updated 7/31/2006 12:43:29 PM ET 2006-07-31T16:43:29

Guesst: John Murtha, Arye Mekel

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  The Mideast violence rages on. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The condition in our country is very bad, harsh. 

ANNOUNCER:  Hezbollah rockets shatter northern Israel as Israeli forces pummel southern Lebanon with deadly accuracy. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re fighting for our existence in our country, nothing else. 

ANNOUNCER:  But has Israel lost the fight for world support?  And can these two leaders stop the bloodshed before this border conflict becomes a worldwide crisis? 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  My goal is exactly what I said it was, making sure there‘s a lasting peace, not a fake peace. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Now from Limassol, Cyprus, here‘s Tucker Carlson. 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the show. 

Another day of conflict and violence throughout this region.  Back in Washington, D.C., President Bush addressed it, speaking directly about Hezbollah. 

Here he is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  They‘re trying to evoke sympathy for themselves.  They‘re not sympathetic people.  They‘re violent, cold-blooded killers, who are trying to stop the advance of freedom.  And this is the calling of the 21st century, it seems like to me, and now is the time to confront the problem. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  We‘ve got NBC correspondents around the region tonight. 

We begin in Haifa, Israel, with NBC‘s Peter Alexander. 

Peter, what‘s happening there? 

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Tucker, good evening to you.

It is the end of day 17 here, Friday night, the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath across Israel, the day of rest, and yet still there is no rest for the weary fighters on both sides.  Today, with a volley of rockets going one direction, artillery strike going the other, the major headline coming out of this part of the world today, Tucker, was the fact that at least three new weapons, new rockets landed in Israel today, going as far as any rockets had gone in the first 17 days of this conflict. 

This rocket landed near the town of Afula.  That is about 30 miles deep into Israel.  Nobody was hurt.  At least three of them landed in a field. 

It is called the Khaibar 1 by Hezbollah, commonly known to others as the FAJR-5.  It was significant for a variety of reasons.  First of which, this is a new Iranian technology that was used, and this new technology can go further than the FAJR-3 rockets that had been used before, the rockets that Hezbollah had been hailing toward this port city of Haifa. 

This rocket can go roughly 44 miles, which means wile it cannot it the city of Tel Aviv, it can hit a wider range of cities throughout Israel.  So northern Israel alone may no longer be the only targeted area here. 

It also confirms what Israel—what Israel had told the United States before, which is that Hezbollah had access to this rocket.  It is unclear right now exactly how many of the FAJR-5 rockets they have, believed to be in the dozens as opposed to the hundreds.  The strikes today did not hurt anybody, landing in a field not too far from the Israeli air force base. 

The other element that was interesting there to report is that it can carry a payload of about 220 pounds of explosives.  Israeli police bomb squad members are still analyzing the evidence they collected today.

As for the rocket attacks across northern Israel today, there were more than 110.  That means for the course of this entire conflict, there have been roughly 100 or so every single day, very little letup.  A few casualties on this side. 

No one was killed.  There were, however, seven people hurt, Tucker.  One of the sites that was hit was a hospital in the city of Nahariya.  That hospital was playing host to about 450 people at the time, but to be was on the top floor, the floor that was hit, and as a result, no one in that hospital was hurt—Tucker. 

ALISON STEWART, MSNBC ANCHOR:  All right.

Peter Alexander, in Haifa, Israel, it‘s Alison Stewart.  I‘m going to take it from you there.  Apparently we‘re having some technical difficulties with Tucker on location. 

We‘re going to try to work that out for you, but we will continue on with the program and go now to Tyre, Lebanon, where NBC‘s Richard Engel is based. 

Richard, tell us what‘s been going on in Tyre. 

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Things have been much more—much quieter in Tyre, but we went earlier in the day with—in a convoy to deliver aid to a village right along the border with Israel, the village of Hermash (ph).  And as a convoy of about 40 vehicles set off, many of them journalists, some taxis and some ambulances, we drove south and then—and then headed due east along the border. 

We could hear Israeli artillery strikes—artillery fire going over our heads.  Eventually, we arrived behind the Israeli front line into this village. 

It‘s a small Christian village that has been overrun by all of these surrounding villages in the area.  About 20,000 people are living in Hermash (ph), and the situation is just one of desperation. 

They talked about running out of food and water.  They are drinking from an irrigation reservoir, where we could smell the rotting garbage in this—in this putrid water. 

Many people are living in the basement of a church, and we went down there with one of the only four doctors living still in this village, and most of the children were sick, many of them have diarrhea, and there‘s not any re-hydration powder, so there is a growing medical crisis in this town. 

Then, as we left—and we had throughout the journey tried to coordinate with the Israeli military, giving them our coordinates as we went—as this convoy exited the village, we were hit by something.  It was a mortar shell, perhaps.  It landed about 200 yards from our vehicle.  No one was killed, but it did cause two vehicles to swerve off the road and crash into some stones.  Three people were lightly injured. 

The Israelis say they were not firing mortars at the time.  It‘s unclear who fired the shell—Alison.

STEWART:  And Richard, you said there were three people who were lightly injured.  Those who were injured at this point, do they have anywhere to receive treatment? 

ENGEL:  Yes.  They have been—they were evacuated to a local medical facility, others were brought back here to Tyre. 

So the danger is, once you get—the danger is moving out of the area.  Once you get to a major city like Tyre, I wouldn‘t say the supplies are unlimited, and they are running low, according to medical personnel, but this city is still connected and supplies are running back and forth between Tyre and Beirut.  It‘s from Tyre further south that is the real issue, as we found out today. 

STEWART:  Richard Engel reporting from Tyre, Lebanon. 

Please take care, Richard. 

And I believe we have worked things out, so I‘m going to toss this show right back to the man for whom it‘s named, Tucker Carlson, in Cyprus. 

Hi, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thanks, Alison. 

Richard Engel is one brave reporter, if I can point out the obvious. 

Well, the evacuation of Americans from the city of Beirut, Lebanon, has all but basically ended today. 

NBC‘s Kerry Sanders was there as the final ship pulled out. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Tucker, more Americans getting out of Lebanon today.  The U.S. Embassy putting out the final word that there was one last ship.  Five hundred Americans showed up, got on board, and they‘re now sailing to Cyprus. 

This ship really wasn‘t initially planned, but the U.S. Embassy looked, realized they had one more ship that they had contracted, why not bring it in.  They did.  Americans got on board. 

It‘s estimated now there is about 15,000 Americans still left in this country.  The U.S. Embassy has done what they call a mandatory order to evacuate.  So the Americans who are left here now are pretty much on their own.  They can call the embassy to try to get some help, but if they want to leave, it may be much more difficult.

And at the airport, more C-130s, more cargo planes from Jordanian air force landing and taking off.  They‘re bringing in humanitarian supplies and then flying out the most seriously wounded—Tucker. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  Kerry Sanders in Beirut.

Thanks, Kerry.

Well, in the midst of all of this, you may have forgotten about another conflict in the region, Iraq.  Plans announced today to bring 5,000 new U.S. troops there.  Congressman Jack Murtha joins us in a minute with his response to that.

Plus, the power struggle between Hezbollah and al Qaeda.  They don‘t love each other.  Is that good for the U.S. or bad? 

We‘ll tell you.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Coming up, with no sign of a cease-fire, is there an international backlash growing against the state of Israel?  Ambassador Ari Amakel (ph) will join us in a moment with Jerusalem‘s perspective.

That‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I‘m as determined as ever to continue fostering a foreign policy based upon liberty.  And I think it‘s going to work, unless we lose our nerve and quit.  And this government isn‘t going to quit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.

It was reported today the U.S. plans to move at least 5,000 new troops to Iraq and forestall the coming home of some number of thousands more.  They thought they were coming back to the United States.  Now they‘re not.

Good idea or not?

Joining us now, Congressman Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania.

Congressman, welcome.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  Well, thank you very much, Tucker.

CARLSON:  I can imagine that you‘re opposed to this.  You‘ve been pretty clear about your position on Iraq.

My first question to you, though, is do you believe other Democrats who oppose this will have the courage to say so in public, or will they stay silent, do you think?

MURTHA:  Well, it‘s always a concern when a commander asks for more troops.  And you can‘t argue with what General Casey wants.  But my argument right along has been, we‘re an occupying force, we need to end the occupation.  It hasn‘t worked at all. 

When President Bush just visited Iraq, not—just recently, he said we‘re going to have a crackdown.  It‘s gotten worse.  It‘s gotten worse every day. 

More troops does not necessarily mean it‘s going to get better.  There‘s no military solution to this problem, and that‘s—that‘s the thing that we keep—there‘s a limitation of military power, and that‘s why I‘m so concerned about more troops, plus the fact that they‘re keeping troops there that should be coming home. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  Well, but they‘re—and I—I think you make a really solid point, actually, but there is a political solution to this problem, there has to be in the United States domestically.  And for the situation to change, for our foreign policy to change, political pressure has to be brought to bear on the people making our foreign policy, and it should come from the opposition party, your party, and it‘s not coming from your party because many members are too afraid to say anything. 

And isn‘t that kind of contemptible?

MURTHA:  Well, Tucker, they‘re pretty—they‘re pretty vicious in their attacks, and some of the members don‘t want to put up with those attacks—or some members don‘t understand the situation or are willing to sit back.  But we have to put enough pressure on to make this administration change course. 

It has not worked.  Everything from the fact that there was no al Qaeda connection, there was no weapons of mass destruction in the first place, and then the military solution didn‘t work.  And the more military force we used, just by its very nature, when you go into a place and you blow—blow buildings up and you kill people, you make enemies.  And then you have untrained people like we had in Abu Ghraib.

You‘re going to have the reaction—for instance, I just saw a poll in Lebanon now where 80 percent of the people, Christians and Shias, support the Hezbollah.  Now, these are the kind of things that happen when you use military force and expect that to be the ultimate solution.  That just does not work. 

CARLSON:  But wait, Congressman.  With all due respect, you just said a moment ago that a lot of members who oppose the war in Iraq and additions of new troops to the theater aren‘t saying anything about it because they fear being criticized by the White House, or they haven‘t taken enough time to learn about the subject. 

That‘s a pretty amazing thing to say, that they‘re so cowardly and afraid of being criticized that they‘re shirking their constitutional duty to weigh in on the most important issue of our time?   That says a lot, all of it bad, about them, doesn‘t it?

MURTHA:  You‘re right about that, Tucker.  And every poll I‘ve seen shows the American public is way ahead of the Congress, Republicans and Democrats.  And you‘ve seen less and less Republicans supporting this administration, you‘ve seen more and more Democrats starting to speak out.

So I think you‘re going to see—because its getting worse, it‘s very difficult for this administration now to admit they‘ve made all these mistakes.  They should have done that in the first place.

They should have held somebody accountable.  Probably the worst thing about this, they hold nobody accountable.  They promote people that should have been held accountable. 

CARLSON:  You just said a second ago that the—that the military operations Israel is waging in Lebanon aren‘t a solution, and yet there is a tendency in the United States to squelch any divergent views on this subject.  I‘ll give you an example. 

The head of your party, Howard Dean, head of the DNC, the other day called the new prime minister of Iraq “an anti-Semite” for criticizing Israel‘s military offensive in Lebanon.  How can you have a rational conversation about it if people like Howard Dean are running around calling other people anti-Semites for having views that are different from his? 

MURTHA:  Yes.  Well, I think we have to lower the rhetoric and start talking about substantive answers. 

For instance, I can understand why the secretary of state would like a long-term solution, but I think you have to look towards a cease-fire as soon as possible.  Just what I heard you saying earlier about people being killed and the desperate situation some people are in, I think all of us want a cease-fire.  I think the United States wants a cease-fire, but we have to have a diplomatic effort with Syria, a serious diplomatic effort, serious with Iran, because obviously they‘re the ones behind this whole thing. 

Then, Israel is going to be in the same position we‘re in, in Iraq.  They‘re going to have problems justifying overwhelming military force.  And there‘s going to be a backlash, and this is part of the problem. 

I understand why Israel went in trying to destroy Hezbollah.  Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.  I understand that.  But sometimes it‘s counterproductive.

So I think they‘ve made their point, and now we have to really go after this diplomatically.  And one the problems is, all the polls show that we‘ve lost so much influence diplomatically in the Middle East. 

CARLSON:  Yes, I mean, I understand Israel‘s point of view, too.  I would have done the same thing.  I think they were completely justified, and Hezbollah started it. 

But what do you think the effect on the United States is?  We have interests in this region, we‘re paying for a lot of the military hardware being used in this conflict.  How does this affect us?  That‘s a fair question to ask, isn‘t it? 

MURTHA:  Yes.  And I think it does affect us.

I think—I think every military action in the Middle East affects us, and I think that‘s why it‘s so important to have a more diverse diplomatic effort.  A political and diplomatic effort is what‘s going to solve this thing in the long run.  The fighting back and forth in the short term is not going to be the solution. 

In Iraq, we‘ve become the occupiers, and we‘ve got to end the occupation in Iraq, and that‘s part of the problem, because as we go on and make a continual military effort, which I support using military force to protect Americans—in other words, overwhelming military force.  But that makes enemies, Tucker, and that‘s the thing we have to worry about, and Israel has got the same problem.

And I agree with you.  I can understand if we had somebody like that on the Mexican border, we‘d sure go after them.  But there comes a point where there‘s limitation of military power and then people turn against you. 

For instance, they say let‘s try to shore up the Lebanese government.  Well, 80 percent of the people, Christians and Shias, support the Hezbollah effort.  So you can‘t shore up a government unless you have public support, and that‘s—and that‘s part of the problem. 

CARLSON:  What do you think of this administration‘s larger goal, bringing democracy to undemocratic places in the world?  Is that—is that a noble goal?  Is it worth spending American lives to bring that—to make that goal happen? 

What do you think of that? 

MURTHA:  Well, let‘s look at what happened with the democratic process. 

They brought democracy to Iraq.  And what did the Iraqi prime minister say? 

He condemned Israel and didn‘t condemn Hezbollah. 

What happened with Hamas?  They had a democratically elected leader, and he‘s going after Israel.

So, democracy in itself doesn‘t solve the situation.  And I think it‘s idealistic but it‘s unrealistic to think that you‘re going to solve these problems just by saying the word “democracy.”

You have to have the support of the people, not only in the country itself, but in the surrounding areas.  And I think that‘s—that‘s what we‘re beginning to lose with the military action which is happening if Iraq, and the fact that we have become the occupiers. 

CARLSON:  Well, Congressman, do you think potentially—could you imagine a situation where we had an autocracy, really an unfree country, not a representative government, that was pro-American?  Wouldn‘t that be better than a democracy that was anti-American, from our point of view? 

MURTHA:  I think none of these things happen overnight.  And I think that all of us would like to see democracy.  But we have to have stability.  That‘s the thing we need in the Middle East. 

These resources, we need the—the free world needs stability there to have access to those resources.  So there‘s no question about it, to have somebody friendly to us is more important with a stable government.

And so, it‘s idealistic to think we can have democracy, but it‘s proven.  Just like when they asked the president of Russia, he said, “What about democracy?  Wouldn‘t you like to have democracy like Iraq?”  He said, “I don‘t want an Iraqi-type democracy.”

Well, all of us know it‘s not working in Iraq.  It‘s just a name in itself.  And they‘re protected by us, and the occupation itself is fueling and enlisting people to fight against us, and this is part of the problem.  So democracy by itself doesn‘t solve the problem. 

CARLSON:  Congressman Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania, thanks a lot for joining us today.  I appreciate it.

MURTHA:  Nice talking to you, Tucker.  Be careful. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Congressman.

Well, of all the perspectives we‘ve heard on this current conflict in the Middle East, there‘s one we haven‘t told you about.  That, of course, is the rapper‘s perspective on the war in the Middle East.  We‘ll bring that to you in “Beat the Press.”

That‘s next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

As we‘ve been here in the Middle East for the last two weeks covering the conflict, our producers back at home have been covering the coverage of the conflict for “Beat the Press.”

Our producer Anthony Terrell joins us now with what he‘s found today—

Anthony? 

ANTHONY TERRELL, MSNBC PRODUCER:  Hey there, Tucker. 

First up on “Beat the Press,” our friends over at the FOX News Channel. 

Yesterday on “Your World With Neil Cavuto,” they pulled out all the stops.  And by all the stops, I mean, they turned to their A-list guests when it came to covering the crisis in the Middle East. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL CAVUTO, “YOUR WORLD WITH NEIL CAVUTO”:  Well, stay out of it.  America should not be involved in the Mideast war at any level, at any time, even diplomatically.  That is what my next guest says.  Luke Campbell, formerly of the hip-hop group 2 Live Crew, is now a businessman, a very successful one at that, and entrepreneur. 

Good to have you. 

LUKE CAMPBELL, FORMER MEMBER, 2 LIVE CREW:  Hey, thank you. 

CAVUTO:  And so you‘re saying just get out.  What do you mean? 

CAMPBELL:  Yes, I‘m saying—I mean, you know, I think when you look at it, I mean, when have we—you know, this country benefited from war? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TERRELL:  Luke from 2 Live Crew on the Middle East?  Come on.  What‘s coming up next?  MC Hammer on North Korea? 

Now, look, I have some Luke material on my iPod.  “Doo Doo Brown” is a work of genius.  But what‘s not genius is asking Luke about the Middle East. 

Next up, a love-fest over on CNN.  Now, it‘s typical in television to have anchors do a little bit of what we call crosstalk, casual chitchat, but Paula Zahn and Larry King took it to a whole new level.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAULA ZAHN, “PAULA ZAHN NOW”:  Coming up just about 11 minutes from now, “Larry King Live.”  But he is going to give us the privilege now of talking to him, so we can get a little preview of what he‘s doing tonight. 

Hi, Larry. 

LARRY  KING, HOST, “LARRY KING LIVE”:  It is my privilege, dear. 

ZAHN:  Oh, thank you.  I bet you say that to all your fellow anchors. 

KING:  No, no.  Just you, dear. 

ZAHN:  OK.  That‘s special.  Thanks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TERRELL:  Yuck.  “It‘s my privilege.”  No, you stop.  No, you stop. 

Seriously guys, please, stop. 

And finally, a look at some local news right here in New York, FOX 5.

Hosts Jodi Applegate was doing a segment with two brothers who, after having their bikes stolen countless times, decided to see just how easy it is to steal a bike.  I guess it‘s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye... or doesn‘t.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you look closely, you can see how it goes right through.  And you have to be very careful... ah!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Cut it out!  Cut it out!  Stop that!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I‘m just kidding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Wait a minute.  Stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m fine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You stop!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m just kidding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No!  No!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s OK.  I was just kidding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, stop.

Make him stop.  Make him stop.  No, no, no, no.

We were trying to do a serious thing here, and this is not funny. 

Do not be upset.  There are children.  That was not funny.  That was totally uncool.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TERRELL:  Jodi, that was cool.  That was funny.  They got you with the Ketchup, admit it. 

How would you like to “Beat the Press”?  If so, give us a call and tell us what you‘ve seen.  Operators are standing by. 

The number is 1-877-BTP-5876.  That‘s 1-877-287-5876.

Now let‘s send it back to Tucker in Cyprus. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Anthony. 

Here‘s the most depressing fact of the week.  This conflict is turning Hezbollah into folk heroes in the Middle East.  Is the whole war turning the tide of public opinion worldwide against Israel?  We‘ll tell you when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Still to come, will conflict in the Middle East spark a war between Hezbollah and Al Qaeda?  And if so, what could it mean for United States and its interests and your safety?  All that and more when we come back.  But first, here are your headlines. 

(STOCK MARKET UPDATE)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Seventeen days into this conflict -- 17 days of pounding in southern Lebanon by Israel—Hezbollah is still throwing rockets over the border into port cities like Haifa.  What will Israel‘s response be?  Is the bombardment working?  Joining us now, Israel‘s counsel general in New York, Arye Mekel. 

Ambassador, thanks for joining us.

AMB. ARYE MEKEL, CONSUL GENERAL OF ISRAEL IN NEW YORK:  Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  What is your response to the news today that Hezbollah has apparently used rockets it‘s never used before, rockets with a longer range?  Will this prompt a different, more dramatic response by Israel? 

MEKEL:  We are not surprised.  You know, this is what terrorists do.  They threaten to send more rockets.  But we are continuing with our operation according to schedule.  As you know, with some ground forces in south Lebanon, with the air force in various Hezbollah locations throughout Lebanon.  By the time this is over, they will not be able to do any of that anymore. 

CARLSON:  Do you really believe, though, that you can disarm Hezbollah without invading and occupying the entire country?  I mean, the last 17 days suggests that‘s going to be a pretty tall order.  Wouldn‘t it just be smarter to hurt Hezbollah sufficient that it doesn‘t want to attack Israel anymore?  Do you really need to disarm them? 

MEKEL:  We want to disarm them according to the U.N. Resolution 1559.  There might be another resolution coming up with a similar order.  But yes, we want to create a situation that they will be so weak, that they will not be able to do it, and they will not be anywhere near our border.  These are our goals, and we are continuing on schedule.  I‘m confident that we will achieve these goals. 

CARLSON:  The idea that is floating around, I believe, pushed by Israel pretty strongly at this point of a two kilometer-wide buffer zone, a 1.2-mile wide zone on the Lebanese side of the border where nobody would live, is confusing to he me. 

Of course, Hezbollah could still fire rockets from deeper inside Lebanon, so it wouldn‘t protect you from rocket attacks.  And more to the point, a lot of Lebanese live right up against the border.  I‘ve seen their villages.  Would you just kick them out and not let them return?  How would that work exactly? 

MEKEL:  No, the idea is just to have it—if we have it, it will just be a temporary measure until an international peacekeeping force will arrive.  And the idea is, of course, if there‘s no Hezbollah in that area or anywhere near it, they cannot enter Israel, they cannot kidnaps the soldiers, et cetera.  But certainly, we want to have them a lot further than that.  I mean, if anything, we want them to be a lot further than the two kilometers. 

CARLSON:  Yes, and of course, they would have to be, because the rockets go a lot farther than that.  But what about the people who live there?  As I said and as you well know, there are a lot of Lebanese villages right up against the border.  I mean, right on the border.  We saw a bunch of them.  Would all those be evacuated, and where would the people go? 

MEKEL:  We have no dispute with the people of Lebanon.  We have no dispute with these farmers or villagers.  And I‘m sure once there‘s no more war, everything can be worked out.  But we don‘t want to see any Hezbollah people around there, and this is what we are now achieving. 

CARLSON:  Right.  Well, that‘s certainly understandable.  And your concern about Hezbollah‘s popularity must be profound.  With all the indications over the last two weeks that Hezbollah, which was initially pretty unpopular with a lot of Sunni Muslims, as you know, is now far more popular than when this began.  Maybe that‘s inevitable, but does it concern you? 

MEKEL:  I don‘t think that this is true.  I‘ve seen some reports.  I don‘t this is true.  I think that the Lebanese understand very well that Hezbollah is bringing about the destruction of their country.  This was supposed to be the best tourism summer in Beirut in 20 years, and look what Hezbollah brought upon them. 

I find it very hard to believe that anybody in their right mind would think that Hezbollah would now be popular, all of a sudden.  I don‘t see it...

CARLSON:  Well, I agree with you, it doesn‘t make sense.  But I don‘t think there‘s any question that it‘s true.  There‘s no question.  Every single person we talk to in Lebanon, including Christian people who didn‘t like Hezbollah at all, said, “Look, I don‘t like Hezbollah.  I don‘t agree with their aims, but I‘m starting to become sympathetic towards them because if you ask me to choose between Hezbollah and Israel, I‘m going to chose Hezbollah.”  I mean, it may be sick, it may be wrong, but it‘s also happening.  Does that bother you? 

MEKEL:  Well, maybe they think that this is what they should tell the media.  Maybe they‘re afraid for their safety.  I find it hard to believe that Christians, Sunni Muslims, and Jews will all of a sudden fall in love with Hezbollah, who‘s bringing about the destruction of their own country. 

CARLSON:  Right at the very beginning of this conflict, there was indication that a large number of Arab governments, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, notably, were really sympathetic to Israel because they fear Hezbollah and they recognize that Hezbollah started this whole business.  Are they still on your side, do you think, two and a half weeks into this? 

MEKEL:  Certainly they are.  These Arab countries, which are all Sunni Muslims, are all afraid of Iran.  Their big scare is Iran.  They know that Iran is Shiite country, is using Hezbollah as a proxy to try and destabilize the entire Middle East. 

Certainly, these Sunni governments have no special desire for Iran to succeed.  And I think that they are very much—they all want to see a destruction of Hezbollah.  They want to see an Israeli victory.  They may not be able to say it in so many words, but this is what the moderate Arab regimes want, and they‘ve almost said it in so many ways. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  Well, good for them.  Now, Israel has said today that it had no interest in fighting directly with Syria, and that strikes me as a little bit unfair, because Israel‘s claim is Syria is behind Hezbollah.  It sounds true.  And yet, many Lebanese people have nothing to do with Hezbollah are suffering because of this war.  Wouldn‘t it be a lot more fair to take the warfare to the source, as you describe it, Syria?  Why not attack Syria?  Why go after the proxy, Lebanon? 

MEKEL:  We don‘t want to attack Syria.  You know, Syria has always worked by proxy.  Most people didn‘t notice it, but while everything was going on in the Middle East in the last 32 years, one thing that was never affected was the Israeli-Syrian border.  It‘s hard to believe, but since 1974, not one Israeli or Syrian soldier was killed on the Golan Heights border. 

So this is how the Syrians were always working.  We have no interest of enlarging this war.  We said from the beginning, we see the government of Lebanon responsible, and this is where we are focusing.  But again, not even against the government of Lebanon, against Hezbollah, in order to rid that country of this cancer.  They‘ll be much better off when this thing is over. 

CARLSON:  Well, I appreciate your perspective.  Thanks a lot, Ambassador Mekel.  Thank you. 

MEKEL:  Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Many have said—many analysts who follow this for a living have suggested that the current war in the Middle East is causing strains, maybe profound strains, between Al Qaeda and Hezbollah.  Will this war cause a war between those two groups, and if so, will it be good for us?  MSNBC terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann joins us now from New York to tell us. 

Evan, welcome.  What do you think?  What does this mean for the relations between those two groups? 

EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Well, certainly we‘ve seen these two groups, which in the past had something of a relationship, really, that relationship over the past decade or so has taken a nose dive.  And it has taken a nose dive even more so in the last, really, two years or so given the conflict in Iraq, where we‘ve seen Sunnis, led by Al Qaeda, pitted directly against Shiites. 

And not just against Shiites, but against the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps, which many would call the small cousins of Hezbollah in Iraq, now maybe the large cousins of Hezbollah in Iraq.

And so, looking at that and looking at the words that Zarqawi had for Hezbollah right before he was killed—very critical of Hezbollah, very critical of Hezbollah‘s role, in his words, of protecting the Israeli border from Al Qaeda attacks. 

So yes, I mean, we‘ve seen conflict within Lebanon itself before between Sunnis and Shiites.  There are Al Qaeda cells right now in the Ein el-Hilwa refugee camp in south Lebanon.  Those folks are extremely anti-Shiite. 

If they get involved in fighting against Israel, there is a potential that these two groups could themselves clash and themselves fight, the same way with what we‘re seeing right now in Iraq. 

CARLSON:  Well, let‘s—Evan, this is a question that is so surrounded by and really embedded in politics.  It may be hard even to know the answer.  But the question is this.  Hezbollah is, in my view, an evil group with repugnant aims and tactics.  But are they a direct threat to the United States and its citizens in the way that Al Qaeda is?  I don‘t know the answer.  Do you?

KOHLMANN:  Well, look.  I think capability-wise, they certainly had the capability to strike at the United States in a devastating way, a way maybe even worse than 9/11.  That being said, it‘s largely a question here of not capability, but intent. 

Hezbollah has had the capability to strike at the United States for years.  It has not taken that opportunity, not even once, not here inside the United States.  And really, for over a decade, Hezbollah has been absent from targeting the U.S. overseas. 

So does Hezbollah really have an interest in striking at the U.S.?  Hezbollah is a pragmatic group.  They are a very traditional terrorist group.  They have a centralized leadership; they have a hierarchical leadership.  They have training camps, they have resources, they have bank accounts.  They have a lot to lose if they take on the United States directly, and so do their state sponsors. 

You were just talking about Syria, but Syria is not alone.  Syria and Iran both have very much to lose should Hezbollah get involved in a direct confrontation with the United States.  And they will make sure that such a confrontation does not happen. 

CARLSON:  And we would have to a lot to lose.  Look, Hezbollah is evil.  But there are a lot of evil groups in this world.  This world is brimming with evil groups and evil people.  And fighting with them all at once doesn‘t benefit the United States.  Should we want a war with Hezbollah? 

KOHLMANN:  I don‘t think we want a war with Hezbollah.  I think Hezbollah is a group that will never be our friend.  It will always be our adversary.  It will always be a group that we have to watch very carefully.  But that being said, it does not have an apocalyptic view of its relationship with the United States. 

There are leaders within Hezbollah, very senior leaders, that understand the concept of co-existence, that understand the concept that Israel is not going anywhere.  And despite their propaganda—and their propaganda is pretty vicious—I think Hezbollah is a lot smarter than Al Qaeda. 

They have a much more future-oriented approach, and they actually represent a real political entity within Lebanon, the Shiites.  There are a lot of Shiites that are sympathetic to Hezbollah, not because it‘s a terrorist group, not because of the fact that they have military weapons, but because they represent Shiites within Lebanon, a minority that has been historically underrepresented. 

CARLSON:  But now, a very large minority, 40 percent of the population. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Right.  So they have also built enormous must hospitals.  We saw one of them.  So you‘re describing a group that is far closer to, say, Saddam Hussein than to Osama bin Laden.  Which is to say, this is a group that has—again, for the third time—evil intents and evil tactics, but still has something to lose.  You can understand what they want, and what they‘re not going to do. 

KOHLMANN:  Let‘s also be very clear that this is a sectarian group.  This is not a group that has a large pan-Islamic appeal.  This appeals directly to Shiites and Shiites only.  Any Sunnis that are sympathetic to this group, that‘s in ideological terms only because of Israel. 

There are very few extremist Sunnis who are supportive of Hezbollah.  In fact, most extremist Sunnis call Hezbollah, instead of the Party of God, they call it the Party of Satan.  So yes, you‘re not seeing a tremendous amount of sympathy. 

CARLSON:  Let me ask you a very quick question, then.  I don‘t know if you heard the conversation I had with Ambassador Mekel.  I think he‘s a very smart person, as most Israeli diplomats are.  However, you have to wonder why Israel isn‘t more concerned that this fight against Hezbollah could ultimately make Hezbollah more popular with Sunni extremist groups and further unite the lunatic groups against Israel? 

KOHLMANN:  I don‘t think that‘s so much of a concern.  I think what the real concern is that overall—that the violence going on right now in Lebanon will push Sunnis, regardless of Hezbollah, will push Sunnis to carry out acts of violence against Israel entirely independent of Hezbollah. 

Again, let‘s not forget, there are Al Qaeda cells in south Lebanon that are independent of Hezbollah, that hate Hezbollah, and that have already carried out a terrorist attack against Israel.  Back last December on behalf of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, they launched rockets over the border into Israel, the same thing that Hezbollah is doing now. 

So I think that‘s the real concern.  The concern is that Al Qaeda will start up a franchise in Lebanon the same way that they‘ve started up a franchise in Iraq.  And I think that same concern also applies to the Gaza Strip, that the idea that Al Qaeda might set up terrorist cells there to strike directly at Israel. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right, every one of the wars, 1948, ‘56, ‘67‘, ‘73, ‘82, this one, all of them, have unintended consequences that nobody can know.  It‘s scary.  Evan Kohlmann, thank you very much.

KOHLMANN:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Coming up, the Red Cross delivering supplies to war-torn Lebanon.  Not as easy as it sounds.  In fact, a dangerous job.  We‘ll have that story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  The war in the Middle East has sent more than half a million people fleeing from their homes for their lives.  Refugees now, many of them hungry, some of them sick.  International aid agencies are trying to get into southern Lebanon to attend to their needs, but in some cases, they‘re finding it very dangerous.  NBC‘s Kerry Sanders is on the scene in south Lebanon with this report. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  10:15 a.m., Red Cross volunteers in Beirut review their route south.  Thirteen minutes later, the mercy run isare underway.  Limit their exposure, only 15 volunteers in three ambulances and a minivan will evacuate the most critically wounded from Tyre. 

Past bombed out bridges, craters, overnight damage.  The team leader on this run, Commando, everyone‘s codename, to conceal religious background and to protect the apolitical mission of the Red Cross. 

SANDERS (on-camera):  Do you feel safe right now? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  I don‘t know. 

SANDERS (voiceover):  The Red Cross is supposed to be untouchable. 

But to prevent mistakes of war, Commando radios movements back to base.  Back channels give the Israeli military our position.  Two hours 28 minutes on mountain roads and byways.  We‘re now on the edge of the most violent battlefield. 

The team puts on its protective gear, and so do we.  Before we leave, a man rushes his unconscious wife to the Red Cross.  It‘ll take a doctor back in Beirut to diagnose her problem. 

2:20 p.m., we‘re finally in Tyre.  The goal, extract six critically wounded from the hospital, including 9-year-old Samah Ahid (ph).  She was playing when a bomb exploded.  Her mother asks, “Why, Israel?  Does she look like a soldier?” 

Doctors say Samah has deep shrapnel wounds to her chest, arms, hands, feet, and legs.  One fragment perforated her small intestine.  For Commando, it‘s gut wrenching.  He has a 9-year-old daughter.  He‘s not seen her since the war began.  His family is hiding in the mountains. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I want to ask Israel, I want to ask Hezbollah, I want to ask everybody.  Why? 

SANDERS (on-camera):  And yet here‘s a little girl.  She may survive, but her life will never be the same, will it? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  It‘s the war.  It is a war.  It‘s a big war. 

I don‘t know. 

SANDERS (voiceover):  Doctors say this has been a good day.  Only eight wounded brought into the hospital.  The busiest day so far this war, 71, in a hospital that has only two operating rooms. 

Because the Red Cross is unable to get more ambulances in, the director of the hospital says 21 patients here who should be evacuated will spend another night here.  Convoys with dozens of ambulances are on hold after this attack.  Miraculously, three patients and the Red Cross crew survive the Israeli missile strike. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All you see is the body armor and the helmet.  If we didn‘t use it, we are dead.

SANDERS:  The 28-year-old Hassim (ph) was at the back loading gear when the missile hit. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Like this, I hear just boom, and I‘m down. 

SANDERS (on-camera):  So when you see this, it doesn‘t scare you? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  No.  You know, my name is Commando.  I am not afraid for myself.

SANDERS:  You earned that nickname for a reason. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

SANDERS:  But it‘s a war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, it‘s a war. 

SANDERS (voiceover):  A war that‘s turned a banker into a volunteer Red Cross lifeline.  7:18 p.m., the wounded arrive at Beirut General Hospital.  Doctors say 9-year-old Samah will survive, but not without a painful recovery and scars she‘ll carry the rest of her life. 

Kerry Sanders, NBC news, Beirut. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  It‘s hard to believe we‘ve been here for two full weeks as of tonight.  When we come back, highlights of our journeys through this region.    

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  This is our final show from the Middle East tonight.  We‘ve been here for two full weeks, which is a full week longer than we expected.  But you can‘t control these things.  We wound up doing this show from four different cities.  We‘ve ridden on an American helicopter, a French transport ship.  We‘ve landed at a British military base. 

We‘ve seen destruction on both sides, and people were kind to us wherever we went, even with they were terrified.  We‘ve interviewed Israeli soldiers as they fired munitions over the border into southern Lebanon.  We‘ve interviewed Hezbollah leaders he in bombed-out south Beirut. 

We found, in both cases, judgments were harder to make than we thought.  Hezbollah, which I‘ve long despised and still do, and probably always will, I have to say, in the interest of honesty, were pretty nice to us when it came right down to.  I have a distinct pro-Israeli bias.  I think, again, I always will. 

But we have attempted in the last two weeks to be as fair as we possibly can, knowing that most people caught up in wars—and this is no exception—don‘t have a political agenda.  They just happen to be there, often in the wrong place at the wrong tile. 

The one thing we‘ve noticed about covering wars, it reminds you you‘re not in control of our own life.  That may be one of the reasons people pray so much in the Middle East.  They know the end could come at any time.  That‘s something we‘ve been reminded of.  Thanks for tuning in these last two weeks.  We‘ll be back at headquarters Monday.  Hope to see you then.  Good night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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