- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2006

OK. But what if?

Bruce Bartlett’s opinion about historians’ ratings of presidents gives food for a lot of “what if?” thought (“Rating the presidents,” Commentary, Wednesday).

If Woodrow Wilson hadn’t led us into World War I, would a different resolution not only have saved Germany from the hyperinflation that aided the rise of Nazism, but perhaps also saved us from much of the Great Depression? The U.S. government overly constricted the money supply for fear of repeating the dreaded hyperinflation, and we fell off the opposite cliff.

Harry Truman’s moral courage in dropping bombs saved many tens of thousands — maybe millions.

Under the “lives lost/saved” criterion, Richard Nixon (although no hero of mine) may be the most confirmably great president because we know both how well things were resolving in Vietnam under his leadership as well as how many millions died after the Democrat-controlled Congress scrapped the “support any ally, oppose any foe” moral authority we are still trying to regain.

Will we repeat the kind of retreat that is the only way to prove how much worse things can get? Will the politically motivated leading of America in the opposite direction of victory be described by those who “love” America the same way O.J. Simpson did his slain ex-wife in yet another “what if” book?

DAVID Y. CHIU

Annandale

To the contrary

Barbara Kennelly’s reply to Donald Lambro’s Nov. 30 Commentary column, “Medicare benefit boon,” couldn’t be more off-base (“Industry profiteers and Medicare Part D,” Letters, Monday). As Mr. Lambro concludes with support from the likes of Robert Reischauer, with each naysaying doubt, the free-market approach to an all-new prescription drug benefit within Medicare has been a solid success.

I can tell you with certainty that most of the seniors within the nationwide 60 Plus Association orbit have spoken quite clearly of their support for the system. We’re told the new drug benefit offers many choices — including those with a higher premium that closes the “doughnut hole” — and provides for lower yearly costs than would be the case were there no new benefit.

Mrs. Kennelly’s broadside of Mr. Lambro’s column holds no sway here. Ignoring the obvious gains of the free marketplace and forcing the government’s ham-fisted approach to failed price-control formulas for drugs would be a disaster.

JAMES L. MARTIN

President

60 Plus Association

Arlington

Apples, oranges and schools

Terence P. Jeffrey’s comparison of private and public schools (“Bad apples and public schools,” Commentary, Wednesday) is faulty, like comparing apples and pineapples. Faith-based private schools have an advantage over public schools in that they are selective in various ways while public schools must accept all children. As surveys of Catholic schools — the largest nonpublic system — show, Catholic schools serve fewer minority children and serve, on average, children from more affluent, well-educated and intact families.

As for money, as public schools serve all children, including many with handicaps and poverty-related problems, they need more money. Yet public funds are distributed very unevenly in many states.

As for school vouchers, they have been on the ballot in 25 statewide referendums from coast to coast and have been rejected by millions of voters by an average of 2-1.

EDD DOERR

President

Americans for Religious Liberty

Silver Spring

Sri Lanka’s nightmare, part 2

The misrepresentation of Sri Lanka’s political history (“Sri Lanka’s nightmare,” Letters, Sunday) and the blanket statement that the Tamil Tigers are the “byproduct of decades-old failed politics and policies of the Sinhalese political class” needs a rebuttal.

The roots of Sri Lanka’s conflict are not as simple as made out by the writer, in that the Tamil political leaders were very much part of the problem in demanding group rights (50 percent representation) far in excess of their demographics (12 percent). In the 1970s, these demands were further extended to cover claims for territory using dubious citations and going far beyond what reasonably could be accommodated by any government. There is, therefore, a protracted and complex history to the Sri Lankan conflict that cannot be dismissed in a simplistic manner laying responsibility at the feet of Sinhalese governments alone.

If ex-premier Ranil Wickramasinghe stated that “the underlying grievances being unattended, the stage was set for terrorist groups to emerge,” his own party and its leaders, including himself, must take a good share of the blame, as the most reprehensible race riots occurred in 1983, when his party was in power. The “decision among the ordinary Tamils to approve the agendas of the Tamil Tigers” was a byproduct of the riots.

Tamil grievances regarding language were addressed decades ago, and many Tamils themselves acknowledge that this aspect is resolved. “Grievances” that remain unaddressed relate to regional administrative and development problems that have persisted only because of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) fascist presence in these regions, preventing the government’s writ. Persistent LTTE and Tamil demands for the Eastern Province to be kept merged with the North without a referendum from the province’s equal mix of Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala communities because they know a merger would be rejected by voters have posed a major problem. A poorly negotiated cease-fire by Mr. Wickramasinghe has complicated matters further by allowing the LTTE to rearm and reinforce its war machine as well as spread its tentacles of violence into the Eastern Province and beyond, into areas previously cleared of them.

Though the LTTE’s brutal assassinations of politicians who were critical of the group or called for moderation are well publicized, less is known of the LTTE’s genocidal efforts, whereby they rid the northern Jaffna peninsula of its Muslim and Sinhalese residents, and also engaged in the brutal massacres of inhabitants of entire Sinhala villages in the Eastern Province in order to bring about a monoethnic Tamil region.

The Tamil diaspora in the West provides the LTTE with funds and lobbying support. These, together with a local Tamil population that tacitly has supported the LTTE’s extreme violence that specializes in the use of suicide bombers, have worked well for LTTE attempts to present itself as the sole representative of the Sri Lankan Tamils. The government’s inefficiency in meeting the LTTE propaganda machine’s assertions and getting the truth out had led to the international community euphemistically labeling LTTE terrorists as “freedom fighters.” But the LTTE’s honeymoon with the international community came to an end with the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the global rejection of terrorism, especially of suicide terror, that has followed. Tamils of the diaspora as well as those in Sri Lanka have finally begun to speak up.

The current Sri Lankan government has succeeded in gaining support of the main opposition party as well as minority Tamil and Muslim political parties in seeking resolution of the problems, and presented proposals on Wednesday. Therefore, the “outside pressures” suggested by the writer probably would be best directed toward convincing the LTTE that they should abandon the path of violence and that their future lies in democratic solutions arrived at through negotiations — not through the barrel of the gun. Also, international efforts toward curbing the flow of funds from the Tamil diaspora to the LTTE would no doubt be of enormous help in bringing the LTTE back to the negotiating table.

A.M. LADDUWAHETTY

North Bethesda

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