Jewish World Review July 7, 2004 /18 Tamuz, 5764

Edward I. Koch

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Potpourri | The United States supports Israel in the face of constant criticism from the European Union, Russia and the United Nations — the same critics of the U.S. policy on Iraq. It takes courage for a U.S. president to stand by Israel in a climate of such sustained hostility. In my book, the three presidents who have been the most stalwart friends of Israel are, in order, George W. Bush (43, as they call him, not 41), Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. I do not agree with President Bush on a single major, controversial, domestic issue, whether it's tax reductions or health care. But he has been superb both on the war on terror and on Israel. That is why I am voting for him. I don't believe the Democrats have the stomach for the fight against international terrorism. John Kerry conveyed his lack of knowledge on the subject of Israel when he stated that he would on election appoint either former president Jimmy Carter or former Secretary of State James Baker, both hostile to Israel, as his representative to the Mideast negotiations.

The New York Times editorial page has repeatedly castigated President Bush for his willingness to go to war with Iraq because he continues to believe, as I do, that Iraq failed to account for weapons of mass destruction; that Iraq was an imminent threat to its neighbors and a foreseeable danger to the U.S.; that Saddam Hussein was a vicious despot who had tortured and murdered his own people and his neighbors using poison gas, among other terrible crimes; and that the removal of such a dangerous and oppressive tyrant would promote positive change in the entire region.

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The New York Times did not find any of these reasons sufficient for the U.S., Great Britain, and the coalition forces to wage war against Iraq without being authorized to do so by the U.N. So it was a surprise when The Times published an editorial on July 3, advocating unilateral action to relieve the human rights catastrophe in Sudan. Action against the Sudanese government is certainly warranted, but is it more warranted than the action we have taken in Iraq? Relevant excerpts from The Times editorial follow and are well worth reading:

"The growing disaster in the Darfur region of Sudan, which may have already killed as many people as have died in the fighting in Iraq over the last year and a quarter, demands that Secretary of State Colin Powell and the U.N. secretary general, Kofi Annan, go beyond the kind of welcome but government-manipulated visits we saw this week. Without tough and immediate actions by Washington and the U.N. Security Council, a half-million people or more could die before the end of the year from Sudanese government-sponsored attacks and the starvation and disease that inevitably follow."

It went on, "Any illusion that Sudan's leaders are now prepared to act responsibly without being compelled to do so should have been dispelled by their cruel and cynical behavior during the Powell and Annan visits.

"The Bush administration has been far too timid in proposing punitive sanctions only for Janjaweed leaders. That remains the main thrust of a Security Council resolution that Washington is circulating. It would be much more effective to put direct pressure on the leaders of Sudan's government, who can shut down the attacks quickly.

"The Security Council remains divided between the Sudanese government's critics and apologists and has been unwilling to take strong action.

"If the Security Council still refuses to act, the United States, the European Union and the African countries that assert a claim to continental leadership, like Nigeria and South Africa, should work together to convince Sudan's leaders that their government will become a pariah if it does not stop what looks increasingly like genocide in Darfur."

If those measures do not accomplish the goal of protecting by some estimates one million people from genocide and thousands from enslavement, is there any doubt that The Times would endorse unilateral military action by the U.S.? I would.

On June 29, 2004, I wrote to David Walker, Comptroller General of the U.S., asking a simple question:

"Can you tell me if any federal agency, including the General Accounting Office, has examined why Halliburton and Bechtel were awarded exclusive no-bid contracts in Iraq? If such investigations occurred, has any agency come to a conclusion as to whether the procedure was faulty or illegal?"

Two days later, I received a response accompanied by an extensive report. The following is an excerpt from the Comptroller General's letter:

"You specifically asked about contracts awarded to Bechtel National Inc. and to a Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), for reconstruction efforts. I must first note that in conducting the review, we did not target any particular companies, nor exclude any relevant companies from the scope of our effort. Overall, we looked at 25 contracts or task orders based on various factors, such as dollar value and whether they were awarded using other than full and open competitive procedures. These 25 contract actions represented about 97 percent of the total dollars obligated for reconstruction through September 30, 2003.

"We found that the U.S. Agency for International Development properly justified the award of contracts using limited competition, including the contract you mentioned to Bechtel. With regard to KBR, we found the Army issued a $1.9 million task order in November 2002 for contingency planning that was beyond the scope of the underlying contract. The Army should have prepared a written justification to authorize the work without competition. In light of the exigent circumstances, such a justification was likely possible but needed to be made and documented to comply with the law and protect the taxpayer's interests. The Department of Defense subsequently awarded a contract in March 2003 to KBR to execute the plan for restoring the Iraqi oil infrastructure, the so-called 'RIO contract.' The contracting officer's written justification for the sole-source contract outlined the rationale for the decision and other factors. The justification was approved by the Army's senior procurement executive, as required. We reviewed the justification and approval documentation and determined that it generally complied with applicable legal standards."

If the critics have factual information showing why the awarding of contracts to Halliburton involved favoritism, corruption or other violations of the law, they should make it public.

On June 23, the U.S. Senate voted in support of President Bush's response to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to evacuate settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. The President's response stated:

"It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel."

He also wrote, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities."

The vote in the House of Representatives was 407-9 in favor, with three voting present and 14 being absent. The following representatives voted no: Conyers (D-MI), Dingell (D-MI), Kilpatrick (D-MI), Kucinich(D-OH), Lee (D-CA), Paul (R-TX), Stark (D-CA), Waters (D-CA), and Woolsey (D-CA).

The vote in the U.S. Senate was 95-3 in favor with two not voting. The senators who voted no were: Byrd (D-WVA), Jeffords (I-VT), and Sununu (R-NH).

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JWR contributor Edward I. Koch, the former mayor of New York, can be heard on Bloomberg Radio (WBBR 1130 AM) every Saturday from 9-10 am. Comment by clicking here.

06/29/04: Moore is an irresponsible propagandist who would have denounced WW II, too
06/16/04: Behind every hero
06/08/04: Reagan's afterlife on Earth
05/19/04: We should not be pleading with the U.N. for help — we should be demanding it
05/12/04: Abu Ghraib will go away but Rummy — and Bush — shouldn't
04/20/04: Freedom of what?
03/03/04: Wake-up call: Prez will be defeated if he doesn't take action to stop other dangerous attack
03/12/04: Yes, Jews do engage in anti-Semitic behavior
02/04/04: History will judge Bush favorably
01/28/04: Why the President was justified — David Kay or not
01/15/04: It is not compassionate or intelligent to open our borders to all
12/24/03: Why I'm voting for Bush
11/26/03: Appeasement only whets the appetite of aggressors
11/06/03: Putin's prosecution of the oligarchs can teach a powerful lesson about anti-Semitism
07/30/03: As the world churns
07/23/03: America not so different than Russia in pursuing white collar criminals
07/16/03: Dems, media are making an unforgivable mistake
06/18/03: Keep American troops out of Israel
05/22/03: It's lots of fun to remain relevant
05/14/03: Living up to their mascot's image? Dems attacks on prez are backfiring
05/07/03: Wall Street settlement was not justice
04/16/03: The doves were proven wrong. Instead of conceding defeat, they are throwing another political tantrum
04/09/03: As the world churns
04/03/03: Gulf War II: The misleading media does it again
03/18/03: Have the courage to admit it, Pat: You're a classic anti-Semite who gives conservatives a bad name
03/12/03: "There they go again"? Not quite!
03/05/03: Making the case for war on British TV left some panelists stunned
02/20/03: Death penalty=racism? Don't confuse them with the facts
02/12/03: History is now repeating itself --- why don't the American bashers grasp it?
02/05/03: As the world turns
01/30/03: Why are sports exempt from racial diversity and universities encouraged to engage in racial preferences over individual academic achievement?
01/23/03: We absolutely can't back down
11/13/02: President blunted the Ted Kennedys of Democrat party --- good for him!
10/23/02: New Jersey's bigot laureate is no private citizen and his 'defenses' are idiotic
10/01/02: Congress is not doing its job
09/26/02: Confronting pathetic Americans in a post 9-11 world
09/19/02: Don't be fooled by Saddam
09/05/02: Necessary or not, getting congressional approval for war is common-sense
08/28/02: In defense of terrorism
08/22/02: Saddam Hussein is extremely popular in "Arab street," so why attack him?
08/15/02: My potpourri
08/09/02: Traitors: Journalistic and 'patriotic'
07/31/02: Euros should spend their time analyzing their own country's wartime actions
07/25/02: I may know next to nothing about the stock market, but I'm not getting out
07/18/02: Dems should stop trying to 'Whitewater' the President
07/11/02: Real Americans and the Islamic threat

© 2002, Edward I. Koch