Monday, February 13, 2006

Hamas or Dick Cheney? 

An excerpt from the best column I've read on the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections:

"...terrorists necessarily place themselves outside any substantive legal or democratic process; they alone decide that the terrorist act is justifiable and what the terrorist act will be. Terrorism is not war because no process of public justification or formal legitimacy stands behind it. Nor is it political violence, because the targets it chooses involve the collateral death and maiming of innocent non-combatants.

An assassination or bombing of a military target is political violence rather than terror; it has rationality and targeted political purpose. Suicide bombing of a Tel Aviv restaurant does not. It is these qualities - the absence of any substantive legal process, randomness of target and collateral death of innocents - that define an act as terrorist.

Justifying terrorism as a general principle is impossible. There are acts of terrorism which have had desirable consequences, like the end of apartheid in South Africa. But that is no more than our acceptance of realpolitik, reflecting the side we're on. Palestinian resistance to cruel occupation and the confiscation of their land is understandable, but that does not mean it can shelter under a general moral principle justifying terrorism. The only principle available to justify terrorism is that the consequences of its actions justify the violent means. But if the terrorist has not subjected his or her intentions to any kind of scrutiny, participation or vote by the people for whom he or she is acting, then there is no escaping that the decision belongs in the same category as murder. This is even true if the act of terrorism is to try and right a great wrong, which is what Hamas would claim.

This is why Hamas's election victory is so significant. The movement cannot dodge the fact that, as the new majority party, its morality is no longer its own. It cannot plan a suicide bombing without opening up what it proposes to democratic scrutiny, legal process and wider Palestinian public opinion - or else expose itself to the charge of fundamental hypocrisy. The Palestinians may agree that they should resist Israel with violence, but this will now become an act of war rather than a clandestine act of terrorism. And Hamas does not want war.

Already this reality is forcing extraordinary change. Two senior Hamas leaders have indicated that their charter, which calls for Israel to retreat to pre-1948 borders, could be amended. It has accepted that it cannot impose sharia law. Furthermore, Palestine possesses the embryonic institutions of a genuine democracy. It has three newspapers with some of the freest commentary in the Arab world. It has a fiercely independent judicial council committed to developing an independent judiciary and rule of law. It has a two-party political system and free elections. Hamas has to operate within these constraints, knowing that Fatah will want to win power back. It has to deliver solid administration, abandon terrorism, maintain the truce and try to achieve a long-term settlement. But the encouraging political reality is that it does so, for now, with all the legitimacy that its militancy has earned it inside Palestine.

The worst mistake that the international community could commit is to refuse all dealings with Hamas. This is a moment when the West must commit even more aggressively to support and strengthen Palestine's fragile democratic and welfare infrastructure."

So is there any sense in which Dick Cheney is not a terrorist--indeed more of a terrorist than the leaders of Hamas?

"Monday's hunting trip to Pennsylvania by Vice President Dick Cheney in which he reportedly shot more than 70 stocked pheasants and an unknown number of mallard ducks at an exclusive private club places a spotlight on an increasingly popular and deplorable form of hunting, in which birds are pen-reared and released to be shot in large numbers by patrons. The ethics of these hunts are called into question by rank-and-file sportsmen, who hunt animals in their native habitat and do not shoot confined or pen-raised animals that cannot escape.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported today that 500 farm-raised pheasants were released yesterday morning at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township for the benefit of Cheney's 10-person hunting party. The group killed at least 417 of the birds, illustrating the unsporting nature of canned hunts. The party also shot an unknown number of captive mallards in the afternoon."

Any questions now about why we're in Iraq?


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?