Part of the Problem

In case you think that our State Department is right in viewing the terrorist horror in America as a great opportunity to push for a fine agreement between Israel and her peace partners, consider this: Just a few hours before our assault on the Taliban, the Voice of Palestine, Yasser Arafat’s official radio station, “informed” its listeners that the FBI had discovered that Israel was behind the September 11th mass murder in New York and Washington, and had arrested several teams of Mossad agents.

This is the sort of thing that Arafat always says to his own people in Arabic, and gainsays when he talks to us in English. Remember that the Palestinian Authority threatened violent reprisals against any news organization that broadcast pictures of Palestinians dancing in the streets upon learning about the events of September 11th. It tracks perfectly with his two-track policy on terrorism: simultaneously training and supporting terrorists, and lamenting their excesses when it serves his purposes to pose as a moderate. It’s an old story, but our diplomats have never wanted to accept it, because the consequences are fatal to their dreams of negotiating yet another treaty and staging yet another historic handshake.

In his great book on Communist Romania (Red Horizons), Ian Mihai Pacepa, the former chief of Ceausescu’s secret intelligence service recounts his conversations with Arafat about the deadly terrorist group headed by Abu Nidal. It turns out that Abu Nidal was an Arafat creation that served a double purpose. It enabled Arafat to feign moderation, and it gave him an assassination squad to use against anyone who challenged his authority. I have always suspected that Arafat’s relationship to Hamas and Islamic Jihad was similar, and this latest lie is of a piece with his overall disinformation strategy.

When a terrorist repents, there is never any doubt about the transformation. One of the most remarkable public statements about our bombing of Afghanistan came from Tripoli, Libya, from the mouth of Muammar Qadaffi, for many years one of the world’s leading sponsors of terrorism. Qadaffi said unequivocally that we were right to attack the Taliban, that it was a clear act of self-defense, and that it was entirely in keeping with international law.

Somehow, I’ve missed Arafat’s praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism.

How did Libya’s formerly radical Islamist leader come to change his mind? He crossed swords with a serious American president, Ronald Reagan, who ordered the bombing of Tripoli after discovering that Libya was behind the bombing of a discotheque in which several American soldiers were killed. That bombing was carefully crafted to strike targets directly linked to Qadaffi’s personal tyranny: his offices and residences (including his tents), the headquarters of his intelligence service, terrorist training camps, and so forth. Army barracks and the like were left untouched, thereby sending a message to the Libyan Army and the Libyan people: our fight is not with you, but with your leader. If he goes--and you might like to consider how best to accomplish this--we’ll get along just fine.

President Bush has carried this strategy one step further, simultaneously bombing things that have to do with the despotic oppression of the Taliban, and airlifting food and medical supplies to the miserable refugees fleeing for their lives.

It looks like some Afghanis understand, if early reports about insurrection near the Iran/Pakistan/Afghanistan border are right. So we’ve got a workable model: bomb the bad guys, support the people they’ve crushed under their murderous regimes, and go after the individual terrorists.

But don’t be gulled by the likes of Arafat. He’s part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Michael A. Ledeen is a resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at AEI.

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