- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 29, 2006

If recent surveys of public opinion are correct, war-weary Americans are already suffering “combat fatigue” from the most recent battle in the Global War on Terror — the fight between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Apparently the U.S. public doesn’t believe this bloody engagement has much to do with us — hence the waning interest. Those who believe Hezbollah is simply an Israeli problem need to think again.

“Know your enemy” isn’t just a hackneyed military slogan — it’s an essential survival tool in this new world disorder of global Islamic terror. Hezbollah is — and has always been — America’s enemy.

When Lebanon descended into civil war along sectarian and ethnic lines in 1975, nearly a half-dozen rival factions with armed militias began a deadly struggle for power — Christian, Sunni, Shia, Druze and Palestinian. Into this chaos, and well before Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini began sending Pasdaran — Iranian Revolutionary Guards — to the Lebanese Bakaa Valley to organize, train and equip the poorly armed, disparate Shi’ite militias into an effective politico-military force. Hezbollah was the result — and almost immediately, Americans began to die.

From their bases in the Bakaa, Hezbollah terrorists launched a series of spectacular attacks against Americans, making it second only to al Qaeda in lethality:

April 18, 1983, a suicide bomber driving a pickup truck loaded with explosives rams into the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 — including 17 Americans. A second attack on the Embassy Annex in September kills two more Americans and injures 22 others.

Oct. 23, 1983, a suicide bomber detonates a truck full of explosives inside the U.S. Marine barracks near Beirut International Airport, killing 241 U.S. servicemen.

Dec. 12, 1983, Hezbollah operatives attack the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. Nearly simultaneous attacks are carried out against the emir of Kuwait, the French Embassy, the airport, a major oil refinery and an American residential compound. In all, six people die; more than 80 are wounded.

June 14, 1985: TWA Flight 847 is hijacked and landed at Beirut International Airport. During the seven-day stand-off, U.S. Navy Seabee Diver Robert Stetham is murdered aboard the aircraft and his body dumped on the tarmac.

April 2, 1986: A bomb aboard TWA Flight 840, enroute from Rome to Athens kills four Americans, including an infant girl.

Feb. 17, 1988: U.S. Marine Col. William Higgins, assigned to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force for Lebanon, is kidnapped, tortured and murdered.

In a wave of kidnappings between 1982 and 1988, Hezbollah took more than 30 Westerners hostage in Lebanon, among them, CIA station chief William Buckley, American University of Beirut President David Dodge, AP reporter Terry Anderson, American University of Beirut librarian Peter Kilburn, American University Hospital Administrator David Jacobsen, the Rev. Martin Jenco, a Roman Catholic Priest, and the Rev. Benjamin Weir, a Presbyterian missionary. Though most survived captivity — Mr. Anderson was held 2,454 days — some, like Buckley, were tortured to death.

On June 25, 1996, the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia was bombed, killing 19 U.S. Air Force personnel, and wounding more than 400.

All these terrorist attacks were perpetrated by Hezbollah operatives — trained, equipped and controlled by Iran. We have known that with absolute certainty since 1986, when I went secretly to Tehran, seeking the release of Americans held hostage in Beirut. Though the Reagan administration’s covert overtures to Iran remain very controversial, there is no doubt Tehran directed the capture — and eventually release — of Father Jenco and Messrs. Weir and Jacobsen.

For those who think this is all ancient history and Hezbollah is no longer a threat to the United States., consider that just last week, Iranian Hezbollah spokesman Mojtaba Bigdeli threatened to dispatch 2,000 operatives “to every corner of the world to jeopardize Israel and America’s interests.” He continued: “If America wants to ignite World War III… we welcome it.”

Idle threat? Not to the FBI. Two months ago, before Hezbollah attacks on Israel precipitated the most recent round of hostilities, the New York Post reported the group “may be planning to activate sleeper cells in New York and other big cities to stage an attack as the nuclear showdown with Iran heats up.” The threat was credible enough for the FBI to launch “urgent new probes in New York and other cities,” including Detroit, Los Angeles and Boston. The Post reported “about a dozen hard-core supporters of Hezbollah” were identified in New York City alone.

President Bush has repeatedly warned the Global War on Terror will not be short, cost-free or without losses. We can reduce our losses by knowing our enemies and acting against them. Hezbollah is surely such an enemy.

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist and the Host of “War Stories,” on the Fox News Channel. His special report on Hezbollah airs today at 8 p.m. EDT and PDT.

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