- The Washington Times - Friday, January 25, 2002

Vietnamese government confuses its critics

Subsequent to Michael D. Benge's Jan. 13 Commentary Forum column, "Terrifying abuses in Vietnam," the government-run Vietnam News Agency inaccurately referred to a "Michel Benz" as a "senior advisor to Human Rights Watch."
Human Rights Watch has issued two reports recently regarding the need for protection of Montagnard asylum seekers from Vietnam who have fled Cambodia, as well as an analysis of human rights developments in Vietnam as part of our "World Report 2002."
Mr. Benge, who works as an adviser to the Montagnard Human Rights Organization, was not involved with the preparation or release of either report and does not work for Human Rights Watch.
There are many individuals and organizations interested in the plight of the Montagnards, but our work on this important issue should not be confused with the work of others.

MIKE JENDRZEJCZYK
Washington director, Asia division
Human Rights Watch
Washington

Buchanan, Sowell need to brush-up on Turkey

Thomas Sowell gives a well-deserved thumbs up for Pat Buchanan's new book, "The Death of the West" ("Dire prognosis worth discussion," Commentary, Jan. 23).
What is disappointing, however, is the ignorance displayed by both Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Sowell concerning Turkish history. After writing that Mr. Buchanan is "very knowledgeable about our times and about history," Mr. Sowell uncritically repeats Mr. Buchanan's preposterous observation "try setting up a Christian church in Istanbul."
The Greek Orthodox ecumenical patriarch who resides in Istanbul would have a belly laugh being told that it is impossible to set up a Christian church in Istanbul. He is the Orthodox equivalent of the Catholic pope. The Armenian patriarch also resides in Istanbul. In addition to the Orthodox churches, there also are Armenian Catholic and Greek Catholic churches in Istanbul and many Jewish synagogues.

ALI F. SEVIN
Fort Washington

Global tax bogeyman

In his Jan. 20 Commentary column, "Global tax man cometh," Oliver North put words in the mouth of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that he has never said and put thoughts in Mr. Annan's head that he has never thought.
Whatever Mr. North may believe, your readers should know that the United Nations is not about to start collecting global taxes. No U.N. intergovernmental body or conference has ever called for or endorsed an internationally levied tax, and it is highly unlikely that the International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held in Monterrey, Mexico, in March, will do so.
Nor is an international tax organization to help all countries improve their national taxation systems considered in the draft document for the conference though it is a recommendation endorsed by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, among others.
As for the disaster in Somalia depicted in the movie "Black Hawk Down," it was an operation mounted entirely under American command to achieve a goal set by the United States. The United Nations was not even informed of it until after it had happened.

EDWARD MORTIMER
Director of communications
Executive Office of the Secretary-General
United Nations
New York

Times too harsh with Mugabe?

We have noted that in recent weeks your paper on a regular basis has published pieces on Zimbabwe ("Army support for Mugabe in doubt," World, Jan. 23; "The failures in Africa," Commentary, Jan. 22; "Mugabe's delusions of power," Editorials, Jan. 21). Although we appreciate your interest in what is happening in our country, we are concerned that most of what you publish is intended to denigrate the government of Zimbabwe, particularly President Robert Mugabe.
Unfortunately, your paper and other world newspapers rely on members of Zimbabwe's opposition parties, who are determined to replace the present government, as sources. It is not surprising, then, that what you print paints a negative picture of what the government is doing in Zimbabwe. For example, your Jan. 23 story reports that the army will not support Mr. Mugabe. You base this report, however, on remarks made by Wilfred Mhanda, a disgraced former liberation fighter. Mr. Mhanda was arrested in Mozambique in 1977 as part of a group that tried to undermine the liberation war. He was released just before independence in 1980. He resents Mr. Mugabe and most of the leadership of ZANU-PF, the ruling party. He has never been a member of the Zimbabwean army. Nor does he have close associates in the army. He cannot speak as an authority on the army. Furthermore, his history with the liberation war in Mozambique made it difficult for him to join the official association of the liberation war veterans, which is why he joined the rival anti-government War Liberators Platform.
The Zimbabwean army is a highly disciplined and professional organization that should not be dragged into campaign politics. Unfortunately, recent press reports, similar to your report, have tried to turn the army into a political tool. The recent statement by the chief of the defense forces, Gen. Vitalis Zvinavashe, was an appeal to the press not to drag the defense forces into the current charged political atmosphere.
Your Jan. 21 editorial reiterates accusations against Mr. Mugabe that have been made repeatedly by the opposition in Zimbabwe, especially concerning the land resettlement program and the political violence going on at the moment. As a result, you continue to look at the land issue as theft, and you ignore or downplay Mr. Mugabe's firm promise to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state that Zimbabwe will hold free and fair elections. You also ignore calls being made by ZANU-PF leaders for the party's members not to engage in violence. The press is making a serious mistake by ignoring this fact.
The Zimbabwean government is determined to hold free and fair elections next March, and it is doing everything in its power to achieve this goal. Mr. Mugabe has promised that the elections will be free and fair, and he will deliver on his promise. He needs your support and encouragement, not your disparagement.

SIMBI V. MUBAKO
Ambassador
Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe
Washington

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