- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Pakistan's arsenal

Arnaud de Borchgrave seems to be in the habit of perennially crying wolf when it comes to Pakistan's fate, and his latest column is no exception ("Islamist nuke in an uncertain arsenal?" Commentary, Monday). I realize that he is concerned and cares about Pakistan's present and future, but based on his column, it appears that he views Pakistan with tinted lenses.

The pronouncements of a retired official who is neither influential nor has any following are no match for the official government policy guiding Pakistan's strategic forces. Our nuclear posture is simply a reaction to that of our neighbor to the east. Whatever has happened to upset or reset the nuclear equation in the region has been due to what our neighbor to the east has initiated, and we were constrained to respond, be it by building nuclear weapons or testing missiles. Pakistan's situation and strategic doctrine vis-a-vis India is identical to that of NATO and the United States vis-a-vis the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War.

As for the state of the army's leadership and the bona fides of the country's intelligence services, it would suffice to say that surmises and conjectures fly in the face of reality. Those who know Pakistan and have interacted with various state organs, particularly the military and intelligence services, know that they are composed of and commanded by capable, reasonable and moderate individuals who value the robust and strategic relationship with the United States. The Dr. Strangelove version presented in Mr. de Borchgrave's column is based on stereotypes and a distortion of the prevailing situation in the country.

Lastly, for the record, Pakistan's leadership had decided by the fateful day of the September 11 attacks indeed, even before President Bush's fabled "with-us-or-against-us" phone call that it was in the country's supreme national interest to realign its regional foreign policy stance. It was a matter of choice a collective decision of the military and civilian leadership and not a shotgun wedding.


Press attache

Embassy of Pakistan


Marijuana morality

White House drug czar John P. Walters' dishonesty about medical marijuana ("Drug czar calls Maryland marijuana bill 'immoral,' " Metro, yesterday) now borders on the pathological.

Mr. Walters, presumably with a straight face, called a bill to reduce not eliminate criminal penalties for patients who use marijuana to relieve pain and nausea caused by cancer, AIDS and other illnesses, "scientifically irresponsible and contrary to our high standards for approval of medications."

Surely, Mr. Walters is aware that the New England Journal of Medicine, considered the world's most prestigious medical journal, called for lifting the ban on medical use of marijuana back in 1997, calling it, "misguided, heavy-handed and inhumane." Surely, he remembers that the Institute of Medicine, in a 1999 report commissioned by his office, stated, "Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety … all can be mitigated by marijuana."

And, surely, Mr. Walters knows that the movement to protect medical marijuana patients from criminal penalties includes the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Public Health Association, the California Medical Association, the Florida Medical Association and at least one former U.S. surgeon general, among others.

It is Mr. Walters, not these experts, who is "cynical, cruel and immoral."


Director of Communications

Marijuana Policy Project


SDI misses target

The Sunday editorial "SDI" and James Hackett's Sunday column celebrating the anniversary of President Reagan's plan for a missile defense system ("A vision that has endured," Commentary) reflect both a limited understanding of threats to our nation and the lethal U.S. consequences of our Cold War victory.

The first error lies in the assumption that a missile is the most likely delivery mechanism for a nuclear weapon. In fact, it is the worst. Not only are missiles far more expensive to produce and deliver than smuggling a nuclear weapon into the United States via a freighter or a suitcase, but a missile is far more likely to provide a return address that would result in the certain retaliation and obliteration of the sender.

The second error lies in thinking that the threat will be nuclear in nature. Biological, chemical and cyber weapons are far more affordable, stealthy and untraceable. The impoverishment and collapse of the Soviet Union virtually ensured that such weapons of mass destruction became far more available and affordable to other nations or violent groups.

The third error lies in putting faith in technology to ensure security. Advances in technology favor offensive capabilities, not defense. The sooner a perfect missile defense system is devised, the sooner other technologies will be created or adapted to make that defensive technology obsolete. It takes about seven years to move a weapons system from concept to field operations. The technology designed into that weapons system becomes obsolete within 18 months.

Lastly, the fetish for missile defense and the continued worship of technology as a basis for security will only lead to more costly defenses that won't work and that will ultimately lead our nation to the same bankruptcy that finished the Soviet Union.

On September 11, 2001, the atrocities committed by 19 hijackers and the domestic anthrax monster that followed should have woken us up to the reality that no level of military spending can protect us if there is the desire to do harm. Protecting our security will require planning far beyond a missile defense system.

Real security will require the rewriting of the U.N. charter to effectively address the root causes of hate, poverty and chaos that now fuel the greatest threats to our security.


Advocacy director

Global Plan Initiative


Protesting pains

I protested in Washington twice and once in both Richmond and New York City, and I can tell you that Wesley Pruden's column, "The scary prospect of American success" (Nation, Friday), although witty, completely missed (or misrepresented) the reasons for those of us organizing and taking to the streets. What we have exercised is not a privilege granted to me by our military but a right guaranteed us as citizens of this country. The rights of assembly and public speech were not created to protect us from foreign powers or terrorists but from our own government.

Moreover, the rights of assembly and free speech become almost a moral obligation to exercise if one feels strongly that one's government is doing the wrong thing. If this were Iraq, those of us who are in opposition would have an excuse for inaction, but in this free nation of ours, we do not have that luxury.

In a free nation with the "world's greatest democracy," the blood truly is on our hands when we commit to a preemptive war despite so much world opposition. So, among Mr. Pruden, myself and all the other citizens of America, we need to make sure we have got this one right.

I did not participate in protests for the fun of it. I certainly did not do it for people to mock or ridicule me. To be quite honest, the activism I have participated in over the past six months has resulted in much personal sacrifice, alienation and overall consternation for both myself and my family. Disagree with my opinions, if you will (and for all I know, I could be very wrong), but give me some credit for being bold enough to step up to the plate and voice my concerns about where my country is headed.

This is nothing short of what one would expect from a true American.


Aylett, Va.

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