On PBS With Charlie Rose, Former Time Reporter Whacks Israel

There’s absolutely no doubting where The New Yorker magazine has come down on the War on Terror – it’s been there from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib to insist the anti-terrorist side is full of human rights abusers. Former Time reporter Jon Lee Anderson is the latest New Yorker correspondent on the bandwagon, finding Israel has completely mucked up Lebanon and Hezbollah. PBS gave him a platform on the July 31 edition of "Charlie Rose."

MRC intern Eugene Gibilaro transcribed the exchange. Rose asked simply where "we are in this war," and Anderson was quick to whack Israel: "It’s a scene of devastation in a lot of the places and people coming out, old people, you know about Qana yesterday, the dead children. A fundamental error of the type that often happens in these air wars where inevitably, a refuge full of women and children gets killed and sort of wrong-foots the warring party, in this case Israel, with the preponderance of the military might."

In response, he said, "We saw Prime Minister Siniora, a moderate, come out in public with the political ally of Sheik Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, and give his blessing in essence to Hezbollah...And so bottom line, I would, right now if I had to call it, I would say that politically anyway, Hezbollah has been strengthened in this country even if its military infrastructure may be in some disarray and its physical infrastructure down on the border is being destroyed."

Charlie Rose at least noticed Hezbollah was an aggressor: "Can you imagine circumstances in which Hezbollah would except a ceasefire and would stop raining the missiles onto Haifa and other places?"

Anderson said it’s hard to second-guess Hezbollah, but "if it continues to feel itself strong and public opinion is going its way, it might decide to go for broke for the idea of the heroic resistance. I’m guessing that it is ultimately a pragmatic rather than a messianic movement, but that’s a hunch. You know, war is a bit like a virus that’s in a laboratory bottle and if you open the cap, it can mutate, it can go in different directions, which is why I said what I said earlier about Hezbollah. A single event can cause people and movements to change in certain ways and it can affect the course of history: in this case the life of this country and the course of the war that Israel is pursuing against Hezbollah to eradicate it. At the moment here many people here are saying, and it may be a thing of the moment that they feel they need to say, but on the other hand it is an emotional response. They’re saying, ‘I hate Hezbollah, but I support it." And this has to do with their feeling I think of emasculation, of grief, of despair at seeing not only their countrymen being killed, but also the infrastructure of this country being ruined. You know, all the foreigners have left, the bridges, the refinery down the coast smoking, there’s an oil slick on the coast, everything that they were rebuilding after 15 years after the civil war ended is now, they feel they’ve been taken back another 15 years."

Charlie Rose then suggested: "It is said that you have here this conflict two parties: Israel and Hezbollah who both believe they have everything to gain by continuing the fight."

Anderson then began explaining the Hezbollah publicity line: "Yes, I also heard someone say the other day that they felt that it was a mutually strategic miscalculation. This sort of way it escalated tit for tat. Hezbollah didn’t expect Israel’s overwhelming response. Israel didn’t expect that the degree to which Hezbollah would be able to fight back and the kind of weapons it had in its arsenal. In the minds of Hezbollah and its supporters, this is proof that their presence was necessary, that Israel’s overwhelming response, or exaggerated response is proof of its true nature. That is of this warring state that every few years attacks, destroys, and in which they are the only line of defense because the Lebanese Army is passive, is incapable of doing anything."

Charlie Rose then read from Anderson’s article and how he interviewed a Hezbollah strategist, and "you conclude a number of paragraphs later, ‘Hezbollah has embedded itself deep within Lebanese society, in effect creating a state within a state, with an extensive social service network. Even if Israel manages to dislodge Hezbollah’s fighters, Nasrallah will most likely remain the most powerful politician in the country in part because the chaos of the last weeks has exposed the weakness of the government.’ If that’s true, hasn’t Hezbollah won this conflict so far?"

Anderson agreed, and underlined that it was yes, another Vietnam quagmire for Israel: "I would say in terms of the psychological war, yes. It has. The only way I think to truly weaken Hezbollah is probably to kill Nasrallah. He’s a very charismatic leader and I have no doubt that’s what Israel hopes it can do. He’s a very charismatic leader, deeply popular amongst his core. You’re talking about a movement that has had quite a few years to suffuse itself with its camp followers, with its families, with its people to create an ethos which goes beyond that which is normally understood. You know, it’s not merely a religious thing, it’s a very comprehensive kind of relationship and it cohabits with the state in way that is not easily understood in the West: on the one hand with parliamentarians, ministers, and this very charismatic Sheik. On the other hand, with social services, businesses and so forth, and than a militant underground and a guerilla network on the border. It’s quite an unusual situation. I don’t think its one that we’ve seen exactly before. And as all military men know, you can’t ever truly defeat militarily a guerrilla movement unless you kill everyone. It just doesn’t happen because it’s what’s in the minds of the people. It’s not about a conventional army that it’s fighting for territory or position; it’s about what’s in people’s minds. And unless you change people’s minds, you can never win over their hearts and minds. Remember the phrase from Vietnam, or more recently from Iraq. And undoubtedly a very powerful man today, Sheik Nasrallah."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis