- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2001

Finding civility in a war of statements

In the interest of accuracy, I am writing to correct Brian Bergin's claim regarding the proper nomenclature to be applied to the unpleasantness that occurred on the North American continent during the early 1860s ("Civil War not a 'War Between the States'," Letters to the Editor, Jan. 13). That conflict can be referred to accurately as many things, but "civil war" is not one of them.

The common characteristic of civil wars is not "armed rebellion" or "insurrection," as Mr. Bergin claims. Nor is it the fact that the government of the rebelling forces might be deemed "illegal" under the laws of the defending government. If that were the case, a great many additional wars appropriately would be termed "civil wars" in particular, that occasion in the 1770s in which a group of British citizens illegally established a new government and, in armed insurrection, rebelled against the British government. By Mr. Bergin's definition, the War for American Independence actually was a civil war. Likewise, the Philippine insurrection and the Indian wars probably would have to be considered civil wars by his criteria. No, the common factor found in all true civil wars is that each of the warring parties seeks to establish its faction as the legitimate government of the warring nation.

Examples of true civil wars include the Spanish Civil War, wherein two warring parties sought to control all of Spain. Likewise in England, Cromwell's Roundheads fought the Cavaliers to take control of the country. None of this can be said of the Confederate States of America. The Confederates made no claim to wanting to overthrow the federal government. They merely wanted out. Had the federal government withdrawn its soldiers from south of the Mason-Dixon line and recognized the South's right to secede, there would not have been a war. Hence, the term "civil war," despite its near universal use, is incorrect.

NEIL MCCRAY

Alexandria

Beginning of life more than matter of religious faith

Kathleen Parker ("Fine man, wrong choice?" Commentary, Jan. 13) states that "defining the precise moment of life is fundamentally a religious question that can never be satisfactorily answered for all." As a matter of fact, some of the world's most prominent scientists testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on separation of powers in 1981 that human life begins at conception (S-158, Report, 97th Congress, 1st Session).

Dr. Alfred M. Bongioanni, professor of obstetrics at the University of Pennsylvania, stated: "I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at conception." Dr. Jerome LeJeune, the late Nobel Prize winner in genetics and professor of genetics at the University of Descartes in Paris, testified: "[A]fter fertilization has taken place, a new human being has come into being." Dr. Hymie Gordon, the late professor emeritus of medical genetics at the Mayo Clinic, said: "By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception." Micheline Matthews-Roth, researcher at Harvard University Medical School: "It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception." Dr. Watson A. Bowes, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: "The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter the beginning is conception."

This straightforward biological fact should not be distorted to serve sociological, political or economic goals.

FRANCOIS L. QUINSON

Gaithersburg

Distinguishing Middle East myth from fact

Nelson Marans' Jan. 7 letter to the editor, "Myths of the Middle East," challenges old "myths" by trying to introduce new ones:

• Mr. Marans claims Israel occupies less than 20 percent of British mandate territory allocated for a Jewish homeland. But the British mandate never envisioned the entire territory, including portions of modern Jordan east of the Jordan River, as part of the Jewish homeland. Moreover, the mandate was to hold the land in trust, after the Ottomans were expelled, for the inhabitants of the territory the vast majority of whom were Arab at the time the mandate was established.

• He would have us believe Arab countries invaded Israel in 1948 to "exterminate its Jewish population" when, in fact, the Arabs' military objectives were to expel the Jews, many of whom were recent emigres from Europe. Many of those invading Arab countries had Jewish populations that had lived in them for centuries in peace and harmony.

Mr. Marans' use of the Nazi word "Judenfrei" to describe the Arabs' purported intent reveals the bankruptcy of Israel's founding principles. The Israelis have spent half a century pursuing policies to render Israel "Arabenfrei." If it is wrong for the Arabs to try to render Palestine "Judenfrei," so too is it wrong for the Israelis to try to render it "Arabenfrei."

• Mr. Marans would have us believe Arab countries expelled a million Jews when, in fact, those Jews emigrated voluntarily, often at the instigation of Israeli intelligence, the Mossad. Today, in Iraq, Saddam Hussein's government helps maintain Baghdad's two synagogues. Jewish populations for centuries thrived in Arab lands.

• Mr. Marans repeats the canard that the Arabs are partially responsible for the Palestinian refugees' plight, when all the Arabs did was offer them refuge from the war zones they were fleeing, to which the Israelis now bar their return. Mr. Marans does implicitly admit that, inasmuch as the Arabs are "partially" responsible for the Palestinian refugees' plight, the Israelis also are responsible for it, raising the question of what the Israelis have done to fulfill their responsibility to alleviate that plight.

Mr. Marans calls for the Arab nations to absorb the Palestinian refugees, but the Arab nations have no legal or moral obligation to absorb refugees who were displaced from a territory in order to accommodate people fleeing Europe. While they might have an obligation to take back the Jews who emigrated from those Arab countries, they have no more obligation to accept the Palestinians just because they speak Arabic than the United States has an obligation to accept South African or Zimbabwean whites just because they speak English. Also, though the United States might acquiesce in the absorption of Salvadoran refugees out of misguided guilt about the repressive regime we abetted in that country as part of our anti-communist efforts, other countries are under no such obligation.

DINO JOSEPH DRUDI

Washington

Ashcroft opponents employ ideological litmus test

In their opposition to Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft's confirmation, liberal special-interest groups, despite their rhetoric of tolerance, have revealed the troubling narrow-minded philosophy they truly embrace. Despite Mr. Ashcroft's impressive credentials and a flawless record of integrity, those on the left claim he is unqualified, as his positions on affirmative action and abortion are out of step with theirs. Even though those same groups praised Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman's public and devout faith (much as I did), they wrongly argue that Mr. Ashcroft's devotion to Christianity renders him incapable of enforcing those laws with which his religion disagrees. If the U.S. Senate defeats Mr. Ashcroft's nomination, it will be the first time in American history that a presidential appointee has been rejected solely because of his political and religious convictions. Even the borderline socialist but certainly qualified Robert Reich was confirmed easily into President Clinton's Cabinet as labor secretary eight years ago. Introducing a ideological litmus test into the Senate confirmation process is a very bad idea for a country that cherishes the right to free thought.

ANDY BREHM

Claremont, Calif.


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