Hawk over Iraq

Posted: Feb 26, 2003 12:00 AM
No need to wait for Saddam Hussein to relinquish power before rebuilding Iraq. That's what Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut says he will tell the Council on Foreign Relations Wednesday (Feb. 26) when he outlines steps for peace and reconstruction in a postwar Iraq. Unlike dovish Democrats, Lieberman is the lead Senate sponsor of legislation authorizing military force if necessary against Iraq. He'll argue that the ultimate measure of a war's success is the quality of peace that follows. Lieberman says he will propose establishing an interim government, an international security force, securing weapons of mass destruction, coordinating humanitarian relief and increasing engagement in the Middle East. Earlier this month, the presidential hopeful introduced a resolution pressing the Bush administration to undertake similar rebuilding plans in the event of war, and to publicly articulate them - as he himself has now set out to do. TINY RISK During this heightened period of terrorist-related stress, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, a medical doctor, is prescribing a hefty dose of calm and common sense for Americans. One can start on the road to recovery, he says, by switching off the TV news channels. "We have to be very careful because with 24-hour news cycles, seven days a week, every 30 minutes the news cycle being repeated with the potential use of germs, microbes, bacteria, chemical agents ... it is easy to overstate, and all of a sudden the pain and paralysis you begin to feel inside, if you are mesmerized by that television set, seeing these images come again and again, we have to be careful. "We all know these visual images are put on television to capture your attention," he adds. "Again, we have to be careful as we look at television, as we look at media today, not to let it feed our paralysis and fear." So we don't need to duct tape a plastic bubble around our lives? "The risk of biological weapons or chemical weapons, although I think it is higher than nuclear weapons being used in our homeland, is still small. It is tiny," Frist says. "It is bigger than 10 years ago, but the overall risk of biological and chemical agents being used successfully as agents of mass destruction in this country is small." Still, aware that because of the media hype many Americans are no longer sleeping well, eating more, eating less, developing belly aches and back pain, experiencing irritability, detachment, periods of depression, feeling blue, being on edge and waking up in the middle of the night, Mr. Frist says we have to deal with our emotions. "There are a lot of things you can do," he says, telling Americans: Take a news break. Keep the faith. Embrace daily routines. Communicate. Do not lock yourself down and worry. Exercise regularly, eat well, and get a good night's rest. Smokers might also take the opportunity to kick the habit. After all, smoking has a far greater chance of killing you than Osama bin Laden. If he's even alive. INSUFFICIENT FUNDS Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both houses of Congress that would require that Americans be warned in writing that the average rate of return for their Social Security benefits has not only fallen, it will likely decline in the future. Rep. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) says Americans need more accurate information on their retirement system, "and much of the information provided by the Social Security Administration does little to fully inform them." His legislation, also introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), would require that Social Security statements now sent to all current workers over the age of 25 include a warning that taxes paid into the program may not be sufficient to fund retirements. It would also "explain that while Social Security has performed well in the past, its average rate of return has fallen and is expected to decline in the future." NO COMPRENDO A Mexican governor says his country opposes war with Iraq because nearly half of U.S. soldiers who would be deployed to the front lines are of Latin origin. "It is important that Mexico holds a position ... against the war because 40 percent of the military that will (be sent) to the front are of Latin origin, mainly of the same country," Ricardo Monreal Avila, governor of Zacatecas, says in a Reforma news dispatch from Mexico. And because the soldiers of Mexican origin would be on the front lines, the governor said, they "will be the first dying." Last week, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City issued a statement calling the governor's remarks "erroneous," including his contention that 70 percent of the U.S. military was made up of blacks and Hispanics, with 40 percent of Mexican origin. The embassy cited the Defense Manpower Data Center Report, dated March 2002, which indicates that Hispanics make up 8.7 percent of America's armed forces, and blacks 19.7 percent. Finally, the embassy took issue with the governor's remark that "it would be a pity that these lives were lost in the war." The U.S. government, it said, considers it tragic when a person of any ethnicity is killed. AT HOME IN HANOI Imagine ducking into a VFW post in Vietnam for a burger and beer. Well, soldier, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its ladies auxiliary are holding overseas discussions this week to open the first VFW post in Vietnam. Alan Greilsamer, spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, tells this column that VFW Commander in Chief Ray Sisk dispatched a VFW delegation to Vietnam to meet jointly with Vietnamese and U.S. government officials, as well as Vietnamese citizens. The delegation also plans to meet with prospective VFW members, many of them American war veterans living in Vietnam. The post would be located in Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital and the center of military planning during the Vietnam War. DON'T KNOW WHY "I've got nothing against cowgirls," says Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), "but why are my tax dollars paying for their halls of fame?" He was referring to the 2003 omnibus appropriations bill, which forked over $90,000 for the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas. But that's not all that has Flake scratching his head. The Grammy Foundation received $800,000 in the bill just signed into law. "The mission of the Grammy Foundation is certainly noble," he says, "but why is an organization affiliated with thousands of multimillionaire musicians and record executives receiving taxpayer money? Norah Jones won a handful of awards (Sunday) night for a song called 'Don't Know Why.' I think that could probably describe a lot of taxpayers."