- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Book review becomes 'gratuitous'

I am writing in regard to the review you ran of "Mrs. Paine's Garage and the Murder of John F. Kennedy" by Thomas Mallon ("Back to Texas Book Depository and woman who tried to be kind," March 31). As a book editor, I know all too well that reviewing is a subjective matter, but your reviewer, Hugh Aynesworth, goes far beyond the realm of opinion when he concludes: "Of course, fiction writers make things up all the time. It's their craft and much, much easier (and more fun) than digging for true facts, but one has to believe it clutters up an already bizarre panorama of life when it is labeled nonfiction."

As far as I can tell, the basis of Mr. Aynesworth's serious charge that Mr. Mallon is creating his own facts lies in Mr. Mallon's being the author of five novels. Mr. Mallon also happens to be the author of five highly regarded works of nonfiction and a prominent essayist who has written at length on the techniques of historical analysis.

Mr. Mallon took remarkable care in the research and in the confirmation of facts for "Mrs. Paine's Garage." All of his sources were reviewed by both the lawyers of Random House and the legal and editorial departments of New Yorker magazine, where parts of "Mrs. Paine's Garage" originally appeared. Mr. Aynesworth's charge is unsupported by a careful reading of Mr. Mallon's book, and it exhibits an irresponsible disregard for the author's presentation. Above all, it is gratuitous. In addition to his other work, Mr. Mallon has written award-winning literary criticism. He understands the crucial difference between an unfavorable book review and damaging, unsupported accusations like Mr. Aynesworth's. I hope the editors of The Washington Times will come to appreciate that distinction as well.

Editorial director
Pantheon Books
New York

Columnist mounts unfair attack on euthanasia in Netherlands

I feel obliged to respond to Maggie Gallagher's April 6 Commentary column, "Probing the practice of assisted suicide," in which she expresses her views regarding assisted suicide and comments on the euthanasia law in the Netherlands.

She makes the unsubstantiated and tendentious statement, "One Dutch woman with breast cancer who said she did not want to die was killed anyway because in the doctor's words 'it could have taken another week before she died. I just needed this bed.'"

I find this "quote" offensive, and unless Miss Gallagher is able to provide specific details about the case, I suggest that she refrain from "quoting" anonymous patients and doctors.

In spite of continued progress in palliative care, euthanasia is a regular, albeit hidden, occurrence in many countries other than the Netherlands (including the United States). To understand this issue fully in the Dutch setting, it is important to comprehend the social context and health care environment in the Netherlands.

Everyone in the Netherlands has health insurance. Advanced health care, including palliative care, is available to everyone. Personal financial difficulties that often accompany terminal illness in other countries are nonexistent in the Netherlands; the costs of medical treatment play no role in the consideration of a euthanasia request. Two out ofevery three requests for euthanasia are denied.

The main requirements are that the request must be voluntary, the physical suffering must be unbearable with no prospect for improvement, and the request must be reviewed by a second, non-treating physician. Both physicians and the patient must be convinced that there is no reasonable alternative.

A review board will determine in each case whether those involved complied with the strict requirements. If not, the case is referred to the public prosecutor for legal investigation based on the allegation of murder.

Finally, I think issues involving end-of-life care and dying need to be debated in a responsible and well-considered manner. Miss Gallagher's previously mentioned "quote" was ill-advised and contributes in no way to such a debate.

Embassy of the Netherlands

International court will have no jurisdiction over Israel

Sources quoted in the April 12 front-page story "Calls begin for war crimes trials for Israelis" seriously misrepresent the soon-to-be-established International Criminal Court, which beginning July 1 will be empowered to prosecute those responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Unnamed "international legal experts" suggest that Israeli officials could be brought before the court for war crimes committed during the current military operation in the West Bank. However, the court has no jurisdiction over crimes committed before July 1. For crimes committed after that date, it will have jurisdiction in just three circumstances: if the suspect's government has ratified the court's treaty, if the government on whose territory a crime was committed has ratified the treaty or if the U.N. Security Council refers a case for prosecution. Because the only government in the Middle East to have ratified the treaty is Jordan and because the United States surely would veto any Security Council referral, the court will have no jurisdiction over Israeli conduct.

Worrying about U.S. citizens, deputy State Department spokesman Philip Reeker charges that it is "contrary to the most basic principles of customary international law governing treaties" for the court to assert jurisdiction over a suspect whose government has not ratified the treaty, even if the crime is committed on the territory of a government that has ratified it. Mr. Reeker seems to have forgotten that the United States does this all the time. For example, it routinely pursues alleged terrorists or drug traffickers under treaties that the suspect's government hasn't ratified. Just as governments have an inherent power to prosecute crimes committed on their soil regardless of whether a foreign suspect's government gives consent, so they can delegate that power to the International Criminal Court.

Mr. Reeker cites the fear of politicized prosecutions of Americans. The court has numerous safeguards against that, including extensive due-process rights, narrowly drafted definitions of crimes, provision for multiple appeals and the ability of a suspect's government to block the court's jurisdiction altogether by investigating and, if appropriate, prosecuting the suspect itself. The key is ensuring that these safeguards are applied conscientiously. To enhance U.S. influence on such matters, former President Bill Clinton signed the court's treaty. Incomprehensively, the Bush administration is considering repudiating that signature an act that would squander U.S. influence for nothing.

Executive director
Human Rights Watch
New York

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