- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2000

Embassy responds to 'Moroccan Morass'

I refer to the July 26 Embassy Row item "Moroccan Morass" and would like to make two points for the benefit of your readers.

First, I would like to remind The Washington Times that it was Morocco which first proposed holding a referendum in the Western Sahara. That was in 1981. On this basis, and in consultation with other interested parties, the United Nations, in 1990, adopted what is commonly referred to as the "U.N. Settlement Plan." Since then, Morocco has repeatedly reiterated its commitment to this plan and consistently taken concrete measures to facilitate the holding of a democratic, just and fair referendum in which all Sahrawis are able to participate.

The implementation of the plan has suffered substantial delays, primarily due to the repeated attempts by the Polisario Front to exclude large segments of the Sahrawi population from taking part in the referendum. Morocco has always insisted, and continues to insist, on the basic principle that no Sahrawi who meets the agreed-upon criteria be denied the right to vote. To do otherwise would be wrong and would be contrary to the very purpose of the proposed referendum.

Second, The Times cites former U.N. envoy Frank Ruddy's characterization of the Western Sahara as a "prison camp." No informed and objective observer would ever describe it as such. The people of this region enjoy the same fundamental rights, obligations and freedoms as the rest of the population of Morocco, where all agree that significant strides have been made in the field of human rights, democracy and pluralism.

FAIZA MEHDI

Press officer

Embassy Of the Kingdom of Morocco

Washington

Defense reform should be a high priority for new administration

A recent article in The Washington Times quoted Adm. Jay L. Johnson, outgoing chief of naval operations, on the appalling decline in the size of the U.S. Navy and the number of embarked aircraft ("Fleet strength at risk, retiring admiral says," Metropolitan, July 23). An administration run by Texas Gov. George W. Bush must assign a high priority to this dangerous defense deficiency caused by the Clinton administration's stealth disarmament.

At the same time, a new Bush administration will have an opportunity to achieve long overdue reform of the Department of Defense. Reform would mean the restoration of the role of the joint chiefs of staff as advisers to the president, ending the current practice of giving the chairman of the joint chiefs exclusive access. Service roles and authority should be strengthened, ending the "jointness" scheme whereby the services are forced to subscribe to a single design for operations a design they may deem unrealistic or unwise. An example of this is the Navy being pressured into a "brown-water" (coastal) strategy at a time when the emerging threat is China's "blue-water" naval ambitions in the Pacific.

The most important step to be taken by a new administration was stated by Lt. Gen. Victor Krulak, the legendary Marine combat leader and father of retired Marine Corps commandant Gen. Charles Krulak, way back in 1983. In his study of the organization of the Defense Department he stated that the president must shrink the bureaucracy. He wrote that the office of the secretary of defense had become "a self-nourishing, self-perpetuating bureaucracy which impedes and diffuses the essential war-making functions strategic planning, decision making [and] weapons selection." Nothing has changed.

The myriad deputy secretaries and special assistants must go. Unless the new president is determined to scrap the Department of Defense bureaucracy, true defense reform will be impossible, and the U.S. armed forces will continue to deteriorate.

ANTHONY HARRIGAN

Washington

Series on lawyers produces differing views

The five-part series by The Washington Times on the legal profession's increasing grip on America was excellent ("The Rule of Lawyers," July 17-21). Nowhere is that truer than in the lawsuits targeting major industries. There is more to that than any alleged attempt to hold companies accountable for the safety of their products. Lawyers are using these suits and the big settlements obtained from them to change the political landscape of America and fight tort reform.

The federal government's lawsuits and campaigns against Microsoft and Big Tobacco are, in fact, political payoffs to the biggest political contributors to the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton-Gore campaigns, past and present. With federal encouragement, class-action trial lawyers reap huge windfalls, and then contribute to Democrats who oppose tort reform that would kill the golden goose.

Since 1988 nearly 90 percent of the contributions of the Association of Trial Lawyers have gone to Democrats opposed to tort reform. From 1988 to 1996, the trial lawyers and their allies gave some $60 million to anti-tort reform candidates, mostly Democrats, more than was given to candidates by the Republican or Democratic national committees. According to a study by Common Cause, in 1999 trial lawyers gave $2.7 million in soft money to Democrats vs. $2,800 to Republicans.

One of the biggest Democratic donors has been Peter Angelos, the lawyer who represented the state of Maryland in the tobacco litigation. He has funneled $652,900 to the various Democratic campaign committees since January 1999 and says: "I will do whatever necessary to see that candidates who espouse the position Bush does are defeated at the polls."

John P. Coale, a Washington lawyer heavily involved in the tobacco litigation, said what the trial lawyers intend to do with their big fees for suing big industries: "It would be very, very horrifying to trial lawyers if Bush were elected. To combat that, we want to make sure we have a Democratic president, House and Senate. There is some serious tobacco money being spread around."

This is a clear subversion of and threat to our democracy. With literally billions in tobacco fees to play with, we may soon have government of the lawyers, by the lawyers and for the lawyers.

DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI

Chicago

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The Washington Times devoted ample space to its five-part series on the legal profession, but it was clear that any attempt at unbiased journalism was tainted by an inherent editorial disdain for plaintiff attorneys.

It's a shame, too, because some of the "Rule of Lawyers" articles had important information concerning the truth about the actual infrequency of cases going to trial, the infrequency with which punitive damages are awarded by judges and juries and the median amount of those damages, which are low judges award a median of $75,000 and juries award a median of only $27,000. However, none of these facts were given equal space.

These positive facts about our civil justice system which is, in truth, envied throughout the world were glossed over. Readers were inundated with terms that perpetuate negative images for both plaintiff and defense attorneys.

The series relentlessly focused on money, using words such as, "awards," "prizes," "jackpot" and "bounty hunters," instead of investigating the many good works of attorneys.

Believe it or not, there are attorneys out there who struggle, but continue working because they believe in the power of truth and the right of every citizen to have unfettered access to our nation's courts. There are attorneys who give back portions of their fees to their clients, as well as those whose clients refuse punitive damage awards because the money is less important than making sure a company fixes a defect or hazard before it maims or kills anyone else.

It was disappointing that in five days of coverage there was nothing substantial on the positive aspects of the legal practice and the people whose cases tell the story of American civil justice.

FREDERICK M. BARON

President-elect

Association of Trial Lawyers of America

Washington

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