- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

For the record

The editorial “The GAO on Cuba” (Dec. 27) criticized a recent GAO report on enforcement of the Cuban embargo which concluded that U.S. border security agencies were directing inordinate time and resources enforcing sanctions on Cuba — at the expense of the war on terrorism and drug trafficking. Apparently unable to challenge the facts revealed by the GAO study, the editorial chose to question my motives in requesting it.

The most disturbing image in the report is well known to every narco-trafficker in Miami: During certain hours each day a handful of flights arrive from Havana. On orders from the U.S. government obsessed by its embargo on Cuba, most of the border patrol officers on duty rush to inspect their passengers. Mostly Americans, 20 percent of these travelers are subjected to a secondary search. Sometimes the agents confiscate Cuban cigars or bottles of rum. More often they find fraudulent travel licenses, purchased mainly by Cuban-Americans willing to violate the law in order to visit their families on the island.

Because of the diminished security force, passengers arriving on other international flights during the same hours are given lesser scrutiny. Many of them foreigners, these individuals are either delayed or passed through, but ultimately only 3 percent of them on average are subject to secondary searches, despite the risk of illegal entry by persons who pose a threat to the country. In Miami, the GAO report clearly shows, impressing hardliners in Florida with strict enforcement of the embargo on Cuba takes precedence over fighting terrorism and drug smuggling.

I have long opposed the U.S. embargo as a failed policy that has done more to harden than to reform Cuban government policies. If enforcement of the embargo made our country safer from terrorism or drugs, I would be all for it. But it borders on the criminal to order dedicated and over-extended Customs and Border Protection agents to spend precious time harassing Americans caught up in a 50-year-old political fiasco instead of protecting the country.

How much longer will it take to apply the lessons we learned in the Soviet Union, that cultural exchanges, trade and travel are more effective at bringing down walls than isolation and intimidation? When will we realize that we make more enemies than friends on the island by separating Cuban families? When will we stop denying Americans their own freedom to travel and do business with an island 90 miles away?

Republican and Democratic politicians have benefited for 50 years by exploiting the longing of Cuban Americans for the homes and memories they left behind. But this administration’s zeal to prove itself tougher on Castro than any other has caused it again to ignore the consequences of its policy. What the GAO report describes is not just bad policy, but a threat to our national security.

REP. CHARLES B. RANGEL

Washington

Coming of age

I agree with Diana West: It’s high time for all the baby boomers out there — and I’m one of them — finally to make peace with adolescence, grow up and graduate to being adults (“Revenge of the middle-aged male,” Op-Ed, Friday). The inclusion of the Grace Slick quote (“I don’t like old people on a rock ‘n’ roll stage. What you’re pretty much doing is imitating yourself at the age of 25, and there’s basically nothing more pathetic.”) was hysterically right on.

However, in all fairness to Robert Plant, and to celebrate a silver lining in this cloud of purple haze, I want to recommend to Led Zeppelin lovers the amazing 2007 release “Raising Sand,” a truly fine collaboration between Alison Krauss and Mr. Plant. I’m not a music critic, and I don’t play one on TV, but I am a musician, and I know a great sound when I hear it. Believe me, “Raising Sand” beats trying to raise the dead in reunion concerts.

My friends, be brave and embrace your adulthood. Mr. Plant’s latest disc tells me he has, but he just couldn’t resist stepping back in time one more time and taking us with him. I know this is hard, and I feel your pain. Rock on boomers, but let’s lose those air guitars. Can I say that?

REV. DAVID ROBERT GREEN

Rector

Christ Church Parish

Kent Island, Md.

Kosovo

In his excellent Commentary column yesterday, “Kosovo train-wreck warnings,” retired Adm. James Lyons clearly points out the dangers in recognizing the independence of Kosovo. Indeed, one is left to wonder why the current administration needs to “vindicate a Clinton agenda item” and in the process enable the emergence of an ethnically intolerant Islamic state in the heart of Europe. What’s in it for the United States, other than yet another military base on occupied foreign territory? Perhaps that’s what it’s mostly about. In the process, the war against terrorism makes a u-turn in the Balkans.

LIZ MILANOVICH

Edmonton, Alberta

Thank you for publishing yesterday’s Commentary column “Kosovo train-wreck warnings” by retired Adm. James Lyons. His analysis of the economic and political viability of Kosovo as an independent state is excellent.

For a long time, the Bush administration has been following former President Bill Clinton’s failed policy in the Balkans. As Adm. Lyons said in his last sentence, “America has much more important business to take care of that we cannot afford to jeopardize over a seemingly minor dispute to vindicate a Clinton agenda item.”

MIRJANA PETROVIC

San Diego

Why is this country seeking another diplomatic quagmire? If Kosovo is planning to declare independence next month, we should stay away from the “train wreck” that’s bound to follow.

If we recognize this new nation, American taxpayers will be saddled with huge expenses. We will be asked to fund construction projects, provide health care assistance and open our pockets for all other “nation-building” costs. We have an ongoing war in Iraq and a stalemate in Afghanistan; the State Department should sit this one out. There is nothing to be gained by supporting an independent Kosovo and much to lose. The Balkans are a thorny place, and we shouldn’t become entangled in that part of the world.

ROSALIND ELLIS

Baltimore

Finally, someone of retired Adm. James Lyons’ stature recognizes how ludicrous our policy in Kosovo is.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard C. Holbrooke and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are frenziedly manning the controls of a train steamrolling ahead to support the Albanian Muslims in their quest to create another steppingstone country in the radical expansion of Islam across Europe — despite concerned citizens’ warnings about red flags the State Department has hardly noticed. There clearly is little regard for national or international consequences and a “we’ll worry about the Rubicon when we come to it” mentality.

Here’s hoping the brakes can be applied in time to avoid the oncoming Pyrrhic derailment. Given more men (and newspapers) with the heart of Adm. Lyons sounding warning bells, we can yet bring this monolithic problem to a successful conclusion.

MILANA BIZIC

Moon Township, Pa.

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