- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

Searching for botulinum

Despite the failure of former U.N. chief weapons inspector David Kay and his 1,400-member Iraq Survey Group (ISG) to locate Saddam Hussein’s purported arsenal of banned weapons, President Bush continues to contort the meaning of Mr. Kay’s three-month progress report almost beyond recognition and to insist that America did the right thing in pre-emptively invading Iraq. (“Iraq paid N. Korea to deliver missiles,” Page 1, Oct. 4).

And, irrespective of the fact that the initial search by the ISG cost $300 million and yielded a princely sum of one vial of live botulinum bacteria, the administration still insists on asking Congress to authorize an additional $600 million to continue the investigation. But, considering that Mr. Bush’s credibility is on the line among voters who take a dim view of apparently being lied to, the request is perfectly understandable.

In his January 2003 State of the Union address, the president told the American people: “The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin.” He also reported that Iraq was capable of producing over 25,000 liters of anthrax and 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.

In order to gain a better understanding of where we are and where we’re headed, I have a one-question math test for the president and his senior foreign policy team. It will require them to perform a simple conversion and then to estimate how much it will cost and how long it will take to successfully complete an operation. The question is: If it costs $300 million and takes three months and 1,400 people to locate one vial of botulinum toxin, how much will it cost and how many millennia will it take to find 38,000 liters of the bacteria?

Good luck.


Middletown, Md.)

Dissecting drug policy

Some observations about the article, “Walters links drugs to terrorism” (World, Saturday). If illegal drugs are linked to terrorism, it’s for one reason: our drug prohibition policies. Ninety years ago, when recreational drugs were legally available in local pharmacies for pennies per dose, organized criminals and international terrorists had no interest in recreational drugs. That’s because there wasn’t enough money in the business.

Our drug criminalization policies have made easy-to-grow weeds and easy-to-produce chemicals more valuable than pure gold.

We could put organized criminals and international terrorists out of the drug business in a heartbeat — the same way we put organized criminals out of the alcohol business in 1933. By legalizing, regulating and controlling the sale of recreational drugs.

Does U.S. drug czar John P. Walters believe that if Rush Limbaugh purchased prescription narcotic drugs on the illegal black market that he willingly supported international terrorists? If Mr. Limbaugh is found guilty, should he then go to federal prison for 10 years, as called for by our federal sentencing guidelines?

If not, why not?


Mesa, Ariz.

Kahane’s influence

Rabbi Meir Kahane’s philosophy, which spawned the terrorist Jewish Defense League, continues to inspire various Jewish groups and Web sites (“4 Jewish Web sites deemed ‘terrorist,’ ” Nation, Saturday).

This philosophy, explained by your reporter, includes espousing the idea that “Palestinians sought only to exterminate the Israeli Jews.” This idea is very common in Jewish circles, and not only in Israel. The idea that Jews “will be driven into the sea” by Palestinians is, in fact, repeated ad nauseam. Indeed, the very foundations of the state of Israel rests on the assertion that it is necessary to have a “safe haven” for the Jewish people.

The second Kahanist idea mentioned by your reporter is the rabbi’s proposal of the “forcible deportation of Palestinians from Israel.” This idea, usually referred to as “transfer,” is also very common in Israel and may, from time to time, be heard proclaimed from the floor of the Knesset without reprimand. It is also found as graffiti on walls, and Israeli citizens can express the same sentiment daily without a sense of shame.

The third component of Kahanist ideas mentioned is that the rabbi “also believed Israel should become a theocratic Jewish state, calling on the government to pass laws that were part of Orthodox Judaism, including a ban on marriages between Jews and non-Jews.” Disputes between Orthodox and other Jews in Israel are continuous. Regarding marriage specifically, nothing causes more panic amongst the Israeli leadership than the thought of assimilation through intermarriage.

In short, nothing Kahane espoused is thought unusual in Israel, much less illegal. Kahane’s group was declared illegal after one of its adherents murdered 29 Muslims in a mosque, it is true, but his tomb has become a reverential site visited by like-minded Jews.

The only difference between Kahane and many Israeli Jews who think as he did is that they don’t violently assault Palestinians at random. However, this they may do with impunity when they serve in the Israeli army or when they venture out from the settlements in which they live in order to harass Palestinian farmers at harvest or in their villages, as the Israeli police placidly stand by and watch.


New York

Democracy in Malaysia

Your article’s praise for Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s remarkable leadership is gratifying (“Can Malaysia cope without Mahathir?” World, Sept. 12). Yet, at the same time, it is disconcerting to read a rehash of the same old shibboleths that Western journalists like to hurl at a nationalistic and independent-minded leader who refuses to pander to the press.

Malaysia’s “claims” to be a democracy are impeccable. In a parliamentary system inherited from the British, Malaysia has now held 10 consecutive democratic elections. Under his leadership, Mr. Mahathir led his coalition of parties to overwhelming victories, whose fairness has never been disputed.

How many autocrats would voluntarily step down from office as Mr. Mahathir will do at the end of October? The only reason he has been prime minister for the past year is that, when he tried to retire in June 2002, members of his own party, and the overwhelming majority of Malaysians, refused to let him. He reluctantly agreed to stay on another 16 months, but no more.

The article condescendingly refers to his handpicked successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, as a “drab … former Islamic student and career politician,” who has generated uncertainty. The uncertainty belongs to the writers of the article. If they had followed Malaysia very closely for the past two decades, they would know that Mr. Abdullah has all the experiences to ascend to the top job, having served as foreign minister, education minister, and now as home minister and deputy prime minister.

Mr. Abdullah is a distinguished and respected Islamic scholar, a perfect antidote to the fundamentalists who preach hate and violence. He is also known as “Mr. Clean,” for his personal honesty and integrity, and his intolerance for corruption and cronyism. On this platform, he will lead the governing coalition into Malaysia’s next general elections.

One thing is certain. If Mr. Abdullah leads his party to victory and retains the prime ministership, he will not have to look over his shoulder at his predecessor. Even the article agrees that Mr. Mahathir doesn’t want a special role in government, such as the “senior minister” title accorded to Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of neighboring Singapore. Now is that any way for a real autocrat to behave?



Embassy of Malaysia


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