McCaslin's Beltway Beat

Posted: Nov 07, 2001 12:00 AM
MARINES AMONG US There's much discussion these days in Washington preceding the dangerous cave and tunnel fighting that will be required to uproot Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network from their hiding places. But it's not the first time the U.S. military has gone cave-to-cave in search of the enemy. Politics & Prose ran out of books the other night when many Washington reporters, most retired U.S. Marines, crowded around to hear former Washington Star and Washington Post newspaperman Jim Dickenson describe the heavy casualties suffered by Marines when ousting Japanese soldiers from caves and tunnels on Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945. In his new book, "We Few: The Marine Corps 400 in the War Against Japan" (Naval Institute Press), Dickenson follows a class of 2nd lieutenants from boot camp to their destinies on the Japanese islands, where they confronted an enemy lodged in caves and tunnels with multiple entries and exits. A total of 10,300 Marines died and 34,000 were wounded rooting the Japanese from the caves. Among Marines-turned-newsmen in the crowd for the book reading were Jim Lehrer, Mark Shields, Gordon Peterson, Nick Kotz, Pat Furgurson, Ed Fouhy, Jim Perry and Warren Rogers. Kay Evans and Bea Harwood, recent widows of ex-Marines Rowland Evans Jr. and Richard Harwood, were also in attendance, as were past Marines John Culver, the former Iowa Democratic senator, Barry Zorthian and Washington lawyer Stuart Land. CBS' Bill Plante, ABC's John Cochran, PBS' Paul Duke and Terry Smith of PBS' "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" were also on hand for Dickenson's timely book talk. DUCK SEASON Bureaucrats at Washington's Energy Department and National Nuclear Security Administration say they're sitting ducks if terrorists decide to rear their ugly heads. The threat deals with the unusual architectural design of the Forrestal building, which houses both agencies at 10th Street and Independence Avenue SW. The federal facility, adjacent to L'Enfant Plaza, rises on pillars, with a large breezeway and city street underneath. "The unique architectural design of the Forrestal facility demands that 10th Street SW be closed to all vehicular traffic immediately," says a petition being circulated among employees of both federal agencies. "In light of recent events affecting our nation and the need to improve the safety for all citizens, (failure to do so) places thousands of dedicated, talented, hard-working federal and contractor employees, visitors and children in a day care facility at great risk," the petition reads. Citing traffic congestion and economic impact, the District has been reluctant to close city streets to vehicular traffic, as has been done in front of the White House and elsewhere because of the ongoing terrorist threat. COST OF FREEDOM In 1962, the U.S. government devoted 47 percent of its budget to defense. Today, that portion has dropped to 15 percent. From 1991 through 2001, inflation-adjusted defense spending declined by 25 percent (from $404 billion to $300 billion). Over the same period, inflation-adjusted nondefense spending rose by 24 percent. Sources: Heritage Foundation, National Taxpayer's Union and National Center for Public Policy Research. POWER WOMEN Oprah Winfrey, not first lady Laura Bush, is the most powerful woman in America - or so says the Ladies' Home Journal, which ranks the 30 Most Powerful Women based on cultural clout, financial impact, achievement, visibility, influence, intellect, political know-how and staying power. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ranks 5th on the list behind Miss Winfrey, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Martha Stewart and Barbara Walters. Mrs. Bush, surprisingly, is way down the list at 26th, behind even the lip-synching Britney Spears, who ranks 9th.