- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2004

Cambodia conundrums

I saw yesterday’s letter from Stephen Hayes (“I also went into Cambodia”)claiming he, like Sen. John Kerry, went into Cambodia while serving in Vietnam.

It seems that Mr. Hayes, and much of the media, has missed the point. More than 30 years after the fact, whether or not Mr. Kerry went into Cambodia is immaterial.

What is material is that the story has changed. After Vietnam and into 1986, Sen. Kerry claimed to have been in Cambodia on Christmas 1968 — and to have had that time “seared” into his memory, I believe. Yet later he claims to have been in barracks making entries in his journal.

If he was in Cambodia, that’s fine with me; things like that happen all the time in war, sometimes by direction and sometimes by accident. But he couldn’t have been in Cambodia and in the barracks on the same Christmas Eve. So which is it? The problem is not that he may or may not have been in Cambodia; the problem is that he has a lifelong problem telling the same story.

JOHN STEELE

Miami, Fla

In his recent letter, “I also went into Cambodia,” Stephen Hayes claims that he, like John Kerry, entered Cambodia as officer-in-charge (OIC) of a swift boat during his time in Vietnam. Mr. Hayes claims “Mr. Kerry was assigned to Coastal Division 11 in December 1968.”

That is not the case. Mr. Kerry was stationed at Coastal Division 13 in Cat Lo at the time, not Coastal Division 11. The area patrolled by Coastal Division 13 extended as far north as Sa Dec, which lies about 55 miles from the Cambodian border.

Every surviving officer in Mr. Kerry’s chain of command denies that Mr. Kerry was ever ordered to Cambodia or possibly could have gone there on Christmas Day 1968, as he claimed before the Senate in 1986.

Also, of the five crew members on Mr. Kerry’s boat at the time, three — Bill Zaldonis, Steven Hatch and Steve Gardner — are on the record stating that neither they nor their boat were ever in Cambodia.

The other two have declined to comment. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth documented this further in the material they supplied to television stations with their recent ad, “Any Questions?”: “At Sa Dec, where the Swift boat patrol area ended, there were many miles of other boats (PBR’s) leading to the Cambodian border. There also were gunboats on the border to prevent any crossing. If Kerry tried to get through, he would have been arrested.”

Given the above, I don’t think Mr. Hayes’ efforts are likely to solve John Kerry’s Cambodia problem.

SCOTT SWETT

Falls Church

A global opportunity

Last week The Washington Times ran an article “Senate hopefuls split over job outsourcing” (Nation, Aug. 6), that effectively outlined the benefits of free trade. Since the article has run, our opponents have continued to promulgate political rhetoric in an effort to misguide the voters of South Carolina.

Specifically, our opponents are twisting our message by using a quote that stated that we do not want to return to an economy dependent on a single industry.

I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the campaign’s position that international commerce benefits our work force and our economy. We welcome all industries that create jobs in South Carolina and in our country.

In the early 1970s, the South began to shed jobs in certain parts of the manufacturing sector, and its economy began to shift toward a new era yielding high-tech, higher-paying jobs.

Beginning in the early 1990s, South Carolina recognized new avenues of growth and prosperity as large manufacturers (many foreign-owned) chose to locate in our state.

With companies such as Fuji Film, BMW, Bosch, Michelin, Honda, Beneteau, Roche, BASF Corp. and GlaxoSmithKline came new opportunities for growth with a multiplier effect indirectly producing countless other jobs.

Our state ranks second in the country in the share of its work force supported by foreign-owned U.S. subsidiaries, employing 136,700 workers. Our work force depends on international commerce, and the 150,000 jobs here directly dependent upon exports are evidence of this.

As South Carolina’s exports continue to soar (a 22 percent increase last year alone), it’s clear that the global economy is not our enemy but our opportunity. We have to protect the jobs that have made significant contributions to our economy while continuing to reach for innovation that will create more jobs for years to come.

KARA BORIE

DeMint for Senate

Columbia, S.C.

Separation of reimportation powers

Raymond Keating’s Commentary piece (“Harry Potter, congressman,” yesterday) suggested, among other things, that re-importing drugs into the United States would upset or destroy the free market and impair creation of new drugs.

However, there is strong evidence that many of the drugs marketed in the United States as American-made are in fact manufactured abroad, albeit under U.S. patents. These drugs aren’t being “re-imported,” merely imported from the country of manufacture.

The argument that they aren’t insured to be safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a specious one, since it hardly matters whether the likes of Eli Lilly, Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline import the drugs, or whether the likes of CVS or Walgreens do so.

Also, for approximately half the U.S.-developed drugs, the National Institutes of Health at least partly funds the development costs; yet Congress has forbidden Medicare from negotiating bulk-purchase discounts for these drugs in the manner that the Department of Veterans Affairs is able to do.

It is ludicrous for one arm of government to forbid an agency to receive economic benefits from the expenditures of another government agency. One hopes that advocates for limited government, as well as those for economical pharmaceuticals, will soon correct this coddling of the drug industry.

DAVID M. HUDELSON

Horse Shoe, N.C.

Tax-code scrapping

“Scrap the tax code,” by all means, as Jack Kemp’s Wednesday Commentary column exhorts. Yet substituting a new income tax for the old income tax would be an egregious mistake.

A national sales tax is a better answer. It’s simple (no forms to fill out), cheap and efficient (retailers already possess the machinery for processing sales tax). It is eminently fair (you pay whether you’re Joe Six-Pack buying a new fishing reel or Teresa Heinz Kerry adding a new gas-guzzling behemoth to the Kerry collection) and shifts choice from the government to the individual.

A national sales tax has all the benefits (and more) of a flat-rate income tax but none of the considerable shortcomings of a value-added tax, which, in taxing the “added value” at each stage of production, pours sand into the gears of an economy.

Unlike any income tax, the national sales tax would magnify the cost and risk of cheating because of the collaborative effort required between the consumer and a retailer whose sales-tax-collection system will, in most cases, be automatic. So, even a drug smuggler will have to pay sales tax to the speedboat vendor. As an added bonus, tax attorneys will have to find something else to do, as the tax-advice and -avoidance industry will go the way of buggy-whip makers.

Choice is the principal benefit of a national sales tax. Flush with the additional dollars previously consumed by income-tax withholdings, American taxpayers can choose to save, invest, donate or consume, minus the cost of the government’s massive income-tax machinery.

Eliminating the income tax in favor of a national sales tax is a capital idea, and in restoring personal choice to the individual, it would profoundly enhance economic freedom in America.

SAMUEL R. LEWIS

Oak Hill


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