- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2003

U.S. intervention needed in Liberia

While Jack Spencer (“Not the way to help Liberia,” Commentary, July 18) makes a strong case as to why the United States generally should 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 also is 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 immoral and do not seem committed to improving the abominable living conditions under which the country’s 3.2 million citizens have long suffered. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, other world leaders and Liberians themselves all have asked the United States to send a peacekeeping force.

The “European nations” 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 the United States has in the eyes of Liberians. After all, Liberia was founded in the early part of the 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 after 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 Great Britain.

Liberia has always sought to emulate the United States, and Liberians — unlike the Somali clans that U.S. soldiers encountered in Somalia in the early 1990s — would greet U.S. forces as heroes. Another difference Liberia has from Somalia and other places in which the United States has intervened recently is Liberia’s long-standing 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 once again to establish a democratic government — preventing the emergence and potential pitfalls of another failed state.

GENE HARRINGTON

Laurel

Raising the stakes in Virginia politics

Thank you for helping to expose the efforts of Gov. Mark Warner, Democrat, and Delegate James Dillard, Republican, and other tax-and-spend Virginia politicians to use Virginia’s legitimate need to reform its tax code as yet another opportunity to raise taxes (“Reform Richmond’s spending habits,” Editorial, July 19).

As you noted, Northern Virginia voters clearly oppose higher state and local taxes. Less than a year ago, voters soundly defeated a referendum to increase the sales tax by more than 10 percent — a referendum Mr. Dillard strongly supported. Boldly defying his constituents’ mandate, Mr. Dillard sponsored a bill to increase the sales tax by twice as much only months later. That bill was one of 11 bills to increase taxes that Mr. Dillard sponsored or co-sponsored during his last term. For more than two decades, Mr. Dillard’s record has been defined by this relentless tax-and-spend attitude.

You noted that Mr. Dillard “complained that Virginia’s tax burden is one of the lowest in the 50 states.” Mr. Dillard’s absurd complaint is a thinly veiled attempt to justify the theme underlying his re-election campaign: raising taxes to fund substantial spending increases for non-essential services. In a meeting with me last month, Mr. Dillard matter-of-factly stated his intent, if re-elected, to do just that. Mr. Dillard’s confused vision of state government flies in the face of the most basic tenet of our system of governance: Government serves the citizens, not vice versa.

The undisputed facts are these: Over the past four years, the tax burden on Fairfax County residents has inflated sharply, in large part because of an average increase in real property taxes of more than 50 percent during that period. Yet, for all they contribute in tax revenues, those voters fail to get fair value for their tax dollars, particularly with respect to transportation funding.

Most troubling, Mr. Dillard’s tireless efforts to pour more money into state coffers without real improvements in governmental efficiency and accountability are plainly contrary to the will of his constituents. Mr. Dillard no longer represents the citizens who elected him, which is why I am challenging him for the office of delegate for Virginia’s 41st District. I have pledged to oppose any increase in state taxes, will support legislation limiting increases in real property taxes, will endorse a tax system that is equitable to all voters and will advocate meaningful efforts to improve the government’s efficiency with and accountability for its citizens’ money.

Nov. 4 represents a crossroads for Virginia voters. They can support politicians who believe in raising citizens’ taxes and throwing money at problems, or they can elect leaders who grow Virginia’s economy to relieve individuals’ tax burdens and demand that the government get more out of each tax dollar it receives. For the good of the commonwealth, we must choose the latter.

MICHAEL J. GOLDEN

Candidate

Virginia House of Delegates, 41st District

Springfield

Elderly need to shop smarter

Kudos to John Goodman’s Monday column (“Drugs from Canada: A price too high?” Commentary). Among his many fine points, he concludes that “… we should encourage consumers to engage in smart buying and let the market work.” How true.

A recent study we commissioned presented incontrovertible evidence that, among 111 pharmacies in Florida, New Hampshire and Missouri, seniors who simply priced drugs at different outlets for competitive advantage, usually in the same town, were rewarded with savings as low as 50 percent and in one case as high as 900 percent. Both brand-name and generic medications were included in our study.

Seniors are buyers, and the old saw “buyer beware” holds true especially for prescription drugs. Savings can be substantial if the wary will just pick up the phone and call around for better prices. It’s a bromide nearly guaranteed to offer relief.

JIM MARTIN

President

60 Plus Association

Arlington

Self-inflicted highs

Sunday’s Special Report was interesting, but it did not address the most important aspect of the issue (“Pot paradox,” Page 1). Regardless of why someone chooses to smoke pot, the real question at hand is this: Why should any citizen be punished for doing something to himself?

Our politicians are making hay by claiming that we need to waste our resources pursuing people who choose to smoke the “wrong” plant — not because these people are causing harm to others, but because they choose to intoxicate themselves in an “unapproved” manner.

In a nation of supposed equals, how are we individually empowered to punish other citizens for their self-directed acts?

Marijuana certainly causes insanity — but not among its users. Another brief point: The law that has made cannabis a “Schedule I narcotic” is the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The original Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was declared unconstitutional. I still can’t find anything in the Constitution that grants the government the power to punish people who do things to themselves.

BRIAN C. BENNETT

Barboursville, Va.


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