How Best to Remember Caspar Weinberger

Avram Hein - IsraelInsider - April 7, 2006

I know it is not considered appropriate to say bad things about the dead, but a man I deeply revile died last week. His name was Caspar Weinberger. Some many not know who he was, but I can not forget what he did.

Among other important government roles, the role I know him most for was as Secretary of Defense under former president Ronald Reagan. I don't remember him in that role, as I was just a young child then, but, thanks to a decade long fascination and research, I know that it is due to him that Jonathan Jay Pollard rots in jail today.

As Defense Secretary this man sentenced Jonathan Jay Pollard to death. Yet, while he acknowledges his crime and has since expressed remorse, it is due to Jonathan that Israeli buildings were built with safe rooms, which may have saved lives when Scuds fell on Tel Aviv in the first Gulf War. It was due to intelligence he provided -- that the United States wrongly and illegally withheld from Israel, her closest ally -- that Israel attacked arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat's compound in Tunis in an operation praised by Weinberger's boss, Ronald Reagan.

As we remember Weinberger, who was blessed with a long life and a loving family, we can not forget that, unless we act immediately, his actions may serve as a death sentence for Jonathan Pollard, who has been denied by Weinberger the very blessings that Weinberger was able to have in his long and fulfilling life.

Casper Weinberger is the reason that this man has been in prison for over two decades. He filed a false declaration accusing Pollard of treason. Mr. Weinberger, partly based on a damage assessment written by the traitor Aldrich Ames, falsely accused Mr. Pollard of treason, a crime was never accused or indicted for. Treason is legally considered to be the act of aiding your enemy during wartime. Mr. Weinberger somehow felt that Ames' lies were worth spreading, although he never interfered in any other case, writing a still-confidential memo to the sentencing judge. Jonathan's attorneys, to this day, are still denied access to this most-important memo, which played a tremendous influence in Pollard's sentencing, denying Mr. Pollard due process of law. As a result of Weinberger's memo, and in violation of a previous agreement, the judge threw out Pollard's plea bargain and sentenced Pollard to life imprisonment.

Weinberger, however, is not a man who showed respect for due process. From his criminal involvement in the Iran-Contra Scandal, for which he received a political presidential pardon from the first President Bush, to his false and damaging statements he wrote about Pollard, he has not shown respect for the American legal system. In a 1999 interview in the Middle East Quarterly, he expressed ignorance of criminal law and contempt for the detailed intricacies of the legal system. In that same interview, Weinberger said that Jonathan Pollard should be shot. Over a decade earlier, he made the same claims to Israel Ambassador Meir Rosenne, according to former Jerusalem Post columnist Wolf Blitzer. Yet, at the same that Pollard was showing disregard for the law in order to save Israel, Weinberger was equally showing disregard for the law in the Iran-Contra affair.

Yet, I am probably not being fair to the late Casper Weinberger. After all, he later admitted that Jonathan's case was "a very minor matter" and "blown out of proportion." However, Jonathan has been in prison for over two decades due to political mismanagement. First, the United States reneged on its agreements with Israel, and then let terrorist Aldrich Ames author the damage report, in which he blamed his own treason on Pollard. This information was recently confirmed by Rafi Eitan, Pollard's handler, and now head of Israel's pensioners party. When Ames's treason was discovered, Pollard's case should have received a fresh examination, yet Ames libels are still being repeated as fact among those who wish to discredit Pollard.

In Dennis Ross's book, The Missing Peace, he acknowledged that Pollard's sentence was harsh but wrote that he should remain rotting in prison until he can be traded for concessions from Israel over her future borders. Regardless of where one stands on Israel's borders, human life and human dignity should not be held to the whims of politics. But, today, this question would not be asked had Weinberger not used the Pollard case to pursue the pro-Arab policies of the Defense Department at that time.

A 1998 Forward article claims that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, working through Secretary Weinberger's unprecedented communications with the sentencing judge and these high ranking Defense officials claimed that Pollard's sentence -- which is normally 2-4 years for similar crimes -- had nothing to do with the severity of the crime but entirely intended to send a message to America's Jews.

As a Jerusalem Post editorial noted over a decade ago, "Neither Pollard nor anyone else denies the severity of his crime. Yet no spy in recent history, including spies for the USSR who compromised American security, has received a punishment as harsh as Pollard's."
It was due to the damaging and false words of Casper Weinberger that Jonathan Pollard remains imprisoned. Weinberger's questionable memo is still being denied to Jonathan Pollard's attorneys, who have the necessary security clearance to view it.

Weinberger made a mistake by relying on Ames's words.

The best way to honor Casper Weinberger would be to right his wrongs and free Jonathan Pollard.