- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A flawed voting-rights bill

Michael Steele and J.C. Watts are to be applauded for supporting voting rights for D.C. residents (“D.C. vote threshold,” Commentary, Sept. 11). However, the bill they support has a flawed approach that needs to be modified if it is to receive ultimate Republican, presidential and Supreme Court support.

Mr. Steele and Mr. Watts rightly point out that D.C. residents voted in Maryland’s federal elections from 1790 until that right was taken away by statute in 1801. They ask why Congress does not have the power to restore this right. In fact, it does. However, the current bill, S-1257, does not seek to restore by statute the right that was taken away but rather seeks to create a new right to a non-apportioned House seat unique to the District of Columbia. This new right conflicts with constitutional requirements that representatives come from states and that House seats be apportioned by population every 10 years. Both of these constitutional requirements would be met if the new House seat for the people of Washington, a federal enclave carved from the state of Maryland, was apportioned as part of the Maryland delegation.

Other members of the Republican Party are unlikely to support treating the District as if it were a state because that too-expansive view of the “District clause” of the Constitution would allow for the possibility of two senators from the District as well as non-apportioned House seats from other federal enclaves and non-state areas.

It is worth noting that the residents of all other federal enclaves vote in the federal elections of the state from which that enclave was carved.

JOHN FORSTER

Activities coordinator

Committee for the Capital City

Washington

Gen. Pace’s mistakes

How convenient it is for the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, to admit on the eve of his retirement to errors of judgment made in the Iraq war (“Top general acknowledges Iraq mistakes,” Web site, Saturday).

The fact that our generals perpetually professed to Congress and the American people that we had adequate American troop levels in Iraq when the opposite has always been the case constitutes a dereliction of duty that continues to go unaddressed.

While leading American soldiers on patrols and trying to train Iraqi security forces in 2003 and 2005 in Al Anbar, BaghdadandNineveh provinces, we, and many other officers operating at the tactical and operational levels, consistently conveyed to our superior officers the need for more troops. There simply was not enough manpower to support the security, humanitarian and nation-building efforts.

To this end, our generals neither served their purpose nor did what they were promoted to do take care of the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen under their charge, fight for their units and lead by example.

How is it that no senior officer has served any jail time for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal? Why did our senior leaders think “search and destroy” was going to be any more effective in Iraq than it was in Vietnam? How is it that the officers responsible for lying about Pat Tillman’s death were only given notional reprimands? Why has no American officer been held accountable for hundreds of thousands of missing weapons and equipment in Iraq? Why is it that the only general officers who have spoken up about failed war strategy are retired?

It is simply astonishing that through the incompetence and self-delusion of these men, who have disgraced the uniform, an insurgency and terrorists have grown stronger, and overall, our military posture is weakened.

Even now, Gens. David H. Petraeus and Raymond Odierno count their temporary successes with a minuscule force of 160,000 soldiers and Marines but are as silent as church mice over the need for additional forces to make the gains more permanent.

In fact, we’re already talking about a reduction in forces when any general who possessed the competence of say, a captain, would be telling Congress to triple the size of the Army and Marines or cut our losses.

Time will tell how this ugly and terrible debacle will unfold, but the history of our military leaders during this era will ultimately reveal the truth and extent of their dereliction.

CAPT. JASON BLINDAUER

Army (retired)

Dallas

CAPT. LUIS CARLOS

MONTALVAN

Army (retired)

New York City

Repeal NAFTA

The editorial “NAFTA and our borders” (Saturday) accuses the United States of reneging on the North American Free Trade Agreement, which went into effect in 1994 with provisions allowing Mexican trucks increasing access to U.S. highways.

The United States has not reneged. NAFTA provisions required the United States to open access to all U.S.-Mexico border states in 1995 and to permit Mexican trucks to travel throughout the United States as of Jan. 1, 2000. The latter provision has not been implemented, and Mexican trucks have been limited to a 25-mile radius in a border commercial zone to drop off loads destined for interior states. Mexican trucks have been pulled over many times in the border states and beyond as there are no interior checkpoints to enforce the border zone. The major obstacle preventing implementation is that trucks from Mexico pose safety and environmental risks.

Even more important than safety and environmental problems, which can be eliminated by inspection of the trucks, is foreign trade and cheap Mexican labor being placed ahead of the well-being of hardworking Americans. Legitimate safety and security risks also would prevent American drivers from crossing the border into Mexico, which doesn’t come close to being a benefit as fair and equal as allowing Mexicans access to one of the best road systems in the world.

The benefit to consumers, if any, would be offset by costs to the taxpayer. As a result of foreign labor competition, independent American drivers would earn less and have less money to invest in vehicle maintenance. The standards for an American to operate a commercial vehicle are strict, but there are no known provisions for a foreign operator to have a mental and physical check, fingerprints, a background check and drug/alcohol testing.

The editorial avers that “Democrats to the interests of anti-trade labor unions afraid of competition.” Certainly, American drivers don’t want to have their wages reduced, but the main concerns of the unions and the drivers are unsafe rigs on the road, foreign drivers relying on drugs for long hauls and the United States’ inability to enforce hours-of-service rules. It appears as if the burden for safety and criminality rests with the United States, as Mexico has failed to establish any trucker guidelines, regulations or requirements for Mexican drivers.

According to NAFTA, Mexico can ask for compensatory tariffs in the matter, so it is imperative that the United States not pay trade sanctions. Instead, the United States should repeal NAFTA, which in the short and long run would be in the best interest of the American people.

What the editorial failed to reveal was that the National Chamber of Carto Transport, Mexico’s largest trucking organization, has called for a postponement of the trade-panel ruling. It wants a five-year delay on cross-border trucking and warns that Mexican haulers need time to prepare for competition with U.S. carriers. Organization President Miguel Quintanilla says he thinks the border should remain closed “while the conditions for competition are not in place.” He also said Mexico’s “aging fleet” of about 375,000 trucks had an average of 15 to 20 years of hard service on very rough Mexican roads and were in no condition to compete with U.S. trucks, whose age averages five years.

MILDRED M. FISCHER

Fredericksburg, Va.

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