- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2000

Eritrea defends use of grain shipment

The Washington Times article "Eritrean theft bars U.S. aid" (World, Jan. 25) misleads the public as to both the cause of the problem and its resolution.

The article refers to 45,000 tons of U.S. grain that it says Eritrea "confiscated" while the grain sat in an Eritrean port en route to Ethiopia. In initiating the conflict in May 1998, the Ethiopian government ordered all Ethiopian ships and trucks to cease deliveries and pickups from Eritrean ports. It also announced that all planes and ships Eritrean and non-Eritrean, government and commercial entering Eritrean territory would be considered hostile and attacked. Eritrea, wisely, took this threat seriously, as did most government and private carriers. In violation of a U.S.-brokered agreement that neither country would use air strikes against the other, which Eritrea has honored, Ethiopia repeatedly has bombed Eritrean ports, and it also shot down a U.S. private passenger plane, killing all crew on board.

The grain was intended for immediate shipment to Ethiopia, not long-term storage, and it was outdoors under tarps. Eritrea filed a complaint with the appropriate international institutions regarding Ethiopia's threats. This case has not been settled. Under the circumstances, Eritrea felt it was better to use the food aid for hungry people, though they were Eritreans and Ethiopians living in Eritrea, rather than letting it rot on the deck.

Ethiopia claimed ownership of the grain, made much propaganda of the issue and filed a complaint with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. However, the United States also claimed ownership of the grain. Eritrea asked the United States to resolve the issue of ownership with the Ethiopian government. Subsequently, it has been determined that the United States owned the grain.

The United States and Eritrea are working on final settlement of an issue both have agreed is minor. The Eritrean government has given the United States a detailed account of the grain and its use. In meetings between Eritrean officials and representatives of the U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, Eritrea has taken full responsibility for the grain. A verbal agreement was reached that the unfortunate circumstances at Assab would not be tied to other U.S. aid to Eritrea, though this agreement has not yet been implemented.

The American public pays taxes that cover food aid because Americans want to do something to help others. Given the circumstances imposed by the Ethiopian government, the Eritrean government took the most responsible measure. This was not an issue of theft.

SEMERE RUSSOM

Ambassador

Embassy of the State of Eritrea

Washington

Snowstorm also inspired Internet traffic jam

Did someone fail to tell the Internet architects that when everyone stays home because of a snowstorm they tend to use the Internet to do some of their work, view weather reports, communicate with other snowed-in friends, watch movies to pass the time and generally stay on line all day?

The big snow last Tuesday was a good test of Internet volume. It seems that so many were experiencing delays in response time that by 4 p.m. the TV stations were asking users to "get on and get off, or defer until later." Indeed, what will happen when Digital Subscriber Lines and cable modems become more popular? Will these so-called broad-band devices bring the Internet to its knees?

This situation reminds me of stories several years ago about the women's restroom lines at the old RFK Stadium during halftime of Redskins' games. It was so bad that some ladies chose to use the men's restroom.

If the Internet is the women's restroom, where is the men's room?

C. THOMAS RUSH

Warrenton, Va.

Commentary was not an attack on Muslims as a group

Caroline F. Keeble misguidedly claims that Amos Perlmutter "unfairly portrays all Muslims as fostering a climate conducive to increasing terrorism in the United States" ("Muslims do not support terrorists," Forum, Jan. 23). Critics of Islamic terrorists must distinguish between the violent distorters of Islam and the overwhelming majority of Muslims who deplore terrorism. Mr. Perlmutter's article adheres to this important standard when condemning Islamic terrorists. Miss Keeble violates the standard by calling criticism of Islamic terrorists an attack on Muslims in general. Her argument is dangerous, as it would preclude as anti-Muslim any analysis of Islamic terrorism, and offensive, as it would deem all opponents of Islamic terrorists as Muslim-haters.

Miss Keeble accuses Israel's supporters of causing virtually all problems facing Muslims in America and around the world. Such accusations are commonplace among anti-Israel groups; Miss Keeble's United Association for Studies and Research (UASR) is one of them.

Articles decrying Islamic extremist groups threaten her organization. Musa Abu Marzuq, a leading member of Hamas' political bureau, was the former political director of UASR. In January 1993, the UASR was linked to two Palestinian-Americans arrested and convicted in Israel for bringing funds into the country to organize Hamas terrorist activities. In a July 28, 1995, article ("U.S. Detains Arab Tied to Militants"), the New York Times reported: "Law enforcement officials said Mr. Marzook [sic] had been one of the most active members in the United Association for Studies and Research, based in Springfield, Va., which they said was a Hamas front. But one leader of an Arab-American organization said that association was a small propaganda outfit." Neither description of the UASR makes Miss Keeble or her organization credible.

ABRAHAM H. FOXMAN

National director

Anti-Defamation League

New York

A vote for politicians with honor

John Leo's Jan. 19 commentary, "Dubious results from well-intentioned fixes," missed an excellent opportunity to make a very important point. The problem with our politicians and judges is not that they are foolishly well-intentioned; the problem is that we do not always vote for people with the character to behave honorably. Yet there is a very good reason why we address judges in court as "your honor" and that we give our politicians the title "honorable": We require principled leaders of unquestioned integrity. If we are to be a nation governed by laws and not by tyrants, we must have honorable judges and politicians.

As a society, we must ensure that our politicians and judges are, above all other considerations, honorable people. As Mr. Leo pointed out in his column, quick and dubious fixes that circumvent the spirit and word of the law, even if well-intentioned, undermine faith in our democratic system. Our democratic system is not a luxury. Our laws help us feed, cloth and shelter our families and ourselves. Our laws help us live together. We must give the administration of our laws only to people we trust.

The hallmark of honorable people is that they keep their word. An honorable person keeps his word even at severe personal cost, and an honorable person will not associate with people who do not keep their word. We can depend upon an honorable politician or judge to scrupulously follow his oath of office. Honorable politicians will not make laws that deliberately undermine the Constitution. Honorable judges will only interpret the law; they will not attempt to legislate from the bench.

The U.S. Constitution was and still is our nation's finest achievement. The Constitution was written for a good, God-fearing people, people who understood and valued honor. The Constitution's writers understood what we seem to be forgetting: The rule of law can only be made to work by a good and honorable people.

RICHARD T. SALMON

Gainesville, Va.

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