- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 23, 2004

Dangerous example

Your editorial regarding Sen. John Kerry’s support for multilateralism in military interventions (“Kerry’s multilateralist fetish,” Thursday) rightly criticizes inconsistencies. After all, it is the moral obligation of any U.S. leader to ensure that any use of force complies with international law. There is good reason for this.

In the wake of World War II, the United States led international efforts to establish the United Nations and to adopt the U.N. Charter to preserve peace and promote human rights worldwide, based on hard-learned lessons. According to the U.N. Charter, member states are required to settle international disputes by peaceful means whenever possible. The use of force is envisioned only as a last resort, either as a collective response authorized by the U.N. Security Council (once it determines there exists a real threat to international peace and security) or as self-defense in response to an attack.

As the most powerful member of the Security Council, the United States has a primary responsibility to adhere to these standards. Unilateral, pre-emptive military intervention undermines the international legal framework governing the resort to force. Even worse, it sets a dangerous example for other countries involved in disputes.



MARY T. SHAW

Norristown, Pa.

Rights for felons?

In your front-page story, “Activists seek rights for felons” (Friday), an associate at the Sentencing Project — a D.C.-based criminal-justice advocacy group that favors letting all felons vote, whether they are in or out of prison, no matter what crime or crimes they have committed — suggests that there is a clear trend in that direction. But it’s actually more complicated than that, as the project itself acknowledged in a report last year. While some states (e.g., Maryland and New Mexico) have recently allowed more felons to vote, others (e.g., Massachusetts and Utah) have moved in the opposite direction in the past several years.

It would be surprising if there were a groundswell of support for letting ex-criminals vote. People who aren’t willing to follow the law should not claim a right to make the law for the rest of us. We don’t let everyone vote — not children, noncitizens or the mentally incompetent. There is a minimum standard of trustworthiness before we let people participate in the serious business of self-government, and those who have committed serious crimes don’t meet that standard.

In some cases, it may be appropriate for an ex-felon’s right to vote to be restored, but this should be determined on a case-by-case basis, weighing the seriousness of the crime, whether it was part of a series of crimes, how long ago the latest crime was committed and whether the person has shown that he has turned his life around. It should not be done automatically, ignoring all the above factors.

ROGER CLEGG

General counsel

Center for Equal Opportunity

Sterling, Va.

Adult vs. embryonic stem-cell claims

Morton Kondracke makes several errors in referring to research under way in Portugal using adult stem cells to treat spinal-cord injury in humans (“Emphasis on research,” Commentary, Tuesday). At a time when the issue of stem-cell research has become so pronounced in presidential election politics, it is important that they be corrected.

While acknowledging that embryonic-stem-cell research has been overhyped, he accuses advocates of adult-stem-cell research of being just as guilty by claiming that the Portuguese research has “cured” spinal-cord injury. I know of no credible advocate of adult-stem-cell research who has ever made such a claim. What has been said by them is that the treatment, developed by Dr. Carlos Lima, has provided some therapeutic benefit for each of the patients who have undergone it, including two young women from America. That is not hype but simply a fact.

The treatment uses the patients’ own stem cells obtained from the olfactory mucosa that lines the nasal cavity — not from the eye, as Mr. Kondracke mistakenly says. Based on comments by research-cloning advocate Michael Manginello, Mr. Kondracke suggests that there is a scientific consensus that Dr. Lima’s research is not “repeatable” and, indeed, is “scary.”

That would come as a surprise to the two American women who received the treatment, both of whom testified before Congress and were featured in the PBS series “Innovation.” According to them, their American doctors had told them they would never get out of their wheelchairs again. After receiving Dr. Lima’s adult-stem-cell treatment in Portugal, they can both stand and walk with the assistance of braces. Again, that is simply a fact. Do embryonic-stem-cell proponents really think such a development is something to be afraid of?

Nor do scientists think this research is “scary.” In 2002, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology hailed the use of stem cells from olfactory mucosa to treat spinal-cord injury in animal models as showing “the most dramatic functional and histological repair yet achieved … in adult mammals, and they open new avenues in the search for treatment of spinal cord injuries in other mammals, including humans.”

As for not being “repeatable,” both Dr. Geoffrey Raisman of Britain’s National Institute for Medical Research and Dr. Steve Hinderer of the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan have studied Dr. Lima’s techniques and are hoping to begin human trials based on them in Britain and the United States, respectively.

Unfortunately, in addressing this issue, Mr. Kondracke appears to once again have fallen for the disinformation being disseminated by embryonic-stem-cell and research-cloning advocates.

GENE TARNE

Communications director

Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics

Washington

A better plan

In the excerpt from the new book “Treachery by reporter Bill Gertz published in The Washington Times (Page 1, Sept. 8), Mr. Gertz reveals the lengths to which France and the others have undermined the American effort as well as United Nations sanctions.

Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards wish not to recognize that America has already met the ultimate “global test.” President Bush’s Wilkes-Barre, Pa., speech on Oct. 6 explained with clarity the “Bush plan” for conducting the war on terrorism that is World War IV.

There is a sharp contrast with the “Kerry/Edwards plan.” Their plan requires global tests, summit meetings and diplomacy to persuade former allies to join us in “the wrong war at the wrong time” — Mr. Kerry’s words.

The “Kerry/Edwards plan” is preposterous. France, Russia, China and Germany, too (if, perhaps, to a lesser degree), attempted to profit prior to and during America’s attack on Iraq by selling arms to Saddam Hussein.

Close colleagues of France’s President Jacques Chirac are reliably reported to have accepted Iraqi oil vouchers as bribes. The Kerry/Edwards’ failure to recognize the unwillingness of these same former allies to join in full alliance under the leadership of the United States is ignoble.

They refuse to do so for very base and false political reasons: i.e., to blame President Bush.

America has been, and still is, the beacon of freedom to the many millions who have immigrated and prospered in this great and good land. Make no mistake, Mr. Bush has proved himself an impeccable and steadfast leader of the highest character. He deserves to be commended in the face of his critics. Their false detractions only emphasize the substantial credibility of the president.

THOMAS P. WRIGHT

Rockbridge County, Va.

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