U.S. Government Articles, Feb 01-07, 2004

Peter Orne says: "Vice President Dick Cheney appears to be crafting a makeover of himself in the election year. He is taking a five-day trip to Italy and Switzerland, spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Saturday, met with Berlusconi and Italian troops on Monday, and visited the Pope today. But Cheney's popularity is low, and he is a divisive figure. Vice presidential scholar Paul Light at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU says in
the New York Times this morning: "Handling Dick Cheney is like handling nuclear material. It can be quite powerful, but it can be quite dangerous and has to be handled carefully."

Halliburton, which Nancy Pelosi cited in her Democrat response to the State of the Union address, has become the noose around his neck. Harper's Magazine Editor Roger D. Hodge writes this week: Vice President Dick Cheney
defended Halliburton, which continues to pay him a salary, from what he said were "desperate attacks" by opponents of the Bush Administration. "They're rendering great service," he said. "They do it because they're good at it,
because they won the contract to do it. And frankly the company takes a certain amount of pride in rendering this kind of service to U.S. military forces." Halliburton, which received most of its Iraq contracts by administrative fiat rather than through a competitive bidding process, admitted that its employees in Iraq have accepted $6.3 million in kickbacks.

Can you recall the last time when a sitting US vice president cast as long a shadow over an incumbent president's re-election hopes? Certainly, Dan Quayle was not even quite so controversial".

RH: Until the Halliburton business came up I thought well of Cheney. He has a gravitas sorely lacking in American politics.

Peter Orne says: "This report from the State Department on the US public-diplomacy failure will doubtless interest some WAISers". http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/24882.pdf. It is well worth reading. Peter also sends a summary, which is mostly the usual complaint about the failure of US diplomacy, ignorance of the Arab language, etc. I excerpt one striking passage; "We were told repeatedly during our visit to Cairo that Egyptians were grateful to the Japanese for building their opera house. But they were unaware that the United States funded the Cairo sewer, drinking water and electrical systems and played a key role in reducing infant mortality in Egypt." RH: Good for the US!! I will not repeat Carlyle's indictment of opera, and much less mine. The simple fact is that most people are idiots who prefer show to substance. Let me stress again that there is a basic difference between Christianity and Islam. Christ tried to reason with his persecutors and rejected the idea of using force. His way leads to peace though love. Read The Life of the Prophet Muhammad by Leila Azzam and Aisha Gouverneur, which I have in front of me. It is a bowdlerized version of the life of Mohammad, who too was rejected, but chose the path of military violence, which he funded by raiding caravans. There are no Islamic pacifists or Quakers. The pacifism of Christianity is hidden under layers of militarism, but it is there. Most people respect force rather than reason, and recourse to force is a basic element of Islam, as it is of Judaism and of the Protestant sects which stressed the Old Testament. Needless to say, Catholic rulers too have forgotten the New Testament. It is difficult to reason with Islam.

Democrats complain loudly that the Bush administration is cutting benefits to veterans, but it seems that the money is needed for troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. I have seen no trustworthy estimate of the cost of the war, but it is obvious that the troops of many coalition members, such as those from Central America and the Dominican Republic, are being paid for by the US. Moreover, US troops in Iraq show little interest in re-enlisting, so the US Army, stressed by global deployments, is offering re-enlistment bonuses of up to US$10'000 to soldiers in Iraq,
Afghanistan, and Kuwait. Soldiers currently in those countries - and others headed there in the coming three months to replace them - could receive lump payments of between US$5'000 and US$10'000 for enlisting for at least three years of additional army service, the officials said. The drive to keep troops came as the army said it would prohibit soldiers serving in or rotating home from Iraq and Afghanistan this winter and spring from retiring or leaving the service for other reasons while there, or for up to 90 days after returning to their home bases (Reuters, 1/17/04).

Tim Brown says: "Veteran's benefits by and large have increased not decreased during recent years. I'm a veteran. And re-enlistment bonuses, often much larger than $10,000, have been around since I was a Marine in the 1960s. I was offered a bigger one than that myself in an era when that kind of money went much further that it does today because I was in a critical language position in Marine intelligence (a Thai interpreter). I also knew officers (I was an NCO) who got bonuses so large that they were able to buy rental properties decades ago. More recently, I know officers in critical specialties who have received extremely large bonuses that had nothing to do with Iraq.

As to paying the forces of other countries to serve along side us, in Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere we regularly paid non-US troops fighting along side us. In Vietnam I had the White Horse Division of Koreans within my op zone and was very aware of this. But this is not done only by the US. The United Nations follows exactly the same policy, paying Blue Berets from developing countries salaries equivalent to American and European military ones, and has been doing so for decades. I was also liaison to UN forces in Central America for a couple of years so I know this from personal experience. For example, Indian officers fought for two year tours because they could save enough of the difference between their salaries in India and as UN officers to retire as soon as they returned home if they wanted to do so. Venezuelans and others received the same benefits.

Using these sorts of arguments to bash Bush works only works because most people are ignorant of the facts of the historical practices in such matters. And both Democratic and Republican administrations have gone along with this since the 1950s. This is simply more straining at gnats in an attempt to criticize the current administration".

RH: It is not a question of bashing Bush but of examining the question carefully in view of the budget problem. This is part of a bigger issue: pay scales in general.


I said: "I have received several articles denouncing John Kerry as a shameless gold-digger. Here we run into a peculiarity of US legislation. If such accusations were untrue, an ordinary person could sue for libel. A public person like Kerry cannot". Lawyer David Westbrook says: "Technically, it's not U.S. legislation, but jurisprudence, i.e., the judicial understanding of the First Amendment to the Constitution, that creates the difference between public and non-public persons". RH: The First Amendment says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of the press, or the right of the people peacefully to assemble, or to petition the Government for a redress of grievances". It must have taken a lot of jurisprudence to twist that into the distinction between public and private figures, I suspect there is a long history behind this. In England, the old rule that "The King can do n wrong" was challenged in the Men of Devon against the Crown case, which the Men of Devon lost, The US jurisprudence meant that in the US the Men of Devon won. Are there other countries which make this distinction between public and private figures? In many countries, as in France, an elected official cannot be sued as long as he is in office. In the US he can be impeached or recalled. These differences have a direct effect on the conduct of public affairs.