In one memorable scene in Clint Eastwood’s “The Enforcer,” Dirty Harry’s partner screams, “Look at her hands!” The “her” in question was holding a 12-gauge, and would have blown Harry’s head off but for the perp’s timely dispatch by his partner. Colin N.C. Powell — N.C. as in Neville C. — has apparently sold Dubya on the idea that redefining terror will make it go away. He refused to define Yassir Arafat as a terrorist because Arafat is “participating in” the Mitchell process, and the ideas presented by George Tenet. Under that definition, OBL could say he wants to “participate” in a “peace process” and shed his well-deserved label as the world’s most wanted rat. Mr. Powell, and Mr. Bush should look at Arafat’s hands. They are covered with blood.
Now that we’ve managed to rehabilitate Arafat, at heaven knows what cost to ourselves and our allies, we seem to be taking every opportunity to tell the world that we no longer are serious about doing in the terrorists wherever and whenever we find them. Perhaps the sting of the slap in his face that Mr. Powell received from Arafat after his meeting Sunday will wake Mr. Powell up. Arafat rejected Powell’s call for a cease-fire and declared terror will continue until the Israelis withdraw. Maybe that slap is not enough. Maybe he’ll continue to listen to the loopy thinkers who tried to pay ransom for two American hostages. One of the worst decisions of this administration apparently predates Mr. Powell’s trip to kiss Arafat’s ring. For decades, the Western powers have rejected ransoming hostages because it is appeasement of terrorists. Now, in another bold step into the future. Colin N.C. Powell’s State Department has won a fight with Big Dog Rumsfeld and tried to pay a ransom.
About a year ago, two American missionaries, Martin and Gracia Burnham, were doing what good-hearted naïve people have been doing since time immemorial in too many places. In this case, they were in the Philippines, trying to help the poor avoid the ravages of guerrilla war waged by the Abu-Sayyaf terrorists. Of course, the Abu-Sayyaf types saw another opportunity to make some money and promptly kidnapped the Burnhams. We have seen videos of them several times since, dirty, disheveled and somewhat worse for the wear. But until just before Easter, we were content to let the Philippine government deal with the matter.
In stepped the soft souls of the State Department. They pointed out, quite rightly, that the Abu-Sayyaf guys kidnap many people and release them when ransom is paid. They also pointed out that they usually kill those who aren’t ransomed. And thereby hangs the latest abandonment of our principals in the war on terror.
Abu-Sayyaf was founded by one of the gang that fought with bin Laden against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Mr. Janjalani — who fortunately is no longer among us, having been shot dead by Philippine troops in 1998 — was one of bin Laden’s pals. The group’s ties to al-Qaeda are very clear, so clear that even the Foggy Bottom crowd couldn’t deny them. Somewhere in the administration, the bright idea to ransom the Burnhams began, and it quickly metastasized, despite Defense Department efforts to stop it.
The Washington Times’ Rowan Scarborough reported that a payment was made to a middle-man before Easter. The money — the tidy sum of $300,000 — was turned over in cash on the promise that the Burnhams would soon be freed. This sounds like a lesson from the P.T. Barnum School of Foreign Affairs. There’s a sucker born every minute, and this time his name is Uncle Sam. Needless to say — this probably came as a shock to the State Department — both the money and the middle-man have disappeared. The Burnhams, at last report, were not only still in the hands of the al-Qaeda clones, but had been split apart. Rescuing one is possible, given good intel. Rescuing both, from separate locations, is pretty much a pipe dream. Even if you get one, the other will be killed.
Paying ransom for hostages merely opens the market for kidnapped Americans. There was a routine smoke bomb thrown about the U.S. simply “facilitating” payment of private money, but it’s pretty clear that the money was from Uncle’s treasury. Now we know what a missionary is worth on the open market. What are we going to do when the next American is kidnapped? Will the payment next time be money, or will we be blackmailed from taking action to defend another nation? There’s no limit to where this can go.
Just as worrisome is that we’re paying money to terrorists at the same time we’re insisting that all nations cut off the flow of funds to them. How can we expect our real allies, far less our “coalition” of non-cooperative Arab nations, to cut off private funds flowing to OBL, Hamas and others when we are sending money to al-Qaeda?
It’s time for another 20 September. Last year on that date, the President stood before the world and declared a brave, clear doctrine of defending freedom and refusing any compromise with terror. In his mind, this doctrine has clearly changed. He should tell us what the changes are, and why he made them. He should tell us how he intends to fight this war. We are entitled to a leader who can fight. I think he’s still there, but the appeasers have him pretty confused about his duty to us and to the world. That duty is to do exactly what he said on 20 September 2001, in exactly the manner he described that night.