- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 9, 2004

Annan demands accountability

Your recent coverage about the United Nations Oil for Food Program for Iraq is riddled with innuendo and misinformation. For example, your April 30 editorial “Oil for terrorism?” calls for Secretary-General Kofi Annan to “come clean and release information,” completely ignoring the fact that he himself put together a high-level, independent panel comprised of individuals of impeccable credentials and led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker to investigate all allegations surrounding the Oil for Food Program.

Mr. Annan has indicated that he will deal severely with anyone found guilty of wrongdoing. All relevant documentation has been turned over to the Volcker panel, and all staff are under strict instructions to cooperate with its probe.

In addition, your coverage missed the essential point that the Oil for Food Program was enormously successful in its core mission of delivering humanitarian aid to, and improving the lives of, 27 million Iraqi citizens living under the shadow of Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime and international sanctions. Thanks to the relief effort, malnutrition decreased significantly, daily caloric intake rose by 83 percent, enough vaccines were imported to eradicate polio and significantly reduce other diseases, child mortality was cut and agricultural production expanded.

The United Nations is looking forward to the results of the Volcker inquiry and hopes that The Washington Times will cover them objectively and in full.

EDWARD MORTIMER

Director of Communications

Office of the Secretary-General

United Nations

New York

Thoughts on Iraq

So the Arab world is seething over some photographs purportedly demeaning to them (“Arabs denounce abuse of detainees,” World, Tuesday). Well, I don’t recall them seething over desecrated American bodies or photographs of hostages bound and blindfolded and threatened with death, or photographs showing cowardly Muslims using mosques or holy sites to attack American soldiers.

JOSEPH C. FENRICK JR

Capitol Heights

It is contemptible that a few of our soldiers abused some Iraqi prisoners. Americans feel shame and disgust for this. However, the soldiers responsible will be punished. President Bush has made an apology. Yet this was an aberration, an exception to our general behavior carried out by a renegade few.

What about the nearly 3,000 Americans murdered on September 11? Hundreds of thousands from Ramallah to Damascus to Cairo danced in celebration of that slaughter. That was not a renegade few. That was the mainstream “Arab street.” Will they ever apologize for that?

SCOTT ABRAMSON

San Mateo, Calif.

While President Bush has expressed sorrow for the events at Abu Ghraib prison, no amount of groveling will satisfy those “politicians and pundits [who seek] to exploit this episode to score partisan points”(“Criminal behavior, political profiteers,” Editorial, Thursday). They forget that Abu Ghraib was Saddam Hussein’s prison before it was ours — the site not of torture and abuse as an abhorrent aberrations but as instruments of state policy to intimidate, terrorize and control.

Unlike the Ba’athists who danced for Al Jazeera television after the murder and mutilation of four Americans in Fallujah, the American reaction is outrage, shame and regret. The actions of a few at Abu Ghraib are an indelible stain, but the irony here is that those Americans responsible for these appalling actions will probably receive swifter justice than Saddam will get for his crimes against the Iraqi people.

Concerns that Abu Ghraib will inflame the “Arab street” against the “ugly Americans” ignores the fact that the “street” largely ignored the mass graves, torture chambers and rape rooms of Saddam, Qusay and Uday, and oppression by its own governments. Many saw September 11 as cause for dancing in the streets.

As Suzanne Fields notes in a column (“The good, the bad, the ugly,” Op-Ed, Thursday), let us also not forget that most of our soldiers are more like Cpl. Pat Tillman, who diedforhiscountryin Afghanistan, giving up fame and fortune and his life for his friends. They are out there building schools, infrastructure and democracy, doing the work and making the sacrifices the righteously indignant would never do.

DANIEL SOBIESKI

Chicago

Am I the only one who finds it absurd that John Kerry believes the Iraq prisoner abuse indicates the need for a new president (“Bush vows to bring abusers to ‘justice,’” Page 1, Thursday), presumably himself? Is this not the same John Kerry who is on the record admitting to committing atrocities and illegal acts of aggression during the Vietnam War? Should we really vote to put the wolf in charge of the sheep?

VIVIENNE AVETOOM

Santa Ana, Calif.

A fitting award

I wholeheartedly agree that the chubby, raspy-voiced, New York liberal well deserves the recognition you gave him (“Knaves: Rep. Charles Rangel, for pushing a partisan impeachment,” Nobles and knaves, Editorial, Saturday).

Living outside the Beltway, I had never seen Mr. Rangel, except on television, until I visited the Capitol in April. I was surprised when I saw him getting on an elevator, noting just how short in stature he is as compared with other congressmen.

His cheap rhetoric, speaking before cameras after the Rumsfeld hearing Friday, confirmed to me that clothes really don’t make the man. Mr. Rangel is capable of reaching a new low in partisan headhunting.

BILL SMITH

Pebble Beach, Calif.

Bulletproof ideas?

Ellen Thomas’ Saturday letter “Efficient tools of death” is a little misguided — OK, a lot misguided. I’m not sure where she got the idea that the 2nd Amendment is about making it legal and easy for people to murder each other. And what’s this claptrap about abortion and gun control both being about “governmentinterferenceinthe personal decision to kill”? Maybe the abortion debate is about that, but the gun-control debate is about a human right, the right to bear arms in self-defense. Abortion is about killing a defenseless baby, every time. You can’t pull out an abortion and scare a baby off without actually having one.

I guess I should be glad that Ms. Thomas doesn’t think all those who desire “high-powered automatic weapons” are killers. Just most of them, I guess. In her fervor, she can be forgiven for fudging little details like the fact that the weapons at issue aren’t automatic at all. At first glance, her argument that better guns kill more efficiently seems valid, but upon reflection, the efficiency of a weapon really depends on what kind of weapon the enemy has. A machete can be quite efficient if the victim has nothing, or is weaker and slower. For that matter, a person can do a lot of damage with a box cutter in certain circumstances. Which brings me to my final point.

Ms. Thomas says that the more guns there are, the more people will be killed by them. Well, that might be true, and it might not; but, notice that she didn’t say that the more guns there are, the more people will be killed, period. Because, if she made that argument, then she would effectively be claiming the inverse — namely, that fewer guns means fewer people dead. The logical extension of that is: The safest environment is totally gun-free. Our planes were gun-free on September 11. ‘Nuff said.

Whether Ms. Thomas wants a .50-caliber weapon is up to her, but it will be safest for everyone if she retains the choice.

THOMAS H. DESABLA

Silver Spring

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