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Jewish World Review Jan. 30, 2001 / 7 Shevat, 5761

Michael Ledeen

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Consumer Reports

The Rest of the Rich Story -- AS WE ponder what induced Bill Clinton to pardon Marc Rich and Pinky Green, a nonevent from the mid-1980s may help understand what sort of man Rich is, and, in particular, his relationship to this country.

Round about 1984 (I may be off by a year or so, but the precise date is not important), I was working as a consultant at the National Security Council, and I was approached by a well-known Washington attorney who told me he was representing Marc Rich. The attorney wanted to know if there were anything Rich could do to bring an end to his criminal status. I discussed the matter with some of my colleagues, and I later suggested to the attorney that Rich might wish to contemplate performing some kind of invaluable service to his country. "Like what?" the lawyer asked.

Well, I said, we all know that Rich does business in some pretty unsavory countries (one of his crimes was busting the embargo on Iranian oil) that periodically did terrible things to us and our allies. Depending on his access in those countries, he might well be able to provide us with information that would help us defend our citizens and those of allied countries against terrorist acts or other forms of wickedness. While I obviously could not speak for the government, there were historical precedents for granting pardons to people who undertook dangerous missions in behalf of our national security. Just go to the video store and watch The Dirty Dozen — the group of 12 criminals who embarked on a suicide mission during the Second World War when promised freedom if they survived.

After some time, the attorney informed me that Rich was not interested in that sort of thing; he would look for other ways to solve his problems. Nearly 20 years later, he found a way.

Rich did not feel obliged to put himself at risk for his country, even though he had blatantly and arrogantly violated its laws and sabotaged efforts to put pressure on Iran while Tehran was holding hostage more than 50 American diplomats and embassy staff. He just wanted to buy his way out. One way he attempted this was on behalf of Israel: to pay off the government of North Korea, in order to prevent the shipment of missiles to Syria and other Israeli enemies in the Middle East. No matter that the United States had asked Israel to refrain from any official contact with North Korea.

There is a nasty appropriateness in Clinton's pardon of this wicked man, for they are cut from the same corrupt material. Both repeatedly acted in contempt of the national interest and the rule of law. Both put their own personal comfort and satisfaction above the common good. Both assumed that any problem could be "fixed," if only one were sufficiently tenacious and patient, and brought enough resources to bear. Neither was prepared to make a personal sacrifice to redeem himself; each felt that money was payment enough.

That Clinton should issue the pardon on the same day his aides and associates were trashing the White House, and the ex-president and his wife were sacking Air Force One for goodies for their new homes, nicely rounds out the picture of Clinton's legacy.

JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Tocqueville on American Character . Comment by clicking here.


01/22/00: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/00: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen