Nothing about Vietnam was ever easy: not the war, not the peace, not the building of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and now, not the awarding of Congressional Gold Medals to the three men who worked to see the memorial constructed. The final vote comes up this morning in the House on whether to present the medals to Jan Scruggs, John Wheeler and Robert Doubek, all of whom are former officers of the memorial fund. But there is spirited opposition that could wreck the proposal, which has already passed the Senate.
Rep. Frank Annunzio, the chairman of the House Banking subcommittee controlling the Gold Medal legislation, said yesterday the controversy surrounding these awards is highly unusual and could make this morning's vote "a close call, a real horse race." The main sponsors of the legislation are Reps. Barbara Vucanovich and David E. Bonior. The House has defeated only one proposal in the past 15 years for a Gold Medal. That was in 1980 to honor Gerald Spiess, who sailed a tiny boat across the Atlantic. To pass, the proposal needs two-thirds of the members present and voting.
The main opponent of the proposal, Rep. Thomas Ridge, himself a Vietnam veteran, spent yesterday working the Hill to drum up the votes he needs to defeat the measure. He argued that the award should not be for those who built the monument. He also said the three men shouldn't be in the company of such other Gold Medal winners as George Washington, Charles Lindbergh, Robert F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman. He neglected to point out that in recent years, Congressional Gold Medals have also been awarded to actor John Wayne, western writer Louis L'Amour and band leader Fred Waring.
Live Aid Charges
A panel of African relief workers charged yesterday that the Ethiopian government is misusing Live Aid proceeds and other western relief money to fund a massive resettlement program leading to the deaths of thousands of people.
"These institutions make themselves accomplices of a genocide. The magnitude of the famine and human rights violations in Ethiopia can only be compared to the Khmer Rouge," said Dr. Rony Brauman, president of the French medical relief group Medicins Sans Frontiers. Another panel member called the Live Aid effort "Blind Aid" and "Naive Aid."
The panel was organized by the rock 'n' roll magazine Spin, published by Bob Guccione Jr., the son of the Penthouse publisher, which this month is running an "expose'" on the misuse of Live Aid funds. Live Aid, organized by Bob Geldof, collected $100 million from a "global concert" in Wembley, England, and Philadelphia as the music industry's response to the famine.
Geldof, in a written statement issued by his New York publicist, denied the French group's charge.
Meanwhile, Geldof was awarded an honorary knighthood: Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. The award is honorary because Geldof, who is Irish, is not a British citizen. Geldof had also been nominated last year for the Nobel Prize . . .
Edward A. Martenson, theater program director for the National Endowment for the Arts, has been named the executive director of the Tony Award-winning Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. During his four years at the Endowment, Martenson, 37, distributed $10 million annually in government support for theater art . . .
Hospital reports: The condition of Apollo astronaut James Irwin, whose heart stopped while jogging last week, was upgraded to fair and stable. The 56-year-old former moon-walker is in Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs . . . Veteran actor Chuck Connors, a former professional baseball player and star of the "Rifleman" series on television, is recovering from hip surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He is listed in fair condition . . .
The rescuers who searched for the missing climbers on Mount Hood early in May, where nine died in the worst recorded mountaineering accident on the popular peak, have signed a Hollywood film company contract to assist in a TV movie about the tragedy. Al Radys, president of Portland Mountain Rescue, said his group was not capitalizing on the tragedy and that the $2,500 for the option will be used to support the organization's rescue work. The Oregon Episcopal School, from which the 13 trapped climbers came, refused to cooperate with the filmmaker, Chuck Fries Entertainment, the same company that made the Mitch Snyder television movie.