- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

Stop the settlements

Letter writer Etienne Gentin contends that America should support Israel's request for more financial aid to help boost its economy ("Foreign aid's 'yes men,'" yesterday), but Israel's economy is in trouble due to the Palestinian intifada. Why is there an intifada? Because Israel is continuing to illegally annex Palestinian land into "Greater" Israel in the form of settlements.

It logically follows that any financial aid given while Israel continues this illegal policy (see U.N. resolutions condemning it) will be perceived by Palestinians as America condoning and actively supporting it. For America to be seen as supporting international law and order, it should make further aid dependent on the removal of all illegal settlements. This would have an immense effect on America's international reputation, particularly in the Middle East.


Harrow, Middlesex


Faulty free trade analogy

In his Tuesday Op-Ed column, "Is free trade a costly myth … or revitalizing force?" Daniel J. Mitchell lost all credibility with me with his comment, "I have trade deficits with my local supermarket, movie theater and gas station: I buy lots of things from them and they never buy anything from me. Why is that bad?"

Mr. Mitchell knows he must have an overall positive "trade balance" in order to continue to do business with anyone. That is, he fails to include his positive income when depicting his "balance of payments" with others. If he truly believes that his personal expenditures are an analogy to America's imbalance of trade, then he must 1) be spending more than he earns, 2) believe he can receive unlimited credit from his supermarket, movie theater and gas station, and 3) somehow believe those businesses will continue to accept his IOUs without any form of cash payment and no foreseeable ability to do so.

That is preposterous, and Mr. Mitchell must know it. Then again, that's how lame the "free traders' " arguments have become.

I would much prefer that Mr. Mitchell and other free traders define what they mean by the term free trade. Do they mean laissez-faire economics? Do they want to keep government out of all economic transactions? Do they accept antitrust laws? Do they believe government should protect contracts and property rights but refrain from other business accords? I wish I knew. Unfortunately, many free traders never engage in specifics about what should be and should not be the government's interaction with the economy, at least not in the same conversation.


Norman, Okla.

Defining jihad

Collin Earnst is director of media relations for the publisher Houghton Mifflin Co. As such, it is his duty to maintain a favorable impression of his company in the press ("Columnist hit the books the wrong way," Letters, Monday). Unfortunately, last week's snow prevented delivery of The Washington Times, and I was not able to read the column by Suzanne Fields that Mr. Earnst responded to ("The jihad against the textbooks," Op-Ed, Feb. 20). However, I can speak to Mr. Earnst's letter.

He wrote that Mrs. Fields unfairly claimed that publishers distort the meaning of the word "jihad" to mean something less than holy war. As a reader who has studied Arabic, I can tell you that it is true that the word is ambiguous and that dictionaries vary as to its meaning. I have three dictionaries. Two define "jihad" as meaning "holy war" and the third as "striving, struggling, fighting."

To gain some perspective on the differing meanings, it is important to know that Arabic words generally consist of three consonants that are modified by additional letters to vary the meaning. In this case the letters corresponding to "j," "h" and "d" have a general meaning of conflict. Thus we have the related words: Jihadi (meaning military or militant), Mujahid ("warrior") and its plural, Mujahideen, is familiar to readers as warriors. As for the definition of striving, the word "ijtihad" covers that sense of the word more precisely.

It should be noted that the Koran contains historical information. During the early years of his career as a prophet of monotheism, Muhammad set out to expunge pagan beliefs from Arabia. He referred to pagans as infidels and enjoined his followers to kill infidels if they refused to accept Allah as the one, true god. Unfortunately, later followers of Muhammad have extended this injunction to all nonpagans who do not accept Allah or Islam, including Christians and Jews. In the same sense, the Koran speaks of bringing "terror" to the infidels, thus providing a pretext for present-day Islamic terrorism.

Finally, it should be noted that the intended meaning of a word is implicit in its usage. Hence, the use of jihad by an organization or group engaged in terrorist acts can only have the meaning of holy war. Those who try to say that it means striving in this case have either been misled or are attempting to obfuscate the reality.


Odenton, Md.

Drinking problems don't need exaggeration

I must say that Wednesday's editorial, "CASA's alcohol abuse," was right on the mark. Activists at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) have a well-deserved reputation among alcohol researchers for habitually misusing statistics to exaggerate the extent of alcohol-related problems in the United States.

Drinking problems are serious enough without any exaggeration. However, CASA's distortion and fear mongering are useful in increasing the visibility of the organization and bringing in money and lots of it: more than $150 million, so far. That huge money grab continues to grow, in spite of the fact that government research repeatedly demonstrates that most alcohol-related problems are on the decline.

Federal agencies and others have exposed earlier reports by CASA for their often blatantly inflated statistics, faulty logic and misleading assertions. The most recent report is also seriously flawed. For example:

• It incorrectly defines a drink of distilled spirits as containing 1.2 ounces rather than 1.5 ounces. The result, of course, is to significantly inflate the estimated number of drinks consumed.

n It arbitrarily asserts that any consumption of more than two drinks of alcohol per day is excessive drinking. However, the Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid, which is based solely on scientific medical research, recommends consuming up to two drinks per day for women and three drinks per day for men. Italy considers 3.5 drinks per day for a man to be moderate consumption, and France defines over four drinks per day for men as moderate.

n It implies that delaying the age at first drink would somehow decrease the chances that teenagers will become heavier drinkers as adults with alcohol problems later in life, although there is much evidence that the exact opposite is true.

n It creates estimates based on yet other estimates, and is thus a methodological house of cards. In short, we can have absolutely no confidence in its estimates or conclusions.

Co-author Joseph Califano, head of CASA, is not a scientist but a lawyer. That may explain, but it certainly can't excuse, the credibility-destroying inadequacies of CASA's report.


Professor of sociology emeritus

State University of New York

Chapel Hill, N.C.

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