- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Broadcasting bin Laden

Whoever didn’t say we should bomb Al Jazeera might have missed an opportunity to limit the damage a medium can wreak by broadcasting Osama bin Laden’s latest screed, released Thursday.

In the article “Lawmakers taking bin Laden tape seriously” (Nation, Monday), Peter Bergen, a writer who recently published a biography of bin Laden, was quoted as saying that before September 11, “bin Laden issued relatively few statements, and it is true that they often presaged attacks.” Does this also mean that bin Laden tapes often prompted attacks?

Just as imams in mosques in the West, among other locales, are often prohibited from inciting attacks through vitriolic sermons, media should exercise self-restraint and not be the messengers for provocative “news” such as bin Laden tapes.

Al Jazeera should hand over these incendiary treatises to the appropriate, targeted governments, rather than, in effect, being the accessory to terror by providing terrorists an international forum.

Democracy could have unintended consequences in the Middle East, such as allowing terror groups such as Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood to ascend legally to power. A “free” press can have deleterious effects.

Stay tuned, lamentably, for what grave danger Al Jazeera is enabling.



Mum on horse slaughter

With regards to the recent editorial on the congressional effort to ban horse slaughter (“USDA bureaucrats and horse slaughter,” Jan. 13), I think there are some reasonable questions the Department of Agriculture and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns should answer, although I doubt they will:

1) Would Mr. Johanns be willing to testify that the horse meat foreign-owned plants export is free from chemicals and drug residues banned in food-producing animals such as cattle and hogs? These drugs would include phenylbutazone and zimectrin (a dewormer commonly given to horses).

2) Would he be willing to accept responsibility for all the stolen pet horses that end up slaughtered? Around Christmastime 2004, a little girl in New York lost her beloved horse, stolen from her family’s back yard.

3) According to a recent Forbes article, the Japanese have halted the importation of U.S. beef. Why is the Department of Agriculture spending so much time and money on the foreign-owned horse-slaughter industry, which claims to bring in a paltry $40 million, while risking $1.4 billion in beef exports to Japan?

I would say America deserves an answer.


Malibu, Calif.

Armoring Humvees

The otherwise well-reported article “Soldier of Saddam a beacon for new Iraq” (World, Jan. 4) was marred by one untrue statement. It is a myth that the military “rushed to strengthen armor on their own vehicles after a soldier raised the issue with visiting Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in December 2004, sparking a public outcry in the United States.”

At the time of Mr. Rumsfeld’s troop talk to Kuwait, about 15,000 of the 19,000 Humvees in the Central Command’s theater of operations (which included Afghanistan and Iraq) had already been fitted with add-on armor.

The Army already had increased the production of up-armored Humvees to 450 per month, nearly a thirtyfold increase from the previous summer, when the threat from improvised explosive devices first emerged in Iraq.


Pentagon spokesman


The senator and the Owl

Seeing the Owl Club on the cover of The Washington Times filled me with great pride (“Kennedy quits all-male Harvard club amid criticism,” Page 1, Jan. 18). We are but a humble club, and such attention is almost overwhelming. From its inception in 1898, when it was known as the Pipe and Mug, our club has never been, nor will it ever be, anything but a social club with no political aspirations. During my time at Harvard and the Owl, we have had an African American club president, contemplated female membership and held our centennial celebration (which Sen. Edward M. Kennedy declined to attend for fear we would sully his reputation).

Any “exclusive” club runs the risk of accusations of elitism and any “male” club runs the risk of accusations of sexism. However, the Owl is a benign entity where members form bonds of friendship that stand the test of time (unless we become senators and membership becomes a political liability).

Farewell and good luck, Mr. Kennedy.



Surveillance questions

In his column “Victims of the darkness” (Op-Ed, Monday), Nat Hentoff mentions the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. I don’t believe there is any comparison between those acts and the National Security Agency’s surveillance program. He neglects to mention that the 1798 legislation was passed at the instigation of the Federalists — the ancestors of the Democrats — and caused public opposition so great it led to the election of Thomas Jefferson — a Republican — during the next election cycle.

Perhaps Mr. Hentoff needs to realize we are at war with an enemy who desires to wipe out all our freedoms along with the Constitution. The only “outraged reaction” I have noted is from liberals, who wish to bring down their duly elected president.

I personally welcome President Bush’s actions and believe he is fulfilling his constitutional duty — to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.


Odenton, Md.

I always understood that a fundamental principle of journalism is that you don’t use a label that misrepresents an issue. That principle is dramatically violated when journalists repeatedly refer to “domestic” surveillance, spying or eavesdropping (e.g. “Cheney defends surveillance effort,” Nation, Friday). The NSA program applies to communications involving suspected terrorists that originate abroad and end in the United States or begin in the United States and end abroad.

The use of the word “domestic” creates the impression that the surveillance applies to communications that begin and end in this country. Thus, people erroneously believe that if they call a cousin in Portland, Ore., from their home in Portland, Maine, the NSA program applies. It is especially egregious that journalists use the word “domestic” even after an official has stressed the international aspect. What brass by journalists.

What possible justification can there be for using a term that is overbroad and misstates the issue? Words have meaning. We are not in George Orwell’s “1984.” Why not use the phrase “international intercepts”? With all the brainy people in journalism, someone probably can improve on that, but there is no excuse for pack journalism’s persistent use of the overbroad, deceptive “domestic” description.

I don’t know whether the NSA program is legal, but I do know that the public interest is not served when pack journalists repeatedly load the issue with a misleading label.



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