Thursday, September 15, 2005

An open letter to President Bush

To President Bush: On Terrorism and Jonathan Pollard
by Avi Klar
Sep 13, '05 / 9 Elul 5765

Dear Mr. President:

It is four years since I stood on the porch of my Brooklyn home and watched the sky grow gray with the smoke of the burning Twin Towers. Seemingly from the heavens, papers began falling - papers that just a short while earlier had lain on a desk somewhere in the World Trade Center. When the details of this horrific tragedy became clear to us all, it was apparent that America would be changed forever.

Mr. President, we have been fortunate to have you as the commander-in-chief during this tumultuous era. In numerous addresses to the nation, you have expressed your conviction that after the events of September the eleventh, the United States is engaged in a "war against terror".

Under your able direction, the American military has routed Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and toppled its ally, the ruthless regime of the Taliban. A US-led coalition overthrew the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and is helping bring democracy to the Iraqi people. At the same time, your administration has repeatedly expressed concern about the two other partners of the "axis of evil", namely, Iran and North Korea. As these words are being written, Iran is threatening to reopen its nuclear facility and restart the process of uranium enrichment. Needless to say, the concerns that the White House has raised are of crucial importance. At this time, I cannot help but think of a related, and painful, ongoing saga.

In the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, North Carolina, a man is now in the twentieth year of a life sentence. His crime - to which he pleaded guilty - was "passing classified information to an ally, without intent to harm the United States." What makes this case perplexing is the fact that the information being passed was material that this ally was legally entitled to, according to a 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries. Furthermore, the classified information that was given to the ally was crucial to the latter's defense.

Though the term "war on terrorism" had not yet been coined, for all practical purposes, this was what the exchange of information was all about. The classified material concerned Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and Iranian nuclear/chemical/biological warfare capabilities being developed for use against this American ally. It also included information on ballistic missile development by these countries and on planned terrorist attacks against civilian targets. When one ponders these facts, the thought that this person is still sitting in an American jail seems inexplicable.

Yet, Jonathan Pollard is still in prison.

There is no doubt that what he did was wrong. Mr. Pollard has expressed his remorse on numerous occasions.

"I am extremely sorry for what happened. I don't believe that anybody who has experienced what I have experienced over the past 13 years could feel anything but profound sorrow and remorse," Pollard said in 1997. "My motives may have been well and good, but they only served to explain why I did what I did. They certainly do not serve as an excuse for breaking the law."

Mr. President, in these difficult times, as we face real threats from real enemies, it is time for you to reconsider the justice of Jonathan Pollard's continued incarceration.

As the United States continues to deal with the issue of Iranian nuclear capabilities, one can fully understand - though not condone - Mr. Pollard's intentions.

Jonathan Pollard never intended to harm the United States. All he wanted was to help an ally fight terrorism and save civilian lives. As you have said on many occasions, this war on terror is an unconventional one. It is this very war that prompted Mr. Pollard's actions.

Mr. President, last November, I joined sixty-two million other Americans in casting my ballot to reelect you as our president. The reason for my decision - and I know this to be true for many others - was not only your record of accomplishments, but also the moral integrity that you uphold.

Others Americans who spied for allies have received an average sentence of two to four years in jail. Even Americans who spied for the enemy have served shorter terms than Mr. Pollard's. Pollard has served more than nineteen years of a life sentence. Each day that Jonathan Pollard continues to sit in jail is a stain on the conscience of America.

Though you are a determined commander-in-chief, you are also a person of compassion. I know that I am joined by many of my co-religionists in beseeching you to find mercy in your heart and commute Jonathan Pollard's sentence to time served.



The cartoon is from www.womeningreen.org

[This open letter was first published in Hamodia newspaper.]

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