Why Is Compassion Worse Than Murder?
August 29, 1997 - Si Frumkin - Heritage Southwest Jewish Press
So what do you get if you murder someone? Not much. According to the renowned
criminologist James Q. Wilson, the average homicide inmate is released
after 6 years nationally, while in California he is freed after about
Treason is taken more seriously than murder. Americans who sell secrets to
enemies and potential enemies, who betray and cause the deaths of dozens of
our agents abroad, and cost the U.S. hundreds of millions in damage control
are given 25 or 30 years, or in some cases even life sentences. Of course,
all of them are eligible for parole in 10 years, but that is more time than
just plain murder, right?
Of course, this draconian punishment applies only to the extreme cases:
Marine Sergeant Lonetree who led Soviet agents into the U.S. Embassy in
Moscow got 30 years but was let go after serving 9; John A. Walker and his
son Michael who masterminded the U.S. spy ring that made our super-secret
submarines vulnerable to attack were given life and 25 years respectively;
Aldrich Ames who, as a Soviet mole within the CIA, and in charge of counterespionage, betrayed our intelligence operations for years and caused dozens of executions is serving a life sentence, and a few others.
But by and large, most spies get away with a slap on the wrist. For the
last 20 years or so, most sentences were in the neighborhood of 2 or 3 years.
Most recently, Michael Schwartz, a non-Jewish U.S. naval officer who spied for Saudi Arabia for 2 years, was simply dismissed from the service and deprived of his pension - no jail time at all. The median sentence for spying for an ally is even less than that for murder - just 2 to 4 years, with the maximum of 10 years for Thomas Dolce who spied for South Africa and was let go after serving 5 years.
So what do you get if you follow your conscience - not greed - and disclose
secret government information that doesn't harm the U.S. and which the U.S.
was supposed to share with a good ally but didn't? And what if these
secrets may have been instrumental in saving thousands of Jewish lives? And if
these disclosures might have later saved the lives of U.S. soldiers in the
Persian Gulf war by depriving Iraq of nuclear and chemical capabilities?
What do you get if your name is Jonathan Pollard, a Jew who saw the Holocaust gas
chambers as a child and didn't want to sit shiva over hundreds of thousands
of Israeli dead? What do you get when you agree to be sentenced without a
public trial in exchange for a promise of leniency? What do you get for compassion, for saving lives, for helping an ally?
- You get the longest sentence ever given to anyone for spying for an ally.
- You get a year-and-a-half in a hellhole for the criminally insane without an
explanation or an excuse.
- You get 8 years in solitary, locked underground in a maximum security
- You get to start your 13th year in prison without an end in sight.
Why? Why has Pollard been singled out? Why has he been forgotten by those
who should have remembered him, the Israeli allies of the U.S. who have
benefited from Pollard's disclosures and who have always proudly claimed
that no Israeli soldier is left behind on the battlefield?
Something is terribly wrong. Before his election Benjamin Netanyahu
promised to make Pollard's freedom one of his priorities. Instead he freed
Palestinian murderers without demanding a quid pro quo from America -
freedom for just one Israeli soldier, Jonathan Pollard.
Something is terribly wrong. Caspar Weinberger, who was one of Pollard's
main accusers, let it slip after being given a blanket pardon by President Bush,
that Pollard may have served long enough and should be freed. I suppose
that he felt safe from prosecution for anything Pollard might reveal about the
Administration's dealings with Iran, Iraq and others.
Something is terribly wrong. President Clinton, who had been told that
Pollard was responsible for the deaths of our agents in the USSR and for
the destruction of our intelligence network there, refused to pardon him. Yet,
when it became clear that it was the CIA traitor Ames, not Pollard, who was
responsible, and that much of the anti-Pollard "evidence" was planted by
Ames, Clinton didn't repent; didn't issue the pardon.
It has now been 12 years. Jonathan's son - if he had one - might be getting
ready for his bar mitzvah. The Jewish community has been silent,
embarrassed, subservient. Sha-shtil is the word among the makhers in the
Jewish establishment here and in Jerusalem.
Let us end this silence. Let us demand freedom for Pollard. Let us cry out
for justice for Pollard just like we cried out for justice for Sharansky -
unafraid, bold, convinced that we are right. Let our voices be heard in the
White House, the Capitol, the Knesset, the Prime Minister's office. Let us
give Jonathan his life back.
Let us rescue the one soldier who has been left behind on the battlefield!
Si Frumkin is the director of the Southern California Council for Soviet
Jews and the editor and publisher of "Graffiti for Adults".