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Lowering Our Guard

May 14, 2002

For some reason, even Israel’s warmest supporters haven’t picked up President Bush’s description of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as “a man of peace.” Unlike axis of evil, the phrase just isn’t catching on. It’s a bit like praising Arnold Schwartzenegger as “this generation’s Cary Grant.” You can admire Arnold for many things — and don’t we all adore him? — but suave charm isn’t exactly his line.

Sharon is tough. Give him that. And he refuses to allow his country to be swallowed up by “the international community,” the United Nations, and assorted acronymic agencies. Even when he’s wrong, which is usually, he sticks to his guns. Sharon consistently puts his country first — though this doesn’t really distinguish him from most American politicians, who also, just as consistently, put his country first.

U.S. Government officials have received information, unspecified and admittedly unreliable, that we could have an exciting July 4 ahead of us this year. Terrorists may have picked Independence Day as the date for an attack on a nuclear power plant.

We are also getting news reports and rumors, hard to pin down, that Israelis, in this country illegally, have been arrested while engaged in curious activities: posing as art students, driving a truck with traces of TNT and another explosive. It’s possible that these Israelis are here for innocent reasons, or that their doings aren’t aimed against the United States: even if they are Mossad agents, they may be friendly to this country.

But there is a darker possibility. Some of them may be provocateurs whose mission is to stage an event that will recharge American hysteria over terrorism and fuel demands for immediate war with alleged “terrorist states” — which happen to be Israel’s enemies in the Middle East. It would be far from the first time Israel had duped the United States in pursuit of its own interests.

No politician will say this publicly, but when it comes to Israel, U.S. security is very lax. Security officials dread the ever-ready charge of anti-Semitism. And when Israeli planes attacked the USS Liberty in 1967, killing 34 American sailors, or when the spy Jonathan Pollard’s “rogue operation” turned out to have the full authorization of the Israeli government, Congress, instead of investigating the incidents fully, chose to turn a blind eye. It either didn’t want to know what happened or didn’t want the American public to find out.

[Breaker quote: Who would want to provoke a war?]The real scandal is not that we can’t trust the Israelis; by now that should be a given. What is much worse is that we can’t trust our own government.

In Federalist No. 22, Alexander Hamilton warned that one of the weaknesses of republics (as opposed to monarchies) is that “they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.” Foreign countries and their partisans here have often egged this country into war with their enemies: not only Israel, but England and the Soviet Union.

Of course a terrorist attack could come from many parties, including disaffected Americans or hostile aliens already within our borders. No foreign government would have to instigate or facilitate it.

But is it likely that Iraq or Iran would sponsor such an attack, when the U.S. Government, predisposed to blame them, would most likely respond by shooting from the hip? By the same token, an enemy of Iran and Iraq might reckon that enraging the United States with a “terrorist” incident, staged by trained provocateurs, would be a convenient way of provoking the destruction of both countries.

This is not to say that Israel would actually do such a thing. The risks of failure would be enormous. But security is a matter of anticipating all possibilities. With millions of lives at stake, dismissing some scenarios as improbable is not enough. The 9/11 attacks were improbable too. That’s why they succeeded.

Today America’s guard is up on many fronts. But on one front its guard remains conspicuously down. Any president who can call Ariel Sharon a “man of peace” with a straight face is in the wrong business. The frightening thing is that he seems to believe this. If so, he’s the only one.

The previous President Bush, for all his shortcomings, had a healthy suspicion of Israel. As a former CIA director, he knew what he was dealing with. Hasn’t he tipped off his son?

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2002 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
Internet publications without express permission
of Griffin Internet Syndicate

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