McCaslin's Beltway Beat

Posted: Nov 30, 2001 12:00 AM
Obviously it's not just anthrax-laden mail that certain Americans are concerned of coming into contact with. It's anthrax-contaminated mailmen. "U.S. POSTAL PERSONNEL: DO NOT Go Past Mailbox. Stay Off Grass & Front Porch," warns the ominous sign outside a home in Bridgeville, Del., erected after a 94-year-old Connecticut widow died recently from anthrax exposure. This columnist's brother, former Capitol Hill aide Mark McCaslin, says he watched as the owner of the home erected the sign, then disappeared behind his front door, where a final warning was posted for any mailmen who stray too far. There is no proof that the deceased widow, Ottilie Lundgren, came in contact with anthrax-contaminated mail. Tests of her mail, mailbox and garbage revealed no traces of deadly anthrax spores. TRY TAHITI Americans who had hoped to spend the holidays in Afghanistan might want to consider someplace warmer. The State Department has just gotten around to issuing a new travel advisory that "strongly warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan." "This supersedes the Department of State Travel Warning for Afghanistan issued December 12, 2000, to update the information on the security situation in Afghanistan," the advisory states. The new warning explains "U.S. forces are engaged in military action against the remnants of the Taliban regime and the terrorist Al-Qaida network. Afghan opponents of the Taliban regime are also engaged in military operations in several parts of the country. Travel in all areas of Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul and all major cities, is unsafe due to military operations, banditry, and the possibility of unrest given the fluid political and military situation." Several foreign journalists have been murdered in Afghanistan in recent weeks, while the advisory notes "an estimated 5 to 7 million land mines are scattered throughout the countryside and pose a danger to travelers." The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has been closed since 1989, and no other diplomatic mission represents U.S. interests or provides consular services. BRIDGE TO MONACO Monetary rewards will soon fill the coffers of congressional candidates who support full voting rights in Congress for citizens of the District of Columbia. The political action committee "DC Democracy Fund" says Washington's 572,000 residents pay federal taxes, serve proudly in the armed forces, share all other duties and responsibilities of American citizenship, but have no senator or voting member in the House. "Just a nonvoting delegate in the House," the fund observes, referring to D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. "Basically our goal is to donate money," the fund's political director, Sean Tenner, tells this column, expecting contributions to "max out the 20 most competitive races involving candidates who support D.C. voting rights." Democrats have long argued that establishing full voting rights for the District would require a nationwide campaign. Tenner says once primaries are completed, questionnaires will be sent to every Democrat and Republican nominee for the House and Senate, "letting them know that this is a group that has money to contribute." How much legal tender, of course, if any, will depend on how the candidates respond to the questions about D.C. voting rights. Meanwhile, Mrs. Norton has something else up her sleeve, having introduced H.R. 1193, or "The No Taxation Without Representation Act." High-profile Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., has introduced the Senate version, providing that until residents of the nation's capital enjoy full voting rights in Congress, they will be exempt from paying federal income taxes. But tax scholars say if such an act passed, every millionaire in the country would pack his Gucci bags for Washington to avoid paying taxes. "The District would turn into Monaco," said Don Williamson, an American University professor. NORTH TO AFGHANISTAN There are no arms for hostages on this itinerary. Iran-Contra figure Oliver North, host of the Radio America Network's "Common Sense Radio" and the Fox News Channel's "War Stories," will begin reporting live from inside Afghanistan on Saturday (Dec. 1). Back on the battlefield, this time as a war correspondent setting up his microphone at the Marines' Forward Operations Base outside Kandahar, North will become the first nationally syndicated radio talk-show host to take his audience straight to the front lines of Operation Enduring Freedom. The retired Marine lieutenant colonel says he'll also conduct interviews with ground troops and civilians to be aired on "War Stories," carried by Fox Sunday evenings. "I want to interview the heroes - I want to go there and tell the stories of the Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen who are doing their duty in harm's way," says North. Word from inside the Marine Corps is that morale is rising even higher with news of the colonel's arrival. JFK, RFK AND TRENT In what is being called a "a disgraceful episode in American history," a new book charges that President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy secretly approved the forced segregation of nearly 4,000 black U.S. Army troops during the little-known combat rescue of riot-torn Oxford, Miss., in the fall of 1962. Author William Doyle, who wrote the 1999 best seller "Inside the Oval Office," uncovered the segregation order while researching his new book, "An American Insurrection: The Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, 1962" (Doubleday). He details a Sept. 27, 1962, meeting in the attorney general's office, where RFK approved a plan to "pre-segregate" almost 4,000 black soldiers out of a force of 20,000 regular U.S. Army troops. The troops were preparing to stage a lightning invasion to enforce a federal court order to the University of Mississippi to admit its first known black student, James Meredith. An Army document obtained by Doyle reveals that President Kennedy discussed the across-the-board segregation policy with Pentagon officials on Oct. 3, 1962. "The Kennedys approved the segregation," Doyle asserts, "to avoid the political embarrassment of having black troops with high-powered rifles patrolling the streets of America's most segregated state." The author says the order was confirmed by the scores of black and white Army veterans he interviewed through this year. They recalled disbelief, written protests, shouting matches and even a soldiers' riot that nearly erupted over the order. One black sergeant of the 101st Airborne, Doyle says, "relayed the order to his men with tears in his eyes." While at Fort Bragg, N.C., white officers of the 503rd Military Police Battalion tore up the order and threw it into a trash can, he says. "The order violated nearly 14 years of Army practice since President Truman's 1948 executive order desegregating the U.S. military," charges Doyle. Intriguingly, the book contains FBI and Pentagon documents detailing a surprise raid on Oct. 1, 1962, by troops of the 716th Military Police Battalion on the Sigma Nu house, the fraternity presided over by chapter President Trent Lott, currently the U.S. Senate's minority leader from Mississippi. Inside the frat house, the MPs seized and removed a total of 24 weapons: 21 shotguns, a .22 rifle, a .30 rifle and a .22 Colt pistol. Lott, who declined to be interviewed by the author, had no immediate comment when we called this week.