- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2002

Pakistan's president has democratic plans

Mervyn Dymally's Jan. 27 Commentary Forum piece, "De-escalating in Kashmir," misses three crucial points regarding the apparent U-turn in Pakistan's polices and causes of these changes since the terrorist attacks of September 11.
First, upon taking over in October 1999, President Pervez Musharraf presented a vision statement for the new government, which in essence reflected the goals and aspirations of the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Jinnah envisioned Pakistan as a tolerant, democratic and social-welfare-oriented polity. Mr. Musharraf's domestic policies, which are consistent with his plan and Jinnah's vision, are gradually remaking the body politic of the country. The revision of electoral rolls, the empowerment of women (who constitute nearly 51 percent of the country's population) by the expansion of the number of seats in the legislature, freedom of the media and judiciary, the holding of local elections in accordance with the road map for a return to democracy, the ending of the discriminatory separate electorates and now the announcement of general elections to be held in October are but a few examples.
Second, the changes in Pakistan's polices were not at the behest of any external pressure, but in view of the leadership's enlightened self-interest and the threat from within. Any student of international relations knows that a country's national interest is the sole arbiter of its conduct on the world stage. The events of September 11 provided the Pakistani leadership with the catalyst to jettison the policies pursued for the past 25 years. As in many instances in international relations, when the ground realities change, policies also change.
Finally, the actions of the present government have spoken louder than its words. Since that government took over in October 1999, its internal and external policies have been improving the economy, government accountability and credibility, law and order, and public confidence in the leadership. One has to put one's own house in order before venturing forth on other endeavors. That is exactly what the Pakistani government's strategic plan has envisioned and is undertaking.


Editorial earns medal for stupidity

Your Feb. 2 editorial "Bullet-headed dummies" decried the treatment given to Gen. Joe Foss as he tried to get his Medal of Honor through an airport security checkpoint. To me, the treatment he received is a reflection of society's attitude toward our war heroes. Most people would not even recognize the Medal of Honor, let alone understand what it means to possess it.
But I am writing because your editorial called Gen. Foss a Marine Corps general. That is incorrect. He was a Marine when he earned his Medal of Honor in the Pacific in World War II. However, he left the Marine Corps in order to pursue his love of flying in the U.S. Air Force. It was in that branch of the armed forces that he became a general.
One would think that before printing an editorial calling anyone a dummy, bullet-headed or otherwise, you would have first made an effort to get the facts right.

Topsfield, Mass.

Romania ready for NATO

I read with great interest Helle Dale's inspiring Jan. 30 Op-Ed column, "Yesterday's alliance?", which stressed the importance of redefining NATO's missions and identity with a view to the new international context post-September 11 and the war against terrorism.
I would like to convey to Mrs. Dale my warm appreciation for her comprehensive approach, which emphasizes the Bush administration's vision for a southern dimension of NATO enlargement that would include Romania and Bulgaria.
Committed to fulfilling the vision expressed by President Bush last year in Warsaw, Romania is getting ready for the NATO Prague summit in November by accelerating the pace of military and economic reforms and acting as a de facto ally of the United States, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the fight against terrorism.
As you may know, Romania is the first NATO partner (and aspirant NATO member country) with armed forces on the ground in Afghanistan. On Jan. 29, Romanian forces joined the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, along with Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Greece, Sweden, Norway and Finland.
I would also like to convey that we work very closely with Sen. Richard G. Lugar, who last year visited my country, to make Romania a strong candidate for NATO membership at the Prague summit.

Ambassador of Romania to the United States
Embassy of Romania

Conservatives blowing up issues in education

The Jan. 28 articles "No Founding Fathers? That's our new history" and "'Black Pledge' posted on school Web site" both were interesting to read, but I think my fellow conservatives may be making too much out of perceived issues in each.
Contrary to what they say, the guidelines set by New Jersey educators are sufficient to help teachers cover the core of Early American history. I fear that creating a laundry list of people who must be studied opens the door to all special-interest and alternative groups out there to add their lists of "most important" people.
Concerning the "Black Pledge of Allegiance," again, I think it's much ado about nothing. I went to the school's site and found out that the pledge was added to the site by students within the context of a student project.
America is a glorious country with a glorious past. It also has an ugly past. We all need to learn about the country's history in its entirety. Those who don't know or don't learn from their history are doomed to repeat it.
I love the real Pledge of Allegiance. I recite it often. My 4-year-old son knows it and recites it daily. I love reading the Constitution and its powerful words. The fact remains, however, that neither was written with me a descendant of African slaves in mind. I love them all the same, though, because they are for me a free American. I am a free American because of the struggle fought by brave, proud, history-worthy black and white men and women. They fought against an American system of injustice and guaranteed my rights to pursue peace and prosperity.
America is great because of its struggles and victories victories over England, Spain, Germany, Japan and other imperialist nations. It's also great because it overcame religious intolerance, chattel slavery, segregation and racism. It's all history we need to know and appreciate.

Severna Park, Md.

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