Drugs, Propaganda, and the Party of God

The news is abuzz with Politico’s new article that claims that Obama derailed an investigation in alleged drug trafficking and money laundering done by Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Politico article linked above charges Obama with dismantling “Project Cassandra” in order to make the “Iran Deal” possible.

I would, from the outset, question the veracity of these claims, considering a lot of the content of the article is regurgitated from allegations made back in 2011 (when Obama was president).

Of course, as usual, a little bit of reasoning ought to put the official Politico story into question. Whether or not Obama put up roadblocks against investigations is something that I do not and cannot know, beyond what the media reports (even at the end of the Politico article, they seem to call everything they’ve just said into question).

However, I do have three points that show something is very wrong with the propagandists’ rendering of Hezbollah and the fundamentals of the organization.

hezbollah

Hope and Change

1.) Hezbollah is, at least partially, a religious-confessional organization. Hezb-Allah (the Party of God) is an organization that was established in the draw-down of Lebanon’s bloody civil war, fought mostly along sectarian lines.

Hezbollah emerged as the primary representative of Lebanon’s Shi’a (although slowly, due to the competition from the Amal Movement).

The Politico article seems to suggest that Hezbollah is receiving money from both drug trafficking and Iran, or, alternatively, both Hezbollah and Iran are receiving funds from drug trafficking. The article leaves the reader guessing.

On the face of it, that would seem a bit odd, considering mainstream Islam’s pretty tight restrictions on drug use. Indeed, both Hassan Nasrallah (the leader of Hezbollah) and Ali Khamenei (the Supreme Leader of Iran) have explicitly forbade the use of drugs.

Aren’t these people supposed to be so incredibly religious that they’re unreasonable and impossible to negotiate with? Isn’t that the main line of the propaganda against them: Amerikkka can’t “trust” Iran, because they’re insane religious extremists?

Like Iran could ever trust Amerikkka!

Someone has their propaganda mixed up. It’s a jumbled policy of “throw everything at them and see what sticks”.

If you want to say that the leaders are lying and that they’ll take money from drug trafficking, then clearly they’re pragmatists and can negotiate. If you want to say they’re religious fundamentalists, then there is no way that they’re getting money from the drug trade.

2.) The Politico article centers around the drug trade in Latin American and Africa, apparently through some key business traders who have been able to secretly fund some transnational anti-Amerikkkan network.

In the past, Hezbollah’s alleged drug trafficking enterprise has been linked to the so-called Tri-Border Area. The Tri-Border Area is along the borders of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. Supposedly accounting for a significant portion of weapon, drug, and human trafficking, the Tri-Border Area is notoriously mysterious, with very little reliable information regarding the market there.

TBA

It’s sort of a similar situation to North Korea, right? We don’t know anything, but everything we do know is bad and, therefore, we can extrapolate a lot of nonsense from that.

Apparently, every “terrorist” organization gets funding from the Tri-Border Area, if we’re to believe the reports. According the U.$. media and the U.$. government, both Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda receive funds from illicit trading through South America.

That seems a little strange, considering the war in Syria, where Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda are killing each other.

The Politico article does not directly mention the Tri-Border Area. It does, however, bring up the supposed “cocaine corridor” from South America up through Mexico, where the funds are not only apparently used to support Hezbollah, but also governments in Latin America that stand up against imperialism – Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

CocaineTrafficking

What’s the connection? Well, according to Politico, we can find it in the relationship between Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 10.14.56 AM

Another claim with absolutely no evidence!

Isn’t it interesting that according to “interviews and documents”, Hugo Chavez is also responsible for everything bad in the world. After all, Politico says that Hezbollah has “for decades” been engaging in “narcoterrorism”?

Why is it that all of the evidence that comes up in the article is from simple testimonies and anonymous sources if this is an unquestionable fact?

If Hezbollah gets all its funding from illicit sources, then why does it even need funding from Iran?

If Hezbollah is so ubiquitous on the black market, then why isn’t there hard evidence of such trading?

Why is everything just hearsay and word-of-mouth?

This brings us to my third point.

3.) All of the supposed linchpins in the Hezbollah-drug trafficking connection conveniently work with everyone the U.S. doesn’t like right now, according to Politico. They even have this other picture in the article to drive home their point:

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Three presidents who are way better than Trump.

The article is fascinating for who make up this apparent narco-terrorist network around the world. It seems to be a blend of Russians and Lebanese businessmen traveling around the globe in search of ways to fund Putin and Hezbollah.

Isn’t it all just so convenient!

At one point, the article basically celebrates when, in 2008, “the CIA and Israeli intelligence detonated a bomb in [Imad] Mughniyeh’s car as he was leaving a celebration of the 29th anniversary of the Iranian revolution in Damascus, Syria. He was killed instantly. ”

How is this treated unproblematically in this story about Hezbollah? This was pretty big news in 2015, after seven years of Israel and the U.$. denying responsibility for the murder.

The Politico article accuses Imad Mughniyeh, who was a Hezbollah commander, of the bombing of a U.$. military barracks (by a different organization) during the Lebanese Civil War. However, notably, there is very flimsy evidence on which to blame him of any of his alleged crimes.

Also, no one seems to question the presence of a U.$. barracks on the outskirts of Beirut during a civil war.

Luckily, we don’t have to regard anything in the text with much seriousness, because the idea of “objectivity” on any level is thrown out the window. The Politico article reveals its pro-Amerikkkan bias very clearly with the following paragraph:

“Meanwhile, Hezbollah — in league with Iran — continues to undermine U.S. interests in Iraq, Syria and throughout wide swaths of Latin America and Africa, including providing weapons and training to anti-American Shiite militias. And Safieddine, the Ghost and other associates continue to play central roles in the trafficking of drugs and weapons, current and former U.S. officials believe.”

That last line is the most crucial – current and former U.$. officials believe. What does that mean? No evidence. None. Zero. Zilch.

And what is Hezbollah’s real crime? The fact that it continues to “undermine” the U.$.

This isn’t about drugs or about the black market or about terrorism (or about some bizarre used-car money-laundering scheme in Benin).

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Really!?

This is about the fact that Hezbollah has stood up, time and time again, against U.$. imperialism.

Hezbollah has defended Lebanon from invasion by Israel. Hezbollah has defended Syria against terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al-Qaeda. And Hezbollah continues to defend the Middle East from the threat of Saudi and U.A.E. influence.

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How to Understand the Middle East

The most commonly (ab)used phrase in any discussion of the Middle East is, of course:

“Well, it’s a very complicated situation.”

This is almost always used to justify Israel’s brutal occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights and it usually follows some vaguely racist statement about Arabs. Something along the lines of “those (quasi-)people just don’t seem to want freedom, democracy, and peace.”

As though it was just a matter of cultural heritage to desire constant war and upheaval.

It seems to me that these past few years have been the most tumultuous in the recent era. The Arab Spring has spawned a wild transition from uncomfortable, repressive stability to uncomfortable, repressive instability.

If you’re an Egyptian, then you’ve already experienced 4 different quasi-functioning governments over the past three years – with exactly 100% of them conveniently resembling each other in backwards authoritarianism.

If you’re a Libyan, then you’ve witnessed the brutal murder of the former dictator and the fast descent of the small population of your rather large country into chaos between warring militias and small tribal statelets.

And if you’re an American, then you’ve probably understood none of it.

Many of my dear friends have asked me to explain situations in the Middle East to them in clear terms. I ought to preface this with the other most commonly (ab)used phrase in any discussion:

“I’m no expert, but…”

I’m no expert, but I do know how to make heads and tails of the situation(s), conflict(s), and war(s) throughout the Middle East. And there’s a very easy way to do this, although it requires a bit of time and patience.

STEP 1: Gathering Background Information

You have the internet. Use it.

I’m actually kind of surprised when people come to me with total ignorance about something like the war in Iraq or the Saudi royal family. With resources like Wikipedia and Google, you can pretty much find anything.

Wikipedia has a page on Hamas, Christianity in the Middle East, Hezbollah, Iran, Kurdistan, Algeria, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, The Druze, and Elvis Presley.

Don’t like reading?

Let me recommend this speech:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3I3ahtwrZE]

Don’t want to watch a speech?

Let me recommend some documentaries for you on Youtube: Once Upon a Time in Iran, American Radical, Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark, and Islam: Empire of Faith.

Don’t like documentaries?

Go watch Paradise Now.

If you’re looking for books about Middle Eastern history, you could read anything by Laury Silvers, Omid Safi, or Edward Said. Or you could read a book by Juan Cole, Hamid Dabashi, or Norman Finkelstein.

If you’re looking for books on modern politics, then you could read literally anything by Noam Chomsky about the Middle East.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jCLFWM6P60]

STEP 2: Ascertaining the Current Situation

Watching the news can be cumbersome, I know. Plenty of people have complained to me that it’s impossible to determine what’s happening at all. Given the state of the media today, who really knows what’s happening?

Here’s what you need to keep in mind: everyone’s agenda is usually easy to figure out.

Let’s just ignore most American news, because it’s almost all unreliable.

Al Jazeera is owned by Qatar and basically toes the Qatari line. It also appeals to mainstream Sunni Muslims. So when it comes to the media Al Jazeera produces, you need to read it with that lens in mind.

Press TV is owned by Iran. Ultimately, it serves as little more than Iranian propaganda, but occasionally has some really good material that you aren’t going to find elsewhere.

RT (standing for Russia Today) obviously represents the interests of Russia in the Middle East, but has had some really outstanding reporting on conflicts like Iraq, Israel/Palestine, and Libya.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are a couple of news outlets that are worthwhile in the U.S. – one of them being Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, which posts a roughly 10 minute video on Youtube every weekday going through world headlines.

You can spend 10 minutes every day learning about the world around you.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5AzbnNdeEA]

And since Democracy Now isn’t owned by any corporation or state, it serves as probably the single most objective news source out there.

STEP 3: Thinking

This is naturally the most difficult task of them all. But a natural skepticism towards information is probably the most important faculty you can develop with regards to the Middle East.

If someone tells you that Hezbollah in Lebanon is a terrorist organization, don’t take that as necessary fact. Read a book, watch the news, ask a Lebanese person.

I think the trickiest thing about our present situation is the fact that most Americans simply don’t know any Iraqis, Saudis, Iranians, or Egyptians. They can’t turn to their friend and say, “Hey, can you explain this to me?”

So instead, they choose to make wildly ridiculous statements like “Saddam has WMDs” or “Israel is defending itself” or “Arabs are just aggressive and hate freedom”.

Don’t do that.

Pause.

Think.

Maybe visit your local mosque, ask one of your Muslim friends, watch a Youtube video. You won’t get the whole story, but you may get some new insights with regards to the Middle East.

The Middle East isn’t quite as backwards, barbaric, or ballistic as it may appear.

And there’s no excuse for ignorance today.

Will you understand everything about the Middle East?

Well, I’m no expert and it’s a very complicated situation.

But this should help.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpcbfxtdoI8]