- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2001

Jab at Italian official perfectly shameful

We at the National Italian American Foundation take exception to Jay Nordlinger's comments about "the Perfect European," which you reprinted from his Sept. 17 "Impromptus" column in National Review Online (Inside Politics, Sept. 18).
In it, Mr. Nordlinger ascribes statements to Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino that have no bearing on Italy's official position vis-a-vis America's war on terrorism. Mr. Nordlinger writes, "First, [Mr. Martino] says that under no circumstances will the Italian military join the United States in war. Then he says that the United States must not act without the consent and participation of a broad coalition of allies. There he is, folks: the Perfect European." According to a Sept. 17 Reuters report, however, Mr. Martino stated that Italy is ready with troops and equipment and "will do anything we are asked to do" in this war against terrorism.
Both Mr. Nordlinger and your paper should have known better. Italy is strongly committed to the United States, bound by its NATO alliance, which has allowed the United States to have air and naval bases on Italian soil for decades.
It is a mystery to us why at this time of great national and international tragedy Mr. Nordlinger and The Washington Times should use their immense power to alienate 25 million Americans of Italian heritage, as well as a nation and government that have long been loyal supporters of U.S. policy.
Please, gentlemen, a little more responsibility and a little less frivolity in your future reporting on this terrible situation.

Director of research
National Italian American Foundation

Peaceniks, pilots and political expediency

Kudos to Nikolas K. Gvosdev for his thoughtful Op-Ed column "How to be Muslim and American." Whenever I go abroad to Muslim lands, I always tell people that the United States is the most Islamic society in history. Tolerance, warmth, friendliness, opportunity, charity and equality in the law, all qualities that epitomize America, are also the spirit of Islam.

Davidson, N.C.It was only a matter of time before the peacemakers started their "resolution through nonviolent means" mantra. As soon as the initial shock starts to wear off, the pacifists begin sounding off. Yes, in most instances violence begets violence. But in this case, "turn the other cheek" will work only if we want to get hit again.
Diplomacy, negotiations and neutral country mediation (I don't know how a country can be neutral toward these events) will not stop terrorism. Violence is in the blood of these terrorist organizations; it is the only negotiation they understand. We must protect our homeland, our citizens and our allies from further acts of mass-murder. This can only be done by totally and permanently eliminating the threat, and that will not happen in a conference room or a courthouse.
So, for all who wish this problem to go away through demonstrations, candlelight vigils and group-hugs, I leave you with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
"A pacifist is as surely a traitor to his country and to humanity as is the most brutal wrongdoer."

Stafford, Va.I am an airline pilot. I work for one of the companies whose aircraft were flown into the World Trade Center. I've flown the same aircraft with the same destination on many occasions. Many in my profession have feared something like this was inevitable for a long time. Sadly, we were right.
The question now is: How do we prevent it from happening again? There are many possible scenarios. Here are a few that I believe will definitely work:
Strengthen the cockpit doors, bulkhead and locks.
Install video cameras in the cabin allowing the pilots to see, in time of need, just what is going on.
Sky marshals are a welcome addition, but they cannot be on every flight forever. There are, however, two pilots on every flight, most with military experience, many with law enforcement experience. We should train them to be sky marshals.
Had such measures been in place Sept. 11, none of this would have happened.

Newport Beach, Calif.If we finally want to acknowledge the scourge of terrorism and show the resolve to destroy it, we must not pander to those who for so long have nurtured it and benefited from it.
To even speak of allowing states such as Syria, Iran, Libya and Cuba to join our coalition besmirches the thousand who have died from their policies. To consider Yasser Arafat, the archterrorist who practically invented hijacking, as a partner in this crusade would debase the moral fortitude of our cause.
For the sake of those who have died, please, President Bush, let morality and justice be your guide, not political expediency.


Chinese government fosters evil greater than bin Laden

Sept. 11, the day when thousands of innocent lives were extinguished in a few moments, will be forever remembered as a day of tragedy for all Americans. Around the world, people can hardly believe that the Twin Towers no longer exist. We can only silently mourn and pray for the victims and their families.

Meanwhile, many in China, including the newspaper People's Daily, have used this opportunity to curse and ridicule America and its people, even as they mourn the loss of family members and friends. As a Chinese American, it makes me sick to read and hear what is being said and printed.

I would like to remind every conscientious citizen of the world that perhaps even more frightening than Osama bin Laden's actions is what is in his heart. Bin Laden is driven by hate and evil. To rejoice at others' misfortune as many in China do, however, is more than simple hatred. Such an attitude suggests that, if it were possible, those who rejoice would have committed even more heinous, unimaginable deeds. This sentiment is shameless, hideous and callous.

Terrorism may be stopped by military force, but there is no way to destroy the evil within people's hearts. This form of evil is deliberately incubated by certain governments. For example, it is carefully nurtured by the powerful propaganda machine of the Chinese government and fed to the people as patriotism. Perhaps bin Laden will be apprehended, but China can produce more like him, because China is a fertile ground for the seeds of jealousy and hatred that breed terrorism.

Chinese civilization has thousands of years of glorious history, and it was once noted for its values and ethics. How could a nation's sense of morality have slid so far so quickly?

Some claim that such fundamental changes could not have happened overnight. I disagree. China's metamorphosis occurred almost entirely in the past decade or two. Especially in the past two years, the Chinese government has employed every conceivable method to oppress and terrorize its citizens to avoid the collapse of its regime.

The distorted sense of patriotism in today's China is used as an excuse to torture and kill its own innocent citizens. Unfortunately, this kind of patriotism is a double-edged sword that will surely destroy China sooner or later.



Evils of slavery not righted by reparations

The Sept. 20 story "Slave castles still haunt tourists" needs a response. The distortions and oversimplifications of the slavery issue appear to be multiplying.

First, slavery existed in Africa millennia before the Europeans became involved. The institution was a natural part of the African cultural framework, as it was at various periods in other parts of the world. The Arabs, however, refined and commercialized the process. The Africans themselves played the critical and most proactive role in the slave trade, a fact most educated Africans readily admit. They are not proud of that history, nor are they hypocritical.

Many Africans in or around Ghana's Cape Coast (many still living in the nearby old Portuguese and English barracks) are the descendants of the African traders, dealers and others who were key players in that wretched trade. None of these facts diminishes the culpability of the European traders. Rather, they present the full historical picture and the complexities inherent in comprehending that era.

In fact, slavery is still practiced by Arabs in parts of East Africa. Furthermore, a traditional and informal system of human indenture, based often on economic needs, is also common in every part of the continent, a practice that Westerners could very well identify as bondage. (Similar practices are prevalent elsewhere in the Third World.)

Second, the most fundamental fact related to slavery and other past injustices is self-evident but increasingly ignored. The Europeans and Africans alive today have nothing to do with slavery. They can neither be blamed nor held accountable for those past injustices.

As for Americans, the African slaves existed in what is now the United States 200 years before our country's founding. Belatedly, but decisively, the United States brought closure to slavery and the residual legal injustices. The descendants of European Americans who did benefit from slave labor represent perhaps about a fifth, or less, of the white population of the United States. They and other Americans view the slave trade as an abomination.

We can deplore the past and those who lived those events. But no matter how comforting it may be for some to hold all whites responsible, blaming current generations is nothing more than racism. In contemporary terms, it is an extreme form of racial profiling. The Jamaican who was mentioned in the story as having attacked a white tourist in Cape Coast was herself a racist.

It is imperative that we all start looking ahead at this point. The recent outrages and tragedies have helped to bring this country together. I hope that our common reaction to those events may provide the beginnings of real tolerance and social progress.



Your Sept. 20 story in the World section about the African slave castles and Liberia's slave history repeats the call by some for reparations for slavery. As horrible as the institution of slavery was, it is important to keep in mind that the slave trade would not have existed if Africans had not captured and sold other Africans into slavery.

Likewise, we should not forget the sad history of freed American slaves who returned to Liberia, where they in turn dominated and oppressed, if not actually enslaved, the indigenous inhabitants.

As for reparations, the United States has already paid them.

Between 1861 and 1865, 365,000 Union soldiers were killed and 646,000 were wounded in the war to end slavery in the United States. No country in history has paid such a price for such a noble principle. This principle is enshrined today in our Civil War song "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

It should also be remembered that between 1807 and 1833, Great Britain progressively eliminated the Atlantic slave trade through a series of parliamentary acts, enforced by the Royal Navy with periodic assistance from the U.S. Navy.

Between 1965 and 2000, the United States has spent $8 trillion on the War on Poverty and other welfare programs. At least some measure of this money could be considered "reparations."

But beyond this, some good may result from evil practices.

Has no good come out of the oppression the African colonies experienced? What about the rule of law, court systems, cities, infrastructure, the relatively peaceful transition to independence, and the enormous and continuing amount of financial aid that has gone and is still going to these former colonies? Do these things not count? I think they should.


Fairfax Station

Columnist confused about Catholocism, capitalism

In his Sept. 19 Commentary column "Despised system targeted," Bruce Bartlett argues that, historically, Islam has been pro-capitalist. In addition, he compares the Islamic and Western worlds and how they seemed to switch views about capitalism. Mr. Bartlett, however, blames the Roman Catholic Church for the West's alleged lag in advancing capitalist principles. He says, "Europe was repressed by the economic doctrines of the Catholic Church," and only the Reformation "freed Europe from the stultifying confines of Catholicism."

It is disconcerting to see such sweeping, rather simplistic generalizations about the cultural impact of one of the world's major institutions, especially since the facts contradict them.

This is all the more unfortunate at this time, when sweeping generalizations about many groups and cultures are dominating events.


Assistant to the President

Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

New York

In his Sept. 19 Commentary column, "Despised system targeted," Bruce Bartlett writes that "the economic doctrines of the Catholic Church are far more sympathetic toward socialism than is Islam." Actually, the Roman Catholic Church has always and explicitly condemned socialism.

For modern examples, one need look no further than Pope Pius IX's famous "Syllabus of Errors" (1864) or Pope John Paul II's Centisimus Annus (1991), which describes socialism as a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of man.

As for Mr. Bartlett's assertion that "the Protestant Reformation freed Europe from the stultifying confines of Catholicism," it is worth remembering that these "stultifying confines" are known to historians as the Renaissance.



It is shameful that the current interest in Islam became the occasion for Bruce Bartlett's silly and bigoted comments concerning Catholicism. In his Commentary column "Despised system targeted," he writes that in the Middle Ages, "Europe was repressed by the economic doctrines of the Catholic Church" and that "the Protestant Reformation freed Europe from the stultifying confines of Catholicism."

Oh really? Mr. Bartlett doesn't bother to explain his assertions. Suffice it to say that in the Middle Ages, Europe was both the only continent penetrated by Catholicism and the dominant economic power. In the period before the beginning of Protestantism in 1517, European economic power was enjoying new vitality, fueled in particular by the Portuguese and Spanish voyages of discovery. The period was marked by greatly increased commerce, which helped to transform Europe from a primarily agrarian economy.

It is silly to assert, as Mr. Bartlett seems to, that the enormous economic capital and momentum created during the previous centuries were "stultifying" and that the advent of Protestant religious belief was responsible for the scientific, technological and commercial growth that followed.

As subsequent history demonstrates, Protestantism resulted in continuous fractionalization rather than unification. Contrary to Mr. Bartlett's thesis, it could be argued that the religious wars between the nobility that racked that part of Europe in which Protestantism primarily found favor now known as Germany and Scandinavia retarded economic development there.

At the same time, the rest of Europe proceeded to expand, enjoying a Renaissance that lasted from the 14th century to the 17th century. Germany did not catch up and become a major power until the 19th century.



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