The New York Times published today a lengthy investigation of the Lebanese Canadian Bank and its ties to Hezbollah. More than serving as a hub for Hezbollah’s money-laundering and funding purposes, the bank, investigators say, is part of a web of Hezbollah operatives and Lebanese businessmen from Africa to South America who are integrally involved with the South American cocaine trade.The story is a fascinating read — more akin to a spy thriller than journalism. It sheds light on suspected Hezbollah operations in Lebanon — including the purchase of 740 “pristine” acres of land on the Lebanese Mediterranean coast, the “richest” land sale in Lebanon’s history — as well as how the organization funds itself through friends like Iran and Syria but also through direct control of the flow of drugs from Africa and South America to Europe and the Middle East.If the Times is correct, Hezbollah — the champion of Shia Muslims, the perennial underdog in the everlasting fight against the West, the savior as it claims of so many poor Lebanese, ostensibly a devoutly religious organization with an enormous social welfare program, to say nothing of course of leading the noble cause of resistance to the “Zionist entity” to its south — is nothing more than an international criminal and terrorist organization with its dirty fingers in the global trade in weapons, drugs, conflict minerals, and illegal diamonds. Ill-gotten money is often spent in Lebanon for the good of Lebanon’s Shiite community and supporters, yet this money also fills the pockets of the cartels in South America, cocaine dealers in Africa, weapons smugglers, illegal diamond dealers — the scum of the earth, in every way.Hezbollah has arguably never been so powerful as it is today. For years, its influence in Lebanon has increased. It owns members of parliament, powerful businessmen, vast tracts of land, various businesses (legitimate and not so legitimate) — and that’s just at home in Lebanon. It has ties to the Syrian and Iranian security services — that much we knew. But now we know that Hezbollah operatives and friends also live abroad, in places like Benin and Colombia, facilitating and even directing the illicit trade in cocaine and diamonds. Money flows in from abroad, churns through the Lebanese banking system (“a banking industry that, with secrecy to rival the Swiss, forms the backbone of Lebanon’s economy”), and emerges clean as a whistle. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is a state within a state, operating with impunity; indeed, no force in Lebanon — political or military — can rival it. Abroad, Hezbollah is a criminal enterprise that compares in scale to the Italian mafia of old or the South and Central American cartels.A powerful criminal enterprise, a known terrorist organization; a political party, social welfare overseer, religious institution — Hezbollah is all of these. Its power in Lebanon is unrivaled. Its wealth is enormous. Its global illicit operations largely unknown and uncontested. And many in Lebanon consider this monstrosity a force for good.To the Treasury and DEA, Via Meadia says good luck: Hezbollah’s global operation is the toughest of nuts to crack. In Lebanon we hope that one day Hezbollah’s admirers will see the organization for what it really is, and that the social programs it runs can one day operate under the aegis of a stable and peaceful Lebanese state instead of a terrorist organization.In the meantime, people puzzled by widespread American popular support for Israel need to take a long hard look at Hezbollah. Over and over again, the most vitriolic enemies of Israel turn out to be hypocritical slimeballs: think of Butcher Assad, Hezbollah’s close ally and patron next door. At the same time, there are reports that Iranian and Venezuelan diplomats plotted cyberattacks against US targets including nuclear power plants. Israel’s enemies are determined, unscrupulous enemies of the United States as well, and as long as this is so, public opinion is going to see Israel as an embattled ally worthy of support.