Tuesday, May 4, 1999

Release of POWs isn’t
cause to halt bombing

Bullet The issue: Jesse Jackson obtained the release of three American prisoners of war by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
Bullet Our view: The release does not justify the call to stop the bombing campaign.

AS he has in several previous hostage situations, Jesse Jackson has thrust himself into the limelight to obtain the release of three U.S. prisoners of war at the price of becoming a propaganda pawn of Slobodan Milosevic.

Having purged Kosovo of most of its ethnic Albanians, Milosevic would now like NATO to end its bombing raids and reach a peace settlement -- on terms favorable to him, of course. Jackson unabashedly echoed Milosevic's aims, calling for a pause in the air strikes, a meeting between President Clinton and Milosevic and a "reciprocal gesture" by the White House in response to the release.

This is nonsense, and it is well that Washington has treated it as such. Milosevic's transparent idea is that once the air strikes are halted, he can posture and stall long enough to drain the allies of desire to resume the war. That would leave him with Kosovo emptied of ethnic Albanians and with the likelihood that he could continue exercising control over the province. Releasing three American soldiers gives him an opportunity to pose as a humanitarian and attempt to put NATO on the moral defensive.

This is a cynical game, and Jackson must know it. But he seems incapable of resisting the temptation to play diplomatic superman. The danger is that some people may take it seriously.

Presidential spokesman Joe Lockhart put it well. "There may be three Americans coming home, and that's something to celebrate," he said. "There are over a million Kosovar Albanian refugees who have been forced from their homes. There's thousands who will never be able to return home because they were brutally murdered."

The Clinton administration must be alert to any indications that Milosevic is willing to accept NATO's aims and relinquish all or most of Kosovo to the alliance's protection. But stop the bombing because Milosevic released three POWs? Heck no.


Bishop Estate trustees

Bullet The issue: The trustees' attorney has alleged improprieties by the state attorney general.
Bullet Our view: The allegation
is aimed at diverting the probate court from the issue of the trustees' removal from their posts.

AS pressure mounts for the removal of the Bishop Estate trustees, their attorney has charged that Attorney General Margery Bronster improperly communicated with the Internal Revenue Service. Attorney William McCorriston's allegation is an obvious diversionary tactic prior to a Friday court hearing that should remain focused on the issue of the trustees' removal.

McCorriston maintains that Bronster has had "direct communication" with the IRS, which has demanded that the five trustees resign as a condition for the estate retaining its tax-exempt status as a charitable trust. The result, he says, is the attorney general's "orchestration" of the IRS ultimatum, even though the four-year-old IRS audit of the estate's financial affairs predates Bronster's investigation of alleged mismanagement.

While the IRS rules forbid it from publicly divulging confidential tax information, the federal agency is free to accumulate evidence from other sources, including state investigations. We know of no law barring the attorney general's office from providing information to federal agencies, including the IRS. Such cooperation among state and federal law-enforcement agencies is commonplace because of overlapping jurisdiction and differing resources. Even if there were such a restriction, virtually all the evidence collected in the state probe has become public.

The tax agency's ultimatum was triggered by the trustees continuing to accept exorbitant compensation, which apparently has been the central issue of its audit. The trustees were paid more than $1 million each in the year ending last June and an additional $862,000 for the first 10 months of the trust's 1999 fiscal year. Following the ultimatum, Circuit Judge Kevin Chang ordered the trustees not to accept further compensation.

Chang called the hearing to allow the trustees an opportunity to demonstrate why they should not resign or be temporarily removed from their positions rather than risk the estate's tax-exempt status. Instead of trying to invent other issues, the trustees should focus on that important question.


Panama election

Bullet The issue: Panama's voters elected Mireya Moscoso, the country's first female president.
Bullet Our view: Moscoso's promises to protect administration of the Panama Canal from politics and corruption are welcome.

WHEN the United States hands over the Panama Canal on Dec. 31, the recipient will be a woman. Mireya Moscoso has just been elected Panama's first female president, defeating the son of the man who overthrew her husband. She will become president on Sept. 1.

Moscoso defeated Martin Torrijos, the son of Gen. Omar Torrijos, who had helped depose Moscoso's late husband, Arnulfo Arias, from the presidency and went on to sign the 1977 canal treaties with the United States. Under the accords, the United States must hand over control of the canal, withdraw its forces and cede control of 40,000 acres.

The presidential election was the second since U.S. forces invaded Panama to eject strongman Manuel Noriega.

During the campaign, Moscoso promised to keep politics and corruption from undermining administration of the canal. She also pledged to protect the water basin needed to operate the canal lock system. Those policies are essential if Panama is to fulfill its responsibilities.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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