- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Prescribed burns should continue

The Los Alamos fire was a catastrophic and tragic event for the many people who lost their homes and property and the forested area surrounding this community. The Society of American Foresters believes the tragedy will be compounded if we do not learn from it. There will be more fires this summer. We have only just entered what some experts believe could be one of the worst fire seasons ever. The question now becomes, how can we prepare?

Dan Glickman, secretary of agriculture, and Bruce Babbitt, secretary of the interior, have suspended all controlled burning projects in the West for 30 days. Although necessary for the very short term, this simply will lead to additional losses unless our federal land-management agencies immediately face some unpleasant realities.

We need to address severe forest health problems on more than 40 million acres. We must increase funding for all proper, well-executed prescribed fires. (Forest Service funding for fire programs has decreased by 40 percent since 1980.) Finally, we must use all of the tools at our command, most specifically mechanical thinning and other harvesting regimes, necessary to reduce fuel loads and dangerous fuel laddering. It is time that federal agencies invest in our future and cease ignoring the land-management professionals who can help bring order out of this chaos.


Executive vice president

Society of American Foresters



I would like to raise one small objection to your May 20 edition of "Nobles and knaves" (Editorial). While Park Service official Roy Weaver, The Times' selection for knave, may have been foolish for lighting a fire with such an unfavorable weather forecast, this editorial left readers with the impression that all prescribed burns are foolish endeavors.

As a 14-year veteran of firefighter, I would like to point out that the destructive wildfires witnessed in Florida two years ago were, in part, caused by the lack of preventative burns during the years leading up to the conflagration. Nature has been using fire to clear out the underbrush of forests since long before man appeared. However, our modern fire service manages to extinguish most of these fires long before they have completed their valuable service of ridding the forest floor of its excess fuel. Then, once a fire is sparked, the ensuing firestorm is far harder to control than if the underbrush had been thinned out through earlier burns.

It is my fear that your editorial, along with the adverse publicity of the Los Alamos debacle, will convince people that prescribed burns are always a bad idea.

Keep up your good work. I take great pleasure in reading your paper.


Williamstown, N.J.

Wagner's link to the Holocaust

In James O. Goldsborough's "Wagnerian prelude to healing" (Commentary, April 16), he writes: "For many Jews the link between [19th-century German composer Richard] Wagner and the Nazis is direct, and thus has Wagner's music been shunned since the founding of Israel… . Wagner was an anti-Semite, as were many Europeans of that time, but to get from anti-Semitism to the Holocaust is a disconnected step."

While the themes of Wagner's operas were distasteful to many because of their exaltation of German racial purity, later practiced to the extreme by Nazi Germany, the major objection to Wagner arises not from his music, but from his obscene racist writings.

His publications were not merely anti-Semitic, but established a blueprint for the destruction of European Jewry by the Nazi regime. Wagner demanded that Germany be cleansed of any racial impurities, particularly Jews, by means including extermination.

Is there any reason why Jews should consider that the line from Wagner to Hitler to the Holocaust is direct and that the music of that composer should not be performed in a nation, Israel, that includes many Holocaust survivors? The answer is obvious.


Silver Spring

House bill calls for a U.N. rapid deployment force

A debate over U.S. financial contributions to U.N. peacekeeping operations may be overdue ("Burdens of peacekeeping," Editorial May 21), but not nearly as much as the need for an effective U.N. rapid-deployment force that could reduce dramatically all expenses associated with such operations.

U.S. policy makers could lower our "burden sharing" to only 10 percent and still be paying 10 times the amount needed if we fail to change the current approach to peacekeeping. Enormous cost savings could be realized by the creation of a volunteer U.N. Rapid Deployment Police and Security Force, as outlined in House Resolution 4453.

This bill, recently introduced by Reps. Jim McGovern, John Edward Porter and Constance A. Morella urges the United Nations to create an effective 6,000-man volunteer force that can be dispatched within two weeks following authorization by the Security Council. If such a force had been available in the weeks leading up to the genocide in Rwanda, more than $2 billion in humanitarian assistance could have been saved. It's estimated a rapid-response force could have operated for six months at a cost of $100 million. Instead, six months passed, and 800,000 died before peacekeeping operations began. Then we again stood by while the butchering in Kosovo, East Timor and Sierra Leone took place.

It's shameful that lessons learned have not been applied, but those at the United Nations are not to blame. Failure primarily is the result of a few powerful policy makers on Capitol Hill. There have been more than 140 instances of genocide, claiming the lives of more than 22 million people since the world said "never again" after the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust in 1945. HR 4453 is the first step in finally following through on that historical declaration.

If policy makers are not satisfied with saving innocent lives and taxpayer dollars, there are at least two other compelling reasons to support HR 4453. It's a wise thing to do and vital to our national security. An early halt or prevention of any conflict reduces the prospects of unintentional destructive consequences. The spread of chaos associated with the genocide in Rwanda eventually resulted in the loss of a few American lives in a neighboring nation where these U.S. citizens were traveling as tourists.

Many Americans associated with relief efforts also run into other dangers whenever conflicts spread. New and re-emerging infectious diseases were identified in a recently declassified U.S. intelligence report as a threat to U.S. national security. The spread of such diseases is hastened dramatically by conflicts as the loss of public health infrastructure (food, water, sanitation, health and medical care) and the displacement of large numbers of civilians is exacerbated. More rapid response to conflicts would minimize the spread of this and other forms of chaos.

One of the primary links to terrorism against U.S. civilians and military personnel has been the predominance of U.S. intervention in various conflicts around the world. A December 1998 report by the Cato Institute ("Does U.S. Intervention Overseas Breed Terrorism? The Historical Record," by Ivan Eland) gives a detailed account of how U.S. international intervention breeds terrorism targeted at Americans. Even the Pentagon's Defense Science Board states that a strong correlation exists between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States. A U.N. rapid-deployment force would reduce the need for the United States to act alone or lead interventions that can act as a lighting rod for terrorist activity. In addition, failed nation-states are fertile ground for hosting terrorist groups, harboring terrorist activities or increasing the ranks of illiterate, desensitized, frustrated and experienced killers motivated to join in lethal terrorist activities. A U.N. Rapid Deployment Police and Security Force would distance the United States from covert or overt retaliation as well as reduce factors supportive of terrorist efforts.

Holding a debate on peacekeeping costs is a good idea, but creation of a U.N. rapid-deployment force is way past due. Responsible, thinking and caring members of Congress on both sides of the aisle should move immediately to support the creation of such a force.


Issues advocacy director

World Federalist Association


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