- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2002

It's not just the massive acts or threats of catastrophe that do damage to our notions of civilization. What may be every bit as dangerous is the more commonplace insult or outrage that raises neither hackles nor eyebrows before passing into the record as just another increment of encroaching chaos. Such an instant came and went last week, neither earth-shaking in itself, nor definitive in any way, but still deserving mention if only to sort out whether it was worth any goosebumps or furrowed brows in the first place.

It all had to do with the fact that Syria, now in its eighth year on the official U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, is now also in its first month as the head of the U.N. Security Council. That means that until the presidency rotates again at the end of June, Syria whose capital of Damascus, of course, serves as terror central for a bloodthirsty who's who of terrorist gangs is the symbolic chief of international law and order. That right there is an insult. But, of course, there's more.

Last week, after another Palestinian bomber murdered 17 more Israelis as they rode to work on a bus, Syrian-supported and Syrian-headquartered Islamic Jihad whose leader Abdullah Ramadan Shallah, incidentally, lives in Damascus following a stint as a professor at the University of South Florida claimed responsibility for the massacre. Israel then found itself in the position of having to call on the president of the Security Council (a.k.a. Syria) to condemn Syria (a.k.a. the council president) for harboring terrorists that target Israelis. Surprise, surprise nothing happened.

But the point was made. And Syria, acting in its presidential capacity, had to follow diplomatic protocol and circulate a letter from Yehuda Lancry, Israel's U.N. ambassador. "Israel is appalled that a member of the Security Council continues to lend its support to organizations committed to the deliberate murder of civilians," Mr. Lancry wrote. (According to Reuters, Syria's U.N. ambassador, Mikhail Webhe and president of the Security Council maintains that Syria only allows "some unspecified Palestinian groups to open information offices.") Such support for terrorism, Mr. Lancry wrote, violates U.N. declarations holding that "states must prevent their territory from lending any support, financial or otherwise, to terrorist organizations." Noting that a claim of responsibility for the attack came from Islamic Jihad's Damascus headquarters, Mr. Lancry added, "Yesterday's attack comes at the precise moment … when the fight against terrorism is at the top of the council's agenda. It is astounding that Syria is brazenly supporting attempts to subvert the anti-terrorist objectives of an international body of which it itself is president."

But how astounding is it? Perhaps the blase attitude toward what amounts to a blatant con game the terrorist-sponsoring state sitting in judgment of its state-sponsored terrorism is what is most astounding of all. At least, it definitely should be.


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