In the wake of three U.S. diplomats losing their lives in a terrorist attack on their convoy in the Gaza Strip, Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered powerful remarks, in which he condemned the “heinous acts” and pledged to bring “the murderers to justice.”
Too bad the actions of his department have failed to live up to his lofty rhetoric.
FBI agents on the ground trying to solve the “heinous acts” are running into resistance—not just from overt terrorist operations, but from the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority, which several administration officials diplomatically describe as being “less than cooperative.” Not even that obstruction, though, seems to have shaken State’s misplaced faith in the PA.
For years now, the State Department has given PA Chairman Yasser Arafat last chance after last chance—but really, there has never been anything “last” about the chances Arafat keeps receiving. Because State continually strives for “stability”—a value-neutral goal—it never wants to risk sudden change, which has resulted in a seemingly endless string of empty threats. Arafat has carefully cultivated a culture of death, and now it has mushroomed into an uncontrollable—and unquenchable—beast.
By all accounts, Arafat is not directly responsible for every terrorist attack that occurs. But though he may not have always ordered attacks, his deliberate decision to allow Hamas and Islamic Jihad—not to mention his own al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade—to continue operations unhindered leaves blood on his hands just the same as if he had. To paraphrase President Bush, there is no distinction between terrorists and the governments who harbor them.
Arafat’s “reward” for creating the terrorist network otherwise known as the Palestinian Authority? $175 million in direct and indirect aid, according to the State Department, which includes $20 million in cash given to the PA this summer. While some of those funds support legitimate humanitarian efforts, a huge chunk either promotes incitement and indoctrination or is used to maintain Arafat’s iron-fisted control over Palestinian society.
In fairness to State, Israel itself resurrected Arafat from Tunisia, where he otherwise would have remained a marginalized former leader. But Israel’s stupidity should not excuse our own. And though Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon seems incapable of determining a coherent approach to Arafat, the U.S. should fill the leadership void and scuttle Arafat instead of clinging to him like a five-year-old clutching a security blanket.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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