- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 7, 2003

Misfiring on the Mideast piece

In response to Wednesday’s editorial “Misfiring on Mideast peace”: I think The Washington Times would be able to make a much more effective contribution to the peace efforts in the Middle East by adopting a fair and balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This means that everything Israel does should not be considered right or excused, nor should the Palestinians get the blame for everything that goes wrong.

For example, even when the peace process was very much alive during the past decade, Israel continued with its settlement activities in the occupied territories. By no stretch of the imagination, therefore, can we say Israel was negotiating in good faith. Also, it was Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — then the opposition party leader— who drove the final nail in the coffin of the peace process by making that visit to the Dome of the Rock and infuriating those gullible Palestinian people on the streets, who fell into Mr. Sharon’s trap by becoming violent and starting the second intifada.

Originally, when the land of Palestine was divided, about 45 percent of the land was allocated to the Palestinians. They have lost much of that through wars. Now the only piece of the pie that remains is about 23 percent. I do not think there is any more room for bargaining over this 23 percent when we see that the Palestinian population is two-thirds (current Palestinian population plus refugees) that of Israel.

A democratically elected leader such as Mr. Sharon should no more have the right to flout international laws or U.N. resolutions than should a dictator or autocrat such as Yasser Arafat.

I might add that I favor the right of the Arab and Jewish peoples to live in peace side by side. We must make all efforts to end this conflict as quickly as possible, because even after the end of bloodshed, we still will have a long way to go. After peace is established, the pains of conflict also have to be healed, and this will take some time. So, the sooner the Israelis and Palestinians can reach a just and durable peace agreement between themselves, the better off we all will be.



Shutting down European broadcasts

Regarding “U.S. cuts back East European broadcasts” (World, Wednesday), it should be noted that a number of Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe also are slated for the chopping block.

VOA has provided cost-effective news about the United States and its policies. VOA’s niche is unique. Without VOA, the United States loses a valuable communication tool, needed now perhaps more than ever. America is often misunderstood, even in Europe. With VOA local-language services gone in the region, what resources do we have to project what we are about? Are we prepared for such a sacrifice?


Managing director

Joint Baltic American National Committee


The article “U.S. cuts back East European broadcasts,” by Bruce I. Konviser, has brightly illuminated the reality confronting Eastern European nations, all of whom are part of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld’s “New” Europe.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted favorably Sept. 5 for the fiscal 2004 appropriations bill for the Departments of Commerce, Justice and State, including U.S. international broadcasting, with additional monies for Radio Free Europe/Radio LibertyEuropeanservices (RFE/RL). By doing so, Senate appropriators accepted and reinforced the policy direction provided by the Senate Foreign Relations and House International Relations Committees — to keep broadcasting to Eastern European nations for one to two years. The differences on the money-restoration issue between the two houses were great, but there seemed to be no political wish to kill the broadcasts.

During the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on public diplomacy and Islam, Chairman Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, said the idea of RFE/RL closure “is short-sighted.” He went on to note that there might be a “collision” of one kind or another in Congress, but “these things are very important.” If these “fledgling democracies believe that it’s important to have the radios … to ensure the integrity of public information, … we should also think it important,” he said.

On Thanksgiving eve, though, the decision was made under a directive from the White House and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, RFE/RL’s oversight body, that seven Eastern European broadcasts will end Dec. 31. Do those decision-makers understand that because most local media in Europe is anti-American, RFE/RL was the one source of evenhanded reporting and analysis of U.S. policy and democracy issues to these countries in their native languages?

In Latvia, some 17 percent, and in Lithuania more than 24 percent of the population, including most of the opinion- makers, were regular listeners to the RFE/RL programs. These countries energetically supported the United States in the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism, and have troops on the ground there. The Latvian president’s popularity dropped critically because of this stand and the Russian media’s great influence.

Now, these people will be left with the “unbiased” BBC and CNN news in English (which most do not speak) and the “unbiased” analysis from Moscow in Russian (which most understand).

In the meantime, three U.S. congressional appropriators got a total of $94 million into the budget for a Native American museum, a bridge and an environmental rain-forest museum in the United States. This sum could provide funding for the seven broadcast services (including the Baltic services) for 10 years.

Isn’t it very shortsighted to cut off communication to the people of these countries at such a critical time, when funds obviously are available for congressional goodies? Shouldn’t the mistake be corrected?


Riga, Latvia

A new paradigm for the war on terror

I am writing to request that the Bush administration revisit the idea of pulling troops out of Iraq, where the general tide is going against America. I would like to give an alternate view to William Taylor’s column (“War and impatience,” Commentary, Saturday).

The virtual absence of democracy in the Islamic world points to fundamental flaws in Islam that must first be fixed before democracy can take root. The political and retrogressive preaching by some Muslim clerics does not allow for the separation of mosque and state, and leads to repressive regimes such as Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq. America is already a target of these clerics in Iraq, who are doing everything to undermine America’s desire to bring democracy there.

A pullback now from Iraq will probably lead to a takeover by another repressive regime hostile to American interests. But such a regime inherits an Iraq with weakened infrastructure — and a much less developed ability to create weapons of destruction. However, it is much better than the no-win situation America now finds itself in in Iraq.

The root cause of fundamentalism in Islam is identified with religious institutions that indoctrinate civilians into jihad rather than provide a modern education. These institutions around the world are not only producing killers of America and its allies, but are also preventing Muslims from progressing. It is these institutions and their lead clerics that must be destroyed as enemy combatants. These clerics thrive on freedom to indoctrinate their evil ideas. Along with encouraging moderate Islamic clerics, the threat and the actual use of force on the evil ones and their institutions will effectively marginalize their ability to indoctrinate. This will create conditions for reforming Islam. This may be the new paradigm America needs to win the war on terror.


New York

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