- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2007

What happened at Walter Reed?

There is plenty of blame to go around concerning the Walter Reed scandal (“Fix Walter Reed,” Editorial, March 5). For we military leaders, it shows atrocious leadership and an abysmal failure that has scarred us to the lowest ranks. We should be ashamed of ourselves for allowing such degradation. Who cares if Walter Reed was on the chopping blocks for closure? It is a moot point. Our citizens expect more from military leadership and we should be ashamed.

I want to offer some points that should not be overlooked by the press and government. First, I applaud the press for bringing this to our attention. Second, let us remember that Congress has a role in this matter as well. Many representatives and senators have visited soldiers at Walter Reed and were told of the degradation and bureaucratic morass. Did anyone truly follow through? They have a congressional responsibility, especially during wartime.

Sadly, the overall context of the problem is much larger than Walter Reed. We are a nation at war. One cannot state that they support the troops and not the war. This motto reeks of half-measures and a lack of commitment. It is a weak gesture that leads to a lack of interagency support, a noncommittal Congress, pathetic national will and an unmobilized defense industry. This excuse by political leaders and private citizens only delays our war’s outcome and contributes to catastrophic failures in planning, programming, budgeting and execution. Our leadership from the executive and legislative branches must mobilize us as a nation now more than ever.

Blame belongs everywhere for Walter Reed. Let’s fix this and bring about the outcome needed for Iraq. I fear that our press and political system could lead to party politics using the care of injured soldiers as a means to gain more votes in the next presidential election. I have no doubt that everyone loves the troops, but unless we support them in action, not merely words, we will only hurt them in the end.

It is time right now for our nation to succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our economic and fighting strength as a nation has overcome and endured much more. Change the mindset and support the war and the troops. We must commit as a nation now or the world will watch our two-party system rip us apart, only to see soldiers pay the price in the end.

MAJ. DANIEL S. MORGAN

Army, student at Command and

General Staff College

Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Vietnam and refugees

A recent Forum article “Abandoned U.S. allies” (Feb. 18) criticized statements I made following my visit to the Central Highlands of Vietnam, where I interviewed members of certain ethnic minority groups (commonly referred to as “Montagnards”) who had returned from Cambodia.

There is no question that Central Highlands ethnic minorities have in the past suffered persecution by the Government of Vietnam. The U.S. government has long been concerned with their fate. More than 3,000 Montagnard refugees have been resettled to the United States over the years — over 1,500 in the last six years alone.

My visit was in the context of our continued efforts and concern for this population. I went to evaluate firsthand the claims of significant progress and improvement in recent years.

In the past, the government of Vietnam rarely permitted international monitors to visit the Central Highlands. However, in August 2005, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Regional Representative Hasim Utkan conducted a monitoring mission in the Central Highlands, and since then, over 20 international monitoring missions have taken place. A representative of UNHCR Bangkok travels to the Central Highlands every two months. Officers from the U.S. mission in Vietnam also travel to the Central Highlands every couple of months.

International monitors have visited nearly 80 percent of ethnic minorities who have returned from Cambodia in the past two years. This rate of monitoring far surpasses the rate of monitoring in other parts of the world where former asylum-seekers are returning home.

UNHCR and U.S. officials have consistently found that those who have returned to Vietnam have not faced persecution. During the most recent monitoring mission, the returnees said that since coming back to their villages, they simply resumed their old lives with no government harassment.

This does not mean that there are no ethnic minority individuals who fear persecution based on their race, religion or political opinion. UNHCR maintains an active presence in Cambodia and continues to screen all asylum seekers. The United States will continue to accept all cases that UNHCR refers to us for resettlement consideration from Phnom Penh. During my visit to the region, I asked Cambodian government officials to ensure UNHCR has timely access to asylum-seekers arriving in the border areas.

Furthermore,ethnic minority people in Vietnam with a well-founded fear of persecution need not attempt the dangerous journey to Cambodia to seek asylum in the United States; the U.S. Mission in Vietnam will continue to consider individual cases of those with credible claims. The Vietnameseauthorities haveassured us that ethnic minorities are free to travel to our Consulate General. We work with the government of Vietnam to ensure that all those approved for resettlement are allowed to leave. However, while we continue to do all we can to protect and assist refugees, we must also pay attention to the future of ethnic minorities in Vietnam.

About half of the recent ethnic minority asylum-seekers in Cambodia are young men who left their wives and children in theCentralHighlands. UNHCR is finding less than 20 percent of recent arrivals to be refugees. We are deeply concerned about the families of the other 80 percent who face economic hardships while their husbands and fathers are in Cambodia.

Economic development and access to education are the keys to helping the ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands carve out a place for themselves in Vietnam’s rapidly modernizing economy. International NGOs could make significant contributions in both areas. The United States will continue to push for permission for international NGOs to operate economic development and educational projects in the Central Highlands, and encourage NGOs to seek permission to visit the Central Highlands, assess the human-rights situation firsthand and establish assistance projects there.

ELLEN R. SAUERBREY

Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration

Department of State

Washington

A victory in Hazleton

Thank you for publishing John Armor’s article “The Hazleton rebellion” describing Hazleton, Pa.’s fight to deter illegal aliens and make English its official language despite predictable lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its allies (Commentary, Saturday).

Mr. Armor writes, “[the Hazleton rebellion] is a fast-breaking story, best followed on the Internet.” That observation was illustrated out last week when the regular media failed to report that the city already won an important victory. The ACLU abandoned its attempt to overturn the city’s official English ordinance and dropped that section from its lawsuit.

I am pleased to say that our organization played an important behind-the-scenes role in the outcome. We helped the city draft its official English law, and helped write the city’s response to that section of the original ACLU complaint.

But real credit for the victory belongs to Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta and his city council. Unlike so many Beltway politicians, they are determined to protect the safety, health, and welfare of the citizens they were elected to represent.

K.C. MCALPIN

Executive director

ProEnglish

Arlington


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