- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Danish confidence in U.S. treatment of prisoners

In your Jan. 25 story "Rumsfeld insists U.S. not harming Cuba detainees," you write that the Danish government has criticized the United States treatment of the prisoners. That is not true. On the contrary, both the Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and the Danish foreign minister, Per Stig Moller, have expressed to the Danish news media their "full confidence that the United States is observing international obligations according to humanitarian international law."

Head of information
Minister Counselor
Royal Danish Embassy

Don't 'blame the victim'

Ivan Eland, in his Jan. 28 Commentary column, "A presence too perilous by far?" states: "In the long term, Americans must ask why radical Islamists' hatred of the United States is so great that they would spend money and resources to kill innocent people in a faraway land."
It is futile to attempt to understand hatred so deep that it would lead someone to kill thousands of innocent people. We have spent centuries refining our criminal justice system to comprehend and remove the root causes of evil crimes, all to no avail. When hatred is taught from birth, it will not be removed easily by reason.
Mr. Eland suggests quietly withdrawing our troops from Saudi Arabia as one way to appease the radical haters. I suggest that this is the opposite of what we need to do. To remove our troops from the so-called holy land of Islam is to admit that we shouldn't have been there in the first place. The United States has the right to go anywhere in the world where we are invited. Whether Christians or Jews, Muslims or atheists, we are Americans first; if the Islamic extremists can't accept that, it is their problem.
Remember that haters will always find another reason to hate. Where does the appeasement end? After we withdrew from Saudi Arabia, the next demand would be to end our support for Israel. Come to think of it, according to the radicals, the Jews shouldn't be in Israel, either. Then a case could be made that we should not sell weapons or provide aid to Egypt. Perhaps Turkey should be free of infidels, as well. Iran calls us the "Great Satan." This is not a reference to our presence in Saudi Arabia but a critique of our entire "decadent" culture. In the West, when we disagree, we argue and persuade; Muslim radicals punish and destroy.
Rather than remove each and every "lightning rod" for hatred, we should stand up for the principles that made this country great: freedom, equality, liberty, justice, tolerance and democracy. If such behavior makes us a lightning rod for those who seek to subjugate the weak, so be it. We should willingly and resolutely bear that burden so that other peoples might enjoy the sweet fruits of our labor.
Mr. Eland's sort of "blame the victim" approach to foreign policy can only lead to disaster. We as Americans, as Westerners, as upholders of democracy, must not accede to every demand made by our aggressors. Radicals of every stripe are, by definition, unreasonable and unending in their demands.


Foreign aid for a safer world

Though I agree with J.T. Young that the level of U.S. spending on foreign aid cannot be blamed for the events of September 11, I think it's important to set the record straight on a few points regarding foreign aid ("Giving aid not really foreign to America," Commentary, Jan. 23).
Mr. Young, deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury Department, says foreign-aid spending has remained relatively constant in the past decade, which becomes clear when one factors in inflation. However, in the past decade, we saw a period of great prosperity in the United States, and spending actually increased for many budget items. Before we pat ourselves on the back for maintaining previous spending levels, we should consider that the United States ranks last among industrialized nations for the percentage of gross domestic product spent on foreign aid.
In questioning the effectiveness of foreign aid, Mr. Young echoes a widely held public sentiment, but perhaps it is time to re-evaluate a frequently misunderstood issue.
First, foreign aid comes in many forms. Relief organizations and other humanitarian aid groups often get the most media play, but many foreign-aid projects emphasize empowering the world's poor through knowledge transfer and bear little resemblance to the handouts most imagine.
Second, the successes of foreign aid rarely are celebrated. Take India, for example. In the 1960s, experts feared a famine, and U.S. aid poured into the country to support agricultural development and the creation of a university system much like what the United States has in land-grant colleges. (This university system now provides India with its own source of agricultural expertise.) As a result, a disaster was averted, and India is a food exporter.
Even Mr. Young cites statistics showing declining poverty figures worldwide.
Blaming the cowardly acts of terrorists on poverty is simplistic, but based on history, it is easy to see that a U.S. commitment to broader global engagement, including foreign aid, would help alleviate poverty and promote cooperation worldwide creating a better, safer world.


Vietnamese government must address abuses

The current exchange between Michael D. Benge on behalf of the Montagnard Human Rights Organization and the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington raises issues to be addressed by the Vietnamese government and by the Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate ("Terrifying abuses in Vietnam," Commentary Forum, Jan. 13; "Vietnam's human rights scandal," Letters, Jan. 23; "Is freedom so frightening?" Commentary Forum, Jan. 27).
The Vietnamese government easily could resolve the issue by allowing unrestricted access to the central highlands, home areas of the Montagnards not only for the representatives of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, but also for the U.S. ambassador and his staff and other foreign diplomatic missions in the Vietnamese capital. Limited, case-by-case, tightly controlled access will not do. The Vietnamese ambassador in Washington and his staff are free to travel in the United States and meet with people as they wish. Refusal to accord reciprocal privileges to the United States representatives is not an acceptable part of normal relations.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee must end the equally unacceptable situation by which Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, has prevented the Vietnam Human Rights Act no more than a rejoinder without teeth to come to the full committee and the floor for a vote. The conduct of the Vietnamese government in the matter of the Montagnard minority especially the refugees in Cambodia more than obviates the questionable justification for that arbitrary action by a single senator.


Mr. Lehmann, a retired Foreign Service officer, was deputy ambassador to the former Republic of Vietnam.

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