ACCORDING TO a pair of Gallup polls released last week, 83 percent of Americans say Israel is justified in taking military action against Hezbollah, while 76 percent disapprove of Hezbollah's attacks on Israel. Yet when asked which side in the conflict the United States should take, 65 percent answer: neither side. Indeed, 3 in 4 Americans say they are concerned that the US military will be drawn into the fighting, or that it will increase the likelihood of terrorism against the United States.
Gallup's numbers suggest two things. First, that most Americans, sizing up the warfare in northern Israel and southern Lebanon, recognize that Hezbollah is the aggressor and that Israel is fighting in self-defense. And second, that most Americans believe this fight has nothing to do with the United States.
Welcome to Sept. 10.
For years Osama bin Laden had preached that it was ``the duty of Muslims to confront, fight, and kill" Americans. His adherents had responded by blowing up the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and slamming a boat laden with explosives into the USS Cole. Yet most Americans paid no attention to Al Qaeda and its threats -- until 3,000 people lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
Has nothing been learned from that experience?
Hezbollah's barbaric assault on Israel -- kidnapping soldiers who weren't engaged in hostilities, firing waves of missiles into cities and towns, packing rockets with ball bearings designed to maximize suffering by shredding human flesh -- is part and parcel of the radical Islamist jihad against the free world. Nothing to do with the United States? It has everything to do with the United States. Hezbollah hates Americans at least as implacably as Al Qaeda does, and rarely misses an opportunity to say so.
``We consider [America] to be an enemy because it wants to humiliate our governments, our regimes, and our peoples," railed Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, at an enormous rally in February 2005. (Video of Nasrallah's speech, which was broadcast on Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV, can be seen at www.memritv.org.) ``It is the greatest plunderer of our treasures, our oil, and our resources. . . . Our motto, which we are not afraid to repeat year after year, is: `Death to America!' "
And from tens of thousands of Hezbollah supporters came the answering cry: ``Death to America! Death to America! Death to America! Death to America!"
These are anything but empty threats. Prior to 9/11, Hezbollah was responsible for more American casualties than any other terrorist organization in the world. Among its victims was Army officer William F. Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut who was abducted by Hezbollah in March 1984 and who died after 15 months in captivity of torture and illness.
And the young Navy diver Robert Stethem, singled out during the 1985 Hezbollah hijacking of TWA Flight 847 and brutally beaten before being shot to death.
And William Higgins, a colonel in the Marine Corps and commander of the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, who was seized by Hezbollah in February 1988, tortured, and eventually hanged. As Michelle Malkin noted last week, the tape of Higgins, bound and gagged and swinging from a rope, was one of the first publicly disseminated jihadi snuff films.
And the 241 Marines murdered by Hezbollah on Oct. 23, 1983, when a suicide bomber drove a truck rigged with 12,000 pounds of TNT into their barracks at the Beirut airport.
And the 19 US servicemen killed in the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.
For more than two decades, Hezbollah's Shi'ite fanatics, backed by Iran and sheltered by Syria, have made it their business to murder, maim, hijack, and kidnap Americans with the same irrational hostility they harbor for Israel. Yet when Tony Snow, the Bush administration's gifted spokesman, was asked July 19 whether the president believes ``that this is as much the United States' war as it is Israel's war," he answered, ``No," and then tried to change the subject. A moment later the question returned: ``I don't think you really answered the part about why is this not our war?"
Snow's incredible reply: ``Why would it be our war? I mean, it's not on our territory. This is a war in which the United States -- it's not even a war. What you have are hostilities, at this point, between Israel and Hezbollah. I would not characterize it as a war."
9/11, it was said time and time again, ``changed everything." No longer would Americans walk around with eyes wide shut, oblivious to the threat from the Islamofascists. Not our war? Listen again to the Hezbollah hordes: ``Death to America! Death to America!"
They're serious about it. Why aren't we?
Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.