December 14, 2006, - 11:07 pm
[Note from Debbie: This article is written by my father, H.L. Schlussel, MD, an expert on the Mid-East, terrorism, and Islam and a Vietnam-era U.S. Army Veteran. His columns appear on this site from time to time, including the ones here and here. DS]
By H.L. Schlussel, MD
It’s like deja vu all over again.
James A. Baker III–the enabler of the Butcher of Baghdad, Saddam Hussein, and the Butcher of Beirut, Hafez Al-Assad–is back to his old tricks. If a policy doesn’t work, why try it again, and again, and again. I thought that was the definition of insanity.
Baker, who served Presidents George H.W. Bush as Secretary of State from January of 1989 to August 1992, was one of the architects of the “Syria is the key to peace” theory. He enlisted Syria’s support in the Gulf War and saw Syria as the lynchpin in an Arab-Israeli peace agreement. In order to get Syrian acquiescence in the Gulf War, Baker stated, last Sunday, that he had made 15 trips to Damascus.
He also gave Hafez Al-Assad a green light to do what was necessary to control Lebanon in 1991. This was followed by the execution-style murder of 600 unarmed Lebanese Christian soldiers who were prisoners of the Syrian Army.
(It seems that the murder of unarmed prisoners is a proud tradition of the courageous Syrian Army. After the 1973 “Yom Kippur War,” a Syrian soldier who had slit the throats of more than 100 Israeli prisoners–who had their arms tied behind them–was given a medal for heroism before the Syrian Parliament. This medal was awarded by Mustafa Tlas, Syrian Defense Minister. Tlas, who is still Defense Minister, is the proud author of the book, “Matzoh of Zion,” which perpetuates the blood libel against the Jewish people. It is interesting that this blood libel was refuted in a Papal bull by Pope Innocent IV in 1247.)
The Syrians also agreed to participate in the Gulf War effort, which they did by sitting in an army camp in Saudi Arabia, while U.S. Forces did the bulk of the fighting. The brave Syrian troops did not participate in combat or fire one shot in anger.
Who can forget the anguish on the face of the late Ambassador Philip Habib, the distinguished Lebanese American diplomat, when he left the State Department offices? He had gone there as the head of a delegation of Christian-Lebanese Americans to plead for the fate of his fellow Lebanese Christians. Habib said, “They are totally controlled by the Syrians,” regarding his former State Department colleagues.
After Bush I left office, the State Department continued Baker’s policy of appeasing Syria. Secretary of State Christopher made more visits to Damascus than to any other national capital. For all of our efforts, we were rewarded with a visit by the Syrian Foreign Minister to Camp David, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Barak, under the aegis of President Clinton. The Syrian neither spoke with or even looked at Barak for the whole weekend meeting.
When the Gulf War started, Baker initiated a campaign to encourage the Kurds and Shi’ites to revolt against Saddam Hussein. Yet, at the conclusion of the war, he allowed the Iraqi army to retain its combat helicopters and heavy weapons. Saddam Hussein then proceeded to slaughter hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Shi’ites. He flooded the South of Iraq to destroy the communities of the “Marsh Arabs.” (Please see the book, “Cruelty and Silence,” by Kanan Makiya, and the article, “A 1991 Kurdish Betrayal Redux?” by Najmaldin Karim, MD, in the December 2, 2006 edition of The Washington Post.) It is because of Baker’s previous betrayals, that we are so distrusted by the people of Iraq. This is undoubtedly one of the important causes of our problems there.
Fast forward to the 21st Century. Baker’s Iraq Study Group (ISG) is filled with irrelevant figures, like former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor–who is obsessed with a paranoid fantasy about a “right-wing assault on our courts”–and Washington fixer, Vernon Jordan. Its expert list is stacked with Arabists and anti-war activists. (See “James Baker’s Stacked Commission,” by Michael Rubin in the 10/25/06 issue of The Weekly Standard.)
Among the ISG’s 79 recommendations are negotiations with Iran and Syria, which along with Al-Qaeda, have been working since 2003 to foment a civil war in Iraq. According to Y. Bodansky, a Congressional terrorism expert, it was Iran that was responsible for the murder of Imam Baqir Al-Hakim and 200 worshippers at the Imam Ali Mosque on August 29, 2003 in Najaf, Iraq. Syria has been the doorway through which thousands of jihadists have poured into Iraq. Both Syria and Iran have been implicated in the design and export of the IEDs that have killed so many of our soldiers and in the training of the terrorists.
Although Israel was not a party to the Gulf War in 1991, she was hit with 39 rockets from Iraq. Baker did not allow Israel to respond militarily to these attacks. Instead, he forced Israel into the Madrid Peace Conference, which over the years has led to 3,000 dead and countless maimed Israelis, a demoralization and demonization of Israel, and no peace.
Now Baker proposes to “flip” Syria away from the Iranian orbit by offering it the Golan Heights which is part of Israel. Israel is not even invited to the regional conference where this offer is to take place. Israel’s weak government, fresh from its humiliation in an inept war this past summer, is in no position to refuse.
Baker is known as a shill for Sunni forces in the Middle East. This is evidenced by the “experts” who advised this committee. In the words of Karim, they are “die-hard Arabists who bend over backwards to accommodate . . . the Iraqi Sunni Arabs. One of them is an Iraqi Sunni, and none is a Shi’ite or Kurdish Iraqi.” In the first Gulf War, if Saddam Hussein had been deposed, Baker’s State Department had the temerity to propose a fellow Ba’athist from Tikrit as Saddam’s successor. For these reasons, the plans of the ISG are opposed by the Shi’ites and the courageous Kurdish President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani.
As Karim states, “the Iraqi Kurds are massively pro-American,” as are the Israelis. The motto for Baker and his ISG should be, “Talk to your enemies. Betray your friends.”
President Bush has wisely chosen to consign the recommendations of the ISG to the dustbin. However, Senator Bill Nelson just met with Bashir Assad, and three other Senators are on the way. Tony Blair was in the Middle East, last weekend, to set up the regional conference that will, no doubt, bring peace in our time.
H.L. Schlussel, MD, is a physician, Vietnam-era U.S. Army Veteran, and Middle East expert.
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