The (long) hunt for Osama
Michael F. Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit, writes in “Finding Osama bin Laden” (Op-Ed, Friday) that we should thank Porter Goss for claiming that he has an “excellent” idea as to bin Laden’s whereabouts. Mr. Scheuer’s theory is that Mr. Goss spoke out the way he did to put pressure on Pakistan to deal with bin Laden.
He also commends Mr. Goss for speaking frankly about U.S. policy, which he says respects Pakistan’s sovereignty too much to take on the mission of finding bin Laden on Pakistani soil.
However, Mr. Scheuer goes overboard when he states, “The truth is that under both Bill Clinton and President Bush the U.S. government has valued the good opinion of the world over American lives.” Good opinion of the world? What good opinion does he mean? President Bush has been skewered in the press both here and abroad for being a “cowboy,” a “liar” and a “warmonger.” If that’s “good opinion” it probably can’t be printed how other countries really feel about us.
Mr. Scheuer’s job at the CIA from 1996 to 1999 was to keep track of Osama bin Laden and collect intelligence on his terrorist organization. He has been critical of the bureaucrats at the CIA who he says failed to act when they should have.
However, Mr. Scheuer was part of the CIA apparatus for 22 years, and to point the finger of blame at others appears to me to be self-serving. Perhaps Mr. Scheuer should explain why his “unit” failed in its mission and 3,000 of us had to die instead of making outrageous accusations about the sacrifice of American lives for the sake of world opinion. Mr. Scheuer sounds more like a book promoter (his own) than a serious analyst of the war on terror.
RICHARD W. RESSLER
North Olmsted, Ohio
Economic development in S.E.
I am writing in response to Tom Knott’s column on the redevelopment of Skyland Shopping Center (“Skyland makeover needn’t be hostile takeover,” Metropolitan, Thursday). While I take issue with the majority of the points Mr. Knott made, several are so erroneous that they require clarification.
First, the National Capital Revitalization Corp. has dedicated more than three years to working closely with a coalition of community leaders, Mayor Anthony A. Williams and members of the D.C. Council to plan for the revitalization of Skyland Shopping Center. Residents appealed to their elected officials after trying for more than 15 years to work with unresponsive property owners to upgrade the largest shopping center in Wards 7 and 8.
Second, NCRC has participated in numerous community meetings, testified before all D.C. Council hearings on Skyland, obtained all approvals from local officials and recently sponsored a town hall meeting focused on the retail mix for the new center.
Third, NCRC is deeply concerned about the current tenants, especially the small-business owners. After discussions with business owners at Skyland, we significantly increased the business-relocation line of our budget. We have engaged a well-respected company to work with business owners to develop individualized plans to minimize the financial impact of relocation.
Fourth, market research indicates that there is buying potential in and near Southeast Washington of more than $500 million annually, with more than $400 million leaking into Maryland and Virginia. That $400 million represents hundreds of jobs and millions of tax dollars that are going out of our neighborhoods.
Finally, NCRC extended our redevelopment schedule to enable property owners to formulate and deliver a viable redevelopmentplanthat addressed the needs identified by the community. However, they were unable to deliver anything more specific than a broad concept and a recommendation for further study by a national panel.
NCRC agrees with area residents when they say, “Fifteen years is long enough to wait.”
ANTHONY C. FREEMAN
President and CEO
National Capital Revitalization Corp.
I have enjoyed reading Tom Knott’s columns because I thought they provided a useful point of view regarding the National Capital Revitalization Corp.’s efforts to redevelop the Skyland Shopping Center. Although he has never contacted me or anyone at NCRC, I thought his appeals for the preservation of personal property rights, particularly as they pertain to the Skyland owners, were sincere attempts to sway public opinion on the matter. That was his editorial prerogative.
However, Mr. Knott’s past few columns, culminating with the estimation of the content of hypothetical dinner-party conversations, have taken leave of any sense of journalistic fairness. It was convenient to gauge the feelings of a few Skyland property owners and then spin those into a vitriolic diatribe against NCRC. Would it have inconvenienced him too much to have spoken with anyone at NCRC or in the community surrounding the Skyland Shopping Center to at least try to achieve some measure of balance?
In all fairness to those owners who have legitimate concerns about the future of their properties, the good people of the surrounding community have been pushing for change at this site for decades. The majority of the current owners, by choosing largely to ignore these concerns, have reduced their negotiating position.
If they had taken even remedial steps to improve the property’s appearance, police illicit activity, improve public safety and consequently attract retail tenants who weren’t by and large insults to the Skyland community, they would not find themselves in the position they are in today. There would be no need for an outside force to generate the kind of drastic change that the community envisions.
Mr. Knott commented on my professionalism and personal integrity without making any attempt to contact me. Yes, our dealings with Skyland owners have been forceful, but they have been fair. We are working hard to deliver the amenities, jobs and economic benefits long promised to the Skyland area. As long as the community is behind NCRC and me, I will not stop pushing for this project. That is my promise. Not to Mr. Knott, but to the people who will benefit by the redevelopment of Skyland Shopping Center.
Senior development manager
National Capital Revitalization Corp.
Faith and the military
Robert Maginnis grossly distorts the recent U.S. Air Force report confirming a climate of religious intolerance at the Air Force Academy, as well as the Constitution (“Combat zone for faith,” Commentary, Sunday). Calling the report an “anti-evangelical witch hunt,” he makes the disturbing claim that imposing his evangelical Christian faith on academy cadets is the way to preserve national security.
Seeking to ensure religious freedom and tolerance for all faiths represented at the academy, the report makes numerous programmatic and policy recommendations. The report’s goal is to stop unwelcome religious harassment and proselytizing. It in no way infringes on cadets’ constitutional right to observe the faith of their choosing. Yet Mr. Maginnis levels the charge that the “Air Force is close to institutionalizing religious intolerance” toward evangelical Christians, which he claims can undermine national security.
Why? Because according to Mr. Maginnis, soldiers who do not share his confident belief in an afterlife are ill-equipped for combat and lack the will “to fight on.” Thus, he avers, evangelical officers and cadets at the academy have the constitutional right to coercively impose their religion on others by coercively proselytizing others.
Our Constitution guarantees religious freedom and tolerance by rejecting the imposition of a majority religion on the minority. Not only do Mr. Maginnis’ views fly in the face of our nation’s cherished freedoms and values, but they dishonor our military personnel of all faiths or no faith who have sacrificed their lives defending these freedoms.
ABRAHAM H. FOXMAN