Commentary Magazine


Contentions

What It Means to Engage Hezbollah

There are a number of signs the Obama White House is ready to establish something more than a modus vivendi with Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon. From siding with Beirut over Jerusalem regarding maritime resources to providing weapons to the Hezbollah-infiltrated LAF on the thinnest pretexts, the administration seems intent on “biting the bullet,” “living in the real world,” “negotiating with enemies not friends,” or whatever leaden catchphrase we’re using this week to justify bringing into the tent fanatics who want to destroy us. That’s the White House’s prerogative, obviously. Article II Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution has consequences, no matter what Democratic Jews who fixate on domestic issues would like to believe.

But let’s all keep in mind what Hezbollah is, because there was a time when even the echo of something like national honor would have precluded sitting across the table from them or anyone who refused to repudiate them. We owe more than a few Hezbollah leaders death sentences, and we owe the organization itself nothing less than unremitting hostility until we or they lose (as the world’s only hyperpower, in theory I like our odds). Instead the White House is actively searching for loopholes to maintain or enhance bilateral relations with Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon. So it’s worth reviewing how in 1984 Hezbollah kidnapped CIA Lebanon Station Chief William Buckley as he was leaving his house in the morning. They tortured him continuously for 15 months, occasionally sending videos of him naked and screaming to U.S. bureaus and agencies in Europe, until his body gave out. In the meantime, Hezbollah used the information he provided to dismantle U.S. intelligence assets in the Levant:

On Monday morning, May 7, 1984, the United States embassy in Athens received a video posted in the city… It showed William Buckley undergoing torture… The camera zoomed in and out of Buckley’s nude and damaged body. He held before his genitalia a document marked “MOST SECRET”… Casey later remembered how “… They had done more than ruin his body. His eyes made it clear his mind had been played with. It was horrific, medieval and barbarous”… Buckley showed symptoms of being drugged; his eyes were dull and his lips slack. His gaze was of a person deprived of daylight for some time… Buckley had spent long periods being hooded. Buckley bore chafe marks on his wrists and neck suggesting he had been tethered with a rope or chain. A careful study of every inch of visible skin revealed puncture marks indicating he had been injected at various points.

The second video arrived 23 days later. This time it was posted to the United States Embassy on Via Veneto in Rome… It revealed Buckley continued to be horrifically treated… Buckley’s voice was slurred and his manner noticeably more egocentric as if not only the world beyond the camera, but his immediate surroundings, held increasingly less interest for him… His hands shook and his legs beat a tattoo on the floor as he mumbled pathetic pleas to be exchanged under a guarantee the United States would remove “all of its influences” from Lebanon and would persuade Israel to do the same…

On Friday, October 26, 1984, 224 days since Buckley was kidnapped, a third video arrived at the CIA. The tape was even more harrowing. Buckley was close to a gibbering wretch. His words were often incoherent; he slobbered and drooled and, most unnerving of all, he would suddenly scream in terror, his eyes rolling helplessly and his body shaking. From time to time he held up documents, which had been in his burn-bag, to the camera. Then he delivered a pathetic defence of his captor’s right to self-determination in Lebanon… William Buckley’s kidnapping was into its second year by the spring of 1985. The CIA consensus was that he would be blindfolded and chained at the ankles and wrists and kept in a cell little bigger than a coffin.

In 1988, a few years after Buckley’s torture and murder, Hezbollah kidnapped U.S. Marine Colonel Rich Higgins. Higgins, who at the time was serving as a UN military observer, was tortured and eventually murdered. We know as much because two years later Hezbollah released a videotape of his torture-scarred body hung and dangling from the ceiling. Here’s how U.S. diplomat Fred Hof described the blood debt to be paid by Hezbollah’s current leadership, including Nasrallah, for Higgins:

A friend of mine – Colonel Rich Higgins – was kidnapped by Hezbollah while he was serving as a UN military observer in Lebanon… he had been tortured and killed months before our efforts to free him finally ended. I am one of a small handful of Americans who knows the exact manner of Rich’s death. If I were to describe it to you now – which I will not – I can guarantee that a significant number of people in this room would become physically ill. When my former business partner Rich Armitage described Hezbollah a few years ago as the “A-Team” of international terrorism and suggested that there was a “blood debt” to be paid, he was referring to a leadership cadre that is steeped in blood and brutality.

And of course, there are the 63 people Hezbollah murdered when they bombed our Beirut embassy in 1982, the 241 Marines they killed in their barracks in 1983, and the 18 serviceman they killed near the Torrejon Air Force Base in 1984. These might all be water under the bridge to the reset-philic neophytes who inhabit the White House, but the Hezbollah leaders who committed these atrocities are very much aware of who is coming to whom asking for talks, and under the shadow of what crimes. Americans should be as well.

Again, the President has the right to conduct foreign policy in whatever way he thinks will promote American national interests. But citizens have an obligation to ask when we lost hold of the idea that some enemies are actually enemies, and that obsequiously asking for their time is not a sign of foreign policy sophistication. Hezbollah has been murdering and torturing Americans for decades. With the possible exception of al Qaeda, and driven by their state sponsor Iran, there is no terrorist organization more thoroughly committed to undermining American interests globally. What is the White House possibly thinking?