- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2005

A John Kerry reprise

When a member of Congress does by press conference or other action something that advances an objective of the enemy in war, he acts wrongly (“Key House Democrat calls for Iraq pullout now,” Page 1, Friday). When a member of Congress trusted for valuable counsel disrespects the authority of the decision-maker, he acts insubordinately. When a member of Congress claims for himself the final judgment in matters of national defense, he acts arrogantly. When a member of Congress solicits world media so that his dissent might subvert his commander in chief, he acts contemptibly.

It is pretended that former military service or citation vests a right to act as Rep. John P. Murtha did. However, any member of Congress should know that such actions endanger the men and women of our military. How much more effective those brave people would be if people in positions to subvert refrained. Instead, the sacrifices being made by our military and their families are compounded needlessly. You need only read Mr. Murtha’s press release to know that matters of politics explain his action. Nothing excuses it.

Mr. Murtha’s conduct announces again the commitment of a segment of the Democratic Party to force a disposition of the war in Iraq before the next election. The only disposition possible on that timetable is our defeat. It is our defeat to which they are dedicated. Though victory is the objective we embrace, they have no electable nominee. It is my hope that an issue in every election will become: What did you do to support our military and those entrusted with their command?

By his conduct, Mr. Murtha follows a long line of compromised representatives. Others surely will be pushed to follow in advance of the next election. My hope is that each such instance will cause Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to speak even more frequently to the military and their families to assure them of his confidence in our success and to honor them in their sacrifice.

To acknowledge that although this battle has many fronts, the most important today is Iraq. To remind them that danger always has been great for those in the vanguard, and it is for that reason that the U.S. military is there. For the safety of our nation and the good of the world, by necessity and Providence, that is so.


Mount Lebanon, Pa.

Risk-based funding

As your Wednesday editorial “The homeland-security pork barrel” aptly demonstrates, common sense indeed dictates that homeland-security grant monies would best be spent in defense of the areas throughout our country facing the greatest threat.

Taxpayer dollars are not limitless, and Congress must work to ensure that every penny be directed where it will do the most good, making it imperative to guard the places across our nation where terrorists may strike and where such strikes could do the most damage to our people, our government and our national economy. This is the most responsible way to prepare for any future terrorist attack.

The House of Representatives clearly recognizes the need to change the current funding arrangement. However, efforts in the Senate to address inequities unfortunately have been stymied by those who seek to maintain the status quo or defend policies of allocating funds to all states rather than to the places where they can do the most good.

After careful evaluation of the September 11 Commission recommendations that called for allocation of money based on vulnerabilities, and careful consultation with stakeholders in our respective states — and across the country — we proposed legislation that would require that federal homeland security funds be allocated to states according to a risk-based assessment based on three main criteria: threat, vulnerability and consequence. This would require states to quickly pass on federal funds to where they are most needed.

Our country has sacrificed too much since September 11, 2001, to fail to heed the lessons of that day. Proposals to continue distributing significant amounts of critical funds to all states that are based on arbitrary minimums, regardless of risk, are not only inadequate; they are irresponsible. Such an approach to homeland security is pursued at the peril of our nation’s most vulnerable population centers and critical infrastructure.

Thank you for your thoughtful assessment of this important issue. You have our assurance that we will continue working with our colleagues to move our nation toward a more rational and effective distribution of our homeland security resources.


California Democrat


Texas Republican

U.S. Senate


Harassment and repression in Tunisia

In Georgie Anne Geyer’s Wednesday Commentary column, “Alternative path for Tunisia,” she states that the Tunisian government’s “earlier repressive measures against dissidents lessen every year, although public expression remains more muted than it should be in such an otherwise progressive country.”

Holding the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunisia afforded the Tunisian government an opportunity to present a positive image of the country to the outside world. Unfortunately, in reality, human rights defenders and other voices for change in Tunisia are subjected to increasing harassment and repression by the government, stifling the rights and freedoms of expression and information the summit was intended to promote.

Here are some recent examples:

Nov. 11 — In an attack reminiscent of assaults carried out by Tunisian plainclothes security officers in the past, a French journalist was attacked in the street outside his Tunis hotel on the same day that he published a report critical of the Tunisian government’s human rights policies.

Nov. 14 — Tunisian lawyer and human rights defender Radhia Nasraoui and two foreign journalists accompanying her were physically threatened and abused by plainclothes security officers, adding to fears for the safety of Tunisian human rights defenders and those who express solidarity with them.

Nov. 17 — Amnesty International delegates were forcibly prevented from meeting members of the widely respected National Council for Liberties in Tunisia, a Tunisian human rights group, at its office in Tunis.

Repression has been a pattern of behavior of the Tunisian government for many years. The 103 prisoners sentenced after mass trials in 1992 are still serving sentences of between 20 years and life imprisonment. Most are prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their religious or political beliefs. Several of these prisoners have been kept in solitary confinement for more than a decade. People suspected of opposing or being critical of the government continue to be arrested arbitrarily; held in prolonged detention, incommunicado, without access to lawyers or family members; and tortured and imprisoned after unfair trials. Some prisoners have died in custody.

These are just some past and current examples of incidents in which Tunisian security personnel have prevented delegates to the WSIS, civil society activists and journalists from going about their legitimate activities. If the government can be so blatant in suppressing free thought and speech and the right to travel freely within a country while the world is watching, one can only imagine what it must be like when the outsiders leave.


Tunisia country specialist

Amnesty International USA




Amnesty International USA North Africa Coordination Group


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