- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 8, 2000

U.S. military is a 'petri dish' for all kinds of politics


As I read the March 2 Commentary column "Distrust corroding the military," by Robert Maginnis, I was surprised when he stated that military veterans think the armed forces are being used as a "liberal petri dish." As an officer in the U.S. military, I can tell you the social tinkering comes from both sides of the political spectrum. Many soldiers are unhappy with liberal programs forced upon the military, but they are equally unhappy with conservative agenda items that withdraw privileges from the military that exist in the civilian world. These conservative issues range from not allowing abortions in medical clinics to the removal of certain magazines from Post Exchange shelves.
Soldiers, sailors and Marines are full-grown, voting adults but often are treated as if they are children. Granted, our troops on average are younger than the population at large and suffer from the same problems associated with their age group, but I would venture to guess they are much more disciplined and capable than the average 19- to 21-year-old.
The military has processes to deal with criminal offenses, bigotry and a host of other social and criminal ills. However, both sides of the political spectrum use the military to push whatever issue they can't get passed in the general population. Soldiers just want to have the same rights and privileges as other U.S citizens. They realize there are special situations in war that will limit their activities, but those limits should be the exception and not instituted just for social engineering, no matter which side of the political fence you ride.
MARK CLEAVER
Wahiawa, Hawaii

Pakistan should not take President Clinton's reticence to visit as a slight


If, as President Clinton has said repeatedly, the main reason behind his trip to South Asia is "to engage India," I do not understand why the president would not take into consideration the feelings of his host when weighing any decision to visit Pakistan ("Columnist seems to closely follow Indian government line," Letter, Feb. 27). It is unfortunate if Pakistan perceives this reticence as a slight. However, it reflects what has emerged as a new South Asian paradigm.
Pakistan is an anachronism: a military regime overseeing rogue, terrorist elements within its society. Though, as columnist Amos Perlmutter writes, there is no smoking gun convicting Pakistan, it is widely accepted by most informed observers that where there is smoke, there also is fire. The people of Pakistan must put out their own fires and stop lamenting the lack of U.S.-provided extinguishers.
VANCE HARTKE
Washington

Editor's note: Mr. Hartke is a former U.S. senator.

Animal rights group does not apologize for aiding anti-poaching efforts


Friends of Animals objects to several claims in a Feb. 22 article, "U.S. conservation grant funds anti-poaching arms training." Friends of Animals did not "pressure" U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials for grant money. Rather, Friends of Animals came hat in hand, pleading for assistance for Senegal's efforts to protect its critically endangered elephants. Over a 30-year period, the African elephant population in Senegal declined from 450 to 28. With the help of Friends of Animals, the endangered elephant population has doubled.
Contrary to the article's assertion, Friends of Animals never received money from the government grants mentioned. In fact, Friends of Animals had to match government funds with its own grant of $70,000 to Senegal.
Nor did Friends of Animals receive a $3 million grant to purchase excess military equipment. Instead, Friends of Animals used its own funds to refurbish and transport up to $3 million in excess equipment to African countries in need.
The article's anonymous source makes the charge that Senegal's dedicated park rangers should not have guns to protect elephants and themselves from poachers. What is the alternative sticks and stones? No Senegalese park ranger has ever poached an elephant, so what is the basis for the anonymous source's oddball reasoning?
It is agreed only that the U.S. conservation grant successfully funded the protection of African elephants and their protectors Senegal's brave park rangers.
BOB ORABONA
Operations director
Friends of Animals Inc.
Darien, Conn.

Governments have caused far more mass murder than armed civilians


I am writing in response to the call for worldwide victim disarmament authored by Michel Rocard and Alpha Oumar Konare March 7 ("Scourge of small arms: Who supplies, who dies?" Op-Ed ).
Mister Rocard and Mister Konare point out that many people die in wars, and they call for denying civilians access to small arms. They ignore the fact that in the 20th century, many more people were victims of mass murder at the hands of their own governments than died as a result of war. It would make more sense to deny access to arms to governments, rather than to civilians.
The propensity of modern states to exterminate their citizens on a massive scale has been well demonstrated in such place as Germany, the Soviet Union and China, and to a lesser extent in Cambodia and Turkey. In all these places, state-sanctioned genocide was preceded by the kind of victim-disarmament program currently advocated by Mr. Rocard and Mr. Konare.
It's hard to know precisely how many have died as a result of the policy that the authors advocate. Estimates of the number killed by their own governments over the course of the 20th century range from the hopefully optimistic 57 million to the probably more realistic 170 million. But I guess we shouldn't quibble over a few tens of millions of deaths. It seems that denying the peoples of the world their fundamental human right of self-defense is a much more worthy goal than saving their lives. At least, that's what the authors of the article apparently believe.
ALAN LOCKARD
Springfield
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I wish to question the information presented in the article of March 7. I agree small arms across the globe kill thousands of people and should not be allowed to be procured randomly. What I wish to challenge is the general supposition that small arms kill 90 percent of the people in wars and children are a large part of those killed.
Please have the authors justify their facts with actual data and quit using sensationalism to get their point over. Have them research artillery, bombing and concentration camps for random killing of children and civilians. A small arm is a one-on-one weapon where the individual makes a choice of target. A bomb or artillery is a weapon of mass destruction and does not differentiate between soldier or civilian. Please quit devaluing the intelligence of the reader with sensationalism. If the facts are correct, publish the source.
LARRY STONE
Peyton, Colo.
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I was really surprised to read the opinion of Michel Rocard and Alpha Oumar Konare in the pages of The Washington Times. It is something I would expect from the Washington Post. Their statement "The weapons of violence must be brought back under the control of the state" reflects support for an international "gun control" effort that plans to place all of the weapons, and all of the power, in the hands of the state. Most of the countries that have this problem with violence also have dictatorial governments, and people are using small arms to defend themselves against the evil of their government. I am just amazed that the writers' commentary was in your paper.
TOM WILSON
St. Louis

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