- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 27, 2000

Trip to Cuba over holiday was well-timed

I would like to respond to the Inside the Beltway item "Cuban Shuffle" (Feb. 18), which unfairly depicted the spirit and purpose of the congressional delegation, sponsored by the Washington Office on Latin America, that visited Cuba last week.

Members of Congress and staff were on the fact-finding delegation to assess the impact of the U.S. trade embargo on the availability of food and medicines in Cuba.

Contrary to the demagogic charges lodged against the delegation by Stephen Vermillion, chief of staff to Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balert, Reps. Michael R. McNulty and Maurice D. Hinchey, New York Democrats, were demonstrating a commitment to the very liberties championed by our country's forefathers by traveling to Cuba over the Presidents' Day holiday.

We celebrate and honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln for challenging outdated ideologies and stale stereotypes. Instead of berating these members of Congress, they should be commended for taking a fresh look at our 40-year-old failed policy toward Cuba.

CAROLINE RICHARD

Program assistant

Washington Office on Latin America

Washington

Columnist seems to closely follow Indian government's line

Amos Perlmutter's partisan views do not come as a surprise to us ("Dilemma in visiting South Asia," Commentary, Feb. 22).

What is surprising is his suggestion that President Clinton should design his South Asian itinerary based on public opinion in India, as misguidedly portrayed by the Bharatiya Janata Party's government.

We wonder how subjecting such decisions to India's preferences can enhance U.S. national interests which is presumably Mr. Perlmutter's main concern in South Asia.

Mr. Perlmutter's attempts at implicating the Pakistan government in "terrorism" are, again, too familiar.

Thankfully, responsible people do pause to ask for evidence before promoting Indian lies.

ABDUR RASHID CHAUDHRY

Head of information division

Embassy of Pakistan

Washington

Missile defense system won't stop more likely threat

Supporters of a national missile defense system, such as Frank J. Gaffney Jr., are quick to emphasize CIA expert Robert Walpole's testimony contending that North Korea is developing long-range ballistic missiles ("Anti-missile defense dawdling," Commentary, Feb. 15). While they seem to be succeeding in ratcheting up the fear factor among the general public, they are not telling us the whole story.

Top U.S. intelligence experts point out that it is unlikely that North Korea or any other "rogue" state would strike the United States with a ballistic missile. Mr. Walpole states, "In fact, we project that in the coming years, U.S. territory is probably more likely to be attacked with weapons of mass destruction from non-missile delivery means (most likely from non-state entities) than by missiles… . They can also be used without attribution."

But Mr. Gaffney does not tell us that part because the proposed national missile defense system will do nothing to defend America against these more likely threats.

Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative was rightly abandoned because of cost factors, the technological unfeasibility and the impact it would have on arms control and reduction initiatives.

The only ones to benefit from a missile defense system are the key defense industries involved in development Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Mr. Gaffney's Center for Security Policy receives hefty donations from these companies.

FRIDA BERRIGAN

New York

The decline and fall of teaching American history

According to The Washington Times article, "Washington's history a mystery to collegians" (Feb. 21), the survey " 'Losing America's Memory, Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century,' was conducted in December 1999 at 55 colleges ranked by U.S. News & World Report as top research universities and liberal arts colleges." It found that only 34 percent of soon-to-graduate students knew that "George Washington was the American general of the battle of Yorktown." A majority also "could not identify Valley Forge, words from the Gettysburg Address or even basic principles of the U.S. Constitution."

This lack of historical knowledge, across the board, in our population should surprise no one.

The decline in general knowledge and understanding of history has been an increasing fact in recent years. A large percentage of state and private universities will graduate students with few or no American history courses. Elementary schools give such little time to American history that children never learn more than a few catch phrases about the framers of our Constitution and the lives of the people who were instrumental in the freedoms of this country.

This is not the fault of the universities or public schools systems, which simply frame their curriculum around the guidelines of oversight committees. It is not the fault of poor planning in the realm of education. Can it be as simple as the fact that with a rise in technological studies something has to go, and American history is the poor fellow to whom the lot fell? That is only part of the problem.

Prevailing trends in the philosophical agenda of the education system show that such neglect of history, American history specifically, is no accident.

Every student who graduates from a university knowing nothing about George Washington, for example, is one less student to defend his actions in the fight for freedom. The drive to abandon American history is no less than a drive to eradicate all knowledge of the roots of this country, opening up a free road to the ever changing tide of popular thought.

Does this sound like revisionist history? George Orwell, in his book "1984," called it "doublespeak." But as an English major, I know "1984" isn't widely assigned for study in many universities.

Simply put, the mentality behind the oversight of American history is this: People will not make heroes of men considered by some unpopular, for their non-relativistic views, if they don't know about them; people will not miss the freedoms they don't know they once had, because they were not taught them; and, people will not miss the God who was and is behind both. The effective approach is neglect: Don't argue God, just don't discuss Him; don't debate the rightness of Washington's actions, just don't teach them at all; don't defend freedoms, overlook them, and soon enough, they will be forgotten.

History shows that movements are generally not as suddenly sweeping as one might suppose. Philosopher David Hume didn't cause the sweeping abandonment of truth with his paper on relativism. Many others helped.

In the same way, to encourage outright abandonment of the Constitution would waken many to the impending loss of freedom; but, to slowly discourage study and understanding of the Constitution, even apathy toward it, is much less threatening. The threat of flood waters looms large, while the rot of dripping water is often overlooked.

So in time, when a new anti-American historian arises to defame such works as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, no one will know to challenge the blatant degradation and displacement of such men as Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and others who understood more than we do about the true nature of men "absolute power corrupts absolutely." Do you know who said that?

JOEL HATHAWAY

Atlanta

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