- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2000

Science rarely mentioned in the evolution debate

In following the debate of creationism vs. evolution for a few years, I have observed that the controversy seldom has much to do with the scientific merits of Darwinian theory. Nancy Pearcey's column on the 75th anniversary of the Scopes trial has the real issue academic freedom in the cross hairs. ("Scopes in reverse," Commentary, July 24).

Given the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) stated mission, it is interesting to find the ACLU opposing academic freedom on this issue. The organization describes its mandate thus: "In every era of American history, the government has tried to expand its authority at the expense of individual rights. The [ACLU] exists to make sure that doesn't happen." It also holds as a basic principle of government that "the majority of the people, through democratically elected representatives, governs the country."

The ACLU doesn't happen to like how the majority would choose to handle this issue. But no matter, because by turning to the monster it was created to slay coercive government the ACLU can see to it that its own views are the only ones in the public classroom.

Whatever merits or demerits might apply to Darwinism, the ACLU's position is wrong. Let's leave the silencing of dissidents to other countries and get on with the debate like Americans.

PAUL SMITH

Rolling Meadows, Ill.

Responses to news out of Pakistan

It is very unfortunate that given the problems that besiege Pakistan, the military government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf has chosen to tackle first those issues it is least equipped to handle ("Musharraf declines to check Islamists," World, July 20).

Sectarian strife, an economy in shambles, a corrupt political class, an antagonistic relationship toward neighboring India, the proliferation of armed factions and growing threats from religious fundamentalists all are impediments to Pakistan's future development. However, rather than confronting those armed-fundamentalist groups that have made the country a pariah state, the Musharraf regime chooses to coddle and even strengthen these insidious forces while punishing the country's dwindling middle class.

Though it is true that the International Monetary Fund has rightly imposed strict financial demands on the military government that must be met before the IMF will free up a suspended loan schedule, the junta's zealous pursuit of tax avoiders has provided militant groups the operational latitude to expand their recruitment and terroristic operations. In the long run, combating their destructive influences on society and the region will be far more costly and dangerous than imposing a degree of financial responsibility. By choosing a battle it thinks it can win, against an opponent it thinks it can intimidate, the Musharraf government has put off locking horns with a force whose power and base may be dangerously greater when and if Gen. Musharraf or his successor chooses to confront them.

AMBASSADOR ARTHUR H. DAVIS (Retired)

Washington

Ambassador Davis was U.S. ambassador to Panama.

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The claim by Pakistani officials that militant terrorist outfits based in the country are not armed and therefore will remain immune from supposed government efforts to reign in violent elements of society is yet another in a series of ingenuous promises meant to mollify the West ("Plan to round up weapons excludes militants," World, July 24).

Such assertions, unfortunately, demonstrate that Pakistan's military junta is either unwilling or unable to confront the growing Islamic threat emanating from the country. In the absence of any genuine dialogue with junta leaders to understand and contain this threat, U.S. officials should now, more than ever, seek to design a policy of strategic containment with its allies in the region.

Protecting front-line states from suffering further terrorist assaults, while preventing the further spread of such banditry outside the region, should be the goal of any administration serious about combating terrorism.

MERVYN DYMALLY

Washington

Mr. Dymally is a retired congressman.

U.S. has a responsibility to address humanitarian crises

Six years after its conclusion, the Rwandan genocide continues to tweak our collective consciences. The Organization for African Unity's (OAU) report and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's internal inquiry on the United Nations' role both speak of the inaction and subsequent culpability of the West in meeting this horror and raise the underlying issue of U.S. responsibility in addressing humanitarian crises. Your editorial "Whose genocide?" (July 19) takes issue with the notion that the United States owes any reparations for its failure to act during this crisis.

The American Refugee Committee, headquartered in Minneapolis, has worked in Rwanda to help rehabilitate the country and its people as it struggles to recover from such unimaginable horror. Within a three-month period in 1994, more than 800,000 people (some say more than 1 million) were murdered.

Today, evidence of the genocide remains everywhere in the torched ruins of churches whose sanctuaries were violated during the killing frenzy, the sullen and averted gazes of those who survived the terrors and now wrestle with guilt at their survival, and the vacant eyes of children whose innocence has been devoured by atrocities no one should have to witness. Rwanda suffers to this day in ways we in the West cannot imagine. It will suffer for generations to come.

What is equally clear is that the U.S. government knew what was happening in Rwanda as it was happening. Indeed, the genocide came as no surprise to those who had been paying attention in the weeks leading up to it. The highest levels of government came to the conscious decision not to act despite evidence that the deployment of even a handful of troops would have stopped the slaughter.

Worse still, when other countries sought to act collectively through the United Nations, the United States equivocated, delayed and aggressively blocked any action until the final days of the genocide.

We may quibble over U.S. strategic interests in countries that most of us cannot find on a map. We may argue about the financial costs of involvement around the world. What we cannot ever compromise is the ethic that compels concern for the victims of human slaughter. Does the suffering of people half a world away fall outside the human condition that we sanctimoniously seek to enhance on these shores? Are African lives indeed disposable?

As the world's superpower, the United States carries a humanitarian responsibility that no other country can shoulder. We have the resources to enforce peace where the lines of conflict target civilians, where human suffering is the currency of that conflict and not a byproduct. We can choose to respect the human condition in all its forms, or we can speak of being the leader of the free world and the champion of human rights and yet consistently be unwilling to back up our words if it is not deemed to be within the political and economic interests of the United States to do so.

Our political, economic and social pre-eminence compel, without question, a humanitarian pre-eminence as well. The conclusions of the OAU report that the United States and its allies carry some level of responsibility for the Rwandan genocide hold us accountable for our failure to honor this primacy.

Where does this moral imperative lie? In the simple and inescapable fact that a war against children in Sierra Leone or ethnic cleansing in the Balkans or a genocide in Rwanda diminishes us all.

KAREN JOHNSON ELSHAZLY

Director of international programs

American Refugee Committee

Minneapolis

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