- The Washington Times - Friday, December 10, 1999

Cut by his own sword

Oliver North can recall the day in 1985 that his shiny sword, issued to him when he became an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, disappeared from his White House office.

Imagine the retired Marine’s fury this week when he spotted the same sword “Oliver Laurence North” engraved on the blade for sale on Ebay, the Internet auction house. Suffice it to say, Mr. North wants his sword back.

Ebay contends the person who possesses the sword, Don Downs of Riverdale, Ga., “assumes all responsibility for listing this item.”

Mr. Downs claims he purchased the sword last year, receiving a letter of authenticity from the seller, Terry von Kohler: “In approx. 1985 a friend of ours that was working in the Communications Dept. at the White House, told us that he could get us a bundle of Marine Corp [sic] Swords out of the Pentagon,” Mr. von Kohler wrote.

“They were found in a storage room that was being cleaned out. Nobody even looked at the names that were on them. The longest of the swords turned out to be that of Oliver North. We did not find this out until we got home and was [sic] looking at the swords. We kept this sword from approx. 1985 until January 1998, when we sold it to you.”

Bidding, which opened Tuesday at $99.99, lasts through Dec. 17. The high bid Thursday afternoon was $456.

Unstable jungle

Concern runs high in several corridors of Congress as the United States completes its pullout in Panama. It centers on whether Panamanian troops can be entrusted to guard the strategic 50-mile-long Panama Canal, port facilities, which are being turned over to a Chinese company.

Why the skepticism?

At a congressional hearing this week, “Panama Canal Year 2000” calendars were available for the taking, which like calendars in this country mark historic dates in Panama. Take Jan. 1, for instance:

“1885: Revolution disturbance in Panama.

“1931: Revolution in Panama quelled by U.S. troops.”

January 2:

“1989: Riot in Panama.”

January 3:

“1895: Revolution in Panama.”

January 4:

“1901: Revolution in Panama.”

January 9:

“1964: Beginning of 5-day Flag War in Panama.”

February 1:

“1865: Revolution in Panama. U.S. withdraws forces.”

March 1:

“1865: Revolution in Panama; U.S. forces landed.”

March 2:

“1866: Unsuccessful revolution in Panama.”

March 3:

“1883: Riot in Panama.”

March 4:

“1885: Revolution in Panama.”

March 5:

“1895: Incendiary attempt in Panama.”

March 7:

“1902: Revolutionary disturbances in Panama.”

April 2:

“1856: Riot in Panama. Massacre of Americans.”

April 4:

“1962: Rebellion in Panama.”

April 8:

“1967: Rebels attempt coup d’etat in Panama.”

Skipping to October 11:

“1968: Panamanian President Arias overthrown by coup d’etat.”

October 12:

“1925: U.S. Army quell riots in Panama City.”

October 30:

“1985: Gen. Manuel Noriega accused of fraud.”

November 1:

“1999: Howard Air Force Base transferred to Panama.”

November 25:

“1949: U.S. suspends relations with Panama.”

November 28:

“1959: Panamanian mobs invade Canal Zone.”

December 31:

“1999: Panama Canal to be transferred to Panama.”

Chinese acrobats

On Nov. 30, President Clinton dismissed concerns about a Chinese company’s acquisition of ports at both ends of the Panama Canal, saying: “I think the Chinese will, in fact, be bending over backwards to make sure that they run it in a competent and able manner… .

“I would be very surprised if any adverse consequences flowed from the Chinese running the canal,” Mr. Clinton concluded.

Does the president mean to say that the Chinese will control the entire 50-mile waterway?

“The problem for Mr. Clinton is that this is no small mistake in which he innocently substituted the Chinese will be running the canal’ when he really meant to say they will run two ports,” says the Washington-based Center for Security Policy.

“Indeed, the problem is not simply that it is the Panamanians who are supposed to be running’ the canal after next week’s hand-over ceremony. Rather, it is that Mr. Clinton’s remarks, as delivered in all their insouciance, are entirely consistent with his well-documented, see-no-evil’ attitude towards Communist China.”

Carpenter’s reminder

“This episode should be a stark reminder to all of us at government that despite the thawing of tensions between competing nations, government facilities and personnel remain a desirable target for foreign intelligence services.”

David Carpenter, assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, briefing reporters yesterday on the unfolding Russian diplomat espionage case.

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