- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2001

Turkey refuses to face past crimes against Armenians

It was appropriate that you put a question mark in the title of your July 17 editorial: "Turkish-Armenian reconciliation?" You are right that "an honest account of what occurred to the Armenians under Ottoman rule" would have to be "a key step toward reconciliation," yet this is not the announced intention of the newly established Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission.
One of the Turkish members of the commission said in a recent press report that the "intent is not to find what the truth is, but it is to open new horizons for the future and enhance mutual understanding." Unfortunately, this approach ignores the reality that "the truth" and its consequences are directly connected to Armenia's ability to "open new horizons." Armenia is a tiny, landlocked, resource-poor country today primarily because of the genocidal extermination and ethnic cleansing of two million Ottoman Armenians and the confiscation of their properties between 1915 and 1923.
Of course, dialogue in general is positive and reconciliation is certainly needed. But the mandate and membership of this commission give a lot of Armenians cause for serious misgivings; if reconciliation is not founded on facts of history and principles of justice, it could condemn Armenia to continued poverty and life-threatening insecurity.

Professor of History
Glendale Community College
Glendale, Calif.

Overheated racial rhetoric keeping America divided

The front page of your July 10 edition featured two articles that are more closely related than some readers might think. The headlines speak for themselves: "NAACP address called 'excessive,'" and "Simmering tensions boil over into rioting: Extremists drive Britain's race debate."
After reading both articles, one should ask whether the tragic race riots in northern England could happen here, as well. With respect to the item on the convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one cannot ignore that NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Chairwoman Mary Frances Berry and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume are highly intelligent and capable people. However, one would hope that they would step back for a moment to consider the impact of their overheated rhetoric on the members of the very community they purport to help.
We are all Americans first. Racial hatred in the United States is confined to tiny groups on the lunatic fringes of our society. Fortunately, the ugliness of such hatred is recognized and condemned by the vast majority of Americans of all colors and creeds. It is in our best interests as Americans to keep it that way by reaffirming our commitment to equal opportunity and justice for all citizens. Constantly scratching at imagined slights such as the unfounded claims of "disenfranchisement" of black voters in Florida during the recent presidential election helps no one, except perhaps, those with something to gain from keeping Americans apart.


United States must take responsibility for its impact on environment

Even as the scientific data on global warming becomes more certain, our nation's policy is being defined by delay and indecision. Meanwhile, temperatures will rise 10 degrees Fahrenheit during the coming century. As a result, sea levels will rise, and droughts and life-threatening storms will occur.
Global warming is also a critical health issue; it's well-known that heart problems and respiratory attacks rise steeply on the hottest days.
Instead of drilling more oil wells and producing more coal the linchpins of the Bush energy policy we should promote conservation, renewable energy and highly efficient cars. Since burning fossil fuels is a huge source of global-warming gases, we must increase the fuel-economy standards for all vehicles, especially gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles.
Yet the president insists on further studies and a voluntary approach to environmental reform, which will not work. Now that Japan has announced it will side with the United States on this issue, international momentum for global controls has been lost. This does not, however, excuse Congress from taking strong steps in this country. Citizens have a right to demand that our president and Congress support specific, enforceable and achievable measures to control global warming.
As the world's largest producer of global-warming gases, the United States has a responsibility to clean up its own mess and set a better example for the world before it's too late.


Postal bureaucracy doesn't know the meaning of the word 'downsize'

Now that the U.S. Postal Service has determined that cutting Saturday mail deliveries would be a mistake, we never will see whether massive layoffs would have resulted ("Postal Service drops consideration of plan for 5-day-a-week delivery," July 11). To cope with its projected $2 billion loss, the Postal Service will stop construction of new facilities and acquire more automation, among other cost-cutting measures.
When IBM cuts costs, the first thing we hear is that 14,000 jobs will be cut to "downsize" the company. But have you ever heard of a government agency that downsized to reduce costs other than the military, that is?
It is just as well that the Postal Service decided against curtailing Saturday deliveries because it wouldn't have laid off any workers anyway.

North Las Vegas, Nev.

U.S. involvement in Vietnam helped advance freedom

In his July 5 Op-Ed column, "Vietnam revisited," Ben Wattenberg rightly reminds us that the Vietnam War, while tragic, helped end the Cold War. He rejects the cynical view that the United States entered that conflict for racist and imperialistic motives. As Ronald Reagan put it, "Who can doubt that the cause for which our men fought was just? It was however imperfectly pursued the cause of freedom."
Two dramatically opposed interpretations of Vietnam are still vying for acceptance in America's consciousness. If our collective memory of pivotal events such as the Civil War or Vietnam is split along ideological fault lines, it bodes ill for the future. A common understanding of such events allows history's wounds to heal, creating a cohesive national psyche better equipped to grapple with future crises. This will not happen until we openly acknowledge the contribution of the Vietnam War to peace and freedom, along with admitting our faults and miscalculations.
During those agonizing years, we too often were arrogant and overconfident in dealing with South Vietnam. Perhaps the worst blunder was President John F. Kennedy's complicity in the 1963 coup that killed Ngo Dinh Diem, the authoritarian but able civilian president. President Lyndon B. Johnson later said that ousting Diem was "the worst mistake we ever made." The power vacuum created by Diem's violent death led to protracted instability and irrevocably tied Washington to Vietnam's future.
But this is not the whole story. Despite political misperceptions and seriously flawed tactics, our involvement strengthened security and freedom in three significant and largely overlooked ways.
First, the firmness of Mr. Johnson and President Richard M. Nixon under relentless and often cynical domestic attack reassured our allies around the world. A United States that would not cut and run in far-off Vietnam would hardly abandon its key allies in Europe and the Pacific.
Second, our steadfastness in Vietnam strengthened nationalist and anti-communist forces elsewhere in Southeast Asia and the Pacific notably in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, all of which have remained free and independent.
Third, holding the line in Indochina as long as we did eventually led to a balance of power favorable to the states in the region and to us, a point Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore emphasizes repeatedly. Without America's intervention in Vietnam, Mr. Lee says, today's "flourishing East Asia" would not have been possible.
To be healthy and courageous in facing the external world, we need to forge a more cohesive national memory of Vietnam approximating that of our three victorious wars of the 20th century. World War I restored peace to Europe; World War II ended Nazi and Japanese conquest; and the Korean War prevented the North from overrunning the South.
If the more positive and nuanced view prevails that our cause was eminently just though "imperfectly pursued" the United States will be better prepared to accept its heavy responsibilities in a complex and dangerous world.

Chevy Chase

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