- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 31, 2000

Counters to U.S. missile defense technology unlikely

In his letter to the editor "U.S. technology can't guarantee effective missile defense" (Aug. 22), David C. Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) suggested that there were errors in the article "The countermeasures debate" (Aug. 9), which I co-authored with Jim Hackett. He also objected to our description of his work as voodoo science.

I have little doubt MIT physicists can design countermeasures that theoretically could confuse missile defenses. But such concepts are merely the first step in a long process of developing an actual countermeasured system. The size and weight of the countermeasure devices must be reduced drastically for them to be added to a missile without sacrificing substantial payload. It then remains to be proved that these compacted miniaturized devices can be deployed and activated in space. Ground and aircraft testing do not adequately simulate missile flight conditions, as demonstrated in the most recent test of the U.S. national missile defense. In that case, the single countermeasure that was used failed to inflate. It is such system engineering challenges that missile defense critics continue to neglect in their proposals.

Personally, I have concerns that the detailed descriptions of possible countermeasures published by the UCS represents a subtle means of undermining the planned national missile defense by instructing adversaries on possible ways to defeat it. Fortunately, as we described, their proposals are inadequate.

On reflection, we should have referred to the UCS claims as voodoo engineering, because it is the group's total neglect of the system engineering of missile countermeasures that undermines its argument.

STANLEY ORMAN

CEO, Orman Associates

Gaithersburg

Britain not responsible for Irish woes

The Irish love to blame Britain for all their ills, and Patrick J. Carroll rose to the occasion with an attack on the British Empire ("Sinn Fein's great idea; British Empire's bad influence," Letters, Aug. 25). This attack was predictable, but one wonders what he meant in his assertion that Ireland "shares a lengthy history as one nation."

In fact, Ireland never was "one nation" until it was united by the British. Until the 12th century, it was an island of competing and fighting kings, and the high king was in no sense a unifying factor. In addition, there were constant invasions by various groups, including the vikings, who established "Dublin's fair city."

It was not, of course, the English who invaded Ireland in the 12th century, but rather the Normans, at the invitation of a renegade Irish chief. It was later much later that anyone resembling the British took over.

So when Mr. Carroll writes that the British divided Ireland in 1921, we should say, rather, that the British redivided the island, but united most of it for the first time ever as an independent country.

We British don't expect thanks from the Irish, but let's get the facts and terminology straight.

ADRIAN DAY

Annapolis

Public finally wakes up to shoddy Jefferson-Hemings DNA report

I find it refreshing that the public finally is awakening to the fact that the Jefferson-Hemings DNA study has been nothing but a series of blunders, misunderstandings and false reporting motivated by personal agendas ("Jefferson paternity report described as shoddy research," Nation, Aug. 28).

As a Jefferson family historian, I assisted Dr. Eugene A. Foster on the study. I can assure you that the public has been grossly misinformed; they have been spoon-fed exactly what certain foundations, universities and individuals purporting to be authorities have wished them to believe, which is that Thomas Jefferson fathered at least one child with his slave, Sally Hemings.

William F. Dalton, who was mentioned in the article, is one of eight descendants of Hemings' son Madison refusing permission to obtain DNA from Madison's son William Hemings. Yet he says "it should all have been over with the DNA."

Two hundred years of controversy might be put to rest if Mr. Dalton and the other descendants would give their permission.

So, Mr. Dalton and Daniel P. Jordan (president of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation), do you care to chance a DNA test of William Hemings? The motivation for their lack of support for this vital test is obvious and should be troubling to the public.

The Scholars Commission, comprising 14 eminent professors and several specialists in respective fields, is thoroughly investigating all areas of this mishandled and amateurish study. No professional historians assisted Dr. Foster with the study. Also, he did not reveal the family history I gave him until one of his later articles in the scientific journal Nature, published Jan. 7, 1999.

I invite the public to click on my Web page (www.angelfire.com/va/ TJTruth) for a full and complete study.

HERBERT BARGER

Fort Washington

Stem cell position typical of administration's disregard for life

C. Ben Mitchell's "NIH, stem cells and our morality" (Aug. 29) is the most coherent and morally grounded discussion of the stem-cell controversy that I have yet seen in the press. Unfortunately, there is no reason to be surprised by either the National Institute of Health's attitude toward stem-cell research or its willingness to flout the law in pursuit of its goals.

NIH's cavalier acceptance (indeed, embrace) of the creation, exploitation and destruction of human embryos in research is of a piece with the Clinton administration's approach to issues of human life. Can we really expect NIH to take seriously the claim that those embryos are human lives deserving of respect and protection when our official position on unborn human life, enthusiastically supported by the current administration, is the ruthless utilitarianism of abortion on demand? One reason why abortion advocates have identified stem-cell and fetal tissue research as important is that they are well-aware that our response to them implicates the morality of legal abortion as well. A view that holds that even the newest embryos deserve our consideration because they are human cannot be reconciled with the right to abort our children that the Supreme Court invented for us in Roe v. Wade and has now reiterated in Stenberg v. Carhart. This is reflected in the unwillingness to wait, even briefly, and see what progress is made with adult cells. To delay is to admit the inadmissible: that there is a moral dimension to stem-cell research that is not present in research using adult cells.

NIH's equally cavalier willingness to flout the will of the Congress, as clearly expressed in legislation that President Clinton (with reservations?) has signed, is equally of a piece with the Clinton administration's approach to the rule of law. There is no need here to repeat the litany of evasion and obfuscation that characterizes this administration's conduct in matters great and small. What reason is there, other than perhaps the prompting of their consciences, for NIH administrators to think that such lawlessness carries any cost, the more so as the administration is fully in accord with their views? For the administration to restrain NIH's frustration of congressional purpose would be to risk highlighting other unconstitutional acts. President Clinton's abuse of recess appointments is but one example.

The presidential candidates should be pressed for their views on this issue. Gov. George W. Bush has largely avoided these politically hazardous questions of life and death, but his inclination seems to be to err on the side of life. In addition to his complicity in the conduct of the administrations in which he has served, Vice President Al Gore has made absolutely clear his fealty to the doctrine of Roe v. Wade; his inclination seems to be to err on the side of death. Voters concerned about NIH's approach to stem-cell research will draw their own conclusions about which candidate is more likely to restore respectfulness, both for life and law, to that agency.

HOWARD R. SUTHERLAND

New York

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