Tuesday, September 20, 2005


By William Fisher

Advertising gurus Gerald Rafshoon and Doug Bailey, who were on opposing sides during the Jimmy Carter-Gerald Ford campaign in 1976, have come up with a pretty good alternative to financing Katrina reconstruction with taxpayer money.

They propose a 90-day moratorium on fundraising by political parties and members of Congress. That would free up more than enough money to pay for

Here’s another:

Instead of closing 22 major military bases and ‘realigning’ 33 others, we should keep those facilities open so that no one has to flee to anything like the New Orleans Astrodome or the Convention Center ever again.

Think about it: Military bases have barracks and apartments, with beds, blankets, drinking water and plumbing that works. They have medical facilities with doctors and nurses, lawyers, PXs, even supermarkets. They have trucks and cars and ships and helicopters and airplanes. And they are located all over the country, within easy reach of just about any site of a natural disaster.

The Base Realignment and Closing Commission (BRAC) says doing away with these assets will save the taxpayers $4.2 billion a year.

But there’s another way to save that money, and a lot more: Stop the unconscionable waste at the Department of Defense.

So vast is the Pentagon’s waste, fraud and abuse that the government’s accountants tell us every year that the place simply cannot be audited. If Donald Rumsfeld ran Wal-Mart that way, he’d have been fired long ago.

Just think of it: The DOD, whose profligate and dysfunctional systems allowed it to buy toilet seats for $640 each, is now unable to account for more than a trillion – that’s trillion with a ‘T’ -- dollars in financial transactions. That’s in addition to the dozens of tanks, missiles and planes that have simply ‘gone missing’.

Congress gave our military $10 billion for Iraq Reconstruction. A good chunk of that money has simply vanished – it’s been lost. And there is virtually no reconstruction to show for it.

And, in one more of a long litany of incompetence and malfeasance, the General Accountability Office (GAO) informed us recently that millions of dollars worth of new equipment was being sold as ‘surplus’ for pennies on the dollar. That equipment included Kevlar flak jackets needed by the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, so of course the Pentagon ordered more.

If President Bush is looking for ‘offsets’ to pay for Katrina, he shouldn’t be thinking about cutting back on Medicaid, No Child Left Behind, Social Security, and other programs that directly benefit those most devastated by Katrina.

He should take a look at the ‘offsets’ already in the Pentagon’s appropriations – if he can find them.

And if, by some miracle, he succeeds there where all others have failed, he should start rummaging through the pork barrel that was used to deliver the Highway and Transportation Bill to the White House for him to sign. The one with the millions earmarked for Alaska to build that bridge to nowhere.


The editorial below is from the Jordan Times in Amman.

The world's leaders last week got as close as they could to outlawing terrorism, but still steered clear of defining it. This came about when the UN Security Council met on Wednesday at the head-of-state level to adopt a resolution calling on states to outlaw any incitement or encouragement to terrorism, but skirted around the contentious subject of stating precisely what qualifies as terrorism.

Unfortunately, UN member states still cannot agree on something that should have been relatively easy to define, ostensibly because of the political implication and ramifications associated with drawing a crystal clear line between terrorism and acts of liberation. Yet, all nations know very well what terrorism is all about, although they are not quite ready to commit themselves to clearly defined boundaries that separate terrorism from lawful resort to arms.

The definition of terrorism has defied the international community for decades. There was a determined effort to give terrorism a legal expression at the Rome Conference that adopted the Final Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), at Turkey's initiative, in a bid to include it on the list of international crimes that would come within the jurisdiction of the ICC. Ankara's initiative failed to win wide support for the very same reasons that prevented the international community and the UN Security Council to come up with an internationally recognised definition of terrorism. Despite this apparent failure, there are already sufficient “legal hints” on what constitutes terrorism. The Geneva humanitarian law prohibits the killing of non-combatants or targeting civilians, especially children, women and the elderly.

This alone should have been enough to provide a legal basis for a definition of terrorism. Yet the international community could not see the obvious! The UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also came close to outlawing terrorism when it stipulated, in Article 20, that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence [and] shall be prohibited by law.” It goes without saying that terrorism as we know it entails all elements of incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence.

Why the world leaders' summit could not come up with a definition of terrorism defies logic and common sense. By confining themselves to outlawing any incitement, encouragement or promotion of terrorism without giving the phenomenon a workable definition, the leaders who represented their nations at the UN Security Council have obviously failed in one of their most important missions.

A Man is Tortured, and the U.S. Shrugs?

The editorial below was published on Monday, September 20 by the Toronto Globe and Mail.

Regrets? Over the torture of one measly Canadian? No sir. Not the United States of America.

David Wilkins, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, was eye-poppingly cavalier when asked about the Maher Arar affair. Mr. Arar, a Canadian citizen, was deported by the United States to Syria, his birthplace, where he was held for 10 months in a cell three feet wide, six feet long and seven feet high. He is now back, and the Canadian government has been holding a lacerating public inquiry into its role, however limited, in his nightmare. The U.S. government has refused (under Mr. Wilkins's predecessor, Paul Cellucci) to participate in the inquiry.

As described by Canadian Press reporter Jim Brown, Mr. Wilkins "seemed puzzled" when asked if his government had regrets about the Arar affair. "You talking about regrets by the United States? The United States made that decision [to deport Arar] based on the facts it had, in the best interests of the people of the United States, and we stand behind it."

He said that the United States has to make "tough decisions," that the war on terror means "you don't get second chances," that there would probably be more deportations and that Canadians who hold dual citizenship should consider themselves forewarned they could find themselves in Mr. Arar's shoes some day.

About that "tough decision" to deport Mr. Arar to Syria: Mr. Arar was taken out in the middle of the night under police guard and put on an airplane. There had been an administrative hearing late on that Sunday night, but he had no lawyer present. He had no opportunity to make his case before a judge responsible both for screening the evidence against him (the United States suspected him of being an al-Qaeda agent) and weighing any risk he might have posed against the possibility that he would face torture in Syria. He had no chance for due process. Some decision.

Mr. Wilkins, who speaks on behalf of President George W. Bush, was criticized in this space yesterday for his comments dismissing concerns about U.S. guns finding their way to the streets of Toronto. Now he is similarly dismissive of the fate of a Canadian citizen shipped to a known torture state by his government. (If Mr. Arar is an al-Qaeda member, nothing that has emerged publicly has provided convincing evidence.) Mr. Wilkins evidently feels it is pointless to fret about due process in a dangerous time. What, us worry?

The Arar affair was a test case of civil liberties in a time of crisis. The usual safeguards of a democracy were tossed out the window, and an innocent man was crushed. In the world according to Mr. Wilkins, no one should despair if there are more Arars.