Saturday, December 21, 2002

Soldiering on (and off)

With this added to the gratuitous 10 days off a year facetiously called “training days” and the 30 days of leave every soldier gets, along with holidays and weekends, it is no wonder the Regular Army is calling up the Reserves. The new Army motto apparently is “More, more, more” for “less, less, less.”


Waldorf, Md.

Testing The Hague’s credibility

Biljana Plavsic turned herself over to the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague and accepted responsibility for atrocities committed against thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Croats. Even so, are we to understand that the woman who made such an admission of guilt deserves our sympathy and mercy? Prosecutors recommended a sentence of up to 25 years for the former Bosnian Serb president (“World Scene,” World, Thursday), but her defense said such a long term would unfairly condemn her to die in prison.

Any sentence less than life in prison would be unfair. Just the thought of her walking free after 25 years or, as suggested by her defense, eight years, would be an insult to the credibility of the International Criminal Court, let alone the thousands of people who lost their lives to brutality under her leadership.

If Osama bin Laden were to be captured and sentenced to eight years for his crimes, could we possibly say justice prevailed? Would the American public be satisfied? Would those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001 be satisfied?



Why the Golden State has no gold

Arnold Steinberg’s column “Golden State without the gold” (Op-Ed, Wednesday) picks up the threadbare Republican theme that the budgets of Republican-led states are suffering because of the economy, while the budgets of Democratic-led states are suffering because of overspending. The truth is, it’s the same economy, stupid.

California is far from alone in its fiscal situation. Raymond Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association, has pointed out that the fiscal crisis being felt virtually nationwide is battering almost every state budget to the point where no easy choices are left.

State tax revenues have deteriorated while health care costs are exploding. Capital-gains tax revenues have collapsed, adding to the overall loss of revenue from slow economic growth.

In fiscal 2002, the states collected about $38 billion less in tax revenue than in the previous year, after adjusting for inflation a drop of almost 8 percent. That trend is expected to continue.

Neither the federal government, the vast majority of the other states nor virtually any of the nation’s major financial firms foresaw the precipitous stock-market plunge that did in federal and state budgets. In 2002 alone, more than $2.6 trillion in investment funds were erased by the stock market’s fall, sending tax revenues plummeting.

Meanwhile, in the past four years, California Gov. Gray Davis had a budgetary choice. He had to decide between spending what was needed to fix 16 years of Republican budgetary indifference or clamping down on spending, which would have reduced the immediate budget shortfall but continued the state’s neglect of education, health care and an aging infrastructure.

He put new funding where it was vitally needed: 70 percent to education, public safety, transportation and tax relief and another 26 percent to health care for children, seniors and the disabled. Yet Mr. Davis’ budget increase of 32 percent over four years was lower than the 37 percent increase seen during former Gov. Pete Wilson’s second term and the 45 percent increase seen in former Gov. George Deukmejian’s first term. In reality, spending growth under Mr. Davis is significantly less than the average growth for each gubernatorial term since 1959 even when that growth is adjusted for inflation.

Moreover, recognizing that good economic times were unlikely to continue indefinitely, Mr. Davis dedicated nearly $8 billion of new revenues to one-time spending that would not permanently increase the budget base.

Finally, by focusing on long-term needs, Mr. Davis arguably positioned the state for stronger future economic growth. As the Wall Street Journal argued regarding North Carolina’s similar budget growth in a time of economic downturn:

“North Carolina got nailed [by the economic downturn] in part because it was caught doing exactly the right things for the long-term health of its economy: boosting K-12 education, a weak link in its schools, while moving from lower-skill to higher-skill industries. To be sure, it’s that ironic twist that gives the state its best hope for recovery.”

That is a pretty good description of California’s economic situation today, as well.


Senior adviser to Gov. Gray Davis

Sacramento, Calif.

Group rejects Iranian mullahs’ ‘smear campaign’

“The terror lobby” (Editorial, Nov. 21), regrettably, is a collection of incorrect and misleading statements that allows Iran’s fundamentalist regime to evade the consequences of its chilling human rights violations and the 450 or so terrorist attacks it has sponsored abroad in the past two decades.

The allegations, part of a smear campaign by the mullahs’ lobby in Washington, merely rehash accusations leveled against the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) by the State Department during the Iran-Contra fiasco in 1985. The campaign has failed, simply because of the Mujahedin’s clear track record and democratic credentials.

Recently, 150 House members declared in a joint statement that “the Mojahedin is a ‘legitimate resistance movement.’ As a prominent anti-fundamentalist organization adhering to a tolerant Islam, it is a major player in confronting this ominous phenomenon and terrorism emanating from it. Thus, its designation is in direct contradiction with the spirit of the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and congressional intent in drafting the law.”

The killing of Americans in Iran in the 1970s was carried out by a communist group that briefly assumed control of the Mujahedin through a coup after the shah’s secret police (SAVAK) arrested all its leaders and senior members in fall 1971. The Council on Foreign Relations recently clarified this episode: “Experts say the attack may have been the work of a Maoist splinter faction ”

The Mujahedin played no role in the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini plotted the embassy takeover in a bid to outmaneuver the Mujahedin on the domestic scene.

The presence of a part of the PMOI in Iraq is just designed to topple the mullahs’ regime, described by President Bush as being part of the “axis of evil.” After visiting Mujahedin camps in Iraq, U.N. Special Commission Executive Chairman Richard Butler wrote to the U.N. Security Council in December 1998 that “sites belonging to the Mojahedin were not under the authority of the Iraqi government.”

The Mujahedin was not involved in the suppression of “the Kurdish rebellion” in Iraq. On May 24, Reuters quoted a senior official of a major Iraqi Kurdish group as saying: “[We] can confirm that the Mujahedin was not involved in suppressing the Kurdish people neither during the uprising nor in its aftermath.”

U.S. lawmakers have welcomed the Mujahedin in “the halls of freedom” in the past two decades in the best tradition of those great beacons of freedom, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In so doing, they recognize that tying Washington’s Iran policy to dictators such as the Shah or the mullahs can only end in failure.


National Council of Resistance of Iran

U.S. Representative Office


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