I found it ironic that Secretary of State Colin Powell characterized Israel’s attack on the terrorist cell Hamas as “excessive,” “reprehensible,” “highly provocative” and “too aggressive.”

After all, the two men killed in the attack – Hamas leaders Jamal Mansour and Jamal Salim – have been responsible for the deaths of at least 80 Israelis and the wounding of more than 400 in suicide missions and attacks they orchestrated.

In my opinion, the United States ought to be congratulating Israel for the service to mankind, for the restraint showed and for the precision of an attack on a seven-story building that took out only the Hamas offices. Israel has every right to defend itself and its citizens from attack – just as every other nation in the world does.

And Colin Powell knows this. Yet, here’s what he said about the action: “This kind of response is too aggressive and it just serves to increase the level of tension and violence in the region.”

Now let’s put this in perspective. Israel has been under terrorist siege for going on a year. Palestinian militia groups regularly fire on civilian Israeli vehicles and homes. Teen suicide bombers blow themselves up in crowded shopping malls, near bus stops and at a popular disco. Hundreds of Jews have been killed and thousands wounded.

When the Israelis have responded they have done so with pinpoint accuracy – targeting known terrorists. Let’s face it. Israel has the power to bomb the areas under control of the Palestinian Authority back to the Stone Age. The defense forces could put Yasser Arafat out of business permanently with an intense, 24-hour operation. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could declare war on the PA. And he would be justified in doing so by any civilized standard you want to apply to the situation.

Yet, Israel has not done so. It has absorbed the attacks. It has offered measured responses. The Jewish state has been a picture of restraint – despite growing frustration and anger among Israeli citizens of all political persuasions.

Imagine the United States of America showing this kind of restraint if, let’s say, faced with a concerted series of terrorist attacks by Canadians or Mexicans. Do you think Colin Powell would be calling for restraint? Do you think he would characterize any conceivable response as “too aggressive”? Would he deem any retaliation as “highly provocative”?

I don’t think so – not the Colin Powell we have come to know. After all, what is Colin Powell’s claim to fame? Why is he the secretary of state? How did he happen to become so popular among the American people?

The answer to those questions is the Persian Gulf War – the conduct of which he oversaw during the first Bush administration.

What was Colin Powell’s prescription for quick victory in that war?

It was a doctrine of using “overwhelming force.” The United States sent 500,000 men to the region to take on Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army, which had invaded Kuwait. Powell made no bones about the fact that he had one objective – to “kill it,” destroy it, pulverize it, annihilate it.

And he did – though he argued against going after the leader of that army and putting an end to his reign of terror on the region.

Does that make sense to you? The U.S. and allies destroyed Iraq’s soldiers, but allowed the dictator who ordered them into harm’s way to survive – to outlast President Bush the first, to outlast an eight-year administration of his successor and to continue to make mayhem into the second Bush administration.

But the important concept here is that Powell believed in “overwhelming force” when the U.S. had a mission and faced a threat. He has different rules entirely when it comes to Israel – even though Israel is facing violence in its own backyard and the U.S. was thousands of miles removed from the threat in the Persian Gulf.

Double standard? Worse. It’s no standard at all. Powell didn’t believe “overwhelming force” was “excessive” when he was conducting the military campaign. Yet, he characterizes Israel’s extremely limited campaign against select, individual terrorists known to be responsible for the deaths of Jewish citizens as “excessive.”

Will the real Colin Powell please stand up?

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