Saturday, August 13, 2005

A message for Turkey

I am continually amazed at the shameless proclamations by Turkish proponents that somehow the United States has slighted Turkey. I suppose that after hearing this tune ad nauseam, Tulin Daloglu’s column should have come as no surprise (“Trouble in Turkey,” Op-Ed, Tuesday).

Ms. Daloglu’s time and energy would be better spent exposing Turkey’s entrenched policy of dealing with its minorities — that of torture, intimidation, expulsion and murder. Turkish government officials had no problems when billions of U.S. tax dollars were spent on military equipment used by the Turkish army throughout the 1980s and ‘90s to destroy Kurdish villages.

The Turkish government has been asking for time to institute reforms for the past 150 years. Over that same period, it has persecuted its country’s minority communities, including the Greeks, Assyrians, Jews, Armenians and Kurds. The answer never seems to include initiating democratic reform; instead, violating basic human rights is the standard policy.

It has never been in the national interest of the United States to ignore the local human rights violations of its “allies.” The lessons of American deaths in Iraq and Iran should be enough proof of that.


Worcester, Mass.

Modern-day bootleggers

Richard W. Rahn’s excellent article, “Why do we regulate?” (Commentary, Thursday) convincingly lays out the reasons why we don’t need to regulate. So why do we? A look at a little noticed provision of the highway bill passed last week provides insight into that question.

Buried in subtitle C of that bill, the Transportation Equity Act, is the “Specific Vehicle Safety-related Rulings” section, which mandates new regulations requiring advanced auto-safety features in new vehicles.

Supported by a coalition of safety advocates and auto parts manufacturers, this feature of the bill illustrates perfectly Bruce Yandle’s “bootlegger and Baptist” theory of why we regulate.

The theory goes like this: Bootleggers in the early 20th-century South who benefited from laws that closed liquors stores on Sundays relied on Baptists to bring moral support to the cause. While the Baptists vocally endorsed the ban on Sunday sales, the bootleggers worked behind the scenes, and quietly rewarded the politicians with a portion of their Sunday liquor sale profits.

So, the answer to “why do we regulate” is this: modern-day bootleggers (the auto parts manufacturers) team up with Baptists (the safety advocates) to pass a highway bill that will cost all of us more when we buy our next car, while they pocket the profit.



Regulatory Studies Program

Mercatus Center

George Mason University


The negatives of the Iraq war

What does Alan Nathan provide as evidence of progress in Iraq (“Left is stuck on negatives of war in Iraq,” Op-Ed, Thursday)? “A mission involving a 700-ton, 260-megawatt combustion turbine generator secretly hauled over 640 miles through the insurgency dominated Anbar province.”

Having to secretly transport your infrastructure through enemy territory is not a very promising sign.

Let’s look at some of the bad news from Iraq.

American soldiers are dying, literally, by the truckload: more than 1,800 dead, 13,000 wounded.

Innocent Iraqi civilians are dying in far greater numbers, some of them apparently at the hands of American soldiers.

While America suffers military recruitment problems, a seemingly inexhaustible supply of terrorists is carrying out an unprecedented campaign of lethal suicide bombings in Iraq with apparent impunity.

Coalition officials are not permitted to leave the Green Zone except in military convoy.

Reports are emerging of the torture and summary execution of suspected insurgents by Iraqi security forces.

Human rights, and especially women’s rights, appear to be in a precarious position.

Basic services, such as water and electricity, are still patchy, and in some cases, worse than under the previous regime.

Iraqi oil exports are at about the same level as before the invasion.

Attacks on industry infrastructure are commonplace. There is a gasoline shortage in Baghdad.

Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and the practice of secret renditions have set back the cause of human rights everywhere and greatly diminished America’s international reputation and moral authority in the eyes of much of the rest of the world. This is an amazing reversal from the outpouring of sympathy in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Furthermore, Iraq has amply demonstrated the limits of American power.

Syria and Iran, whose infrastructure and military have not (yet) been crippled by years of sanctions, are hardly quaking in their boots.

I’m sure there are some good things happening in Iraq — for example, in the Kurdish controlled North — but they would appear to be vastly outweighed by the disastrous and terrible news that reaches us daily.

Until we are prepared to face up to, and deal with, the truth about the war in Iraq and the wider war on terror, we can expect even more bad news to come.



Japan’s record

It is regrettable that you ignored the reality of present-day Japan to support a thesis of rising nationalism by citing a number of views (“Tokyo shrine raises hackles,” A-Plus, July 28).

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has stated very clearly that he visits the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo to mourn Japan’s war dead and to pray that such a war will never be repeated. Thus, you should have been more sensible than to call Mr. Koizumi’s visits “honoring war criminals” and the shrine like “a shrine to Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler” in the eyes of “some historians.”

Your article also refers to the “resurgence of Japan’s militarism.” Japan holds firmly to its peace constitution; limits the overseas activities of its self-defense forces to noncombat support, peacekeeping and nation-building; provides aid to developing countries; and makes strenuous diplomatic and hands-on efforts toward world peace, prosperity and disarmament.

The rising will of Japan and its people has spread the same fruits of democracy, prosperity and peace that they enjoy to other people around the world.


Minister for public affairs

Embassy of Japan


Shredded pork

I couldn’t have been more depressed after reading Friday’s editorial, “Paved with pork.” This is an example that is shouted loud and clear that the politicos’ interest is only in themselves. All of this pork was handed out by a Congress that has cut benefits for disabled veterans. But I suppose this is to be expected.

How many voters for any particular senator or representative are disabled veterans? Instead of taking care of those who gave to the country, they take care of those who will give by the next election.


Sioux Falls, S.D.

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