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Aug. 10, 2006

Hezbollah needs to go

by Pia Nargundkar, Online Editor-in-Chief
While most Americans are lounging the summer heat away, going to baseball games and taking dives in the neighborhood pool, 6,000 miles away a conflict rages on in the Middle East. For the past three weeks, Israel and the militant Shiite group, Hezbollah, in southern Lebanon, have been engaged in fierce fighting. The daily headlines are grim: scores of innocent children killed in Lebanon, barrages of rocket fire raining on Israel. Hundreds of both Israeli and Lebanese civilians have been killed or wounded in the conflict, as well as four UN observers and a handful of foreign nationals. The United States needs to take a more active approach if we want to disarm a malicious terrorist organization and stop the horrific murder of Lebanese civilians.

Hezbollah was originally formed to fight the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon following the 1982 invasion. Yet, despite the withdrawal of Israeli troops in 2000, Hezbollah continues to encourage and carry out attacks on Israel, and is not the legitimate political party it claims to be. The democratic Lebanese government itself does not condone Hezbollah's actions and the United States and most other governments consider it a terrorist organization. According to U.S. intelligence, Iran supplies Hezbollah with an annual $100 million in cash and weapons, including approximately 13,000 rockets and missiles.

The lack of support for Israel by world leaders is appalling. After the September 11 attacks, countries all over the world helped the United States defeat the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. President Bush justified invading Iraq by claiming Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that were a serious threat to the United States. Israel is not acting on similar faulty evidence but the very real terrorism it faces everyday. If President Bush wants to practice what he preaches about his Global War on Terrorism, then he should assist our ally in its struggle with extremists.

No one benefits from a prolonged war, but an immediate ceasefire will not solve the problem either. Hezbollah must be disarmed and brought down from power. Lebanon is a fledgling, weak democracy that has to be given a chance to succeed. To start, the Lebanese government needs to once again control southern Lebanon.

The United States, already stretched thin between Afghanistan and Iraq, does not need to go in alone. A UN peacekeeping force should be sent, but not just to man the border between Israel and Lebanon. Attempting to keep the peace in such a fiery region is difficult, as Iraq has demonstrated. Instead peace talks must be initiated with all the countries in the region. The situation in Lebanon needs to be solved with a broader look at the Middle East as a whole.

As terrible as war is, Israel is justified in its actions. Its civilians live in great danger every day, anxiously awaiting the next suicide bomb attack. After dealing with extremists for its entire existence, Israel is striking back and defending itself, as it has every right to do. Unfortunately, Lebanese civilians are being killed, but it must be kept in mind that Hezbollah is a shameless organization that hides among its own civilian populations in order to protect itself. The world should lend humanitarian aid to help the Lebanese people, but the world can do greater good by helping the Lebanese people gain back their country from the control of Hezbollah.



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  • colin on August 10, 2006 at 10:12 PM
    yay pia!
  • poorva on August 10, 2006 at 11:42 PM
    piaaa! gj =)
  • Very very very true on August 11, 2006 at 11:44 AM
    This should be a news story, not an opinion. That idiot must go.
  • anon on August 11, 2006 at 2:13 PM
    once again, sco is plagued by extreme shortsightedness and a distorted viewpoint. yes, hezbollah is fighting a war against Israel, but it also provides safety, schooling and utilities to thousands of citizens in Southern Lebanon. If what you want is peace, then BOTH sides have to demilitarize the Israel/Lebanon border. And if the US and Europe should attack every terrorist organization in the world, then Sudan and Saudi Arabia probably should be higher priorities than Israel.
  • MC on August 11, 2006 at 4:56 PM
    Oh please... I'm afraid this is another one of many editorials that choose to conveniently overlook certain facts to support Israel's actions.

    Now don't get me wrong, I believe that Israel is justified in using force. But justified doesn't translate to wise. Given how Israel had been able to resolve previous conflicts with far fewer deaths and far less destruction, I'm not sure Israel made the right decision here. See, if my neighbor kills my dog, you might say that I'm justified in killing his dog. But is it the best course of action? Probably not.

    And it's quite unfair to portray Israel as a country left to its own devices to protect itself from overwhelming odds. Yes, Hezbollah was created with the nominal mission of destroying Israel. But in recent times, Hezbollah has become increasingly moderate, performing social service and democratically taking part in the Lebanese government. In fact, Russia no longer considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization, and neither does the European Union. AND, the whole deal with "Hezbollah not meeting its end of the deal" by continuing to fight - Hezbollah feels that Israel is not completely out of *its* territory. Shebaa Farms, which is technically in Syria/Lebanon, is occupied by Israel. Has Israel met its end of the deal? Good question.

    And enough about the US standing on the sidelines watching Hezbollah lob rockets at Haifa. The US has been actively providing Israel with weaponry, and continues to provide ordnance, including artillery munitions. "[The US]" should assist our ally in its struggle with extremists." What more do you want? US Marines in Lebanon, house-to-house fighting? Let's be realistic, when the US didn't call for an immediate cease-fire, it was giving Israel a blank check.

    This situation seems eerily familiar - Northern Ireland. A group considered a terrorist organization, yet actively involved in politics. Armed resistance, lots of civilian casualties. I'm sure the US didn't provide the UK with the bullets then. The way for US to help provide Israel with security is to seek a peace plan, not sit with a blind eye towards Israel's destructive (if justified) method of retaliation.
  • Anarchist on August 12, 2006 at 5:16 AM
    Pretty solid, SCO.
  • Jon Phoenix Brookstone on August 12, 2006 at 12:17 PM
    In 1775, a group of rebels began a conflict that would change the face of history. For eight years, the American Revolutionaries fought against what they believed to be a tyrannical force, and ended up defeating the most powerful army and navy on the face of the planet. But interestingly enough, this rebel group (as we all know) did not win by always engaging a more powerful British in open battles. Had they done so, they may well have been slaughtered and world history would have been very different. Instead, the American rebels often fought by firing at the British from behind trees, houses, or any other barricade available. They’d move in smaller groups across the country, skirmishing with British soldiers, then disappearing. And at times if possible they hid within a civilian population, making the uprising far harder to quell. So here’s a question to all readers – if Hezbollah is using these tactics and we consider them a terrorist group, does that mean that our own country’s independence fighters were terrorists as well? If anyone accused our founding fathers of being terrorists, we know that we would respond by saying how the British were abusive, refused basic liberties and all that. In short, we’d say that our side was justified. But then, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that some Hezbollah supporters from across the world might respond in a similar way? If that’s the case how do you decide who’s right? Because one person’s independence movement is another person’s terrorist group. This holds true wherever a guerilla war can be found. Thus, to figure out which side is right, less wrong and/or justified, you have to ask questions about why and how does a crisis like the one in Lebanon and Israel begin, how it escalates. Merely accepting a spokesperson at his/her word won’t cut it. The crisis started when Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross border raid. The raid had apparently been planned for months as a way to force Israel into a prisoner exchange. No one can argue that such an action was justified, but no one else can argue that Israel responded with overwhelming force. Within a day of the kidnappings, the Israeli army started bombing all over Southern Lebanon, destroying key infrastructure very quickly. But oddly enough, destroying an airport, killing three dozen people, and blockading the entire Lebanese coast (all in the same day) only made Hezbollah angrier. They responded with firing hundreds rockets at Israeli towns, which made Israel step up its bombing campaign, which prompted more rockets, which led to a full Israeli invasion, and there you go. That’s the essence of what’s been going on for the last three weeks. Now look at the damage that has been done from this campaign: The hundreds of rockets have been launched against Israel have killed 20 to 25 Israeli civilians, while another 50 or so have died in the fighting in Lebanon. Bustling towns have become emptied, as thousands have tried to flee to Southern Israel. Hospitals have filled with the wounded as one segment of the Israeli population is taken over by panic. But as bad and unjustified as the damage to Israel is, it pales in comparison to what Israel has done to Lebanon. Israel has lost 60 people in this conflict, the overwhelming majority soldiers. Lebanon has lost nearly 1,000, with the over 900 of them civilians. About one million people in Lebanon have been forced to flee Southern Lebanon because of the bombing campaign – one quarter of the population. To put that into perspective, if a campaign on that scale happened here, that would mean 75 million Americans making a frenzied, panic evacuation from an area stretching from Chicago to DC to Maine. The Lebanese economy, beforehand rebuilding after the Cedar Revolution and the end of their civil war, was shut down. Businesses have closed, prices have shot up, and that inflation doesn’t help a poor country much. The blockade of the Lebanese coast has destroyed most Lebanese trade. In the past three weeks, Israel has destroyed or damaged every major road in the entire country of Lebanon, meaning that civilians who aren’t members Hezbollah but might not want to die anyways can barely move through their own country. Meanwhile, Israeli bombings have caused an oil spill over 80 miles of Lebanese coastline. That will take a decade to clean up at least – according to the Lebanese environmental minister. In short, in three short weeks, the entire country and economy of Lebanon was pushed back twenty years, according to UN development and aid officials. This means that it might take two whole decades as well as 300-500 billion dollars to clean and fix up that country. And honestly, I don’t think Israel has any intention of paying that much money. Israel is just making the same mistake that the British made in 1776, that the US made in Vietnam, and that the Soviet Union made in Afghanistan – they are assuming that a powerful conventional military with overwhelming force that defeat a guerilla army. And that doesn’t often happen. The Israeli government even tried invading Lebanon before in 1982 – that time to smoke out the PLO. And for the next eighteen years they were stuck there trying to defeat Hezbollah and they never succeeded. Eventually the growing number of casualties pushed the Israeli government to withdraw in 2000. Today in 2006, Israel faces that same problem. They can cut every road and freeze all the money they’d like, but Hezbollah will just keep on fighting. They survived worse for 18 years, they can do it again. And the longer Israel stays in and bombs Lebanon, the more that country’s citizens are united against Israel – the same way we would be if another country attacked us. And while many are still incensed at Hezbollah for inciting all the bombing, Israel can’t stay and bomb without making Hezbollah seem more popular and powerful – as a resistance group to Israeli aggression. It all happened the last time. Meanwhile, Bush cannot allow the bombing of Lebanon without becoming more of a hypocrite to the Arab world. After all, the Cedar Revolution so praised by Bush could not have happened without Hezbollah’s support. Neither could it have happened if Israel was bombing and occupying part of the country. So what happened the last time is playing out again – Israel is using massive force but will not win. All it will do is gradually solidify opposition to it. And sooner or later, Israel will have to withdraw, either because of international pressure, mounting losses or both. But the fact is that Israel isn’t going to win. Now true, all this may be a moot point. As I wrote this, BBC is reporting that the UN Security Council unanimously approved a ceasefire agreement which will call for Israeli withdrawal, and end to Hezbollah terror attacks, the deployment of the Lebanese Army in the South, and the mandate for a stronger UN force on the Israeli-Lebanese border. Hezbollah has already agreed to accept it. But all of these could have been put in place three weeks ago before the massive destruction on both sides. A similar agreement to the current ceasefire was actually proposed the first week of the crisis, and was passed by the Security Council fourteen to one. But because that one dissenting vote was a veto from the US, the ceasefire did not pass, and that part of the world plunged into a cyclic hell. But even with the violence thankfully drawing to a hopeful conclusion, it does not change the inescapable fact that an immense amount of damage was done to the entire nation of Lebanon, affecting far more innocent people than guilty. And even if all twenty years worth of damage that has been done in the past three weeks was repaired tomorrow (and obviously that can’t happen) that doesn’t change the fact the one sovereign nation destroyed so much of another sovereign nation’s infrastructure because of only two kidnapped soldiers. The Israeli government killed one thousand people and displaced one million all in response to rockets which killed fewer Israelis than Israeli reckless drivers kill in a year. Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish and because I went to Hebrew school for six years that I feel this way. When I was learning about Israel at my synagogue, we were always taught that Israel was the innocent side – that they were the side that wanted peace and always protected innocent life in warfare. We were taught that the killing of innocent civilians is always wrong, be them Israeli, Lebanese, Palestinian, or any nationality – all life is sacred. In short, I learned to hold Israel to a high standard, and I was immensely disappointed when that country’s government refused to uphold the principals it was founded upon. For a terrorist organization to cause terror, that isn’t justified; but it’s certainly not unexpected. For a democratic country to act in a similar manner on such a wide scale is just plain wrong. Two wrongs do not make a right. Therefore, given that Israel has caused so much damage in such a short conflict, they should be held responsible – for the sake of their own integrity every bit as much as justice. These military actions may well have alienated and militarized another sizable chunk of the Muslim population. If the Israeli government wants any hope of winning them back before they become suicide bombers, that government has some serious apologizing to do, followed by substantial changes in policy.
  • mindy on August 12, 2006 at 5:56 PM
    awesome firstie, pia! :D
  • -.- on August 12, 2006 at 9:03 PM
    so we should assist our ally (remind me why we're allies with a country like Israel?) who is currently bombing a much weaker nation?
  • angie (View Email) on August 13, 2006 at 12:06 AM
    Jon, well detailed and thought out. But the comparison is meek for three reasons, at least. One, Hezbollah hides behind women and children, as do many of these terrorists simply due to the fact they have no respect for the lives of even their own "wives" or offspring. The mindset of many fractions in the Middle East is for all infidels to die and martyrs to be rewarded by death if realized during the killing of an infidel whether that be man, woman or child. That is an incredibly different mindset from that of our forefathers. I believe Franklin would be quite perturbed, although intellectually stimulated, by your thought process and comparisons. The second, which screams for attention, is the government of Lebanon failing to acknowledge Hezbollah as their military - or do they? No clear line is set in this relationship. Nor is it set in many of the areas where warring tribes are just as quick to take out a competing tribe member, and their families, as they are a European or American military representative. Comparing America's forefathers fight to regain a country against one "imperialistic" ruler to a culture that is brought up to hate, kill, and die for salvation is, albeit stimulating to read, a stretch. The final reason would be the time period. You so aptly state the “insurgence” lasted eight years. This war that we are seeing in the Middle East has gone on for thousand of years and will continue…long after you and I are even capable of expressing our opinion, thanks to the wonderful nation in which we were raised.
  • cluck on August 13, 2006 at 6:20 PM
    basically pia rocks my socks off!

  • Jon Phoenix Brookstone on August 14, 2006 at 1:48 PM
    To all interested parties -

    Angie, thanks for your opinion. In my comment, I was trying to draw attention to the fact that in some ways, all guerilla vs. conventional army conflicts are remarkably similar. You are right that no founding father would ever condone such violence that Hezbollah has launched against Israel. But at the same time, I don't think they would have condoned Israeli actions against Lebanon as well. Collective punishment has a tendency to radicalize populations. And that actually occured in this country as well, when the British imposed the Coercive/Intolerable Acts on the state of MA in response to the Boston tea party. And while I know that the two conflicts are not remotely identical, there are common threads between them and countless other conflicts like them that countries - be it France in ALgeria/Vietnam, the Belgains in Congo, and the USSR in Afghanistan - ignore at their own peril.

    It is true that many radical Muslims do believe in martyrdom, and yes that is unfortunate. But that belief does not hold true for all Muslims, and my guess is neither does it hold true for all radicals. There are radicals who are more attracted to groups like Hezbollah because of Israeli military abuses rather than because of ideological reasons. That is exceedingly significant, because if one wants to have any chance of destroying a radical movement, one has to strengthen the moderates. After Israel left Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah for the first time turned (part of) itself into a political party, and because of that helped on the Cedar Revolution. The very reason that group kidnapped the two Israeli soldiers in the first place is because the leadership - who unfortunately is still more radical - was scared of Hezbollah losing its status as a military anti-Israel fighting group. If some of the intel reports are correct, the kidnappings were an attempt by the radicals to return to "their glory days" of fighting, provoke Israel into fighting back, and weakening the moderates on all sides. And the result is only this destructive war.

    As for the relationships between Lebanon, Hezbollah, and the army, the thing one has to remember is that Lebanon had a very bloody civil war for at least twelve years, and neither side wishes to return to it. Hezbollah, a major Shiite group controls part of the government that controls the army. The Lebanese government, if they were to send the Lebanese army (a seperate entity from Hezbollah) to confront Hezbollah, would take a major risk in sending out a partially Shiite army against another Shiite group. There would be the risk of the military, not breaking down, but not doing what it should. ANd that, obviously enough, would not be a good thing.

    So knowing that risk, the fact that the Lebanese government is currently (at the time of this writing) deploying its army to the south, and the fact that Hezbollah is allowing that deployment to happen is an undeniably good sign. If all sides play their cards right and don't do anything stupid, there is the real possibility for peace in this region.

    And that brings me to your last point - that the "war" between Muslims and the West has been going on for a thousand years and will go on for a thousand years to come. Whether or not there has been a millenium of ideological conflict between the two of them (and both Muslim, Christian, and Jewish scholars could argue both ways) - that's not the point. The point is that there is a bloody conflict occuring right now, that thousands of innocent people are dying because of it, and we have to stop it. Compared to this, everything else is trivial. If we make the assumption that peace is futile, then forgive me for saying this, but we make the same mistake that most of the radical terrorists we oppose are making. They believe that peace at this time is futile as well. Hence the bombings, the rockets, and whatever will come next.

    Thus for the sake of our country, the sake of other countries, and for the sake and advancement of mankind, we must promote peace. If we assume that that is impossible, we dupe ourselves into a self fulfilling prophesy because we won't even bother to try. I don't believe that Islam is fundamentally terroristic, neither do I believe any religion is so. Thus we cannot assume that just because a region possesses that religion (or any radicalism unfortunately associated with it), that we will be or should be at war with them. If we do (and remember the self-fulfilling prophesy part), then thousands of years from now we'll be in this same war, and innocent people will still be dying. And given how weapons become more deadly over time, that war would just kill more people. We cannot let that happen.
  • Libertarian (View Email) on August 14, 2006 at 3:13 PM
    "does that mean that our own country’s independence fighters were terrorists as well?" - Jon Phoenix Brookstone

    yes, just as the South was and Andrew Mickel was (google him, also he's featured in the washingtonpost and washingtonpost.com article "Murder incorporated"). You want to know the difference? Our "independance fighters" (sounds similar to freedom fighters, what they call themselves) won. The victors write the history books. If the South had won they'd be learning about the War of Northern Agression in the South. But the colonies won the war and we are taught that they were fighting for a glorious cause yet the South wasn't. Another reason to stop the government schools. School is mass propaganda with bits and pieces of knowledge thrown in.
  • '07 on August 14, 2006 at 7:09 PM
    I do not dig the accusatory tone at the beginning. we're not stupid, and it's not like the article is about American ignorance. it's about what our government should do, not us. so that wasn't very professional of you.

    also, why should the fact that Hezbollah is a shameless organization countermand the fact that the bulk of these casualties are innocent Lebanese civilians killed/wounded from Israeli weapons? it's not their fault, and as they are the ones in the most danger they should be protected and then the world should work together to face the root of the problem in cutting Hezbollah's funding.

    in situations like this, people are far too eager to jump on the Israel bandwagon without thinking of the consequences. the state of Israel will survive this conflict; it's innocent civilians on both sides of the war who are being hurt and thus this must be the priority of the international community.
  • Jon Phoenix Brookstone on August 15, 2006 at 12:32 AM
    Just one other thing - In my writing, I said the damage to Lebanon would cost 300 and 500 billion dollars to clean up. That was a gross over estimate. The Lebanese government is reporing damage of 2.5 billion dollars, while ISrael estimates the damage at $1.1 bn. I think I misread an earlier report, thinking it said billions instead of millions, and hence made my mistake. I apologize for that.
  • Jon B on August 15, 2006 at 9:55 PM
    Here are the final stats on the damage done in Israel and Lebanon during the crisis:

    Damage to Lebanon: $2,500,000,000
    Damage to Israel: $1,100,000,000
    Lebanese Killed: 1000, mostly civilians, # of Hezbollah fighters unknown
    Israelis killed: 157 - 114 soldiers, 43 civilians
    Lebanese Displaced: 900,000 to 1,000,000
    Israelis Displaced: 500,000

    Despite the inevitably hilarious blame game that will follow this idiotic war, pray for the souls of the innocent.

    May they rest and return home in peace.
  • this better be posted on August 24, 2006 at 11:14 AM
    hezbollah is only considered a terrorist group to israel and the united states. other countries dont even see this organization as doing much harm. in fact, they help the civilians of lebanon by providing funding, schools. health care and what not. after the attacks, hezbollah even provided money to all those who lost their homes. im so sick of people being one sided on this subject and always trying to support and defend israel when in reality they are the ones to blame. im not gonna go into detail because an essay on this subject, but in my opinion, i think the bush administration should be considered a terrorist group. enough said
  • Keisha on September 1, 2006 at 10:55 AM
    Awesome article Pia!!!!! <3
  • freshie on September 3, 2006 at 5:02 AM
    I'm very glad that those too naiive to distinguish between tools of terrorist propoganda and real, honest charity and good work aren't making the important decisions in the world. Hezbollah has a cheritable arm so that it can go out and kill innocent people, whether they're American marines in Beirut or Jewish children in Argentina. Hezbollah is, in short, completely indefensible. Enough said.
  • RE: freshie on September 7, 2006 at 5:32 PM
    Unfortunately, others can say the same thing about the US of A. Sure, we do lots of nice things around the world, but focus on the bad stuff - destroying any form of governance in Iraq and fostering the growth of terrorism. Fantastic! Are we completely indefensible?
  • mk (View Email) on September 8, 2006 at 7:27 PM
    dont talk about hezbollah in that manner--
    of course the US has a horrible administration and has an even worse mouthpiece (pres), but you do have to recognize the fault of the state of israel in this conflict, and how killing hundreds of civilians IS NOT NICE. currently hezbollah is attempting to rebuild and reconstruct the lebanon israel letf in its wake--it really is a charitable organization fighting for a good cause--to get the state of israel out of other middle eastern affairs.
  • mk (View Email) on September 9, 2006 at 1:21 PM
    i didnt write the previous comment
  • freshie on September 11, 2006 at 6:51 PM
    My God MK...that's quite a logical mess you've created for yourself. So Hezbollah is justified in attempting to violently impose an isolationist foreign policy on a foreign state (what you call "getting the state of israel out of other middle eastern affairs"), but Israel is not justified in defending itself? So basically, if Canada started bombing us because of our involvement in Iraq or some other "middle eastern affair" any kind of retaliation on our part would be morally unjustifiable?

    My point: it's incredible just how far some of the people posting on this board have to go to justify what Hezbollah has done. Cheritable organizations don't kill civilians and then retreat behind other civilians to avoid their rightful punishment. It's wrong by any moral, philosophical, religious, political, ethical or cultural standards.
  • appalled on September 13, 2006 at 8:32 PM
    hezbollah is a terrorist group, not a "charitable organization"
    if you cannot recognize the distinction between a group that targets civilians indiscrimately, then hides behind its own civilians in order to force isreal to kill them and stir international condemnation, and a government that is trying to protect its own civilians and minimize lebanese casualties, then our whole educational system is in trouble

    "charitable organizations" do not build schools so they can hide missiles in them, then get mad when the schools are bombed

    enough said
  • varun on September 24, 2006 at 12:34 AM
    pia, great job on writing the first junior staff opinion piece and getting the ball rolling. keep up the good work
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