- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 18, 2001

Article spreads 'bizarre' myth about Muslims

Julia Duin's bizarre Oct. 16 article, "Wine, women: Muslims see afterlife filled with pleasure" is replete with sensuous myths. The most sumptuous is that we know exactly why the horrific acts of Sept. 11 happened. Can you really get inside someone else's head, especially someone sick enough to hijack a plane and use it as a bomb to kill thousands of innocent people?
We keep harping on the fact that these hijackers were "suicide bombers," which is a nice way to align them with Palestinian freedom fighters in Israel. We are stunned that anyone would willingly give his life for a cause we cannot comprehend. So we are creating an alluring myth based on distorted fragments of a very misunderstood religion.
Pundits everywhere are analyzing every scrap of innuendo as if it's solid fact. Our modern age was ushered in when science was able to replace superstition. Why are we clamoring to put superstition back on the pedestal?
And, before we credit these fanatics with such mystical powers that they can walk on water, we need to remember that our own brave and patriotic American soldiers going into battle right now are willing to serve, and aware that they may die.

ANNE SELDEN ANNAB
Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Editorial errs on firefighters' 'dead zones

'Rarely have I read an editorial in any paper that shows such an absolute lack of knowledge as the editorial of Oct. 14, "Dead Zones, Real Problems," [on changes being made in radio frequencies used by firefighters].
The editorial starts out by talking about the difference between AM and FM radio signals. A good thought, except that the problems with the D.C. radio system have nothing to do with AM vs. FM. The 800 MHz radio system, cellular, and the older radios that were in use are all FM. Why even bring up AM?
Then you attempt to place the "blame" on the Federal Communications Commission for "moving public safety to higher frequencies (800) in order to make room on the lower frequencies for more cellphone traffic." The FCC is not moving any public-safety agency to 800 MHz unless that agency asks to be moved. There is no effort to mandate the move.
Second, your reasoning, "for more cellphone traffic" is laughable. Cellphones, by FCC definition, operate on the 800 MHz band, not on the lower bands.
I also found it interesting that you brought up the laws of physics. It is a proven fact that the lower you go in frequency, the harder it is for that signal to make it into buildings, tunnels and the like.
The higher you go, the easier it is for that signal to make it through the openings and into the structure. No signal will work through tightly meshed steel and concrete. Instead, it makes it through the openings in that structure, such as windows, doors and so forth.
Perhaps there are design problems with some of the 800 MHz systems installed, but there are certainly systems out there that are working wonderfully. One normally just has to go back to the original bid process to find the problems with a system.
And yes, systems on VHF also have problems with coverage. Nashville, Tenn., would be an example of a major metropolitan area that has gone from VHF to 800 MHz, in order to cure its dead spots. And it works. Just one of many examples.

BLAKE BOWERS
West Plains, Mo.

Reforms needed in military's officer selection procedures

Retired Lt. Gen. Edward L. Rowny makes some valid points in his Oct. 11 Op-Ed column, "Facing a withdrawal of officers." His recommendations are long overdue, and, if followed, would help create an even more excellent officer corps. However, they do not address the underlying problems that have bedeviled the services for so long.
I served as a Reserve officer for nearly eight years on various tours of active duty. In 28 years of commissioned service, I spent nearly eight on active duty. I have learned much about the officer personnel management system. There are three basic problems with it: tradition, integrity (or lack thereof) and centralization. Putting all new officers on an equal footing through statute, as Gen. Rowny suggests, is a laudable first step, but no one should expect immediate results.
There is no question that for most of this nation's history, graduates of the various service academies have enjoyed fantastic advantages. Woven into the fabric of the bureaucracy are built-in privileges that are not limited to promotions. They also extend to assignments and school selections and even protection from misdeeds. There even are terms for this. In the Army, it's called the WPPA, or "West Point Protective Association." In all services, it's recognized as the "Ring Knocker's Society."
Officer efficiency or fitness reports are completed by each officer's immediate supervisor and that officer's superior. Every now and then, the "form" of these reports changes because a phenomenon called "ratings creep" sets in. Regulars, and especially academy graduates, get a big boost over their Reservist counterparts. It may be understandable that people try to help those who depend on their "contract of employment by the government," as Gen. Rowny suggests. It does not improve our national defense, however, when less competent people score higher than those who are more qualified and less dependent on the government for employment.
Also, promotion and assignment boards are managed at the most centralized level imaginable. This is an affront to the judgment of field officers whom we trust to commit forces to battle. Today, a four-star flag officer can send thousands of troops into battle and commit billions of dollars of equipment and ordnance but can not promote a single commissioned officer within his ranks. It is doubtful that he could even select a lieutenant colonel to command one of his battalions. Who is in a better position to judge performance, a board of selection convened occasionally and looking at a bunch of paper or someone who has observed and judged firsthand another's actual performance?
One last thought, if you don't mind: The very best way to have better retention in the services is never to elect another president like Bill Clinton. He did more to destroy morale than any statute or administrative procedure ever could accomplish in so short a time.

ROBERT A. HAYTHORNE
Geneva, Ill.

Libya must be accountable in Pan Am 103 case

As the parents of one of the victims of the Dec. 21, 1988, Pan Am 103 bombing, we agree with much of what Allan Gerson wrote in his Oct. 15 commentary article, "Lockerbie lessons on anti-terror warfare." But by the end of his article, Mr. Gerson, a lawyer who has been involved in the Pan Am 103 case for a number of years, gets down to what is really on his mind: money. There we part company.
We are among the large number of families now suing the Libyan government, and a few million extra dollars would certainly help ease the anxiety of our Social Security years. But a big payoff in a civil case is not a remedy for terrorism indeed, it can be quite the opposite.
Libya sits on a lake of oil and Col. Moammar Gadhafi has plenty of money. He has enough to easily pay off any civil judgment if he believes that he will get value for his money that is, if the payoff will allow him to once again enter the ranks of "the international community," and be given the full rights and privileges of other "civilized nations."
What we can demand is accountability. State Department officials are now meeting with the Libyan intelligence chief who may well have planned the Pan Am bombing. Libya must accept responsibility for the bombing, and not just one of those vague diplomatic "mistakes were made" fig leafs, but a real detailed account of who did what and when something that it cannot later deny or brush aside.
If the international community wishes to embrace Libya once again, at least it should know what it is dealing with. That would be a victory for truth, if not for justice. It is not much, but it would be something that would give meaning to our daughter's death.
Money alone won't do it. Anybody can accept a payoff. Without accountability, we won't. We won't give the Libyan thugs the satisfaction of claiming they could buy us off.

DANIEL and SUSAN COHEN
Cape May Court House, N.J.

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