The battle against Hezbollah threatens to expose the hollow reality of the Bush administration’s conduct of the war against terrorism. In the wake of 9-11, Bush boldly and properly identified the enemy as terrorism itself. He boldly and properly challenged the nations of the world to understand the deadly threat it represents to any semblance of international order and community. He boldly and properly excluded the possibility of neutrality, making it clear that every nation would have to choose which side it was on: for or against the forces of terror.
“We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime. … This is not, however, just America’s fight. And what is at stake is not just America’s freedom. This is the world’s fight. This is civilization’s fight.” (President George W. Bush, Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People, Sept. 20, 2001)
Until now, one of the problems with the war on terror has been the quite understandable reluctance of governments openly to declare their complicity with the terrorist menace. Though states like Iran and Syria provide key support for terrorist entities, including safe havens, weapons and other facilities, they have taken care to maintain some semblance of deniability, however implausible.
Now, Hezbollah’s terrorist war making has erupted into full-scale battle. Hezbollah is an entity that the U.S. government has always and unequivocally included as an active and dangerous element of the global infrastructure of terror. The U.S. has also recognized that Iran and Syria are its key backers. But with no open declaration on their part to this effect, Hezbollah’s terror war did not formally implicate these governments.
In reaction to the present battle, however, both Syria and Iran are bringing their support into the open. Iran is encouraging its people to provide material support to Hezbollah. Syria is rattling its sabers and declaring its determination to join the battle on Hezbollah’s side. If Syria acts upon this declaration, it will openly commit itself to the defense of a terrorist group. It will openly choose the side of terror. It would be the first state to do so since the war against terror began after 9-11.
If the anti-terror war is more than hollow rhetoric, the logical and necessary response of the Bush administration will be a message to Capitol Hill requesting that, on account of the overt Syrian alliance with a terrorist entity, Congress formally declare the state of war that would then undeniably exist between the United States and Syria. If the statement that terrorism threatens the world is more than empty posturing, the logical and necessary response of the Bush administration will be a demand that the members of the United Nations join us in uniting for peace against a state whose open alliance with terror threatens the very concept of humanity that makes the quest for peace the common cause of all.
No other course would be consistent with the premise that, after 9-11 the U.S. was not at war just with al-Qaida and those directly involved in the attacks, but with terrorism and all those who practice it; that we were not just responding to a threat to the United States, but to one that in principle menaced the peace and security of the entire world. Given this premise, every act of terror against any people anywhere is an act of war, which engages our interest and ought to engage the interest of all nations, against the perpetrators. Any state that fights in open alliance with a terrorist entity is therefore, like that entity, at war with us and with all the world.
Do Syria and Iran dare now to strut their heinous support for terrorism because they do not remember, or never believed, the president’s stirring declarations? Why have they stealthily all these years spit in the face of American resolve and counted on the craven cowardice or disunity of the international so-called community? The answer lies in one word – Israel. This name is their license to trample with impunity on the law of war that brands them outcasts from the community of nations, and ought to be the text of a general call to battle against their bloody imposition of terror. Whatever the logic of the Bush administration’s stated principles, its actions and those of other supposedly decent nations have been and are constrained by one simple fact – Hezbollah’s terror war is against the state of Israel. Already, headlines and news reports trumpet the tide of sympathy for Hezbollah in the Arab world. Already the diplocrats are hoarse who loudly decry the need for a cease-fire that will give reprieve and respite to the harried forces of terror.
If Syria and Iran succeed in openly exploiting hatred against Israel to bring their support for terror out of the shadows, they will make a mockery of the war against terror and of every life that we have thus far sacrificed in the quest to drive it from our world. Hands dripping with blood, these terrorist states and entities will plant themselves, directly or by proxy, at the tables of international discussion, ready to negotiate the terms on which the world abandons its fragile commitment to humanity and delivers victory to a criminal element whose only real strength lies in the exploitation of hate.
The Bush administration has come to a moment of truth. So have we all. War is not a word to be lightly used. After so much talk of the war against terror we come now to the moment when we must choose to confront its reality with courage, or quietly surrender to the forces of hateful terror simply because their victim and excuse is Israel. To everything, there is a season. On Sept. 11, 2001, our brief season of peace came to an end. It can come again only if we have the courage to accept what others force upon us and fight this war to victory. This is a time for war. Terrorism, against us, against Israel, against anyone, must be battled without reprieve until it is once more driven into the dark shadows where hatred sups only upon itself.
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