- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Arab League ‘looking behind’

Friday’s Op-Ed column “Looking ahead,” by Hussein Hassouna, is mislabeled. The proper headline should have been “Looking behind,” for that is what the Arab League has been doing for its 59 years of existence. What came through loud and clear was that Mr. Hassouna is stuck in a time warp preventing progress toward freedom, democracy and human rights in the Middle East.

When one looks at this 59-year record, one notes: 1) no democratic government among any of its 22 Arab nations; 2) no manufacturing base from which jobs and better standards of living could emerge; 3) no respectable institutions of higher learning similar to those existing in the free world; 4) no cultural institutions such as symphony orchestras or theaters of renown; and 5) no freedom of religion, press or speech and no freedom for women.

Yet, the major thrust of Mr. Hassouna’s article is that the Israeli-Arab conflict is preventing progress. It is as though, if it were not for Israel, there would be a “change of climate” in the Arab world. In other words, instead of looking inward, he is looking to blame Israel for lack of progress in Arab countries.

Even if Israel did not exist, the medieval culture of the Arab world would not have changed. The blame for the sorry state of affairs rests with the Arab world, not Israel.

The tragedy is that 20 out of 22 Arab nations refuse to accept the state of Israel. Arab League members refuse to consider the possibility of Israeli assistance in attaining a standard of living, medical standards and freedom comparable to those of Israel.

The league fails to acknowledge that the majority of Palestinians are from league nations, and, according to archived British records, many immigrated into what is now Israel during the 1930s and 1940s. For example, by most accounts, Yasser Arafat came from Egypt. League members must come to grips with this fact and reject Palestinian calls for the elimination of Israel. Until they face reality, it is highly unlikely that league members will ever be able to “look ahead.”



The return of the R and PG-13 audience

In her article “G, PG clean up at the box office” (Page 1 Thursday), Jennifer Harper makes a common error. She quotes a report from the Christian Film and Television Commission as proof that PG-13 and R-rated films “simply don’t sell.”

The problem with this report is the size of the data pool. If just three or four G-rated films are released in the year and one of them is “Finding Nemo,” the G-rated classification is going to skew higher than the real-world figures would indicate.

If, on the other hand, you look at the top 10 films of 2003, you will find only one G-rated film (“Finding Nemo” and one PG-rated film (“Elf”); the rest are evenly split between PG-13 and R. In fact, looking solely at the top 10 films of 2003, PG-13 and R-rated films took in more than 3½ times the money of G and PG-rated films ($1.8 billion in box office versus $500 million).

(1) The Return of the King $371 million, PG-13; (2) Finding Nemo $339 million, G; (3) Pirates of the Caribbean $305 million, PG-13; (4) The Matrix: Reloaded $281 million, R; (5) Bruce Almighty $242 million; PG-13 (6) X2: X-Men United $214 million; PG-13 (7) Elf $173 million; PG (8) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines $150 million, R; (9) The Matrix Revolutions $139 million, R; (10) Bad Boys II $138 million, R.

So why are the real numbers so out of line when compared with the report? Well, you don’t think that an organization called the Christian Film and Television Commission might be trying to prove a point or something, do you?


Portland, Ore.

Improving life, ending terror in the Philippines

With reference to The Washington Times editorial “Philippine Progress,” (Monday) I wish to point out that our military and intelligence authorities have been on alert and vigilant about al Qaeda-related activities.

To their credit, they uncovered and closed the front charity organization set up by Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law, arrested an al Qaeda operative named Murad, which led to the arrest of Ramzi Yousef — the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing, who is now in U.S. custody — and provided intelligence to the United States in 1995 about the possible use of commercial airlines to hit American targets.

Regarding the supposed Moro Islamic Combat Group, which reportedly claimed responsibility for the Madrid bombing, as your editorial stated, this group is not on our intelligence community’s radar screen. We will welcome any information you may have on it.

The Philippine government does not conduct “dialogue … to pacify terrorists.” President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has stressed that the government’s campaign against terrorism will not be compromised in any degree by the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The MILF publicly renounced terrorism last year as one of the preconditions for the peace talks and is not on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. In fact, the Bush administration has committed diplomatic and financial support to the peace process in Mindanao and has put forward $30 million for post-conflict rehabilitation and for the reintegration of combatants into the civil society, once the MILF signs the peace accord.

Previous administrations in the Philippines pursued an “all-out war” policy with the Muslim separatists, which led to thousands of casualties on both sides in the past decades and to the displacement of countless families. The path for peace and development in Mindanao espoused by Mrs. Arroyo is the only viable policy for securing both an end to terrorism and an improved life for the people. It is built on our previous success in drawing back the former main Muslim separatist group — the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) — into our democratic mainstream. With the assistance of the United States, Malaysia — which is brokering the peace talks — and the Organization of Islamic Conference, we are hoping to achieve an effective and durable peace in Mindanao.



Embassy of the Philippines


A clear distinction

In addition to all the Republicans, there are now a dozen Democratic senators on whom the women of America can no longer rely to make a clear distinction between fetal tissue and a live human being — at least not when it comes to recognizing legal “rights.” That’s what the senators from Louisiana (John Breaux and Mary Landrieu), North and South Dakota (Kent Conrad, BryonDorganandTom Daschle), Delaware (Thomas Carper), Minnesota (Mark Dayton), Nebraska (Ben Nelson), Arkansas (Mark Pryor), Nevada (Harry Reid), West Virginia (John Rockefeller) and, of course, Georgia (Zell Miller) showed last week when they voted to provide the same level of protection to fetal tissue as to the woman in whom it happens to reside (“Senate approves fetal-homicide bill,” Nation, Friday).

Of course, given the low level of protection women normally receive from the federal government, that might not mean much in practice. But the legal precedent being set by this legislation — making a part equal to the whole — is upsetting just because it is so illogical.

While we have become used to irrational argument from radical Republicans, the realization that, in addition to the renegade Mr. Miller, so many Democrats are no longer committed to legislating on a rational basis makes clear, once again, that our representatives in both houses of Congress are in dire need of direction from common-sense citizens.

There shouldn’t be any doubt that the whole is greater (and therefore more important) than its parts.


Durham, N.H.

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