Mark of Disdain
October 11, 2001
The almost unopposed selection of Syria to hold a rotating seat on the UN Security Council is an embarrassment to the US, but first and foremost to the UN itself. That such a travesty could proceed so smoothly is a mark of the disdain with which free nations must hold the UN, and of how far that body has strayed from its founding ideals.
Electing Syria to the Security Council is the equivalent of electing a mobster to the police oversight board. According to the UN Charter, it is the Security Council that determines the existence of any "threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression" and decides how to "maintain or restore international peace and security." Two weeks ago, the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism is a threat to "international peace and security" and decided that all states must "deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts." The ink is not yet dry on this resolution, but the election of Syria, of all nations, to the post of judge and jury renders its implementation suspect, to say the least. Syria is not just in wholesale violation of this Security Council resolution, but is at the forefront of attempting to legitimate terrorism in the international arena.
While condemning the September 11 attacks on the US, Syria opposes the American right to unilaterally respond and openly justifies any and all terrorism against Israel. On almost the same day that the Security Council was calling on states to root out terrorists, Syria openly held a terrorist convention, in honor of the anniversary of the Palestinian re-embrace of terrorism against Israel.
The Syrian government hosted in its capital the leaders of all the organizations it calls "national liberation movements": Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the PFLP. All four of these groups engage in terrorism, reject all efforts to negotiate peace with Israel, are virulently anti-American, and are listed by the US State Department as terrorist organizations.
A high-level Syrian government official attending the conference said that Syria "endorses this conference and with it all the men of the resistance. As in the past, Syria will in the future continue to be a haven for those struggling for liberation." President Bashar Assad himself explained, "We must not allow the charge of terrorism to be slapped on the resistance movements fighting the occupation, both in Lebanon and Palestine - the Europeans understand this matter."
Assad even found encouragement from the US for his views: "The US has not demanded anything [regarding Hizbullah]; on the contrary, the lists of organizations designating as 'terroristâ' was changed, and the names of organizations and forces resisting Israeli occupation were omitted. This proves," Assad crowed, "that the Americans desire to woo these parties, because they need them for the battle - and that the Syrian position does not contradict the truth - all we need is patience" (translations by www.memri.org).
Assad was referring to the list of organizations whose financial assets would be frozen. The State Department later explained that Hizbullah and other organizations were not listed because the prohibitions already apply to them, but as Assad shows, the omission was clearly understood as differentiating between different types of terrorism.
The US could have put this impression to rest by strongly opposing Syrian membership on the Security Council, even if this were a losing battle in the stacked General Assembly. Syria will oppose or undermine everything the US tries to do in the Security Council. Fighting its bid for membership would have highlighted America's determination to change the rules following September 11 and to utterly reject Syria's open support for terrorism.
In a halfhearted attempt to explain its acquiescence to choosing the fox to guard the henhouse, the State Department blathered, "The United States will continue to express our concerns regarding terrorism with the Syrian government" and expects Syria to "fulfill all Security Council resolutions and to contribute to international peace and security, responsibilities that are only increased by its membership on the Security Council." If this is a "war on terrorism," what does a slap on the wrist look like?
"Expressing concerns" is what the US and Europe were doing before September 11, and we now know the result of such prolonged unseriousness.
The lesson of September 11 is that there is no middle ground on terrorism.
Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and most of America's other supposed Arab allies in this war are attempting to promote the opposite notion, which is that there is "good terrorism" against Israel and "bad terrorism" against the US. The longer the US turns a blind eye toward the Arab world's "yes, but" approach to this war, the more the sponsors of terror will, like Assad, mock America's will and wait patiently for the wounded giant's wrath to dissipate.