- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 13, 2002

North points in wrong direction

Lt. Col. Oliver North's July 7 column contained an unsubstantiated claim that I am a "defender" of the International Criminal Court ("Standing up for forces he leads," Commentary). I have consistently expressed reservations about the court since the Rome statute creating it was signed in 1998.
In fact, at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing just after the Rome conference on the court in July 1998, I told the chief U.S. negotiator that by choosing not to sign it, he had "reached the right conclusion for our country."
My concern about the court is an easily verifiable matter of public record.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee

California dreamin'

A disturbing editorial in Tuesday's Washington Times ("Californians are at it again") presents misleading information.
What the author of the piece refers to as "the very dubious idea of human-caused global warming" has been common knowledge to scientists for years. The theory even has been endorsed by the willfully ignorant Bush administration in a report to the United Nations.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, which compiled the report: "Human activities have altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere through the buildup of greenhouse gases primarily carbon dioxide."
Carbon dioxide is also created through natural processes such as human respiration, but this is part of a balanced natural cycle: Plants use the carbon dioxide exhaled by humans and other animals to produce oxygen through photosynthesis. The gross amounts (more than 5.4 tons annually, 82 percent of our total carbon dioxide emissions) that are pumped into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, such as gasoline, are not part of this natural cycle.
In short, no one is being asked to stop driving a car under the new legislation in California. The editorial fails to demonstrate how this landmark reform will "affect the economic well-being of millions of people in California and elsewhere." Customers will continue to buy new cars, whether or not eight-cylinder engines are available. Meanwhile, the physical well-being of millions of Californians will be positively affected by cleaner air and by the slowing of the rate of global warming.
California, once again, is setting the bar for the rest of country, and once again, the rest of us will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the reality of global warming.


Vindicating Vlad

Though the proposal for a "Dracula Land" amusement park near Sighisoara, Romania, can, is and should be debated, it should not be used as an attempt to denigrate and belittle a historic personality and the history of the Romanian people ("Dracula undressed," Letters, Tuesday).
For the sake of historical accuracy and the elimination of confusion, I would like to point out that the Romanians were not like migrant tribes that came to Europe from Asia on the eve of the second millennium B.C. and practiced true tribal living. Rather, the Romanian people bear the name and heritage of Roman civilization. On the basis of this heritage, we have enjoyed continuity and steady development of our social life; and during the Middle Ages we assumed political organization vis-a-vis voevodates and principalities.
Vlad the Impaler, the historical character on which Bram Stoker based "Dracula," is revered by the general public and scholars alike as a symbol of resistance to social injustice and foreign occupation. Vlad was the heir and developer of the court at the principality of Targoviste which stands as a historical monument in Romania and other fortresses and castles at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. (Some of them were spectacular in their day, but many were destroyed during the wars against Ottoman Turk invaders and by the passage of time.) To discount Vlad with offensive and dishonest characterizations seems to me highly unfair and unethical.

Ambassador of Romania

Without good intel, terrorists may get visas

As a consular officer, I would like to address a misunderstanding regarding visa issuance that The Washington Times has repeated in numerous articles during the past few weeks. These articles insinuate that the State Department's consular corps is incompetent and callous toward security because it does not require a personal interview of each applicant, particularly in Saudi Arabia. Because of this and other related issues, your paper demands that oversight of visa issuance be shifted to the Department of Homeland Security. I would not oppose this decision if it were based on facts and if the shift truly could improve border security. I believe, however, that you may not fully comprehend how terrorists are kept out of the United States.
Having conducted numerous visa interviews in the Middle East, I can assure you that a terrorist can only be singled out through the availability of intelligence information, not by looking an applicant in the eye and asking him if he is a terrorist. The fact is that the September 11 hijackers were issued visas because they did not appear to be economic migrants and no derogatory information about them had been provided to the Department of State. These cases show that terrorist organizations are careful to choose candidates who lack that wide-eyed look of fanaticism that would tip off an interviewing officer. In short, it is simplistic to assume that you can spot a terrorist in a crowd. Unless our country decides to keep all Muslims or all Muslim men from entering the United States, our only choice is to decide visa eligibility on the evidence available: proof that an applicant's trip is of a temporary nature and name checks to be sure there is no derogatory information about the applicant from intelligence and law enforcement sources. These name checks are and long have been applied equally both to applicants who are interviewed in person and to those for whom the requirement for a personal appearance is waived.
Charges of a visa-selling scam in Doha, Qatar, are deeply troubling, although they have not yet been fully investigated. It appears, though, that Assistant Secretary of State Mary Ryan already has been offered as the sacrificial lamb to head off this looming controversy, put to rest the one surrounding visas issued in Saudi Arabia and divert the congressional push to strip the department of its responsibility for issuing visas. It is a shame that a seasoned professional has been forced to resign to silence the strengthening barrage of misinformation and accusation. The facts should speak for themselves. Visa adjudication will always require the work of trained professionals making informed, culturally aware judgments. Foreign Service officers of the consular corps have been filling this role admirably for more than half a century, sacrificing both physical safety and personal comfort for their country. Deriding the professionalism of the Department of State is insulting, and shifting the visa-issuance function to the Department of Homeland Security would result in nothing more than a pointless change of address. What we need (and what finally has begun to happen) is for intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fully release their databases of criminals and terrorist suspects to the State Department. That is how terrorists are kept far from our borders.

Foreign Service officer
U.S. Embassy
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

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