- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 17, 2004

Women’s woes in Afghanistan

I read with dismay the report by John Jennings titled ” ‘No worries’ near Herat” (World, Monday). I have lived in Afghanistan for 18 months. The depiction of Ismail Khan as a benevolent leader of the Herat province and of the security in the district were so far from the truth, I’m caused to pause and wonder how effective this journalist’s investigative skills are.

As for the comment, “Unaccompanied women stroll fearlessly at night in city parks,” I would suggest that nobody “strolls” in city parks, let alone at night, let alone an unaccompanied woman.

Indeed, if an unaccompanied woman did stroll the parks at night, the more likely scenario is that she would be picked up by Mr. Khan’s “police” (for want of a better term) and face assault, criminal charges, jail or worse.

We all hope Afghanistan’s recovery will change Afghan women’s lives for the better, but accurate reporting of the situation would better motivate governments and individuals to furnish their support and resources.

If you want to read about Mr Khan’s history of human rights abuses, particularly against women (who remain banned from driving in the city), plenty of resources are available detailing them. You might start with Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch.

SUZI CHINNERY

Kabul, Afghanistan

U.N. in Iraq? Where?

In Arnaud de Borchgrave’s latest column (“Cakewalkers go AWOL,” Commentary, Wednesday), Mr. de Borchgrave implores the United States to follow the advice of former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and subordinate “as soon as possible, the American occupation — which is rapidly alienating the Iraqis — to the visible presence of the U.N.”

My guess is the Iraqi people have had enough of the United Nations. The United Nations did nothing to stop the torment of the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein. The United Nations cut and ran as soon as the U.N. headquarters was bombed in Baghdad. Also, the Oil for Food program was exposed as a corrupt program that aided in the subjugation of the Iraqi people.

Meanwhile, outside the Sunni Triangle, our soldiers are helping keep Iraqis safe. Our soldiers are helping rebuild the infrastructure of the towns and villages of Iraq. Our soldiers are gaining the confidence, admiration and cooperation of the Iraqi people.

If this is news to Mr. de Borchgrave, then I suggest he stop reading the opponents of President Bush. Instead, try a little reporting. Start with the letters written home.

JOE COSTANTINI

Fairfax

Conflict in the Balkans

Helle Dale claims that Croatian troops forced tens of thousands of Serbian civilians out of Croatia (“Balkan ghosts,” Op-Ed, Wednesday). This claim — also made by the International Criminal Tribunal — is untrue. The Croatian Serb leadership publicly admitted that it ordered and coerced its people to leave Croatia ahead of the Croatian offensives. The U.S.-backed Croatian actions recovered Serbian-occupied territory that had been conquered on the back of ethnic cleansing. The U.S.-Croatian actions also saved Bosnia, saving untold thousands of lives.

Mrs. Dale should take a closer look at the tribunal she says should be supported. One of the top Serbian officials involved in the occupation of Croatia, Savo Strbac, far from being investigated, is a top associate of the U.N. prosecutors. He is helping them prosecute the very Croatian generals who, with vital American support, stopped Slobodan Milosevic in his tracks. They will not get a fair trial.

The United Nations will smear the United States for helping the Croats stop Mr. Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic — a “crime” in the eyes of many at the United Nations who were happy to indulge the Serbian rampage across Croatia and Bosnia.

BRIAN GALLAGHER

London

While reading the Op-Ed column “Balkan ghosts” by Helle Dale, I found two statements disturbing because they do not represent the truth.

Mrs. Dale writes, “Croatian troops swept through the Serb-controlled region of Krajina, forcing tens of thousands of Croatian Serbs to flee.” The fact is that it is not only the Vukovar region that Serbs destroyed, but these ethnic Serbs in Croatia’s Krajina region also occupied, with the help of the Serbian-Yugoslav army and paramilitary, one-third of Croatia after their aggression started in 1991.

They “ethnically cleansed” the Croatian population, looting and destroying their homes and committing untold atrocities. When the Croatian army finally liberated its territory in August 1995, these Serbs were not “driven out,” as the article states, but were ordered by their own leadership to leave before the arrival of the Croatian army. Testimony to that fact was given in Politika, a Serbian newspaper, in August 1995 in Belgrade by the Serb Krajina leadership. Anything else is a revision of history.

In addition, only Serbia and the so-called Serbian republic in Bosnia have dragged their feet and not cooperated with the International Criminal Tribunal, according to the tribunal’s Judge Theodor Meron, while the tribunal is pleased with Croatia’s cooperation.

HILDA M. FOLEY

National Federation of Croatian

Americans

Santa Ana, Calif.

Medicare prescription drug cards

In your June 9 editorial “Safeguarding a Medicare benefit,” you incorrectly say that I have “encouraged seniors not to accept” drug discount cards.

I certainly have pointed out that many seniors will not find prices any lower than those already available at Internet pharmacies and at discounters such as Costco. The House Government Reform Committee, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and other organizations have reached the same conclusion.

However, I have been equally clear that Medicare beneficiaries who have low incomes and few assets — and are not on Medicaid, Tricare or the federal employee health plan — could benefit from the subsidy available with the cards. In fact, I am an original cosponsor of a Democratic bill to automatically enroll all low-income seniors in the Medicare Transitional Assistance program, which would ensure that about 700,000 low-income seniors would receive $600 per year in prescription-drug assistance.

Democrats have raised concerns about the new discount cards because they give big drug and insurance companies sole control over what discounts seniors and the disabled will get and how much they will pay. Seniors are allowed to change cards only once a year, while sponsors can change which drugs they cover and what discounts they offer every week. Also, because drug companies have been raising their prices in advance of the cards’ debut, the new “discounts” may accomplish nothing more than to bring costs down to where they were before.

These are serious shortcomings. Reimportation of safe drugs, coupled with legislation giving the secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to negotiate discounts on behalf of Medicare’s 40 million beneficiaries, would be a much more effective way to lower prescription-drug prices for American consumers.

In the longer run, we should reject provisions such as so-called “competitive bidding” that would lead to the unraveling of Medicare.

NANCY PELOSI

Minority Leader

U.S. House

Washington

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