- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Pinochet phenomenon

What the news on Chile failed to point out is an often-overlooked cause of the Gen. Augusto Pinochet phenomenon, mainly a weakness in the Chilean constitution and a too ambitious implementation of Salvador Allende’s platform (“Pinochet’s mixed legacy,” Op-Ed, Wednesday).

The constitution at that time allowed the president to take office with only a plurality, not insisting on a majority. Mr. Allende won only about a third of the votes, meaning two thirds of the electorate wanted someone else. They did not hold a runoff election.

If someone takes a powerful position with a minority support, he might get away with it if he becomes a caretaker president. But he treads on thin ice if he tries to turn society on its head. That was what Mr. Allende tried to do and it was his downfall; had he been less ambitious and gone slowly, he might have pulled it off.

JAMES KEEFER

San Francisco

Kosovo is classic example

Richard W. Rahn wants us to believe that U.S.-led NATO “intervened” to stop a war in Kosovo (“Kosovo: Eternally dependent?” Commentary, yesterday). No, it was the Clinton administration that eagerly engaged NATO in a war against Serbia. Relentlessly, for 78 days in 1999, the bombs came raining down upon cities, towns and villages and their civilians and infrastructure. This so-called humanitarian bombing was based on pretexts no less false than those used to invade Iraq.

Kosovo is a classic example of the West’s “divide-and-conquer” mentality in action. Mr. Rahn has the audacity to tell us that Kosovo is no longer united with Serbia. Perhaps by his edict — having total disregard for recognized global constitutional norms and international law.

Then Mr. Rahn goes on to introduce us to Kosovars who, according to him, “are largely secular.” However, he very conveniently doesn’t mention that since the 1999 U.S.-led war and forced takeover, the religiously intolerant Albanian Muslims have destroyed more than 150 ancient Christian holy places. In the meantime, hundreds of new mosques have sprung up, thanks to generous funding by Iran and Saudi Arabia. A very interesting secularism.

LIZ MILANOVICH

Edmonton, Alberta

Rep. Reyes should resign

Unfortunately, we have grown accustomed to politicians who are long on style and short on substance. However, the lack of knowledge demonstrated by Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat, is the most egregious example I can recall (“A House intelligence problem,” Editorial, Wednesday).

Mr. Reyes was selected recently to be chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when Democrats take control in January. This body is responsible for oversight of the classified agencies and activities of the U.S. government. However, when asked by a reporter whether al Qaeda was Sunni or Shi’ite (the two major branches of Islam), Mr. Reyes answered, “They are probably both,” then stammered on to say “predominantly — probably Shi’ite.” Not only wrong, but not even close. Mr. Reyes then failed to answer basic questions posed to him about Hezbollah, a Shi’ite group on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations that is having a significant impact on current affairs in Lebanon and Syria.

Mr. Reyes has been on the Intelligence Committee for six years, and it is disturbing that he never found it relevant or worth his time to learn the basic characteristics of the enemy that has sworn to destroy America, an enemy that we will defeat through strong intelligence. He will be charged with making decisions about billions of dollars of funding, classified actions and the strategic aims and intentions of our nation’s intelligence agencies. He has to do more than read the talking points.

Not understanding the very basic facts means not understanding the sectarian violence that is plaguing Iraq. We are fighting al Qaeda in Iraq, where Sunni-led sectarian violence against Shi’ites is the order of the day. How can Mr. Reyes be the chairman of the Intelligence Committee when he doesn’t even know the fundamental differences between the key factions in the Middle East?

After Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi of California refused to appoint Rep. Jane Harman, California Democrat, who has a wealth of intelligence experience, as chairman because of a personality clash, she proposed Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat. Mr. Hastings has the distinction of being one of the few federal judges ever to be impeached and should not even be eligible to hold a security clearance. Mr. Reyes was her third choice — and clearly not a good one.

The dedicated members of our nation’s intelligence agencies will forever know that the man who is slated to have oversight of this all-important aspect of our government was AWOL for the introduction to the executive summary of the children’s version of current global affairs.

Today, somewhere in Lebanon, a Shi’ite member of Hezbollah is doing the exact same thing as a Sunni member of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia — laughing at the news reports and thanking Allah for delivering them an opponent who is not serious about the war in which we are engaged.

Mr. Reyes owes it to us to admit he is not up to the job of overseeing our intelligence operations. He should resign from the House Intelligence Committee and refuse the appointment to be the next chairman.

NATHAN FLETCHER

San Diego

In the line of duty

Police officers recognize and clearly understand the inherent dangers they constantly face in the performance of their duties, yet their dedication to public service is unrelenting.

When police officers become victims, the impact on other officers and colleagues in the criminal justice system is profound. Maryland State Trooper 1st Class Eric D. Workman has become a victim — for the second time — in the line of duty. While attempting to make an arrest, he was shot and critically injured by a gunman in a home (“Trooper critically hurt,” Metropolitan, Wednesday).

Trooper Workman’s injuries are serious this time, and they were also serious in 1998, when he was struck by a car and sent flying 60 feet. He had a long and difficult recovery process, but his strong determination coupled with good medical care enabled him to overcome many obstacles, and he was able to return to full duty. Now, again, the trooper is confronted with a critical and life-threatening situation.

The callous shooting of a police officer who dedicated his life to maintain public safety is a hard pill to swallow, and news of Trooper Workman’s recent injury is deeply affecting many in the law enforcement community and criminal justice system.

The general community is also impacted by this incident because it brings home the reality that even the police officers who protect them are not safe and they, too, become vulnerable targets of criminals.

Trooper Workman faces another major battle as he fights to survive these injuries. May his courage and determination be emboldened by the widespread, heartfelt and sincere support that is being sent his way from all sectors of those who are indebted for his valued contributions to public service.

KAREN L. BUNE

Victim specialist

State’s Attorney’s Office

Upper Marlboro

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