Ted Bell, author of best-selling thrillers and a favorite of Glenn Beck, is written off by some folks as a paranoid nutcase — usually by the same left-leaning folks who consider Glenn Beck a paranoid nutcase. So when you find Bell’s (and Beck’s) assertions on a matter of national security being backed up by the far-left outlet MSNBC, well, Houston, we have a problem.
I read Bell’s novel Spy a few months ago. While some of the plot twists and some technological details struck me as over-the-top, Bell’s descriptions of Hezbollah training camps in the South American jungle sounded vaguely familiar. My curiosity was piqued to search out how much of it might actually reflect reality. Some better-informed readers may be shaking their heads at my naivete, but I was shocked when a Google search turned up a mountain of information on the topic, including a couple of very good — and frightening — articles on MSNBC’s website, of all places, showing that Bell’s basic premise was not far-fetched at all.
Hezbollah has bases all over Latin America, but especially in the ultra-remote area where the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet. The Tri-Border Area, or TBA, is one of the most lawless regions in the world, and is the Latin American “headquarters” of Hezbollah — the center of its fundraising operations as well as its terrorist training camps. The illegal arms trade flourishes in the TBA, assisted by over 100 illegal airstrips. The TBA has been Hezbollah’s launching pad for terror cells all over the Americas, including the one that destroyed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1992, and a Buenos Aires Jewish community center in 1994.
The Tri-Border Area could also be the launching pad for terror attacks on the U.S. — the scenario in Ted Bell’s page-turner that is all too great a possibility in real life, according to U.S. officials.
It doesn’t help matters that Mexico has been virtually taken over by half a dozen warring drug cartels, whose internecine violence is beginning to spill over into the U.S. The larger threat from the cartels’ power, however, may come from the fact that Hezbollah is now intertwined with drug-trafficking organizations, or DTOs, all over Latin America. Commerce in illicit drugs is a cash cow that funds the founding of new terror cells and the training and armament of existing ones. Because South American Communist groups such as the Colombian guerrillas of the FARC also deal in drugs and weapons, Hezbollah has become allied with them as well. The terrorist network allegedly receives training from Cuban military advisors, in camps located in Venezuela, with the approval of Hugo Chavez. Indeed, the U.S. has intercepted shipments of explosives and unmanned aerial vehicles from Iran en route to Venezuela.
The working partnerships amongst Hezbollah, drug cartels and Communist revolutionary groups combine to form a huge national-security threat, right in our backyard, that most Americans are unaware of. The author of a very thorough article in the Small Wars Journal about Hezbollah’s South American operations wrote, “This is a little examined topic with no academic experts. There are a couple of scholars who are Hezbollah experts, but none specialize in Hezbollah’s actions in South America.”
A population breakdown from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement staging facility in Florence, Arizona, dated April 15, 2010, includes detainees from Afghanistan, Egypt, Ghana, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Sudan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Yemen and many other countries. According to the Department of Homeland Security, federal law enforcement agencies detained 791,568 deportable aliens in fiscal year 2008 – and 5,506 of them were from 14 “special-interest countries” — i.e., “countries that could export individuals that could bring harm to our country in the way of terrorism.”
Next: What we need to be doing to break up those bad actors, and start starving Hezbollah’s financial networks. As noted in the Small Wars Journal article, Hezbollah depends on a lawless environment to operate freely, and “will be rejected in environments with a rule of law and a monopoly of force, and go broke.”