The leader of the Hezbollah terrorist group, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, was the keynote speaker Tuesday at a rally in Beirut that reportedly drew hundreds of thousands of people in favor of keeping Syrian troops in Lebanon. Some of our friends on the right are taking a strangely sanguine attitude toward that rally. "Two great things have happened in Beirut recently. First the opposition came out on the streets for a series of peaceful rallies. Then on Tuesday Hizbollah came out with peaceful rallies. Many people are treating the latter as setbacks for democracy. But in reality, they are democracy," wrote a columnist for the New York Times, David Brooks, on the Web site Andrewsullivan.com.
Mr. Brooks went on, "It's not only the people who we agree with who get to vote and mobilize. It's everybody. In the Arab world there are going to be plenty of anti-American parties. If these parties' first instinct is to try to rally public opinion and not unleash armies, that's great. This is in a country where people used to kill each other, over such things, remember. Now they are rallying. This is part of what Wolfowitz was working for."
This kind of attitude is also, unfortunately, on display in precincts of the Bush administration. Secretary of State Rice, asked yesterday whether she considered Hezbollah a terrorist organization, offered a weak, "Our view of Hezbollah has not changed." The State Department spokesman yesterday held out the prospect that Hezbollah could run candidates in the Lebanese elections this May. It's a line of thinking that could get a lot of innocent Americans killed.
Hezbollah, after all, isn't just another peaceful Lebanese political party. It's owned and operated by the dictators in Syria and Iran. And the "first instinct" of the terror masters in those places isn't to organize peaceful rallies - it was to set off a bomb with about 600 pounds of explosives that killed a Lebanese politician, Rafik Hariri, who was starting to challenge Syria. Only after their terrorist operation caused an anti-Syrian backlash did the terrorists try holding a rally. Mr. Brooks may see what is happening in Lebanon now as "democracy." But how is it democracy when the Syrian puppet prime minister in Lebanon, Omar Karami, who had resigned February 28, was returned to office yesterday without a free election in Lebanon and without even a full withdrawal of Syrian troops or intelligence officers from Lebanon?
Hezbollah has American blood on its hands. It is a terrorist organization with global reach. According to the State Department's latest report on global terrorism, Hezbollah is "Known or suspected to have been involved in numerous anti-US and anti-Israeli terrorist attacks, including the suicide truck bombings of the US Embassy and US Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and the US Embassy annex in Beirut in September 1984." The report says, "Three members of Hizballah - 'Imad Mughniyah, Hasan Izz-al-Din, and Ali Atwa - are on the FBI's list of 22 Most-Wanted Terrorists for the hijacking in 1985 of TWA Flight 847 during which a US Navy diver was murdered. Elements of the group were responsible for the kidnapping and detention of US and other Westerners in Lebanon in the 1980s. Hizballah also attacked the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992 and the Israeli cultural center in Buenos Aires in 1994."
It's not just a matter of Hezbollah being anti-American or a group that we disagree with. It's a group that has killed dozens of our soldiers and innocent Jews and wants to kill more. In a speech aired February 18, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute, Sheik Nasrallah said, "This American administration is an enemy. Our motto, which we are not afraid to repeat year after year, is: 'Death to America.' " In a speech broadcast the next day, he cited the Iranian Supreme Leader and preached, "We are not interested in our own personal security. On the contrary, each of us lives his days and nights hoping more than anything to be killed for the sake of Allah. The most honorable death is to be killed."
A Hezbollah statement in 1992 vowed, "It is an open war until the elimination of Israel and until the death of the last Jew on earth." In 2002, Sheik Nasrallah was quoted by the Lebanon Daily Star as encouraging Jews to move to Israel. "If they all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide," he was quoted as saying.
If Osama bin Laden had decided after September 11 that he was going to form an Afghan political party and hold rallies, would America have let him and the rest of Al Qaeda off the hook? Certainly Sheik Nasrallah and his fellow terrorist leaders deserve to be pursued no less aggressively than bin Laden and his camarilla. It wouldn't be a case of America interfering in Lebanese democracy, any more than getting rid of the Soviet puppet leader Erich Honecker in Berlin was a case of interfering in East German democracy.
American authorities know full well what Hezbollah is. They have been classifying it as a terrorist organization for years. Facing up to it and its leaders - not disarming it, not reforming it, not pacifying it, but defeating it - would be a case of America preventing the nearby terror-sponsoring dictatorships of Iran and Syria from ruining Lebanese freedom and democracy at a moment of historic opportunity. And it would be a step toward justice for the families of those murdered by Hezbollah's bombs.