- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 11, 2002

French justice, post-guillotine

Deborah Simmons calls the French "laissez-faire" for supposedly letting Ira Einhorn "have his way" instead of returning him to the U.S., where he had been convicted of murder in absentia ("The Unicorn and Holly," Op-Ed, Friday). Mrs. Simmons accuses the French of "preferr[ing] to spend $1 million a year in taxpayers' money to fight extradition rather than hand him over to the United States. (They let a little thing like capital punishment come between them and U.S. justice.)"
France's unwillingness to hand him over was not due to a laissez-faire attitude. Rather, for the French it was a matter of principle. Capital punishment and trials in absentia are considered barbaric in the E.U., which is why almost no E.U. country extradites people facing the death-penalty or people who were convicted in absentia. This applies to criminals from the U.S., as well as countries such as Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

Guntramsdorf, Austria

Piano-playing columnist strikes a wrong chord

Columnist Balint Vazsonyi crossed the line of decency when attacking an American patriot in an ill-informed diatribe that I cannot leave unchallenged ("Airport security fiascos," Commentary, Aug. 6).

Mr. Vazsonyi's vitriol includes another of his tirades against the airport security workers whom the Department of Transportation (DOT) inherited from the private sector in the wake of September 11.

Congress ordered DOT to take over the process, recognizing that we need to improve the standards and performance of the system. That is precisely why the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is today in a nationwide hunt to hire better-qualified personnel and deploy a nationwide force that features consistency and good judgment.

Mr. Vazsonyi is apparently unaware that we remain in the transition period, and that in many areas the private-sector screeners still perform line duties that will soon be transferred to TSA graduates. In an unprecedented initiative, every airport is due to have a federalized work force by Nov. 19. Meanwhile, we are making dramatic progress.

Here is what Phillip Baum, editor of the London-based magazine Aviation Security International, had to say about his recent trip through the airports in Dulles, Albuquerque, Denver and San Francisco:

"In each location it was like a breath of fresh air. One could see security, real security. Sure I have my criticisms, but they are, I like to think, constructive. Yet I'd like to start by applauding the efforts made at checkpoints across the United States. Every X-ray operator seemed focused, on-the-job training was in progress and the quality of the searches carried out were some of the best I have seen anywhere in the world."

This is a welcome assessment from an aviation security expert with years of experience.

Nonetheless, while we remain in transition, we expect people will make mistakes and "experts" like Mr. Vazsonyi will continue to criticize. But he really crossed the line with an ad hominem phrase describing Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta an American of Japanese descent as someone whom Mr. Vazsonyi "is deeply suspicious" "resents America and Americans altogether." That is a hideous mischaracterization of a true American patriot and longtime public servant.

Mr. Mineta is a native American, born in San Jose, Calif. He rose to the rank of major during a career in Army intelligence that included wartime service overseas. He has been a successful businessman, the mayor of a major American city, a U.S. congressman and presently a Cabinet secretary serving two presidents. Any one of those milestones might be considered a significant accomplishment. Mr. Mineta has done them all.

This is America. Even Hungarian-born piano players have the right to vent their opinions, ill-informed or otherwise. But they do not have the moral right to attack patriots such as Mr. Mineta, who have spent most of their adult lives defending and serving the very country that allows the Vazsonyis of the world to become naturalized citizens and rant in the pages of an American newspaper.


Director of Public Affairs

Department of Transportation


Would the U.S. like Brit commandos in Boston?

The concluding sentence of Wednesday's editorial "Very special operations" is disturbing indeed: "America should ask permission for our forces to attack terrorists in any nation with which we are not at war. Whether permission is granted or not, these missions should proceed."

So The Washington Times proposes that the U.S. armed forces should run roughshod over the national sovereignty of friend and foe alike? Would the United States permit British commandos to rampage through Boston hunting down Irish Republican Army terrorists, supporters and sympathizers?

I am fully behind the present administration's campaign to eradicate the terror of militant Islam and critical even of my own country's reluctance to lend the campaign the degree of commitment I believe it deserves. I can appreciate the frustration of the United States with allies who are quick to criticize and who advance their own national interests under the guise of multilateralism.

Nonetheless, the United States must not let its zeal cause it to lose a balanced perspective. It is precisely the tendency of the United States to pursue its causes with unrestrained self-righteousness that makes its allies nervous and hesitant.

No. The U.S. armed forces should not, at their discretion, take their war wherever it suits them. Whatever their intelligence might lead them to believe, American soldiers may not enter Canada, for instance, to apprehend Canadian citizens because the U.S. military alleges they are involved in terrorist activities. Nor, for that matter, may American soldiers enter Canada in hot pursuit of U.S. citizens. As civilized nations, governed under law, we have extradition treaties to deal with these affairs.

Recall that after their unfortunate altercation with Gen. George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, Chief Sitting Bull and his Sioux warriors proved themselves model citizens under the jurisdiction and care of the Royal North West Mounted Police.


Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

Cambodia:It's not what it's cracked up to be

I was astonished upon reading the special report on Cambodia published in the July 30 edition of The Washington Times' advertising section. I commend the lengthy information on democracy in Cambodia and the hope of political unity there. But events show that democracy works only if it favors the Communist's Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which took power by coup from the democratically elected government in 1997 after murdering 100 of the ruling party's top party officials.

"Unacceptable" democratic thinking was and is met with intimidation, murder and other forms of violence. Because such things happen at the behest of the CPP, the perpetrators of violence and murder are never brought to justice.

Another inaccuracy in the special report is the charge that the Cambodian news media is under attack not from the government but from a lack of an advertising base. This distorts the fact that many newspapers were closed and the editors harmed if they criticized the government too strongly. There will be no advertising base because the country's commercial infrastructure is controlled by businessmen with ties to corrupted government officials.

Without the rule of law, no one wants to invest in corrupt Cambodia. Advertisement isn't the problem, for a dependency society has been created and the wealth gap is becoming larger and larger.

Cambodian youth are fast learners in every field of knowledge. There is a pressing need to create jobs for them by stimulating the economy, but this is not a priority for a government whose officials are too busy filling their pockets and foreign bank accounts.

What's the point in creating more universities when graduates are only assured of having no job or even hope of having one after graduation in Cambodia's stagnant economy and corrupt society?

Furthermore, I was deeply disturbed to see the picture of Minister of Finance Keat Chhon, a close associate of the late Pol Pot, who faithfully served the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime until Vietnamese invasion forces toppled it in 1979. That he is back on top illustrates the ironic fate of my native country.



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