August 17, 2019

Scottish Judge’s Misplaced Mercy Sends Wrong Signals to Iran

Did anyone doubt that the release of the Lockerbie mass murderer would wreak havoc on the hundreds of bereaved families of the victims of terror? Was there anyone on the planet who couldn’t have foreseen the hero’s welcome this thug received upon his arrival back in Libya? Simon Wiesenthal, a man who lost 89 members of his family during the Holocaust and spent the rest of his life trying to bring Nazi murderers before the bar of justice, spoke on the limited nature of justice when there are massive numbers of victims: “Who could even conceive of a revenge befitting a murderer responsible for the death of hundreds or thousands of innocents?” No, the best we can do, he would add, “is to pursue a measure of symbolic justice — since it is impossible to give each and every victim what they deserve — their own day in court….”

Now a judge in Scotland has robbed the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 of even their meager measure of justice. But this judge’s false compassion release has a real geopolitical price tag. It took four presidents and two decades to bring Muammar Qaddafi to heal. The Libyan strongman gave up his attempt to acquire nukes, accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and financially compensated the Pan Am Flight 103 families. Yet he remains a serial human rights violator both at home and abroad, trying Bulgarian nurses on trumped-up charges of spreading HIV and supporting suicide bombings against Israel. And despite the British-led, oil-based extreme makeover, the Libyan regime never changed at all.

Proof: Protests from the West did not strike fear into the heart of Qaddafi’s supporters, whose response to the U.S. request for the terrorist to be quietly deposited at home was the boisterous celebration on the tarmac. As Qaddafi gets ready to come to pitch his tent in New Jersey, he deserves not a warm reception but an international cold shoulder at the United Nations.

Meanwhile the mullahs in Tehran are upping the ante. They know that President Obama has made dialogue the cornerstone of his administration’s foreign policy, and that he urgently seeks direct talks with Iran to stop its nuclearization. But at what price? The United States did nothing to stand with the people of Iran during the Twitter Revolution. Instead, it signaled to Ahmadinejad that Washington accepted his bogus re-election, even as goons beat people in the street and disappeared them into prisons — some later released in caskets. And then there was Washington’s stony silence when Stalin-style show trials were satellite broadcast around the globe.

And now — as Americans await word on whether the Iranian president will again come to the U.N. General Assembly annual meeting next month — comes the latest bombshell from Ahmadinejad: His new, hand-picked defense minister is none other than General Ahmad Vahidi, who’s currently facing arrest, if Interpol can get its hands on him, for orchestrating the 1994 Buenos Aires Jewish community center suicide bombing attack that killed 85. Without question, this mass murderer will make an early trip on the Tehran-to-Caracas shuttle to deliver the latest instruments of terror and subversion to Hugo Chavez and his anti-American allies. Will the United States take the lead with Argentina at the Organization of American States (OAS) to seek this rogue general’s immediate arrest? Or will the mirage of substantive talks render the administration paralyzed yet again?

Speaking of testing our resolve, let’s not forget the North Korea regime that has played six presidents like a fiddle. While Americans were understandably relieved at Bill Clinton’s unorthodox diplomatic coup when he successfully returned from Pyongyang with two female captives, there was no excuse for the media hype bestowed upon Kim Jong Il for releasing from his prison gulag the innocent women he cynically took hostage in the first place.

So what’s a president to do? President Obama correctly called the Lockerbie outrage “a mistake.” But he should have taken a page out of Harry Truman’s game book. Obama has every right to “give hell” to domestic opponents of his health care reform — but the world needs to hear the same passion when the president is challenged by enemies of freedom abroad.

Thousands of years ago, the Talmud recorded these words: “One who is merciful to those who are heartless will end up being heartless to those who are merciful.” The Scottish court must have missed that reading assignment. But those ancient words offer sound advice to an American president seeking traction on 21st-century human rights.

Traditionally, Americans rely on our president to set the substance and tone of U.S. foreign policy. Most voted for Barack Obama precisely because they were convinced he was committed to engagement and dialogue. But those diplomatic skills must serve as means to a higher end. For if engagement alone is the goal, then we fail to advance our nation’s interests and instead end up bestowing legitimacy on tyranny.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Harold Brackman, a historian, is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.