- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Congress and D.C. representation

Rep. Tom Davis and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton have introduced a bill to provide a congressional vote for the District. It would arbitrarily create two congressional districts, one that encompasses all of the District and another in Utah (“Utah redistricting brings D.C. closer to vote,” Page 1).

Where does the Constitution give Congress such power? Congress can admit states to the union. States, by virtue of the fact they are states, have representatives in Congress.

Mr. Davis and Mrs. Norton’s proposal sets a dangerous precedent: How would Congress use this newfound power? Consider, for example, that this bill does not settle the issue of Senate representation. If Congress can arbitrarily give the District a congresswoman, what is to stop Congress from giving it two senators?

Most of our leaders are lawyers. These men and women surely know the Constitution says. Yet to provide cover for their actions, they have called upon the testimony of chosen “experts,” but even their experts have disagreed. Some have called this bill unconstitutional.

The Constitution protects our rights by defining the powers of our leaders. If we have to spell out every single thing we do not want our leaders to do, it would require an army of lawyers and so much paper there will not be a tree left standing.


Gainesville, Va.

Say, you want a revolution?

The parallel that Georgie Anne Geyer draws between Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez and former Argentine president Juan Domingo Peron in her article “Looking for a revolution,” (Commentary, Nov. 30) is intriguing.

Prior to their elections, both leaders were participants in military coups — albeit unsuccessful in Mr. Chavez’s case — and both had the good fortune of having access to abundant funds to advance their agendas (oil for Mr. Chavez, the agricultural wealth of the pampas for Mr. Peron). Both ran their countries in the age-old Latin tradition of “caudillismo,” and both practiced populist politics.

I am not certain how far beyond that the parallels go. Mr. Peron was more of an admirer of fascism, whereas Mr. Chavez clearly patterns himself along the lines of Cuba, Nicaragua and Grenada. What is clearly not accurate is Miss Geyer’s comparison of Mr. Chavez to “Juan Peron in the 1930s.” Mr. Peron in the 1930s was still a relatively obscure Argentine army officer whom few, if any, would have spotted as the legendary future president of his country. Much of that decade he spent outside Argentina, in Europe and elsewhere, in mid-level assignments such as military observer, student and attache, including a stint in Italy where he appears to have been much impressed by the political system established under Benito Mussolini.

It was not until the 1940s that Mr. Peron began his rapid ascent to power. Following participation in the successful military uprising of 1943, and clearly influenced by his experiences in Mussolini’s Italy, he seized upon the then little-appreciated post of labor secretary to mobilize Argentina’s proletariat and make them the basis of his political power. His following among the working class quickly grew intense; on Oct. 17, 1945 (to this day, celebrated by Argentines of a certain political persuasion as “Loyalty Day”), an outpouring of the proletariat rescued him from imprisonment by rival army factions fearful of his growing power. Huge crowds of Argentine workers from blue-collar suburbs converged in the Buenos Aires to demand Mr. Peron’s release from military arrest.

The rest is history. In 1946, Mr. Peron was elected president of Argentina by a large margin and in 1952 was elected again, remaining in power until his overthrow by the military in 1955. Will Mr. Chavez meet a similar end? Only time will tell.



Wartime decisions

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. dubs the Iraq Study Group the “Iraq Surrender Group,” (“The ‘Iraq Surrender Group,’ ” Commentary, Tuesday). While entitled to his opinion, there are quite a few flaws with his reasoning.

First and foremost, Mr. Gaffney had no way of knowing what the final report would recommend. Mr. Gaffney criticizes the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Joseph Biden, for accepting the results “even before its complete contents become known,” but apparently, that line of logic does not preclude Mr. Gaffney from criticizing the same unknown findings.

Secondly, he complains that the Iraq Study Group is “unelected, unaccountable and substantially unqualified.” While the group itself may be unelected, many of its members have been. Four of the members had been directly elected to their previous positions, while five others had been confirmed by the Senate.

The group is unaccountable, but since it was simply commissioned by Congress to deliver an independent assessment of the war in Iraq, and not to draft policy, there are no inherent consequences of its unaccountability. Mr. Gaffney’s claim that the group is somehow unqualified is by far the most scurrilous statement.

It is difficult to understand how a panel consisting of former secretaries of state and defense, director of Central Intelligence, chairman of the House Committee on International Relations and White House chief of staff could in any way be considered unqualified.

The options regarding cooperating with Iran and Syria on Iraq policy are complicated and perilous. Both states sponsor terrorism and demonstrate considerable belligerence toward their neighbors while flouting international law. However, the current situation in Iraq, regardless of how you label the war, is in disarray and worsening daily.

Involving Iran and Syria may stem the domestic and imported violence, which will surely aid in arranging an eventual U.S. redeployment. Wartime decisions are never easy, but roundly quashing a potentially valuable recommendation will only serve to ensure a less-educated one.



Mideast update

I was naturally delighted to read Martin Sieff’s unambiguously positive review of my recently published biography, “The Prince: The Secret Story of the World’s Most Intriguing Royal, Prince Bandar bin Sultan,” (“Royalty and diplomacy,” Op-Ed, Tuesday). But to have it described by such an august reporter as “the best street-smart, experience-based assessment discussion of the art of diplomacy I have read since former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s famous work on the same subject” was a signal accolade.

However, in today’s prevailing climate of suspicion and intolerance toward the Muslim world, particularly toward Saudi Arabia in the wake of the horrendous events of September 11, I would applaud Mr. Sieff’s confirmation that my book is invaluable “at discrediting and disproving the worst anti-Saudi conspiracy theories that have been circulated far too widely with far too much credulity over the past five years.”

As he astutely observes, the regional challenge posed by a potentially nuclear-armed Iran and the growing chaos in Iraq demands a breakaway from the political stasis and largely neocon-inspired U.S. foreign policy strategies of recent years.

The increasingly complex and dangerous situation in the Middle East demands new groundbreaking initiatives, and I believe that it will take the talent of a respected and hugely experienced statesman such as Prince Bandar to change the political map of the region.

It is therefore heartening to see reports of Prince Bandar’s now widely reported meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and the prospect of a new, more moderate approach to resolving the Israel-Palestine impasse.

But behind that initiative — and doubtless cheered on by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — is the astounding prospect of an informal alliance of moderate Arab states and Israel in their desire to face off the common challenge presented by Iran and Hezbollah, and to address a widening rift between Sunnis and Shi’ites. And I would contend that Prince Bandar’s fingerprints are clearly detected in this breathtaking political strategy.

For those readers who wish to understand why Prince Bandar should be such an architect for change and peace, and to understand his impact on world events for almost three decades, to quote Mr. Sieff, “ ’The Prince’ is essential reading.”


Alderney, Channel Islands, UK

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