- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 29, 2005

Kerry’s ‘withdrawal’ speech

Sen. John Kerry’s ill-conceived comments on troop withdrawals from Iraq serve as yet another demonstration that the Democrats are on the wrong side in the war on terror (“Kerry’s idea,” Inside Politics, Thursday). It is well-known that one of the principal recruiting tools used by al Qaeda is the American defeat in Vietnam. By giving “withdrawal” speeches, Democrats such as Mr. Kerry give aid and encouragement to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups bent on our destruction. Because Mr. Kerry was a poster boy for the Vietnam antiwar movement, his comments are even more meaningful to terrorist recruiters.

Iraq has a new constitution and will hold parliamentary elections in December. Iraqi security forces are gaining strength and are doing more and more of the “heavy lifting” in battling the insurgents. Returning troops are stunned when they learn that the mainstream American media is not reporting their successes but instead are focusing on American casualties and the antiwar movement. The media frenzy publicizing the 2,000th American war casualty serves the antiwar movement well, while the good news, “Iraqis adopt new constitution,” gets little positive coverage.

We lost the Vietnam War because of incompetent political leadership and a well-organized antiwar movement supported by the dominant liberal media. the ink hasn’t dried on Iraqi voters’ fingers when we hear a former Vietnam antiwar activist telling us we should bring 20,000 troops home for Christmas. Speeches like Mr. Kerry’s only serve to boost terrorist recruiting efforts and prolong the war; they help the enemy.

RICHARD W. RESSLER

North Olmsted, Ohio

A heroic fellow

Is there any American who does not honor the quiet courage of Rosa Parks (“Civil rights pioneer Parks dies at 92,” Nation, Tuesday), who in 1955 refused to give up her bus seat for a white man in Montgomery, Ala.? She is credited with sparking the larger civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, but she was not the only equal rights pioneer. Many before her, white and black, made a similar witness, even if their actions didn’t spawn a visible movement.

During World War II and 11 years before Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus, I, as a young seminarian, sat in the back seat of a Greyhound bus in Virginia to protest Jim Crow. The bus driver asked me to move up front, but I declined. The next day, on my way to visit a detention camp for Japanese Americans in Arkansas, I also deliberately sat in the Jim Crow section of a passenger train. Again, I was asked to move to the “white section.” I refused. My witness for equal rights — as a white man and acting alone — went largely unnoticed.

The year before, in June 1943, I was an eager participant in one of the first nonviolent rights demonstrations in the country. Forty of us gathered before noon on a Saturday at a Negro church in Chicago and formed seven small groups, five all white and two mixed. Our target was Stoner’s restaurant, the only eating place in the Loop that refused to serve blacks.

Our “witness” was peaceful, and we broke no law. And we acted only after a year of friendly but fruitless persuasion, including talks with Mr. Stoner and his Methodist pastor. The two mixed groups stood waiting for more than an hour. Then, a flustered Mr. Stoner called in the police. They came and promptly left, saying they saw no disturbance. Eventually, the mixed groups were seated, but the blacks were served only grapefruit shells. We all refused to eat until everyone was properly served. When that finally happened, our entire group burst into song with a Negro spiritual. Other patrons joined in. We succeeded.

Almost 20 years passed before the first such sit-in took place in the South, in February 1960 at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. Eventually, the Supreme Court upheld the public accommodations section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act barring all public places from refusing to serve blacks. I’m proud that I was a member of that small advance party of victories yet to come.

ERNEST W. LEFEVER

Senior fellow

Ethics and Public Policy Center

Washington

Beyond Muslim-bashing

The main problem with Frank J. Gaffney Jr.’s rant against Saudi Arabia (“Our Saudi foes,” Commentary, Tuesday) and its influence here in the United States is that he completely ignores the most important element: American Muslims. Based on the fact that Saudi literature can be found at some mosques, he argues that the Saudis are exporting their notion of “Islamofascism” to us poor, hapless, gullible Muslims here in America.

He acknowledges that “at least one Muslim-American” was going to testify at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, “Saudi Arabia: Friend or Foe in the War on Terror,” originally scheduled for this week. “At least one”? Imagine a hearing on anything at all related to the Christian or Jewish communities in the United States and “at least one” Christian or Jew being asked to speak on behalf of their entire population. It would be unacceptable, and it’s unacceptable for a Senate committee focusing on domestic issues to listen to an extremely biased panel whose views are well-documented.

American Muslims continue to cultivate an identity that is uniquely American but that also is committed to helping the poor and suffering among Muslims and others around the world. We are not as susceptible as Mr. Gaffney thinks to the influence of “Wahhabi” literature. Mosques are re-evaluating their relationships all over the country, trying to decide what is in the best interests of their American Muslim constituents.

Muslim organizations are actively engaged with all branches of law enforcement and government to work as partners to create a safe America that lives up to its founding principles of justice.

It’s time we go beyond the Muslim-bashing that serves the interests of a few and concentrate on the interests of the majority of Americans. We know there are problems in the Muslim world; no one is denying that. Our government needs balanced, rational input as it makes critical decisions that affect us all. The stakes are too high to let those with a political ax to grind dictate misguided policy.

America’s leaders are faced with the challenge of promoting our own interests without compromising the values that we cherish. When it comes to human rights around the world, the American government has done a poor job balancing those two perspectives. Saudi Arabia has been no exception. During my tenure on the Commission on International Religious Freedom, we addressed the dismal state of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia faced by non-Muslims and by those Muslims (Sunni, Wahhabi and Shi’ite) who do not conform to the government’s policies. They have suffered from torture in prison, massive and widespread discrimination and other forms of persecution as they are denied the right to worship as they see fit. These and other human rights violations committed in the kingdom should be addressed in a more forthright manner by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others in the Bush administration.

But to assume that the exportation of Saudi literature will turn all of us into so-called “Islamofascists” gives them too much credit. I wonder if the Freedom House study cited by Mr. Gaffney regarding Wahhabi literature in mosques in the United States documented just how many people actually bought and read those books. That’s the question that is most important, and we would all be interested to know the answer.

In the meantime, we should work together in a spirit of cooperation to protect our country and preserve our ideals.

DR. LAILA AL-MARAYATI

Los Angeles

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