Free Jonathan Pollard
Yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a letter to Barack Obama requesting clemency for Jonathan Pollard, a man who has been in prison for 25 years for a crime which usually attracts prison time of no more than four to seven years. Pollard’s crime was to deliver classified documents to the Israeli government which had a bearing on U.S. relations with the Soviet Union and greviously affected the intelligence gathering this involved. It was claimed at the time that Pollard’s spy work led directly to the death of U.S. operatives in the Soviet Union and around the world. Following the opening of the Soviet archives in the late 1990s, it became clear that Pollard’s activities had almost no impact on U.S.-Soviet relations and in the words of late former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who had at one time become the most devoted anti-Pollard declaimer, its impact on U.S. intelligence gathering “was minor.” Why, then, is he still in jail, serving a life sentence for activities that put him on the same level of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hansen, whose spying really did result in the deaths of American operatives?
The answer is that as much as at least two presidents have sought to commute his unreasonable sentence ( which was itself imposed in direct contravention of a plea bargain), the outcry from the defense and intelligence establishment has been so strenuous that neither Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush felt the political costs worth the effort.
Yet coming at a time when U.S.- Israel relations are at an all time low, the release of Pollard, who became an Israeli citizen a decade ago, could aid efforts to improve attitudes on both sides. Certainly Barack Obama, who has the most unfavorable rating among the Israelis of any American president in history, could benefit from this beneficent act. Notwithstanding the fact that basic justice demands it.
Iran Rejects Western Culture
There is no better indicator of Islamic Iran’s approaching death rattle than this piece from yesterday’s Washington Post. Iranian universities and public schools, which have been surprisingly free during the course of the revolution to teach Western science and the humanities are now being overhauled to be properly Islamicized. The government’s ” Program for Fundamental Evolution in Education and Training,” amount to the kind of social and cultural engineering predicted by George Orwell in 1984. By seeking to strip the curricula of schools and universities of Western humanistic values the regime, in an effort to control a burgeoning middle class whose increasing emphasis is on individualism, will only feed the fire of counter revolution, the embers of which still smolder from the June, 2009 uprising. The Internet, which the regime is also seeking to control, will play a leading role in bringing together opposition groups who will eventually join to topple the regime. Perhaps the gutting of the education system may prove the last straw.
Jeff Danzinger and the Ivory Coast Cartoon
I have always wondered why cartoonists are cut far more slack than any other editorial writer. They literally get away with murder in both their irreverence for facts and their willingness to parody the truth. Take Jeff Danzinger’s cartoon which appeared in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times. Danzinger’s makes the unsubtle comparison here between Ivory Coast’s defeated president Laurent Gbagbo and the Bush/ Cheney victory in the 2000 election. Both, you see, failed to receive a plurality of votes from the public, but both nevertheless clung to power – supposeldy, at least in Danzinger’s mind, illegitimately.
The analogy is as spurious as it is hateful. Gbagbo’s followers have unleashed a campaign of violence and intimidation against the declared victor Ouattara’s supporters, resulting inthe suspected deaths of 200 people. A mass grave report is being investigated. Nothing of the sort followed the inconclusive Bush- Gore election of 2000. During the month it took to sort out the results, there were no violent uprisings, no killings and both camps conducted themselves with dignity as the results of the Florida returns were examined.
The matter eventually fell to the U.S. Supreme Court which adjudicated the matter and assigned the victory to Bush who had constitutionally secured enough electoral votes to assume office.
We should note that Danzinger’s cartoon, which draws such an invidious comparison, actually mocks our own Constitution by assuming that Bush was as illegitimate a leader as an African tinpot dictator. It is unfathomable how such a stupid and constitutionally illiterate a comparison could be made by a cartoonist of such experience and renown. The readers of the Los Angeles Times deserve much better.