- The Washington Times - Friday, December 14, 2001

'Anti-Russian' sentiment shouldn't be obstacle to NATO membership

Anti-Russian analysts such as Frank Gaffney demonstrate blatant hypocrisy, holding Russia to standards that are not being met by supposed American allies such as Turkey ("Is the Cold War 'over'?" Commentary, Dec. 11).
In his latest diatribe, Mr. Gaffney gives the impression that innocent Chechen patriots are being persecuted by thuggish Russians. Unlike the Kurds, who have been continually and savagely brutalized by Turkey without any American protest, the Chechens were offered considerable autonomy by an enlightened post-Soviet Russian government. Russia should be welcomed immediately into NATO as a full-fledged member.
As a matter of record, the Chechen terrorists violated the 1996 cease-fire agreement by invading the Russian republic of Dagestan and launching a series of well-documented terror attacks, such as the taking of a hospital in southern Russia.
Contrary to Mr. Gaffney's idol William Safire (who should be put out to pasture when it comes to analyzing Russia), Russia hasn't and doesn't plan to significantly "jack up" oil prices, much unlike America's perceived ally Saudi Arabia. Russia's good will should be reciprocated by Washington.
Concerning Mr. Gaffney's focus on arms reduction, it can be very reasonably deduced that this ongoing process shows promise for compromise. Russia can't and doesn't threaten the West.
As for his reference about Iraq, the Russian position is no different from that of NATO member France. Russia can go along with a change of Iraq's leadership provided that Moscow can be assured that Baghdad's debt to Russia will be honored, along with Russian trade access to a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

MICHAEL AVERKO
Malverne Park, N.Y.

Norton has 'utmost respect' for Capitol Police

In his Dec. 7 Inside the Beltway column, John McCaslin had to be trying hard to get both of the points he made about the Capitol Police issue as wrong as he did.
I never criticized the Capitol Police for closing the Capitol to tours. My letter of Dec. 5, attached to a release from my office, was addressed only to the three officials who made the decision the Capitol Police Board, consisting of the sergeants-at-arms of the House and Senate and the Architect of the Capitol.
Furthermore, I have never requested, never had and hope never to need the excellent services of the Capitol Police for 24-hour security.
I have taken a special interest in the work of the Capitol Police ever since coming to Congress, and I have a very special affection for those men and women. With the strong support of the Capitol Police and their union, I wrote PL 102-397, the Capitol Police Jurisdiction Reform Act, which expanded their jurisdiction for the first time to include more than a few blocks around the Capitol.
These officers not only protect me as a member of Congress, they protect city neighborhoods. The Capitol Police deserve the nation's highest respect. They certainly have mine.

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON
Delegate, Congress
Washington

Insurance companies 'crying wolf' over health parity costs

Thomas Szasz's Dec. 9 Commentary piece ("Thumbs on the parity scale for psychiatrists") and Jeffrey A. Schaler's Dec. 11 letter to the editor ("No to the mental-health insurance parity bill") are both dead wrong concerning health insurance parity. Mental illnesses are physical illnesses, and there are medications that significantly improve the mental conditions of many people. No one expects a diabetic to be cured by taking insulin. Nor should anyone expect that all people with mental illnesses can be cured.
Of course, much has yet to be answered about the physical mechanisms of mental illnesses, but Mr. Szasz should see the latest research being done at the National Institute of Mental Health. Dopamine, serotonin and neurotransmitters and their receptors in the brain are being shown to be involved in mental illness.
Mr. Schaler's assertion that "People with 'mental illness' can control their behavior" is also wrong. If Mr. Schaler had any experience with mental illness, he would understand that people with mental illnesses cannot just "get a grip" and behave differently. There are people who do not want treatment because, in their ailing state of mind, they cannot comprehend that they are ill.
Parity in health insurance is about covering psychiatric medication and doctor visits in the same manner as other doctor visits and medications.
Mr. Schaler's assertion that covering mental illness is not cost-effective is wrong for two reasons. First, the cost of psychiatric treatment is not that high. Second, the increased productivity (or lack of economic drag) of individuals receiving care more than pays for the cost of treatment.
Coverage for psychologists is a different matter. If that is what has insurers up in arms, let them say so. However, they should not punish people with illnesses that are as real as arthritis by denying them parity of coverage.
The insurance companies have been crying wolf, and many people are buying it.

KAREN E. LEWIS
Montgomery Village

How can Arafat act when Israel won't give him the opportunity?

I would like to respond to Jack Kemp's Dec. 12 Commentary piece, "Hard choices made simple," which calls for immediate action by Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has decided to restrict Mr. Arafat's movements inside the West Bank. Mr. Arafat's plane and the airstrip at Gaza Airport, however, have been destroyed. In other words, Mr. Arafat is under detention.
What can Mr. Arafat do when he cannot even move within Palestinian territories without a permit from Israeli officials?
What can Mr. Arafat do when he cannot fully exert his control over the desperate parts of Palestinian territories because occupying forces are targeting Palestinian security personnel and installations and every measure is being taken to undermine his authority?

MAGDI SHAKER
Press counselor
Press and Information Bureau
Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations
New York

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