Taxpayers' dollars for Bosnia were not lost or stolenOn...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

September 05, 1999

Taxpayers' dollars for Bosnia were not lost or stolen

On Aug. 17, The Sun carried a report from the New York Times indicating that up to $1 billion in local money and international aid had been stolen or lost in Bosnia ("Bosnian corruption cost as much as $1 billion"). Some news organizations even reported that all $1 billion allegedly lost or stolen was international aid -- some of it from U.S. taxpayers.

These reports are false and, if left unchallenged, could have a pernicious effect on American foreign policy.

Make no mistake, corruption is a serious problem in Bosnia that poses an impediment to its transition to economic and political stability.

Combating corruption in Bosnia is a high priority for the United States, which is why we have sought to draw international attention to the problem.

It is also worth noting that the examples of corruption the article described were actually uncovered by Bosnian federal investigators, who shared their findings with the international community.

It is important for The Sun's readers to understand that, particularly in countries wracked by corruption, the U.S. government carefully monitors how taxpayer dollars are spent overseas.

More than half our aid to Bosnia goes to help small-and-medium-sized private enterprises stand on their feet in an atmosphere in which communist-era practices and corruption remain widespread.

We know and follow where this money goes, and we believe it is a sound investment in promoting a Bosnia that will not return to civil strife and again endanger our security interests in the Balkans.

The New York Times' correction noted that the foreign assistance potentially lost is not $1 billion, but rather around $20 million invested in a failed bank.

In fact, we have less than $1 million invested in that bank, and we fully expect to recover the full amount through litigation or attachment of the bank's assets.

The bottom line is that U.S. tax dollars have not been stolen or lost in Bosnia.

James B. Foley, Washington

The writer is deputy spokesman for the U.S. Department of State.

Endorsements in uniform send the wrong message

I am dismayed by City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III's unseemly exploitation of the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police's endorsement.

I am concerned about a mayor having so dependent a relationship with a group of city employees. If Mr. Bell is elected, the same people who helped put him into office may end up sitting across the bargaining table, negotiating with him.

Will Mr. Bell's allegiance lie with the citizens who pay the taxes (and city employees' salaries) or the FOP members who helped get him elected?

I am also concerned with the use of uniformed police personnel in Mr. Bell's campaign ads. As a federal employee, I am encouraged by my superiors to get involved in the election process, but admonished not to allow my involvement appear as if it were official agency support.

Officer Gary McLhinney has crossed this line through his appearance in uniform. It seems as if he is speaking for the entire police force.

Presumably, it would be inappropriate for officers in uniform to hand out Mr. Bell's campaign literature, or to place "Bell for Mayor" signs in their patrol cars.

What then, makes it appropriate for the officers in the ad to use their uniforms to further Mr. Bell's candidacy?

Joseph Myers, Baltimore

All city firefighters aren't backing Bell

Citizens of Baltimore should know that not all members of the Baltimore City Fire Department support the firefighters union's endorsement of City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III for mayor.

That decision was made by a small fraction of the union membership. At no time was the entire membership of our local polled or asked their opinions.

I caution people not to rely on any union endorsement to determine their choice for mayor. Voters must think for themselves and not blindly follow someone else's recommendation.

Barry B. Smith, Baltimore

The writer is a member of the Baltimore City Fire Department and Local 734 of the International Association of Firefighters.

Campaign profile offered skewed view of O'Malley

The Sun's "Talking the Talk" article on Councilman Martin O'Malley by Laura Lippman (Aug. 26) offended me with its heavy-handed sarcasm. Using terms such as "frat boy" and "smart-alecky grin" indicates a lack of objectivity unworthy of even a feature writer.

In the years that I, as a community activist, have worked with Councilman O'Malley, I have found him to be a serious-minded, hardworking public servant.

I have never heard him use phrases such as "bitchin" or "bummer" and I don't appreciate The Sun giving the impression that he's frivolous or a lightweight.

If The Sun, which has endorsed Mr. O'Malley's rival, Carl Stokes, can't dig up any legitimate dirt on the candidate -- or, better yet, address real issues -- it should at least avoid stereotyping and sarcasm as an alternative.

Christine Muldowney, Baltimore

Fee for TV debate poll caused viewer to tune out

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