The Breakfast Table

“I’m Mad as Hell …’

Dear Michael,

What I think, my friend, is that you don’t quite remember recent history. Arafat has been offered three deals that have more or less given him what you outline. The last one, from Barak via Clinton, was as good a deal as Arafat could ever hope to get, and I suspect he knew as much. At the very least, no one could disagree that it was a substantive place to begin to turn that tragic boat if not actually around, then in a constructive direction. The point is, Michael, Arafat never was going to sign that deal. Arafat never will sign a deal, under any conditions. I consider myself neither liberal nor conservative when it comes to foreign policy. If there were a party for skepticism, I would join in because, as you’ve been hearing from me these last days, what we read in the morning papers is, I am afraid, mere subtext to the real dramas, which are Shakespearean, which play out on stages not even journalists—much less the public—have access to. I am no general fan of President Bush, but I did think his speech about the need to shove Arafat to the side before any real business in the Middle East gets done was one of the most honest—if not actually courageous—things I have heard from an American president in my memory. I bet they’ve been saying that in Washington behind closed doors for years. If I were Yasser Arafat, about to touch pen to paper, I’d know that I’d have to spend the rest of my life looking behind me more than forward, friendless, ally-less, unloved. From where would the assassin’s bullet come and from whose gun? He’d have to count the ways. By now no one can assuage the seething rage in Gaza, which is arguably the worst place on earth for mass human habitation. Arafat is no Musharraf, a man with a similarly loaded gun held to his temple. But Musharraf has much more to offer the West and many more ways to keep himself alive after he does so. Until the current cast in this tragedy is replaced, by whatever means, by any means, bus bombings or no, there will be no movement, no hope, nothing to wish for except the strength to somehow cope with the sight of children and pregnant women (Israeli and Palestinian both) riddled with gunfire.

But I’m glad you brought up the IRA because listening to their so-called apology yesterday on the car radio, I actually had to pull off to the side of the road, hold my head in my hands, and manually shake it. No kidding. Since we’ve both brought up the film Network, I wanted to pull a Peter Finch and cry out, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” (Though of course I will; I always, WE always, do.) Let me quote the IRA: “While it was not our intention to injure or kill noncombatants …” Michael, have you ever heard a more appalling bunch of hooey? I find anything the IRA says or does poisonous, disingenuous, criminal, disgusting. The sight of Gerry Adams out of an orange jumpsuit and leg irons is one of the litany of life’s great injustices. Throw a man in a Saville Row suit and call him a politician? The man is responsible for murder, murder with impunity. He is a leader not of men but thugs. He and his kind are cowards. He belongs, as far as I’m concerned, in the Deepfreeze, where we will not ever have to hear another word. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in Gerry Adams’ office when he and whomever brought up the idea of saying “Sorry.” I wonder (I don’t really) whether the sudden worldwide zero-tolerance policy on terrorism had anything to do with his sudden contrition, his sudden desire for legitimacy? Apologies that come with a gun to one’s head are about as genuine and valuable as Danny Pearl’s “confession” to the crime of being a Jew and an American just before his animal captors sawed off his head. Adams knows he is looking down the barrel of a gun. I don’t know if I can write this “on air,” but if I were a religious man, and if I had any sort of extraterrestrial power at all, I’d condemn the IRA, Gerry Adams, and their Trojan-horse apology to eternity in hell, assuming—and wishing—there is one.

Sorry to begin the morning so poisonously. But I turn the page of the New York Times to find the story about the gang rape of that poor Pakistani girl. I’m afraid to turn the page again, lest my anger this morning get the better of me.

Yours always,