- The Washington Times - Monday, February 6, 2006

No false pretense

Bob Djurdjevic, founder of Truth in Media, asks how we can tell we are losing our moral compass (“Toward a nation of morons?” Forum, Sunday). He writes, “The war in Iraq is certainly one obvious answer. It was started on false pretenses and is fought for all the wrong reasons.”

Well, let’s see:

House Joint Resolution 114 (dated Oct. 10, 2002) authorized the president “to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate” against Iraq. One clause states that “members of al Qaeda, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq.” This is demonstrably true and was confirmed in Section 5 of the September 11 commission report.

Anotherclausestates, “Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.” No false pretense there, as it was a public law passed by the 105th Congress.

Considering the 21 other reasons presented in the resolution, perhaps Mr. Djurdjevic is referring to weapons of mass destruction, such as the 17 chemical-weapons warheads Polish officials purchased from Iraqis in 2004 to prevent them from falling into insurgents’ hands. Or maybe he means the improvised explosive device containing sarin nerve gas that was exploded near an American convoy on March 17, 2004. All this and more has been documented amply by Richard Miniter in his latest book, “Disinformation: 22 Media Myths That Undermine the War on Terror.”

Mr. Djurdjevic offers no evidence of a false pretense. If some people are still morons, maybe it’s because they simply haven’t done their homework.



State of the Union: a Russian perspective

Most Russian commentators noticed with some bitterness the absence of any mention of Russia in President Bush’s State of the Union address. They took it almost as an insult, and I wondered if they missed the good old days of the Soviet Union, when harsh talk about the Evil Empire was a must in any presidential speech. Anyway, as a loyal party member, I read the whole address carefully, courtesy of Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who regularly sends me Republican Party updates, apparently to keep me warm in frosty (-20 F) Moscow. Much to my satisfaction, I found a few things in it that, in my view, directly or indirectly are related to Russia.

First, when Mr. Bush mentioned the most heinous and horrible crimes of international terrorism, the Beslan school hostage crisis of September 2004 was first on the list. However, Russia was prominently omitted from a blacklist of countries with a poor record on democracy. I am sure it was a huge disappointment for the anti-Russian lobby and Op-Ed editors of The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, who almost daily demand strong language against President Vladimir Putin’s Russia from the White House. Mr. Bush keeps ignoring them because he knows better and still believes he needs Russia’s support on many fronts.

Of course, once in a while, Washington has to offer a sort of ritual sop to Russia’s ill-wishers, whose support the Republican administration does not want to lose in view of the upcoming November elections. So he sends Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or some other State Department official to say a few nasty words. Poor Miss Rice; her rating in Russia is going down fast with every such statement, but, on the other hand, it looks as if the U.S. envoy in Moscow, William Burns, follows Mr. Bush’s line and uses the language of cooperation and partnership more than negative rhetoric.

Going back to the State of the Union address, Mr. Bush paid a lot of attention to the problem of energy security and diversification of energy supplies and resources. The advantages of working with Russia on this are clear. Despite the inadequate funding, Russian science and technology still can play an important role in developing alternative energy sources and building nuclear power stations. According to administration officials, the White House budgeted $250 million for atomic energy partnership with Russia. Under the agreement, the United States will work with Russia to offer third countries a supply of fuel for their reactors under restrictions intended to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons. Mr. Putin also mentioned something along those lines during his recent statements to the press.

The other issue on which Mr. Bush touched in his address did not get too much attention in the media, but I believe it can play a very important role in building strong U.S.?Russian ties. I am referring to the part of Mr. Bush’s speech in which he talked about the problems of American education, especially in the math and science area.

This is a serious problem, and it has been discussed for ages with little progress to show. America lags behind many other developed nations, and Russia can be of great help because it is precisely in these spheres that Russia was and still is among the leaders. The Internet provides an excellent, low-cost opportunity to establish information exchange among Russian and American teachers and students.

There is a good pilot project in this area that needs a larger framework. In 1990, the National Science Foundation provided a $400,000 grant to translate and publish in the United States the very popular Russian math and science magazine Quantum, whose editor in chief is Yuri Ossipyan, Mikhail Gorbachev’s former science adviser. He is very well known and respected in the U.S. scientific community.

This magazine recently received a grant from the Russian government to develop an advanced multimedia site offering possibilities for online communication between students and teachers. The American University in Moscow, in turn, provided a grant to Quantum to make this site bilingual; I believe similar sites should be developed in other science and humanities areas. If American and Russian children start communicating and helping each other get good educations, it will be easier for them to find solutions and compromises when they grow up and become responsible for meeting the greatest challenges of the 21st century.



American University in Moscow


Politics in the NSA hearings

Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will attempt to score political points by demanding more exposure to congressional members of the top-secret National Security Agency program (“NSA hearings and political sideshows,” Editorial, Jan. 31) discounting the fact that the recent exposure by the New York Times severely hurt U.S. intelligence, as averred to by Porter Goss, director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

At the committee’s annual meeting on Feb. 2, ranking member Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, stated that “undoubtedly the leak came from within the executive branch,” oblivious to (or simply ignoring) the fact that leaks have come from the legislative branch before, notably one by Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, in which Mr. Leahy inadvertently disclosed a top-secret communications intercept during a 1985 television interview.

This whole matter causes one to recall that a Democratic president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, not only didn’t brief key U.S. senators, but didn’t even tell his vice president, Harry S. Truman, about the Manhattan Project. Mr. Truman did not out about the atomic bomb until after FDR’s death, when he was told by Secretary of War Henry Stimson.


Rancho Mirage, Calif.

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