"We do not negotiate with terrorists!"
How many times have we heard statesmen so declaim, even as they worked
back channels to cut deals with the men with bloody hands with whom they publicly
refused, on principle, to negotiate?
FDR negotiated with Stalin, who conducted what historian Robert Conquest
calls "The Great Terror." Nixon went to Beijing and toasted Mao Tse-tung. Reagan
sent aides to Tehran, with Bible and cake, to arrange the release of U.S. hostages
held by the terrorist accomplices of Iran in Beirut. George W. Bush negotiated
a deal with Ghadafi, who engineered the Lockerbie massacre of Pan Am 103.
And Bush succeeded. In return for Libyan payments to the families of the
victims and Ghadafi renouncing his weapons of mass destruction, we lifted sanctions.
Ghadafi walked. Bush surrogates declared it a triumph. And, perhaps, rightly
From 2000 to 2004, Yasser Arafat was a terrorist pariah. Yet no leader
had spent more hours with President Clinton, and two Israeli prime ministers
shared a Nobel Prize with Arafat.
As scholar Michael
Vlahos has written, "terrorist" is a term used to stigmatize one's enemies
and justify a refusal to negotiate. Moscow calls the Chechen rebels terrorists,
India calls the Muslim resistance in Kashmir terrorist, and Americans are now
shunning Gerry Adams as a leader of IRA terrorists, though Adams was listening
to "Danny Boy" at the White House for every St. Patrick's Day in the last nine.
To end the Algerian terror war, Charles de Gaulle cut a deal with the FLN.
To end Vietnam, the United States negotiated with North Vietnamese who had used
mass murder at Hue in 1968 as a weapon of war. And so we come to the point.
If President Bush is committed to his democracy project – Let the people rule!
– he must risk a rise to power of Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon,
and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Or be judged a hypocrite. And it would
appear the White House has lately awakened to the implications of free elections
in the Middle East. While, in Ukraine, one man, one vote may mean Viktor Yushchenko,
south of Beirut it means Sheik Nasrallah.
Friday's New York Times must have jolted neoconservatives who cheered
Bush's second inaugural. "U.S.
Called Ready to See Hezbollah in Lebanon Role," read the startling headline.
"After years of campaigning against Hezbollah … as a terrorist pariah," wrote
reporter Steve Weisman, "the Bush administration is going grudgingly along with
efforts by France and the United Nations to steer the party into the Lebanese
"The administration's shift was described … as a reluctant recognition that
Hezbollah, besides having a militia and sponsoring attacks on Israel, is an
enormous force in Lebanon that could block Western efforts to get Syria to withdraw
That acceptance of Hezbollah is where Bush is headed was confirmed for
Weisman by an unnamed, appalled source: "'Hezbollah has American blood on its
hands,' an administration official said, referring to such events as the truck
bombing that killed more than 200 American Marines in Beirut in 1983. 'The administration
has an absolute aversion to admitting that Hezbollah has a role to play in Lebanon,
but that is the path we are going down.'"
Yet consider: While 241 Marines died in the suicide truck bombing at the Beirut
barracks in 1983, more died in the 1988 massacre over Lockerbie, approved and
funded by Ghadafi. If Bush can agree to Ghadafi's rejoining the international
community, upon what moral ground do we and he stand to deny recognition to
Sheik Nasrallah, who was only 24 when the Marines were killed and had no hand
Nasrallah did not take over Hezbollah until Israel's military killed the former
leader, Sheik Musawi, his wife, and his 3-year-old daughter by helicopter-fired
Hellfire missiles in February of 1992. Nasrallah was asked to lead by Iran's
With his enthusiasm for mass demonstrations, free elections, and majority rule,
President Bush has unleashed a whirlwind from which Hamas and Hezbollah may
be the beneficiaries. Nor does the president seem to realize that his embrace
of a political cause in the region has the effect of an endorsement by Ariel
"Why don't they realize that once America makes a case for something, the Middle
East will go in the opposite direction?" an Arab diplomat told Weisman. "Hezbollah
is a terrorist organization, but now its hand is strengthened by American opposition."
Political causes define themselves and advance themselves by choosing the
right enemies. In the 1940s, America defined herself as the implacable foe of
Hitler. In the Cold War, America's enemy was communism and the "Evil Empire."
That was moral clarity.
Unfortunately, in the Middle East, the way to advance oneself today is
to have as your enemy Israel or the United States of George W. Bush. And thus
does Hezbollah advance toward power in Lebanon.
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