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Jewish World Review August 15, 2001 / 26 Menachem-Av, 5761

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas
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A skilled manipulator --
BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army's political wing, has become a skilled manipulator. Like Yasser Arafat, Adams has honed his skills by using just the threat of more violence to break the resolve of politicians and to pressure them into doing his will.

No sooner had the British government dissolved, then reinstated the Northern Ireland Assembly with its elected Protestant and Catholic membership, beginning a six week period during which it hoped that the primary issue of the destruction of IRA weapons would be resolved, then did Adams upset the process by withdrawing his promise to put weapons "verifiably beyond use.''

Ulster Unionists, always looking for new evidence with which to prove their conviction that Adams will never exchange his guns for the ballot box, leaped on his latest statement, saying it proves they have

been right all along. Adams told his supporters in Catholic West Belfast over the weekend that the British government had acted illegally by dissolving the assembly, but this is a view apparently shared only by Adams. Even many who support a United Ireland, free of British "occupation,'' as they call it, believe that Adams' refusal to demonstrate his intention to disarm the IRA is an indication he has no intention of doing so.

Unionists are correct when they demand more than promises and seek action as a demonstration of the IRA's sincerity. Adams' statement that Unionists demanded "preconditions'' is bogus. All they asked for was a demonstration that he meant what he said. Adams said his promise should have been enough.

All Adams had to do was order the start of weapons destruction and the political pressure would have immediately switched from him to the Ulster Unionists and the British government. By withdrawing a promise, even one that held the number of weapons set for destruction in secret by both the British and Irish governments, Adams plays into the hands of the Unionists.


He also makes it more likely that renewed terrorism by the various paramilitary forces on both sides will resume, though it has never fully ceased. As Yasser Arafat has repeatedly demonstrated, while those who live by the sword may, themselves, die by the sword, in the meantime they will take a lot of innocent people with them in their pursuit of earthly objectives.

The canceled promise to disarm leaves the prospects for peace in serious doubt. David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader, has twice formed administrations in the Northern Ireland Assembly that have included Sinn Fein members. But those coalitions required the IRA to begin disarming, something it has only said it has agreed to do in principle, but so far, not in practice.

After resigning July 1as the administration's leader, Trimble's political support has dwindled and it seems unlikely that he will return as a credible and forceful leader of his party, assuming the Humpty Dumpty assembly can be put back together again and Sinn Fein brought back into the fold.

Adams knows that with machine guns and cemtex explosives he holds the main cards. Fear is a powerful weapon that he and Yasser Arafat and other terrorists use to achieve political objectives they would be unlikely to win through democratic means.

While there is plenty of hate, anger, historical and contemporary grievances, bad faith, distrust, demagoguery, religious intolerance, bigotry and broken promises on both sides, Gerry Adams can do more than anyone else right now to advance the prospects of peace happening. But peace runs up against his ultimate objective, which he has never relinquished, of a united Ireland by any means necessary. If he can't win by democratic means, it would seem he intends to win by other means. Compromise is not in his vocabulary.

Meanwhile, there are more troops and armored vehicles on the streets than there have been in this troubled province for some time. It may be a forecast of more dangerous things to come.

JWR contributor Cal Thomas is the author of, among others, The Wit and Wisdom of Cal Thomas Comment by clicking here.

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