Alexander's Column

Standoff in the Holy Land

Mark Alexander · Apr. 19, 2002

Publisher’s Note: Today we honor with great reverence those American patriots who risked all for liberty. “By the rude bridge that arched the flood, Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled, Here once the embattled farmers stood, And fired the shot heard round the world.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the words of our mentor, President Ronald Reagan: “You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. [I]s it worth dying for…? Should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots of Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools….”

It is fitting that this week, family members of those who died on UAL 93 on 9/11 had their requests to hear the cockpit voice recordings fulfilled. There were martyrs aboard that flight, but they were not the Islamic terrorists who commandeered the plane. The martyrs were the first brave combatants of our war against Jihadistan – those unarmed passengers who, knowing the fate of the other three hijacked aircraft, rallied to Todd Beamer’s charge “Let’s roll,” and launched an assault on the terrorists to prevent UAL 93 from being used as a weapon against more innocents on the ground.

It is certain that those who joined Mr. Beamer – Thomas Burnett, Mark Bingham, Jeremy Glick, Joseph Deluca, Linda Gronlund and perhaps others – knew the price they would pay for their actions. Indeed, the last Arabic words of the Jihadis in the cockpit were translated, “They’re coming….”

Let all Jihadi terrorists hear and know, many of us stand ready to follow the lead of the Patriot heroes of Flight 93. “We’re coming….” In this generation, no less than among the first American revolutionaries, Federalist Patriots stand by the bridge, ready to defend American liberty at all cost.

Top of the fold…

The standoff between the Israelis and the Palestinians dominated the news again this week. Secretary of State Colin Powell returned from his jaunt to the Middle East, saying with no hint of irony, “Cease-fire is not a relevant term at the moment.” And despite the throat-rattling – in concert with the Palestinians – of the chattering classes, Powell actually did accomplish the more important task (and which might be seen as his real mission) – tamping down the fiery exchanges over Israel’s northern border that could have erupted into a regionwide conflagration endangering the greater goal of Target: Iraq.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed to initial withdrawals from the Palestinian territories by this week’s end, with the notable exceptions of Bethlehem and Ramallah in the West Bank, where terrorists are holed up. While original U.S. demands called for the immediate withdrawal of IDF troops from the territories, after meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders Powell commented that we now better understand what the Israelis need to accomplish, making Sharon’s rough timetable an acceptable compromise. Of course this “new, better” understanding is nothing new at all – key members of the Bush administration, most especially Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, always understood what the Israelis needed to accomplish. That is why Secretary Powell’s arrival to the region was delayed until last Friday – giving the Israelis further time to dismantle the Palestinian Authority’s terrorist infrastructure. One such success: the capture Monday of lead Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti, head of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and member of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah.

Arafat finally issued a statement condemning the terrorist activities – a statement that no one should believe. Powell insisted on an end to terrorist violence, but Arafat retorted that Israel must first withdraw from the territories. Does this mean that Arafat really does have the authority to instigate or end the attacks (which documents captured from his compound certainly seem to indicate)? This contradicts earlier claims that Arafat could not take action toward peace from his besieged compound – but now it seems that he simply refuses to act. Of course, the more effectively the IDF defenders have rolled up the Palestinian terror infrastructure these past days, the more believable Arafat’s “compliance” will look.

Modest success in the region notwithstanding, Leftist and European shrilling against President George W. Bush’s conduct of this tense diplomacy was joined by plaintive notes of puzzlement – and indeed even criticism – from the Right.

Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal editorial illustrates: “Will the George W. Bush we once knew please stand up? Suddenly the President who soared by standing on principle seems to have been replaced by an imposter who’s lost his foreign-policy bearings.”

While the general low expectations for Powell’s Palestinian mission were met, one might well conclude that the administration had no positive expectations for this aspect of the overall mission to begin with. Sending a high-level envoy attempting to broker peace in the region was a de facto protocol that the Bush administration most likely had to follow at this point. But we have confidence that the administration’s course will right itself – at which time Team Bush will be poised to offer more concrete support for Israel’s war on terrorism.

In other words, The Federalist’s assessment is that the wiser administration members privately recognize Arafat for the terrorist he is, but the sensitive nature of appeasing international opinion in this matter, while preparing larger efforts against the greater threat of Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein, requires a prolonged diplomatic initiative. Moreover, the Bush administration will be in good position after this to bolster more definitive support for Israel when diplomacy – possibly even an international council – inevitably fails to produce results.

Once President Bush returns to a reassertion of moral principles, he may be viewed in retrospect as actually displaying more prowess in foreign policy than he is now being “credited.” Consider words Mr. Bush spoke at Virginia Military Institute this week: “America has a much greater purpose than just eliminating threats and containing resentment because we believe in the dignity and value of every individual. America seeks hope and opportunity for all people in all cultures.”

Referring to the most senior bin Laden lieutenant U.S. forces have nabbed, Abu Zubaydah, the third-ranking figure in the al-Qa'ida terror network, Mr. Bush observed, “He’s not plotting and he’s not planning any more. He’s under lock and key; and we’re going to give him some company. We’re hunting down the killers one by one.” But he offered this caution: “As the spring thaw comes, we expect cells of trained killers to try to regroup, to murder, to create mayhem and try to undermine Afghanistan’s efforts to build a lasting peace.”

And on that Afghanistan front, the former king of Afghanistan, Mohammad Zaher Shah, returned to his country from a three-decades-long exile Thursday, a major milestone on the road to normalcy for his nation.

Al-Jazeera network Monday broadcast a new video clip showing Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri, which most sources say is not recent. Responding to grousing about how bin Laden had been allowed to escape from the December bombardment of Tora Bora, Mr. Rumsfeld said, “My view of the whole thing is that until the lessons learned are known, I wouldn’t be able to answer a question like that and it impresses me that others can from their pinnacles of relatively modest knowledge.”

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