- The Washington Times - Friday, October 10, 2003

Bosnia: not so picture-perfect

In his criticism of Jeffrey T. Kuhner’s commentary on Bosnia (“Redrawing Bosnian borders,” Oct. 1), High Representative Paddy Ashdown (“One for all,” Letters, Wednesday) shows that he has a remarkable talent for condescension even when the obvious facts do not support his lordship’s sense of superiority.

Mr. Ashdown says that, contrary to Mr. Kuhner’s assertions, the Dayton Accords have led Bosnia-Herzegovina toward economic and political recovery. The fact is that Dayton brought a fragile peace to the country, but not much more than that. After eight years, the billions invested in Bosnia-Herzegovina (mostly U.S. taxpayer dollars) under Dayton have provided mainly a meaty carcass for some 50,000 well-paid international “nation builders” to feed on. Under Dayton, there was supposed to be a one-year transitional international administration expiring in 1996. Nonetheless, Mr. Ashdown and company are still being very well-paid in a very poor country that has a 40 percent unemployment rate. It seems that Dayton was a first step in the ongoing international institutional involvement in Bosnia’s affairs

The fact is that despite its high cost, Dayton has failed to achieve any of its stated major goals, much less impose democracy. Dayton’s main strategy was to integrate the three armies of Bosnia-Herzegovina into one and use it as a foundation for imposing a European version of a multiethnic society. Of course, that has failed, but that has not stopped Mr. Ashdown from continuing to demand it in his speeches.

What Dayton has done is solidify Serbian real estate gains achieved through mass murder under Slobodan Milosevic’s ethnic-cleansing programs. The Serbs occupy 49 percent of the country and are not about to give up their army, which protects the borders of what they defiantly named the Republic of Serbia.

Regarding the contention that Bosnia-Herzegovina is not a breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalism, his lordship suggests that Mr. Kuhner should visit the country to see for himself. Perhaps someone should suggest to Mr. Ashdown that he take a look at the city surrounding his very own office building. About two kilometers to the south of him, the al Qaeda-linked Saudi Wahhabis have built a massive Islamic center to spread their brand of fundamentalist Islam. They are building sparkling new mosques in nearly every Muslim village in the Bosnian countryside. In the middle of downtown Sarajevo, about 10 meters from the eternal flame of peace, a cultural center is operated by the same Iranian government that traditionally has sponsored terrorism against the West, including the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

Nonetheless, Mr. Ashdown still argues that everything is under control in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He says quite boldly that important steps have been taken “to ensure that Bosnia-Herzegovina could not in any way be used as a platform for terrorist attacks of any sort.” Perhaps he should share that remarkable methodology with Homeland Defense Secretary Tom Ridge and the rest of the world. There is, of course, a slight problem with that logic. If Mr. Ashdown sees Bosnia-Herzegovina as tightly controlled enough to thwart even the most secretive terrorist cells, why haven’t Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and the other 100 or so war criminals who are said to be residing comfortably in the country been arrested?

JERRY BLASKOVICH, PH.D.

Advisory Board member

Center for Near Eastern Studies

University of California at Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Fixing Fannie and Freddie

In response to J.C. Watts Jr.’s letter “Fannie and Freddie need new regulator” (Tuesday): It appears that his FM Policy Focus has a fundamental disagreement with virtually the entire home-building industry about what is in the best interests of the nation’s housing consumers in the regulatory reforms proposed for government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

FM Policy Focus maintains that the Treasury Department should exercise blanket approval over the business activities of the two giant mortgage lenders even though its experience in housing policy is nearly nonexistent.

Under the auspices of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have created an American success story: a finance system that has advanced the supply and affordability of home mortgages for millions of Americans.

One can only imagine Treasury — an agency more concerned about bank reserves and how much in taxes people pay — coming up with such innovations as zero-down-payment mortgages or seeking ways to provide loans for working families with less-than-sterling credit histories.

Fortunately, bipartisan leaders in the House Financial Services Committee, in consultation with the housing community, have drafted a common-sense regulation-reform proposal for our secondary market institutions that would safeguard their financial health through an independent regulator at the Treasury Department. Equally important, mission oversight would remain at HUD, allowing the GSEs to continue to provide liquidity and mortgage credit to get homeowners and renters in decent housing at the lowest possible cost.

The administration’s response to this was to flex its muscle and essentially kill it. FM Policy Focus and the White House just don’t get it. If they are truly interested in reaffirming our national commitment to housing, they should acknowledge the collective decision of a bipartisan Congress and allow this vital legislation to move forward.

It’s ironic that we find ourselves in agreement with the administration — though for vastly different reasons — that it is better to have no bill than a bad bill. Nonetheless, Chairman Michael Oxley and the members of the House Financial Services Committee should be commended for their continued efforts to draft credible and effective GSE-reform legislation

JERRY HOWARD

Executive vice president and CEO

National Association of Home Builders

Washington

In our backyard

The Washington Times has helped readers realize that slavery is not only the scourge of a few backward countries; it also is happening in our own communities (“Couple charged in girl’s servitude,” Metropolitan, Thursday). The case of a Nigerian teenager virtually enslaved for sex and labor by a Germantown couple illustrates all-too-painfully the plight of an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 individuals worldwide, mostly women and children, who have fallen prey to the epidemic known as human trafficking.

As President Bush noted in a remarkable speech before the United Nations last month, “There’s a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable. The victims of sex trade see little of life before they see the very worst of life — an underground of brutality and lonely fear.”

Our government has committed several weapons to the arsenal to fight human trafficking. The PROTECT Act targets sex tourism involving children. The Department of Justice is actively investigating sex-tour operators and patrons. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act deploys sanctions against governments that tolerate human trafficking. The act also mandates an annual State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report ranking countries, with the threat of economic penalties. This year, according to the State TIP report, countries such as Sudan, North Korea, Turkey, Haiti and Cuba wallowed in the basement, steeped in a cesspool of human trafficking.

Human trafficking has long been known to fund organized crime, and some analysts believe the practice also is being used to finance terrorist operatives. We ignore it at our peril.

While our government must continue and even increase its efforts, the front line of defense against this crime wave — as in the war against terror — remains individuals in the community, who should report suspected cases of abuse, encourage policy-makers to support aggressive pursuit and prosecution of criminals and sanctions against trafficking-friendly countries and stay informed.

As the president noted in his U.N. speech, “Nearly two centuries after the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade … and more than a century after slavery was officially ended in its last strongholds … the trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time.”

JONATHAN IMBODY

Senior policy analyst

Christian Medical Association - Washington Bureau

Springfield, Va.


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