Friday, April 23, 2004

One-sided ‘good faith’

Tony Blankley comments (“Beware an old man in a hurry,” Op-Ed, Wednesday) that “Israel, America and Europe have been seeking peace between the Jews and the Palestinians on the theory of good-faith negotiations …” but to no avail.

Why? According to Mr. Blankley, it’s because the Palestinians don’t negotiate in “good faith.” While this may or may not be true, Mr. Blankley finds no hint of mistake or bad “faith” with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Likud administration or with Israel’s policy of pre-emptive, extra-judicial political assassination, walls and torture.



Instead, the Palestinians are justly “paying a high price for their revanchist [what?] fantasy that Israel can be made to go away ….” Oh. Never mind that most of the official Palestinian leadership has publicly recognized a two-state solution and Israel’s right to exist. True, Hamas and other radicals don’t sign on to this two-state notion, but neither does a portion of the increasingly right-wing Knesset.

Mr. Blankley argues for one side of the equation. He recognizes Israel’s profound and legitimate security issues. Is Mr. Blankley also concerned with the extreme poverty of the West Bank and Gaza and the Palestinian right to safety and political and economic self-determination? If so, he didn’t mention it in his column. In this, Mr. Blankley largely echoes the approach of the administration. Is President Bush playing fair? Not according to his oft-repeated fawning over Mr. Sharon and his recent unilateral support for leaving settlements in Gaza — a move, by the way, that resulted in Secretary of State Colin L. Powell all but retracting what his boss said.

A hard-nosed, “real-politick” approach, the kind Mr. Blankley wants to invoke, would recognize the necessity of hard sacrifice not just by the Palestinians, but also by Israel. Its rhetoric and photo-ops would produce words and images that inspire Palestinians, not scare them and reinforce the idea that Israel is our client state. It also would do what it must to genuinely enforce the many hard choices needed to restore the “good faith” of all of those in the Middle East.

One could start by working at giving Palestinian people a degree of the exposure Israel receives on a regular basis, official visits and press conferences with media in tow. Perhaps Tony Blankley will consider writing a different kind of column.

JOHN M. BATES

Fairfax

Silence the criminals

Steve Twist’s letter Thursday (“Give voice to victims”) criticizes Bruce Fein’s column (“We, the clutterers… ,” Commentary, Tuesday) based on issues of justice. However, Mr. Twist’s reasoning indicates that he understands neither our legal system nor justice.

He speaks of the importance of the trial to the victim, but the system does not exist to serve the victim. It exists to punish lawbreakers and deter others from emulating them. A murder victim already has been irreversibly failed by the system. The failed efforts on that victim’s behalf lie in the murder trials that went before, intended to deter the assailant. Criminal trials are announced as “the people” vs. the defendant because they serve society as a whole. The restoration of individual victims is the domain of the civil courts.

If the justice system is to protect our inalienable right to life from murderers, how does this inequity fit within the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment? Differences between victims do not equal differences between criminal acts. The issues are the act committed and whether the defendant is the one who committed it, and only the information relevant to those questions has a place. These are the true “fundamental demands of justice” to which Mr. Twist alludes, and beyond them, the interjection of the victim’s voice serves only the emotions of the victim and his or her sympathizers.

BRIAN WAGNER

Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Some questions for Gorelick

Stephen Dinan and Charles Hurt chronicle September 11 commission member Jamie Gorelick’s role in drafting the commission report despite claims that she has a conflict of interest (“Gorelick allowed to draft report,” Page 1, Thursday). While much has been made of Ms. Gorelick’s rightful role with respect to the commission, there is yet another shoe to fall in this matter.

In his upcoming testimony May 7 to the commission, Mansoor Ijaz, who served as diplomatic troubleshooter to the Clinton administration in the late 1990s, will add yet another twist to the chain of pre-September 11 events. Mr. Ijaz helped broker a 1996 deal between the Clinton administration and the Sudanese government to turn Osama bin Laden over the United States. But, in a 2002 speech, President Clinton commented, “At the time, 1996, [bin Laden] had committed no crimes against America, so I did not bring him here because we had no basis on which to hold him.” So, how does this relate to Ms. Gorelick, you may ask. As Mr. Ijaz explained to WDAY North Dakota radio host Scott Hennen on Wednesday, Attorney General Janet Reno blocked an investigation that could have provided a legal basis to accept the Sudanese offer. “It was the Reno Justice Department that refused over and over and over and over again to have a grand jury sit and determine whether an indictment [of bin Laden] could be made.” Now, pray tell, wasn’t the Reno Justice Department the same one that Ms. Gorelick served as deputy attorney general?

MICHAEL WILEY

North Champlin, Minn.

•

Commissioner Gorelick’s problem is not one of integrity, but of accountability. As deputy attorney general, she was accountable for actions taken on directives from higher-ups. Those actions are in direct conflict with the events of September 11, i.e. a separation of FBI and CIA intelligence.

A legal approach to intelligence is being suggested to have caused the gap that led to September 11. There is no way she can be truly objective if she used or was mandated to use that approach. Her questioning of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice made that evident.

She needs to step down to maintain her integrity. If not, she is simply another spinmeister for the Clintons.

LARRY STONE

Peyton, Colo.

Best guess’ still best so far

According to Philip Gold, “Evolution, the best guess of a brilliant 19th-century scientist, has not been wearing well of late” (“The universe, a laboratory designed with us in mind?” Books, April 18).

I don’t know what Mr. Gold means by “not wearing well,” but the percentage of people worldwide with a doctorate in a hard science who accept the key tenets of Darwinian evolution is probably higher than 90 percent. It might be higher than 95 percent. This number probably has increased every 10 years since Darwin published “The Origin of Species” (1859). In a recent poll of science professors in Ohio (conducted by Case Western Reserve and the University of Cincinnati), 93 percent said they were not aware of “any scientifically valid evidence or an alternate scientific theory that challenges the fundamental principles of the theory of evolution.” The percentage of scientists who accept the theory of evolution is probably even higher in Japan, China, India, England, Scandinavia, Russia, Germany and France than in Ohio. Finally, I’m aware of no evidence to suggest that the percentage of scientists who don’t accept evolution has increased in recent years.

As for the issue of whether evolution is plausible, it is overwhelmingly likely that all organisms that have lived on Earth are descendants of one of, at most, a few single-celled microorganisms that lived about 3.8 billion years ago. It also is clear that cell division, sexual reproduction, genetic recombination, genetic mutations and what Darwin called “natural selection” played, at the very least, huge roles in evolution.

Finally, there is no evidence that a deity or extraterrestrial turned inert matter directly into any organisms or into any parts of any organisms.

DAVID P. CROCKER

University Park

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