- The Washington Times - Friday, June 3, 2005

Small plane, smaller danger

I write to take issue with Woody Zimmerman’s questionably headlined “Small plane, big threat,” which appeared in The Washington Times on Sunday (Forum). Perhaps a better headline would have been, “Many words, little information.”

Once again, I find myself fuming over comments from those who consider small general-aviation aircraft, such as the Cessna 150 that penetrated Washington’s airspace on May 11, a real threat. Mr. Zimmerman may know a great deal about mathematics, simulation and modeling, but he appears to know precious little about general aviation and the aircraft it comprises. For example, Mr. Zimmerman claims in his article that “had [that] recent plane contained [an atomic weapon], it would have incinerated Washington before any fighter planes arrived.” Really?

The useful load of the average Cessna 150 is roughly 500 pounds — and that weight includes the pilot, the single passenger that a Cessna 150 can carry, its fuel and motor oil. Load the aircraft much above that number and it does not fly. Even changing airplanes in the single-engine category does not affect the calculus that much.

It certainly does not take a mathematician to realize that even leaving a passenger behind and siphoning off a few gallons of gas to lighten the load would still leave the fragile Cessna 150 — and most aircraft like it — incapable of taking aloft Mr. Zimmerman’s theoretical 1,000-plus-pound atomic bomb, assuming you can get it in the aircraft in the first instance. A Cessna 150 is less than spacious.

As we contemplate all of this recent airplane hysteria, we should collectively recall that it took a strategic bomber with a useful load of roughly 70,000 pounds and a maximum gross takeoff weight of twice that number to deliver the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

I agree with Mr. Zimmerman that we should worry about the possibility of an atomic device being employed in a terrorist attack. We should be equally concerned that those who are charged with protecting us have all the facts so that threats can be evaluated properly and mitigated. Taking swipes at perceived threats such as general aviation with no real empirical analysis and understanding and singing in chorus with Chicken Little does more harm than good and provide to our enemies support of the very end they are trying to achieve — terror.

Small airplanes are not a threat to our freedom and liberty. Arguments such as Mr. Zimmerman’s are.

ROBERT SCHULTE

Baltimore

Israel’s role

Louis Rene Beres’ Tuesday Op-Ed column, “Terrorism’s executioner,” was decidedly biased and completely lacking in any mention of alternative viewpoints in regard to the author’s assumed solution to Palestinian terrorism in Israel and against Jews.

While he argues passionately in defense of the Jewish state, Mr. Beres dismisses the possibility of forming a Palestinian state while having Israel continue, saying: “Here there are no Arab plans for a ‘two state solution,’ only for a final solution.”

The author doesn’t spare a single sentence to discuss the cause of the Palestinians who wish for state, nor does he reveal any of the Israeli government’s past injustices toward the Palestinians.

While I believe that Islamic militant groups such as Hamas certainly should be brought to justice, I also find that the better role for Israel to take in the current situation would be that of peacemaker instead of “executioner,” as Mr. Beres advocates.

LAUREN BERGENHOLTZ

Vienna

The upsurge in violence in Afghanistan has been disturbing (“Suicide bomber kills 20 at anti-Taliban cleric’s funeral,” Page 1, yesterday). Also, the violence in Iraq shows no signs of abating. Clearly, the momentum generated by Iraqi elections in favor of the Bush administration’s admirable efforts has subsided. It even may be reversing.

A certain pattern has been emerging in all of this, i.e. the role and influence of Muslim clerics. In Iraq, the Sunni clerics have been leading the charge against America. Even in Iraq, it appears a significant section of Shi’ite clerics also are opposed to America. It can be argued that even those Shi’ite clerics who support America may be doing so as a way of playing a dominant role in ruling Iraq after years of minority Sunni domination.

The common thread has been the worldwide Muslim religious establishment’s irreconcilable antagonism toward America. I am afraid the ideological differences are too fundamental to be bridgeable at this time. America stands for modernity, liberty and a strong desire to bring democracy around the world, but Islam’s religious institutions are dominated by an exactly opposite outlook along with a strong desire to convert the entire world into an Islamic fold. There is little doubt that the Muslim religious establishment is the inspiration and organizer behind the jihad against the United States. Behind every Osama bin Laden or other Islamic terrorist sits a Muslim cleric who inspired him.

I think the time has come for a rethink by the Bush administration to look for new ways to neutralize the ideological source of this jihad.

MOORTHY MUTHUSWAMY

Coram, N.Y.

English, schools and federal funds

The record numbers of immigrant children entering American schools (“Student bodies hit 49 million,” Page 1, Thursday) need help learning English quickly if they are to do well in their studies and become productive citizens. However, public schools too often have been consigning them to bilingual classes that actually are linguistic ghettos where English is taught sporadically, if at all. Sometimes that’s done after sticking a “special education” label on them when their only real need is to learn English.

Xiaochin Yan, an education specialist at Pacific Research Institute, tells The Washington Times that California schools “are not focused on English, but bilingual education, which has failed because it does not stress English.” That’s happening in some California schools in spite of voter passage of an initiative favoring English immersion over bilingual segregation. Sadly, it’s also happening in cities such as Chicago and New York and states like Wisconsin.

The good news is that the much-maligned No Child Left Behind Act is becoming the new sheriff in town. It is pressuring local and state school districts to include students who are limited in their English skills when students in grades three through eight are tested for their ability to read. That means schools must teach them English and do it pronto. A recent Department of Education report indicated that is beginning to happen, though pockets of recalcitrance remain.

Federal influence in education often is dubious at best, but in this case, if local schools accept federal dollars, it is only right that they use the aid to ensure preservation of a common language necessary for national cohesion.

ROBERT HOLLAND

Education analyst

Lexington Institute

Arlington