Thursday, May 14, 2009

The U.S. Should Lead On Congo

The U.S. Should Lead On Congo. By Cindy McCain
This is about a choice to save lives.
WSJ, May 14, 2009

America is being tested this year in ways we could not have imagined a year ago. Now I bring you another challenge: to continue our national tradition of aiding the world's poor by helping the people of eastern Congo.

A few weeks ago, I visited the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to see how the United Nations World Food Programme was faring in its attempt to feed more than a million people. I was in this region 15 years ago as genocide tore through neighboring Rwanda and 300,000 refugees flooded across the border. Unfortunately, despite tremendous efforts by the U.N., the situation today is the same as -- or worse than -- in 1994.

This isn't a simple case of drought-induced famine. The eastern Congo's moderate climate, abundant rainfall, rich soil and huge lakes make it a virtual Garden of Eden. But it's also an area where armed militias plunder, rape, terrorize and murder. On occasion, the official army of the Democratic Republic of Congo does the same as its unpaid soldiers try to live off the land. In short, this is a country without the security, infrastructure or resources to deal with its massive problems.

Only the international community and the struggling government of the Democratic Republic of Congo can restore real order to the country. But until then, the United States -- the single largest contributor of food aid to these people -- must make a choice. Will we walk away and let hundreds of thousands die of slow starvation, or will we push our aid package even harder?
Since mid-January, more than 250,000 people have been displaced in areas of North and South Kivu provinces due to fighting between the Congolese rebels and the army. The northeastern corner of the country, near the Sudanese border, is even worse off. There the violent militiamen of the Lord's Resistance Army burn homes, murder civilians and kidnap children to turn them into slaves or child soldiers.

In the northeast region alone, the World Food Programme has launched an emergency operation to feed 154,000 people -- a tall order during the rainy season, when roads become deep, mud-filled trenches and even airstrips are turned into quagmires. Of all the aid organizations on the ground, it is the biggest and most diversified. In addition to providing food, it is the lead agency for logistics, delivering vital goods such as medicines, blankets and agricultural tools on behalf of other aid groups.

The World Food Programme also supports programs to help rehabilitate former child soldiers and their families. It improves school enrollment and attendance by providing food to children in primary schools, especially in areas where displaced people are returning home. And it supplies food to the spurned and abandoned: the thousands of women who have been raped and those with HIV/AIDS.

As the world tries to figure out how to cope with the economic downturn, we Americans are presented with the challenge of giving even more. The price of cornmeal has risen by 35% in the last year, and the World Food Programme faces a 2009 funding shortfall of $77 million for its operations in the eastern Congo.

In 1994, in the city of Goma in eastern Congo, I watched as a Danish nurse attempted to feed a baby who obviously was not going to make it. Tears streamed down her face. I held my composure until I got back to my car and then wept, too. That day, I vowed to do all I can to prevent such needless deaths.

I hope that my country chooses to save lives in the Congo by continuing to support the World Food Programme as it strives to provide more aid to the orphans, the sick, and those torn from their homes.

Mrs. McCain, the wife of Sen. John McCain, sits on the board of the HALO Trust, which removes landmines, and Operation Smile, which treats children with cleft palates.

WSJ Editorial Page: Obama's Photo Epiphany

Obama's Photo Epiphany. WSJ Editorial
Why make it harder for the U.S. to defend itself?
WSJ, May 14, 2009

President Obama yesterday put American soldiers and national security ahead of political braying from his campaign allies on the left. What a pleasant reversal.

The White House said it will now seek to block the release of photographs collected as part of military probes into accusations of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Pentagon had agreed last month to release the images by May 28, acceding to an American Civil Liberties Union request under the Freedom of Information Act.

"The President strongly believes that the release of these photos, particularly at this time, would only serve the purpose of inflaming the theaters of war, jeopardizing U.S. forces, and making our job more difficult in places like Iraq and Afghanistan," a White House official said, echoing arguments made on these pages. So the Administration will renew its legal appeals, including all the way to the Supreme Court if need be.

Mr. Obama thus took the advice of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his leading generals that the photos would complicate their efforts to win over Muslim allies for America's antiterror mission. Release of the photos would also serve no public interest since they were collected as evidence in cases that have been investigated, and adjudicated when appropriate. Our guess is that Mr. Obama's political advisers also wanted to distance him from the decision to release the photos -- the better to shield him from any nasty fallout. Now the fault will lie with the ACLU.

Mr. Obama's change of heart was quickly denounced as akin to the "stonewalling tactics and opaque policies of the Bush administration" (the ACLU) and for "reneging on its legal obligation to release the torture photos" (Amnesty International). The President is learning, albeit slowly, that secrecy has its uses in wartime, and that the real goal of his allies on the left is to make it harder for the U.S. to defend itself.

Congress and Waterboarding: Nancy Pelosi was an accomplice to enhaced interrogation

Congress and Waterboarding. WSJ Editorial
Nancy Pelosi was an accomplice to 'torture.'
WSJ, May 14, 2009

Someone important appears not to be telling the truth about her knowledge of the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs). That someone is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The political persecution of Bush administration officials she has been pushing may now ensnare her.

Here's what we know. On Sept. 4, 2002, less than a year after 9/11, the CIA briefed Rep. Porter Goss, then House Intelligence Committee chairman, and Mrs. Pelosi, then the committee's ranking Democrat, on EITs including waterboarding. They were the first members of Congress to be informed.

In December 2007, Mrs. Pelosi admitted that she attended the briefing, but she wouldn't comment for the record about precisely what she was told. At the time the Washington Post spoke with a "congressional source familiar with Pelosi's position on the matter" and summarized that person's comments this way: "The source said Pelosi recalls that techniques described by the CIA were still in the planning stage -- they had been designed and cleared with agency lawyers but not yet put in practice -- and acknowledged that Pelosi did not raise objections at the time."

When questions were raised last month about these statements, Mrs. Pelosi insisted at a news conference that "We were not -- I repeat -- were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used." Mrs. Pelosi also claimed that the CIA "did not tell us they were using that, flat out. And any, any contention to the contrary is simply not true." She had earlier said on TV, "I can say flat-out, they never told us that these enhanced interrogations were being used."

The Obama administration's CIA director, Leon Panetta, and Mr. Goss have both disputed Mrs. Pelosi's account.

In a report to Congress on May 5, Mr. Panetta described the CIA's 2002 meeting with Mrs. Pelosi as "Briefing on EITs including use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on [legal] authorities, and a description of the particular EITs that had been employed." Note the past tense -- "had been employed."

Mr. Goss says he and Mrs. Pelosi were told at the 2002 briefing about the use of the EITs and "on a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission." He is backed by CIA sources who say Mr. Goss and Mrs. Pelosi "questioned whether we were doing enough" to extract information.

We also know that Michael Sheehy, then Mrs. Pelosi's top aide on the Intelligence Committee and later her national security adviser, not only attended the September 2002 meeting but was also briefed by the CIA on EITs on Feb. 5, 2003, and told about a videotape of Zubaydah being waterboarded. Mr. Sheehy was almost certain to have told Mrs. Pelosi. He has not commented publicly about the 2002 or the 2003 meetings.

So is the speaker of the House lying about what she knew and when? And, if so, what will Democrats do about it?

If Mrs. Pelosi considers the enhanced interrogation techniques to be torture, didn't she have a responsibility to complain at the time, introduce legislation to end the practices, or attempt to deny funding for the CIA's use of them? If she knew what was going on and did nothing, does that make her an accessory to a crime of torture, as many Democrats are calling enhanced interrogation?

Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy wants an independent investigation of Bush administration officials. House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers feels the Justice Department should investigate and prosecute anyone who violated laws against committing torture. Are these and other similarly minded Democrats willing to have Mrs. Pelosi thrown into their stew of torture conspirators as an accomplice?

It is clear that after the 9/11 attacks Mrs. Pelosi was briefed on enhanced interrogation techniques and the valuable information they produced. She not only agreed with what was being done, she apparently pressed the CIA to do more.

But when political winds shifted, Mrs. Pelosi seems to have decided to use enhanced interrogation as an issue to attack Republicans. It is disgraceful that Democrats who discovered their outrage years after the fact are now braying for disbarment of the government lawyers who justified EITs and the prosecution of Bush administration officials who authorized them. Mrs. Pelosi is hip-deep in dangerous waters, and they are rapidly rising.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

Target: Intel, and Competition

Target: Intel, and Competition. WSJ Editorial
Team Obama adopts the European model on antitrust.
WSJ, May 14, 2009

The world is returning to the 1970s on most economic policies, so why not antitrust too? Judging by events this week, antitrust enforcement in the U.S. and Europe is in for a major comeback, whether or not consumers benefit.

Yesterday in Brussels, the European Commission imposed a record antitrust fine of $1.45 billion on Intel for the heinous crime of discounting computer chips in its fierce and long-running competition with AMD. Meanwhile on Monday, President Obama's new antitrust chief, Christine Varney, issued a radical revision of the Department of Justice's own antitrust enforcement standards. Ms. Varney's ambition seems to be nothing less than bringing Europe's corporatist approach to competition policy to the U.S. To succeed, she will have to flout or overturn decades of Supreme Court precedent on the limits of U.S. antitrust law.

But Ms. Varney can be sure of a friendly ear in Brussels, which has never let go of the idea that competition is best when there isn't much of it. The Commission's attitude is on full display in the fining of Intel for allegedly abusing its dominant position in the market for computer processors. For years, Intel and AMD have been essentially the only game in town for computer CPUs. The Commission's complaint amounts to little more than a whinge that Intel won more of this business than the Commission would prefer.

This is couched in dark-sounding talk about Intel paying computer makers not to buy AMD chips. But remember there is only so much demand and there are only two major market players. So any order won by Intel by offering a discount or a rebate is, by definition, an order lost by AMD. And yet the Commission bizarrely claims that "millions of Europeans" have been harmed by this price war.

Intel has been able to sell enough chips cheaply enough to maintain an overall market share that has hovered between 75% and 80% for years. And those lower prices help drive down the price of a computer, which is good for consumers. A less competitive market for chips, or one in which Intel is barred from offering discounts to its biggest customers, would mean higher consumer prices. The Commission also suggests that Intel may have sold some chips below its cost, but Intel denies this and claims it can prove it if the Commission would deign to consider its evidence.

The Commission is, as ever, more focused on preserving competitor welfare above consumer welfare, and Ms. Varney at Justice seems to be promoting a similar approach. The American left likes to advertise itself as pro-consumer. But the curious reality about the left's view of antitrust in both Europe and America is that it is often used to assist big business by dampening competition. This corporatist notion seems to be that companies should compete, so long as no one really loses. Ms. Varney paid lip service to the dangers of protecting competitors when she criticized the National Industrial Recovery Act, ushered in by FDR during the Great Depression. That odious piece of industrial policy blessed price collusion between big firms in exchange for a commitment to keep people employed and share some of the collusive profits with labor.

But in her speech, Ms. Varney tries to cast this anticompetitive act as a form of deregulation. In fact, the NIRA was regulation of the worst sort, protecting competitors from competitive harm in the name of some greater good. True deregulation aims at greater competition, while European (and Rooseveltian) corporatism dampens it. This historical obfuscation allows Ms. Varney to argue that it would be good for competition to adopt something like Europe's "abuse of dominant position" standard in place of the consumer-harm test that currently prevails in the U.S.

Europe's Intel case makes the importance of these different tests very clear. By any reasonable application of a consumer-harm test, the antitrust claim that Intel is driving down prices -- and so making computers less expensive -- would be laughed out of U.S. court. The only harm here is to a competitor that can't match Intel's prices. And even at that, AMD isn't exactly going out of business. At times its market share for consumer desktop CPUs has been as high as 50%, and at its most successful the upper bound has been determined as much by AMD's own manufacturing capacity as by Intel's behavior.

When she announced the judgment against Intel Wednesday, European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes praised Ms. Varney's new approach to antitrust. And no wonder. Regulators love company, and European regulators in particular love it when their American counterparts help them hamstring the most efficient U.S. companies. Why President Obama should want to punish U.S. multinationals is harder to figure since his political success hangs on economic recovery and a revival in business profits and hiring. But perhaps we should conclude that this is merely one more example of the ways in which this Administration is seeking to remake American capitalism in the image of Continental Europe.