- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 29, 2004

More than definitions

The Op-Ed “The laws of war” on Thursday by David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey was fraught with double standards and hypocrisy. Justifying the detention of suspected al Qaeda and Taliban operatives and fighters as “enemy combatants” is contrary to the U.S. government’s position concerning Americans held as “prisoners of war” in Vietnam during the extended American war in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Much was made of the Vietnamese detention of American servicemen who were taken prisoner while engaging in a harsh program of massacres, if not genocide, against that tiny country. Despite the absence of a congressional declaration of war, the United States overtly committed the most vicious acts against a people who never even so much as threatened us. Yet, American prisoners were not termed “enemy combatants.” The United States demanded that these troops be treated under the Geneva Convention of military law as full “prisoners of war.”

This convoluted and counterfeit designation only provides us a license to torture and will not garner us friends in any part of the world.

EDWARD ABRAMIC

Washington

A thoughtful response to an attack

Austin Bay is right, in “Grappling with the bio threat” (Commentary, Friday), to advocate a buildup of U.S. bioterrorism defense. Using airplanes as guided bombs was all but unthinkable until the morning of September 11. We are only starting to take the threat of a biological attack as a serious issue, and even after September 11 it is difficult to imagine what such an attack would look like.

Biological attacks could be aimed at humans, agriculture or the environment. A response and cleanup effort would require a synergy between the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency, among others. Currently, the United States does not have the necessary amounts of stockpiled vaccines to combat a large-scale biological attack on human targets.

Furthermore, the United States has been one of the few countries in the world that has never suffered a crippling problem with its food supply. Europe has dealt extensively with mad cow disease. Asia is currently fighting bird flu. Foot-and-mouthdisease, which cannot affect humans, is one of the most contagious diseases on the planet. China has been suspected of having sent a pig infected with foot-and-mouth disease over to Taiwan that led to the slaughter of thousands of head of livestock. The average U.S. town only has a food supply that would last seven days, and currently there is a lack of contingency planning to deal with restoring access to food in the event of a catastrophe.

Many people question the practicality and reasonableness of spending money on homeland security. Investing in public health and agricultural safeguards is a worthwhile endeavor. Society will simultaneously benefit. Preventing intentional biological attacks will make the country safer. This will also have the effect of producing a medical community better equipped to deal with contagious disease and a healthier, more secure agricultural sector.

JAMES A. KELLAR

Research Assistant

National Defense Council Foundation

Alexandria

From point A to point B

Lost in The Washington Times’rhetorical assault on the cost of the highway bill (“Highway robbery,” Editorial, Thursday) is any context on why Congress is seeking a major boost in federal transportation investment.

House Transportation and InfrastructureCommittee Chairman Don Young, one of the most conservative members in Congress and a longtime tax-cut champion, has been pushing a six-year, $375 billion highway and transit investment bill for one reason: The Bush administration’s own U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) says that is what the federal government should be investing to maintain safety and reduce traffic-choked highways and bridges. The bipartisan bill, already passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, takes a very sound step in that direction by providing nearly $318 billion over the next six years. Both bills are paid for and wouldn’t increase the size of the federal deficit.

The Timesalso takes issue with the statistics cited by Mr. Young about the lack of new highway capacity, the 71 percent increase in licensed vehicles and 150 percent growth in vehicle miles traveled as justification for his $375 billion bill. Those numbers weren’t developed by Mr. Young. They come from the experts at the DOT. As chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over the nation’s transportation programs, it makes sense that Mr. Young would utilize objective government data in crafting the legislation. That’s just sound public policy.

The real question to be asking is: Should we charge users more to repair and modernize an aging infrastructure that has been the backbone of the American economy and key to business productivity during the past 50 years?

If the answer is no, we should be prepared for 40,000 additional traffic fatalities and $75 billion in additional crash costs; $100 billion of additional congestion costs; $129 billion of lost income and $40 billion of additional medical costs related to air quality over the next six years. It all adds up to about a $350 billion “hidden tax” on the motoring public. The nation can’t afford that, either.

T. PETER RUANE

President & CEO

American Road & Transportation Builders Association

Washington

Pointing fingers

In Tuesday’s review of John Podhoretz’s new book about President Bush, the associate editor of The Washington Times, Woody West, makes a powerful point (“Leading America,” Op-Ed). Mr. Podhoretz, Mr. West writes, is most “ignited” by the allegation of a “neo-conservative cabal” at the heart of the United States’ invasion of Iraq. The implication that the recent war was in the service of Israel and Jewish interests is “a classic canard of hate,” writes Mr. Podhoretz. And Mr. West agrees, calling this assertion “correct and anti-Semitic at its core.”

If, in fact, the allegation of a conspiracy by Jews to further Jewish interests represents classic anti-Semitism, how does The Times explain that the same allegation is made time and again on its pages by Editor at Large Arnaud de Borchgrave and columnist Georgie Anne Geyer?

Mr. de Borchgrave’s claims of a neo-conservative Jewish cabal have been made particularly explicit, and, as noted, have been repeated over and over. Does The Times then believe that its pages are a fit place for overtly anti-Semitic screeds?

I have called this obscenity to your attention several times before and have been rewarded with silence. Now your own associate editor makes precisely the same point, though he fails to make the connection that The Times is itself permitting its pages to reflect “a classic canard of hate,” “anti-Semitic at its core.” Ignoring a problem does not usually make it go away, and, in the current climate of rising hatred toward Jews, such evasion is especially egregious. I hope for more from a publication that takes religion and moral conduct seriously.

DAVID KROSS

Columbia, Md.

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