By CLIFFORD D. MAY
Slowly and with difficulty, America’s military is learning to fight the armed conflicts of the 21st century. Slowly and with difficulty, we also are learning to fight a modern war of ideas.
A battle was won last week when the U.S. Treasury Department designated Hezbollah’s al Manar satellite television operation as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist organization. By prohibiting transactions between U.S. entities and al Manar, and freezing any assets al Manar may have in the U.S., this designation gives the government the tools it needs to cripple al Manar’s internationally broadcast incitements to terrorism.
The Coalition Against Terrorist Media (CATM) worked long and hard to achieve this result. An organization assembled by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, CATM includes Christian, Muslim, Jewish and secular groups and individuals _ American and European.
It also is bipartisan, working closely with Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., as well as Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Tom Lantos, D-Calif., Robert Wexler, D-Fla., Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., and Mike Pence, R-Ind.
CATM has briefed more than 800 government officials and private sector executives in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. The result: At one time, al Manar was broadcast by nine satellite providers. Following CATM’s campaign, only Egyptian-owned NILESAT, and Saudi-owned ARABSAT continue to spread the terrorist station’s poisons in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
The number of multinational corporations advertising on al Manar also has decreased. CATM estimates it has denied al Manar no less than $2 million in advertising revenue to date.
Al Manar officials tried hard to convince U.S. authorities that its broadcasts are an exercise of free speech and therefore deserving of protection. But Treasury wisely concluded that al Manar is not merely the Islamist version of CNN or the Christian Broadcasting Network. Rather, al Manar is Hezbollah attempting to hide behind a corporate veil. Al Manar, said Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey, is an "entity maintained by a terrorist group" and therefore "as culpable as the terrorist group itself."
Actually, Al Manar’s principle financial backer is the Militant Islamist regime in Iran _ which also finances, arms and controls Hezbollah, the terrorist group that has killed more Americans than any other, except for al Qaeda. The station serves as propagandist and surrogate for both Hezbollah and Iran’s radical mullahs.
Al Manar has been used by Hezbollah for operational surveillance, terrorist recruitment and fundraising. It calls on Muslims to volunteer to go to Iraq to suicide-bomb American soldiers. It encourages viewers to compensate the families of suicide bombers, even providing bank account numbers in which to deposit money.
If you’ve never viewed al Manar’s programs you’ve missed a singularly vile experience. In one al Manar video, the Statue of Liberty transforms into a ghoul dripping blood as a narrator menacingly intones: "America owes blood to all of humanity." On al Manar, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah calls for "Death to America!"
Viciously anti-Semitic, al Manar ran the infamous "dramatization" of Jews slitting the throats of children and draining their blood to use in holiday baked goods.
For more than a quarter century, terrorists have attacked Americans _ in Tehran, Beirut, Khobar, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, the Red Sea and eventually in New York and Washington. Only since that last atrocity, have Americans begun to seriously fight back.
For more than a quarter century a war of ideas also has been raging. The West largely ignored the incitement emanating from Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other extremist regimes.
But finally, and with great effort, we are learning how to fight a war of ideas. By acting to block al Manar’s salvos of terrorist incitement, Treasury has defended America and other free peoples as surely as if it had disarmed a suicide bomber.
"We have made the Reich by propaganda," the Nazi leader Joseph Goebbels once boasted. Contemporary totalitarians intend to achieve a similar result. Last week, that goal was placed a little further from their reach.
(Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.)