- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

Column on land mines is fatally flawed

Commentary contributor Ernest W. Lefever's argument that the United States can continue to ignore calls to join the 1997 treaty that comprehensively prohibits anti-personnel mines is, like the anti-personnel mine, fatally flawed and alarmingly out-of-touch with reality ("Land mine myopia," March 15).
Mr. Lefever describes the mines as weapons that are "politically and morally neutral," ones the United States has used "to save lives." Anti-personnel mines are indiscriminant weapons, and whatever residual military utility they retain is far outweighed by their humanitarian impact and enduring legacy. This legacy also has an impact on American families. U.S. military personnel fell victim to mines in 2001 in Afghanistan, Kosovo and South Korea. Even the "self-destruct" feature Mr. Lefever describes as rendering the mine "harmless" is flawed; the mine still cannot distinguish between soldier and civilian.
For these reasons, nearly three-quarters of the world's nations have banned the weapon by joining the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which Mr. Lefever describes as "unenforceable." Since the treaty was opened for signature in December, 1997, there has been a marked reduction in the use of anti-personnel mines a sharp decrease in production, a virtual halt to trade and the destruction of more than 25 million stockpiled anti-personnel mines. Resources for mine clearance and victim assistance have increased. Most importantly, the number of new mine victims is falling in many countries around the world.
Those not yet party to the treaty are clearly feeling an obligation to abide by the international norm established by the treaty. The United States has not exported anti-personnel mines since a moratorium was established in 1992. It has not produced anti-personnel mines since 1997. To our knowledge, the United States has not used antipersonnel mines since the 1991 Gulf War. The significant mine-clearance and victim-assistance funding provided by the United States would be enhanced and its effectiveness improved by joining with the other major funding nations operating within the legal and programmatic framework of the Mine Ban Treaty.
Mr. Lefever says that the administration views the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty as "little more than an empty gesture," but the Bush administration has yet to make a policy statement on land mines. A unique opportunity awaits the administration as it reviews its land-mine policy. Joining the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty is the most practical and humane step the administration could take. To fail to do so would be shortsighted in the extreme.

MARY WAREHAM
Senior Advocate (Arms Division)
Human Rights Watch
Washington

Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate. Mary Wareham is the coordinator of its research wing, the Landmine Monitor.

Don't censor debate on evolution in the classroom

In her March 18 letter, "Evolution is based on science," Nancy Karlen argues that we don't need open debate about origins in public school classrooms because evolution is indisputably true. However, her letter is a classic example of why we need such debate.
Among other misstatements, Ms. Karlen asserts, "Public belief in a hypothesis does not make it a scientific truth. Remember your old school lessons; a common belief in medieval Europe was that the world was flat."
Although intelligent design advocates would heartily endorse the first sentence, the second one is flat wrong. In his book "Inventing the Flat Earth," historian Jeffrey Burton Russell points out that almost no educated person in the Western world has believed in a flat Earth since the third century B.C.
The myth that medieval Europeans believed in a flat Earth can be traced back to a horribly inaccurate biography of Christopher Columbus by Irving Wallace, published in 1832, and an egregiously slanted article by French scholar Antoine-Jean Letronne, published in 1834. The myth was later perpetuated by Darwinists, who saw it as a handy tool for bashing their critics just as Ms. Karlen did in her letter.
Teachers should not be required to teach such nonsense uncritically, nor should students be required to passively suck it all in. Let's open the science classroom to badly needed discussion and debate.

MARK HARTWIG
Religion and society analyst
Focus on the Family
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Column on Israel naively upholds land-for-peace model

In Martin Gross' March 21 Commentary column "Reining Sharon in on peace settlement," he states, "If Israel withdraws to its pre-1967 borders, the Arab world will recognize the existence of the Jewish state. This means Israel will have won the war. Their goal has never been to win more land, but to live in peace and be recognized by its neighbors."
This statement is somewhat naive and ignores history. Neither peace nor the recognition of Israel can be guaranteed by Israel's withdrawal. After all, if simply assuming pre-1967 borders would ensure peace between Israel and the Arab community, then why was there no peace before 1967? The Arab leadership has given little, if any, indication that they intend to recognize Israel as an independent nation upon Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders. At times, this stubborn attitude against recognizing Israel has been as subtle as a fist to the nose. A March 4 story in the International Herald Tribune quotes Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi as saying "I'll be the first to recognize a Jewish state if the United States give them a state in Alaska." This grotesquely honest statement shows that some Arab leaders simply don't want any Israeli state to exist in the Middle East.
Regarding the Saudi peace plan, in another example, a March 11 Associated Press report says that the Saudis were forced to remove the words "full normalization" from the proposed peace agreement due to bickering among the Arab leaders. Instead, Israel was offered "complete peace" from Arab nations in exchange for the Israeli withdrawal and creation of an independent Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital. How the Arab leadership intends to enforce this "complete peace" is not mentioned. There simply exist too many elements that have no intention of ceasing their hostile acts. In a Feb. 28 BBC online report, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah rejected the Saudi proposal to normalize relations with Israel, saying "the Palestinians could win victory by jihad, or holy war, without paying the price of 'normalization with the enemy.'"
Given these facts, apparently neither Martin Gross nor the Arab leadership have much to offer Israel.

GREG BUETE
Tampa, Fla.


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