- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Government and education

The editorial “Education and the candidates” (Friday) concludes with an important comment: “It’s as important for candidates to articulate where they stand on the federal government’s role — and the lack thereof — on education as it is for them to spell out the government’s role on national security and other foreign policy issues.”

I doubt that any of the candidates are against education. All of them speak well and passionately about teaching our children. Action, however, often falls short of the words.

If any national politician neglects that commitment, “at least from the perspective of federal involvement,” a more significant message is sent. It appears that the federal government does set a “lower priority” for education.

The government was not founded to serve as a bully pulpit. But its actions come across as just that: a tacit yet resonant voice that helps fund understanding. Just as we the people should never expect government to de-prioritize the economy, foreign affairs or national security, we the voters should hold candidates to the same standard for education. While this need not be purely financial, anything else in today’s hyper-economic moment would be corrosive to an otherwise worthy goal of a just and equitable system of schooling.


Salem, Ore.

Come together, right now

I am a counselor and advocate for the poor, currently working with the homeless in South Carolina. I am writing to ask the people of the District to cast a vote for Sen. Barack Obama in the Democratic primary. Mr. Obama’s campaign is already successful in many ways. It has energized millions of people who have been turned off by the political process (“Obama inspires high Democratic turnout,” Nation, Wednesday).

The goal is the election of Mr. Obama, but as he says, not for him, in an egotistical way, but for the country. I have this image in my mind, when I was a VISTA volunteer in 1968 in Illinois, when both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were killed. My roommate threw a chair out the window of our trailer. Something died inside us that year.

That something has come alive again.

Folks I know in South Carolina appreciate the fact that Mr. Obama has not played the race card, and pledges to work with Republicans, Democrats and independents to fashion positive legislation.

Mr. Obama’s viewpoint may be too liberal for some, but he is open-minded and will strive to bring people together from all walks of life.


Kingstree, S.C.

Bombs vs. Beethoven

I read with great dismay the article “Maazel raises ire on N. Korea” (Arts, Thursday), which was critical of the New York Philharmonic’s conductor and music director Lorin Maazel’s attempts to build cultural bridges with North Korea by including a stop in Pyongyang on the orchestra’s upcoming Asian tour.

What, dare I ask, is so wrong with the idea?

Do the Washington hawks fear that Mr. Maazel might succeed in some small way, where the hobnailed boots of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signally failed? Or that he might deny the hawks the grudge match they so dearly seek, and the chance to re-enact the final sequence from the film “Dr. Strangelove”?

Or perhaps they plan to force the American brand of “democracy” down the throats of North Koreans, a tactic that’s been so “successful” in Afghanistan and Iraq.

What tune would The Washington Times prefer to hear instead of Mr. Maazel’s orchestra — Sen. John McCain singing “Bomb-Bomb Iran?”

I’d venture to suggest that Mr. Maazel’s initiative stands a far greater chance of succeeding than anything the neoconservative Project for the New American Century has come up with so far.

It’s comforting that at least there are some Americans who don’t have a picture of Yosemite Sam as their hero over their desks.


Opera director

Transparent Theatre


What’s happening in Kosovo?

Austin Bay reduces an issue on Serbian presidential elections to a simple black-and-white choice between a “21st century fascist” and good pro-Western President Boris Tadic (“Did Europe dodge a war?” Commentary, Friday). Equally inadequate is Mr. Bay’s explanation of what has happened in the Serbian province of Kosovo in the past nine years.

In a letter to The Washington Post (“A Warning on Kosovo,” Friday) his grace Bishop Artemije of Kosovo said that “Serbs may disagree on the exact response should America recognize an illegal declaration of independence, but there is no doubt that we will defend our people and our national territory.”

President Clinton led a 78-day NATO bombing of Serbia on behalf of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in order to punish Serbs for supposed genocide against Kosovo Albanians that never happened.

In 1998, the State Department labeled the KLA a terrorist organization; today it intends to award the former KLA leader Hashim Thaci, turned president, an independent Kosovo.

Albanians in Kosovo are responsible for the ethnic cleansing of some 250,000 Serbs from Kosovo and the destruction of 156 Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries, a crime that represents overt ethnocide in contemporary Europe. These verifiable facts make me wonder why the American administration still intends to reward Albanian terror with independence.



McCain then, McCain now

Less than a month after September 11, Sen. John McCain spoke at the United States Naval Academy as part of the Forrestal Lecture Series.

In the wake of the traumatic events of the terror attacks, and speaking to an auditorium full of 4,000 future military officers, everyone expected the senator to hold forth a vitriolic speech focused on crushing terrorism.

What we got was a steady, strong and balanced talk that revealed Mr. McCain’s tremendous foresight and ability to rationally deal with the nation’s problems (“Bush urges McCain to ‘rally’ GOP base,” Nation, yesterday).

As a senior at the Naval Academy, I had read Mr. McCain’s books and was well versed in the senator’s lore. Yet it was his gritty integrity and unquestionable honor that held us. We all listened closely when Mr. McCain said, “Soon you will be the shield behind which marches the enduring message of our revolution. There is no greater duty, no greater honor. Your country needs you. Humanity needs you. Hold that honor as dearly as your country holds you.” The senator’s speech brought about a thunderous round of applause from the midshipmen.

But the speech contained something deeper and I did not realize it until several years later while serving as a Marine in Iraq. Mr. McCain told us to “use force wisely to avoid inflaming the hatred for America that our enemies have been allowed to sow in the Islamic world.”

For my platoon, the rigors of combat operations were balanced by the satisfaction of handing out toys to children and securing the first Iraqi elections in the volatile Al Anbar province. While my primary concerns were mission accomplishment and the safety of my men, I enjoyed trying to help the Iraqi people. Mr. McCain had the experience and vision to realize that our problems with the Muslim world could not be settled through force alone.

These characteristics demonstrate the leadership that we need to deal with a fractured Iraq, a contentious Iran, a desperate need for alternative energy, too much deficit spending and the host of other complex issues that face this great nation. I am confident Mr. McCain will lead us in the right direction and begin the healing process that this country so desperately needs.


Marine Corps. (ret.)


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