- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 13, 2005

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to my fellow hyphenated Irishmen. And the good news about this St. Paddy’s Day is that for the first time in a decade the official observances will not be disfigured by having Gerry Adams at the White House.

Mr. Adams is usually billed as the “President of Sinn Fein,” which in turn is usually billed as the “political wing” of the Irish Republican Army. This artful form of words is supposed to suggest some kind of distinction between “President” Adams and the murkier fellows who do all the bombing and killing and kneecapping. In fact, as the Irish government recently revealed, “President” Adams is a member of the Provisional IRA’s ruling “army council” — i.e., the fellows who order all the bombing and killing and kneecapping.

So instead of one more chorus of “The Wearing of the Green” it’s the wearing out of the welcome for Mr. Adams at the White House. In his place, President Bush will welcome the fiancee and five sisters of Robert McCartney to Washington. McCartney was a Belfast Catholic and a Sinn Fein supporter, but he made the mistake of getting into an argument with a Provisional IRA bigshot in a pub in January. The other “Provos” present grabbed McCartney, beat him with iron sewer rods, slit him open from his neck to his navel, severed his jugular and jumped on his head, causing what was left of it to lose an eye. There were 70 witnesses in the bar but none of them saw a thing.

Depravitywise, what exactly is the difference between Robert McCartney’s murder and the lynching of the four U.S. contractors in Fallujah? None — except the organization responsible for the former has enjoyed a decade of White House photo-ops.

Bridgeen Hagans, the late Robert McCartney’s fiancee, and his sisters are in America as part of their campaign to persuade some of the dozens of witnesses to his killing to come forward. The witnesses are reluctant to do so because, as in any third-rate gangster state, testifying against the local warlords can be severely injurious to one’s own health. Recognizing they had a public-relations disaster on their hands, the IRA then offered to make amends to McCartney’s grieving loved ones. You’re right, they said, it was all a mistake. But don’t worry, we’re really sorry about it — and, just to show how sorry we are, we’ll murder his murderers for you. As an afterthought, they acknowledged that, as many were upset by the brutality of the McCartney whack-job, when they got around to murdering his murderers, they’d eschew the sewer rods, abdomen-slitting, etc and just do it nice and clean with a bullet straight to the head. Very decent of them.

There’s a lesson there in the reformability of terrorists. The IRA’s first instinct is to kill. If you complain about the killing, they offer to kill the killers. If you complain about the manner of the killing, they offer to kill more tastefully: “compassionate terrorism,” as it were. But it’s like Monty Python’s spam sketch: There’s no menu item that doesn’t involve killing. You can get it in any color as long as it’s blood-red.

For the last 3 years, one of the most persistent streams of correspondence I’ve had is from British readers sneering, “Oh-ho. So America’s now waging a war on ‘terror’, is she? Well, where were the bloody Yanks the last 30 years? Passing round the collection box for IRA donations in the bars of Boston and New York, that’s where.”

They have a point. Blowing up grannies and schoolkids at bus stops is always wrong, and the misty shamrock-hued sentimentalization of it in this particular manifestation speaks poorly for America, the principal source for decades of IRA funding. On the other hand, it was the London and Dublin governments, not Washington, that decided they would accommodate the IRA, Her Majesty’s Government going so far at one point as to install Gerry Adams and his colleagues in the coalition administration of Northern Ireland, making IRA terrorists ministers of a Crown they don’t deign to recognize.

Now Tony Blair and Company profess to be shocked that the leopard hasn’t changed his spots. But, until January, if you raised the IRA’s vicious methods of retribution against dissident Catholics, British officials would chortle urbanely it was just a little “internal housekeeping” by Mr. Adams and his chums.

So London and Dublin have only themselves to blame for the present situation. By enhancing the prestige of the terrorists, they’ve enabled Sinn Fein to supplant moderate Catholic political parties in both Northern and Southern Ireland. Because they no longer have to engage in the costly and time-consuming business of waging war against the British Army, they’ve been free to convert themselves into the emerald isle’s answer to the Russian mafia. They recently pulled off the biggest bank heist in British history — snaffling just shy of 50 million bucks from the vaults of Ulster’s Northern Bank. What do they need that money for? Well, it helps them fund their real objective — the takeover of Southern Ireland.

With hindsight, the 1990s were the apogee of terrorist mainstreaming, with Yasser Arafat and Gerry Adams given greater White House access than your average prime minister of a friendly middle-rank power. And in return for what? Nothing other than the corrosive impact on weak-willed Westerners desperate to believe all terrorists can somehow be accommodated if you just roll out the red carpet for them.

Witness Robert McNamara, the Kennedy-Johnson defense secretary who popped up last week with a particularly fatuous observation even by his standards: The AP reported, “McNamara added that the threat of terrorists using a nuclear device could be reduced if the United States in particular tried to understand terrorists’ anger and motivations.”

As we now know, even the saner end of the terrorism business is difficult to house train. If your main expertise is killing people, it’s hardly surprising the prospect of being deputy transport minister in Belfast seems a bit tame.

President Bush, unlike his predecessor, is under no illusions about Mr. Adams’ trustworthiness, any more than he was about that of Arafat’s. After he declared his “war on terror,” many on the right mocked the idea of being at war with a phenomenon.

But the IRA has long ties to the Palestine Liberation Organization and to Latin American terrorist groups: Terrorists gravitate to other terrorists. So this March 17, the president is merely following the logic of his own post-September 11, 2001, analysis. St. Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland. Mr. Bush can at least chase them out of the White House.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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