- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Freedom for Western Sahara

Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony, has been occupied by Morocco since 1975 (“Endless conflict in West Sahara,” Commentary, Dec. 30). When the Spanish withdrew their forces from the territories, King Hassan II annexed the so-called southern provinces and prevented the United Nations from organizing a referendum mandated by the International Court of Justice. In 1979, Morocco annexed the rest of the territories relinquished by Mauritania and thus became effectively in control of 70 percent of Western Sahara.

Polisario — the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people — renounced the military approach in favor of a political solution to their problem. A cease-fire was brokered by the U.N. in 1991. Under the plan, Western Sahara was to remain an autonomous region for a period of seven years, after which a referendum was to decide on its integration or its independence from Morocco. The U.N. plan was initially accepted by both parties but later rejected by Morocco. In 1997, the Houston Accords, or the James Baker Plan, called for a four-year autonomy followed by a referendum in which voters would include Moroccan settlers — a plan that tilted totally in favor of Morocco since the settlers vastly outnumbered the 160,000 Sahrawis.

The Polisario considered the plan a violation of the principle of self-determination and a total departure from the U.N. plan of 1991. However, under international pressure, the Polisario reluctantly accepted the referendum. Two years later, Morocco reneged on its commitment to the U.N. and Mr. Baker resigned from his position as the U.N. special envoy.

Mohammed VI — like his father Hassan II — has been engaged in a policy of deception that stalled the U.N. election plan. According to Francesco Bastagli — the 32-year veteran with the U.N. and a former representative of the U.N. secretary-general in Western Sahara — “Western Sahara has remained at the periphery of the international agenda for too long,” and Morocco has been a major obstacle in the implementation of the U.N. plan.

Morocco is entering a phase of uncertainty. There are more than 130,000 Moroccan soldiers deployed in Western Sahara, a financial burden to the already weak economy with 30 percent of the population unemployed and more than 21 percent living on less than $1 a day.

Lack of political freedom, despair and the growing influence of radical Islamists resulted in the deadly bombings in Spain, which left hundreds dead. Moroccan and Saudi terrorists in Iraq constitute the largest groups of foreign fighters in Iraq.

The Polisario has warned that the new generation of Sahrawis is getting impatient and might take up arms against Morocco. Moreover, the United States and European nations are all in favor of a political settlement, which calls for universal suffrage and allows the Sahrawis through the U.N. commission to decide their future.

ZEROUGUI ABDELKADER

Adjunct professor

American University

Washington

Biased against homosexuals

I am a combat veteran of the war in Iraq. I served my country honorably and chose to stay in Iraq to have minor surgery rather than being evacuated. My team was frequently deployed in forward positions, and I was in combat. I am also a woman. I was sexually harassed at times — as I have been in the civilian world. However, during actual combat, my gender was meaningless compared to my ability to do my job and accomplish the mission.

There were homosexuals in my unit. While we were deployed, their sexual preference was meaningless compared to their tactical and technical proficiency.

I found the two-part piece by Elaine Donnelly (“Gays and the military,” Op-Ed. Wednesday and Thursday) to be offensive, biased and full of unfounded allegations about women and homosexuals in the military.

The operations tempo of the military today makes every service member who is well-qualified and hardworking a valuable, necessary part of the team. Troops on the ground are aware of that. It is unfortunate that Ms. Donnelly places her political bias above this reality.

KAYLA WILLIAMS

Ashburn, Va.

Who’s a crank?

It would be a shame not to respond to Linda Chavez’s ill-informed cheap shot at Rep. Ron Paul in “Stakes in Iowa and New Hampshire,” (Commentary, Dec. 31). In evaluating the leadership capabilities of the Republican presidential candidates, Mrs. Chavez quickly dismisses Mr. Paul as “a bona fide crank.” Citing only his views on the Iraq war and the American Civil War, she makes the hasty conclusion that Mr. Paul lacks the “experience, character and temperament to become commander in chief.” I would object to her assertion on two fronts.

First, it is absurd to claim, as Mrs. Chavez apparently does, that Mr. Paul is unqualified to lead this country simply because he questions whether two highly controversial American conflicts were justified. Last I checked, there are quite a few reasonable people in this country who oppose the Iraq war. This does not mean they are cowardly or unpatriotic. Rather, they believe (with good reason) that we did not have sufficient grounds for entering Iraq in the first place or for risking American lives on a prolonged nation-building project.

Also, Mrs. Chavez’s attempt to write off Mr. Paul’s Civil War ideas as eccentric merely demonstrates how effectively we Americans have been indoctrinated with a one-sided, politically correct, romanticized portrayal of the War Between the States. Academia has so persistently trained us to think that the conflict was necessary to end slavery that whenever someone like Mr. Paul offers a credible dissenting viewpoint, he is mocked and scorned. But I digress.

Regarding Mr. Paul’s “experience, character and temperament,” Miss Chavez either forgets or ignores some inconvenient facts. Looking for experience? Mr. Paul is in his 10th term in Congress. Looking for character? Mr. Paul has been faithfully married to his wife, Carol, for 50 years (that alone is much more than can be said about the character of certain other candidates). Looking for temperament? Mr. Paul is a medical doctor who has delivered more than 4,000 babies and served as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force. Not bad for a “bona fide crank.”

JOSEPH FIORI

Pasadena, Md.

Leave American passports alone

I would like to thank you for publishing the article “Passport ‘cards’ read 20 feet away ” (Nation, Wednesday). This article raises very important privacy and security issues for all Americans who wish to travel abroad. I’m just sorry that it did not appear while the comment period was open on the State Department’s proposed rule so that it might have encouraged readers to weigh in on the issue.

I would like to point out some other concerns about the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips in passports. First, the technology embeds something in a document that American citizens will be forced to carry that they won’t be able to read themselves. If the bearer can’t decode the entire passport, how can he or she be sure of what it says and even if the information on it is really correct and about them? Second, the use of such devices subjects American citizens to possible harm by those who can pick up such signals, whether they be terrorists or possible identity thieves.

When traveling abroad, I don’t look forward to being forced to walk down the street broadcasting my name, identify information and nationality to anyone who manages to get or make the appropriate reader. There are many places where proclaiming you are an American makes your trip much more dangerous. Anyone who has followed the development of new technologies, especially computer-based ones, knows that hackers will quickly figure out how to defeat it, no matter what it is.

This is definitely an ill-thought-out proposal that endangers Americans in the name of false efficiencies. We need to tell the State Department to leave our passports alone.

ANN LOIKOW

Washington

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