May and June 2007
By Alan W. Dowd

Have You Floated a Ford Lately?
The next class of US aircraft carriers will be known as the “Gerald R. Ford” class. Aptly, the USS Gerald R. Ford will be the first carrier christened in this new class.

“If the purpose of naming an aircraft carrier is to convey the confident spirit of our military, and the good and just causes that America serves in the world, then we have certainly accomplished that purpose here today,” declared Vice President Dick Cheney during the announcement ceremonies. “The Gerald R. Ford and sister ships in the new class of nuclear-powered carriers will help ensure the sea power of the United States for the next half century.”

President Ford rose to the rank of Lt. Cmdr. during World War II, serving aboard the carrier USS Monterey. The Ford is expected to join America’s fleet in the next seven or eight years.

Laying Down the Law
Here in the United States, the controversial plan to secure Baghdad is known simply as “the surge.” In Iraq, its official name is “Fardh Al-Qanoon,” which means “Enforcing the Law.”  According to the Pentagon, the codename “was agreed upon by the Iraqi government, with the support of coalition leaders, and reflects the Iraqi-led nature of the operation.”

Under the plan, Iraqi army and police forces and coalition forces are based in joint security stations throughout Baghdad in order to be closer to the Iraqi people.

A Surge of Support
A massive nationwide survey in Iraq conducted by the respected British firm Opinion Research Business (ORB) is yet another reminder that the American press only provides a partial picture of what’s happening in Iraq.

-Just 27 percent of Iraqis believe their country is in the midst of civil war.

-In fact, 64 percent of Iraqis want Iraq to remain united.

-Iraqis prefer the current government over Saddam Hussein’s regime by a two-to-one margin, with support for the government of Nouri al-Malaki growing. “Despite the horrendous personal security problems,” ORB reports, “only 26% of the country preferred life under the previous regime of Saddam Hussein.”

-Even so, four years of sectarian strife have taken their toll: fully 26 percent of those surveyed report that a family member has been killed, 53 percent believe that the security situation will improve once the Coalition withdraws, and 35 percent of Baghdad residents report that a family member has left the country.

Find out more at http://www.opinion.co.uk/.

Portfolios of Terror
The Center for Security Policy (CSP) is leading a national effort to convince large public pension funds to jettison investments in firms that do business with terrorist states.

“For too long, too many Americans have felt powerless in the face of terrorists determined to hurt us,” says CSP president Frank Gaffney. “Terror-free investing is something that can unite our country, a way for millions of Americans to have a say in how to enhance our security by telling corporations that partner with terrorist-sponsoring nations that they can do business with our enemies or with us, but not both.”

Gaffney notes that state and municipal employees across the country are unwittingly supporting enemy regimes because many of their pensions are buying shares in firms that invest in ventures based in Iran, Sudan, North Korea and Syria. He hopes that CSP’s DivestTerror.org initiative will shine a light on this misguided practice and light a fire under pension-fund managers and policymakers. CSP points to the global effort to shun firms that did business with the apartheid regime of South Africa as a model for the DivestTerror.org initiative.

California lawmakers are considering a bill that would divest the state’s public retirement system of shares in companies doing business with Iran. This comes on the heels of California’s decision to divest itself of shares with companies conducting business with the genocidal regime in Sudan.

And California is not alone: Bloomberg News reports that Texas, Maryland, New Jersey, and Ohio are mulling similar policy reforms. Missouri has passed legislation to drop investments in Iran, Sudan, North Korea and Syria. At the federal level, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is pushing a bill that would require US government pension funds to dump stocks in firms connected to Iran’s energy industry.

According to Gaffney, there is plenty of demand for such enlightened investing. He points to Nationwide Financial, which has already created a new fund scrubbed of any terrorist links, the Roosevelt Anti-Terror Multi-Cap Fund.

It could make a difference: Time magazine reports that Iran needs $94 billion in foreign investment to modernize its aging energy industry.

Find out more at http://www.divestterror.org/.

The Rich Get Richer…
Forbes magazine reports that there are now 946 billionaires on earth, the most ever. Their combined wealth grew by 35 percent last year—to $3.5 trillion. Bill Gates topped the list for the 13th consecutive year. Although only five Americans rank in the top 20, Americans account for 44 percent of all billionaires.

…And So Do the Rest of Us
The AP recently reported that the net worth of US households is skyrocketing, climbing to $55.6 trillion at the end of 2006—a 7.4-percent increase over 2005, which saw a 7.9-percent increase over 2004. “Stock gains helped fuel the increase in net worth, although real-estate gains played a role, too,” according to the report.

As a contributing editor to The American Legion, Dowd writes columns and news briefs on national security, foreign affairs and U.S. politics each month for the magazine's "Rapid Fire" section.