For at least the second time this month, the Washington Post went after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) for meeting with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
For those that have forgotten, the Post was harshly critical of the Speaker’s trip at the time, calling it “foolish” and “ludicrous.”
On Friday, the Post editorial staff, in a piece entitled “No Results in Damascus,” chronicled what’s happened in Syria, and the rest of the region, since Pelosi returned.
THE CONGRESSIONAL leaders who visited Damascus this month to meet Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad gave a practical test to the oft-stated theory that "engaging" his regime is more likely to produce results than the Bush administration's policy of isolating it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was particularly unstinting in her goodwill, declaring that she had come to see Mr. Assad "in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace." In a statement, her delegation reported that it had talked to Mr. Assad about stopping the flow of foreign terrorists to Iraq and about obtaining the release of kidnapped Israeli soldiers. It also said it had "conveyed our strong interest in the cases of [Syrian] democracy activists," such as imprisoned human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni.
Nice laundry list, wouldn’t you agree? Well, what were the results?
Mr. al-Bunni might offer the best answer -- if he could. On Tuesday, one of Mr. Assad's judges sentenced him to five years in prison. His "crimes" were to speak out about the torture and persecution of regime opponents, to found the Syrian Human Rights Association and to sign the "Damascus Declaration," a pro-democracy manifesto.
Strike one. How about stopping the flow of foreign terrorists into Iraq?
Well, there has been a major surge in suicide bombings in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq this month, in what U.S. commanders describe as an attempt by al-Qaeda to defeat the new security operation in the capital. According to U.S. and Iraqi officials, almost all suicide bombers in Iraq are foreigners, and some 80 percent of them pass through Syria. The border remains as porous as ever.
Strike two. And how about obtaining the release of Israeli soldiers?
Meanwhile the military wing of Hamas, whose headquarters is in Damascus, launched a barrage of rockets and mortar rounds at Israel from Gaza on Tuesday. Israeli officials said the attack appeared aimed at creating a diversion that would allow Hamas to capture more Israeli soldiers. If so, the operation failed -- but none of the hostages Ms. Pelosi said she spoke to Mr. Assad about have been released.
Strike three. What was the Post’s conclusion?
The danger of offering "friendship" and "hope" to a ruler such as Mr. Assad is that it will be interpreted as acquiescence by the United States to the policies of dictatorship. Ms. Pelosi's courting of Mr. Assad didn't cause Mr. al-Bunni's prison sentence this week -- but it certainly did not discourage it.