Tehran footnote

John McCaslin
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Posted: Aug 04, 2005 12:00 AM

Ironically, American freelance reporter Steven Vincent, found dead in the southern Iraqi city of Basra this week after he and his Iraqi translator were abducted at gunpoint, and his In the Red Zone weblog, were featured July 29 in a Washington Times column penned by Diana West.

Two days later, in Monday's New York Times, Vincent charged that the police force in Basra, where he had been researching a book, was riddled with members of radical Shi'ite political groups who were behind the assassinations plaguing the city.

On Wednesday, we took one last opportunity to visit Vincent's blog, and saw where he had written most recently about these religious parties that dominate Basra.

"When you read this, keep in mind that for various reasons - not the least of which were safety concerns - the piece only scratches the surface of what is happening here," he began.

"Down Basra way, the country most preoccupying the locals is not Amrika, but that brooding, seething, over-cleric'd Mordor to the east, Iran. Whether it's supporting religious parties, smuggling oil and gas, sabotaging the energy infrastructure, orchestrating sectarian assassinations or other neighborly deeds, Basrawi detect the stealthy hand of Tehran in nearly every aspect of their lives.

"'We don't talk about this in public,' a professor at Basra U. told me. 'Get too explicit and you get disappeared.'"

'JIHADIST JANE'

So, Marine Corps veteran Oliver North, how do you really feel about Jane Fonda's upcoming bus tour opposing the U.S.-led war in Iraq?

"'Hanoi Jane' Fonda seems to have tired of her moniker. The wilted flower child who firmly established her place in American history when she mounted a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun has decided it's time to teach a whole new generation to blame America first. If she actually goes through with her plans for a new protest movement, she may well become known as 'Jihadist Jane.' It has a better ring. More alliteration."

SAUDI SALUTE

President Bush has designated his father, former President George Bush, as part of the presidential delegation to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to express condolences on the passing of the "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud." Accompanying the elder Bush is Vice President Dick Cheney, leading a delegation that includes former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia James C. Oberwetter, and Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

SHOOING HORSES

Despite effectively handling crowd management, lost children and threats of terrorism in a way officers in squad cars and on foot could not have, Congress has given the U.S. Capitol Police Mounted Unit - in existence for barely 14 months - the boot.

"I recall on the day of the London bombing, there was a suspicious package in front of Union Station and our mounted officer was the first one to arrive and take charge of the incident. From atop her horse, she had a complete vista of the area," says Chief Terrance W. Gainer, who created the mounted unit.

"I'm disappointed," he tells The Beltway Beat. "I wish I could have convinced Congress of their value. But the debate is over, and the barn door is open."

Congressmen with enough clout argued that the force's five horses are too expensive to feed during a time when the federal debt surpasses $7.8 trillion. Still, the entire unit's operating costs in 2004 - horses and officers alike - stood at only $114,000. There had been a request of $145,000 in the 2006 budget.

Now, unlike canine officers, who are given the option of keeping their dogs when they are retired, six mounted officers on Capitol Hill were told to say goodbye to their horses.

"You bet they're upset," one police insider said yesterday. "You become close to a horse when it's your partner, and it takes care of you - and you, it - on a daily basis. Now, suddenly, they are told they have 60 days to give these horses to the Park Police. How would you feel?"

"I told (U.S. Park Police) Chief Dwight Pettiford that our loss is his gain," Gainer agreed.

"You know something else," the chief says. "In this day and age, because of the threat environment we live in, 9 million visitors to this campus each year see our officers carrying heavy weapons, driving around in assault vehicles, barricades set up everywhere.

"I like to think what a nice juxtaposition it has been for our visitors to see a man and a woman up on a horse. Doesn't it present a calmer image? And we needed that. But my vision wasn't this Congress' vision."

Gainer's predecessor, James M. Powell - the first-ever chief of the federal police force - died recently at age 91.

In fact, before Congress created the U.S. Capitol Police as its own independent agency in 1979, Inspector Powell in 1965 was appointed by the Metropolitan Police Department to supervise the sprawling Capitol Hill beat.

Prior to that, it's worth noting, he was assigned to the Metropolitan Police detail that helps protect the president of the United States. Surely, he never forgot the bloody day of Nov. 1, 1950, when, while he was protecting President Truman, two Puerto Rican nationalists came to town.

Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, who had been active in the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, thought that assassinating Truman would draw attention to Puerto Rico's cause for independence. They staged their two-man assault on the Blair House, where the Truman family was residing during a four-year renovation of the White House.

Approaching from two directions, the pair tried shooting their way inside the mansion across the street from the White House. When the gunfire ended, Torresola and one policeman lay dead. Two other officers were shot, but they recovered.

As for Collazo, who had his eyes trained on Truman in the upstairs window - the president had been napping and reportedly rushed to the window to see what was happening below - he was struck once and collapsed on the Blair House steps. There to apprehend him was Powell.

BUSH CLONE

One day after bypassing Congress and appointing the outspoken John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, President Bush happily traded the heat and humidity of Washington for the heat and humidity of his Texas ranch.

And what does the traveling White House press corps think about Bush's appointment?

"In fact," one reporter observed to White House spokesman Scott McClellan, "what a lot of people accuse Bolton of is being a hard-charging guy - abrasive, abusive. I mean, some of his critics have used all of these words.

"Even (U.N. Secretary-General) Kofi Annan saying essentially, 'Hey, take it easy up here. It's good to push, but you've got to work with other ambassadors.' Is that, in fact, exactly what (President Bush) is looking for?"

Replied McClellan: "Ambassador Bolton is someone who has sometimes used a blunt style, but . . . that's exactly the kind of person we need at the United Nations during this time of war and time of reform. And that's why the president nominated him to be the ambassador."

Injected the reporter: "And the president is a pretty plain-spoken guy, as well, so why don't we be - why don't you be - a little bit more blunt here?"

SPREADING FICTION

These hot, hazy, lazy days of summer invoke in the mind of one politician the writings of Mark Twain.

"Mark Twain famously said that one of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives," recalls Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat.

"Conspiracy theories tend to have a life of their own," he says. "They can never be disproved. If there is no evidence supporting the conspiracy, then it is proof of a cover-up. If there is evidence proving there was no conspiracy, that is also proof of a cover-up.

"Either way, evidence disproving a conspiracy theory only proves to believers that the conspiracy really exists."

GENTLE GIANT

We've learned that Washington malpractice lawyer Jack Olender will be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame - not basketball, but the National Bar Association - Friday during its annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

It's worth noting that among other honors, Olender recently received the Bar Association of the District of Columbia's Belfiori Quality of Life Award for running a malpractice firm that is kinder and gentler to its employees - even as it clobbers careless doctors.