At exactly the same time that President Obama’s anti-terrorism theatrics are going on in Washington at the nuclear security summit, a pro-terrorism party is going on in New York at UN Headquarters. The trouble is that the states play-acting in D.C. are swinging in New York in the opposite direction.
In Washington, the summit advertisement reads as follows: “Dedicated to nuclear security and the threat of nuclear terrorism.” In New York, the UN’s “ad-hoc committee on measures to eliminate international terrorism” is gathered to talk about drafting the world’s first comprehensive convention against terrorism. For the fourteenth time in ten years.
In Washington, the image is of President Obama sitting on a chair beaming like a Cheshire cat, opposite some lucky head of state. The two are surrounded by smiling Obama appointees and everyone agrees that terrorism is bad. In New York, the very same states agree terrorism is naughty. It’s just that “resistance,” “armed struggle,” and “liberation” are not terrorism.
The major stumbling-block to the conclusion of a draft comprehensive convention against terrorism at the UN has been a concerted effort by Islamic states to carve out an exception for murdering civilians of their choosing. Israelis top the list, but Americans are not far behind.
The terrorism convention of the Organization of the Islamic States accordingly creates an exception to its phony denunciation of terrorism. Exempt from “terrorist crimes” are “peoples' struggle including armed struggle against foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism, and hegemony, aimed at liberation and self-determination.”
So let’s compare the simultaneous Washington and New York performances. In Washington, the president invited many “anti-terrorism” invitees from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) – Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Presumably, he decided to showcase his close ties with Muslim nations. In New York, OIC members chose Syria, nuclear arms wannabe and state sponsor of terrorism, to do their talking. Speaking on behalf of the OIC, therefore, Syria declared yesterday: “The group reiterates once again the need to make a distinction…between terrorism and the struggle for the right of self-determination by people under foreign occupation, and colonial or alien domination.”
In Washington, the president invited many additional “anti-terrorism” invitees from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) – such as China, India, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. At the UN, the 117 NAM members selected as their spokesperson for the drafting of an anti-terrorism convention none other than Iran. Iranian UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee said the following on behalf of NAM states – almost half of Obama’s invitees coming from this group: “Terrorism should not be equated with the legitimate struggle of peoples under colonial or alien domination…for self-determination and national liberation.” (The issue of self-determination for the Iranian people was somehow not raised.)
Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani wallowed in Obama’s attention in D.C. and declared that any nuclear terrorism fears arising from Pakistani actions or inactions were unjustified. Meanwhile, his UN representative was saying in New York: “My delegation aligns itself with the statements made by the distinguished representatives of Syria and Iran.”
The government of Algeria was especially pleased by Obama’s invitation. But a few hours before Foreign Affairs Minister Mourad Medelci dined in D.C. last night, his government told the UN: “Algeria endorses the statements made by Syria and Iran…International law should make sure that we avoid generalizations that Algeria has always denounced between terrorism and the armed struggle of people in supporting their right to self-determination and their liberation…”
And then there was Obama’s special friend Egypt, scene of the most obsequious speech ever delivered by a U.S. president to the Muslim world. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, together with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had planned to turn the international get-together in D.C. into another Israel-bashing session. With Netanyahu choosing to stay away rather than trust President Obama to keep the meeting on message, Egypt simply shifted gears. The Egyptian delegate urged UN members in New York on Monday “to emphasize the distinction between a terrorist act and the legal acts…carried out by national liberation movements…” He also “emphasized” Egypt’s primary interest in addressing terrorism’s “root causes” – not hate and intolerance, mind you – but “feelings of injustice and frustration.”
President Obama’s security summit takes grandstanding to a whole new level. The White House calls it “the largest gathering of countries hosted by an American President…since the conference in San Francisco around the United Nations” in 1945. Of course, back then the number meant most of the world’s states, while today it is less than a quarter.
True friends of America like the British and Israeli prime ministers have stayed away, while double-talking and double-dealing non-democrats have their run of the place. Shutting down Iran – the leading threat to nuclear security and state sponsor of terrorism – is not even on the table.
And half of the attendees at this anti-terrorism extravaganza can’t recognize terrorism when it stares them in the face.
Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.