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Negotiating with our murderers

By Alan Caruba
web posted October 24, 2005

Making the rounds of the opinion editorial pages of various US dailies, Prof. Allen J. Zerkin, has been urging the United States to begin opening channels to al-Qaida for the purpose of seeking "a truce…no matter how much that galls us."

Prof. Zerkin is a research fellow at New York University's Center for Catastrophic Preparedness and Response, and an adjunct professor at its Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. These would appear to be rather impressive credentials, but should we really listen to someone who thinks al-Qaida has "limited and specific goals"?

According to Osama bin Laden, "The United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors." That's what he was saying back in 1998. It is useful to keep in mind that bin Laden is worth millions thanks to his family connections in Saudi Arabia where he grew up. His father, Muhammad bin Laden, was a billionaire construction magnate in Saudi Arabia.

Osama bin LadenOsama bin Laden received an excellent education before experiencing some kind of Wahabi epiphany when he put aside a life of wealth and ease in favor of joining the war against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. When that was over, he returned home to Saudi Arabia expressing an antipathy for the royal family that earned him an invitation to leave. He went to the Sudan and, in time, his passport was revoked. The Saudis, who live by the strictest Islamic codes of behavior, were not strict enough for Osama.

Prof. Zerkin, though, worries that al-Qaida will be able to attack the US with a biological or nuclear weapon. Who doesn't worry about this? And just as surely, who doesn't know that there are dozens of other Islamic terrorist organizations that dream of doing it?

Prof. Zerkin found a grain of hope in a recent message by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida's second in command. In that message, Zawahri referred to bin Laden's April 2004 offer of a truce to any European country that made a commitment to stop ‘attacking Muslims or intervening in their affairs."

Anyone who has paid even the most casual attention to the news of late knows that al-Qaida's thugs have themselves been busy attacking Muslims, indiscriminately killing them in Iraq to thwart the birth of a democratic, modern nation. Afghanistan, which just held another successful election, is still a battleground. And, of course, there was the recent terrorist attack in London against "infidels" in its subways and on its buses. There as since been another attack in Bali.

The bloodlust that distinguishes al-Qaida operations is hardly a platform for back channel or any other negotiations. Prof. Zerkin acknowledges this noting that terrorist attacks leave little to discuss and the greater goal of destroying Western, i.e., Judeo-Christian civilization, is non-negotiable. He even concedes it is widely believed that "bin Laden and company will not act in good faith." If the professor would read the Koran, he would find this supposition confirmed in the Islamic holy book.

History is replete with lessons that teach the futility of negotiating with people who want to kill you. The English, the French, the Soviets, and others discovered that no treaty with the Nazis was worth the paper upon which it was written. Famously, Neville Chamberlain, the then-Prime Minister of England, did not return from Berlin having achieved "peace in our time." More recent negotiations with the North Koreans demonstrate that the ink is hardly dry before they are reneging on their promises.

The dregs of Islam have been gathered together by bin Laden under the banner of al-Qaida. They are led by men with an utterly bizarre view of the world and the same casual indifference to human life with which they recruit "youths (who) love death as you love life."

In the end, Prof. Zerkin says, "I am not suggesting that we engage in direct meetings with al-Qaida or that we stop pursuing those who commit or support acts of terror. But, through back channels, we should seek to determine if bin Laden would withdraw his ‘fatwa' against Americans in exchange for certain policy changes, if al-Qaida would settle for less than its maximum demands and if its far-flung followers would honor a truce."

Prof. Zerkin thinks there is "inconclusive" proof that bin Laden might be willing to do a deal. So (1) why is he even suggesting negotiations and (2) why is any daily newspaper actually printing his recommendation as if it had a shred of merit?

He needs to visit the former Nazi concentration camps or any of the camps of the former Soviet Union's Ghulag Archipelago. He needs a reminder of the prisons and mass graves that dot the landscape of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. He needs to gain a greater insight into the Arab mind.

He needs to visit Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. When he does, he will no longer be penning hopeful nonsense about negotiating with the criminally and theologically insane.

Alan Caruba writes a weekly commentary, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba, October 2005

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