- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2005

AARP obstructionists

The AARP Foundation’s charity programs, highlighted in the Business section profile of its new director, Jerry Florence, sound terrific (“Florence energizes AARP charity arm,” Business, Monday).

AARP says it helps low- and middle-income seniors prepare their tax returns, apply for the earned-income tax credit and obtain employment training and community-service jobs. The foundation’s Web site invites donations to these programs.

However, the foundation’s tax form reveals something disturbing: The biggest donor to AARP is the taxpayer. Of this “charity’s” $89.7 million in 2003 revenue, $68 million came from federal grants — $58 million alone from the Labor Department to fund AARP’s jobs program.

If AARP really wants to help seniors’ finances, it should stop obstructing Social Security reform, which would not take a dime away from today’s retirees.

President Bush’s proposal for personal accounts would help younger people prepare for retirement. Then they won’t need AARP job training in their old age.

TERRENCE SCANLON

President

Capital Research Center

Washington

Law of the Sea Treaty clarification

Doug Bandow’s column on the Law of the Sea Convention (“Law of the Sea Treaty,” Op-Ed, Wednesday) contains misleading claims. Mr. Bandow argues that the convention will not aid the Navy’s freedom of navigation and quotes Adm. Michael G. Mullen, vice chief of naval operations, to support this point. However, in the Oct. 21, 2003, Senate testimony Mr. Bandow cites, Adm. Mullen testified that the Navy supports the convention precisely because it aids freedom of navigation.

True, freedom of navigation is already customary international law, but treaty law is stronger than customary law, and codifying freedom of navigation makes states less likely to challenge the right. The Navy also supports the Law of the Sea Convention because it underpins the Proliferation Security Initiative, a U.S.-led multilateral effort to stop weapons proliferation.

Mr. Bandow claims that the convention could place U.S. military activities under control of the Law of the Sea Tribunal, but the convention says the tribunal cannot rule on military activities. Moreover, if the United States joins the convention, it will do so under the stipulation that states retain the right to define which of their activities are military.

These are two of the reasons why the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted unanimously in favor of the convention, why the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, called passage of the Convention “a top national security priority” and why the Senate ought to ratify the convention.

BEN FRIEDMAN

Security Studies Program

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge

Tribunal needed for Darfur

Tod Lindberg is correct that we “need a tribunal for Darfur,” (“ICC offers Darfur hope” Op-Ed, Tuesday). Experience has shown that we have to prosecute those responsible for the atrocities if we want to build a lasting peace. Slobodan Milosevic was responsible for the violence in Kosovo despite having signed the Dayton Accords.

Moreover, Mr. Lindberg is correct that only the International Criminal Court (ICC) is ready to begin investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. The Sudanese judicial system is irreparably tainted by the government’s participation in the atrocities, and creating a new ad hoc tribunal would take more than a year.

However, the ICC cannot be used as a substitute for comprehensive action by the United States or the international community. If we expect to end the violence in Darfur and build a lasting peace, we need a coordinated effort, including an arms embargo; meaningful sanctions against the Sudanese government; political, logistical and financial support for the African Union force in Darfur; enforcement of a no-fly zone; and, ultimately, referral of the situation to the ICC.

STUART FORD

Program coordinator

Citizens for Global Solutions

Washington

Republicans force Dem’s hand

The Democrats call the “constitutional option” the Republicans are considering a “nuclear option” (“Democrats threaten shutdown” Page 1, Wednesday). However, as is typical, the Democrats are violating a principle they once advocated in demanding a 60 percent approval of judges.

Regarding a filibuster: They have never filibustered judicial nominees. They have threatened to filibuster, and the Republicans didn’t have the courage to force them to do it.

In the late spring of 1998, Sen. Patrick Leahy said, “If we don’t like somebody the president nominates, vote him or her down. But don’t hold them in this anonymous unconscionable limbo, because in doing that, the minority of Senators really shame all senators.” Other Democrats in the past agreed with that sentiment. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, they have changed their tune.

Most Democrats do not go by principle — they go by what can benefit them most at the moment. As the quote above shows, they are hypocrites.

We must get back to the constitutional requirement of a simple majority. If the Republicans don’t have the courage to pass the constitutional option, they should at least force the Democrats to do a real filibuster.

ALLEN MARSH

Nampa, Idaho

‘Let Mrs. Schiavo go’

In his Commentary column “Prayers for Terri” (yesterday), David Limbaugh makes a number of assumptions about Terri Schiavo’s life and her current medical condition and uses anecdotal evidence to make his case.

He asks, “How likely is it that Terri, now only 41, would have discussed her wishes about life support with her husband in 1990, when she would have only been in her mid-20s, with no inkling of life-threatening or disabling medical conditions?” A lot of people have done this by their 20s. Who hasn’t seen some horrific car accident on the news and commented to his or her spouse about this very situation?

Religious conservatives have used the phrase “sanctity of marriage” a lot in the past 10 years. Does this not apply to Terri Schiavo and her husband, Michael? Mrs. Schiavo left no explicit instructions for dealing with this situation, so it is left up to her spouse.

People like Mr. Limbaugh don’t approve of him or his handling of this situation, so they think Mrs. Schiavo’s parents should be allowed to step in. So much for the sanctity of marriage. Perhaps Terri Schiavo is living in her own personal hell, unable to move or speak, and wishing for death.

We’ll never know, and neither will Mr. Limbaugh. Why, as a society, do we feel the need to try to make people live forever? Wouldn’t it be better to let Mrs. Schiavo go and use the money that would be spent on artificially keeping her alive on treating other people?

The funds for medical expenditures are not limitless. Let’s spend them on people with the possibility for the greatest quality of life. Wouldn’t helping a greater number of people qualify as respecting the sanctity of life?

BEN BERRY

Washington

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