The Madness of Ariel Sharon
There are two Ariel Sharons. There is the tough defender of the American and Israeli way against terrorism, as seen on the American media and touted by the White House. And then there is the Sharon the rest of the world sees.
This other Sharon shares with Saddam Hussein an obsession with military solutions and a disregard for other nations and their borders, and responsibility for the bloodshed that ensues when he combines the two.
White House views Sharon's bloody incursion into the Palestinian territories as a response to terrorism. To much of the rest of the world, this invasion is just the latest episode in a recidivist pathological pattern.
A History of Pathology
But to recognize a pattern you have to remember the past, and for most Americans, including presumably the White House, Sharon's past evaporated when he became Prime Minister.
The present incursion into Ramallah and the siege of Yassir Arafat is almost an action replay of unfinished business from the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Sharon, under guise of a punitive raid, took the Israeli army into Beirut, where it shelled and bombed a city full of civilians in an uncanny precursor to the siege of Sarajevo.
At Srebrenica, however, the forces paid for by Milosevic and commanded by Ratko Mladic, hewed to their own perverse ideas of Serb chivalry. They let the women and children go and "only" killed some 7,000 boys and men. Sharon showed no such mercy in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. He sent in the Phalangist militia who then killed men, women, and children indiscriminately. The death toll, while still unknown, was at least 800. This was not wholesale slaughter like the World Trade Center. It was gruesomely retail, with each person killed separately.
For his actions, an Israeli commission of inquiry found him unfit for public office. An international court would have found him guilty of war crimes. Indeed, the Belgian courts are presently investigating him with precisely that end in mind.
The White House, however, sees him as a key ally in the fight against terrorism.
Sharon tells the world that Arafat must do more to stop terrorism, and then restricts his movements and bombs the very police that is supposed to stop the suicide bombing. And whenever there is a ceasefire that looks as though it may last the seven days that Sharon demands before negotiations, he sends in an assassination squad to murder a prominent Palestinian leader and provoke a retaliatory strike.
Finally, he is now repeating every mistake he made in Lebanon: move the Israeli Defense Forces into the territories; lock up Arafat in a couple of rooms with no electricity while outside you kill Palestinians en masse; destroy the very police he claims to be motivating to act against terrorism.
Does this sound like the policy of a rational person?
But if this be madness, there is indeed a method to it. Sharon does not want a peaceful solution. Certainly not one that would be acceptable to the Palestinians or the international community at large. He quite simply wants rid the land of Palestinians. He cannot forgive Arafat (who indeed has faults aplenty, not least of which is stupidity and gullibility in negotiations) for representing an viable alternative to his dream: an Arab-free Israel stretching up to Jordan.
Sharon does not know how to get rid of the Palestinians, but experience has taught him that terror may help him drive many out.
Earlier this month the Jewish paper Ha'retz carried Sharon's tirade against the Palestinian Authority: "The PA is behind the terror, it's all terror. Arafat is behind the terror. Our pressure is aimed at ending the terror. Don't expect Arafat to act against the terror. We have to cause them heavy casualties and then they'll know they can't keep using terror and win political achievements."
In the eyes of the Israeli premier, Arafat and the Palestinians are rolled into one composite demon -- which is presumably how he justifies punishing all Palestinians for the actions of one terrorist.
Sharing in Sharon's Madness
But if Sharon has his twisted logic, what is the White House's defense? Stupidity and ignorance for allowing a set of prejudices masquerade as policy. Their unqualified support of Sharon has in a few short weeks derailed their global war against terrorism.
Here is a measure of the intellectual isolation of the administration. Vice President Dick Cheney was actually surprised that Arab nations refused to support for an attack on Iraq while Sharon ran loose through the West Bank with American financial, military and diplomatic support.
Sharon has managed to make bring Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia together, just as Bush was girding up for the big push on Baghdad. And his actions reveal his real intent. While giving lip service to Crown Prince Abdullah's peace plan, Sharon refused to let Arafat attend the conference. And his invasion of Ramallah is a calculated slap in the face to Saudis. Sharon's worst nightmare is any peace deal that looks attractive to his American backers.
When Colin Powell arrives in the region next week, every American ally in Europe and the Middle East will ask him to stop Sharon's rampage. But back in Washington, the real Axis of Evil -- Cheney, Rumsfeld & Co -- is continuing to tell Bush to support this bloody campaign.
Sharon has promised the White House he will not harm Arafat. Powell should check the State Department files. Sharon's word is hardly worth much. He promised the Americans back in 1982 that he would not enter West Beirut. Weeks later, he engineered the Sabra and Shatila massacres.
If we believe and support someone with a record like Sharon's, we will be just as responsible when he goes beyond the pale ... yet again.