This morning’s radio commentary (4/22/08) concerning Jimmy Carter, Hamas and terrorism got a huge reaction, so I am including the text of the piece here after multiple requests:
In a letter to the editor in Saturday’s Post & Courier, Ms. Alice T. Baird of Charleston wrote the following, “I am appalled at ex-President Jimmy Carter’s decision to meet with Hamas. Does he seriously think he can influence a terrorist to become a peacemaker? His naiveté and ignorance of terrorism and its goals are unbelievable.” This letter has it exactly backwards. If there is any “naiveté or ignorance” concerning terrorism, it is not on the part of President Carter.
Any serious discussion on the subject of terrorism must first begin by recognizing the definition, which is the targeting of innocent civilians to achieve political objectives. The largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil certainly fits this definition, when 2,973 innocent Americans lost their lives on September 11, 2001 at the hands of Al-Quada.
But terrorism is a practice by no means exclusive to militant Islam. During World War 2, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 120,000 innocent men, women and children. Writes Pat Buchanan, “whatever the mindset of Japan’s warlords in August 1945, the moral question remains. In a just war against an evil enemy, is the deliberate slaughter of his women and children in the thousands justified to break his will to fight? Truman’s defenders argue that by using the bomb, he saved more lives than were lost in those cities. But if terrorism is the massacre of innocents to break the will of rulers, were not Hiroshima and Nagasaki terrorism on a colossal scale?”
Buchanan makes a good point. To this day, Al-Quada claims that the civilian deaths on 9/11 were necessary and mere “collateral damage.” The U.S. claims the same concerning Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If terrorism is the targeting of innocent civilians to achieve political objectives, what makes Al-Quada terrorists and not the U.S.? Does mere perspective change the definition?
In 2006, when both President Bush and Condoleezza Rice were calling for free and fair elections across the Middle East, both our President and his Secretary of State demanded that Hamas be included in the Palestinian elections, believing they would lose. Hamas won by a landslide. Wrote conservative columnist Charley Reese, “The choice of the Palestinian majority, expressed in what all the observers said was a free and fair election, is not acceptable to Mr. Bush. Hamas, you should know, has been around for a long time, and for most of that time, the United States did not label it a terrorist organization. Hamas has a military wing, but the majority of its efforts have been in providing welfare, medical care, and education to dirt-poor Palestinians who would have to do without but for Hamas.”
While one would expect Israel to refuse Hamas, President Bush, who has seen fit to invest the United States deeply into the most unstable region on earth, might think he has an obligation to use diplomacy to work for a better peace. No, instead the Bush administration has decided to ignore the democratically elected government of Palestine, declare them a terrorist group and impose sanctions.
But is Hamas a terrorist organization? Of course – but they’re not alone. Again writes Reese “As for the suicide bombings Hamas has carried out, I have said before that the method of delivery is irrelevant. We and the Israelis deliver our bombs from airplanes, helicopters, and artillery tubes. Since the Palestinians are denied modern weapons, they have to walk or drive their bombs to the targets. Morally, there is no difference whatsoever between bombs delivered by air or by foot. It is an undeniable fact that we have killed a thousand times more civilians in Iraq, Panama, Libya, Serbia, Grenada, and Vietnam than Hamas has killed Israelis. Naturally, we dismiss the civilians we kill as ‘collateral damage.’ The death toll in the latest intifada, by the way, is 1,084 Israelis killed by Palestinians and 3,786 Palestinians killed by Israelis… (and) not all of those Israelis were killed by Hamas.”
Again, as Reese points out, does the definition of terrorism change based on who commits it? Or is terrorism justified only if America, Israel or our allies commit such acts? And if it is, why should we not expect our enemies not only to use terrorism themselves, but feel emboldened and justified in doing so? Add to this the fact that the United States has supported terrorists like the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in the past; that we currently support terrorist sponsors in both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and a blurry picture begins to develop that doesn’t fit so neatly into the black and white, good vs. evil world of “terrorism” our President and his foot soldiers on talk radio and elsewhere have tried to paint.
As an ex-President, Jimmy Carter is doing the U.S. more service now than he ever did as President. Carter rightfully recognizes that the mess in the Middle East will never improve until all sides are brought to the table. At this table, terrorists will be seated on all sides, if the definition is to mean anything. And in this modern, yet barbaric age of total war, Hamas, as well as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and yes, even the United States – all have their shameful cross to bear.