- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Gore would get snippy at autograph request

The "Literary hecklers" article in the Jan. 11 Inside Politics column notes that one fan brought a Florida ballot from the 2000 election for Pat Buchanan to sign. The fan said that he had obtained Ralph Nader's signature the night before but expressed doubt he would be able to get President Bush to sign. Perhaps, but then what are his chances of obtaining former Vice President Al Gore's signature?

SCOTT A. BYRD
Vienna

Settlements only one consideration in U.S. aid to Israel

Your Jan. 14 Embassy Row column, which reported that Americans for Peace Now (APN) sent a letter to the State Department regarding Israeli financial assistance for settlements, mischaracterized APN's view of any additional aid requests for Israel to cope with its current budget problems.
At no point in our letter did APN call for the rejection of a supplemental aid package for Israel. APN merely asked the State Department to consider Israel's substantial funding for settlements, among other Israeli budget priorities, as it evaluates requests for supplemental aid, particularly at a time when needy segments of the Israeli public are being asked to absorb reductions in budget allocations.
Raising this issue is different than stating that funding for settlements alone should determine the administration's acceptance or rejection of a supplemental aid request. APN looks at a broad array of factors in weighing its position on aid packages, and we trust that the administration does the same.

LEWIS ROTH
Assistant executive director
Americans for Peace Now
Washington

Food aid to Afghanistan a 'road of good intentions'?

Is there something more to "Warlords seizing food aid," your Jan. 14 story on the venality of warlords and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)? I'm afraid there may be. America's experience in distributing food in less developed countries has not been without hazards, only one of which is the corrupt behavior of local officials and NGO staff. Some examples:
In Laos, U.S. foreign aid arranged to supply rice to America's Montagnard allies by air drops as they moved to escape the enemy. The food drops went on for years to the point that Montagnard children began to believe that food came from the sky. The knowledge of how to grow rice in the hill country diminished, increasing dependency on "rice from the sky." Careful. Feeding the hungry can foster dependency.
In Vietnam, U.S. food aid was imported and sold in Saigon to raise money to pay Vietnamese soldiers. The price of rice dropped, and the rural population, largely rice farmers, whose "hearts and minds" had to be won, got ticked. They now had more reason to oppose their government and sell their product through channels supporting the Vietminh.
U.S. food aid in India was used by NGOs to support rural projects such as irrigation, sanitation and family planning. At the same time, it discouraged the planting of the food crops being donated and allowed India to export the same crops.
We should take warning. In addition to becoming a source of revenue for corrupt warlords and NGO staff, food aid in Afghanistan could result in destroying the market for locally produced food and lead farmers to produce nonfood crops, such as poppies. The road of our good intentions could lead Afghanistan to a new hell.

JAIME L. MANZANO
Bethesda

Humanitarian programs not a fatality of war

President Bush's decision to make legal immigrants eligible for food stamps is a significant step toward achieving justice for all who come legally to our shores, as is the president's decision to increase funding for the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program. But these are only first steps. The funding for many other programs on which immigrant families depend heavily such as unemployment benefits, Head Start and child care vouchers must be significantly increased.
The cost of the war against terrorism cannot be used as an excuse for shortchanging these vital programs. Even at the cost of trimming the huge tax cut from last spring, funding for these programs must be increased. Otherwise, many families, immigrant as well as native-born, will suffer. We will be in the awkward position of betraying the values for which we are fighting, and the charge of spiritual bankruptcy levied by the Taliban and their cohorts will have a ring of truth.
Merci, gracias, grazie, danke, Mr. President. Please continue seeking justice for all Americans.

KENNETH J. RUMMENIE
Buffalo, N.Y.

Admiral never requested to train USS John F. Kennedy group at Vieques

Your readers have been subjected to back-to-back inaccurate accounts of Navy efforts to ensure that the USS John F. Kennedy carrier battle group gets the training it needs to deploy in support of the global war on terrorism ("Carrier barred from Vieques training," Jan 8; "Puerto Rico leader praises decision on Navy's live firing," Jan. 10). Both stories suggest that Secretary of the Navy Gordon England denied a request to train the Kennedy battle group at the Vieques, Puerto Rico, training range. This is simply not the case.
The decision to train the Kennedy battle group off the East Coast rather than near Puerto Rico was appropriately made by the operational commander responsible for training Atlantic naval forces, Adm. Robert G. Natter. America's war on terrorism has already required that the Navy accelerate the deployment of several ships, including the carriers USS John C. Stennis and USS Kitty Hawk, as well as the USS Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group. It was clear to Adm. Natter that the need for deployed carriers in the war on terrorism would likely require an early departure for Kennedy. Given the superb training already conducted by the crews of the ships and aircraft of the John F. Kennedy battle group, including use of the inner range at Vieques in the fall, Adm. Natter decided to save transit time at sea by conducting the final training close to home port and using the saved days to focus on other pressing pre-deployment issues facing Kennedy. Not surprisingly, Adm. Natter did not ask Mr. England or the chief of naval operations for authority to conduct training of Kennedy personnel at Vieques since Adm. Natter had already decided to do the training closer to home.
It may seem we're pointing out the obvious, but apparently you need that from time to time. Reported claims by others to have influenced a "decision" that Mr. England never made are equally spurious.
Your readers deserve a better understanding of national security issues than they received from these two articles.

S. R. PIETROPAOLI
Rear Adm., U.S. Navy
Department of the Navy
Washington

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