Two of my friends, retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely and John Batchelor (co-host of the Batchelor & Alexander Show on New York's WABC-AM radio), visited a U.N. compound on the Israel-Lebanon border about ten days ago. What Paul and John saw there was something the Israelis see every day. But what Paul photographed there, and what he and John told me, should shock every American. The Israeli troops escorting them told Paul and John that they couldn't understand why America put up with it. The Israelis had a hard time believing it was unknown to the American public.
The "it" they referred to is shown in two of the pictures Paul took. One shows two flagpoles flying about fifteen feet apart at the U.N. compound on the Israel-Lebanon border. On one flagpole, to the left of the picture, is the blue U.N. flag. On the other flies the yellow flag of the terrorist group Hezbollah. The unmistakable symbol on the Hezbollah flag is the upheld fist holding an AK-47. The other picture is of a billboard that faces an Israeli outpost. It shows an Hezbollah fighter holding up the severed head of an Israeli soldier. The caption, as I have been told, says something like, "death to the Israeli dogs." Paul and John assured the Israelis that America didn't know about these depraved displays. Now the word is out, and we cannot tolerate it. The time has come to stop the U.N.'s game of coddling terrorists.
Only those who have forgotten who Hezbollah is could tolerate this flag display. But we haven't forgotten. We remember that in October 1983 Hezbollah suicide bombers killed more than 250 U.S. Marines in Beirut by ramming a truck past a guard post and detonating a bomb against the Marines' barracks. In 1984, they kidnapped and murdered CIA station chief William Buckley. Also in Lebanon, four years later, they kidnapped Marine Lt. Col. William R. Higgins. They tortured Higgins before he died, and then published photographs of his battered body to show how proud they were of their brutal and cowardly act. Hezbollah is on America's list of designated terrorist organizations. In fact, three of its leaders -- Imad Magniyah, Hasan Izz-al-din, and Ali Attwa -- are on our list of the 22 Most Wanted terrorists. We want these men, dead or alive. Of the two conditions, I do have a strong preference.
The actions of the U.N. in Lebanon amount to a surrender of strategic ground to terrorists. The area supposed to be under U.N. control has been given to Hezbollah without a bang or even a whimper. The U.N. isn't trying to get it back, and apparently hasn't bothered to tell its own councils about it, for fear of attracting attention. The Israelis are faced with the flag, the billboard, and incoming fire every day. As Paul told me, the Hezbollah fire at Israeli positions with rockets and sniper fire. Because the Israelis face this situation, our government must know.
Hezbollah fighters range freely in southern Lebanon, and through the Bekaa Valley. There, they have accumulated about 8,000 short-range Katyusha rockets that they have used to attack Israel. They also now have larger 270mm rockets, with the claimed range of over forty miles. With them, they can hit strike the heavily populated city of Haifa.
When our campaign to get Saddam Hussein begins, the Hezbollah can make things much more complicated by forcing the Israelis to respond. Any concerted attack on Israel will certainly draw a response against Hezbollah, as well as its Syrian ally. Which is precisely what Saddam wants: a wider war between Israel and an Arab nation. He believes the Arab nations will rally to his cause if the Israelis are in the fight. He's wrong in that, but not in the fact that a wider war will cause more unnecessary bloodshed.
The Israelis could have long ago taken out the Hezbollah, but haven't because of strong American pressure to hold back. At this point, we should tell them to go ahead, and the sooner the better. All the pressure we have used on them should be turned on the U.N. John Batchelor summed it all up: "The U.N. is a fellow-traveler of terrorism. What I saw at the Lebanese border disgusted me." John has it right. The Hezbollah flag flying over the U.N. position is an insult to the memory of the Beirut Marines, of Col. Higgins, and of Mr. Buckley. It may well be that U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is unaware of the flags, but he cannot be ignorant of the fact that Hezbollah now controls southern Lebanon.
We have put up with Mr. Annan's coddling of terror for far too long. He spends too much of his time trying to thwart our plan to topple Saddam. He scolded President Bush only two weeks ago, saying that the U.N. would continue to deal with Yassir Arafat as the leader of the Palestinians despite the President's determination that Arafat had to go. If you don't see a pattern there, you should look again.
The President should tell Secretary of State Powell to make two calls to Mr. Annan. In the first, he should demand that the Hezbollah flag be taken down, and that the commanding officer of that post be fired immediately. He should also demand an apology to the survivors of the Americans murdered by Hezbollah. In the second, Mr. Powell should tell Annan that we expect his personal support for a Security Council resolution authorizing an attack on Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon. Of course, the attack would have begun before the resolution is even mentioned. By then, we should have asked the Israelis to do it, and given them whatever help they need to do so. I'm sure we could get all the volunteers we need from among the Marines. The score they have to settle with Hezbollah is a big one.
The disgrace the U.N. has brought upon itself is too serious to ignore. America should tell the U.N., in words so simple that they cannot be misunderstood, that we will no longer tolerate its coddling of terrorists. The U.N. and Kofi Annan must be required to take a stand against terror, and to act on it. Until they do, we should call a halt to any U.S. payment for anything that has to do with the U.N. If Mr. Annan doesn't like that, let him tell it to the Marines.