Although the president’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, led an unsuccessful effort in October to persuade European leaders to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group, the man President Barack Obama has chosen to lead the CIA hasn’t always been convinced the label fits. Brennan argued from 2006 to 2010 for a more permissive view of the Iran-backed Lebanese militants best known in America for bombing a U.S. Marine barracks in 1983.
In an August 2006 C-SPAN interview, Brennan said the second-deadliest terror organization in U.S. history should be understood not as a thoroughly evil force, but as a “complex” organization with a “social and political nature.”
“Americans throughout the country really have to have a better sense of what’s going on in the world,” Brennan said in that interview, “because world events affect our lives whether we live in Washington, or we live in Indiana, or in California. And unfortunately, sometimes there is an unsophisticated understanding of some of these challenges.” (RELATED: In graduate thesis, John Brennan argued for government censorship: “Too much freedom is possible”)
“For example … it would be nice to be able to put Hezbollah in a category of being totally evil, but Hezbollah as an organization is a very complex one that has terrorist arm to it. It has a social and political nature to it as well.”
“You can’t divide the world into good and evil,” Brennan continued. “There is a lot of good out there that tends to be camouflaged along with the evil. What we need to do as a government and a people is to really have a better appreciation of the needs and the challenges that people throughout the world face.”
Hezbollah, a dominant Shiite group in Lebanon, claimed responsibility for the Oct. 23, 1983 truck bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 members of a U.S. peacekeeping military force. The attack marked the deadliest single day for the U.S. military since the beginning of the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam.
Earlier that same year, a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed 63 Americans in a blast that leveled portions of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.
But Brennan’s remarks on C-SPAN, along with others he has made since then, suggest the Obama administration’s top spy will see America’s Middle Eastern foes in a different light.
“Though Brennan has made relatively few public statements, these should be understood as coming from Obama’s ‘counterterror brain,'” Center for Security Policy Strategic Communications Vice President David Reaboi told The Daily Caller. “The massive strategic blunders, empowering Islamist groups around the globe, are right in line with Brennan’s worldview and almost certainly emanate from his office.”