Michael Totten

Hezbollah Doesn't Have Wings

A few weeks ago Britain decided to unfreeze “diplomatic relations” with Hezbollah, and the nonsensical phrases “political wing” and “military wing” have been used to describe the Iranian-backed militia ever since. Britain now says it’s okay to meet with members of Hezbollah’s “political wing” while maintaining the blacklisting of its “military wing,” but these “wings” don’t exist in any meaningful sense. If Hezbollah were actually two distinct entities with separate policies it might make sense for British diplomats to do business with one and not the other, but that’s not how Hezbollah is structured. Of course Hezbollah’s fighters and members of parliament aren’t the same individuals, but Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah is the leader of the entire organization.
The Obama Administration knows better. One U.S. official “wants Britain to explain”:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/13/world/middleeast/13diplo.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=hezbollah&st=cse “the difference between the political, social and military wings of Hezbollah because we don’t see the difference between the integrated leadership that they see.” “The US does not distinguish between military, cultural and political wings of Hezbollah,” “another U.S. official said”:http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=1&id=16071, “and our decision to avoid making such a distinction is premised on accurate available information indicating that all Hezbollah wings and branches share finances, personnel and unified leadership and they all support violence.”
Christopher Hitchens published “a compelling piece in next month’s Vanity Fair”:http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2009/05/christopher-hitchens200905?printable=true&currentPage=all wherein he compares and contrasts two rallies he attended in Beirut in February — one commemorating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, and the other commemorating the assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mugniyeh last year in Damascus.
“Try picturing a Shiite-Muslim mega-church,” he wrote of the Hezbollah rally, “in a huge downtown tent, with separate entrances for men and women and separate seating (with the women all covered in black). A huge poster of a nuclear mushroom cloud surmounts the scene, with the inscription OH ZIONISTS, IF YOU WANT THIS TYPE OF WAR THEN SO BE IT! During the warm-up, an onstage Muslim Milli Vanilli orchestra and choir lip-synchs badly to a repetitive, robotic music video that shows lurid scenes of martyrdom and warfare. There is keening and wailing, while the aisles are patrolled by gray-uniformed male stewards and black-chador’d crones. Key words keep repeating themselves with thumping effect: shahid (martyr), jihad (holy war), yehud (Jew). In the special section for guests there sits a group of uniformed and be-medaled officials representing the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Was the Mugniyeh rally staged and attended by Hezbollah’s “political wing” or its “military wing?” It doesn’t make any difference. The question doesn’t even make sense because Hezbollah doesn’t have wings.
Matthew Levitt at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy points out the absurdity of this kind of hair-splitting. “The European Union,” “he wrote”:http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC06.php?CID=1257, “has not yet designated any part of Hezbollah — military, political or otherwise — although it did label Imad Mughniyeh, the late Hezbollah chief of external operations, and several other Hezbollah members involved in specific acts of terrorism.”
The European Union thinks the “military wing” of Hezbollah isn’t a terrorist organization, even while declaring its deceased commander Imad Mugniyeh a terrorist. How can a terrorist commander’s lieutenants and other subordinates not themselves be terrorists?
“Read the rest in Commentary Magazine”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/60662.