Bloody money

John McCaslin
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Posted: Sep 30, 2003 12:00 AM

Two years after war was declared on terrorism, terrorist networks are not only still operating, they're busy plotting their next atrocious acts.

"For the terrorists, it is still business as usual," warns Middle East expert Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the American Center for Democracy and a consultant to the Pentagon on terrorism.

In her new book, "Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed - and How to Stop It" (Bonus Books), Ehrenfeld notes terrorists need money to pay for recruitment, travel, training camps, weapons, bribes, propaganda, housing, food and day-to-day maintenance expenses.

"The U.S. and other democracies are losing the war due to misdirected efforts," she says. "We have not been effective in shutting down their access to funding."

She provides a road map illustrating the funding of terrorist organizations, particularly Islamic fundamentalists. She places some blame on "political corruption," but says illegal drugs are the major source of funding for terrorism.

Ehrenfeld has most recently been consulting with the Defense Department's Threat Reduction Agency.

SHEUER THING

A bipartisan effort has been launched to remove every member of the Senate and House who voted for the war in Iraq and replace them with committed peace candidates.

The first candidate under the "Congress for Peace" umbrella is Bill Sheurer (pronounced "sure"), who seeks the House seat held by Rep. Philip M. Crane (R-Ill.)

As for additional candidates to fill what would amount to several hundred vacancies in Congress, Sheurer says there are many qualified people who, like himself, have never run for elected office "and are not necessarily political types."

Sheurer, a lawyer, emphasizes that with peace he backs a "strong defense." He just doesn't like the United States sticking its boots in other countries. Two of his children served in the Army and Marines, including tours to Kuwait.

BLEW IN ONE EAR.

You might have read about "The Old Guard" hurricane vigil.

Now, "valiant" members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment are being saluted for their recent act of "patriotism" on Capitol Hill.

"As Hurricane Isabel's winds swept over Arlington National Cemetery, the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknowns were given - for the first time in history - permission to abandon their posts and seek shelter," observes House Armed Services Committee Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.).

"But that wasn't what was going to happen, and Sgt. Christopher Holmes knew it."

To provide some background, the Army sergeant's guards take turns patrolling the cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns in hourly shifts - never leaving their post.

The tomb was established in 1921 with the interment of an unknown World War I soldier, and a sentry has been posted there continuously, around the clock, since 1930.

"Cemetery superintendent John Metzler didn't want to put the guards in jeopardy unnecessarily with the fierce storm bearing down Thursday night," Miller notes, "so cemetery officials decided to let the guards move indoors if they felt they were in danger."

"That's never an option for us," Sgt. Holmes was quoted as saying. "It went in one ear and right out the other."

BURIED TREASURE

Is archaeologist Ben Gates off his rocker by suggesting the whereabouts of a hidden national treasure is encoded on the back of the Declaration of Independence - placed there, no less, by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson?

We'll have to wait until November 2004 to find out. That's when "National Treasure," a suspense thriller starring Nicolas Cage (Gates), is scheduled for release.

As we speak, the movie is being filmed at several Washington locations, including the National Archives, Pennsylvania Avenue and Constitution Avenue.

EMBARRASSING CAPITAL

It was a unique and historic day late last week when D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams was invited onto the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Foremost on the minds of the visiting mayor and senators - a subject that will be revisited today - is educating the District's children (Williams strongly supports a $13 million school-voucher program for D.C. children attending failing public schools). As it now stands, the city's report card is a disgrace.

Or as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) points out, "the outcomes, the scores, are lower than any state in the country today."

Incredibly, 6 percent (fewer that 1 in 10) of D.C. fourth-graders are proficient in math. A whopping 90 percent can't read at their level. The dropout rate: 42 percent.

SILENCING FRANKEN

So, Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly, tell us how you really feel about comedian turned political activist Al Franken.

"This man is being run by some very powerful forces in this country," replies O'Reilly when asked by Time magazine. "I was ambushed at a book convention. He got up in front of a national audience and called me a liar for 20 minutes. President Andrew Jackson would have put a bullet between his eyes.

"Franken's job is to do exactly what Donald Segretti did for Nixon - dig up dirt on people. He is not a satirist; he is not a comedian. He's someone who wants to injure people's reputations, and I think people have got to know that."

ALL ABOARD?

We bring you the conclusion of a new Congressional Budget Office study on the future of U.S. passenger rail service: "If policymakers cannot reach agreement about passenger-rail issues, then Amtrak is likely to limp along as it has for the past 33 years: not quite satisfying anyone, not providing the most valued rail service per dollar of subsidy, not costing very much relative to the size of the economy and the federal budget."

Amtrak (National Railroad Passenger Corp.) originally was intended to be a for-profit company that would be free of federal subsidies within a few years, the study notes. Instead, Amtrak has needed federal support every year of its 33-year history.

WHEN MUSIC DIES

"Thoughts in the skye over Kansas" - or so is title of the letter from Washington-based musician Bonnie Rideout, who if you didn't gather from her Gaelic spelling has roots in Scotland.

"The last time I flew into Wichita, Ka., was an emergency landing due to a gentleman behind me who suffered a massive heart attack," she writes. "The tension from anxious passengers in the plane's enclosed space was overwhelming."

So, from the overhead bin, Rideout pulled out her violin.

"I am a Scottish fiddler," she notes, "and began to quietly play a heart-warming old Scottish aire. What happened next was astounding. One could physically feel the brittle tension in the stale air disintegrate in seconds. In no time, passengers were making requests, and one woman even got up and danced."

"Ironically," Rideout now continues, "I am on my way back to Wichita six years later. Only this time I am facing charges of assault towards a flight attendant who refused to let me carry my violin on board. I removed my precious violin from its case and asked to hold it in my lap all the way from Washington, D.C., so that they could check 'the bag' (my violin is smaller than an infant and bothers no one).

"My approach to solving this dilemma was apparently too confrontational," she explains. "Where the assault charges came into the picture is still a mystery (the officer later explained that even if I touched or brushed against a flight attendant, it can be considered 'assault').

"I am innocent," concludes the violinist. "P.S.: If I am not in jail, I'll be performing at The Kennedy Center Concert Hall on December 26."