- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 1, 2003

Cuba welcomes criminals

The article "Cubans harass U.S. envoys" (Page 1, Feb. 21) says that Havana tries to intimidate American diplomats stationed on the island. A State Department memorandum says that Havana's campaign includes house break-ins, vandalism, sexual advances, breaking into cars, bugging homes and "other officially sanctioned provocation."
However, Fidel Castro's provocations are not limited to intimidation. Even though President Bush has pledged to go after terrorists and those who provide them safe haven, Havana the home of more than 70 fugitives from American justice has gone untouched. According to the FBI, among them are Michael Finney and Charles Hill, suspects in the slaying of a New Mexico state trooper who then hijacked a TWA flight and diverted it to Cuba, where they were granted political asylum. Another fugitive, Joanne D. Chesimard, was convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper, but she managed to escape from prison and fled to Cuba.
While American servicemen continue to be placed in harm's way to protect America, there are members of Congress, governors, academics and business folks who allow themselves to be Mr. Castro's guests. This is the same host who welcomes murderers of American police officers.
The Washington Times does a great public service by reporting on Mr. Castro's despicable actions against American diplomats. Perhaps Mr. Castro's other provocations also could be brought to the attention of those who find the Cuban dictator a congenial host.

FRANK CALZON
Executive director
Center for a Free Cuba
Washington

Rather talk than remain silent

I disagree with the assessment of Dan Rather's interview of Saddam Hussein offered in yesterday's editorial, "Dan Rather in primetime fantasyland."
The editorial "question CBS' journalistic judgment in broadcasting the Dan Rather interview of Saddam Hussein" because the interview "constitutes purveying Iraqi propaganda" and "at least a few viewers were misled … ."
I think the editorial was too paternalistic to us commoners. Given the choice of hearing and seeing Saddam being interviewed, albeit under less-than-ideal circumstances, or not hearing him at all, I choose the former.
One of the costs of freedom of the press is that some people may be misled. Fortunately, there is more than one editorial voice in America. It is up to a free press to report on the interview and explain the problems with it. Once we commoners have an opportunity to hear both sides, we can make up our own minds. That's how the court of public opinion should work.
I am very happy that Mr. Rather got whatever interview he could and that CBS didn't choose to censor it in order to "protect" the public. We don't need censorship, just the facts, please.
Now, how about that debate Saddam suggested between him and President Bush?

MICHAEL WILLNER
Mason Neck

Goodbye, sweet Prince Tuesday

Fred Rogers, the host of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," is dead. What a loss for our nation. Politicians come, politicians go, each as self-serving as the next. Old generals, as Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, fade away, and there is no problem replacing them. But there has been only one Mr. Rogers.
I first encountered Mr. Rogers when my oldest children, now in their 40s, were toddlers watching television. What a wonderful show: This tall, gentle man walking onto the set, removing his jacket and putting on his sweater, taking off his business shoes and putting on his sneakers and then welcoming viewers into his neighborhood.
And what a neighborhood it was: other actors, a train and puppets, all moving with that slow, friendly pace set by Mr. Rogers. There was no violence. Characters neither condemned nor ridiculed one another. It was a friendly world. It was also a world in which little children could learn simple but important lessons about how to live. It was the only "children's" program that I ever wanted my own children to watch.
I met Mr. Rogers once. I was at the airport waiting to board a plane to go to some meeting or other when I looked across the room and there was Mr. Rogers talking to two men. He was just as he appeared on television same graying hair, same sweater. I walked over and stood near him, at which he interrupted his conversation, looked at me and asked, "Can I help you?"
I replied, "I teach mental health. I thought you might be interested in knowing that I always cite your program as being a wonderful, healthy, program for children to watch."
He smiled, shook my hand, and in his pleasant, slow, drawl said, "Thank you, thank you very much."
With that I turned and left, and he returned to his conversation. I was impressed. He was the same person in life as on the show: casually dressed, easily friendly, willing to break a business conversation for a moment with a stranger.
Consider the "children's" programs that flood television today: cartoon characters, pseudohuman characters, all frantic with action, often violent action. Then recall Mr. Rogers and the slow, gentle pace of his show in which people and puppets alike were always friendly and helpful to one another.
And then there was the way he closed his shows. He looked directly into the camera and spoke as if he were addressing each viewer. "I like you as you are," he said.
What a wonderful thing to say, but how many children hear that every day?
The United States lost a very important person, perhaps irreplaceable, with the death of Mr. Rogers.

WILLIAM D. DANNENMAIER
Cumberland Furnace, Tenn.

Debating points

In his interview with Dan Rather, Saddam Hussein proposed that President Bush debate him on live television ("Rather's Saddam interview draws skeptics," Nation, Wednesday). Establishing a dialogue in the midst of a crisis sounds on its face like the right thing to do, but Mr. Bush is correct to refuse the offer.
The key argument against Iraq has been that Saddam is a dictator who lies. He promised to destroy his weapons of mass destruction, but has failed to live up to his promise. These are not facts open to debate. They deserve to be acted upon with deadly force.
Yet, Saddam still thinks he can talk his way out of U.S. military action. No doubt emboldened by the spattering of anti-war protests, Saddam thinks that calling for a debate will give him the moral high ground.
Yet, debating a liar gains the honest party nothing. Debating Saddam would create the charade that Iraq is a morally acceptable nation with a leader Mr. Bush could debate in good faith. Saddam systematically violates the rights of his own people. He has ruthlessly invaded his neighbors, such as Iran and Kuwait. Debating Saddam would imply that these are just trivial differences that can be resolved by a nice TV shot between leaders. They are not.

NICHOLAS PROVENZO
Chairman
Center for the Advancement of Capitalism
Alexandria



The Great Seal of the United States depicts an eagle. It clutches arrows in one talon, an olive branch in the other. This symbolism has been traditionally understood to convey the idea of America's readiness to engage any enemy in battle and our equal readiness to engage the same enemy in peaceful reconciliation.
I am very disappointed in President Bush's unwillingness to honor the symbolism conveyed by the Great Seal. He is grasping the arrows and dropping the olive branch. This is clearly illustrated by his refusal to engage Saddam Hussein in a publicly televised debate before the world a debate which could lead to peace.

DANIEL P. QUINN
St. Petersburg, Fla.

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