- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 6, 2001

Improving on Don Nickles' reply

Regarding your suggested response to Tim Russert's stupid question on "Meet the Press" to Sen. Don Nickles ("Tune up for Ashcroft," Editorial, Jan. 4), I would like to suggest my own response. (Mr. Russert asked Mr. Nickles to respond to a quote from Sen. John Ashcroft about the need to defend "Southern patriots" and then asked Mr. Nickles whether he would agree that Republicans as well as Democrats could stand to elevate the "tone" in Washington.)

How about this reply: "There are many Americans, particularly those in the South, who truly believe that Lee, Jackson and Davis were patriots." Check your records; Editor in Chief Wesley Pruden of The Washington Times was likewise interviewed by Southern Partisan Magazine, and so were Sen. Trent Lott, historian Shelby Foote, James Robertson and many, many other prominent, accomplished and honorable persons.

The magazine generally doesn't interview race baiters such as Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

RICK WILLIAMS

Augusta County, Va.

An unjust International Criminal Court

In 1998, a U.N. conference put forward a treaty to create the International Criminal Court (ICC). Designed to have the power to arrest, prosecute and punish anyone accused of "genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes," the ICC would amount to a joint assault on personal freedom and national sovereignty.

All Americans accused of any crime expect a speedy trial by an impartial jury held in the district where the crime was committed. They expect to be able to confront witnesses against them and present witnesses in their favor. Also, they expect to be able to choose their own counsel.

None of this is guaranteed by the ICC treaty. The creators of this enormous grasp for power decided arbitrarily that the ICC would be established when a mere 60 nations ratified it. Even worse, they audaciously ruled that their court would have jurisdiction over all mankind, including persons in nations that refused to ratify the treaty.

Especially at risk, should the ICC begin operations, are the tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel stationed in foreign lands. Accusations of improper conduct against any member of the armed forces could set in motion all of the horrors noted above.

President Clinton has indicated his support for the ICC, but this potential monster should be rejected by the Senate. The United Nations should be told that no U.S. citizen will ever be subjected to the totalitarian designs of the U.N. International Criminal Court.

FRANK HAMANN

Orange, Calif.

Columnist aims baseless attack against Egypt

In his Dec. 29 Op-Ed diatribe against Egypt, "Cold peace: Egypt prepares for hot war with Israel," Arnold Beichman prefers in his own words to simply "forget" Egypt's record in forging peace in the Middle East.

Mr. Beichman's penchant to "forget" Egypt's efforts for peace and focus instead on half-truths to support his accusation that Egypt is preparing for a "hot war" against Israel is nothing more than sensationalist commentary, especially at a time when Egypt is striving to assist the parties in the peace process.

He also has a selective memory regarding Egypt's positions on Sudan and Iraq. As to the study to which Mr. Beichman refers, "American Aid to the Middle East: A Tragedy of Good Intentions," it was published by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, which is known for its critical views of Egypt and the peace process in general.

Nevertheless, Mr. Beichman failed to mention that the conclusions of the report are critical of aid not only to Egypt, but also to Israel and other nations in the Middle East.

One cannot help but wonder if Mr. Beichman himself is not a victim of the blind hatred of which he accuses the Arabs. It is fortunate that opinions such as these are a minority. Otherwise, the prospects for peace would truly be in danger.

MAHMOUD A. GAAFAR

Washington

Virtualized virtue is not good enough

Rachel Ehrenfeld says in her eloquent Dec. 29 column, "Don't bank on corruption," that the fight against corruption is failing because:

• There is no clear definition of corruption.

• There is no objective, uniform standard for identifying countries that are vulnerable to corruption and for measuring their resilience.

• With no firm agreement on what constitutes corruption, the surveys, indexes and analyses that have been developed to assess the phenomenon are not comprehensive enough because they are mostly based on perceptions and anecdotal information.

• Most international agreements on corruption lack teeth and are impossible to enforce.

These reasons are hard to argue with, but there are more human reasons that also must be considered.

Miss Ehrenfeld charges that large amounts of International Financial Institution (IFI) funds vanish as a result of corruption and advocates that the IFI set up an "International Integrity Standard" (IIS) that would form the benchmark against which countries' actions to fight corruption can be tested. She cites similar standards, such as the Basel Core Principles for effective banking supervision and standards for assessing the quality of securities and insurance oversight.

This is much more easily said than done. It is the typical intellectually correct approach to solving any problem: Assess it thoroughly, measure it carefully, set benchmarks based on identified "best practices," use experts to test against them, and where they are found wanting, apply conditions (or sanctions).

This approach is costly, but it has worked in many areas. Will it work in fighting corruption?

What we know about official corruption after some years of attempting to fight it is that it is quite different from most of the areas where the IFIs have worked previously. It thrives on darkness and invisibility. It is anonymous and unmeasurable. It is rooted in the very human vices of greed and lust for power through wealth.

These vices, by their very nature, defy normal approaches to definition and measurement. Twentieth-century welfare-state, centrally planned economies were perfectly suited to corruption's purposes. So was their dismantling by privatization and other means.

The solution to corruption for many years was simply to ignore it, to pretend it did not exist or to agree that a certain amount was an unavoidable, acceptable cost of development. But as corruption grew, governments democratized and information was liberated electronically in the late 20th century, it could no longer be swept under international rugs.

Those organizations involved in what Miss Ehrenfeld described as "the war on corruption," especially the World Bank, have in fact been pursuing the very intellectually correct approaches she advocates.

The problem is that corruption is different. Corruption is colorless, shapeless, odorless, collusive, secretive, stealthy, shameless. Even when it becomes pervasive, it still retains those qualities. It often leaves no trail but that impressed in human minds, memories and perceptions.

In short, getting a handle on corruption is far more difficult than the proverbial task of nailing Jell-O to the wall. There are no superweapons or superpowers in the war on corruption because it is rooted in human nature.

In today's globalized, democratized, informatized world, incorruptible governments can be constructed only using incorruptible citizens as their bricks and mortar. Are our educational, familial, social and spiritual systems helping form incorruptible new citizens? Or are they doing just the opposite?

In earlier times, the word used for corruption was sin. The word for anti-corruption was virtuousness. Something important obviously has been lost in the semantical evolution of our language. Earth cannot long remain civilized if virtue becomes virtualized.

JIM WESBERRY

Director

U.S. AID Americas

Accountability/Anti-Corruption Project

Casals & Associates

Alexandria


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