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Frank Gaffney on the assassination in Lebanon

Tuesday, November 21, 2006
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HH: That music means I am joined on this Tuesday before Thanksgiving by Frank Gaffney, president of the Center For Security Policy, also author of War Footing, and proprietor of the blog, www.warfooting.com. Frank, thanks for a great year of radio. I’m thankful for you, but I’m not thankful for what is engulfing Lebanon at this hour. Your assessment of the dangers there, the nature of this crisis?

FG: Well, Hugh, let me just say at the beginning, thank you for you and all you do for the country to keep this kind of information in front of people. What I make of it is that this is another in a series of very ominous developments brought to us, I believe, by not only of course the Syrians, most immediately, but by the Iranians, their puppet masters, and of course their other proxy, Hezbollah. And it indicates to me that what we’re beginning to see is the growing evidence of an emboldened axis of evil, if you will, witnessing the kind of changes that have taken place here in Washington, and drawing from it exactly the wrong lesson, exactly the lesson we wouldn’t want them to draw, namely that they are not likely to be resisted as they extend their influence, and threaten our friends and allies, and act out, I’m afraid, very destructive intentions against Israel, and ultimately, against us.

HH: Over at The Belmont Club, Wretchard, the analyst who writes there, has pointed out the obvious, that at the moment of our greatest strength in Iraq, the purple finger vote of January, 2006, Syria was so on the defensive that they actually withdrew, or the appearance of withdrawal, and freedom was on the march with the Cedar Revolution. But then, as we lost momentum throughout the Spring, and then as Israel failed to close and kill Hezbollah in its nest, and then as we turned left in our election, Syria is resurgent. And it’s exactly as could have been predicted, Frank Gaffney, and I believe you did.

FG: Yeah, I’m pretty sure there’s a long record here of predictions. It’s just common sense. And the tragedy is, we…I have a column in the Washington Times today about a wonderful speech that my friend, Pat Caddell gave down at David Horowitz’ event in Palm Beach over the weekend, in which he castigated the Republicans for having missed an opportunity during this election. Ironically, this Democratic operative castigating the Republicans for putting in charge people who don’t get it, and who likely are going to prove wildly incapable of dealing with the dangers that they don’t get. But the Republicans, he blamed, I think properly, for not having talked straight with the American people about the true character of this problem, allowing the war to be defined by the Democrats in terms of Iraq and Iraq alone, and leaving us in a position where we have emboldened our enemies, we have undermined, and I’m afraid, probably alienated our friends. And we’ve created a far greater danger than even the difficulties that we’re facing in Iraq at the moment.

HH: Now Frank Gaffney, to paraphrase Secretary Rumsfeld, you go to war with the Congress you’ve got, not the Congress you’d want. And the Congress we’ve got is left-leaning. I don’t think that deters. It certainly never deterred Ronald Reagan, it didn’t deter Richard Nixon when he had to wage the war in the close down of Vietnam the right way. Does the administration have the necessary strength to go right back at Syria now, and a caller said what do we do? And I said well, off-hand, you go to the Beirut Christians, and to the Beirut Druse, and to the Beirut Sunni, Lebanon Christian, Sunni, and you talk to the Israelis, and you talk to your friends in Iraq, and you say we’re going to push right back as quickly as possible. And if it means the confrontation that was postponed at the time of the invasion of Iraq, then it means that confrontation. But Assad has got to know he doesn’t get back in. Your reaction?

FG: Well, as we have talked about many times since the publication of our book, War Footing, I believe there’s a strategy there for going back at Syria, and for that matter, Iran, because just dealing with Syria alone isn’t an option anymore than dealing with Iraq alone is an option. You have to go after the regime in Iran. And there are techniques for doing it short of military action, that involve economic and financial techniques that involve political warfare, perhaps intelligence and covert action as well, but we’ve got to begin using these kinds of techniques as a matter of the utmost urgency. Short of that, we will find ourselves at war with these guys, an old-fashioned kind of war. And worst of all, to answer your question, I fear this administration, at the moment, is so riven, and so much under the sort of sway of the Jim Baker’s and their ilk who think that all will be well if only we try to appease the Syrians, and appease the Iranians by negotiating with them, that we are not going to see the administration acting. So the war will come to us at a time and under circumstances of the Iranians choosing, and that will be very messy indeed.

HH: Now let me ask you again, Frank Gaffney, though, is it possible that Iran, as was suspected with the Hezbollah-Israel war, felt that they were closing in on a confrontation, if not with the United States, with Israel, and thus, ordered up the diversion that Hezbollah is all to willing to facilitate? In this instance, the assassination of the 34 year old cabinet member, and the attempted assassination of a second cabinet member. Do you think you might find Iranian fingerprints here as well as Syrian?

FG: I don’t know how you can distinguish them anymore. I mean, the Syrian fingerprints are on an Iranian glove. Hezbollah’s DNA is all over both. It’s hard…I’m sure an intensive investigation will wind up with much the same sort of muddle that Hariri’s investigation has produced so far. And that’s partly because you’ve got intelligence operatives, I suspect, that are at work here, and they’re skilled at not leaving too many traces. But the point is, just as with the Iranian nuclear weapons program, you really have to be in a complete state of denial to ignore the unmistakable trends and direction and thrust of what’s happening here. And it serves the interests of Iran, it serves the interests of Syria, it serves the interests of Hezbollah, and it disserves the interest of freedom-loving people in Lebanon and a lot of other places. And that’s what’s so frightening, Hugh, is we’re looking at this thing play out in sort of slow motion. And unless and until we start going back at them, as you say, back at the terror masters, back at the people who are orchestrating these things, we’re going to find, I’m afraid, this mess getting much worse, and not confined to the Middle East, but coming to our own shores once again, and in probably a much more lethal way.

HH: Last night, I attended a lecture down in Orange County at Temple Bat Yam, where I believe you’ve lectured, Frank Gaffney, by Bernard Lewis.

FG: Yes.

HH: And it’s one he’s given before, I believe. It concludes either we free them, or they kill us. And he’s a wise and an old guy, and you know, a lot of people think that’s just the old guy talking. I don’t think it’s age. I think it’s experience.

FG: It is. Look, he’s recalling, in a way that very few of us can, certainly from first-hand experience, the last time that the West was in a similar state of denial, and allowed a despot to say pretty much the same sorts of things about genocide, and destroying the free world, in the hope that he really didn’t mean it, or in any event, he really couldn’t pull it off, only to discover themselves caught up in a conflagration that Bernard Lewis sees coming again. I fear I do as well unless we act, and act swiftly on a war footing kind of program. Hopefully, there’s still time to do it without having to use military force against the Iranian regime, perhaps the Syrians. But the time is getting short, and may not be avoidable.

HH: Frank Gaffney, Happy Thanksgiving.

End of interview.

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