- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 9, 2002

I got them DMV blues

Last week, Deborah Simmons referred in passing to the slowness of the Department of Motor Vehicles ("911: Is the nation's capital on life support?" Op-Ed, May 31). As one who did time at the DMV yesterday to renew my driver's license, I can affirm the validity of her complaint.
After passing through the metal detectors of the C Street entrance, I walked down a long corridor clogged with people and took my place at the end of the line. For about 40 minutes, I inched toward what I thought was the beginning of the line. That's when I learned that the corridor served merely as an anteroom for a longer line inside the room. A horseshoe-shaped line of about 50 people crept forward with barely contained frustration.
Surviving that line entitles one to go to a desk area and pick up paperwork and a number. Then one may take a seat, if there are any, and watch an electronic board for one's digital number to come up. All the while, there are announcements such as, "C0110, go to window number N." (That's right, "number" N.)
By this time, nerves are frayed. The guy next to me muttered, "This is terrible." Actually, that was a bowdlerized version of what he said: He used so many four-letter words that if his expletives were deleted, one would think he had taken a vow of silence. I had entered the building at 10 a.m. It was now 11:30, and the clerks behind the bank-style windows were starting to bail out for lunch. At one point, just two people manned (or personed) the seven windows.
Just before noon, my number was called. I paid up and got a slip of paper, which I took to the other end of the room to have my picture taken. This part of the process was quick, and soon I was given my license with the becoming photo and was free to go.
The whole process, though, from beginning to end, took a little more than two hours. This should be unacceptable. Perhaps Mayor Anthony A. Williams should leave his chauffeur at home, put on a disguise, grab a taxi and go see what's really happening at the DMV. After all, that guy next to me managed to get a little chant going with several people joining in. It went, "Bring Back Barry. Bring Back Barry."

VANCE GARNETT
Washington

Profiles in absurdity

Your June 5 front-page article "Ban on profiling draws growing concern" is a glowing testament to the skewed values that prevail in our cultural institutions, especially in our nation's schools and universities, where political correctness passes for an education. Save for the crimes of a few homegrown nuts such as Timothy McVeigh, the vast majority of assaults against American interests, at home and abroad, have been at the hands of Middle Eastern men. Yet civil libertarians and left-wing politicians want us to ignore this link while our government is asking us to be on alert for suspicious activity. The mixed messages Americans are receiving play into the hands of our enemies.
Though it may be politically correct to body-search blue-haired grandmothers at airports while ignoring young men from terrorist-producing nations, it actually is wrong. Given the looming threat of more terrorist attacks, denying the obvious is a luxury that a country at war can no longer afford. So profile away.

THOMAS M. BEATTIE
Mount Vernon

Peace-loving rulers of Vietnam, you numba ten

Despite your excellent coverage of the abuse of ethnic minorities and political dissidents in Vietnam ("Vietnam repression," June 7), do not expect Vietnamese communists to surrender their penchant for audacious hypocrisy, an especially egregious example of which is charging former Sen. Bob Kerrey with war crimes ("Vietnam accuses Kerrey of war crimes," World Scene, June 1).
One might hope for a little humility from that country's leadership, which is guilty of torturing and murdering American prisoners of war and imprisoning a number of civilian noncombatants including me for five years in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
If the Vietnamese leaders want to talk about war crimes committed against civilians, they should conduct in-house investigations before pointing fingers at their enemies. For example, was it a war crime to attack the Stieng refugee village of Dak Son in December 1967 with grenades and flame throwers, barbecuing some 200 men, women, children and infants?
The Stieng are a predominately Christian ethnic minority in Vietnam, commonly referred to as Montagnards. I have worked among them since the 1960s, both in Vietnam and here in the States. I can affirm, as The Times' article notes, that the communists persecuted them during the war and are still doing so. After Montagnards demonstrated in early 2001 against religious repression, seizure of ancestral lands resulting in starvation, and Nazi-style ethnic and cultural genocide, thousands were killed, tortured or imprisoned or "disappeared." Two thousand ran a gauntlet of government troops in an attempt to find sanctuary in Cambodia, but more than half were recaptured and have not been heard of since.
Because discovering the truth and punishing the guilty is not the Vietnamese government's real concern, we should ignore its hypocritical moral indignation that is, until it charges its own with war crimes and crimes against humanity in "peace" time.

MICHAEL D. BENGE
Adviser
Montagnard Human Rights Organization
Falls Church

U.S. aid to Egypt is a gravy train for grafters

The United States offers Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a huge amount of economic and financial aid each year. This past January, the United States offered additional aid, and on Feb. 5 and 6, a donors conference raised more money for Egypt from the United States and some European countries.
All this aid is to save the Egyptian regime and avoid the country's economic collapse. There are many reasons for this impending collapse, but I believe the most important reason is corruption in high places. Corruption in Egypt has reached unprecedented heights in Mr. Mubarak's government in the name of privatization and the change to a market economy.
The government has sold the greater part of public-sector companies for less than a quarter of their worth to businessmen working for either Mr. Mubarak's sons or foreign companies in return for huge commissions for the Mubaraks and top government officials.
To obtain a high position in the Interior Ministry and the Intelligence Ministry, it is necessary to be involved in corruption, and being condemned by courts for corruption is an asset. Through corruption, Mr. Mubarak secures the loyalty of heads of the security departments, making sure they will execute his policies and oppress his political adversaries.
Mr. Mubarak has encouraged those ministries to loot public money by forming companies that offer construction services and, contrary to the law, are given deals by the state for huge sums, in some cases 20 times the amount offered to competing companies. These funds are then distributed among the top people at those ministries.
The Mubarak era will be known in the history of Egypt as the era of thievery.
I condemn financial aid for the Mubarak regime, but if the United States and Europe insist on supporting it for selfish political reasons at least they should provide aid on the condition that the regime accept international procedures to secure democracy, human rights and anti-corruption measures.
Such procedures should include forming an international committee to evaluate the fortune amassed by Mr. Mubarak, his sons and the heads of his regime; an international committee to supervise elections; and a committee to promote human rights.
The absence of a connection between receiving aid and agreeing to such procedures means that American and European taxpayers are accomplices to the crimes of the Mubarak regime, which even include torture of dissidents.

MUHAMMAD AL GHANAM
Former director of legal research
Egyptian Interior Ministry
Geneva

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