- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2000

United States should join International Criminal Court

For more than 50 years, the United Nations has been considering the creation of a standing court to try individuals suspected of crimes that violate accepted rules of international conduct. In Rome on July 17, 1998, 120 nations, including all of our European allies, voted to create a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) to try those accused of crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Only seven nations, including the United States and China, opposed the treaty (known as the Rome Statute).

The United States was an early supporter of the ICC during negotiations leading up to the Rome conference. Yet President Clinton decided to vote against the treaty because of Sen. Jesse Helms' opposition. Mr. Helms warned that unless the United States had an absolute veto on all prosecutions, the treaty would be "dead on arrival" at his Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

It is clear that the ICC will come into being with or without our signature and that the Rome Statute cannot be changed. France, Italy and Germany have just joined 22 other nations that have ratified it. The 60 ratifications required for the court to begin operations probably will be realized during 2002.

Under the terms of the Rome Statute, our government has until Dec. 31 to sign without ratifying the treaty. After Jan. 1, a country must ratify in order to sign, a procedure that will make our joining the court politically far more difficult.

On Dec. 9, our ambassador at large for war crimes, David Scheffer, reported that Mr. Clinton has not yet decided whether to sign the treaty. Any likelihood that the U.S. Senate will ratify the treaty in the near future is bleak. The time is short, and the need for presidential action is great.

MYRON W. KRONISCH

Chairman

Board of Advisers

World Federalist Association

Washington

Gore more humble than expected in concession speech

Though I hate to admit it, Vice President Al Gore appeared truly gracious in his speech Wednesday night acknowledging the victory of President-elect George W. Bush.

In the last five weeks, Mr. Gore has used the media as a podium from which to dictate the language of debate. Phrases such as "the will of the people" and "let every vote count" became mindless mantras, obscuring the real, often complex issues underneath.

Wednesday night, however, the nation saw a plain-spoken, less calculating Vice President. It seems that Mr. Gore, at last - and likely for the last time - rose to the occasion.

DENNIS WORTHINGTON

Washington

Government overreaching to buckle up auto passengers

I am responding to your Dec. 13 editorial "Buckle up for servility." The seat-belt laws proposed by Virginia legislators have little to do with public safety. This ploy for raising revenue undoubtedly only would intrude on the privacy of drivers.

Bureaucrats claim seat belts protect drivers from injury and possible death, yet they have no qualms about allowing our children to ride school buses with no seat belts. This is a flagrant double standard. How can legislators demand that all automobile passengers wear seat belts for their own good and yet not require that seat belts be made available to children being transported to and from school?

Virginians should be outraged.

LARRY SHONTERE

Abell, Md.

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With their new laws on seat-belt usage, Virginia legislators are sacrificing essential liberty for temporary safety ("Buckle up for servility," Dec. 13). Whether it's bike helmet laws or seat-belt laws, the underlying philosophy is the same: Government knows what's best for you.

Two quotes should come to mind in the face of such actions. First, to paraphrase Frederick Bastiat if people are incapable of making proper decisions, why is it the proclamations of politicians and their appointed agents are always considered good? Are they not also members of the human race?

In the movie "Cool Hand Luke," Strother Martin tells Paul Newman, seconds before he strikes him behind the ear with a blackjack: "It's fer yer own good."

I wish you would stop being so good to me, government.

MARK T. SEILER

Bessemer City, N.C.

If car tax is repealed, blame Virginia legislature

There has been much discussion recently about how the recent downturn in Virginia's economy may make it necessary to delay the implementation of the car tax repeal. While I think this delay may prove necessary, Gov. James S. Gilmore III might have been able to avoid this situation if he and the Virginia legislature had not gorged on one of the largest fiscal feasts this state has ever seen.

The tax was supposed to be repealed over a period of four years. The state currently pays for 47.5 percent of the tax on the first $20,000 of the value of the car. This rate was scheduled to rise to 70 percent next year and 100 percent the following year. With unprecedented budget surpluses, however, the tax easily could have been repealed fully as early as last year.

As Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute has noted, the state had almost double-digit growth in tax receipts in 1999, even with the car tax phaseout. But the appetite of our legislators for more government programs to bolster the support of their constituents could not be contained. Last year, the state's general-fund budget rose by 10.6 percent, and the state budget has ballooned almost 20 percent in the past three years. These are hardly the actions of those who promote the ideals of limited government. Mr. Moore calculated that if our representatives could, by some divine intervention, curtail their spending to keep expenditure growth under 4 percent, the phaseout could continue. I don't see that happening.

The reason Mr. Gilmore can call himself governor is that he campaigned on promises of fiscal conservatism that many Virginians consider a proud part of their state heritage. It would be understandable to delay repeal of the tax if extenuating circumstances demanded such action, but the reason the repeal is in jeopardy is because of irresponsible fiscal actions by our representatives in government. If anything should come of the car tax debacle, it should be the phaseout of our elected officials who cannot control their spending habits.

BART FRAZIER

Centreville

Where's Garner?

What was the management of your otherwise excellent newspaper thinking when it allowed Bill Garner to go on vacation during our national hour of need?

A day without Mr. Garner's editorial cartoon is like "The Tonight Show" without Jay Leno's monologue. In the future, I hope The Washington Times will think more clearly of the needs of its readers before allowing Mr. Garner to take time off, especially when our nation needs him the most.

MIKE O'ROURKE

Herndon

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