Thursday, April 10, 2008

Khaled Meshaal; Jimmy Carter; Common Sense:
Which of These Doesn't Match the Other Two?

There isn't much doubt, now: former President Jimmy Carter is planning to meet Hamas' leader, Khaled Meshaal next week. The Meshaal/Carter meeting, unless plans change again, will be in Damascus, Syria, during Carter's Mideast trip.

The meeting was supposed to be more of a big deal, I gather. CNN reports that it "originally was to include a delegation of world leaders, including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former South African President Nelson Mandela, but the group issued a statement Wednesday saying it was postponing its visit."

Bush Administration Interferes in Carter Diplomatic Initiative?

Apparently the Bush administration tampered with this summit of world leaders: American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke to Annan just before he, Mandela, and the others made their announcement. ("White House urges Carter not to meet Hamas leader" CNN (April 10, 2008))

"Tampered" might not be the right word. I think "enlightened" might be a better term for the supposed content of Rice's comments to Annan.

Jimmy Carter: Nicest Former American President Alive

Before going further, I want to say that I don't dislike former President Jimmy Carter.

I was delighted when a southern peanut farmer named Jimmy became president, and his brother Billy started marketing Billy Beer.

In that respect, the Carter administration was a refreshing change from the Washington routine. All too often, in my opinion, political leaders are stuffed shirts. And, none too willing - or able - to admit their human weaknesses, even when caught debauching interns.1

And, I deeply respect the work that former President Carter has done with, and for, Habitat for Humanity. That program, by helping people financially, while having them provide 'sweat equity' in their first house, turns what could have been a handout house into an accomplishment which new homeowners could be proud of.

However, as the leader of a global power, and later as an elder statesman, I think that Mr. Carter made an excellent peanut farmer.

Former American President Defies Intolerant Administration, Endorses Hamas

No, I don't think that is what former President Jimmy Carter is trying to do. At least, I hope not.

However, by bringing his status as a former American president to Syria, and (quite likely) meeting with the leader of an organization recognized by the American Department of State as a terrorist group, I think that's how his visit will be seen.

In the Middle East, at least.

I've gotten the impression that rulers in the Arab world are no more blind to diplomatic subtleties than leaders anywhere. And so, I can see them taking the Carter visit as an indication that the American rulers are ready to sit down and start talking about concessions and accommodation of Hamas and like-minded groups - as soon as the bothersome current administration is out of the way.

This impression would be strengthened by the merely verbal protests made by the State Department, and the fact that Mr. Carter has not yet been assassinated.

I know that America doesn't work that way. But I'm not convinced that some foreign leaders don't share the colorful views of how American government works, that I first encountered while going to college in the seventies.

I recognize that Hamas won an election, but I do not equate that with not being a terrorist organization. The party which won Germany's 1933 election passed the Enabling Act: all (fairly) legal and aboveboard, but with regrettable consequences.

Elections do not guarantee virtue.

So Jimmy Carter Meets with Khaled Meshaal? So What?

As I wrote yesterday, "Carter's meeting with Hamas would be record-breaking. He'd be the highest-level American official, present or past, to meet with Hamas: and the first significant contact with America's government since Meshaal and Clinton officials met in the 1990s.

"Imprudent" is the mildest term I could apply to Mr. Carter's presumed meeting. I hope that he will reconsider, or that the proposed meeting proves to be a chimera.

That is a vain hope, I fear.

Mandela and the Incredible Peace Mission

Sounds like a group from - what, the sixties? - if you put it like that. You probably haven't heard of The Elders, but this group of earnest men seems to have a high and noble purpose. That's the group that former President Jimmy Carter was to be part of, before his Middle East trip became a solo act.

CNN gives a good summary of former South African President Mandela's adventure in international diplomacy:

"Mandela launched the council of world leaders known as 'The Elders.' The group is visiting Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia on a peace mission.

"In a statement last month, the group said its mission is to 'help people understand the urgency of peace.' "

the CNN report closes with these paragraphs, which I numbered for my convenience, while making comments.
  1. "Meshaal lives in exile in Damascus to avoid Israel arresting or killing him.
  2. "A meeting between Carter and Meshaal would take place amid calls from many experts in the United States and Israel to open up a dialogue with Hamas. They claim the policy of isolation is not working.
  3. "A poll this year in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz found that 64 percent of Israelis favor direct talks with Hamas. "
I may be wrong, but I think that CNN has a message that they want to convey.
  1. The Israeli government seems to think that Meshaal is a criminal - with some reason - and by not mentioning this, CNN makes Meshaal look like a victim.
  2. Let's say that the "experts" are right, and that dialog is a good idea - there's a huge difference between sending a low-level official to 'dialog' with a group like Hamas - and former American President Jimmy Carter lending his venerable presence to the group's reputation. CNN elected to implicitly equate any dialog with a meeting with a former American president.
  3. The poll may be accurate and unbiased (no 'which do you favor: dialog with Hamas; or death by torture for your family?' questions), but again - there's a huge difference between a 'dialog' between American and Hamas bureaucrats, and a former American president traveling across half the world (not quite) to grant an audience to a terrorist leader. Again, CNN does not make the distinction.
I've got more to say, about news coverage of this evolving situation, and how bloggers are taking it, but that'll have to wait until another post.
Meshal? Meshaal? Seems like I can't make up my mind. The reason for this dichotomous spelling is that Mr. Meshaal writes his name in Arabic, and I'm using the Latin alphabet. The name gets converted as both Meshal and Meshaal. I've found that "Meshaal" is used more often, at this point. So, if I'm quoting a source that uses the "Meshal" spelling, I will accurately quote my source. Otherwise, I'll use the more common "Meshaal."
Publish Post1
(Remember Lewinsky, and that intern who disappeared in 2001? There have been enough scandals of that sort to make a Washington, DC guided tour.)

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.