Pardon Me: "Only A Pawn In Their Game"

New Jersey Jewish News Editorial - January 25,2001

Before leaving office, Bill Clinton ended his own legal difficulties and those of a number of other Americans fortunate enough to have been granted pardons or clemency (Full disclosure: a group of New York men convicted of fraud and embezzlement were pardoned after intervention by the Skverer rebbe, Dovid Twersky, a relation of this newspaper's editor.)

For those who understood the battle over the former president's indiscretions as a continuation of the cultural war of the 1960's, there was further evidence in Clinton's pardon of Susan Rosenberg, who as a member of the radical left Weather Underground was found guilty of participating in a 1981 bank robbery during which a guard and two policemen were killed.

We also took note this week of the death of Bryon De La Beckwith, the radical right racist who killed Medgar Evers Jr. in 1963. (He was also caught once in New Orleans en route to kill the local director of the Anti-Defamation League.)

In his powerful song about the Evers assassination, "Only a Pawn in Their Game," Bob Dylan took the view that folks like De La Beckwith were small potatoes, puppets manipulated by powerful interests committed to preserving the Old South. Dylan's concluding lines can now be read with a sense of closure:

The day Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught,
they lowered him down like a king.
And when the shadowy sun
sets on the one
who fired the gun,
they'll see by his grave
carved next to his name
an epitaph plain,
Only a pawn in their game.'

We don't have closure, though; Clinton did not grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard, the American Jew and former naval intelligence officer convicted of passing classified material to Israel. If someone is "a pawn in their game," it is surely Pollard. Of course, our rabbis teach that there is no messenger for an evil deed; i.e., each one of us must take responsibility for our actions. No one argues that Pollard was innocent of the specific charges levied against him. But he has already served 15 years behind bars. His numerous foes in the federal government argue disingenuously that the damage he caused to this country requires him to spend the rest of his life in prison. But there is little evidence presented to substantiate the extent of the damage to which these intelligence sources allude.

Instead, the evidence points to a classic squeeze play by elements in the intelligence and defense communities unsympathetic to Israel, who believe there is a "Mr. X," a highly-placed Israeli operative in Washington, DC, who fed Israel the code numbers of the documents that they then tasked Pollard with retrieving and copying for them. Pollard won't get out until he names Mr. X. For his part, Pollard says Mr. X doesn't exist.

Clinton dangled Pollard's release at the Wye Rive conference and then reneged, caving in to CIA pressure. Clinton's decision to duck here was a profile in cravenness. We hope Pollard gets out before we read his epitaph.

See Also:
  • Was there another U.S. spy tasking Pollard? - Mr. X' exposed
  • The Clemency Page
  • The Facts Page