US Congress right to get tough on terrorists’ despicable tactics

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US Congress right to get tough on terrorists’ despicable tactics

While Americans are enjoying the best economy in decades and the media is preoccupied with election predictions and global intrigue, the US government was actually somewhat productive over the last week. The Senate passed two bills that will enable the government to further target terrorists with sanctions and secondary sanctions, and the Department of Justice included Hezbollah among a list of transnational criminal organizations that will be receiving extra attention. Terrorism may not be a top priority for Americans these days, but the US has not forgotten about the global scourge of terrorism.
 
The “Sanctioning the Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act” would impose sanctions on members of Hezbollah and Hamas that use civilians as human shields. It would also create sanctions against foreign states that support Hezbollah and Hamas. This despicable tactic used by terrorists means they hide behind civilians, sometimes in schools or hospitals. As a result, militaries confronting the terrorists are unable to destroy them without potentially harming civilians.
 
For years, Israel in particular has been facing this dilemma during military engagements with Hamas in Gaza. Israel has used two tactics predominantly: It has announced via loudspeakers and dropped flyers in Arabic declaring an intention to bomb a certain location at a certain time. Israel claims that it hopes to persuade civilian population to flee, thus leaving the target with only terrorists. Of course, the civilians do not always flee, and the terrorists can hear and read the warnings equally well.
 
The US has been preoccupied, but it has not forgotten the devastation that terrorism causes, so Congress should be commended for passing two anti-terror bills.
Ellen R. Wald
 
When terrorists are willing to launch rockets or build bombs from behind the ill and the young, the terrorists are ultimately responsible if those innocents die. Nevertheless, liberal societies truly anguish over innocent dead. In the US, when American bombs accidentally killed civilians during the War on Terror, it garnered considerable media attention. Sometimes, it seemed that the accidental deaths of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq received more attention than the deaths of American service men and women. Maybe that is the way it should be. We should mourn the loss of innocent death with special fury.
 
Appropriately, with the passage of this new bill, the Senate decided that the US must do more to punish the terrorists that use human shields. The human shield bill received bipartisan support at a time when it seems there is little on which Democrats and Republicans can agree. One half of the Senators co-sponsored the bill, showing just how easy it is for Americans to agree that the practice of using human shields is despicable and Hezbollah and Hamas have evil intentions. The House of Representatives will soon vote on a similar proposal, and it is widely expected that a new law targeting the use of human shields will be in place soon.
 
The Senate also just passed another anti-terrorism bill, again with bipartisan support. The “Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2017” specifically targets Hezbollah, as its name suggests. It has already gone through the House, so all it requires now to become law is the signature of President Donald Trump. When it becomes law, it will sanction governments that support Hezbollah’s armed activities, as well as sanction anyone who assists Hezbollah’s fundraising or recruitment. The law will also impose new sanctions on Hezbollah itself, and require the US government to further monitor the terrorist group.
 
Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday announced the creation of a new task force to fight “transnational organized crime.” It will initially focus on four Central American gangs and drug cartels as well as Hezbollah. The task force will ideally help to curtail the massive drug trade facilitated by Hezbollah. The group’s crimes beyond terrorism must be stopped, and the disruption of its drug trade should also hamper its terrorist activities and its power in the Middle East.
 
The US has been preoccupied, but it has not forgotten the devastation that terrorism causes. Seventeen years ago, it was in lower Manhattan; five years ago, it was in Boston; and, less than a year ago, it was again in lower Manhattan, when a Daesh-inspired terrorist killed eight and injured 11. The US Congress, which rightly receives plenty of condemnation at home, should be commended this time.
 
  • Ellen R. Wald, Ph.D. is a historian and author of “Saudi, Inc.” She is the president of Transversal Consulting and also teaches Middle East history and policy at Jacksonville University. Twitter: @EnergzdEconomy
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