- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Drugs and terrorism

After reading “Heroin traffic finances bin Laden” (Page 1, Monday), you have to ask yourself: Is it really worth it to give the market for these drugs to terrorists and other criminals?

Osama bin Laden’s profits would vanish overnight if illegal drugs were legalized and provided in an age-controlled, regulated market with medical supervision when needed. Is the prohibition of some drugs so important that we have to put our children at risk of terrorist attacks to maintain it?

DAVID LANE

Santa Cruz, Calif.

Art depreciation

After reading Gene Edward Veith’s comments (“We don’t understand”; Culture, et cetera; Nov. 25), I think it’s clear that Ohio State drama professor Alan Woods lives in a different world from that of normal Americans. The good professor states that with the election of President Bush to a second term, America is “now reaping … the consequences of the colossal reductions in art education.”

Setting aside what appears to be a colossal non sequitur, let’s deal only with Mr. Woods’ apparent belief that average Americans voted for Mr. Bush instead of Sen. John Kerry because they just don’t understand art.

I contend that the average American voter does understand art. To paraphrase the old line, they may not be artists (or even art professors), but they know good art when they see it. And what they’ve seen, from artists who likely would receive praise from the likes of Mr. Woods, has left the average American fleeing in revulsion.

As evidence, I submit the following examples: Chris Ofili’s “The Holy Virgin Mary,” complete with animal dung; Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ”; Tamara Zeta Sanowar-Makhan’s “Ultra-Maxi Priest,” a vestment gown made of sanitary pads; Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography of bullwhips inserted into various orifices; and Karen Finley’s stage shows, in which she smears her naked body with chocolate-as-excrement.

Finally, there was the San Francisco Art Institute-sponsored “performance art,” in which an “art student” asked for a “volunteer” from the audience, whom the student then proceeded to tie up before engaging in oral sex and scatological acts with the volunteer onstage.

Author Camille Paglia observed that there appears to be a “double standard that protects [other cultures’] symbols and icons but allows Catholicism to be routinely trashed by supercilious liberals and ranting gay activists.”

Note to Mr. Woods: It’s not that Americans don’t understand art; it’s that they understand it all too well.

SCOTT A. BYRD

Vienna

Pro-choicer misunderstood

I was pleased to see coverage of my views as i outlined them article in Conscience magazine. My views lay out new ideas on balancing women’s rights and fetal value in both moral and legal terms (“Pro-choicers told to rethink,” Nation, Monday). Perceptions of those who are opposed to and in favor of the legality of abortion are carved in ice; any shift in what one says publicly creates the speculation that one has changed one’s mind.

Several points in the article do not do justice to my views. For example, I do not support laws mandating parental notification. I think they are useless and punitive. I do support parental involvement in adolescent abortion decisions and would support laws that provided funds for voluntary counseling for teens and parents facing this dilemma.

A desire to discredit pro-choice views also was evident in the claim that my organization, Catholics for a Free Choice, “has numerous ties to the abortion industry.” In fact, no such ties exist. CFFC is an independent organization with a board of directors comprising Catholic theologians, sociologists and activists. We would not be ashamed to have ties to those who perform abortions, but it is factually incorrect to say that we do.

The main thrust of the article was that abortion is a serious moral matter; it involves multiple values, including both women’s rights and the value of fetal life, and we would do well if we talked about both. I offered some suggestions on how those of us who are pro-choice can demonstrate that we do value fetal life.

FRANCES KISSLING

President

Catholics for a Free Choice

Washington

Gitmo prisoners: Clearing confusion

Nat Hentoff’s Nov. 29 Op-Ed column, “The black hole of Guantanamo,” ignores some readily available facts and confuses key processes under way at Guantanamo. The result is an inaccurate depiction of the facts.

For example, Mr. Hentoff says the Department of Defense is defying a June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that these prisoners must get due process in the simplest terms and basic fairness. In fact, we are complying with that ruling. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor suggested in her opinion that a military tribunal might meet the requirement for detainees to contest their enemy-combatant status. That is precisely what we are doing with the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT).

Second, Mr. Hentoff criticizes the tribunals as short on due process because detainees don’t have lawyers. This criticism ignores the fact that CSRTs are not legal proceedings and never have been; they provide a factual look at what information we have on a particular detainee and a chance for a detainee to personally address the reason for his detention.

Most egregious is Mr. Hentoff’s confusion of the CSRTs with military commissions, a separate venue to try some Guantanamo detainees for war crimes. Commissions are a legal proceeding and as such have many of the protections you see in military courts-martial.

By ignoring facts, Mr. Hentoff does a disservice to his readers; he certainly is entitled to his opinion, but he is not entitled to ignore clear facts.

BRYAN G. WHITMAN

Deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs

Washington

Is Syria friend or foe?

The Monday Op-Ed column “Syria’s murderous role” quotes experts who maintain that Syria should have been included in the “axis of evil,” though the Bush administration considers Syria a “partner” in the war on terror.

The authors back this claim by citing the 1983 bombing of the American embassy, among other activities from the 1980s, and the fact that Hezbollah still exists. They seem to have conveniently forgotten Syria’s activities in the 1990s and the past few years.

In 1991, Syria formed part of the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq, and post-September 11, it has handed over U.S.-suspected terrorists. It is true that Hezbollah still exists; however, this group is focused on the problems between Syria and Israel.

Further, the authors claim that the war on terrorism will not be won until “the Syrians are forced to halt all assistance to our enemies.” However, the major objectives of the war on terrorism are the capture of Osama bin Laden and the cessation of the activities of al Qaeda. Syria has harbored neither bin Laden nor al Qaeda camps and, unlike bin Laden, Syrian President Bashar Assad has not promoted any assaults against Americans.

It seems the claim that the war on terrorism can be won only through the defeat of Syria is an outdated theory. Instead, the current thought should be that the victory in the war on terror can be expedited with the help of Syria.

CAROLYN RAHAL

Gaithersburg

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