Skip to comments.America's stunning lack of judgment [Great Read - How does the US expect Israel to protect itself?]
Posted on 08/13/2003 5:51:31 AM PDT by yonif
Standing before the Washington press corps on Monday, US State Department Spokesman Philip Reeker set a new departmental record for moral cowardice. Speaking just 24 hours after Hizbullah terrorists killed an Israeli teenager by firing indiscriminately across the Lebanese border, Reeker could not bring himself to explicitly condemn this wanton act of murder.
Instead, in remarks that dare I say it reeked of moral relativism, Reeker stressed it was incumbent upon all parties, Israel included, not to inflame tensions in the region.
"We have been in contact with the Israelis," he said, "and with the other parties, with Lebanon and Syria, urging them to exercise maximum restraint in order to avoid further escalation."
Huh? Apparently, even some of the reporters present could not quite understand the logic of putting Hizbullah child-killers and their Syrian paymasters in the same category as Israeli soldiers defending their country.
According to the official transcript of the press briefing, one of the journalists then asked Reeker, "Phil, the call for maximum restraint last week, and I presume again today, applied solely to Lebanon and Syria, correct? There was no effort to call on Israel to exercise any kind of restraint in retaliating for these attacks?"
Reeker's reply: The call for restraint applied to "all countries."
Perhaps still finding it somewhat hard to digest, another questioner enquired, "Okay, so just to make sure. 'The parties' includes Israel, as well?" Reeker's response: "Right. We have been in touch with everybody there."
Presumably the reason behind the State Department's current bout of displeasure with Israel is that the Jewish state dared to retaliate, however mildly, for this latest Hizbullah outrage.
The fact that Israel's response was limited to bombing the specific cannon used by the terrorists in their assault and did not include a wider array of targets, does not appear to count for much with either Reeker or his boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell. The murder of a Jewish child and the destruction of the cannon that killed him, are apparently viewed with equal alarm in the halls of Foggy Bottom.
Equally astonishing, though, was Reeker's announcement that in the wake of the Hizbullah attack Powell himself had called Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom to convey the need for "restraint." And yet when it came to getting a similar message across to the Syrians and the Lebanese, the secretary of state did not bother to lift the receiver and dial his counterparts.
Instead, as Reeker put it, the message was conveyed to them "through our standard diplomatic channels" clearly implying that in Israel's case nonstandard channels had to be used, i.e. a phone call from Powell.
Essentially, the State Department was making it clear that the party most in need of restraint was you guessed it Israel.
To be fair, Reeker did call in his remarks for Syria and Lebanon to end their support for Hizbullah, and he did label the group a "terrorist organization." But his failure to distinguish between the bad guys and the good guys, and his grouping of Israel in the same league with Syria's thuggish regime, reveals a stunning lack of judgment. In the post-September 11 world it also demonstrates a remarkable level of hypocrisy.
There is no longer any excuse for waffling on the issue of terror, and certainly not when it comes from the chief spokesman of the State Department.
As Winston Churchill once told the House of Commons, "I decline utterly to be impartial between the fire brigade and the fire." In this case the US should bear in mind the difference between the arsonists (Syria and Lebanon) and the fireman (Israel).
Instead of offering up the standard diplomatic blather about "all parties" showing restraint, here's what Reeker could have said:
"The United States condemns Hizbullah's senseless murder of an Israeli youth and demands that the Syrian and Lebanese governments act immediately to disarm and disband this terrorist group.
"In addition, the United States recognizes Israel's fundamental right to defend itself, its citizens, and its territory, which is a central principle underlying the global war on terror."
Reeker's failure to draw a moral line in the sand, however, is far more than just a question of articulating American policy. It is also a matter of life and death. By muddying the waters, by blurring the line between Hizbullah's assault and Israel's response, the State Department is essentially delegitimizing Israel's efforts to protect itself, making it all the more difficult for Israeli decision-makers to pursue such a course.
That is precisely what the terrorists are hoping for because it weakens Israel's ability and will to strike back at them, allowing them to continue to kill innocent civilians with impunity.
Taken together with Powell's recent suggestion that Israel might face sanctions over the building of a fence to keep out Palestinian terrorists, it is hard to escape the feeling that there is a sinister pattern at work here, one in which the State Department would deny Israel the right to act for its own self-preservation.
If defensive measures, such as building a fence, and offensive measures, such as taking out terrorist positions, are not legitimate, how exactly do they expect Israel to protect itself? Or, to put it even more bluntly: By decrying Israel's attempts to defend itself, the State Department is figuratively hanging up a sign at the entrance to the Middle East that reads, "Jews are fair game."
If that isn't an act of moral cowardice, what is?
The writer served as deputy director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister's Office.
I wish Israel would turn on the Arab world with the rage of a wounded animal and just lash out in a manner that would stun them. Otherwise these jackals will keep yipping and nipping at their heels until they exhaust them and bring them down. Then they'll kill Israel, which is the goal and always has been.
Come on, Israel.... FIGHT!! Unilaterally!! Pre-emptively!! Aggressively!! Fight or they will kill you all.
I know the SD has been doing this for years. What I can't figure out is which State it represents and why are they allowed to operate out of our capital.
Lest it be for lack of an invitation: Israel, please feel free to tell our President, Congress, and Sec. of State to shove their caution in the most uncomfortable and inconvenient manner. Don't think they wouldn't do the same in a nanosecond if the shoe were on the other foot.
Amen. Whether on wants to inject G-d into this scenario or not, Israel as a nation and people will have to come to that point where the fear of the international repercussions (political/economic) of acting decisively and finally resolving this, is greatly outweighed by the higher cost in human lives and the loss of the desperately needed prestige and respect in the eyes of that same global community (if there ever was any?) the current Israeli leadership is continually acquiescing to.
Until they come to this point, it will not stop.
Stand tall, Israel!
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC; September 27, 2001
QUESTION: To what extent does this campaign -- as you constantly review your Middle East policy, what -- how much influence does this campaign against terrorism have in that? What's the input? How does it weigh in here? See what I mean?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: It's obviously a factor --
MR. BOUCHER: We have talked about this on and off over the last few days. We recognize that there is an influence. Some have said it affects the atmosphere, the Palestinian/Israeli issues affect the atmosphere of cooperation. But, essentially, there are, on some planes, two different things. One is that there are violent people trying to destroy societies, ours, many others in the world. The world recognizes that and we are going to stop those people.
On the other hand, there are issues and violence and political issues that need to be resolved in the Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians. But we all recognize that the path to solve those is through negotiation and that we have devoted enormous efforts to getting back to that path of negotiation.
And we have called on the parties to do everything they can, particularly in the present circumstance, to make that possible.
I guess that's about as close as I can come to the kind of sophisticated analysis I'm sure you will want to do on your own. But they are clearly issues that are different, not only in geography but also, to some extent, in their nature.