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May '03  L e t t e r s

Jan. 21, 2001: Day of US Infamy
Jan. 21, 2001—A date unrecognized by most. No instant images like those brought by mention of 9/11. However, it was a day that changed the course of human events.
It was the day America ceased being a land governed by the people. The date that the US Supreme Court usurped our right to decide who our county's president would be. In the name of “national interest,” they stopped a vote count that would have made Al Gore our 43rd president and instead, s-elected G.W. Bush by partisan 5 to 4 vote.
I remember the stinging disbelief of having my most fundamental American right stolen. Bad as that was, I never imagined the ramifications. Just two years later, our $5 trillion surplus has vaporized into a spiraling deficit. We are on the verge of what may well become the Endless War, as our leaders' unprecedented course of conquest has made us the pariah of world opinion. Our freedom of information act now lies gutted under the feet of our “anointed with Crisco” Attorney General, while Mr. Bush's “Patriot Act” sneaks up and blows gaping holes in the worlds most important piece of paper, our Bill of Rights. (How perverse to name this travesty the “Patriot Act.” “Patriot act” typed into any search engine will tell all about this misnamed theft of our heritage— theft of the very thing for which real patriots fought and died.
As a gun owner, I find it ironic that it won't be the liberals who take our firearms; it will be more Republican Patriot Acts... taking our guns and freedom in the name of “national security.”
These days were not born of 9/11/01, but 1/21/01.
David Singelyn
Warner Springs, Ca.

Missing the Boat on Citizenship
My paternal grandfather, fleeing the pogroms of Tzarist Russia, immigrated to Baltimore in the 1890’s. He and his Romanian wife raised eight children.
Despite an anti-Semitism rivaling, but never quite matching racism against African Americans (who had been “Americans” for hundreds of years!) Baltimore treated my grandparents as full-fledged citizens the moment they got off the boat and rented a flat.
Non-naturalized citizens could vote in municipal elections in all or most American cities until 1919.
What happened in 1919 to deny immigrants first class citizenship in Baltimore? The Russian Revolution of 1917!
The ignorant Chicken Littles of their day figured that the Russian Revolution was carried out by “foreigners” and that the immigrants were “foreigners.” They certainly weren’t going to allow such potentially “violent” people to participate in the peaceful democratic process of change!
For 84 years, to my knowledge, there has been no legislative effort to correct this idiocy.
Isn’t it about time Baltimore corrected this insult to our current immigrants?
A. Robert Kaufman
Baltimore, MD

The Utter Stupidity of War
Recently on television a young Arabic man was shown lying on a hospital bed. Both his legs were missing from the knees down. Both hands were also missing. That is the reality, the horror, and the stupidity of that which we call “war.”
Men have been destroying each other since time immortal, and will probably continue to do so until the day comes when the human race no longer exists. It’s a sad indictment of our species that we refuse to live peaceably with each other. The plain fact of the matter is, no liberty, no freedom, no justice, was ever gained unless a terrible price was paid.
Let the world insure that never again will the Iraqi people be subjected to the whims and dictates of a madman who glorified in the torture and murder of his own countrymen. The prime objective on the Iraqi agenda should be helping that nation to form a new government composed of leaders of virtue, vision, intellect and compassion.
May this conflict mark the beginning of a new era for the Middle East. No more oil for money for underground bunkers for despots; no more oil money for weapons of mass destruction.
Money for employment for Iraqi citizens. Money for well-equipped hospitals and schools for the children, and decent housing for all. Let the Iraqi people finally realize the benefits and fruits of the black wealth beneath the desert sands.
Brave men have shed their blood in Iraq. Let their blood be our commitment, and our bond. If we fail to do so, what a tragic farce it will have been.
B. G. Noe
Hemet, CA

Hard Sentences for Soft Crimes
It’s hard to pay taxes when you know your tax monies are being wasted. That’s why I was among the members of Families Against Mandatory Minimums handing out literature to taxpayers mailing their tax forms on April 15.
Some 55 percent of federal prisoners serve mandatory minimum drug sentences, which are determined solely by the weight and type of drug or the presence of a firearm during a felony offense. Nearly 88 percent are non-violent offenders, and a majority are drug abusers. yet five-, 10-, and 20-year sentences are commonplace.
Taxpayers pay dearly: $22,000 a year to incarcerate a prisoner. But there are better and less expensive ways to deal with the drug problem. Sentencing guidelines, which already exist, prevent wildly disparate sentences for similar crimes and permit sentence adjustments based on the culpability of the offender.
In addition, there’s drug treatment. A 2003 study shows that drug-addicted, nonviolent felony offenders with five prior drug arrests and an average of four years behind bars achieved significantly lower recidivism rates and higher employment rates through a drug treatment program than comparable offenders who were sent to prison. The cost? Half that of sending an offender to prison.
We need to change our laws so that the punishment fits the crime, address drug abuse, and spend our tax monies more cost-effectively.
Sylvia Williams
Baltimore, MD

Is Business Now a Religion?
The notion of having a "job" and the word "work" drip with ideology.
Our president's speech on Tuesday, April 15 makes such words seem to have only a single meaning.
In the end, he sounds like a Priest or an Iman witnessing to infallible dogma.
Has business evolved into a major world religion?
I offer a quote which seems timely and prescient.
"Business is the very soul of an American: he pursues it, not as a means of procuring for himself and his family the necessary comforts of life, but as the foundation of all human felicity; and shows as much enthusiastic ardor in his application to it as any crusader has ever evinced for the conquest of the Holy Land." (Frances J. Grund (1805-63), American journalist, diplomat and writer.
Daniel P. Quinn
Saint Petersburg, Fl. 33701

Bush & Blair’s Accumulated Evil
Another day of US-led democracy in another happy country liberated for the benefit of the ultrarich and their slaughter unleashed on the world—never forget:
In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal rejected German arguments of the "necessity'' for pre-emptive attacks against its neighbours. "To initiate a war of aggression,'' said the tribunal's judgment, "is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.''
Thus, we can conclude: the Bush-Blair Killer Gang is "...the accumulated evil of the whole.''
George Paxinos

Sudden Need for a Constitution
Someone in Washington just remembered that Iraq needs a constitution. It came up at the first big meeting, post war, in Kuwait. Apparently, Rumsfeld’s light expeditionary forces traveled real light and didn’t bring a constitution with them in the rush to start the war before the really hot weather.
Well, first of all, it will have to be sorted out as to who gets to write the constitution. Not having democracy yet, the Iraqi founding fathers will probably not be elected on a one-man, one-vote principle. It may be more along the lines of a Florida election, with the ultimate framers determined by a nine-member tribunal of umpires.
It remains to be seen, then, if Iraq can produce the likes of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Tom Paine to sort out constitutional rules in a climate of highly divergent constituent views.
And, even if people can be found capable of writing a constitution, how will it be ratified? I doubt it could be by a democratic vote. Perhaps, it would be best to have the US military run a dictatorship for a while until a group of revolutionary leaders emerge to challenge autocratic rule. It didn’t happen under Saddam’s Baathist regime, but it might under the more benevolent tyranny of Rumsfeld’s Pentagon.
Inasmuch as 4 permanent U.S. military bases are already planned for Iraq’s future, even after a constitution, no one will get to vote on the issue of a permanent U.S. occupation army. I doubt that the Filipinos had a choice after we freed them from Spanish tyranny, so what’s new?
There is a bright side to all this, however. If they write a good constitution over there, maybe we could use it here. Not that our government would follow it, of course, but it would look good, and we could get all sentimental about it and wave a lot of red, white and blue to simulate solidarity. One suggestion for the framers: whatever happens in the fine print, let’s not do an electoral college.
J. Russell Tyldesley
Catonsville, Md.

Smoking Guns or Smoke and Mirrors
According to a New York Times editorial, and NPR and may other media outlets, "Finding mustard gas or nerve agents in artillery shells and missiles, or in bulk containers ready to be transferred into weapons, would validate the stated reason for the invasion [of Iraq]" ("Assessing the Weapons Search," NYT, Saturday, April 26, 2003, A28).
The Times and the many Americans who agree are wrong. We knew Iraq possessed chemical weapons. Bush administration officials stated clearly and repeatedly, during the run-up to the war, that the mere possession of WMDs was not the motive driving us to invade Iraq.
The Saddam Hussein's character and the nature of his "rogue" regime required us to act. Saddam was so dedicated to harming us that the mere "possibility" that he possessed significant quantities of WMDs (not any evaluation of the "probability" that he could use them against us) was sufficient to require the overthrow his regime.
That premise in place, the administration turned to the "facts" regarding the nature and extent of Saddam's WMD programs. The facts did little to support the idea that there was even a possibility that Saddam could attack us. The missiles and chemical-laden MiGs Colin Powell showed the UN could scarcely reach Israel, much less the US, and the Niger yellow-cake uranium ore story turned out to be pure hoax.
The administration had, therefore, to stoke our fears of Saddam's connections to terrorist groups in order to justify the attack it was set on launching. Here too, the Bush administration's distortion of reality was so obvious that it now has virtually no credibility beyond its own narrow constituency. The Times, however, remains gripped by the flames of fear our administration has fanned: "Even small quantities of the [smallpox] virus would be a frightening find.... Even 15 year old stocks of liquid anthrax would alarming.... Enriched uranium ... would be a real shock."
Few in the world take such fears seriously. Most people understand that the use of chemical and biological agents against civilian populations living in advanced societies (rather than a remote town like Halapja in a ruined society) is nasty but not terribly lethal. Few fatalities resulted from Om Shin Rikeo's Sarin attack in Tokyo or from the anthrax attack here.
Even if international inspectors do find substantial quantities of chemical or biological agents, the world will think "smoke and mirrors." Only if Saddam is captured and brags that he was determined to give Osama biological weapons, as soon as he possibly could, will the world believe the U.S. has found anything remotely resembling a "smoking gun."
Peter D. Molan, Ph.D.
Baltimore, Md.
Dr. Molan is a retired Middle East analyst with the USDOD, and a volunteer with Veterans for Peace.

If Not You and Me, Who?
If the wealthiest people get big tax breaks when Bush says, "It's your money," then who ends up paying off the huge national debt and the cost of war?
Bruce Joffe
Piedmont, Ca.

Stop Arming Terrorists
One of the most critical remarks made about the United States during "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is the economic and military support given to Sadaam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war. The picture of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Hussein while concluding a sale of biochemical weapons from the US to Iraq illustrates just how faulty the foreign policy of the United States has been since the end of World War ll.
Obviously, most US foreign policy since the second world war was focused on countering the communist threat from the then-Soviet Union. The objective was to extend economic and military support to any country (regardless of type of government) that was (at least on the surface) opposed to Soviet communism. So too, the US also made overt and covert efforts to undermine foreign governments that opposed the US.
As a democratic country, the US was (and still is) willing to support brutal dictatorships so long as those dictatorships serve our economic and military interests. The end of this war should also mark the begining of the end for this hypocritical foreign policy. Accordingly, as a citizen of the United States of America, I am demanding that legislation be passed that outlaws this policy and extends the same military and economic embargo of Cuba to all dictatorships across the globe. These dictatorships should also include those monarchies established by coup d’état.
Although communism still exists in some countries, it is no longer the cold-war threat it used to be. The major threat facing the United States now is the arming of terrorist cells throughout the world while being harbored in countries run by dictators.
The only way to throw off this yoke of hypocrisy is to outlaw it altogether. Perhaps then, all nations will recognize the United States as the true leader of the free world.
Joe Bialek
Cleveland, Oh.

The Failed “War on Drugs”
America's "War on Drugs" has failed. Regulating and taxing presently illegal substances such as marijuana and all other illegal drugs would make the drug trade unprofitable to drug dealers.
Current White House drug policy distorts market forces such that easily produced and readily obtainable goods are worth more than their weight in gold. The absence of a legal supply of drugs results in high prices, which, in turn, result in black market involvement and criminal drug syndicates to fill the demand.
Rather than continue to treat drugs as a criminal issue, we should look for other methods of addressing this matter as a health issue.
It is time to remove drugs from the black market, remove the profit for drug dealers, and provide safe and cheap treatment for drug users, not incarceration. Maryland should help start this process, along with about 25% of the 50 states, with medical marijuana, by urging Governor Bob Ehrlich to sign HB 702, the Darrell Putman Medical Marijuana Research Act.
Currently, patients can be arrested and imprisoned for the simple act of taking their medicine. This must stop. Governor Ehrlich, please sign House Bill 702.
Jason Wertz
Baltimore, Md.

Praise for “Open Letter to America”
Thanks for printing the “Open Letter to America from a Canadian,” by W.R. McDougall.
I liked the letter.
I think more people would take it seriously if he weren't so inflammatory, but at the heart of what he's saying is the TRUTH.
Of COURSE all Americans aren't "spiritually, emotionally and intellectually dead" sheep who chow down on McDonald's and are content to focus all of their attention on “Cops” and Britney Spears rather than the state of the world...of course not (and he's not even saying that). But MOST of us are.
Most of us are either uneducated about or uninterested in our country's policies in the world abroad and here at home. If that's not the case, then why weren't there MILLIONS upon MILLIONS of us protesting in the streets back in January and February and March, instead of Hundreds of Thousands? Where were all of the protests when Bush was selected to be President? Where is the huge public outcry over the Patriot Act and the Patriot Act II? Why is Fox "news" being watched by so many people who, I'm presuming, eat its propaganda up at face value?
Most of us don't have any interest in, or informed opinion of, or involvement in our country's politics (unless you think political involvement means attacking those who express any sort of dissent and blindly attaching tiny American flags to all of your belongings).
Oh come ON, you KNOW the average American is more inclined to cast a vote for sh*t like “American Idol” than for important sh*t like city councilman, mayor, senator, president. We are a nation that has so much STUFF that it's hard for us to look past all of it and see the real world. I don't think most Americans ever learn to do that. Our culture provides us with too much distraction.
Sometimes it takes your best friend to tell you the worst truth.
Keri Smith
Los Angeles, Ca.

Kudos to BGE Volunteers
Heartfelt thanks to the Baltimore Gas and Electric employees who recently left their family and friends and headed to Central New York to assist Rochester Gas and Electric restore our power. We had a devastating ice storm which left hundreds of thousands of people without power, and without the BG&E folks it would have taken much longer than a week to restore it.
Come back with your families once we're cleaned up, bet if you mention you're BG&E, you'll be welcome with open arms. Thanks for all your hard work!
Joyce Case
Martville/Red Creek/Fair Haven area, NY

What Media Will Tell the Truth?
Some questions we should all be asking ourselves, and then perhaps answering with action:
If Bush's repeated use of the “trifecta” line at fundraisers is something that can be demonstrated, why isn't it being aired? This is the first I have heard of it—and it's April, 2003! Preaching to the choir is all very nice, but something like this ought to "shock and awe" even baby Bush's disconcertingly large number of supporters across the nation. People whose sons are risking their lives in distant lands at this man's whim should be reminded how callous he is and how cavalier about the very tragedy he milks to silent dissent.
Why isn't there at least one major player in the world media who encourages foreign leaders among our allies to tell the truth about their primary reason for opposing the war in Iraq: they do not trust George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld? They might also be forthcoming about why they don't trust them. One big reason is that it is widely known that some documents used to justify claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction were forged. It was eventually admitted by the administration. But no one has made any fuss about it!
Why do other nations want Hans Blix to go to Iraq? Because they don't trust us to be honest if we don't find any "WMD." They think we will plant some. And our response is exactly that of the guilty party: we express our indignation.
Innocents may not like being scrutinized, but they welcome it because once their veracity is demonstrated, they are readmitted to a community of trust. Why aren't we forcing our government to regain the trust of the international community? Why is there no internal pressure to stop thumbing our nose at our friends?
Why does the left—and the center, for this government is extremely right of center—fail to make use of its obvious moral authority? Moral authority isn't much of a thing really, but it's an exceptional platform from which to criticize others' politics. People made great use of it against Bill Clinton because he engaged in pretty raunchy behavior. But killing people would seem to be something that requires extraordinary justification given how plainly it flies in the face of moral behavior. Yet people have been able to summon astonishing levels of passion to condemn hanky-panky while they resign themselves to war!
Why has no one exploited this glaring hypocrisy? Is it that Bob Kerry (ugh!) lacks the courage? Perhaps he does, but who will step up? Who will step up and speak from a position of obvious moral authority?
Because otherwise, we have another four years of this hell, of war and increasing poverty.
Any suggestions?
Robert Litzenberger

Iraq: What Next?
Prior to the US war in Iraq, few people harbored any illusions about the behavior and intentions of the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein. Nonetheless, President Bush’s rushed initiative tragically undermines the theory of a just war and will lead to a proliferation of war and other acts of aggression.
Already this prediction is beginning to unfold. Buoyed by their apparent success in Iraq the US is now issuing subtle threats against Syria, Iran and other so-called rogue regimes like Sudan and Libya.
While the Iraqi people have been freed from the oppression of Saddam Hussein, they continue to suffer, now at the hands of US expropriation. It is, for example, no secret how America’s formidable military machine was able to quickly seize control of all the Iraqi oil wells and the Ministry of Oil Building in Bagdad but were unable to protect—despite being forewarned—the irreplaceable heritage of a proud Iraqi people housed in the Iraq National Museum. It is now known that American troops were among those allowed to ransack museums, burn archives, and pillage libraries
It is likely that the US will be in Iraq for many years—even decades. History shows that the development of democracy is a gradual, evolutionary process. In fact, since the fall of the Ottoman empire and after the period of colonialism—when the Arab states were created—there has been a continuous and difficult search for the proper balance between politics and religion in Arab countries. A nation’s people cannot just change its attitudes and mentality overnight.
Adding to the growing consensus of US dominance in the region is the reluctance on the part of the US to allow the United Nations to take the lead in rebuilding Iraq. To counteract such suspicions the US will likely establish a legitimate government in the weeks ahead that will attempt to conceal in the world’s eyes the reality of an American military presence. The Arab nations, however, are bracing themselves. Due to growing anti-American sentiment, extremist groups are said to be regaining strength.
Lost in the shuffle—a thorn in the side of the US as an altruistic liberator—is the fact that throughout the world, in over 30 countries, millions of lives are being lost through armed conflict. Since 1998 there have been over 3 million lives lost as a result of fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo alone.
Evidence continues to mount, then, in the war’s aftermath, that America’s primary objective in Iraq was to gain control of the oil as well as the Middle East region.
Do other nations really want the US to be the world’s lone enforcer? Is this not a time to revisit the concept of a Just War?
Paul Kokoski
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

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This story was published on April 4, 2003.
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