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Springer Journal: I Have Been To Beirut ...

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PINEHURST, N.C. — I have been to Beirut many times. It was a beautiful and exciting city filled daily with tens of thousands of visitors from abroad that so greatly enjoyed the beaches, the dining, the nightlife, and the access to nature and history such as the Cedars of Lebanon. The citizens of Beirut and Lebanon welcomed these guests with a special flair.

I have also been to Israel and visited much of that great country. It was inspiring to visit the cities, the historic religious sites, the kibbutz' and the seashore. Here too, the foreign visitors were met with a special kindness, although security ... even in years past ... was an eye opener. Can you imagine a soldier with a gun slung over his back walking nonchalantly into a bank to conduct business? You won't see that in America, yet I saw that often in Israel. Security of their people has been a constant concern for Israelis.

I am deeply saddened to see Lebanon and Israel being torn asunder by war. The initial thrust by Hezbollah forces ... not Lebanese Army soldiers ... was the attack on an Israeli military patrol and the taking of two Israeli soldiers as hostages. What prompted Hezbollah, a state within the state of Lebanon, to provoke this horrific battle with their southern neighbor Israel? And who/what is Hezbollah anyway?

The Lebanese Parliament has 128 members of which only 18 are Hezbollah members. Hezbollah's power comes not from this token representation. Rather their power as a terrorist organization comes from Iran. Iran provides the funding, the weapons, and the training. And Syria provides at least tacit support by providing access and sanctuary to those providing weapons and other support.

While we may think it absurd, we should note that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has publicly declared that the Holocaust never occurred. He has also called for wiping Israel off the map. It is that fanatic Iranian leadership that is only too willing to provide money and weapons to the Hezbollah terrorists to attack Israel. Trust me, a terrorist organization such as Hezbollah does not have the resources or the capacity to build tens of thousands of rockets. Although these rockets are older and less accurate, they are coming from outside of Lebanon. They are coming from Iran.

The source of this current unnecessary conflict between Israel and Lebanon (read: Hezbollah) is the Iranian government led by Ahmadinejad. This is the same Iranian leader who has defied the United Nations and the European leadership regarding their nuclear weapons development program. This is the same guy whose government is actively engaged in supporting Shia militia and terrorists within Iraq. It is easy for Iran to ship suicide bombers and weapons across the long porous border between Iraq and Iran.

After nearly two weeks of shelling and firing rockets at each other, much of the Lebanese infrastructure is decimated. The Beirut airport, along with highways and bridges were key Israeli targets so as to inhibit the flow of military weapons from Iran and Syria. Israel is also enforcing an air and sea embargo restricting importation of key items such as oil. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Lebanese citizens have been forced from their homes and businesses and have become refugees. Once again the international community will be asked for billions to restore this country when ... if ... there is a cessation of hostilities.

Israel has likewise suffered greatly with a large portion of the northern Israeli citizens also forced to flee their homes and businesses. The nation's third largest city, Haifa, has been repeatedly struck by Hezbollah rockets. As of this writing they had not yet struck Haifa's oil refineries and petrochemical plants. However, should that occur it would not only dramatically cripple those industries, it would create an environmental mess. In Israel, as in Lebanon, there will be pleas to the international community for billions in reconstruction funds.

As we look at this latest of the dastardly things occurring around the world, let us focus on the source of the conflict: Iran. Without the considerable support from Iran, Hezbollah terrorists would not have the wherewithal, or the courage, to engage the vastly superior Israeli armed forces.

Iran is using the Hezbollah as a proxy in their hopes of destroying Israel. Iran, against the mandate from the United Nations, is proceeding with the development of nuclear weapons. Iran is heavily engaged in support of anti-coalition forces in Iraq. As serious as all of these actions are, they represent but one of the powder kegs waiting to blow up around the world.

It is past the time when the international community should recognize that Iran is a major player in the on-going global war of religious zealots who are undermining security, stability and economic progress around the world. It is also past the time when Americans fully appreciate the religious and cultural differences that separate those who worship life ... as opposed to those who worship a martyr's death.

Until these two cultural/religious divides are realized and somehow brought together peacefully, the world will remain a very dangerous place. I do not wish to be an alarmist, but we are engaged in a long struggle against a determined, fanatical enemy that wants to destroy our way of life. We simply must not let that happen.

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