilians, mostly children, in the village of Qana, a possible UN/NATO occupation of Lebanon, or a broader war against Syria and Iran.

In late July, the FBI notified 18,000 U.S. police agencies, “warning them to remain vigilant about Hezbollah,” according to a report by ABC News correspondent Pierre Thomas, even though “there is no credible intelligence pointing to an imminent Hezbollah attack on the United States.”

Media reports on the Hezbollah “threat” now routinely claim that before 9/11, officials believed the group was “just as dangerous [as Al-Qaeda]—perhaps even more so.” (Los Angeles Times, July 30) Former State Department official Richard L. Armitage calls them “the A-team of terrorists.” And so on.

And the Democratic Party opposition? “I have no criticism of the president on this issue because I think he is doing the right thing,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York told CNN.

“While President Bush routinely faces criticism from congressional Democrats over the Iraq war and his domestic policies,” the San Jose Mercury News reported July 30, “there’s been little criticism over his stance on Israel’s campaign against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. That has freed him to stand firm against growing international pressure for an immediate cease-fire.”

This quick mobilization of the capitalist state to demonize Hezbollah also provides further evidence that Washington was no surprised bystander to the recent events in Lebanon and Palestine.

The capture of a few Israeli soldiers was not the cause, but rather a pretext, for the brutal assaults on Gaza and southern Lebanon. Israel, which is completely dependent on the U.S., economically, politically and militarily, could not have launched such a campaign without the go-ahead from the White House.

Lebanese Americans and others have charged that the FBI’s “warning” is nothing but a green light to amp up political harassment and threats against Arab communities. Dearborn, Mich., has the largest concentration of people of Lebanese descent in the U.S.—some 30,000. A local businessman was recently forced to flee the country after the FBI accused him of giving money to Hezbollah-linked charities.

“If the FBI wants to come after those who support the resistance done by Hezbollah, then they better bring a fleet of buses,” Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab-American News, told the Chicago Tribune. Some 10,000 people rallied in Dearborn against the U.S./Israeli assault on Lebanon July 18.

The imperialist establishment is banking on misinformation and public ignorance about the true nature of Hezbollah, an organization that emerged more than 20 years ago as a movement of popular resistance against the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon.

Although based in the Shi’ite Muslim community, it has won wide acclaim and support from Sunnis and others in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East for its staunch resistance to Israeli aggression and its efforts to rebuild the infrastructure and social services wrecked by the occupiers.

Since Israel was forced to withdraw its troops from southern Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah has become an important national political force. It has members in the Lebanese parliament and global recognition as a legitimate political party—except in the U.S., where the Clinton administration officially declared it a “terrorist” organization in 1997.

Workers in the U.S., whose unions are frequently labeled “criminal” by bosses, police and government officials, especially when they go on strike to defend their members, should understand that just because the authorities call an organization “terrorist” doesn’t make it so.

Big lies, then and now

The fear-mongering against Hezbollah eerily echoes the years and months before the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Beginning within hours after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration and its mouthpieces tried to tie the Iraqi government of President Saddam Hussein to the tragedy. They claimed Iraq’s secular Ba’athist government was working with Al-Qaeda, despite their longstanding ideological and political enmity.

There was never a shred of evidence to back either claim. Of course, that doesn’t prevent Congress from re-raising the charge any time a new opinion poll shows growing opposition to the Iraq war.

Remember the anthrax letter scare shortly after 9/11? News reports were full of allegations that it was the work of Iraqi scientists. Instead, it turned out the anthrax had originated in a Pentagon laboratory in Maryland. No one was ever charged for the resulting deaths.

And in late 2002 to early 2003, as the Pentagon moved steadily towards its brutal and illegal “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration held out the phantom threat of an “Iraqi terror attack” to cow people into going along with an illegal war. It was a wholly manufactured myth, just like “weapons of mass destruction.”

How does Hezbollah view Al-Qaeda? Asked by the Ria-Novosti news agency about an alleged Al-Qaeda solidarity message broadcast on Al-Jazeera network, a Hezbollah spokesperson declared it “a forgery manufactured by U.S. and Israeli intelligence services.”

The Hezbollah spokesperson stressed that Hezbollah has never maintained bonds with Al-Qaeda since they do not share the same ideology or religious beliefs. “Hez bollah defends the interests of Lebanon and the entire Arab world, whereas Al-Qaeda plays a role that helps the U.S. administration. Its actions do nothing but damage the interests of Islam and all Muslims,” the spokesperson concluded.

The current anti-Hezbollah crusade has another aim as well—to distract workers’ attention from the ever-deepening crisis of the U.S. occupation forces in Iraq.

The Iraqi resistance continues to grow day by day. The occupiers can no longer even maintain their fragile control of Baghdad, where they and their client regime are headquartered.

After months of hinting that significant numbers of U.S. troops would be brought home by the end of this year, the Pentagon now says that troop levels will actually increase in coming months—from just over 130,000 to 135,000. (Times of London, July 29)

Every week brings new revelations of despicable crimes by U.S. military personnel against Iraqi civilians. At least 100 Iraqis are dying violently every day under the U.S.-led occupation. “[U.S. officials] are criminally responsible for the hundred deaths every day. They should be tried for their crimes, not that such trials are possible in our country,” wrote Andrew Greeley in the July 28 Chicago Sun Times.

And the United Nations Committee on Human Rights, echoing an earlier report by the UN Committee on Torture, has called on the U.S. to close its secret detention facilities throughout Europe and other parts of the world and to grant the Red Cross access to detainees. (Reuters, July 28)

This is no time for workers and progressives in the U.S. to be distracted by lies about Hezbollah. It’s time to confront the terrorists headquartered in Washington and build solidarity with the people struggling for self-determination throughout the Middle East.

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