- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2000

Global warming conference no Seattle repeat

In the Dec. 5 Commentary column "Failed COP talks reveal global jungle," William R. Hawkins reveals considerable cynicism about the motives of America's partners at the recent world conference on climate change, the Conference of Parties at The Hague.

He claims that the "world community" ganged up on the United States at the conference, pressing for deep emissions reductions that would have imperiled U.S. industry "to the advantage of rival industries in Europe and elsewhere." This representation of the inconclusive meeting in The Hague doesn't do justice to the complexity of the issue or the efforts of negotiators on all sides.

Global warming is more than an assumption; it is a reality that is affecting Europe and other regions in the form of floods, extreme weather and rising sea levels. Climate change and the question of how to control it affect every human being on the planet including industry executives. Maintaining a business-as-usual, head-in-the-sand approach imperils future generations and poses untold consequences. That is why the European Union and the United States need to show leadership and courage by cutting emissions and living up to the spirit of the Rio Convention on Climate Change, which we both signed in 1992.

Also very troubling is Mr. Hawkins' suggestion that the conference at The Hague was a rerun of the collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference in Seattle, where "EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy claimed victory when the talks failed, citing how a strong anti-American coalition had been formed." This is pure fiction. Like his predecessor, Sir Leon Brittan, Mr. Lamy has been perhaps the most fervent advocate of a new round of talks with the WTO. Considering the energy and months of preparation he and his staff put into the Seattle meeting, rejoicing in its failure would be nothing short of masochism.

Mr. Lamy repeatedly has attributed the failure in Seattle to the shortcomings of the WTO and the need for its reform, the perception among developing countries that their interests were not being taken into account, and lack of responsiveness to the concerns of civil society. In fact, this was the view expressed by both the United States and the European Union at their summit meeting in Washington on Dec. 17, 1999.

The Seattle meeting was a searing experience, and it well may be a jungle out there, but that's no excuse for attributing such inflammatory, uncharacteristic and inaccurate notions to Mr. Lamy. Such allegations belong in political fiction, not fact.

WILLY HELIN

Director, press and public affairs

European Commission Delegation

Washington

Civil rights commission is politically diverse

I am writing regarding your Dec. 5 story "U.S. panel to probe voter complaints." Contrary to your assertion that six of the eight members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights are Democrats, the commission currently is composed of three independents and four Democrats, with one position vacant.

The commission remains committed to its role as a watchdog over federal enforcement of civil rights laws. Indeed, our mandate remains valid and essential to the thousands of individuals who each year file formal complaints with the agency alleging unlawful discrimination. Our decisions to undertake studies on important and timely civil rights issues are shaped neither by partisan political considerations nor by the election cycle, but are reflections of our unwavering efforts to serve as the conscience of the nation on civil rights.

LES JIN

Staff director

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Washington

Navy blurs definitions, carrier becomes submarine

In your Dec. 7 story "U.S. ship took 40 minutes to respond to order," you reported that "the carrier USS Kitty Hawk took 40 minutes to launch its first plane after its commander ordered a response to approaching Russian warplanes that buzzed directly over the carrier's conning tower, Navy sources say."

Did Navy sources mention whether the Kitty Hawk had just surfaced or was about to submerge?

Being familiar with the reporter, I'm sure that he knows that submarines have conning towers and surface ships have bridges and pilothouses, along with after steering compartments, a combat information center (CIC) or combat direction center (CDC), and an occasional air plot or flag plot.

Unfortunately, the 20 years of gender-equity social experimentation that has been forced upon the Navy has blurred not only the distinction between men and women, but also the distinctions between fore and aft, port and starboard, ships and boats as well as where one finds bridges and conning towers.

RICHARD RONGSTAD

Chief Warrant Officer 2, U.S. Navy (retired)

San Diego

Words come back to haunt presidential candidate

"[He] has lost the election. His opponent … has won the election. It's overwhelming. [His] government refuses to release the vote count. There's now a general strike going on. They're demonstrating. I think we should support the people … and put pressure in every way possible to recognize the lawful outcome of the election. The people … have acted very bravely in kicking this guy out of office. Now he is trying to not release the votes, and then go straight to a so-called run-off election without even announcing the results of the first vote. Now, we've made it clear … that when [he] leaves, then [the country] will be able to have a more normal relationship with the rest of the world. That is a very strong incentive that we have given them to do the right thing… . But make no mistake about it: We should do everything we can to see that the will of the … people, expressed in this extraordinary election, is done. And I hope that he'll be out of office very shortly."

These words were spoken at the Oct. 3 presidential debate by Vice President Al Gore in reference to Slobodan Milosevic's behavior after the Yugoslavian election.

DAVID BAKER

New York

Land mines don't protect military personnel

Frank Gaffney Jr.'s Dec. 6 Commentary column "Pre-empting Bush on security?" is his own effort to pre-empt long overdue action by President Clinton on land mines.

Mr. Gaffney begins his assault on the 1997 Ottawa Convention by citing the plight of the USS Cole, as if to imply a connection between sea-based force protection and anti-personnel land mines. Worse still is the notion espoused by Mr. Gaffney and others that anti-personnel land mines protect U.S. forces. The truth is, anti-personnel land mines are a significant threat to our military personnel.

Land mines were responsible for one-third of all U.S. casualties in Vietnam and 20 percent of U.S. casualties in the Gulf war. In Bosnia, land mines have maimed or killed 50 NATO personnel and are hampering the peace mission in Kosovo. Land mines inhibit force movement during peacekeeping and conflict-mitigating missions, make arable land unusable, hinder the delivery of food and development aid, and stifle fledgling economies by discouraging economic investment.

The U.S. policy of providing extensive assistance for land-mine survivors and demining programs is commendable. But aid programs alone will not help the 22,000 victims that land mines claim each year.

Last month, Mr. Clinton told the Ottawa Citizen that not signing the Ottawa Convention was the "bitterest mistake" of his foreign-policy legacy. Mr. Clinton should take steps to implement the provisions of the Ottawa Convention. Such action will protect U.S. troops around the world.

RACHEL STOHL

Senior Analyst

Center for Defense Information

Washington

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