- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Delicate diplomacy

The Sunday Page One story “Faithful flood into 1st Qatar church,” reporting on the bold action of the Qatari government that has allowed the opening of the country’s only Christian church, should be a source of joy and hope to people of good will everywhere. The 15,000 people in attendance at the first Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary Roman Catholic Church in Doha were a powerful testament both to the spiritual hunger of Christians in that overwhelmingly Muslim country but also to the wisdom of Qatari leaders in recognizing that freedom of worship is inseparable from the dignity of the human person.

What should not be forgotten at this memorable moment is the groundbreaking diplomacy of Joseph Ghougassian, President Reagan’s ambassador to Qatar from 1985 to 1989. Through his gentle but persuasive efforts about 20 years ago, he privately persuaded the emir of Qatar to suspend the prohibition against non-Muslim worship, which had been the law for 14 centuries.

Pope John Paul II so valued Mr. Ghougassian’s contribution that he had Vatican officials successfully request from the U.S. State Department permission to confer upon him as a serving ambassador knighthood in the Order of St. Gregory the Great, one of the Holy See’s highest honors. It is hard to imagine that the present day’s events could have come to pass without Mr. Ghougassian’s delicate diplomacy.

JAMES H. O’BEIRNE

McLean, Va.

Military trials

On Feb. 26, Bruce Fein wrote a Commentary column, “Degraded justice,” in support of prosecuting certain persons being held in our naval installation at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in federal district court rather than before military commissions. It was a wise criticism, echoing the views of most military justice practitioners, followed by a poor argument, capstoned by the following ignorant comment: “Military commissions created by the Military Commissions Act of 2006 highlight the axiom that military justice is to civilian justice what military music is to Beethoven.”

Mr. Fein argued for civility, sensibility and due process. How does he think criminal trials in civilian courts rank higher in those virtues than courts-martial? Does Mr. Fein hold this view because Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) guarantees that no American subject to the code can be interrogated about offenses of which he is suspected before he is advised that he may remain silent and seek the assistance of counsel, and that this right is vested whether or not the military accused is in custody, as long as he is being interrogated by another person subject to that same code?

Is it because before the accused in a court-martial can even be subject to the equivalent of a felony indictment (much less a trial), there must be an open hearing that the accused can attend with counsel (both appointed and retained) and at which he can present evidence and attack the evidence against him? Or is it because the accused at a court-martial is entitled to appointed counsel of his own selection as well as retained counsel, and if his case requires expert assistance, the federal government will provide that assistance at no cost to the accused, no matter what his financial circumstances?

Could it be that Mr. Fein thinks the automatic appeal of most courts-martial findings and sentences, at no cost to the accused, is less due process than our civilian criminal justice system offers?

In sum, Mr. Fein is either ignorant of the greater due process in the UCMJ, or he is careless about the truth. Sadly, when one finds such a significant falsehood in a writer whom one formerly respected, it calls into question his competence, or integrity, in the rest of his work. That is most regrettable. The statement was unnecessary to the column and also untrue.

PATRICK J. MCLAIN

Marine Corps judge advocate

(retired)

Cedar Hill, Texas

The Palestinian war

One would expect Brig. Gen. James J. David (“Israel’s crimes,” Letters, March 11), a retired army general, to know the meaning of indiscriminate rocket fire on the civilian population exposed to it on an almost daily basis for a long time. No sovereign country can tolerate such assault on its citizens. Israel is no exception.

That rocket fire continued even after Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip to the last inch. If, immediately after Israel left the Gaza Strip, all terror activity from that area ceased no rocket launching, no weapons smuggling, no efforts to send suicide murderers into Israel then all the crossing points would have remained open, there would have been free merchandise exchange, and thousands of Gazans would have been able to work in Israel. This would have made the Gaza economy much stronger and made further Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank much easier.

However, as the general is supposed to know, the Palestinians chose to continue their war of terror and continued to fire rockets at Israeli towns and villages on a daily basis. I am sure the general is aware of the Geneva Convention, which states in Part III, Section I, Article 28: “The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.” This means that when the Hamas combatants fire their weapons and hide among civilians, they are not immune from attack. Also, if civilians get hurt, the responsibility lies with those who hide among civilians and endanger their lives.

As long as the Palestinian terrorists continue with their war, Israel will do its best to protect its citizens, whether the general likes it or not.

JACOB AMIR

Jerusalem

Politics and the pulpit

In the editorial “Obama’s call to action” (Sunday), The Times points out that “when Sen. Barack Obama had problems deciding whether to reject or renounce remarks from his bigoted spiritual leader, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., during the most recent televised debate with Sen. Hillary Clinton his internal conflict became blatantly apparent yet confounding.” This could be nothing important or signs of deeply held negative sentiments by the senator from Illinois toward his country and its majority-white citizens.

We have to be very careful in selecting for president a person who loves this country beyond any trace of doubt and believes intensely in the values of the country, its institutions and its Constitution. There is only one person who can bring this country down, along with its culture, its institutions and everything we believe in that person is the president. If there is any evidence that a person holds a grudge against our country and its values, that person should never be elected. Twenty years of listening to hateful speech such as that of Mr. Wright can plant the seed of hatred into his listeners, including Mr. Obama, his wife and the thousands of people who have listened to him for many years.

One important fact that the editorial did not mention: What about the 10,000 other members, besides Mr. Obama and his wife, of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ? Some TV pundits defending Mr. Wright have said that we should not be concerned with those comments because so many other American black churches preach the same thing.

We have enough to worry about from radical Muslim imams preaching their hateful message in mosques and madrassas to young Muslims about the West in general, and America in particular.

ARNALDO VAQUER

Arlington, Va.

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