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Letters to the editor

- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2007

Musharraf's challenge

The end of the standoff between Pakistan's paramilitary and Islamist militants "holed up" in the Lal Masjid or Red Mosque in the center of Islamabad, Pakistan, reminds me of a similar situation at the Golden Temple, Amritsar that is in the Punjab state of India ("Rebel cleric, fighters given 'last warning,' " World, Monday).

Back in 1984, Sikh militants took over the Golden Temple and were surrounded by the police and military just as the Islamist militants faced in the Red Mosque. Indira Gandhi — then-prime minister of India — decided to quickly flush out the militants using Indian military.

The Punjab state militancy that had peaked during those days suddenly collapsed after that, as the military operation broke its back. Now, peace has descended on that beautiful land. India, and Mrs. Gandhi in particular, paid a heavy price for that peace — she was assassinated and thousands of civilians, police and military personnel lost their lives battling militancy following that event.

Pakistan's government and President Pervez Musharraf showed remarkable patience because of the women and children inside Lal Masjid, who were being used by cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi and his hard-core fighters as human shields. About 1,200 students left the mosque soon after the clashes began, but Mr. Ghazi had said he had nearly 2,000 followers with him still. Officials were worried since the militants had distributed suicide-bomb vests and even shot students trying to escape.

The authorities gave Islamist militants a "final warning" to surrender on Sunday, but they, Mr. Ghazi and his hard-core fighters, preferred martyrdom. Mr. Ghazi, along with over 50 fighters, perished before the Red Mosque could be freed from the militants' hands.

Did we reach a militancy peak once again at the Red Mosque? If so, Gen. Musharraf is at higher risk now to give up more than his power so that peace may descend on Pakistan; he has survived four attempts on his life thus far.

Providence has a way of putting an end to things that get out of hand — this could be one of those moments.

DAVE ANAND

Trumbull, Conn.

We need socialized medicine

Kelly Jane Torrance's review of Michael Moore's latest film, "Sicko," was almost excellent in poking holes in his methods and approach, but failed to acknowledge or consider that those of us, conservatives included, who believe the United States needs some sort of national health system or safety net, are more concerned about the efforts to deny people coverage ("Care bear," Show, June 29).

Whether it be Wal-Mart's plan to only hire healthy people or the tendency of big business to reward the top echelon with free health care while cutting company options and contributions or shifting the responsibility to the states, what is needed is a minimum safety net with options to enhance coverage at the personal level.

CONRAD F. HEEDE

Chevy Chase

An opportunity for freedom

"Israel vs. Hezbollah, Round 2" by Arnaud de Borchgrave (Commentary, yesterday) is a no-nonsense, brief and correct analysis of the multilevel Iranian challenges to the United States and its strategic interests in the Middle East.

Iran is constructing duplicate and more robust nuclear processing plants and other related assets in hollowed-out mountains, as per recent intelligence.

The time is fast approaching when Iran's efforts would make its nuclear-related facilities virtually impregnable, without strategic nukes that would cause huge collateral damage.

There is a price to be paid, but it is wiser to bear a smaller cost associated with pre-emptive actions by the U.S. and/or Israel now to remove the Iranian threats to U.S. strategic Middle East interests and the very existence of the state of Israel.

An effective demonstration of U.S. power would also have a salutary effect on other Islamic terrorist organizations and rogue countries like Pakistan, making fighting a war in Afghanistan a less difficult job for the U.S.-led NATO forces.

Pakistan uses a revolving-door policy in Afghanistan and replaces any terrorist losses with militants from Pakistan's madrassas and terrorist training camps. It has also helped Gen. Pervez Musharraf continue to collect billions of dollars from the U.S. for years.

Then even China might think twice before starting an adventure to regain Taiwan. President Bush has a chance to transform the Iranian challenges into opportunities for the U.S. and to free democratic societies globally.

VIPUL THAKORE

London

Baker-Hamilton is badly flawed

"The appeasement caucus" (Editorial, Monday) makes an excellent, well-argued point that the worst course in the midst of a deadly war is to attack the commander in chief for failure to speak with and beg our enemies to desist from their enmity. Their support of the forces that oppose us in Iraq are attacking Israel and in general are arrayed against the West.

Despite its length, the editorial understandably could not contain all of the reasons why S.1545 — the bill to turn the Baker-Hamilton recommendations into policy — and its sponsoring senators are gravely mistaken.

A few of the added problems with the proposal involve the impact on Israel and upon our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Baker-Hamilton recommendations press for an Israel-Palestinian Arab peace settlement as a means of appealing to the Arab regimes and Iran.

This proposal, ill-founded when first proposed, now is irrelevant since even the Arab League delegates to Jerusalem reportedly stated that the "Saudi plan" is off the table due to the Palestinian Authority-Hamas split. And Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, ex-Israeli Defense Force chief of staff, recently declared that land for peace has failed and should be scrapped.

Effects on U.S. forces comprise not only threats to morale from such ill-considered proposals, but the perverse failure to confront the havens for the terrorists, their training facilities and the improvised explosive devices factories that are killing and maiming our troops and many more civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As Sen. Joe Lieberman and some of our generals have indicated, it is time to confront, and if need be eliminate, these sanctuaries, not to give them legitimacy and support through negotiations and concessions.

In fact, neither Baker-Hamilton nor the senators who favor S. 1545 indicate what we have to offer in negotiations with such enemies that would lead them to moderate the behavior that they feel is working for them.

If these senators wish to impact the Near East constructively there is much to be done. For example, in order to end the genocide in Darfur, a no-fly zone and closure of Port Sudan oil traffic should be considered in hearings soon.

And to end another coming genocide while it is still at an early stage, these senators should sponsor a version of H. Con. Res. 21 that passed the House 411-2 and is pending in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran with repeated attempts to incite genocide against Israel that clearly constitute international crimes under the Genocide Convention and the U.N. charter.

The best way to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan positively, and to avoid a wider war, is to remain strong and united, not to counsel defeat and retreat, or to undercut such faithful allies as Israel.

RICHARD A. HELLMAN

President

Middle East Research Center, Ltd.

Washington