- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Front lines of communication

Jennifer Harper’s article on a soldier home on leave from Iraq was written in a tone of total admiration (“Soldier tastes home, then it’s back to Iraq,” Page 1, Tuesday).

Yet, according to him, the U.S. soldiers hate Iraqis and use the term “hajjis” to describe them, which apparently is religiously offensive to them.

I totally supported the decision of the United States and Britain to invade Iraq because I wanted the people to be set free from a cruel dictatorship. However, the allied forces then presided over a total breakdown in law and order, which to a degree alienated the population. This is compounded by attacks from the remnants of Saddam loyalists aided by incoming mujahideen. So there are problems.

However, under these conditions, professional soldiers are supposed to act in an impartial manner. When the occupying forces treat the people they have liberated with hatred and contempt, it will be returned in a vicious circle. It is the responsibility of their officers to change this attitude because if left unchallenged, it will tarnish the memory of all allied soldiers who have died fighting in Iraq, diminishing the nobility of their cause.

WILLIAM G. GARRETT

Harrow, England

Passing the test

Your recent Inside Politics item “Hillary’s ‘swamp’ ” (Nation, Nov. 5) does not address the serious shortcomings of high-stakes testing being proposed for 4-year-olds in Head Start. Early childhood assessment is effective when used as a tool to improve curricula and classroom teaching. It should not be used to punish children or evaluate the program.

The danger in using tests as assessment tools is that it could tempt Head Start programs, anxious to avoid funding cuts as a consequence of 4-year-olds failing the national test, to select only those children with the best chance of testing well, leaving behind children with special needs and those for whom English is not their first language. The Children’s Defense Fund also fears that this test will lead to ineffective teaching practices, such as teachers spending less time engaging children and more time drilling them with specific test questions.

More than 400,000 young children are mired in the politics of this experimental test. Congress should delay the testing until the public can provide input and the National Academy of Sciences can weigh in with its recommendations. Otherwise, the only “swamp” that will exist will be the morass in which Head Start children find themselves stuck.

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN

President

Children’s Defense Fund

Washington

A contradiction of terms

Tuesday’s Culture item “The new Bob Hope?” has Kid Rock, playing at being the unofficial successor to Bob Hope, wondering, as a result of performing at USO shows for our troops stationed overseas, why Hollywood’s self-massaging sound bite, “We’re not for the war, but we still support the troops” is actually coming across to our troops as “Man, [Hollywood is] just … down on us.”

Rephrase it, Kid: How about, “Hollywood movies stink, but the people in Hollywood look good around their swimming pools”? Or “Rock ‘n’ roll is for the birds, but you look great with Pamela Anderson”?

Hollywood celebrities put their lives on the line only to earn money. Our troops put their lives on the line to ensure our freedom. The idea that you can support them and oppose what they do, especially when they are risking their lives to do it, simply underscores the emptiness of Hollywood activism.

PETER BROS

Springfield, Va.

Playing hardball with steel tariffs

The World Trade Organization has issued its final decision on President Bush’s steel tariffs — they violate WTO rules (“WTO rules U.S. tariffs on steel illegal,” Business, Tuesday). This comes as no surprise because WTO has never upheld a safeguard action imposed by any country at any time, ever. It is important to understand this when discussing international trade because it speaks volumes about WTO’s agenda.

The case presented to the International Trade Commission by American steelmakers was compelling and resulted in a unanimous decision (6-0) by the ITC. Mr. Bush then acted to save the American steel industry by imposing temporary tariffs on some steel products. The three-year respite from cheap, illegally dumped foreign steel is designed to enable the American steel industry to realign and become globally competitive, a process that is proceeding very well.

Empowered by the WTO decision against the United States, the European Union, China and Japan are threatening to impose up to 100 percent tariffs on American products if Mr. Bush refuses to lift the steel tariffs. Never mind U.S. trade law, the WTO has spoken, and we are being told by our “trading partners” to obey WTO or they will retaliate.

It gets worse — the European Union has declared economic and political war on Mr. Bush by targeting its threatened retaliatory tariffs against products produced in states that will damage Mr. Bush’s re-election efforts. The European Union is trying to influence the outcome of a U.S. presidential election by using a WTO ruling. It doesn’t get any dirtier or nastier or more personal than this; “Old Europe” is flexing its atrophied muscles once again.

If Mr. Bush rejects the WTO ruling and a trade war ensues, the United States could jeopardize a projected $225 billion in exports to the European Union, China and Japan. But our so-called trading partners stand to put a projected $495 billion of their exports in play. Notice that our trade deficit with these three groups alone is a projected $270 billion, while the total trade deficit may hit $500 billion in 2003. Any questions about where our manufacturing jobs have gone?

The tough decision facing Mr. Bush comes down to who will retain the controlling authority — the administration or WTO. If this nation cannot enforce its trade laws in the face of flagrant cheating by our trading partners, we will have made a grave error, and the exodus of U.S. manufacturing jobs will accelerate. Once we become dependent on foreign manufactured goods the way we have become dependent on foreign oil, you can bet the ranch that America will be well on its way to second-class status among world economies, as some have predicted.

Perhaps the president should do what astute businesspeople do when facing unacceptable ultimatums from major suppliers — find new ones. The downside to this approach is that these suppliers are also, to a much lesser extent, customers. Many nations would love to increase trade with the United States, and the reality is that very few lodged complaints against the U.S. steel tariffs. Opening up new markets for American goods while developing trade with nations that pledge to respect our trade laws may prove to be a winning strategy. Nations recently freed from the yoke of Soviet oppression would be a good place to start.

There may be some short-term economic pain to this strategy, but in the long run, Americans will be the big winners and the European Union, China and Japan will be feeling the consequences of their retaliation should they follow through on their threats. This president needs to show the same toughness and determination that has stood him in good stead with the American people since we elected him to lead our nation. Now is not the time to cut and run.

RICHARD W. RESSLER

North Olmsted, Ohio


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