- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

Understanding Clinton’s legacy

The Page One article “History books weigh in on Clinton woes” (Wednesday) contained one sentence that I simply could not let pass without comment. The fourth paragraph in the article states: “The impeachment is portrayed in the context of his two-term tenure, a milestone event, but not one that overshadows how Mr. Clinton handled the economy, crime and health care.” Let’s consider Mr. Clinton’s presidency with respect to those three issues.

Regarding the economy, we ought to recall that the Clinton-Gore administration was projecting deficits as far as the eye could see. Fortunately, a Republican-controlled Congress compelled Mr. Clinton to sign the Balanced Budget Act. That, combined with Mr. Clinton’s cuts to the nation’s military and intelligence sectors, overtaxation of Americans and an Internet-fueled dot-com bubble, produced a budget surplus and a roaring economy. However, as we all know, the economy began to decline in mid-2000, Mr. Clinton’s last year in office.

Regarding the handling of crime, we ought to recall how, in his final days as president, Mr. Clinton commuted prison sentences for 16 Puerto Rican Armed Forces of National Liberation terrorists convicted of 130 bombing attacks that killed six and wounded more than 80 people in this country between 1974 and 1983; pardoned a fugitive (Marc Rich) who was on Interpol’s Top 10 list; and was himself found in civil contempt of court, which resulted in the loss of his law license.

Regarding his handling of health care, do we really need to say anything more than “Hillary Care”?

If Mr. Clinton’s impeachment does not overshadow how he handled the economy, crime and health care, maybe that’s understandable. After all, given the context, impeachment appears not to be the worst part of his two-term administration.

SCOTT A. BYRD

Vienna

The article “History books weigh in on Clinton woes” is correct in stating that compression is a tremendous challenge. What the article fails to mention is that compression fails to address a reality perspective of history. Bill Clinton’s biggest accomplishment and his biggest failure was his implementation of multilateralism as a foreign policy. It financed the economic boom by globalizing U.S. innovation, but at a cost to U.S. national security.

“Multilateralism is easiest to define in economic affairs, where it remains the bedrock on which the international financial and trading systems are built,” John Van Oudenaren wrote in Policy Review, a publication of the Hoover Institution. Herein lies the issue: Mr. Clinton’s approach was linear and economically driven and failed to integrate the political and opt-out or exception-based areas of a complex policy. For example, he made national-security decisions on legal consensus, always with economics as the basis for risk. This type of non-unilateral decision-making evolved multilateralism to “dysfunctional multilateralism,” in which the opt-outs or exceptions would become the policy for purposeful violations of multilateral agreements, as with Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat.

Its economic focus and legal emphasis also built a sense of complacency with regard to national security by masking the analysis of events that could have led up to actions to prevent the attacks of September 11. Dysfunctional multilateralism is Mr. Clinton’s true legacy, not some lurid breach of character that is just a pattern of the way he ran the White House.

LARRY STONE

Peyton, Colo.

Playing ball with Cuba

In writing his column against Cuba’s participation in the World Baseball Classic (“Kowtowing to Castro,” Op-Ed, Tuesday) Nat Hentoff leaves out one fact that would put his position in an entirely different context: The United States has maintained an embargo against Cuba for more than 40 years, and it hasn’t changed a single feature of the Cuban system.

What this archaic and ineffective policy has done is punish average Cubans; divide Cuban families; hurt U.S. workers and exporting industries; and isolate the United States from the entire world community, including key allies in Canada and the European Union that oppose our policy and maintain normal relations with Cuba.

As Mr. Hentoff makes plain, excluding Cuba from a baseball tournament is not about substance, but symbolism, showing solidarity with people who have real reasons to complain about the Cuban system. However, Cardinal Jamie Ortega, the leader of the island’s Catholics, and nearly every other political dissident I have met in nearly two dozen official trips to Cuba take an entirely different approach: Increase American travel, American trade and American engagement with Cuba to champion the values we want represented on the island and around the world.

We should play ball with Cubans, not exclude them, because America’s pastime is not about dividing people but bringing them together. After 40-plus years of failure, we should try a different approach consistent with our values and greatest traditions.

SARAH STEPHENS

Director

Freedom to Travel Campaign

Washington

Lost in translation

I would like to add a slight factual clarification to the contents of Rep. Peter Hoesktra’s Dec. 23 Op-Ed column, “Needed: Arabic translators.”

The writer is misinformed about the state and fate of the literal mountains of Iraqi documents that were retrieved during and right after the 1990-1991 Gulf war.

After the documents’ transfer to the United States to a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) facility in the D.C. area, they were, in fact, screened, scanned (one document at a time, by hand) and stored in secure spaces — all of them, in a collection that filled, as I recall, more than 100 four-drawer metal file cabinets. The Iraqi documents with contents that matched with criteria in a then-current list of topics of intelligence interest — such as Saddam’s massive plans for the 1990 invasion and occupation of Kuwait — also were triaged and exploited. Exploitation could result in “gist” summaries, partial translation or full translation by our “document exploitation” team of military reserve linguists, including myself. The products and reports were distributed properly within the DIA. That episode of exploitation of those Iraqi documents is a real saga and a tribute to the members of a small and dedicated team of linguists and staffers (whenever we received staff support) who completed a time-sensitive and brain-draining task.

With regard to Mr. Hoesktra’s suggestion of making those massive amounts of documents publicly available, I would like to suggest prudent consideration of the logistics of physical storage, workspace and handling (including labor-intensive digitzation) of those and subsequent collections of Iraqi documents. That factor is separate from the matter of the limited supply in the United States of available and cleared or clearable translators. (One of our informal inside observations was that an effective way to immobilize Saddam’s military and security organizations would be to kill their clerk-typists, as most Iraqi officers were too busy to write, and their subordinates were unable to find the files or to read them.)

As members of the UNSCOM 16 arms-control inspection team operating in Baghdad, the other linguists and I encountered similar challenges in processing and exploiting documents discovered about Saddam’s illicit research and development program for nuclear weapons. We were fortunate to benefit from the support and brave leadership of David Kay, who appreciated the value of such hard evidence (as did Iraqi authorities, who detained the team and the discovered documents in the parking lot of one inspection site for a three-day stand-off).

STEPHEN H. FRANKE

San Pedro, Calif.

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