- The Washington Times - Friday, November 11, 2005

A detrimental amendment

Regarding the Wednesday editorial “An empty amendment,” it is inexplicable that the Senate voted overwhelmingly to enact new laws handcuffing the military’s treatment of captive unlawful combatants so that they must be treated much the same as prisoners of war. Actually, such unlawful combatants are criminal terrorists. The McCain amendment is not required either by domestic or international law. If such Pollyanna nonsense prevails, it will surely impair the critical intelligence-gathering needed to fight and win the war on terror.

This Senate effort to bestow greater rights upon terrorists is amazing, especially when considering the reasons cited for doing so. The rationale is: We should give terrorist prisoners the same kind of treatment we want for Americans held by terrorists; better treatment of these terrorists might tamp down perceived injustices among Muslims, thereby controlling the spawn of other terrorists; we Americans are above treating any prisoners in an unkind and uncivil manner; and last, may I add my own equally unconvincing rationale, “we’re all right, they’re all right, let’s all join hands, sing and hug a tree.”

Some might think this is stated as a joke, but it’s no joke because Americans undoubtedly will suffer great harm from such promiscuous naivete as this McCain amendment promotes. Can anyone seriously believe terrorists, no matter what we gratuitously enact into law, will come to think better of us, will stop sawing off the heads of captive Americans or will discontinue slaughtering helpless women and children by random bombings? To answer other than no is not only naive, it’s flat-out dangerous.

The truth is that our enemies in the war on terror very much respect and fear brute force and ruthlessness, which have been characteristic of radical Islam throughout its history. With such a mind-set prevalent among this enemy, it is silly to limit tactics such as coercion, incivility, deception, unkindness and, in certain compelling circumstances, even physical torture as necessary to protect our people and our values against a vicious and dangerous enemy.

I will offer that except in demonstrably urgent circumstances necessary to avoid great harm, and carefully defined by strict “rules of engagement,” I do not advocate U.S. military personnel using interrogation methods that violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This would exclude physical torture but generally not prohibit techniques such as incivility, coercion, deception, unpleasant ambient living conditions, the incessant playing of loud music and the like.

Beyond such limitations on military personnel, there should be no additional legal impediments to having designated civilian intelligence agencies that are interrogating terrorists use those techniques necessary to fight and win this war — including, in dire circumstances, physical torture.

CAPT. A.A. REYNOLDS

Navy Judge Advocate General Corps (retired)

San Diego

Oil misconception

While “Our Saudi foes” (Commentary, Oct. 25) was useful and informative in calling further attention to the threat the practices of the Saudi regime and Wahhabism pose to the West, Frank J. Gaffney Jr. repeated a common misconception that “Saudi Arabia is the biggest single supplier to this country of oil.” In truth, the largest supplier of oil to the United States is Canada, a fact that surprises many but is nonetheless true.

Still, Mr. Gaffney’s central theme is correct: We can no longer reward or ignore the grave threat represented by the Saudis. There are many steps that can be taken in order to establish a sounder policy with Saudi Arabia. While a new policy is clearly needed, we also must be prudent and realize that China may be willing to court Saudi Arabia, much as Russia has done with Uzbekistan, should we adopt a more aggressive policy toward Saudi Arabia.

RYAN EVANS

Washington

A natural-gas solution

Paul M. Rodriguez has captured the seriousness of our natural-gas crisis but fails to think the problem through to its fundamentals (“The natural-gas solution,” Op-Ed, Friday).

Natural gas is finite, and America’s production is peaking and entering decline. Opening up new areas to production will slow the rate of decline for a few years, but only at the cost of having less available further in the future. Building more liquefied-natural-gas facilities would allow us to meet our demand from foreign sources for a decade or two but would leave us at the mercy of foreign production that also inevitably will decline.

Ultimately, the answer must come from reducing our demand and developing renewable replacements to natural gas. We need a crash program to reduce demand for natural-gas use for home heating and electricity through better insulation and windows, programmable thermostats, more efficient appliances and such. This could allow more natural gas for the chemical and fertilizer industries in which replacing natural gas will be more difficult. Both oil and natural gas are finite, and America’s reserves are smaller and closer to depletion than are world supplies. We can’t achieve energy independence by depleting our limited reserves faster.

CARL HENN

Rockville

The French response

I would like to respond to your Thursday editorial “The French riots.” The violent events in France indeed have nothing to do with the Battle of Tours — they are not related to any foreign invasion — or with intifada, which takes place in a totally different context, or with Islam.

If religion had anything to do with the causes of the troubles we have experienced, the call for calm from Muslim religious leaders would have eased the situation, which has not been not the case. For the record, so far (fortunately) not a single synagogue has been attacked.

The French principle of secularism is not at stake, either. The rioting has nothing to do with the ban on conspicuous religious symbols, including head scarves, in public schools. How many Muslim girls have you seen taking part in the violent acts? Most rioters are very young males, full of rage but fighting without any political or religious agenda. They feel alienated socially and economically.

The government is committed to providing a firm yet just response. It has announced strong measures aimed at restoring calm, a prerequisite to any long-term solution. Aware that repression cannot be the only response, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin also has proposed long-term measures to enhance social mobility and offer new opportunities to all those who want to change their situation.

Education and jobs remain the best ways to integrate: When one is employed, one has plans and a future. Fighting discrimination is not just a moral duty, it’s also the best way to put an end to the violence.

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE

Ambassador

French Embassy in the United States

Washington

When do we see the smaller government?

The “Virginia’s elections” editorial on Thursday stated: “Tuesday was a bad day for Virginians who believe in lower taxes and limited government.” One gathers from that comment that your editorial staff has been on a “Survivor: Vanuatu” outing for the past five years and unable to read a newspaper. The current crop of Republicans in the White House and Congress have given us the greatest expansion in government in decades. The Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, the new Medicare drug benefit entitlement, and congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo mess hardly qualify as “limited government.”

No red-blooded American likes paying more taxes than necessary, but with tax cuts must come fiscal sanity. The elected Republicans who run the country have merely put off paying for their pork-barrel deficit spending to future generations in order to continue giving out “lower taxes” today. It is no longer true that Republican candidates’ success means lower taxes and limited government. To earn their bona fides in these areas, Republicans have an enormous amount of work ahead.

BEN BERRY

Dallas

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