- The Washington Times - Friday, October 27, 2006

Widening the canal

At the risk of nit-picking, I would like to clarify that the width of the existing Panama Canal locks is 110 feet, not 108 feet as reported in “Panama Canal widening favored” (Page 1, Monday).

Although the lock chambers are 110 feet wide, my understanding is that the widest vessels ever to transit the existing locks were U.S. Navy battleships with beams slightly exceeding 108 feet. Perhaps this is how the inaccurate 108-foot figure originated. (Obviously no vessel with a beam exactly 110 feet wide could fit through the locks.)

Given the sheer mechanics of moving an object of such bulk and weight through a water-filled enclosure opening with such a tiny margin for error, such a transit is a remarkable feat.

The decision to build the lock chambers 110 feet wide was made in the early 1900s, when the United States built the canal. At the time, it was considered more than adequate for future generations of seagoing vessels. Together with the length of the original lock chambers, this led over the years to construction of large numbers of “panamax” ships whose maximum dimensions were limited to what would enable them to go through the locks. Over time, the proliferation of much larger vessels plying the world’s oceans gradually increased pressure to either expand the size of the locks or build a sea-level canal. (Because of environmental and other concerns, the latter alternative has not prospered.)

A final limiting dimension for passing through the canal is the available depth of water. Operation of the canal is extremely dependent on rainfall to replenish the water lost each time a vessel is raised and lowered through the canal locks. During periods of diminished rainfall, the maximum draft for vessels to be allowed through the canal must be decreased progressively to conserve water. With larger locks, this limitation will be even more critical, although improved water conservation techniques apparently are supposed to allow the larger locks to be operated.

T.J. MORGAN

McLean

Defeating bin Laden

CIA veteran Michael F. Scheuer’s claim that Osama bin Laden is hoping for a Democratic victory (“Another bin Laden victory,” Op-Ed, Wednesday) on Election Day is purely political. In trying to psyche Americans into voting Republican, it appears he is more committed to his party than to our nation’s security.

It’s indisputable that the U.S. military’s invasion of Iraq became bin Laden’s best recruiting tool. President Bush’s use of military force has only exacerbated global terrorism and hurt vital U.S. alliances that will be essential to capturing and stopping terrorists.

Using war to stop terrorism is like using gasoline to put out a fire. Even the most careful U.S. military operations will result in large-scale collateral damage. Even using Mr. Bush’s lowest estimate of 30,000 innocent Iraqi deaths from our invasion and forceful occupation, the amount of suffering is difficult to imagine. It shouldn’t be. We know how we felt about losing just 3,000 of our loved ones on September 11. Imagine how Iraqis and observant Muslims feel as we keep precise records of U.S. soldier deaths but can’t even guess within 500,000 how many innocent Iraqis have died.

Terrorists will be stopped when we have more friends in the Muslim world than enemies. Mr. Bush’s war approach only makes us more enemies. When we demonstrate to Muslims that we are far more willing to die for what we believe than kill, we will have the right formula for defeating bin Laden.

U.S. policemen risk their lives every day to avoid collateral damage. Our freedom and security, our rule of law is preserved by their willingness to die in avoiding the use of excessive force around innocent people. Though it’s true that some Democrats don’t have this life-and-death formula down, any intelligent voter should take it into the booth on Election Day.

CHUCK WOOLERY

Rockville

Benchmarks for Iraq

It appears our petulant ally Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is upset with President Bush’s talk about setting timetables and “benchmarks” for progress in Iraq (“Bush backs setting ‘benchmarks’ in Iraq,” Page 1, Thursday). Mr. al-Maliki protests that his “government represents the will of the people, and no one has a right to impose a timetable on it.”

Well, because U.S. blood and treasure are being expended on his government’s behalf, it is incredibly presumptuous for Mr. al-Maliki to imply that the United States has no right to suggest what outcomes it expects in return for our continued sacrifice. These “benchmarks” should have been set a long time ago. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect Iraq’s leaders to expedite implementing concrete results while we make vague, open-ended commitments about our tenure.

Thus far, Mr. al-Maliki’s government has been totally ineffectual in fostering national reconciliation and ending sectarian violence. The time is long overdue for the United States to expect the Iraqis to get real and expedite remedying its internal divisions. The more dependent Mr. al-Maliki is on U.S. arms to support his Shi’ite-dominated government, the longer it will take to create a unified and peaceful Iraq.

GARY L. JARMIN

Vienna

Dangerous, flawed views on adoption

I was distressed to read Thomas Atwood’s Wednesday Op-Ed column, “The child’s best interests.” It is dangerous reasoning to argue that other countries’ laws should be broken if they are not in the best interests of the child.

By this reasoning, citizens of Canada, the United Kingdom or any other country could come to the United States, bribe a judge to approve a guardianship for a child and illegally move the child to another country if the family believed the U.S. foster care system was not in the child’s best interests.

It is undoubtedly true that some laws are not in the child’s best interests. When that is the case, we should all engage in efforts to change those laws. Advocating that we break them only furthers the chance that children in need of homes will not find them through intercountry adoption.

Unlike Mr. Atwood, I don’t agree that problems in Romania, Russia, India and other countries are the result of anti-adoption sentiment. In fact, I believe those problems are the result of the very attitude Mr. Atwood is advocating. Romania closed its doors after extensive illegal activity was uncovered; Russia has had difficulty with agencies that won’t follow accreditation rules; child-trafficking scandals have plagued India; the United States shut down Cambodian adoptions after it was found that U.S. agencies were paying birth parents for their children; and the list goes on.

I would argue that it is the notion that Americans should disregard foreign laws that leads to the current situation in adoption.

If we want more countries to embrace adoption, perhaps the way to make that happen is to work with those countries to improve their laws, not to assume that we know best and impose our own views and break their laws. Such behavior hurts the chances of other children finding homes and tarnishes the name of adoption. We can’t base policy on outcomes we like. This “end justifies the means” thinking is the real problem in adoption today.

TRISH MASKEW

President

Ethica: A Voice for Ethical

Child Placement

Silver Spring

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