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Arlington Controversy Stirs Again

GOP Rep. raises questions on ambassador's military service

By Bob Franken/CNN

arlington

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Dec. 4) -- Just two weeks after the Clinton White House bitterly attacked charges that it had traded burials at Arlington National Cemetery for political contributions, a Republican leading a congressional investigation has questioned the evidence supporting the interment of Larry Lawrence, former U.S. ambassador to Switzerland.

"We have found," said Rep. Terry Everett, who chairs a Veterans Affairs subcommittee looking into the matter, "that Mr. Lawrence's name does not appear in at least three places where a reasonable person would expect it to appear in the records, given the claim that he served on the S.S. Horace Bushnell, and suffered serious injuries resulting from a torpedo attack on that vessel.

everett

"It certainly gives rise to additional questions about Mr. Lawrence's service record and the waiver granted to him," Everett said.

Following his death in 1996, Lawrence, who was a major Democratic contributor, got a waiver that allowed him to be buried at Arlington. He would have been ineligible without it.

It was granted based on information from then-assistant secretary of state Richard Holbrooke that Lawrence had served in the merchant marines and was injured in combat.

lawrence

Army Secretary Togo West said two weeks ago that Lawrence had qualified twice; U.S. ambassadors also are generally granted waivers for Arlington burial.

And now the White House, which had so vigorously attacked the original stories, is stepping very cautiously around it now. White House press secretary Mike McCurry told reporters, "I don't take a position on that. But if that did turn out to be the case, it would be distressing, obviously."

Lawrence's widow, Sheila Davis Lawrence, released a statement late in the day. "I am shocked and dismayed by today's press conference," it read. "Larry Lawrence will always be a man who served his country with pride, with courage, and with dedication, first as a young man wounded in action during World War II, at the end of his life, then as an American ambassador. Now he is dead and cannot defend himself.

holbrooke

"I am not prepared to change my belief based on statements by people who have previously demonstrated a meanness of spirit and a lack of concern for either truth or decency," Mrs. Lawrence's statement read.

Holbrooke was unavailable for comment.

But State Department spokesman James Rubin was prepared with his response. "As I understand it from speaking to Ambassador Holbrooke ... his information came from Ambassador Lawrence himself."

doubleday

A Pentagon spokesman, Capt. Mike Doubleday, offered another possible explanation. "That was more than 50 years ago," Doubleday told reporters. "I'm not sure how complete the documentation is. These are all questions that are going to have to be addressed, but at this point, we just don't have the level of detail to answer questions."

The fact is that the same adminstration that had so angrily ripped into these charges is now gingerly saying they bear checking out. Congressional Republicans say they have every intention of doing just that.


In Other News:

Thursday Dec. 4, 1997

White House Takes Jab At Freeh
Arlington Controversy Stirs Again
Race Relations Panel Far Behind Schedule
Issue Ads Loophole Expected To Expand In 1998
Reno Defends Independent Counsel Decision
Former Clinton Fund-Raiser Indicted In Bribery Case
DNC's Money Woes Crimp Clintons' Holiday Style
Gore Adds Political Aides

News Briefs:
Bush Keeps Focus on Texas
DNC Searches for Convention Home
Abernathy Fined for Drug Possession
Fire In The House?
Former Missouri Speaker Sentenced





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