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Jewish World Review April 25, 2003 / 23 Nisan, 5763

Jonathan Tobin

Jonathan Tobin
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One, Two, Three Strikes They're Out

Scams, slurs and a loophole may just thwart justice | For the viewers of 24-hour broadcast news channels, the war is largely over. The obsession with news from the front in Iraq is being elbowed aside by the need to provide over-the-top coverage of the latest sensational murder story.

But as we catch our breath from the enormous events we have witnessed in the last month, it's worthwhile going back over a few sidebars that require more attention.

One of the constant themes of pre- and postwar criticism of the Bush administration has been the damage the United States has done to the United Nations. Amazingly, there are still a lot of people who think U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's Nobel Peace Prize actually means something.

Unfortunately, the boo-hooing over the dissing of the United Nations has real policy implications for the future. The aim of America's former ally, France, and other beacons of integrity in the world is to force the United States into allowing the United Nations to have a major say in the reconstruction of Iraq. Even worse, by preventing the lifting of U.N. sanctions against Iraq that they did so much to undermine in the first place, the French and their friends have a lever by which they can blackmail Washington.

This would all be bad enough, but a recent article in The New York Times has illustrated just how much of a joke the notion of the United Nations as a disinterested humanitarian agency really is.

Written by Claudia Rosett, a former Wall Street Journal staffer, the piece reported that the "oil-for-food" program that allowed aid to trickle into Iraq during the last decade of sanctions was actually something of a scam run for the benefit of the United Nations.

It seems that the United Nations collected a 2.2 percent commission on every barrel of oil sold on the more than $100 billion involved in the transactions. Operating in secrecy with no accountability, Annan has used the billions skimmed off the top to fund the world body's still-bloated bureaucracy.

Some 25 percent of this money was supposed to be given to people and companies harmed by Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. But only Annan-appointed experts are involved in the handing out of funds. That's significant, because as Rosett writes, the oil-for-food program "facilitated a string of business deals tilted heavily toward Saddam Hussein's preferred trading partners like Russia, France and, to an extent, Syria."

Up until the last moment before the war, Kofi Annan was approving deals allowing this supposed humanitarian program to fund the shipping of things like boats and Russian television equipment! Russia and Syria were also allowed to ship Japanese-made vehicles to Saddam Hussein, while Libya, Syria and Saudi Arabia were being paid by the United Nations to send Iraq powdered milk.

Remember this the next time you hear someone extolling Annan as a paragon of virtue. In other words, Kofi has a lot of explaining to do before he and the rest of his crew are allowed any part in postwar Iraq.

Also, here at home, the battle over the nomination of scholar Daniel Pipes by the Bush administration to the little-known U.S. Institute for Peace is heating up.

Pipes, the head of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, has been the subject of a slur campaign by American Muslim and Arab groups for years. But in the wake of this recognition of Pipes' talents, his slanderers are finding new allies on the editorial boards of some of America's most respected newspapers.

On April 19, The Washington Post declared in its editorial column that the insightful Pipes is a "destroyer" of bridges between cultures, whose straight talk about Islamist terrorists is upsetting too many Muslims. Bush's backing of Pipes was pouring "salt in the wound" of their hurt feelings, the Post said, and urged the White House to rescind the nomination. If not, the paper thinks Congress should veto it.

The Dallas Morning News chimed in on the same day by saying that it was "odd" for Bush to promote "an advocate of force over negotiation" who had been accused of bigotry.

Are these newspapers crazy, or have they just lost their moral compass? Far from being a bigot, Pipes is one of the few people who has consistently told the truth about the dangers stemming from Islamic terrorism, and was a voice crying in the wilderness on this issue before Sept. 11, 2001. Accepting the word of these Muslim groups about Pipes is tantamount to saying that he was wrong about Islamist terror, and that the apologists for this scourge were right.

If members of the U.S. Senate, which must approve Pipes' nomination, are as easily susceptible as the editors of The Washington Post, then a vote on its composition will become a turning point in the war on terrorism. If the influence of Muslim groups who routinely rationalize terrorism is so great that such groups are able to blacklist Daniel Pipes and thus blot out the memory of 9/11, then we can look forward to much worse in the years to come.

Finally, the capture of Palestinian terrorist Mohammed "Abu" Abbas by U.S. troops in Baghdad last week was a reality check for those who thought the war in Iraq was a distraction from the American war on terror.

Abbas is, of course, the thug who masterminded the 1986 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro - an international crime that resulted in a larger one, the cold-blooded murder of Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound 69-year-old American Jew.

This killer evaded justice for 15 years after being allowed to flee Italy (where he was subsequently tried and convicted for the crime in absentia). Before settling with his pal Saddam Hussein, he even lived for a while in Gaza after Israel allowed him - and a host of other criminals - back into the country as a result of the failed Oslo peace accord with the Palestinians.

Interestingly, the Palestinian Authority, whose defenders are always telling us is really opposed to terrorism, were quick to speak up for Abbas after he was nabbed. They claim that President Bill Clinton's signature on the Oslo deal allows him to walk. Fortunately, Washington in the post-Sept. 11 era is not as forgiving of terrorists as our former commander-in-chief, and Abbas may face justice either in Italy or in an American court.

An American trial for Abbas would be a good idea because it would serve to remind us of the human cost of appeasing terror. But there will be plenty of people in Washington and New York, and elsewhere, who will argue that reopening the Achille Lauro case is a waste of time or would harm the "peace process." Abbas may yet slither through another legal or political loophole.

Like the cover-up of the U.N.'s perfidy in Iraq and the slurring of Daniel Pipes, a willingness to let this murderer slide will have its constituency among the diplomatic corps and the media.

After Abbas' capture, a spokesman for the U.S. Marines promised that "justice will be served in this case."

In this case, as well as in the investigations of the United Nations and the confirmation of Daniel Pipes, let's hope he's right.

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JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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