- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2000

Georgetown gathering for Elian a simple get-together

The Washington Times misrepresented the facts concerning the dinner that Elian Gonzalez and his family attended at my home on May 6 ("Elian gets a look at Georgetown fat cats," May 9).

I am the president of the Arca Foundation, based in Washington, which has sought to normalize relations with Cuba for more than 10 years. It was suggested by one of the foundation members that Elian would enjoy meeting other 6-year-old boys for an outing outside the Wye Plantation.

Since both Gregory Craig and I are fathers of 6-year-old boys who are in school together, the decision was made late in the afternoon of May 5 that Mr. Craig would invite the Gonzalez family for lunch and an afternoon at his home and that I would invite them for dinner at my home, before they returned to their temporary residence in Maryland.

The Gonzalez family arrived at about 6 p.m. and departed at 9:40 p.m., after an evening in which the children played Nintendo together, swam in our pool and ate hot dogs and pizza not salmon and shrimp. There were no Democratic fund-raisers, donors or lobbyists of any kind present.

The only people who attended the dinner were the Gonzalez family, i.e. Juan Miguel and his wife, Nercy, Elian, his half-brother Hianny and his cousin Yazmani; the head of the Cuban Interests Section, Fernando Remirez, his wife, Patricia, and their two children, ages 11 and 13; our children, ages 10 and 6; four of Mr. Craig's children, ages 6, 11, 12 and 13; and two Arca Foundation board members and their two children, ages 6 and 11. Some of the children spoke Spanish (our 6-year-old sons are learning it in school), and most of the adults were bilingual.

The sole purpose of these gatherings was simply to offer a quiet afternoon and evening for the Gonzalez family and to introduce Elian to some children his own age. Nothing more and nothing less.

SMITH BAGLEY

Washington

Time for Congress to ratify this treaty

It is clear from your May 4 article, "Lawmaker sees threat to Mother's Day in treaty," that Rep. Christopher H. Smith is misinformed about the impact of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

The treaty was not written to target specific cultural practices. Its purpose was to define and uphold the political, social and economic freedoms that are the bedrock of women's equality.

With basic human rights in place, women have choices about how they want to live their lives including when and if they want to become mothers. Without these rights, the institutionalized oppression that underpins everything from rape to pay inequity will remain unchallenged.

The United States is the only democracy with significant power in the international community that continues to ignore this reality.

It is well past time that Mr. Smith and his colleagues ratify the treaty.

JUSTINA GRUBOR

Silver Spring

Troubled waters for Coast Guard

Jayson Spiegel's column " 'Semi Paratus' " (Op-Ed, May 12) offers an excellent review of the Coast Guard's plight as it struggles to balance an increase in missions with a decrease in capabilities. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the war on drugs.

Ironically, the Clinton administration and Congress will debate giving more than a billion dollars and military equipment to Colombia to improve that nation's drug-interdiction efforts on one end of the drug pipeline, while our own Coast Guard is forced to work with obsolete gear at the American end.

Meanwhile, drug runners invest vast sums of money in equipment and weapons, all designed to elude or overpower the Coast Guard.

To Mr. Spiegel's enumeration of the Coast Guard's financial woes should be added this note, which highlights the return America gets on its investment in the Coast Guard: In 1999 alone, the service seized more than $4 billion in drugs, a total that represents more than the Coast Guard's entire annual budget.

Fortunately, the shortcomings caused by the Coast Guard's shoddy equipment and degraded capabilities have been noticed by lawmakers, but the Coast Guard needs and deserves a firm commitment from the White House and Congress to ensure it remains capable for years to come.

PHILLIP THOMPSON

Senior fellow

Lexington Institute

Arlington

Costly changes to submarines should only be for wartime concerns

The Washington Times has reported that the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) recommended that the Navy sexually integrate submarines by placing female officers on ballistic-missile submarines and redesigning Virginia-class subs now under construction to accommodate women ("Panel asks Navy to put female officers in subs," May 4). I believe that adopting these recommendations would be an unwise departure from the Navy's previous successful policy of tailoring submarine construction strictly to wartime concerns.

As The Times reported, cost estimates for making the recommended changes in construction are approximately $4 million per sub. When one considers that the Navy is pushing for a buildup of 12 to 18 new Virginia-class submarines by 2015, this means DACOWITS is recommending that American taxpayers shell out approximately $50 million to $70 million more for changes that will make not one submarine more combat-ready.

Proponents of mixed-sex submarines point out that the Navy has started integrating surface ships. However, the Navy's response to the DACOWITS study stated that submarines are designed more like planes than like surface ships, in that space is at the highest premium. Living conditions aboard submarines are considerably more constrained than they are on surface ships, with little privacy. For example, there is an average of one shower for every 50 enlisted sailors, headroom is limited, and the engine room doesn't have space for a bathroom, so there is simply a urinal. There is but one bed for every three enlisted crew members, who resort to "hot-cotting" sleeping in eight-hour shifts. In short, a submarine is a place where sailors already make extreme sacrifices in privacy and comfort in order to maximize the submarine's combat efficiency.

The Navy has stated that redesignation of space to accommodate specialized crew berthing (separate female officer, chief petty officer and crew berthing areas and sanitary facilities) would mean that one of two areas would have to be sacrificed: personal areas or operational equipment. Sailors' personal areas already have been stretched to the limit. Reducing operational equipment (i.e., missiles, firing hatches, engine room) would reduce the sub's combat capabilities. I think that few Americans would find either of these options acceptable.

Gen. Colin Powell has stated that the military exists for one reason to fight and win our nation's wars. Our submarines are the best in the world because every square inch of them is dedicated to maximizing their combat efficiency. That concept has worked; we should not deviate from it. Our sailors deserve nothing less.

REP. MARK SANFORD

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington

A moving eulogy

My family has subscribed to The Washington Times for several years. Raymond Arroyo's eulogy of Cardinal John O'Connor in the Op-Ed section was outstanding ("Cardinal's witness," May 11).

I was moved to tears as I read about Cardinal O'Connor. In a secular world, it is a fabulous tribute to a great spiritual leader. It also is a tribute to your paper and confirmation of why it is our paper.

BERNADETTE M. BERSET

Vienna

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