Sex and the Capital City
From Richard A. Clarke's suspicious "bachelorhood" to Hester Prynne's sin, Americans have been too willing to sexualize politics
If you were in Washington, D.C. last week (as I was), the big nudge-nudge-wink-wink rumor was about how the Bush administration was going to out Richard A. Clarke as part of their scorched-earth rebuttal of the former counterterrorism czar's incendiary charges regarding the White House's pre- and post-9/11 policies. Everyone I talked with, it seemed, was laying odds on whether such a revelation might hurt the Bush or Kerry people more (for most D.C. denizens, until the November election, every revelation, disaster, or event matters only to the extent it impacts the presidential race). Forget that no one had any reliable--or even "semi-reliable"--sources that could be named in substantiating claims that Clarke is in fact gay or that the Bushites were about to out him. Such technicalities were less important than mooning over Clarke's possible predilections and how his highly media-genic saga might play out.
Whether Rummy or Condi or Dick or some low-level flunky is actually going to try to name Clarke as a bridesmaid at the secret wedding of Keanu Reeves and David Geffen remains to be seen, but it's not a stretch to figure that a president--even or perhaps especially one who is a former cheerleader--who supports an anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment would figure that calling somebody homosexual would somehow discredit their foreign policy expertise.
Another reason the rumor, totally unsourced, seemed so eminently plausible is that political operatives have always been quick to make charges of "sexual deviancy" in order to shut people up, tear people down, or toss people aside. Forget about the 1990s, the barely repressed Decade of the Penis, which started with talk of Long Dong Silver, Clarence Thomas, and Anita Hill, and ended with tutorials on Peyronie's Disease, Bill Clinton, and short-lived Speaker of the House Bob Livingstone's phone-sex compulsion. (What is it that former interns say about the '90s? If you weren't exposed to a hostile workplace situation, you weren't really there?)
No, instead, go read Allen Drury's surprisingly neglected 1959 political potboiler Advise and Consent, which holds the record for longevity on the The New York Times bestseller list and whose plot turns on a revelation of homosexuality. Or recall Whittaker Chambers, whose testimony against Alger Hiss was challenged in part because of a gay past. Or consider Roy Cohn, the aide to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose alternative sexuality provided the subtext for the Army-McCarthy hearings that spectacularly ended Tailgunner Joe's career).
In fact, what might be called the sexualizing of political dissent is in fact such an All-American trope that it predates the U.S. Constitution by a century and a half. The ur-text here is what some schoolkids still learn about as "The Antinomian Controversy of 1636-38," the trial of religious dissenter Anne Hutchinson in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Hutchinson, the subject of a new biography well worth reading, essentially accused the theocrats running Massachusetts of acting Catholic by teaching a "a covenant of works" rather than a "covenant of grace." In colonial America, those were fighting words and John Cotton, John Winthrop, and other rulers put Hutchinson on trial, eventually expelling her (she ended up settling in Rhode Island, under the protection of that other great New England dissenter and advocate of toleration, Roger Williams).
In today's America--where even anti-Papist evangelicals flock to see a hard-core Catholic version of The Passion of the Christ--the doctrinal disputes at play in Hutchinson's trial are less relevant than charges of sexual deviance. From the start--and without evidence--her accusers smeared her as an advocate of free love and other carnal improprieties. As Salon's Laura Miller notes in a review of Eve La Plante's American Jezebel, "The fact that [Hutchinson] was willing to stand before the court and debate religious matters got somehow mixed up with whorishness in the mind of more than one male observer." Indeed, at one point the colony's elders actually dug up one of Hutchinson's miscarriages, convinced that it would somehow prove she'd had relations with the devil himself.
Strangely, even Hutchinson's admirers sexualized her challenge to reigning political power: Most famously, Nathaniel Hawthorne, the guilt-ridden descendant of Salem witch-burners, transformed Hutchinson into arguably the best-know female protagonist in American letters, The Scarlet Letter's Hester Prynne. Pace Henry Kissinger, power may or may not be the "ultimate aphrodisiac," but it's clear that threats to power often give way to dirty talk in a way that shines a harsh light on the American political tradition. Here's hoping that Richard Clarke's challenge to White House policy is evaluated on its merits--or lack of them--and not on some other tawdrier, inconsequential grounds.
Nick Gillespie is Reason's editor-in-chief.
Minimum access for nonplayers
First published: Monday, April 19, 2004
Lawmakers may have little to show in the way of new laws that will improve the lives of New Yorkers, but they have succeeded in making their campaign treasurers happy so far this session.
The 212 members of the Legislature, all up for re-election this year, have held or scheduled 146 fund-raisers (plus one each for Gov. George Pataki and Comptroller Alan Hevesi) between Jan. 12 and May 19 in which millions of dollars will be raised at an average of $323 per event per person.
For a comparison, one might use the $5.15-an-hour minimum wage. Lawmakers, who are stalled on a bill to raise the minimum to $7.10, get in for free. But for those who do pay for an evening with the elected officials, the average cost of $323 is $117 more than a full-time minimum-wage worker earns in a week.
The average entry fee also is $39 more than a full-time worker would make at $7.10 an hour, as the Assembly has proposed.
The get-togethers at such places as the Fort Orange Club, Sign of the Tree and Crowne Plaza almost all occur on session days in Albany. The biggest here was the Senate Republican Campaign Committee's shindig at The Desmond on Feb. 23. Run by people who have held up a vote on raising the minimum wage, it cost $1,000 to attend.
The soaring costs of the events may contribute to lobbying spending in Albany, which climbed to $120 million last year, and add to the difficulty small-budget interest groups have in getting access to politicians, reform groups say.
"They contribute to the fact that there is no minimum-wage increase. It's a pay-to-play system here. If you can't afford to play with the big guys, then your voice isn't heard here in Albany," says Barbara Bartoletti, legislative director of the League of Women Voters. She said the schedule of fund-raisers will expand in late May and June "when the real money" is made.
A lawyer and lobbyist for Caesars Entertainment has concluded the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying has no right to subpoena his client for information on visits by New York legislators to company hotels and casinos.
James Featherstonhaugh said the commission won't be getting information from his client. Upon review, he said, the commission's subpoenas "aren't legitimate based on any inquiry currently under way."
The commission sought the information as an offshoot of its probe of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's January 2002 stay at one of Caesars' luxury suites in Las Vegas at the government rate of $109 per night instead of the top rate of $1,500.
While there, Silver and his wife had dinner with a Caesars lobbyist and her husband, but the Assembly Democratic leader says no lobbying occurred. Caesars has casino interests with the St. Regis Mohawks, who need legislation to ratify a gaming compact.
Caesars is still considering the commission's demand.
"It would be premature to say we have decided on a course of action. Our lawyers are in touch with their lawyers," Caesars spokesman Robert Stewart said.
The commission declined comment.
Contributor: Capitol bureau reporter James M. Odato.
Got a tip? Call 454-5424 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
A man seeking pain relief gets 25 years for drug trafficking
Here's a bit of legal information that may interest Rush Limbaugh: Under Florida law, illegally obtaining more than 28 grams of painkillers containing the narcotic oxycodone--a threshold exceeded by a single 60-pill Percocet prescription--automatically makes you the worst sort of drug trafficker, even if you never sold a single pill. Even if, like Richard Paey, you were using the drugs to relieve severe chronic pain.
Although prosecutors admitted Paey was not a drug trafficker, on April 16 he received a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years for drug trafficking. That jaw-dropping outcome illustrates two sadly familiar side effects of the war on drugs: the injustice caused by mandatory minimum sentences and the suffering caused by the government's interference with pain treatment.
Paey, a 45-year-old father of three, is disabled as a result of a 1985 car accident, failed back surgery, and multiple sclerosis. Today, as he sits in jail in his wheelchair, a subdermal pump delivers a steady, programmed dose of morphine to his spine. But for years he treated his pain with Percocet, Lortab (a painkiller containing the narcotic hydrocodone), and Valium prescribed by his doctor in New Jersey, Steven Nurkiewicz.
When Paey and his family moved to Florida in 1994, he had trouble finding a new doctor. Because he had developed tolerance to the pain medication, he needed high doses, and because he was not on the verge of death, he needed them indefinitely. As many people who suffer from chronic pain can testify, both of those factors make doctors nervous, since they know the government is looking over their shoulders while they write prescriptions.
Unable to find a local physician who was comfortable taking him on as a patient, Paey used undated prescription forms from Nurkiewicz's office to obtain painkillers in Florida. Paey says Nurkiewicz authorized these prescriptions, which the doctor (who could face legal trouble of his own) denies.
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office began investigating Paey in late 1996 after receiving calls from suspicious pharmacists. Detectives tracked Paey as he filled prescriptions for 1,200 pills from January 1997 until his arrest that March.
At first investigators assumed Paey must be selling the pills, since they thought the amounts were too large for him to consume on his own. But the police never found any evidence of that, and two years after his arrest prosecutors offered him a deal: If he pleaded guilty to attempted trafficking, he would receive eight years of probation, including three years of house arrest.
Paey initially agreed but then had second thoughts. His wife, Linda, says he worried that he could go to prison if he was accused of violating his probation. More fundamentally, he did not want to identify himself as a criminal when he believed he had done nothing wrong. He has since turned down other plea deals involving prison time.
Meanwhile, prosecutors have pursued Paey in three trials. The first ended in a mistrial; the second resulted in a conviction that the judge threw out because of a procedural error; and the third, which ended last month, produced guilty verdicts on 15 charges of drug trafficking, obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, and possession of a controlled substance.
A juror later told the St. Petersburg Times he did not really think Paey was guilty of trafficking, since the prosecution made it clear from the outset that he didn't sell any pills. The juror said he voted guilty to avoid being the lone holdout. He suggested that other jurors might have voted differently if the foreman had not assured them Paey would get probation.
The prosecutors, who finally obtained the draconian sentence that even they concede Paey does not deserve, say it's his fault for insisting on his innocence. "It's unfortunate that anyone has to go to prison, but he's got no one to blame but Richard Paey," Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis told the St. Petersburg Times. "All we wanted to do was get him help."
Paey's real crime, it seems, is not drug trafficking but ingratitude. "My husband was so adamant, and so strongly defending this from the very beginning, that it might have annoyed them," says Linda Paey. "They were extremely upset that he would not accept a plea bargain. They felt that anyone who had any common sense would....But he didn't want to say he was guilty of something he didn't do."
Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and the author of Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use (Tarcher/Putnam).
More than a Blip
It's a supply-side recovery.
By Victor A. Canto
The March employment report marked a turning point in the economy. Prior to its release there was a decoupling in the data -- real GDP growth and employment gains didn't match up. Those who were partial to President Bush's economic program argued that the recovery was for real and that low employment gains were due to high workplace productivity. More, they argued that if the economy continued expanding the employment gains would follow.
In contrast, the critics argued that last year's surge in real GDP growth was a mirage -- a blip that could be largely explained by the surge in defense spending. Their implication was that the economy would roll over with the drop-off in spending. The critics also argued that low monthly employment gains confirmed the view that the surge in economic activity was not sustainable.
Both sides placed their bets on the employment report. In fact, I argued that we were only one payroll report away from a major market rotation. That report finally came at the end of March; a jobs gain of 308,000 rocked the markets. The report has also, once and for all, settled the recovery debate: This economic recovery is for real and stronger than most people expected.
Although there may be some dispute as to the origins of the resurgence of the economy, there is no mistake as to the timing and the acceleration of the pace of economic activity. Real GDP grew at 1.97 percent during last year's first quarter, 3.09 percent during the second, 8.2 percent during the third, and 4.14 percent in the fourth. In spite of the acceleration of economic activity, U.S. inflation came in at a modest 1.8 percent with core inflation at 1.1 percent -- the lowest in 40 years.
The cause of the recovery, however, remains something that economists love to debate, but it is clear that the war in Iraq and the passage of the Bush tax-rate cuts (as well as an accommodative Greenspan Fed) had a lot to do with it. It is quite interesting that both Keynesians and supply-siders agree on the importance of the war and the tax cuts on the resurgence of the U.S. economy -- however they do so for different reasons.
Within the textbook Keynesian model, government spending and tax revenues are two sides of the same coin. One increases aggregate demand; the other reduces it. Hence, increases in defense spending and tax cuts are alternative ways to stimulate aggregate demand. Since both war and tax cuts increase demand in the economy, it follows, within the Keynesian framework, that the two have had a hand in the past year's surge in economic activity.
Supply-siders argue this much differently. They contend that lower tax rates increase the incentives to work, save, and invest. As Bush lowered tax rates, Americans worked more, saved more, and invested more, putting the economy back on track.
So, while the separate schools specify two distinct mechanisms by which government actions affect the economy, it is apparent that both agree on the simulative effects of the government actions. But the conceptual differences between the schools remain very important.
Within the Keynesian model, the revenue impact of a tax is all that is needed to determine its impact on the economy. It does not matter in this scheme whether a tax rate is temporary or permanent, only the magnitude matters. This is quite important (lawmakers wrestling over whether or not to make the Bush tax cuts permanent should take note). If no allowance is made for the disincentives of higher tax rates, the effect of a rate change on the tax base is assumed to be nonexistent. This thinking is what gives us static revenue estimates.
The simple Keynesian framework also does not take into account government budget constraints. Deficit-financing implies future tax liabilities; a forward-looking taxpayer would anticipate future taxes, negating the aggregate-demand effects that Keynesians claim deficit-financing generates. Supply-siders counter that there is no income effect once one takes into account government budget constraints. All that remains is the substitution effect, or incentive effect, that the Keynesians ignore.
The simple discussion of income and substitution effects allows one to set up a simple test as to the source of the recovery. Economists who emphasize the impact of the war effort on the economy's aggregate demand forecast a much slower economy when the spending subsides. Those who focus on the incentives of the Bush tax-rate cuts point out that the effects of those rate cuts are longer than a one-year horizon.
Hence, the Keynesian model predicts a temporary blip in economic activity that subsides with the drop in defense spending, while the supply-side model argues that tax-rate cuts provide a continuous incentive to save, invest, and produce. And here we are back in the spring, a year after the stimulus of war and tax relief went into effect, holding a March employment report indicating 308,000 new jobs.
Other indicators make the long-run, bullish economic picture even clearer. The November industrial production index had its strongest increase in four years. Accelerating capital-goods investment provided the catalyst that led the ISM index to post a twenty-year high. Business investments, meanwhile, are turning progressively stronger.
The trend in productivity gains is partially responsible for the slow employment recovery, yet all indicators point to significant increases in employment during the coming months. But the latest payroll gain clearly supports the view that this economic recovery is for real -- as the supply-siders have argued all along.
-- Victor Canto, Ph.D., is the founder of La Jolla Economics, an economics research and consulting firm in La Jolla, California
Limited Sovereignty For Iraq Is Described
They Charge War Crimes
How John Kerry et al. have defamed the American serviceman in Vietnam
By Mackubin Thomas Owens
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article appears in the May 3, 2004, issue of National Review.
Vietnam is the war that just won't go away. And for many Americans, especially those in the media, nothing says "Vietnam" quite like "atrocity" and "war crime." Indeed, it is the conventional wisdom that My Lai, the darkest chapter of America's war effort, was merely a microcosm of the war.
This belief that Vietnam was one big atrocity explains why most reporters, even those too young to remember it, are predisposed to believe the worst about America's role in Indochina. As everyone now knows, a young John Kerry, testifying before the Senate in April 1971, gave credence to the charge that U.S. policy in Vietnam violated the laws of war and that individual service members routinely committed war crimes and atrocities. Some have defended Kerry by arguing that only a small part of his testimony dealt with atrocities and war crimes; unfortunately for them, there is something called the Internet that permits people to read Kerry's testimony in full, and to see that that characterization is wrong. Others have embraced Kerry as a hero for refusing to accept what former anti-war activist Tom Hayden called the "fabrications, delusions, and fantasies" Americans had embraced to assuage their guilt about Vietnam. In a touching defense of his ex-wife in The Nation, Hayden wrote: "It will be easier, I am afraid, for those Americans to believe that Jane Fonda helped torture our POWs than to accept the testimony by American GIs that they sliced ears, burned hooches, raped women, and poisoned Vietnam's children with deadly chemicals." And Lawrence O'Donnell said, on MSNBC on February 11, that "everything that John Kerry has said about the Vietnam War was true. It was an unjust war for American interests. . . . There was not a worthy moment of American military intervention in Vietnam."
With all due respect, these people have no idea what they are talking about. There are two issues here. The first is the broad claim that the U.S. conducted the Vietnam War in violation of international law. The second is that U.S. servicemen committed atrocities regularly. The evidence doesn't support either claim. As Guenter Lewy observed in his indispensable book America in Vietnam, these charges for the most part were "based on a distorted picture of the actual battlefield situation, on ignorance of existing rules of engagement, and on a tendency to construe every mistake of judgment as a wanton breach of the law. Further, many . . . critics had only the most rudimentary understanding of international law and freely indulged in fanciful interpretations of conventions and treaties so as to make the American record look as bad as possible."
The Coalition dances with the devil.
By Michael Rubin
Local humor reflects society. Within Iraq's Shia community, there is a popular joke: Saddam dies and enters a special prison in hell for worst 100 offenders of all time. Residents are assigned cells according to relative degree of evil: Cell # 100 is for the absolute worst. One day at lunch, prisoners see Saddam has joined them. "Who are you, and what cell are you in?" one asks. "I am Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq, and I am in cell 97," Saddam replies. "Wow! You must have been evil," the other prisoner responds. "I'm in cell 35, and all I did was kill Imam Hussein."
Imam Hussein is Hussein bin Ali, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, and a revered figure among Shia Muslims. The martyrdom of Hussein is central to Shia theology and practice. Hussein was cut down on the battlefield of Karbala in 683 A.D., his head sent back to the caliph Yezid in Damascus. That Iraqi Shia would suggest that Saddam Hussein -- a man whose Baath party was responsible for the death or displacement of several hundred thousand of them -- might be more evil than Hussein's murderer is significant.
One of L. Paul Bremer's first actions as administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority was to order the de-Baathification of the Iraqi government. The May 15, 2003, order was popular: It fulfilled the Iraqi desire for moral clarity and firmness of direction. Until Bremer's arrival, mixed messages confused Iraqis. Coalition figures spoke of freedom, but many Iraqis remained scarred by their abandonment to Saddam's death squads in the aftermath of the 1991 uprising. The initial failure of the CPA to remove the four huge busts of Saddam from atop the Republican Palace fueled conspiracy theorists, who pointed to the busts as proof that the U.S. was going to once again abandon Iraqis to the Baath party. Several career diplomats reestablished warm relations with Baathist contacts they had known while serving in Baghdad in the 1980s. Frequent meetings between Bremer predecessor Jay Garner and Saad al-Janabi, a close associate of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law Hussein Kamal, also fueled Iraqi speculation that the U.S. was not willing to adhere to its promises.
The Baath party was no ordinary political organization. Founded in 1944 by Michel Aflaq, Baathism was based upon contemporary Italian fascism and German Nazism. The party is ethnically chauvinist, blatantly advocating discrimination against Iraq's sizeable non-Arab communities. Baathism was the ideological basis for the Anfal ethnic-cleansing campaign, in which senior Iraqi army officers directed the slaughter of over 100,000 Iraqi Kurdish civilians. Under the Baath party, Shia were second-class citizens.
In Iraq, the structure of the Baath party was hierarchical. There may have been two million Baath party members, but de-Baathification applied only to the top 70,000 individuals out of a total population of 24 million. De-Baathification did not target the innocent; no educator could reach one of the top four tiers without actively reporting on peers and students. Teachers' pay slips show the result: Some received Iraqi government gifts inflating their salary by up to 700 percent over that of their peers.
Proponents of re-Baathification -- most of whom are not Iraqi -- argue that CPA Order Number One deprived Iraq of technocrats and experienced educators. This is a myth. Under Saddam Hussein, government technocrats received promotions not on their merit, but rather on their political loyalty to the dictatorial regime. Skilled technocrats who happened to be Shia, Kurdish, or Turkmen were disqualified from most top-level ministry positions. De-Baathification did not ban top-tier Baathists from employment; they remained free to work in the private sector. No one is entitled to a government job.
De-Baathification likewise did not hamper the Iraqi education system. Upon liberation, there was a glut of unemployed schoolteachers, many of whom had never compromised themselves with Baathist membership. Now these newly hired educators will be thrown onto the street, as Saddam's henchmen reclaim jobs. Iraqis will pay the price for years to come, as corrupt Baathist teachers exact revenge upon students, failing -- as they did before -- those who do not regurgitate Baathist interpretations or pay hefty bribes.
The reverberations of the Coalition's decision to rehabilitate Saddam's support network will be long lasting and will lead to the deaths of Coalition soldiers. "Death to the Baath Party" banners hang throughout southern Iraq. Anti-Baath passion runs high among the vast majority of the Iraqi people. Eighty percent of the Iraqi population is not Sunni Arab, and the majority of the Sunni Arabs also welcomed liberation from 35 years of Baathist dictatorship. Many Iraqis see the U.S. as abandoning them yet again. We risk losing the silent majority. Iraqi Shia, most of whom viewed America as a liberator, will curse us for abandoning them to their oppressors. The sense of betrayal runs deep: Shia remember how the British government disenfranchised them following World War I. After decades of oppression, Iraq's Shia want assurance. Democracy provides it; rehabilitating Baathism does not. We risk driving Iraq's 14 million Shia into the arms of the Iranian government, which will claim to be their protector.
The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has based its decision not on consultations with Iraqis, but rather on discussions with regional rulers and military officers in other countries in its sphere of operations. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain all have significant Shia populations (in Bahrain, they're the majority), but also Sunni leaders who fear full enfranchisement and democracy. Many career diplomats seconded to the CPA are openly hostile to President Bush's emphasis on democracy, and instead seek to establish a "benign autocracy" more acceptable to regional states like Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
Rather than ease the pressure upon Coalition troops, Bremer's flip-flop will increase it. The CPA should not allow violence to win concessions. Nor will de-Baathification appease Iraq's Arab Sunnis, many of whom also suffered under the Baath party. Had antagonism over the firings of Baathists been the cause of violence in Fallujah, then the Coalition would also see concurrent uprisings in Tikrit, Samarra, and Baquba. Short-term appeasement will not bring peace. It never does.
-- Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Myth or Reality?
Will Iraq work? That's up to us.
By Victor Davis Hanson
Myth #1: America turned off its allies. According to John Kerry, due to inept American diplomacy and unilateral arrogance, the United States failed to get the Europeans and the U.N. on board for the war in Iraq. Thus, unlike in Afghanistan, we find ourselves alone.
In fact, there are only about 4,500-5,500 NATO troops in Afghanistan right now. The United States and its Anglo allies routed the Taliban by themselves. NATO contingents in Afghanistan are not commensurate with either the size or the wealth of Europe.
There are far more Coalition troops in Iraq presently than in Afghanistan. As in the Balkans, NATO and EU troops will arrive only when the United States has achieved victory and provided security. The same goes for the U.N., which did nothing in Serbia and Rwanda, but watched thousands being butchered under its nose. It fled from Iraq after its first losses.
Yes, the U.N. will return to Iraq -- but only when the United States defeats the insurrectionists. It will stay away if we don't. American victory or defeat, as has been true from Korea to the Balkans, will alone determine the degree of (usually post-bellum) participation of others.
Myth #2: Democracy cannot be implemented by force. This is a very popular canard now. The myth is often floated by Middle Eastern intellectuals and American leftists -- precisely those who for a half-century damned the United States for its support of anti-Communist authoritarians.
Now that their dreams of strong U.S. advocacy for consensual government have been realized, they are panicking at that sudden nightmare -- terrified that their fides, their careers, indeed their entire boutique personas might be endangered by finding themselves on the same side of history as the United States. Worse, history really does suggest that democracy often follows only from force or its threat.
One does not have to go back to ancient Athens -- in 507 or 403 B.C. -- to grasp the depressing fact that most authoritarians do not surrender power voluntarily. There would be no democracy today in Japan, South Korea, Italy, or Germany without the Americans' defeat of fascists and Communists. Democracies in France and most of Western Europe were born from Anglo-American liberation; European resistance to German occupation was an utter failure. Panama, Granada, Serbia, and Afghanistan would have had no chance of a future without the intervention of American troops.
All of Eastern Europe is free today only because of American deterrence and decades of military opposition to Communism. Very rarely in the modern age do democratic reforms emerge spontaneously and indigenously (ask the North Koreans, Cubans, or North Vietnamese). Tragically, positive change almost always appears after a war in which authoritarians lose or are discredited (Argentina or Greece), bow to economic or cultural coercion (South Africa), or are forced to hold elections (Nicaragua).
Myth #3: Lies got us into this war. Did the administration really mislead us about the reasons to go to war, and does it really now find itself with an immoral conflict on its hands? Mr. Bush's lectures about WMD, while perhaps privileging such fears over more pressing practical and humanitarian reasons to remove Saddam Hussein, took their cue from prior warnings from Bill Clinton, senators of both parties including John Kerry, and both the EU and U.N.
If anyone goes back to read justifications for Desert Fox (December 1998) or those issued right after September 11 by an array of American politicians, then it is clear that Mr. Bush simply repeated the usual Western litany of about a decade or so -- most of it best formulated by the Democratic party under Bill Clinton. Indeed, we opted to launch that campaign in large part because of Iraq's work on WMDs.
No, the real rub is whether Iraq will work: If it does, the WMD bogeyman disappears; if not, it becomes the surrogate issue to justify withdrawing.
Myth #4: Profit-making led to this war. Then there is the strange idea that American administration officials profited from the war. Companies like Bechtel and Halliburton are supposedly "cashing in," either on oil contracts or rebuilding projects -- as if any company is lining up to lure thousands of workers to the Iraqi oasis to lounge and cheat in such a paradise.
This idea is absurd for a variety of other reasons, too. Iraqi oil is for the first time under Iraqi, rather than a dictator's, control. And the Iraqi people most certainly will not sign over their future oil reserves to greedy companies in the manner that Saddam gave French consortia almost criminally profitable contracts. Indeed, no Iraqi politician is going to demand to pump more oil to lower gas prices in the country that freed him. Some imperialism.
All U.S. construction is subject to open audit and assessment. A zealous media has not yet found any signs of endemic or secret corruption. There really is a giant scandal surrounding Iraq, but it involves (1) the United Nations Oil-for-Food program, in which U.N. officials and Saddam Hussein, hand-in-glove with European and Russian oil companies, robbed revenues from the Iraqi people; and (2) French petroleum interests that strong-armed a tottering dictator to sign over his country's national treasure to Parisian profiteers under conditions that no consensual government would ever agree to. The only legitimate accusation of Iraqi profiteering does not involve Dick Cheney or Halliburton, but rather Kofi Annan's negligence and his son Kojo's probable malfeasance.
Myth #5: Israel has caused the United States untold headaches in the Arab world by its intransigent policies. The refutation of this myth could take volumes, given the depth of daily misinformation. Perhaps, though, we can sum up the absurdity by looking at the nature of West Bank demonstrations over the past few months.
The issues baffle Americans: Some Arab citizens of Israel, residing in almost entirely Arab border towns and calling themselves Palestinians, were furious about Mr. Sharon's offer to cede them sovereign Israeli soil and thus allow them to join the new Palestinian nation. Others were hysterical that two killers -- who promised not merely the "liberation" of the West Bank, but also the utter destruction of Israel -- were in fact killed in a war by Israelis. Both of the deceased had damned the United States and expressed support for Islamicists now killing our soldiers in Iraq -- even as their supporters whined that we did not lament their recent departures to a much-praised paradise.
Elsewhere fiery demonstrators were shaking keys to houses that they have not been residing in for 60 years -- furious about the forfeiture of the "right of return" and their inability to migrate to live out their lives in the hated "Zionist entry." Notably absent were the relatives of the hundreds of thousands of Jews of Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, and other Arab capitals who years ago were all ethnically cleansed and sent packing from centuries-old homes, but apparently got on with what was left of their lives.
The Palestinians will, in fact, get their de facto state, though one that may be now cut off entirely from Israeli commerce and cultural intercourse. This is an apparently terrifying thought: Palestinian men can no longer blow up Jews on Monday, seek dialysis from them on Tuesday, get an Israeli paycheck on Wednesday, demonstrate to CNN cameras about the injustice of it all on Thursday -- and then go back to tunneling under Gaza and three-hour, all-male, conspiracy-mongering sessions in coffee-houses on Friday. Beware of getting what you bomb for.
Perhaps the absurdity of the politics of the Middle East is best summed up by the recent visit of King Abdullah of Jordan, a sober and judicious autocrat, or so we are told. As the monarch of an authoritarian state, recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars in annual American aid, son of a king who backed Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War, and a leader terrified that the Israeli fence might encourage Palestinian immigration into his own Arab kingdom, one might have thought that he could spare us the moral lectures at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club -- especially when his elite Jordanian U.N. peacekeepers were just about to murder American citizens in Kosovo while terrorists in his country tried to mass murder Americans with gas.
Instead we got the broken-record Middle East sermon on why Arabs don't like Americans -- as if we had forgotten 9/11 and its quarter-century-long precursors. Does this sensible autocrat -- perhaps the most reasonable man in the region -- ever ask himself about questions of symmetry and reciprocity?
Is there anything like a Commonwealth Club in Amman? And if not, why not? And could a Mr. Blair or Mr. Bush in safety and freedom visit Amman to hold a public press conference, much less to lecture his Jordanian hosts on why Americans in general -- given state-sponsored terrorism, Islamic extremism, and failed Middle Eastern regimes -- have developed such unfavorable attitudes towards so many Arab societies?
What then is the truth of this so-often-caricatured war?
On the bright side, there has not been another 9/11 mass-murder. And this is due entirely to our increased vigilance, the latitude given our security people by the hated Patriot Act, and the idea that the war (not a DA's inquiry) should be fought abroad not at home.
The Taliban was routed and Afghanistan has the brightest hopes in thirty years. Pakistan, so unlike 1998, is not engaged in breakneck nuclear proliferation abroad. Libya claims a new departure from its recent past. Syria fears a nascent dissident movement. Saddam is gone. Iran is hysterical about new scrutiny. American troops are out of Saudi Arabia.
True, we are facing various groups jockeying for power in a new Iraq; and the country is still unsettled. Yet millions of Kurds are satisfied and pro-American. Millions more Shiites want political power -- and think that they can get it constitutionally through us rather than out of the barrel of a gun following an unhinged thug. After all, any fool who names his troops "Mahdists" is sorely misinformed about the fate of the final resting place of the Great Mahdi, the couplets of Hilaire Beloc, and what happened to thousands of Mahdist zealots at Omdurman.
So, we can either press ahead in the face of occasionally bad news from Iraq (though it will never be of the magnitude that once came from Sugar Loaf Hill or the icy plains near the Yalu that did not faze a prior generation's resolve) -- or we can withdraw. Then watch the entire three-year process of real improvement start to accelerate in reverse. If after 1975 we thought that over a million dead in Cambodia, another million on rickety boats fleeing Vietnam, another half-million sent to camps or executed, hundreds of thousands of refugees arriving in America, a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, an Iranian take-over of the U.S. embassy, oil-embargos, Communist entry into Central America, a quarter-century of continual terrorist attacks, and national invective were bad, just watch the new world emerge when Saddam's Mafioso or Mr. Sadr's Mahdists force our departure.
This war was always a gamble, but not for the reasons many Americans think. We easily had, as proved, the military power to defeat Saddam; we embraced the idealism and humanity to eschew realpolitik and offer something different in the place of mass murder. And we are winning on all fronts at a cost that by any historical measure has confirmed both our skill and resolve.
But the lingering question -- one that has never been answered -- was always our attention and will. The administration assumed that in occasional times of the inevitable bad news, we were now more like the generation that endured the surprise of Okinawa and Pusan rather than Tet and Mogadishu. All were bloody fights; all were similarly controversial and unexpected; all were alike proof of the fighting excellence of the American soldiers -- but not all were seen as such by Americans. The former were detours on the road to victory and eventual democracy; the latter led to self-recrimination, defeat, and chaos in our wake.
The choice between myth and reality is ours once more.
>> WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG FILES...
Pentagon purchases armor for Iraqi forces
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Friday, April 23, 2004
The United States has decided to provide Iraqi security forces with body armor.
The Defense Department has awarded an Iraqi company a contract for the production and supply of body armor vests for the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. The $10.3 million contract for Al Hashimite Co, based in Baghdad, was awarded on Feb. 18 and marks the first U.S. major deal with an Iraqi defense contractor.
Under the contract, Al Hashimite will provide 25,200 Level III body armor vests and ceramic plate sets for the Iraq Civil Defense Corps. A Pentagon statement said work will be performed in Britain and was expected to be completed by June 25, 2004.
The statement said contract funds will not expire at the end of fiscal 2004. The Pentagon said an unspecified number of bids were solicited in November and in all 59 bids were received.
The Pentagon said the Coalition Provisional Authority Contracting Activity will oversee the contract. The award came after U.S. combat soldiers in Iraq received body armor.
In a related development, an Israeli defense firm has won a contract to supply armor to the U.S. military in Iraq. MDT Armor has won a $1.1 million contract for supplying armored vehicles for U.S. operations in Iraq.
The company, a subsidiary of Arotech Corp., will provide armor for the Land Rover Defender SUVs. "These vehicles join the other armored vehicles that we have already delivered to Iraq," Arotech chairman Robert Ehrlich said. "It is clear that those serving and working in Iraq continue to need armored protection, and we are working diligently and proudly to serve them."
MDT armor was said to protect against assault rifles and bomb blasts. The company has installed armor on vans, buses, ambulances and a range of jeeps.
Earlier, MDT Armor won a contract to supply four armored vehicles for clients in Iraq as well as a five-year contract for armoring vehicles for the U.S. government. MDT, based in Lod, Israel, was said to be a major supplier in the armored vehicle market in Isrel. The company has supplied armor to vehicles in contracts awarded by Israel's Defense Ministry for both civilian and military applications in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The company has sought to introduce its light armor technology to the U.S. market. It has already established a factory in Auburn, Ala.
In December 2003, Arotech announced that it was awarded a contract by the U.S. Army Communications Electronic Command for the supply of zinc-air non-rechargeable batteries. The order was estimated at $5.2 million.
Industry sources said Israeli companies were expected to sell $100 million in products in Iraq during 2004. They said that almost all of the sales would be through U.S. prime contractors.
By Jeffrey Gedmin
Published 4/22/2004 12:04:04 AM
BERLIN -- The Captain Renaults of old Europe expressed "shock" in late February over allegations that the British had bugged the conversations of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Tony Blair responded by saying (a) the UK abides by domestic law; (b) Great Britain adheres to international law; and (c) London does what it must to protect the interests of the nation. Bingo. Word last year was that the Bush administration was up to the same sort of thing. Imagine. Spying at the U.N. How shocking.
Don't get me wrong. Spying can be unpleasant. The CIA was once set up to bug the suite of a friendly Arab leader at a Gulf summit when, at the last minute, there was a change of rooms and the U.S. president ended up residing in the pre-wired space. But let's face it, indignation over spying is pretty silly. Most of us find this spying stuff intriguing, even entertaining. Search Google for "weird spy stories" and you get 156,000 hits. Try "How to Become a Spy" and there are 1,280,000 entries. "Is My Friend a Spy" gets you 1,360,000 items to peruse. They say spying is the second oldest profession. There are at least 100 mentions of spying in the Bible. Historians date spying at least as far back as 500 B.C. Google yields 4,410,000 hits for Ian Fleming's character James Bond. We celebrate the mystery and, yes, the deception. So do those Renaults, I bet.
There are different kinds of spying, of course, with countless methods, both "legal" and "illegal." Ethically there are a thousand shades of gray. Companies spy daily on employees to make sure they are not using work time to play computer video games or download porn. As a student I once sold books for Time-Life over the phone. I quit after day one when I learned that my phone calls -- to maintain "customer quality control" -- were being "monitored." Things are getting more complicated. Now Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags may help you, through use of a simple card, to gain entrance to your office. Or surveil your activity if you keep the card in your wallet.
True, there's also a form of innocent spying -- call it harmless snooping -- of which nearly everybody is at one time or another guilty. Like peering for a moment at the screen of the fellow's laptop across the aisle on the plane. I once sat behind Strobe Talbott, Madeleine Albright's deputy secretary of state, on a flight from Washington to Frankfurt. Strobe was on his way to Russia. Only my sterling character kept me from sneaking peeks as the Deputy typed away. (Was it a memo to his friend the President on a new bold arms control initiative?)
We Americans are funny about these things. In some states, "fuzz busters" for cars are legal. A 1971 New York lawsuit prevents police today from going into a Mosque under cover, even if the imam has been spewing pro-bin Laden rhetoric. You see, we can act preemptively in Iraq, but in New York the crime needs to be committed first before law enforcement can respond.
Among nations, the most curious spying is called "friendly spying," what we allies do to one another. A few years ago our European friends fumed over allegations that the U.S. was using intercepted phone calls and e-mails to advantage American companies. The French have a similar system, which intercepts around three million messages per minute. First class seats on Air France have always been thought to be bugged (with tidbits of business gossip passed on to hungry French competitors). In 1971 a former French spymaster actually admitted in his memoirs that Paris, having learned that the U.S. was about to devalue the dollar, used the information to profit handsomely by currency speculation.
Now America has a special relationship with Israel. We spy on Israel. Israel spies on us. Ditto Germany. During the Clinton administration I stayed in a Berlin hotel that sources later reported was bugged by the German government. That explained why our German friends just knew too much, too precisely, during trade negotiations, the day after the American team had stayed up all night privately, it thought, plotting strategy in its suite. Shocking. What? Gambling in Las Vegas?
Jeffrey Gedmin is director of the Aspen Institute Berlin. His "Letter From Europe" runs each month in The American Spectator. This column is taken from the April issue.
No Law-Making Power for Interim Body
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 23, 2004; Page A11
The United States wants to limit the sovereignty of the temporary Iraqi government scheduled to take power July 1 by denying it the authority to pass new laws, Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday.
"The interim government," he said, "should not have a law-making body. We don't believe that the period between the first of July and the end of December should be a time for making new laws."
President Bush and his top aides continue to describe June 30 as the day sovereignty passes from the United States to a still-to-be-named Iraqi government in Baghdad. But senior administration officials, in appearances before Congress this week, have described important limitations on the authority the new government would have, starting with security, over which the United States will retain control.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz and Grossman made clear to the House and Senate Armed Services committees earlier this week that U.S. military commanders will continue to exercise final authority over not only the 160,000 U.S. and coalition troops, but also all Iraqi police, security and army units.
Grossman said, however, that "in many, many, many other parts of Iraqi life, there will be a very important Iraqi face on an Iraqi government."
Yesterday, Grossman hinted at other limitations on Iraqi authority as he disclosed that a supplement to the well-publicized transition administrative law is being drafted and will spell out just where the new government can and cannot operate. That work is being done by a committee chaired by Adnan Pachachi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, with participation from the occupation authority.
"The structure of the government should be effective, simple and, in order to avoid deadlock, should not be overly large," Grossman said.
The goal of the drafting committee is to incorporate the ideas of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's special adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, for the interim government, and grant it the authority to prepare for national elections in January for an assembly that will select a second, temporary government and write a constitution. Meanwhile, many of the regulations and orders promulgated by administrator L. Paul Bremer would remain the law.
The group that will take over in about 70 days will consist of an executive branch made up of a prime minister, a president and two deputy presidents, and a council of ministers that will report to the prime minister. After the group takes power, a conference of selected Iraqis will choose an advisory body that will "serve alongside the executive but not have legislative authorities," Grossman said.
A senior U.S. official familiar with the plans for Iraq said recently that there is a disconnect between "sovereignty" and how much power Iraqis will have after June 30. While sovereignty may be limited at first, it would be gradually extended as Iraqis prove that they are capable of managing themselves, said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Although a main job of the transition government is to prepare for elections, Grossman said preparations will be made in conjunction with the United Nations, which has recommended the establishment of an independent election commission. That group, and apparently not the new government, would create the rules and regulations for the elections, he said.
Asked whether anti-American candidates would be allowed to run, Grossman responded: "That's why we're going to have an embassy there, and it's going to have a lot of people and an ambassador. We have to make our views known in the way that we do around the world." The new government will also have authority "to lead Iraq into the community of nations," according to Grossman, including the freedom to establish diplomatic relationships with its neighbors.
When Sen. Jon S. Corzine (D-N.J.) asked what the Bush administration would do "if they start doing things that are in contradiction to what American foreign policy might be," the undersecretary responded as he had earlier, saying that is "why we want to have an American ambassador in Iraq."
The senators were told that contracting authority for the still-unobligated part of the $18.7 billion appropriated by the United States for reconstruction in Iraq will continue to belong to the administration, except for any amounts given directly to support the Baghdad government.
Grossman said he believes officials of the transitional government would be able to contract for the development of their oil fields because that would involve their money. "Iraqis will take control of the Development Fund for Iraq," he said, referring to the money generated by oil sales. "It will be their money."
Staff writer Glenn Kessler contributed to this report.
? 2004 The Washington Post Company
Saudis Aided in Iraq More Than Thought
By JOHN SOLOMON
Associated Press Writer
April 24, 2004, 10:39 PM EDT
WASHINGTON -- During the Iraq war, Saudi Arabia secretly helped the United States far more than has been acknowledged, allowing operations from at least three air bases, permitting special forces to stage attacks from Saudi soil and providing cheap fuel, U.S. and Saudi officials say.
The American air campaign against Iraq was essentially managed from inside Saudi borders, where military commanders operated an air command center and launched refueling tankers, F-16 fighter jets, and sophisticated intelligence gathering flights, according to the officials.
Much of the assistance has been kept quiet for more than a year by both countries for fear it would add to instability inside the kingdom. Many Saudis oppose the war and U.S. presence on Saudi soil has been used by Osama bin Laden to build his terror movement.
But senior political and military officials from both countries told The Associated Press the Saudi royal family permitted widespread military operations to be staged from inside the kingdom during the coalition force's invasion of Iraq.
These officials would only talk on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity and the fact that some operational details remain classified.
While the heart of the ground attack came from Kuwait, thousands of special forces soldiers were permitted to stage their operations into Iraq from inside Saudi Arabia, the officials said. These staging areas became essential once Turkey declined to allow U.S. forces to operate from its soil.
In addition, U.S. and coalition aircraft launched attacks, reconnaissance flights and intelligence missions from three Saudi air bases, not just the Prince Sultan Air Base where U.S. officials have acknowledged activity.
Between 250 and 300 Air Force planes staged from Saudi Arabia, including AWACS, C-130s, refueling tankers and F-16 fighter jets during the height of the war, the officials said. Air and military operations during the war were permitted at the Tabuk air base and Arar regional airport near the Iraq border, the officials said.
Saudis also agreed to permit search and rescue missions to stage and take off from their soil, the officials said.
Gen. T. Michael Moseley, a top Air Force general who was a key architect of the air campaign in Iraq, called the Saudis "wonderful partners" although he agreed to discuss their help only in general terms.
"We operated the command center at Saudi Arabia. We operated airplanes out of Saudi Arabia, as well as sensors, and tankers," said Moseley in an interview with the AP. He said he treasured "their counsel, their mentoring, their leadership and their support."
Publicly, American and Saudi officials have portrayed the U.S. military presence during the war as minimal and limited to Prince Sultan Air Base, where Americans have operated on and off over the last decade. Any other American presence during the war was generally described as humanitarian, such as food drops, or as protection against Scud missile attacks.
During the war, U.S. officials held media briefing about the air war from Qatar, although the air command center was in Saudi Arabia -- a move designed to keep from inflaming the Saudi public.
U.S.-Saudi cooperation raised eyebrows last week after it was disclosed that President Bush shared his Iraq war plans with Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan before the start of the war.
Some lawmakers have demanded to know why a foreigner was brought in on private war planning.
When asked about the briefing, Bandar played down the extent of Saudi help. "We were allies. And we helped our American friends in the way that was necessary for them. And that was the reality," he said.
U.S. and Saudi officials said Bandar was briefed several times before the war as part of securing Saudi assistance, and received regular updates as U.S. needs changed.
Preparations for U.S. operations inside Saudi Arabia started in 2002 when the Air Force awarded a contract to a Saudi company to provide jet fuel at four airfields or bases inside the kingdom, documents show.
When the war started, the Saudis allowed cruise missiles to be fired from Navy ships across their air space into Iraq. A few times missiles went off course and landed inside the kingdom, officials said.
The Saudis provided tens of millions of dollars in discounted oil, gas and fuel for American forces. During the war, a stream of oil delivery trucks at times stretched for miles outside the Prince Sultan air base, said a senior U.S. military planner.
The Saudis also were influential in keeping down world oil prices amid concern over what might happen to Iraqi oil fields. They increased production by 1.5 million barrels a day during the run-up to war and helped keep Jordan -- which had relied on Iraqi oil -- supplied.
Saudi officials said they also provided significant military and intelligence help on everything from issues of Muslim culture to securing the Saudi-Iraqi border from fleeing Saddam Hussein supporters.
Ex-Head of Oil-for-Food Says He'll Cooperate
Friday, April 23, 2004
UNITED NATIONS -- The former head of the United Nation's beleaguered oil-for-food program surfaced and said that he is willing to cooperate with investigators.
Benon Sevan (search), one of several top U.N. officials accused of receiving kickbacks from Saddam Hussein's government, ran the program for seven years but he went on vacation after the corruption and bribery scandal first broke.
After more than a month out of sight, Sevan returned to New York on Wednesday and met with Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) to discuss the allegations and cooperation with the investigation.
Officials said Sevan is retiring on May 31 but would remain available for the investigation.
"Benon has stated quite clearly that he is innocent," Annan said. "He has indicated he will cooperate as I expect all other staff members to cooperate."
Annan accused critics of the U.N. oil-for-food program (search) of treating allegations of corruption as fact and ignoring the program's role of providing aid to nearly every Iraqi family.
The U.N. chief declared Thursday that he was "very keen" for the three-member panel led by former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker (search) to report "as soon as possible." And he promised that any U.N. official found guilty of accepting bribes or kickbacks would be dealt with "very severely."
The panel doesn't have subpoena authority and will rely on voluntary cooperation from governments, U.N. staff, members of Saddam's former government and current Iraqi leaders. They claim they have evidence that dozens of people, including top U.N. officials, took kickbacks from the $67 billion oil-for-food program.
Volcker refused to accept the chairman's post until the Security Council adopted a resolution calling on all countries to cooperate with the investigation. The council unanimously approved the measure on Wednesday.
Volcker received support Thursday from European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana (search).
"Be sure that all the European countries are going to participate and to cooperate on the investigation and clarify everything," Solana told reporters after meeting Annan.
The allegations of possible U.N. corruption first surfaced last January in the Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada. The newspaper had a list of about 270 former government officials, activists and journalists from more than 46 countries suspected of profiting from Iraqi oil sales that were part of the U.N. program.
The General Accounting Office (search), Congress' investigative arm, estimated in March that the Iraqi government pocketed $5.7 billion by smuggling oil to its neighbors and $4.4 billion by extracting kickbacks on otherwise legitimate contracts.
Annan launched an internal inquiry in February but canceled it in March to allow a broader, independent examination as allegations of massive corruption in the U.N. program grew, calling the world body's credibility into question.
He told reporters Thursday it is "unfortunate" that some allegations are "being handled as if they were facts," and that in the process the oil-for-food program's importance to Iraqis had been lost.
"The fact that (there) may have been wrongdoing by a few should not destroy the work that many hardworking U.N. staff did," he said.
Under the oil-for-food program, which began in December 1996 and ended in November, the former Iraqi regime could sell unlimited quantities of oil provided the money went primarily to buy humanitarian goods and reparations to 1991 Gulf War victims.
The program was launched to help Iraqis cope with U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Saddam's government decided on the goods it wanted, who should provide them and who could buy Iraqi oil -- but a U.N. committee monitored the contracts.
Annan said it is important to separate the oil-for-food investigation from the effort led by his special adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, to help Iraqis decide on a transitional government that will take power from the U.S.-led coalition on June 30.
Fox News' Jonathan Hunt and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
FOX News Channel,
>> PICTURES FROM NK
U.S. doubts Kim's commitment to end nuclear standoff
By Nicholas Kralev
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Bush administration yesterday expressed skepticism about North Korea's commitment to resolving the nuclear standoff on the peninsula, despite this week's pledge by Kim Jong-il, the reclusive North Korean leader, to show "patience and flexibility" in negotiations.
Responding to Chinese and North Korean reports about Mr. Kim's visit to Beijing that ended Wednesday, the State Department said that actions, rather than words, would make a difference in the so-far unsuccessful six-nation discussions on the issue.
"As you know, the North Koreans have avoided any real commitments. And I'm not sure they've made any new ones," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.
"It's time to turn those reports and that support for the six-party process into a reality by North Korea agreeing to talks that can result in the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of its programs," he said.
A senior State Department official said later that Washington will continue to be skeptical about any rhetoric from Pyongyang "until we see things manifested in some real way."
The six-party talks include the United States, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, China and Russia.
Mr. Boucher also said that recent revelations about secret cooperation between Pyongyang and Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, have helped to convince the North's neighbors that it was cheating on a 1994 agreement to freeze its nuclear activities.
"We have made clear that despite North Korean denials, we remain very firm in our understanding that North Korea had nuclear enrichment capabilities, and indeed the information coming out of A.Q. Khan indicates that he did transfer nuclear enrichment technology and equipment to North Korea," Mr. Boucher said.
In a statement similar to those the Chinese official news agency Xinhua issued on Wednesday, the North Korean agency KCNA reported Mr. Kim's trip to Beijing for the first time yesterday.
North Korea "would take an active part in the six-party talks with patience and flexibility and make contributions to the progress of the talks," the agency quoted Mr. Kim as saying.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said China and North Korea agreed to work together to promote a new round of six-party talks.
"It was a very important and successful trip," Mr. Kong said.
But, significantly, he acknowledged that "differences" between the two countries remained, although he did not elaborate.
In Seoul, South Korean Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun said he sees a high possibility of progress at the next round of talks.
The North Korean press agency said Mr. Kim invited Chinese President Hu Jintao to visit North Korea and he accepted.
Although the United States has been working on the six-party process for more than a year, the first round of talks was not held until August. But the meeting, as well as the second one in February, achieved little beyond the reading of talking points prepared in advance.
* This article is based in part on wire service reports.
>> KERRY WATCH...
Kerry's `Misery Index' is just sad
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | John Kerry is working hard to emulate the successful Democrats who preceded him. He utters so many Kennedy-esque imperatives that the listener half expects him to put forward a real one ("Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country"). Kerry has also developed a few presidential data points. His latest is a "misery index," an update of the one deployed by Jimmy Carter in his successful 1976 campaign against Gerald Ford. The Kerry version tracks seven factors to evaluate the quality of middle-class life: Healthcare costs, gas prices, college tuition, median wage, homeownership rate, bankruptcy rate and private-sector job growth. Up is good. Down is bad. Under Bill Clinton things were up spectacularly; George W. Bush's rating shows him erasing Clinton's gains.
It is worthwhile, however, to look back at that original index. It was devised by the late economist Arthur Okun, who added the inflation rate to the unemployment rate to arrive at his number. A high figure was bad (the opposite of the Kerry system). In 1975, this misery index hit 16, the highest rate in a quarter of a century. In 1980, it hit 20.
In fact, the 1970s and the early 1980s together were a purgatory. U.S. unemployment was in the 7% and 8% range, so far above Japan's and Germany's percentages that the difference looked permanent. Inflation combined with high taxes to scare the American innovator, so that many good ideas stayed on the shelf. Borrowing became a challenge, especially when Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker pushed interest rates up to record levels; retailers keeled over for want of credit. It no longer seemed certain that enterprise generally would be rewarded. Looking at the U.S., the world saw decline.
Against that backdrop, Kerry's decision to speak of misery seems a bit of a stretch. As the nonpartisan website fact check.org points out, today the original misery index stands at 7.4, less than half of what it was in Carter's last year in office. The measure is only a smidgen worse than where it stood during Clinton's second term. This despite a recession and 9/11. Citizens today may be dissatisfied, but the majority aren't miserable.
Kerry's index provides a big contrast with the classic misery measure. It shows Bush failing on six of seven counts. How does Kerry work that magic? He fiddles with the categories. Instead of using straightforward unemployment rates, for example, the Kerry index considers a much more amorphous notion, new job creation. (Face it: If unemployment is heading south, does the party affiliated with organized labor really care whether those are old jobs or new?) As for tuition increases, factcheck.org notes that Kerry uses only data from public universities because including increases from private colleges would yield a less drastic number. Regarding wages: Sure, they are down. But when we measure the wage level after taxes and include the Bush tax cuts, the slight decline Kerry finds erodes to the point of insignificance. It has been said before: If you torture numbers enough, they will confess to anything.
But there are two other problems with the Kerry index.
The first is that, for a multifactor economic index, it misses quite a bit. What about America's crazy rate of litigation? What about the heavy burden of the payroll tax? These factors are slowing growth. The reason Kerry doesn't take them up is that it would be politically inconvenient for him to do so. Democrats need trial lawyers to fund them; lightening the payroll-tax burden means leading the charge on Social Security reform, not something that seems to interest Kerry.
The last problem with the Kerry index is more subtle. The old 1970s index had only two components. They were, arguably, about freedom and individual responsibility: the freedom to work and to trade in a relatively stable currency. Gas prices, for example, were not included, even though they were the great shock of the decade. Kerry's seven-category index represents a proliferation of wants. It says, essentially, that it used to take two things to make me happy, but now it takes seven.
It also suggests that government should have a role in satisfying those wants. What's more, many of the items in the Kerry index are about affordability -- the right to, say, cheap healthcare -- which is not the same as an outright entitlement but is close to it.
In short, the new JFK is saying government owes the people more. "Ask not what your country can do for you," indeed.
Kerry's thigh has shrapnel, records show
Wound sustained in Vietnam War
By and Michael Kranish, Globe Staff | April 24, 2004
WASHINGTON -- Senator John F. Kerry has shrapnel in his left thigh as a result of an injury sustained in the Vietnam War, according to medical records displayed by his presidential campaign yesterday. The records include notations for wounds for all three Purple Hearts, as well as for two bouts of pneumonia and "a minor non-specific urinary tract infection."
The shrapnel still in Kerry's thigh stems from a Feb. 20, 1969, attack for which he was awarded his second Purple Heart. Kerry has said none of the three Purple Heart wounds cost him more than a couple of days of service. Kerry was able to leave combat six months early under Navy regulations that allowed a thrice-wounded sailor to depart Vietnam early.
Asked yesterday whether the thigh bothers him, Kerry told reporters on his campaign plane: "Only when it rains."
The Kerry campaign removed a 20-page batch of documents yesterday from its website after The Boston Globe quoted a Navy officer who said the documents wrongly portrayed Kerry's service. Edward Peck had said he -- not Kerry -- was the skipper of Navy boat No. 94 at a time when the Kerry campaign website credited the senator with serving on the boat. The website had described Kerry's boat as being hit by rockets and said a crewmate was injured in an attack. But Peck said those events happened when he was the skipper. The campaign did not respond to a request to explain why the records were removed.
The medical records displayed by the campaign yesterday were shown to a small group of reporters and were not publicly released. The campaign arranged for Kerry's personal physician, Gerald J. Doyle, to analyze the records. Doyle, asked to characterize the severity of Kerry's injuries in Vietnam, said his opinions were based on medical records because he did not see the wounds at the time.
Of the wound that led to Kerry's first Purple Heart, in December 1968, Doyle said Kerry had shrapnel removed from his left arm above the elbow. Doyle noted that the shrapnel penetrated the skin but that there was no description of the size of the wound in the medical records.
As for the shrapnel still in Kerry's thigh, Doyle said removal of the shrapnel would have required a wide incision in the leg. "A decision was made to leave the shrapnel in place," Doyle said.
Kerry had two bouts of pneumonia recorded in the documents, and Doyle said Kerry has had pneumonia once in the last 18 years. Doyle said Kerry has a history of allergies -- pollen, mold, and hay fever, in particular -- and that people with allergies often are susceptible to developing illnesses that can lead to pneumonia.
According to Doyle's review of the medical records, Kerry also developed "a minor non-specific urinary tract infection" during his military service. It responded to antibiotics, Doyle said. Asked how Kerry developed the infection, Doyle said: "We discussed it. He had no recollection of it. It's not a very significant thing when you're 22 years old. It's something that can happen to anyone at any time."
Nearly a year ago, the Kerry campaign said it would not provide the senator's military medical records, saying Kerry would not cross what he considered to be a line of privacy. Kerry said Sunday that his military records were available and invited inspection of them at campaign headquarters. But the campaign reversed course Monday, saying no new records would be released. Following GOP criticism, the campaign has been releasing records since Tuesday.
? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
Medicare Targets Drug Fraud
Scam Artists Sponge Off Prescription Program Before It Begins
By Brian Faler
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, April 23, 2004; Page A21
Medicare chief Mark B. McClellan announced a series of initiatives yesterday designed to help thwart hucksters and scam artists who he said have already begun preying on the government's new prescription drug program.
The program, which will initially offer most Medicare recipients a discount card for their prescription drugs, will not begin operating until June. Its second, larger phase that will offer much more wide-ranging benefits will not open for business until 2006. But McClellan said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has already begun receiving reports of people attempting to bilk the system and its potential participants.
Some, he said, have tried to sell fake discount cards. Others have posed as government officials, in hopes of prying private information from seniors that could be used to file false claims. In all, McClellan said, the agency has investigated 20 cases of potential fraud.
McClellan said his agency will begin monitoring and posting weekly updates on its Web site next month detailing the drugs and drug prices available through the system. The agency will also collect and respond to complaints from the public through the Web site (www.medicare.gov), its 1-800-MEDICARE telephone line and various affiliated groups across the country. The office will also conduct spot checks on the companies sanctioned to offer the cards to make sure they are following federal guidelines.
"We need to assume that there's going to be people out there who will, unfortunately, try to take advantage of every effort we make to help seniors, and we're going to do all we can to prevent it," McClellan said. "We've not seen any evidence of widespread fraud so far, and we intend to keep it that way."
He also warned that the government does not allow those companies sponsoring the cards to solicit customers through either "cold calls" or door-to-door visits. McClellan urged anyone who receives such offers to contact either the agency or local authorities.
His comments came at a news conference honoring eight whistle-blowers who, officials said, collectively saved the federal government about $3 billion involving Medicare billing practices, health care fraud and billing of defense contractors. Each was presented with an award by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), on behalf of a Washington-based group called Taxpayers Against Fraud.
"Make no doubt about it. These people fight the tough battles -- and they need to be recognized for it," Grassley said, referring to the whistle-blowers. "The awards that I'm presenting today recognize their integrity, recognize their independence and their tremendous sacrifice."
The whistle-blowers are James Alderson, Albert Campbell, Joseph Gerstein, Mark Jones, Luis Cobo, Robert J. Merena, Brett Roby and John W. Schilling. Grassley also received an award from the anti-fraud group, which cited his long-standing efforts to combat government waste.
Grassley used the occasion to press the Bush administration to create an interagency task force to focus on Medicare fraud.
"I'm taking this opportunity . . . that's provided by this fraud-busting crowd that we have in this room, to formally urge a federal interagency task force to directly and proactively target the fraud that could seep into Medicare's new prescription drug program," he said.
McClellan declined to endorse the plan but said he supports Grassley's goal of facilitating coordination of relevant agencies in the government to fight fraud.
"It's a great idea to make sure we're working closely together across agencies, and we're going to make sure that happens," McClellan said.
? 2004 The Washington Post Company
>> TERROR FILES
Al-Qaida plans high-sea terror
International hunt continues for Osama's 15-ship 'navy'
Posted: October 13, 2003
1:00 a.m. Eastern
Editor's note: Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin is an online, subscription intelligence news service from the creator of WorldNetDaily.com - a journalist who has been developing sources around the world for the last 25 years.
? 2003 WorldNetDaily.com
While al-Qaida continues to hide from international authorities 15 ships it has purchased, there are growing warnings around the world the next dramatic terror attack is more likely to come at sea than in the air.
Earlier this year, a chemical tanker, the Dewi Madrim, was hijacked by machinegun-bearing pirates in speedboats off the coast of Sumatra. But these weren't ordinary pirates looking for booty. These were terrorists learning how to drive a ship. They also kidnapped officers in an effort to acquire expertise on conducting a maritime attack, according to a report in Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin.
This attack, reports G2 Bulletin was the equivalent of the al-Qaida hijackers who attended Florida flight schools before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
There is also evidence terrorists are learning about diving, with a view to attacking ships from below. The Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines kidnapped a maintenance engineer in a Sabah holiday resort in 2000. On his release in June this year, the engineer said his kidnappers knew he was a diving instructor - they wanted instruction. The owner of a diving school near Kuala Lumpur has recently reported a number of ethnic Malays wanting to learn about diving, but being strangely uninterested in learning about decompression.
Aegis' intelligence has turned up links between big criminal gangs in the area and terrorists, driven by the need for the latter to finance their operations. There have been at least 10 cases of pirates stealing tugs for no apparent reason. The concern is that they are to tow a hijacked tanker into a busy international port. On Sept. 16, 2001, the United States closed the port of Boston, fearing terrorists would attack the gas terminal in the port. To this day, gas tankers bound for Boston have to be escorted by the Coast Guard from hundreds of miles outside port.
G2B reported two weeks ago that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network has purchased at least 15 ships in the last two years.
Lloyds of London has reportedly helped Britain's MI6 and the U.S. CIA to trace the sales made through a Greek shipping agent suspected of having direct contacts with bin Laden.
The ships fly the flags of Yemen and Somalia - where they are registered - and are capable of carrying cargoes of lethal chemicals, a "dirty bomb" or even a nuclear weapon.
British and U.S. officials worry that one or more of these ships could attack civilian ports on a suicide mission.
The freighters are believed to be somewhere in the Indian or Pacific oceans. When the ships left their home ports in the Horn of Africa weeks ago, some were destined for ports in Asia.
The U.S. Department of State Friday warned citizens overseas that the threat of terror attacks did not end with the passing of the September 11 anniversary - specifically mentioning the threat of maritime terrorism.
"We are seeing increasing indications that al-Qaida is preparing to strike U.S. interests abroad," said the State Department's "Worldwide Caution."
"It is being issued to remind U.S. citizens of the continuing threat that they may be a target of terrorist actions, even after the anniversary date of the September 11 attacks and to add the potential for threats to maritime interests."
"Looking at the last few months, al-Qaida and its associated organizations have struck in the Middle East in Riyadh, in North Africa in Casablanca and in East Asia in Indonesia," the State Department said.
The report continued: "We expect al-Qaida will strive for new attacks that will be more devastating than the September 11 attack, possibly involving non-conventional weapons such as chemical or biological agents. We also cannot rule out the potential for al-Qaida to attempt a second catastrophic attack within the US. US citizens are cautioned to maintain a high level of vigilance, to remain alert and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness," the warning said.
G2B sources say other potential targets of the al-Qaida armada, besides civilian ports, include oil rigs. Another threat is the ramming of a cruise liner.
Some British navy officials have expressed concerns about not being able to patrol its coasts adequately against such a threat.
If a maritime terror attack comes, it won't be the first. In October 2000, the USS Cole, a heavily armed ship protected with the latest radar defenses, was hit by an al-Qaida suicide crew. Seventeen American soldiers died. Two years later, following the attacks on the Twin Towers, a similar attack was carried out against a French supertanker off the coast of Yemen.
The military's U.S. Pacific Command is trying to convince friendly nations in Asia to share intelligence on terrorism as part of a new regional maritime security policy. The policy envisions sharing information on ships' cargos and passengers as they travel the vast Pacific to help narrow the search for terrorists or dangerous or forbidden cargo. "The global war on terrorism is like watching water running downhill. Water always goes to the place of least resistance," explained U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Walter F. Doran.
As terrorists are flushed out of Afghanistan and Iraq from two successive U.S.-led wars "they tend to find themselves in Southeast Asia," Doran said.
He acknowledged it would be impossible to track the contents and intentions of every ship in the region but said the regional security policy would allow participating countries to better define the "gray" areas where they don't know what they don't know.
In December 2001 the Singapore government arrested nearly a dozen people with ties to al-Qaida allegedly planning to attack western targets, including a U.S. aircraft carrier that was scheduled for a port visit.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Ports Authority has raised the alert level at all Mindanao ports because of a supposed intelligence report indicating an alleged plot to bomb Manila-bound ships.
The PPA ordered port officials in Mindanao to implement the heightened alert in the wake of a threat allegedly issued by Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani.
The Abu Sayyaf is on the U.S. government's list of international terrorist groups and is believed to be linked to the al-Qaida network.
In addition, a Rand Corp. study released last month in London warns terrorists might use container ships in terror attacks meant to cause massive casualties.
The report warns cargo ships or shipping containers could be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction for terror groups such as al-Qaida.
The report, produced in cooperation with the European Commission, said: "The potential threat of terrorists using containers poses a large risk to our economies and to our societies. Ultimately, this means that the marine sector - and specifically the container transport sector - remains wide open to the terrorist threat."
Rand says the international community has not become sufficiently aware of al-Qaida's threat at sea, with most counter-insurgency efforts being focused on stopping an attack from the air.
Jordan kills foreign suspects in chemical attack plot
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Thursday, April 22, 2004
AMMAN - Jordan killed three suspects in an Al Qaida plot to launch a chemical weapons attack against government installations.
The insurgents died during in a four-hour siege by security forces in Amman on Tuesday. The insurgents were described as foreigners, but their nationalities were not reported. Another three suspects were captured.
A police statement said security forces raided an insurgency hideout in eastern Amman, Middle East Newsline reported. An official said the security force targeted insurgents linked to an Al Qaida-aligned group that had plotted to use CW against government installations.
"Information made available to security authorities pointed to the presence of an armed group which had plotted to carry out terror attacks," the police statement said. "The gunmen were ordered to surrender but they opened fire on the security forces who returned fire, killing all three."
The Al Qaida targets were also said to have included the embassies of Israel and the United States. The plot was said to have been directed by Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi, a Jordanian national and regarded as the most lethal Al Qaida-aligned insurgent in Iraq.
One of the insurgents captured was said to have been Abdul Al Fatah Al Jayusi. Al Jayusi was one of three insurgents who escaped capture in raids by Jordanian security forces earlier this month, in which three truckloads of weapons, ammunition and CW components were seized in northern Jordan.
The trucks were said to have come from Syria. Witnesses said the force that raided the insurgency hideout in the Palestinian neighborhood of Amman on Tuesday appeared to have been a special operations unit. The officers, who surrounded the house at 1 p.m. local time, were equipped with commando assault rifles, body armor and gas masks.
The insurgents opened fire on the Jordanian force and one officer was wounded, the witnesses said. They said one of those captured spoke Arabic with an Iraqi accent.
Sudan rebels take aim at Chinese troops oil workers
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Friday, April 23, 2004
CAIRO - Sudanese insurgents have begun targeting Chinese forces and laborers in the Arab League state.
Sudanese rebel sources said rebel forces have sought to drive out the large Chinese presence in Sudan. China has sent thousands of people to operate the oil fields and protect them from insurgency attack.
Western diplomatic sources estimated that China has deployed 4,000 troops to protect Beijing's oil interests in southern Sudan. The troops were said to have guarded Chinese facilities and helped Sudan in regional defense.
At least four Chinese nationals were abducted by the rebels over the last month. They were identified as security guards from the North China Construction Co. Two of the Chinese workers were killed and the others were returned safely. The bodies, identified as those of employees of the Liaohe Oil Field Road Cosntruction Co., were found on March 27.
Beijing said the two workers had been drilling water wells near Buram city in western Sudan. But rebel sources said the Chinese were two of thousands of mercernaries for the Khartoum regime.
The sources said they did not have evidence that Sudan employed Chinese troops to quell the revolt in the Darfour province. On Thursday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch reported that Sudan used Arab militias to destroy African villages and kill their in Darfour.
Human Rights Watch said Arab militias and Sudanese military troops killed 136 African men in Darfour in March. The group said the victims were members of the Fur ethnic group who were rounded up and executed in two separate government and Janjaweed militia operations on March 5.
"The Janjaweed are no longer simply militias supported by the Sudanese government," Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch's executive director, said in a statement. "Operations carried out by the Janjaweed often enjoy air support from the government of Sudan, both aerial bombardment before operations and helicopter reconnaissance afterwards to ensure the area is empty."
Posted by maximpost at 1:43 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 25 April 2004 2:14 AM EDT