- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 22, 2000

Palestinian youth patriots, not pawns

There is something deeply wrong with your Nov. 17 editorial "Hiding behind Palestinian children," which fails to criticize Israeli occupation forces for shooting Palestinian children and instead pins the blame on Palestinian parents. These youngsters have names. I know many of their families, and those families are devastated by their loss, though profoundly aware that their children had more courage than most people will demonstrate in a lifetime.
They know that their children were gunned down in cold blood, and they know that biased American newspapers will pin the blame on them. They stand defiant and unbowed nonetheless. They certainly aren't rushing to push their children out the door as some sort of human shield.
Their children know most of the world thinks they are insignificant, but that doesn't stop them from trying to gain their freedom. These youths, a scant 1 percent of all Palestinian children, according to UNICEF, demonstrate because they're sick of living like caged animals and sick of seeing their young friends gunned down like objects for target practice. They don't demonstrate because their parents kicked them out the door or because Yasser Arafat gave them a wink and a nod. They're out there because this ever-worsening occupation is cruel, and they rebel against it with every fiber of their being.
What red-blooded American youngster wouldn't be enraged by seeing his home demolished, his family farm and crops leveled or his school-aged friends shot?
It's no wonder Palestinians are in revolt over a seemingly endless repression and frustrated with a peace process that has brought only more Israeli settlements, more Israeli bypass roads and more bantustans for Palestinians. I wonder how you could portray Palestinian parents marching their children off in the morning to be killed in by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, East Jerusalem and Nazareth.
I hope in the future you acknowledge the horror of the Israeli occupying force, which daily guns down Palestinian children who are armed only with stones, slingshots or an idea of freedom.
Gaza City

Beijing unresponsive to Taiwan overtures

I agree with the overall conclusion of your Nov. 20 editorial "Showdown in Taiwan," that the new U.S. president should give unambiguous support to Taiwan and keep Beijing at bay. .
However, the editorial contains two significant errors: It states that President Chen Shui-bian has "flouted" a campaign promise to "reach out" to Beijing. This is incorrect: Mr. Chen worked hard to lower the tension and has bent over backward to be conciliatory to Beijing. It is Beijing that has not responded. Mr. Chen can only go so far without selling out Taiwan and its future. He has stood firm on this issue, for which he should receive U.S. support.
The second point is that you state that Mr. Chen's government has "unilaterally" decided to halt the nuclear power plant project "even though parliament had passed a law authorizing construction." Well, isn't it the right of a new government to initiate new policies and projects and terminate old ones?
You also neglected to mention that in October 1996, the Kuomintang-dominated legislative Yuan rammed through the budget of the nuclear plant with only a one-third majority. It invoked a shadowy national security provision to do so.
Hardly a showcase for democracy, isn't it?
Taiwan Communique
Chevy Chase

Pakistan prosecutes persecutors of minorities

Khalid Duran's Nov. 14 Op-Ed column labeling Pakistan as a rogue state is simply an attempt to denigrate Pakistan and demonize its government ("The other rogue state; In Pakistan, even some Muslims are persecuted").
Incidents of violence against minorities occur, as in any other country, but these are random acts for which the state is not responsible. The blasphemy law originates from British colonial times and is not aimed at any particular community; Muslims also can be prosecuted under this law. However, the due process of law has ensured against misuse of this statute.
Separate electorates are meant to guarantee representation of the minorities not to disenfranchise them. During the Muslim struggle for Pakistan against British colonial India, a separate electorate was a demand of the Muslims. Hence, we have great value for this mechanism to ensure representation of the minorities. Moreover, the government recently announced that whenever the percentage of a minority community in any electoral ward reaches 10 percent there will be a seat reserved for the community.
Finally, the unsubstantiated assertion that Pakistan is guilty of terrorism and trading in illegal drugs is incorrect. Islamabad's efforts at curbing international terrorism and narcotics trade have been recognized not only by the United States, but also by the United Nations.
Press Attache
Embassy of Pakistan

VA hopitals are world class

As a nation, we can never thank men like David Hackworth, a retired Army colonel, enough for their service. The brave men and women with whom he served are all national heroes. Fortunately, most of them don't spend their time after leaving the military shooting off their mouths about things they don't understand.
In his Nov. 11 Commentary column, "Misplaced Priorities," Mr. Hackworth appeared ignorant of the fact that the Veterans Affairs (VA) medical system is and has been one of the best in the world. I don't know what Mr. Hackworth is talking about when he refers to "seedy" VA hospitals. When he says that going to a VA hospital "means putting your life on the line all over again," he slanders good people who are leading the world in the provision of health care.
The VA health care system is setting standards in patient safety that the rest of the medical profession is hesitant to address. That means a patient at a VA medical center is less likely to be a victim of a medical error than Mr. Hackworth's hypothetical "great-aunt Nellie" who is receiving health care at a local facility.
Moreover, VA patients have more benefits and receive higher quality care than Medicare patients. Veterans enrolled for VA health care have pharmacy benefits and extended care benefits. The number of VA patients immunized for pneumococcal pneumonia and influenza exceeds the national standard. Beta blockers reduce mortality and morbidity after heart attack; VA patients receive this lifesaving treatment 94 percent of the time, while Medicare fee-for-service patients receive this therapy in 68 percent of cases. These extra steps save lives.
Finally, VA's patient satisfaction scores consistently are higher than those for non-VA hospitals, and we're getting better every day. We are proud of the care we provide to our nation's defenders, and we are committed to improving that care.
Mr. Hackworth's service ensured him the right to write anything he wants. It's a pity he doesn't care about the truth.
Assistant secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs

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