- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

Increase in U.S. military involvement the last thing Colombia needs

The March 7 story, "Bush eyes more military aid for Bogota," states that the "full House approved a resolution" calling on President Bush to help Colombia protect its democracy from terrorist organizations, but it was far from a full House.

The resolution passed by a voice vote, and only a handful of members were present. While the situation in Colombia has gotten worse in recent weeks, the country's civil war has been going on for almost 40 years. As Rep. Jim McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat, said during the debate over the resolution, "Colombia is hardly a new front in the war on terrorism."

An increase in U.S. military involvement is the last thing Colombia needs.

The peace process has been a long and arduous one with few results to date, but a major problem in the negotiations has been the increase in U.S. military aid, which has done nothing more than strengthen the ties between the Colombian military and paramilitary groups such as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

All of the groups involved in the conflict have committed numerous human rights abuses, including the Colombian military. In addition to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the AUC is also on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations and is known for working alongside the U.S.-trained and equipped Colombian military. Both the FARC and the AUC derive funding from protecting drug crops, but the AUC is responsible for 70 percent of the killings of civilians.

So far, U.S. efforts have focused almost solely on a military solution to Colombia's woes. The majority of the Bush administration's aid package to Colombia almost 70 percent is for narcotics and security programs.

The Bush administration should provide Colombia with aid for alternative development programs, humanitarian assistance and the strengthening of judicial and civil institutions.

Those efforts will foster a peaceful solution to Colombia's conflict much sooner than an all-out military response.


MICHELLE CIARROCCA

Research associate

World Policy Institute

New York

Stop second-guessing Operation Anaconda

Your March 7 front-page story "Military officers criticize rush to use ground troops" catalogs tearful hankie-twisting by an assortment of anonymous military officers over the tactics of the current engagement near Gardez.

An unnamed "Air Force officer," no doubt referring frequently to a well-thumbed copy of "Victory Through Air Power," is alarmed that ground troops are risking their lives when U.S. forces should have been bombing the area for a few more weeks and warns darkly of an "Army mafia" that can get people killed. His solution seems to be to employ ground troops as forward air controllers who can use their downtime to sift through the rubble once the wild blue yonder is clear again.

Well, where is the news? This argument has only been raging in officers' club bars for the past 75 years or so. Let's at least credit central command (CENTCOM) for trying to improve on the Tora Bora scheme. Instead of hitting a puddle of mercury on a tabletop with a hammer and simply scattering it all over the place, this time CENTCOM forces patiently allowed it to concentrate, contained it, and then totally engaged it. Makes sense to me.

Why don't we compare the Tora Bora and Gardez action scorecards after the game is over? It is bad enough having a galaxy of generals running a regimental-sized engagement. Do we have to seriously entertain the kibitzing of anonymous chair-bound Washington garrison troopers as well?


THOMAS H. LIPSCOMB

New York

Utilitarianism is not 'the American way'

Echoing 19th century utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham, paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve insisted at Tuesday's Senate hearing on human cloning, "Our government is supposed to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people" ("Reeve touts cloning to Senate," March 6). He encouraged hesitant senators to allow, in the name of utility, the cloning and killing of living human embryos to harvest their stem cells.

Sadly, Mr. Reeve did not seem to grasp the grim irony that severely disabled individuals like himself would hardly fare well in the utilitarian calculus of anticipated benefit for the most people. If public policy truly were reduced to "the greatest good for the greatest number," racism and exploitation would flourish, eugenics would rule, and the fittest and favored would be released once and for all from the burden of those perceived as useless.

Only in a compassionate society, rooted in the doctrines of divinely given human worth and justice for all, do vulnerable individuals have a hope and a future. That's because such a society asks not, "What is expedient," but instead, "What is right?"

Rather than invoking utilitarianism to justify destructive human cloning research, patients seeking cures are far better served by advancing research on adult stem cells, which offer them proven promise, tested therapies, and a clear conscience.


JONATHAN IMBODY

Springfield, Va.


The writer is Senior Policy Analyst of the Christian Medical Association.

VA health care deductible is bad idea

The 2.8-million member American Legion is opposed to the Department of Veterans Affairs' $1,500 deductible for Priority Group 7 VA health care patients. These are patients who are working-class veterans and do not have service-connected disabilities. Deputy VA Secretary Leo S. Mackay Jr. defended the proposal in the March 6 Op-ed "Defending veteran medical deductibles."

There are veteran-friendly ways to meet the growing demand for VA health care, particularly among Priority Group 7 veterans who earn as little as $24,000 a year single and $28,000 with dependents. First, Medicare reimbursement should be implemented so those veterans who are on Medicare no longer have to waive those benefits in order to receive treatment from VA. Second, a premium-based health care package could be offered, which Priority Group 7 veterans who are not on Medicare and have no other insurance can purchase at a reasonable cost from VA. Third, VA needs to change the way it bills insurance companies to an itemized billing procedure, so that it can collect money from third-party payers more efficiently.

The deductible would price certain veterans out of the health care system of their choice particularly veterans who have no health insurance. It is a bad idea.


RICHARD J. SANTOS

National commander

American Legion

Washington


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