- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 20, 2003

L Virginia’s bloated budget

Your editorial, “Reform Richmond’s spending habits,” on Saturday was right on target, but may go over the heads of many Virginians who do not know how much the annual budget has grown over the years.

Extracting yearly budget figures from www.dpb.state.va. us/budget /budget.htm, clearly shows that the Virginia state budget has increased 47.76 percent from fiscal year 1998 through fiscal year 2004 (which began this month), or from $17.621 billion to $26.038 billion. More importantly, since the recession began in 2000, the increase in the state budget has been a whopping 11.64 percent during a time when budgets should never have needed to exceed the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Virginia is supposedly a fiscally conservative state. Given the national recession that began in 2000, Virginia politicians have not practiced the austerity that they ask of their citizens.

The foregoing serves to underscore your editorial that our politicians are acting just like politicians — asking to raise taxes in lieu of cutting spending.


Dumfries, Va.

U.S. troops needed in Liberia

While Jack Spencer makes a strong case (“Not the way to help Liberia,” Commentary, Friday) as to why the United States should generally avoid committing troops to participate in feel-good, peacekeeping missions, he fails to acknowledge the unique historical and cultural bond between the United States and Liberia, and is wrong to urge President Bush not to dispatch a military force to the West African nation to restore order. He is also off base in stating that an American force is not needed.

Immersed in a 14-year civil war, Liberia is at a critical juncture in its 150-plus year history. President Charles Taylor, Liberia’s corrupt and despotic leader, is rapidly losing control of the country to rebel groups, and his downfall appears inevitable. Sadly, the leaders of the rebel groups battling to oust Mr. Taylor are equally as immoral and do not seem committed to improving the abominable living conditions under which the country’s 3.3 million citizens have long been suffering. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, other world leaders and Liberians themselves have all asked the United States to send a peacekeeping force.

The European nations that Mr. Spencer believes should intervene lack the extraordinary connection that the United States and Liberia share, and thus do not have the moral standing or authority that the United States has in the eyes of Liberians. After all, Liberia was founded in the early 19th century as a home for freed U.S. slaves. Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, is named in honor of one of those who fought for its establishment, President James Monroe, and its government is modeled on the U.S. Constitution. Its flag, which is strikingly similar to the U.S. flag, signifies, in part, the relationship between the two countries. A good analogy of the bond between Liberia and the United States is the one we share with Britain.

Liberia has always sought to emulate the United States, and Liberians — unlike the clans that U.S. soldiers encountered in Somalia in the early 1990s — would greet U.S. forces as heroes. Another difference between Somalia and the other places in which the United States has recently intervened is Liberia’s longstanding commitment to democracy. A nominal U.S. peacekeeping force — supplemented by a larger number of troops from Liberia’s neighboring countries — would maintain a cease-fire and permit Liberians to once again establish a democratic government and prevent the emergence and potential pitfalls of another failed state.



Broadcasting misguided information

Helle Dale’s column (“Forgotten freedom,” Op-Ed, Wednesday) contains misguided and misleading information about the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), and underscores a fundamental misunderstanding of why Congress created a bipartisan board of presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed members from the private sector to supervise all U.S. non-military international broadcasting.

Mrs. Dale states that the BBG “has become part of the problem with its members attempting to run the radio services on a day-to-day basis, making this one of the most dysfunctional services of the U.S. government.” In fact, the record shows that the BBG, under the leadership of Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson and his predecessor, Marc Nathanson, has been a vigorous, forward-thinking federal agency responsible for innovative programs that have allowed America to tell its story to millions of people around the world.

Far from being dysfunctional, the BBG has brought its private-sector expertise and know-how to U.S. international broadcasting. Experts from both political parties who serve on the board have moved U.S. broadcasting into the 21st century.

Backed by a five-year strategic plan (Marrying the Mission to the Market) that calls for attracting larger audiences and impact in critical areas of the world such as the Middle East, the BBG, among other things, launched popular Arabic- and Persian-language radio services, Radio Free Afghanistan and Voice of America (VOA) News and Views television programs to Iran. All adhere to the highest journalistic standards. They have allowed American policy-makers to communicate directly with the people of the region.

The BBG’s next challenge, strongly supported by the Bush administration, is to launch a 24-hour Arabic-language television station. When fully funded by Congress, the network could go on the air as early as the end of this year.

Not only is the BBG adding new programs, but it is working closely with the leaders of VOA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Office of Cuban Broadcasting to revamp, update and improve their services for maximum impact.

We now broadcast around the world in 65 languages, bringing accurate and objective news and information about the United States and the world to audiences overseas. Our rapidly growing worldwide audience would surely be surprised by Mrs. Dale’s statement that we are a problem.



BBG Middle East Committee

Member of the Executive Committee


Imperialism isn’t a noble goal

Regarding your Friday editorial “Vive les Anglo-Saxons,” Tony Blair’s message to Congress defending George Bush (and getting thunderous applause from arrogant Republicans and weak-spined Democrats) was just rhetoric from one imperialist to another.

Americans and the British should keep this in mind — we’re not all Anglo-Saxons anymore. We’re composed of all elements of the human family who don’t view imperialism as a noble goal. In fact, we see it for what it is — subjugation of the world for the greedy gain of the few. Our members of Congress should be ashamed of themselves for portraying Americans as arrogant imperialists.


Hawthorne, Calif.

Marriage for all Americans

I have to disagree with Wednesday’s letter “Preserving the institution of marriage.” Counter to what Adam Thayne says, government has been around as long as there have been marriages. The government might have been a bunch of tribal elders, but it is as old as marriage and has the right to change the definition of marriage to encompass all Americans.

Not all marriage is religious. Indeed, we allow atheists and agnostics to marry, although they don’t view marriage as a religious institution but as a social institution of love between two adults.

No same-sex union will break up a single marriage between a straight couple. Instead, it might provide a shining example to many. The slippery-slope argument that it will lead to acceptance of practices such as bestiality is absurd. It is similar to the argument made 40 years ago that marriages between blacks and whites might lead to bestiality.

Argue against same-sex unions based on the merits, not on absurd arguments.


West Milwaukee, Wis.

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