- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Aiding or abetting?

Regarding drug czar John Walters’ Op-Ed column, “Afghans’ drug war”(Friday): Afghanistan profits from the opium trade because of drug prohibition, not in spite of it. Attempts to limit the supply of drugs while demand remains constant only increase the profitability of drug trafficking. For addictive drugs such as heroin, a spike in street prices leads desperate addicts to increase criminal activity to feed desperate habits. The drug war doesn’t fight crime; it fuels crime.

Heroin produced in Afghanistan is consumed primarily in Europe, a continent already experimenting with harm-reduction alternatives to the drug war. Switzerland’s heroin-maintenance trials have been shown to reduce drug-related disease, death and crime among chronic users. Addicts would not be sharing needles if not for zero-tolerance laws that restrict access to clean syringes, nor would they be committing crimes if not for artificially inflated black-market prices.

Heroin-maintenance pilot projects are under way in Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. If expanded, prescription heroin maintenance would deprive organized crime of a core client base. This would render illegal heroin trafficking unprofitable and spare future generations addiction. Putting public health before politics may send the wrong message to children, but I like to think the children are more important than the message.

ROBERT SHARPE

Policy analyst

Common Sense for Drug Policy

Washington

Many are making a big thing out of an issue that ought to be simple. Should marijuana be legalized for medical purposes (“Court ponders medicinal pot,” Nation, Tuesday)? Absolutely. If medical science has proved that marijuana is effective in relieving pain or curing certain illnesses, it should be used. However, it must be treated as any other controlled drug. This would mean that doctors would have to prescribe it for the patient’s use. The patient would not be allowed to grow his own in his back yard. If that were the case, there would be marijuana patches all over the country, resulting in a “high” America.

I think many of those who are advocating the legalization of this drug are merely concerned about their own personal use. They think it’s OK and that marijuana ought to be as available as cigarettes. This would be devastating to the American people, who already have proved that temperance is a problem in this country. There are some things that our government should control, and marijuana is one of them.

Some compare marijuana with alcoholic beverages. This is like comparing apples and oranges. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake. The Good Samaritan poured wine on the wounds of the man who had been beaten, robbed and left to die. There are many instances in which Jesus and His disciples drank wine together.

Let’s pray that marijuana is never legalized in this country except for medical purposes.

REV. KORT GREENE

Scottsville, Va.

Rathergate and the media

Dan Rather is leaving the anchor desk (“Dan Rather to retire as CBS anchorman,” Page 1, Nov. 24), but his departure does little to resolve the very serious questions and concerns about the role of the media — news, information and entertainment — in the 2004 election cycle.

Rathergate, the bungled CBS “60 Minutes” effort to discredit the president’s National Guard service, is the poster child for the most activist, advocacy-driven media in memory. The Rathergate story was pushed off the front pages last fall by CBS’ creation of a two-man panel to investigate the incident, but we haven’t heard a peep since, until Mr. Rather announced his retirement.

With most political investigations, the press insists on knowing: (1) how long the investigation will last; (2) what resources and staff the investigators will have; (3) what the scope will be(was this an isolated incident, or does it reflect a pattern of behavior?); (4) whom the investigators will interview and whether those interviewed will be instructed to cooperate; (5) to whom the investigators will report their findings; and (6) whether the findings will be made public. As far as I know, those questions were never asked, or if they were, they were never answered.

Maybe too much was made of Rathergate, as most of the icons of the mainstream media would argue. I don’t think so.

The instances of what seemed to be media bias and jaundiced reporting in the 2004 election cycle, from the perspective of both the right and the left, were just too numerous and onerous. Several studies indicated a sharp bias in favor of Sen. John Kerry. It wasn’t lost on the public.

The Gallup Poll reported in October that just 44 percent of Americans expressed confidence in the media’s ability to report news stories accurately and fairly, down from 54 percent just a year ago.

Unfortunately, the reading and viewing public can’t make good, sound judgments about the influence of the media or its objectivity. There are too few credible studies, and too little research is done on the subject. There is too little oversight. Readers and listeners deserve better. They deserve more transparency, more accountability, more knowledge, more respect.

It isn’t just the news media, either. The role and influence of the Internet, as a conveyance of information, and the entertainment media as purveyors of propaganda need to be looked at as well.

The questions and concerns are many, and the issues at stake are profound. There is a lot to look at — but just resolving the CBS fiasco would be a good start with or without Dan Rather around.

MIKE JOHNSON

Davidsonville, Md.

Moving in the right direction

The letter from Farhatullah Babar (“Praise is undeserved,” Nov. 11) misses the whole significance of the legislation passed by the National Assembly of Pakistan to make honor killing a capital punishment.

The watershed legislation has sought to codify into Pakistan’s penal system the punishment that awaits anyone convicted of the horrific crime totally at variance with Islam. With this legislation, victims, family members, and human rights advocates will now have the legal opportunity to address the reprehensible crime of honor killing.

Granted, it will take time to fully and stringently implement the law. Still, the move by the National Assembly is an important legal milestone to protect the human rights of women. The government of Pakistan deserves credit for this remarkable step.

Finally, the legislation is consistent with President Pervez Musharraf’s vision of enlightened moderation in Islam that calls for replacement of politics of extremism and desperation with the politics of hope in the Muslim world.

TALAT WASEEM

Press counselor

Embassy of Pakistan

Washington

Misleading questions

Monday’s story on judges (“Justices need age limits, poll says,” Nation) cited an Associated Press survey reporting that people favor a Supreme Court nominee who will uphold Roe v. Wade by 59 percent. I knew from my own research into public opinion that this figure was not right, and when I looked up the actual poll question I discovered why: Respondents were told Roe v. Wade “made abortion in the first three months of pregnancy legal.” The truth is, Roe v. Wade and its companion case Doe v. Bolton made abortion legal any time in pregnancy for virtually any reason — emotional, familial, even financial reasons qualify. That’s why second- and third- trimester partial-birth abortions have been deemed legal. Numerous polls show that people prefer more limits on abortion, but as long as AP and others ask phony questions like this one, Americans’ disagreement with Roe v. Wade will remain hidden. I can’t help but wonder whether the question was designed with this purpose in mind.

CATHY CLEAVER RUSE

Director of planning and information

Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Washington

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