I can’t believe that failing to name the perpetrators of the Marine Barracks bombing from 26 years ago in a White House statement on the anniversary of that attack can be dismissed as an oversight.
First, the White House statement on the anniversary:
“On the anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, we remember today the 241 American Marines, soldiers, and sailors who lost their lives 26 years ago as the result of a horrific terrorist attack that destroyed the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The military personnel serving in Beirut were there to bring peace and stability to Lebanon after years of internal strife and conflict. The murder of our soldiers, sailors, and Marines on this day on 1983 remains a senseless tragedy….In remembering this terrible day of loss, we are at the same time hopeful that a new government in Lebanon will soon be formed. We look forward to working with a Lebanese government that works actively to promote stability in the region and prosperity for its people.”
Barry Rubin notes the absence of any named cultprits:
All of these forces, however, are left anonymous. No one is named for involvement in that “horrific terrorist attack.” And, of course the attack was not “senseless” but part of an Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah campaign to take over Lebanon and drive U.S. influence out of the region. In fact, it was counted as a great victory for these forces since it showed America’s vulnerability to being hit by terrorism–an inspiration for September 11?–and did succeed in paralyzing the U.S. effort in Lebanon. Ultimately, this lead to the withdrawal of the peace-keeping forces altogether, paving the way for Syria’s turning Lebanon into a satellite state for two decades at a great financial and strategic profit. .
None of these attacks were perpetrated by al-Qaida, the only group that remains a target of this administration’s version of a war on terrorism, a phrase which is no longer used.
It is bad enough the administration doesn’t say any of this. Is it aware of these factors at all?
Indeed, the president’s advisor on terrorism is on record as saying that Hizballah is no longer a terrorist group, which opens the door for U.S. contacts in future.
This raises the question of the declaration’s final sentence.
The evidence is pretty solid. We have COMINT linking known Hezballah members to the planning for the bombing. We have reports from informers, and defectors regarding the Palestinian’s participation, and other intel pointing the finger directly at the Iranian and Syrian governments who offered material support for the attack.
I would argue that failing to name the guilty dishonors the memory of those Marines, and others who have been murdered by Hezballah. And as Rubin points out, the very description of the attack is whitewashed.
I think this is a clear sign that the administration plans on making Hezballah a “partner for peace” in negotiations with Israel. By bending over backward not to give offense to Hezballah, the administration continues it’s unilateral “foreign policy by gesture” in hopes that the Shia terrorist group will magically lose its fanatical hatred of Israel - and us - and join in some kind of grand bargain that would banish war from the Levant forever.
In this case, as in their outreach to Iran and Syria, the administration is banking on the idea that speaking softly (or virtually ignoring events like the Iranian uprising, and naming Hezballah guilty of mass murdering Americans) will woo the radical fundamentalists that run Hezballah into a marriage with Israel that will allow them to live side by side in peace.
For in truth, Hezballah is not going anywhere. They will not disband. They will not give up their weapons. They will not abide by UN resolutions that require them to disarm. They will not stop until they control Lebanon. They don’t hide this goal from anyone - least of all the Lebanese people. And everyone knows that if Hezballah controls Lebanon, then Syria and Iran control Lebanon. In case you think otherwise, this would not be in the interest of the United States.
But…and it’s something of a big “but:” Despite being on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, Hezballah - for better or worse (and it’s definitely worse) is also a political party in Lebanon that controls what has come to be known as “March 13th” coalition who oppose the ruling Sunni/Christian majority. The confessional arrangement of power sharing in Lebanon gives these opposition forces a considerable say in the Lebanese cabinet.
And of course, they have the guns and have proven they are not shy in using them if the situation calls for it. That reality is the real governing force in Lebanon and the Sunnis and Christians ignore it at their peril. The “March 14th” governing coalition knows it can only go so far on some issues before Hezballah will put the hammer down and use their militia as they did last year in almost starting another civil war when the government threatened to remove a Syrian communications nexus from the airport. That incident led to the “Doha Accords” that shifted the balance in the cabinet toward the opposition, while establishing a framework to change the election laws in Hezballah’s favor.
So perhaps the point isn’t so much will the US talk to Hezballah but rather what role they will play in US talks with Lebanon? They are a legitimate part of the democratically elected Lebanese government. We could no more refuse to include them in talks than we could if we were to talk to any other divided government in the world.
Therefore, it makes sense (from the administration’s point of view) that we remove them from the terror list and allow US representatives to negotiate with them - as long as it occurs within the framework of talks with the Lebanese government.
Several European countries have already removed them from their own list of terrorist organizations. So the question is what might be gained from keeping them on the list?
It strengthens the hand of the Sunnis, for one thing. We have been careful in our relationship with the majority in Lebanon, wisely using King Abdullah as a proxy for many of our dealings with them. Too close a relationship with either France or the US would damage the Sunni’s in the eyes of many Lebanese, while undercutting the argument that Hezballah is little more than a catspaw for Syria and/or Iran. The Lebanese Sunnis have a traditionally close relationship with the Saudis and Abdullah has done quite well for us over the last few years.
Also, by keeping Hezballah on the terror list, we can maintain the idea that if they were to attack Israel again, we could hold the Lebanese government relatively blameless. By acknowledging them as an entity separate from the government, any rocket attacks or invasion of Israel would allow us to maintain connections to the Sunnis and their Christian allies. Eventually, even the Sunnis had to side with Hezballah in the 2006 Israeli war because of the enormous damage to Lebanese infrastructure imposed by the Israeli air force. But isolating Hezballah if they were to attack again would help the Sunnis in the post war political environment - as it did in the last election.
But it appears that the Obama administration is laying the groundwork to remove the terror group from the State Department’s list. That would be a mistake in my opinion and might cause significant problems for the Sunni/Christian majority.
And just how it would advance the cause of peace in the Middle East isn’t clear either - unless you believe a leopard can change its spots or the sun can be commanded to rise in the west. Then you may very well believe that Hezballah has something positive to offer to the peace process. Until they obey security council resolutions demanding that they disarm, their status as a terrorist group should not change. They are now fully resupplied with 40,000 rockets aimed at Israel and have the ideological justification to attack their Jewish neighbor anytime they see an advantage to be gained.
This is not a peace partner. And legitimizing them - even though they may be a legitimate political organzation - may make another war more likely.