- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2006

Another horrific case of mistaken identity

As strange and tragic as it was, the incident involving the two Taylor University women — whose families were led to believe that one had died when in fact it was the other — is not the first time a case of mistaken identityhashappened (“Misidentified accident victim remembered,” Nation, yesterday). A woman I worked with here in the Washington area had the same thing happen to her family in the mid-1970s, only there was an additional and even more awful twist.

As was true in the present case, her daughter and a friend were involved in a terrible car accident. The survivor, in a coma and covered with bandages, was thought to have been my coworker’s daughter. The family spent several days keeping her company in the hospital until she finally awoke. When the young woman began to speak, it was immediately learned she was the other family’s daughter. In the meantime that family, having believed their daughter was the one deceased, had already cremated her remains.

I expect this recent incident brought back awful memories for my one-time colleague, wherever she and her family may be now.


Springfield, Va.

Creating the insurgency

Shawn Macomber (“Pyrrhic reporting,” Op-Ed, May 30) finds fault with Nir Rosen’s analytical expose of America’s hand in creating the insurgency in Iraq. His single source of rebuttal, however, is Kanan Makiya’s book, “Republic of Fear,” an account of life under Saddam Hussein. Not a good choice to counter the death, destruction and terror Iraqis currently face.

Mr. Makiya is an Iraqi exile. He hasn’t lived inside Iraq for more than 30 years, and, like another famous exile, Ahmed Chalabi, contributed to the gross miscalculation of this administration with his advice and assurance that we would be greeted as liberators.

Mr. Rosen’s book provides specific examples of how our incompetent leadership has mired us in the debacle of Iraq.


W. Springfield

Right-of-way and the Ten Commandments

A public dispute over the placement of a Ten Commandments monument is ill-founded (“Commandments monument not a concern,” Metropolitan, yesterday). The monument is not constructed in the “front yard” of a home — it is on public property. The facts of public verses private land as they relate to site for the construction of monuments of personal expression were not explained. They are these:

“Front yards” are virtually nonexistent in the District. The “right-of-way” of a street is wider than the dimension from sidewalk to sidewalk. The front property line of privately owned parcels of land (“lots”) is usually, in single-family residential neighborhoods, the front wall of the building. In other words, the “right-of-way” is greater than the width of the street plus the sidewalks at either side. As a non-specific example, a 40-foot wide roadway plus nine feet of sidewalk (including tree space) on each side, equaling a total of 58 feet, may be located within an 80-foot wide right-of-way. This leaves 11 feet of public space on either side of the right-of-way. This space is not privately owned.

Put more simply, what is referred to in the article as the front yard is actually public space, assumedly belonging to all the citizenry. And that’s what’s so important in considering whether monuments of personal expression may be erected there.

Walkways and stairway approaches to the home are permitted within this public space as a “matter of right” — they always have been. But the construction of monuments and the like are not permitted as a “matter of right” because they are being erected on publicly owned land. They require approval by a public agency in this case the Transportation Agency, which has control of the entirety of the right-of-way.

It may surprise readers, but even the bay windows of these buildings are built in public space. As a matter of fact, the District has the right to demolish projecting bays. This has never occurred to this writer’s knowledge, but it conforms to the property ownership — the bays are located on the city’s public space, not the homeowner’s property.

There is history behind this. Bay windows were not only allowed but encouraged in the early years of the city. The reason they were encouraged is that they offered a projection into the “street” from which military riflemen could fire down the length of the street in case of insurrection or other military needs. Until about the late 1950s or early 1960s (the early years of my practice of architecture), if one designed a projecting bay, a permit had to be obtained from the Military District of Washington — from the Army — before it could be built. That requirement has reasonably been dropped, and it is the District’s authority that now controls permits for bays.

What disheartens me about the arguments surrounding the location of this religious “monument” is that activist Rob Schenck, his supporters, and commentators on the matter, jump to conclusions about “rights” that may or may not exist, and thus erupts another unnecessary public dispute. I doubt that there are many who would deny the right to “monumentalize” a religious belief. But there is no “right” to do it on publicly owned land at one’s own volition.


Chevy Chase

‘Gender parity’ needed

It is disappointing to learn that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is hoping the “best man” wins the race to become the next leader of the premiere world body (“S. Korean seeks U.N. post as harmonizer,” World, Thursday). Only three months ago, on International Women’s Day, Mr. Annan stated that “the world is ready for a woman secretary-general.”

In its 60-year history, the United Nations has never had a woman serve as secretary-general, despite repeated pledges by member states to ensure that mechanismstonominate women candidates for appointment to senior posts in the organization are in place and to achieve 50-50 gender parity within the ranks of the United Nations by the year 2000.

The United Nations is still shortchanging women — how much longer do they have to wait for their turn?



Equality Now

New York

Reform needed in Mexico

To date, the American public has debated the immigration issue as a domestic matter. Yet it is also a diplomatic concern of the first order. Mexico is as morally obliged to respond to the problem, as is Washington, in order to craft a fair and sound immigration policy (“1 in 10 Mexicans now lives in U.S.,” Page 1, Saturday).

Unfortunately, Mexico’s attitude has been one of malign neglect, to the detriment of itself and its relations with the United States. To say as much is not to excuse American policies toward Mexico; indeed they frequently have been unjust. For decades, however, Mexico has avoided facing the problems that impel so many of its people to migrate. Were it to seek a genuine solution, it would work toward the creation of a fully mature society that respects individual freedom and the rule of law; those are prerequisites for a sound polity and economy.

Admittedly, such a task is a demanding one. Institutional and cultural inertia would challenge the most dogged of reformers, as President Vicente Fox has learned, while the mood throughout Latin America is becoming more hostile toward political and economic liberalization. Nevertheless, such liberalization is the only route to the prosperity and wellbeing that so many Mexicans rightly desire — and deserve. Certainly, American diplomacy should engage its southern neighbor anew and vigorously spur it onto reform. Ultimately, though, the choice is Mexico’s alone. Its proximity to the United States has been, for too long, a convenient palliative for its miseries, many of which have been self-inflicted.


Columbus, Ohio

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