- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2001

Sudan is simply misunderstood

Though we are pleased with the thoughtful Oct. 26 Embassy Row column about Sudan, we cannot say the same for the Oct. 24 Commentary column "Skeptical of the peaceful label" by Cal Thomas. It is regrettable that this article is insensitive to the feelings of Muslims in general and inaccurate with regard to Sudan in particular.

Mr. Thomas reports that the Right Rev. Bullen Dolli, an Episcopal bishop in Sudan, says the government of Sudan "uses brutal force to ensure that no other religion but Islam is practiced." This is untrue. There are dozens of churches of all denominations throughout the country, some more than 100 years old. Christians are free to practice their faith. In fact, they also are in every part of the government, including the national, state and local levels. Mr. Thomas is welcome to visit our embassy in Washington and see for himself that we even have Christians working here.

Another blatant misnomer is the allegation that "all women, whether Muslim or not, are forced to wear the black chador and veil." Perhaps Mr. Thomas is confusing Sudan with Afghanistan, but Sudanese women are characterized by their beauty and the colorful clothes and head scarves they wear. Again, come to our embassy and see for yourself. Furthermore, we have more than 30 women in parliament, some female ambassadors, and women serving at all levels of government, including our Supreme Court and federal Cabinet.

One more of the many inaccuracies: Our army, composed of nationals of all faiths and from all parts of the country, is called the Armed Forces, not Jundy Allah (the Soldier of Allah), which is a phrase in our national anthem, written in 1956. It is obvious that the phrase is applicable to Christians in the army as well.

We are working very hard to end the tragic civil war that has afflicted our country for too long. We want a Sudan that is inclusive and respectful of the rights of all of its citizens, whether from the north or south, whether Muslim, Christian or practicing traditional African religions. Columns such as Mr. Thomas', full of distortions and untruths, only fuel the fires of hatred and encourage those who wish to keep this African country in turmoil.

Finally, we would like to appeal to the mainstream media in this country, including The Washington Times, to play a more positive role in the peacemaking process in Sudan. Without doubt, this requires a more objective and evenhanded position than that shown by Mr. Thomas.


Head of mission

Embassy of Sudan


Armchair Gen. McCain

Your Nov. 3 "Nobles and Knaves" editorial no doubt mirrors the thoughts of many Americans. Most are convinced that ground troops will be needed to some extent in Afghanistan. Also, unlike your knaves, most are willing to accept the decisions of our military commanders concerning when that can best be accomplished. Armchair warriors who pontificate on this question are only trying to grab the spotlight. Among the most guilty is Sen. John McCain.

Mr. McCain is hailed as a hero, and he has ridden that banner to one of the highest offices of government. There is no doubt his resistance to the Viet Cong during his captivity was heroic. Yet his military service, while honorable, was no more heroic or laudable than the service of the hundreds of thousands of ground troops who daily went about their task. In fact, Mr. McCain lost his last engagement on active duty, yet now he is quoted as a military authority.

Mr. McCain no doubt is one of the armchair general knaves in your editorial. I just wish you had named him.


Plano, Texas

Scientific research vital to America's defense

Columnist Carl B. Feldbaum is right: "The response to this [bioterrorism] crisis will require mobilizing every component of the national health care and research system," ("Meeting bioterrorism's challenge," Commentary, Nov. 2).

Never before has research been so vital to the protection of our nation. The public also recognizes the need to ramp up the research system to deal with threats of bioterrorism. Polls conducted by ResearchAmerica show that more than 85 percent of Americans say it is "very important" for the United States to maintain its role as a world leader in scientific research.

A continued commitment to research at the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Science Foundation and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will help the United States assure its progress, prosperity and protection.


Director of communications



Give Arafat a chance

I do not disagree with Edwin Feulner's advice to move quickly on a missile-defense program ("Avoiding the next nightmare," Commentary, Nov. 2). However, were the Bush administration to follow Mr. Feulner's biased and skewed counsel on matters of U.S. policy in the Middle East, the world would be one more perilous step closer to World War III. His advice would pit the West against the Islamic world, precisely the nightmare the Bush administration is working hard to obviate.

Mr. Feulner makes no distinction, in sharp contrast to the Bush administration, between Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority (PA) on the one hand and terrorist groups on the other. He calls the Palestinian Authority "the killers formerly known as the PLO" and includes Hamas, Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) among "Yasser Arafat's terrorist pals." The Bush administration wisely has refused to go down this road.

Mr. Arafat personally and unequivocally condemned the attacks of September 11. He outlawed the PFLP and arrested members involved in the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi. He promised the United States that he would clamp down on potential terrorism. As a result, the Bush administration rightly has given Mr. Arafat an opportunity to show that he is serious about cracking down on violence and terrorism originating within the confines of the PA. Mr. Feulner, apparently, would not. Isn't peace worth giving Mr. Arafat that opportunity?

The recent military incursions into the PA ordered by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have helped undermine Mr. Arafat's authority, shifting power within the PA toward extremist elements bent on violence the very individuals Mr. Feulner calls enemies of civilization. Mr. Sharon has insisted that Mr. Arafat crack down on terror and extradite Mr. Zeevi's assassins. This has been a condition to the withdrawal of the Israeli military from Palestinian-controlled areas. Meanwhile, however, the more-than-two-week old Israeli military presence daily erodes Mr. Arafat's ability to govern. Mr. Feulner apparently admires Israel for these sorts of "tough tactics." Israel's "tough tactics," however, may topple Mr. Arafat and ruin any prospect for enacting the "Mitchell process," which requires a cessation of violence before any Palestinian state is established.

I commend President Bush, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice for their courageous criticism of Israel's current policies concerning the PA. They are pursuing the only opportunity for lasting peace in the world, policies that will lead to the realization of the Mitchell process and heal the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.



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