Bill caters to constituents and does disservice to Ethiopians

(Regarding article “Ethiopian human rights bill stalls,” June 26.) The administration and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) have made the right decision on H.R. 2003 as it stands now.

When Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) was chairman of the Africa subcommittee of House Foreign Affairs, the Ethiopia human rights bill was demanding the release of the jailed Coalition for Unity and Democracy members and an investigation. The bill was killed in committee by Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) and other Democrats, who claimed there was a negotiation under way for the release of the jailed opposition members — who, by the way, were released.

Later, as chairman of the subcommittee, Rep. Payne revived the bill when Ethiopia started cracking down on the impending threat of Islamists in Somalia and the Ogaden region. The intent of the bill was transformed.

This is a classic example of U.S. foreign policymaking going amok, and why America is increasingly becoming a dreaded country among people in the Third World.

Our policymakers need to see beyond 25 or so people in their districts and instead focus on the millions who live in these countries and resent such infringements on their nations’ sanctity and sovereignty.

Plano, Texas


Fix VAWA before mulling expansion

From Terri Lynn Tersak, president and CEO, True Equality Network

Sens. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and Richard Lugar’s (R-Ind.) op-ed “We Must Confront Violence Against Women” (June 18) grossly misrepresents the context and size of the problem of violence against women, both in America and internationally. America has aggressively confronted domestic violence since 1975. We must now confront problems the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has created in criminal and civil family law, and remove insipid gender misrepresentations driving inappropriate policy and unfair jurisprudence.

VAWA is ineffective and fraud-ridden. Consistent historical decreases in domestic violence and intimate partner homicide rates that occurred since 1975 have not accelerated since passage of VAWA in 1994. The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General documented much fraud and waste by VAWA grantees. Moreover, True Equality Network’s recent investigations have documented abuse of women in shelters that receive VAWA and other federal funding sources.

No-drop arrest laws break up families over minor or false claims. One study found that 59 percent of allegations made could not be substantiated. False allegations are used for tactical reasons in divorces, and restraining orders are handed out like candy.

Statistical and philosophical myths in the senators’ op-ed parallel similar myths propounded by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic Violence. Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting(RADAR) recently issued a report finding that 17 of 19 ABA claims about domestic violence are misleading, unsupported or completely false.

Before International-VAWA (I-VAWA) can be considered, we must reform VAWA. Otherwise we risk making more enemies around the world than we already have.

St. Louis

FTA not on IRI agenda

From Alex Sutton, regional director of Latin American and Caribbean Programs, International Republican Institute

Your June 24 article “Courting the Black Caucus in Colombia,” erroneously leads the reader to believe that the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) efforts to assist Afro Colombian congressmen are a means to convince members of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote for the Colombian Free Trade Agreement.

IRI identified the need to help disenfranchised Afro Colombians in early 2005, well over a year before FTA negotiations concluded. Moreover, IRI signed the agreement with the U.S. Agency for International Development to assist Afro Colombians nearly a year before the 2006 U.S. election.

We were not then prescient enough to know that control of the House would switch from Republicans to Democrats — making the CBC such a powerful factor on Colombia and free trade.
IRI does not take a position on legislation, and the FTA has never been a part of our program.

Our program in Colombia helps elected officials acquire good governance skills, and the interaction of the CBC members and staff in this program has been invaluable to their Afro Colombian colleagues.

Washington