A Small Measure of Justice

Douglas Bloomfield - The Jerusalem Post - January 7, 1993

George Bush is closing his public career on a contradictory chord. On the final foreign trip of his presidency he visited Somalia, where after much hesitation he finally sent American forces to fight famine. Then it was on to Russia to sign an arms control treaty. For a man who made foreign policy the centerpiece of his administration, it must have seemed fitting and satisfying.

The contrast can be seen in the third stop on that trip and in the Iran-Contra pardons, which threaten to overshadow the achievements of his presidency.

As the patron of the historic Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, Bush passed up an opportunity to help two allies who have worked hard to support his policy goals and have been battling Islamic extremists determined to destroy them, their governments and the peace process.

His only stop in the Middle East was to visit one of the principle financial backers of those extremists, the king of Saudi Arabia. Jerusalem and Cairo were ignored.

His final act toward Israel was an Oval Office meeting with senior PLO officials and a snub of Israeli leaders who had personally requested the release of Jonathan Pollard.

For a president who insisted on comparing himself to Harry Truman for so much of the past year, George Bush went out of 1992 looking more like Richard Nixon. His role in the Irangate coverup threatens to do for his place in history what the Watergate coverup did for Nixon's.

The pardon of Caspar Weinberger and others involved in the Iran-Contra scandal has been grossly misrepresented by the president. Weinberger was indicted for lying. Bush has deprived him of an opportunity to prove his truthfulness.

If the former defense secretary were so convinced of his own honesty, why did he accept a presidential pardon? The full measure of justice he demanded for Jonathan Pollard was the opposite of what he sought for himself.

On the day before Bush signed the pardons, a prominent Republican insider with personal access to the highest levels of the White House, reported, "We're doing everything we can [to help Pollard] but it's not going to happen. This administration simply doesn't like Jews."

Prime Ministers Rabin and Shamir and President Herzog asked Bush to commute Pollard's sentence. Senior Israeli officials report that Bush's response was "indifferent."

Commuting Pollard's sentence won't absolve the spy of his guilt or undo the damage Bush did with his Irangate pardons, but it will provided a small measure of decency and justice.

Pollard was a spy. What he did was illegal, immoral, stupid and wrong. He deserved to go to jail.

But the punishment should fit the crime. Pollard spied for one of America's closest democratic allies and got a stiffer sentence than many who worked for America's avowed enemies. He has spent most of the past seven years in solitary confinement 23 hours a day in a cell several levels below ground at the federal maximum security prison in Marion, Illinois, the toughest in the US.

By contrast, Albert Sombolay sold Iraq and Jordan information about US troop deployment and equipment in the Gulf war, putting at risk the lives of thousands of American soldiers, and got 19 years. Abdelkader Helmy stole US stealth technology used by the Iraqis to extend the range of their Scud missiles; he got less than four years. An FBI agent who spied for the KGB got 20 years; a Marine guard at the US Embassy in Moscow sold secrets to the Soviets and was sentenced to 30 years; a US Army officer got 40 years for selling secret war plans to the East Germans and Soviets.

If and when Pollard is released, he will almost certainly go to Israel. But he will not be received as a national hero or be given a parade. Israeli officials have promised they will keep everything low key and not stick a finger in the American eye. But George Bush is not about to give them a chance.

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