- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Trading allies for Nike


Your Sept. 25 article "Natives rise up to revive dying cultures" could easily mislead many people who are ignorant of Realpolitik. Undoubtedly, a number of minority groups, who have access to mass media and the Internet, have been able to garner outside help for their cause and improve their lot. Unfortunately, this is not the case in many countries, such as China/Tibet, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, and in the Middle East.
Reports of the struggle for survival by the Montagnards in the central highlands of the former South Vietnam are slowly leaking out, but not by Internet. Unlike the minorities cited in Mr. Coleman's article, the mass media seemingly ignore the Montagnards' plight, making one wonder if it is policy to say only nice things about our new trading partners the communist Vietnamese.
The Montagnards were our loyal allies during the Vietnam War. They fought for us, often in place of U.S. troops, saving the lives of thousands of Americans. Their reward was over half of the adult population killed and a great share of their villages destroyed. Now our allies have been abandoned by the United States for "Coke bottle diplomacy" with the communist Vietnamese. The Montagnards are Malayo-Polynesian and Mon-Khmer, ethnic minorities and called "moi" by the Vietnamese. Literally "moi" means savage, but it is a pejorative term similar to that used against blacks. Although we have now kissed and made up with our former enemies, the communist Vietnamese, in turn, have become even more repressive against the Montagnards.
Reports eking out of the central highlands are truly disturbing. Entire villages of grand and ornate Montagnard long houses built on raised log pilings, which framed their bamboo and grass roofed houses, have been burnt, and the inhabitants forced to rebuild small individual houses on the ground among Vietnamese in a program of forced assimilation and cultural genocide. Traditional extended families lived in the long houses, which were centers for their cultural and religious practices, but now the families have broken up and scattered among the Vietnamese. The elderly, once cared for by the extended families, have been shunted off into little gulags with little on which to survive. The Montagnards have been stripped of their lands and regulated to only small plots of land from which they attempt to eke out a subsistent existence.
Reportedly, the U.N. population control programs are being used for forced sterilization of the Montagnard men and women. A great many of the Montagnards converted to Christianity; however, they are not allowed to hold services in their own languages, and their churches are burned.
Leprosy, which was largely arrested during the American presence in Vietnam, has reached epidemic levels among some of the Montagnards. Affected people are herded into leper gulags and left without treatment in benign neglect. Christian pastors are not even allowed to minister to these suffering people. However, there are Potemkin villages to which visiting dignitaries, such as the American ambassador, are taken to create the false impression that things aren't so bad.
Although Bill Gates of Microsoft, some U .S. universities and donor agencies have provided the government and schools with computers, they go only to a few chosen Vietnamese. Internet messages are blocked and read by communist security agents and only if devoid of all political content, are allowed to go forward. Regardless, Montagnards are among Vietnam's poorest of the poor and even if computers and the Internet were available where they live, they couldn't afford them. Although many Montagnards, due to their service to the U.S. government or because of their long-term imprisonment, are qualified to emigrate to the United States, they are denied access to the system and are unable to pay the exorbitant bribes to get the necessary paperwork.
Perhaps the plight and fate of our former Montagnard allies reminds many in the media of the treatment of many of the American Indians, something they would rather forget. And then, this wouldn't connote the rosy picture the administration wants to paint of our new allies, the repressive communist Vietnamese. Loyal allies seemingly abandoned for inexpensive Nikes. Is this America's new legacy? Surely it will be part of this administration's.
MICHAEL D. BENGE
Falls Church

A different perspective on the Boy Scouts' gay stance


I must take objection to part of your editorial "Scouts under fire" (Oct. 6).
I normally do not make an issue of my sexual orientation, but in this case it is important that I do so.
I am gay, but I also consider myself a conservative. I am a solid supporter of George W. Bush, a devout fan of Rush Limbaugh and agree with your editorial content 90 percent of the time. I normally oppose the agenda of leftist gay organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign.
I was extremely pleased with the Supreme Courts decision regarding gays in the Scouts. It is a private institution and should not be forced to change its criteria for membership.
Now comes the issue of public accommodation. I pay taxes. Thanks to the democrats, I pay a lot of taxes. Any institution that receives tax money should not accommodate a group that discriminates. I was a scout, and I am a fan overall of the ability of the scouts to turn out fine, law-abiding citizens. But I shouldn't be forced to support their organization through my tax dollars. I'm a Christian, and I have no problem with allowing them to meet on church property. I do have a problem, however, with allowing them to use public schools for recruitment or meetings. And I hate having to say that. As I said, I like the scouts. It is really unfortunate to be in this situation.
I also find it unfortunate that your editorial board continues to call homosexuality a "lifestyle choice." While we do have a choice as to how we, as Americans, conduct ourselves in public, sexual orientation is not a lifestyle choice. And as intelligent as the writers for The Washington Times are, I find it especially repugnant that they continue to use this label. Let us as conservatives not fall to the level of Democrats in the way they demonize and mislabel people with whom they disagree simply for political expediency.
Aside from that, your paper rocks, and I continue to be a devoted fan.
CHUCK WAGNER
Germantown

Breaking the egg revival


Much like a bad penny, supposedly "The egg is back" (Food, Oct. 4). However, as a prevention-oriented physician, I assure you that eggs even without the extra, hidden ingredients of salmonella enteritis and other food-borne illnesses cannot be part of a healthy diet.
One factor confusing matters is a study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in April 1999, suggesting a daily egg would not increase many people's risk of heart disease or stroke. The egg industry trumpeted the study with an ecstatic public relations flurry. Little wonder, since annual U.S. egg consumption per capita hit a recorded low of 233 in 1991, down from 402 in 1945, though upticking slightly to 245 in 1999.
However, the egg industry and news coverage misconstrued the significance of the study, which tracked individuals on a typical American meat- and dairy-centered diet. On such a diet, eating an egg a day, or not, probably won't make much health difference. For that matter, eating a tablespoon of lard once in a while probably wouldn't make much difference.
Does that exonerate lard or eggs? On the contrary, Dr. Frank Hu, the Harvard epidemiologist who led the study, emphasized the necessity of avoiding fatty foods in favor of grains, fruits and vegetables. The study mainly demonstrated that the typical American diet is so unhealthy that tossing in an egg here and there may make as much difference as throwing a match into a burning building.
The truth is, eggs are high in cholesterol and fat, with no dietary fiber. Eggs are an artery-clogging cholesterol bomb, packing 215 milligrams per large egg plus 5 grams of fat, much of it saturated. Ideal cholesterol intake, zero, is easily achieved on a vegan diet, free of eggs and other animal products.
What is really incredible about eggs is how cynical agribusiness interests, and some misguided cookbook authors, continue promoting them, much to the detriment of public health.
RICHARD F. GARTNER, M.D.
Haiku, Hawaii

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