- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2007

War lessons

Foreign Service information officer William Stearman’s lessons from Vietnam (“Vietnam War lessons,” Commentary, Wednesday) tally with my experience (1970-72) in central Vietnam as a district and provincial adviser in the Foreign Service.

I worried then about corruption before coming to appreciate that the axiom “absolute power corrupts absolutely” applied over time to all communist states. In Korea and Vietnam, the United States bolstered one side against the other side’s aggression, while in Iraq, we contend with a society rending itself on sectarian lines. I predicted inside the Department of Defense in early 2003 that the coming Iraq war would be easy, its “peace” hard. So hard.

MICHAEL STRUTZEL

Alexandria

USAID doesn’t fund terrorists

I can no longer sit idly by while Joel Mowbray writes yet another erroneous column about the activities of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in the Palestinian territories and libels America’s Foreign Service officers serving their country in one of the most difficult conflict zones in the world (“Careful vetting?” Op-Ed, Friday).

Mr. Mowbray nonchalantly implies that USAID is actively, illegally and knowingly funding terrorists in the Palestinian territories and explicitly states that USAID does so “and simply hope that no one would catch on.” Mr. Mowbray, do you honestly believe that American Foreign Service officers want to secretly fund terrorists with U.S. government money to attack our allies, the Israelis, and further Middle Eastern conflict? Your conspiracy theory would be laughable except that apparently some Americans read your article with seriousness, which is troubling.

Foreign Service officers who work at USAID in the Middle East want nothing more than lasting peace. These Americans are on the front lines and literally risk their lives to try to secure this peace.

Do I need to remind you, Mr. Mowbray, that it was a USAID Foreign Service officer who was gunned down in front of his home by al Qaeda while posted in Amman, Jordan? Do I also need to remind you that Foreign Service officers were the targets of the successful roadside bombing that killed Americans after Palestinian terrorists planted a bomb in Gaza in 2003?

I guess I also need to remind you that each and every time USAID enters into the Palestinian-controlled West Bank — which is several times a week — Foreign Service officers must ride in armored cars with armed bodyguards to protect them from terrorists. Additionally, during the recent war between Israel and Lebanon, American Foreign Service officers and their families (including their American children) had to endure the psychological terror and physical threat of being under attack, with Katyusha rockets hitting as close as 15 miles from their homes in Israel.

American Foreign Service officers at USAID live with their families in Israel. My husband, a Foreign Service officer, and I live with our four children in a northern suburb of Tel Aviv. We eat at the same restaurants, shop at the same malls and go to the same parks and open markets as Israelis. American Foreign Service families are as susceptible as Israelis to suicide bombings by Palestinian terrorists. However, according to Mr. Mowbray, these are the very Foreign Service officers who seek to fund terrorist-controlled activities. Frankly, Mr. Mowbray’s off-the-cuff speculation about the men and women who serve their president and country at USAID is nonsensical, and more important, untrue.

What could be the motivation for USAID’s activities? The truth is that these patriotic Americans seek a diplomatic solution for peace every day; risk their lives to find that elusive peace so our soldiers will never be asked to risk theirs; and attempt to form relationships with like-minded Palestinians and Israelis — not with terrorists.

SHARON ALBRIGHT

HARDEN

Herzliya, Israel

A ‘tawdry’ legislative process

The Democratic House leadership included pork-barrel provisions, unrelated to the war, in the Iraq funding bill setting requirements for withdrawal (“War-limiting bill passes in the House,” Page 1, Saturday). The pork was added to make the bill more acceptable to some Democratic representatives.

I am opposed to the war and would support any effort to end it responsibly and in a manner to protect our troops and national interest. However, for the House Democratic leadership and some Democratic representatives to allow a political payoff to play a part in a national security matter can only be called tawdry. Can deciding such an issue on the merits be held so cheaply that it can be sacrificed for pork? It’s not kosher.

If the legislation would have failed without the irrelevant incentive, perhaps failure would have been deserved. Did it occur to the Democratic House leadership and those Democratic representatives that principle and not politics should control the vote? Was this a Democratic victory? No, not when achieved in so base a manner.

NATHAN DODELL

Rockville

Homogenized national democracy?

The story ” ‘08 slate short on governors” (Page 1, yesterday) seems to downplay a significant trend in the body politic in stressing that many of the major presidential candidates are sitting members of Congress. This could portend a shift away from preference for a federal republic toward a homogenized national democracy.

As a republic comprising sovereign states, the nation historically has preferred presidents who have been governors, who have executive experience, over national legislators who lack that experience.

By my count, we have elected as president 17 men who were governors or former governors, but only three sitting members of Congress: Sens. John F. Kennedy and Warren G. Harding and Rep. James Garfield (none of whom lived out a term of office).

Of course, we also have elected 23 men who had previous experience in Congress, many of whom also had terms as governor. The career progression usually was from the House to the Senate to the governorship or else from the Senate to the House to the governorship. Now we find the political rungs to be in a different order.

If in 2008, we elect a senator as president, that will indicate not only that national security in a post-September 11 world is the pre-eminent issue on the political agenda, but also that the nation prefers its political doctrine to be one-size-fits-all, controlled from Washington, and not in line with our heritage as a federal republic. I suspect this will not be the preference of the electorate.

DAVID M. HUDELSON

Horse Shoe, N.C.

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