- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

A few minor details

An article on Guatemala, “Despot’s return stirs up violence” (World, Oct. 18), is incomplete at best and inaccurate at worst. It states that Guatemala’s constitution “prohibits those who participated in coups from seeking the presidency.” This is true, but it is equally true that the 1986 constitution bars retroactive application of its provisions save to mitigate prison sentences. Gen. Efrain Rios Montt’s coup occurred in 1982.

The Constitutional Court did not lift the ban in response to July mob action. The ban was lifted previously, reinstated and then lifted again on successful appeal to the Constitutional Court.

While one can charitably leave aside the unsupported assertion that the level of political violence is “unusually high,” one cannot ignore the simply erroneous statement that Guatemala has a population of 14 million. This overstates the accepted figure (United Nations Development Programme, U.S. Embassy) of 11.2 million by 25 percent, and that wide an error casts into doubt the accuracy of the entire article. The 14 million figure apparently comes from an AP story, and The Washington Times can do better when reporting on an already deplorable situation.

CARLISLE JOHNSON

ABC Radio International

Guatemala City, Guatemala

Giving TSA the slip

As James Bovard points out (“Airport trick or treat,” Commentary, yesterday), the best analysis of college student Nathaniel Heatwole’s slipping of box cutters onto multiple passenger jets was by airline expert Michael Boyd, who observed, “The [Transportation Security Administration] is a poorly focused, unaccountable Washington political bureaucracy geared to screen for objects, not for security threats.”

As embarrassing as is the fact that a college student can slip box cutters aboard passenger jets, it wasn’t American college students who hijacked four passenger jets on September 11 and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and, except for the actions of heroic passengers, almost into the White House.

Our concern should not be solely for what can be smuggled on aircraft, but primarily who on board is likely to smuggle anything with malice aforethought and what can be done if they and their instruments of destruction get on board.

We know that 19 out of 19 September 11 terrorists were young males of Middle Eastern descent, 15 from one country, Saudi Arabia. Yet, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta incredibly stated on “60 Minutes” recently that a 70-year-old woman from Florida and an Islamic man from New Jersey should be subject to the same level of scrutiny. Why? Acting on this information would not be racial profiling. This information in normal police work is called a “description of the suspects.”

It is ironic that this incident occurred at a time when the TSA is continuing to drag its feet on the program authorized by Congress last fall and signed into law to train pilots to carry firearms during flight.

As the Airline Pilots Security Alliance (www.secure-skies.org) points out: “Clearly, had any of the pilots of the hijacked aircraft been armed on September 11, at best those hijackings, through deterrence alone, would have been thwarted; at worst, the pilots would have been provided a fighting chance to defend the cockpits from terrorists.” Searching grandmothers will not make air travel safer, but arming pilots and looking for those who really threaten us will.

DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI

Chicago

No nukes here

With regard to Wednesday’s article “Pakistan, Saudi Arabia in secret nuke pact” (Page 1) by Arnaud de Borchgrave, we are disappointed by his willingness to give credence to such a fatuous story generated by an unnamed “Pakistani source” and a U.S. think-tank analyst.

No one in the U.S. administration — let alone President Bush or Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage — has suggested anything of the kind to any Pakistani official, including President Pervez Musharraf. Although U.S.-Pakistani discussions cover a whole range of issues, including nonproliferation issues, nonproliferation is not an issue of current concern in our relations.

Pakistan’s commitment to nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, technology, materials, etc., is beyond question. So is its commitment to the global war on terrorism. No one does a service to nonproliferation or the war on terror by reflexively calling into question Pakistan’s commitments on these issues.

TALAT WASEEM

Press counselor

Embassy of Pakistan

Washington

A different kind of diplomacy

As a former career Foreign Service officer who has worked in the private sector since 1992, let me comment on Lyn Nofziger’s review of Joel Mowbray’s book, “Dangerous Diplomacy” (“Inside the State Department,” Op-Ed, Tuesday). Though Mr. Nofziger and Mr. Mowbray capture the essence of a State Department problem — career Foreign Service officers putting the interests of other nations ahead of those of the United States — their solution of having more political appointees at the State Department need not be the answer. There are more effective ways to accomplish what Mr. Nofziger and Mr. Mowbray want.

The real problem is a State Department culture that trains exceedingly bright Foreign Service officers to put foreign interests ahead of our own. Impossible, you say. No, not at all; let me explain. Our government bombards our missions abroad, mostly manned by Foreign Service officers, with myriad requests to seek support from foreign governments and entities on countless issues our country faces in international bodies, such as the United Nations, the Organization of American States, etc. Our officers go, almost on a daily basis, to all levels of foreign governments and societies, on orders from Washington, to request assistance or compliance with votes and issues before international bodies. Of course, those officers are supposed to be sensitive to the views of foreigners.

It does not take long for our Foreign Service officers to learn that the Foreign Service judges and evaluates them on their effectiveness at gaining access to foreign leaders. It also does not take long for those foreigners to realize that they have a handle to get something in return. They and we slowly turn our Foreign Service officers into agents of those foreign governments if our Foreign Service officers are to have the access and cooperation of foreigners that Washington requires of them.

If the Foreign Service is to be turned into an agency that pursues American interests, stop bothering its officers with requests to seek foreign assistance on issues of supposed interest to the American people. Stop bothering them with requests to produce countless reports. Just tell the Foreign Service what our policy is, what we want and that it is the service’s job to get it. Ask the Foreign Service for a plan of how it will accomplish the task. (Try not to micromanage from Washington.) The State Department would be surprised how quickly intelligent men and women of our service would get what our political leaders want. (Of course, the White House makes foreign policy. The Department of State and Foreign Service are errand boys. However, to make it work, those errand runners are crucial, and their instructions are critical.) The system does not require more politicians to make the Department of State more responsive to the president.

Oh, by the way, most foreign elites want and need to come to the United States. If we want to make a point, close the U.S. Consulate for a week, a month or a year. The message will be understood.

SHELDON AVENIUS

Arlington

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