- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2003

Turbulent times

A commercial airliner follows a customary Potomac River flight path on its low approach into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. A few miles south, unseen in one of dozens of Maryland inlets (Virginia’s got plenty, too — take your pick), surrounded by thick foliage, al Qaeda terrorists in a small speedboat take aim with a shoulder-launched missile.

Not only does the slow-moving jet become an easy target — even in the dark of night when illuminated by its lights — the terrorists disappear and melt back into American society.

Impossible?

If it was, the Bush administration wouldn’t be rushing as fast as it is to counter the threat to civil aviation posed by shoulder-launched missiles, or Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS).

In fact, President Bush and the other Group of Eight leaders this week endorsed a U.S.-driven plan to combat the danger to commercial airlines.

In November, there was an unsuccessful missile attack on an Israeli passenger jet in Mombasa, Kenya, a stark reminder of the threat posed by terrorists possessing MANPADS, which are widely available on black or gray markets around the world.

“Even an unsuccessful attack on a commercial airliner would have a devastating economic and political impact,” a White House paper on the threat acknowledges.

The U.S. plan adopted by the world leaders will now adopt strict national controls over inventories and exports of MANPADS and key components; ban transfers of MANPADS to nonstate end-users; help countries that wish to dispose of excess MANPADS stocks but lack the means to do so; exchange information on countries that are not cooperating to control stockpiles of these weapons; and examine development of technical features that would prevent unauthorized use of newly produced MANPADS.

Paying two armies

Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr., Tennessee Republican, did not like the lead paragraph of a story on the front page of The Washington Times this week, and he walked onto the House floor and read it aloud for everybody else to hear.

“Unemployed Iraqi soldiers swarmed U.S. occupation headquarters yesterday, demanding back pay and emergency payments of $50 each and avowing vengeance if they didn’t get their way,” read the opening line of reporter Betsy Pisik’s story.

“We are in a real mess in Iraq,” said Mr. Duncan, who happens to be very pro-military and pro-national defense. “Since when did it become the obligation of U.S. taxpayers to pay the salaries of the Iraqi military? When in history has a victorious army had to start paying the salaries of the defeated army?”

Mr. Duncan said the Defense Department is being turned into “the biggest foreign aid agency there is.”

A member of the Government Reform Committee, the nine-term congressman reveals that the United States spent more than $100 billion to defeat an Iraqi dictatorship with a military budget of only $1.4 billion — “about two-tenths of 1 percent of ours.”

Winning the debate

It turns out one of Washington’s newer — and more unusual — political magazines has exceeded expectations as quickly as it set out to redefine conservatism.

The inaugural issue of the American Conservative — edited by the politically-incorrect trio of Pat J. Buchanan, Taki Theodoracopulos (more easily pronounced Taki), and Scott McConnell — only hit magazine racks Oct. 7 and “our paid circulation has grown steadily, faster than we expected,” Mr. McConnell says.

More importantly, Mr. McConnell says, the magazine is “succeeding in the debate — the initial inclination of the conservative establishment to ignore us was something they could not sustain. We’re making real inroads.”

Previously the editorial page editor of the New York Post, Mr. McConnell says magazine readers include a large element of the American conservative movement “who are not in favor of empire and high immigration who previously did not have a voice. Now they have one.”

Bylines and topics include Peter Hitchens on curbing Britain’s crime wave without creating additional victims, Richard Cummings on why the United States is really leaving Saudi Arabia, and last, but never least in traditional conservative thought, Mr. Buchanan, who seeks to explain what happens when democracies created by the U.S. turn around and vote against us.

As in Iraq?

“Neoconservatives, with visions of Iraq as a strategic base camp from which to strike Islamic tyrannies, are now insisting that, before elections, Iraqis must be tutored in American values and democratic ideals, lest they commit a blunder at the ballot box,” Mr. Buchanan writes.

“In short, Iraqis are free to choose a government — of which we Americans approve.”

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]


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