In releasing bombers, President Clinton sent the wrong...


October 07, 1999

In releasing bombers, President Clinton sent the wrong message

Contrary to the suggestion in The Sun's editorial "Clinton within rights to grant clemency," (Sept. 22) I believe Americans should be concerned about the President's clemency for 16 convicted terrorists from the FALN, a Puerto Rican independence group.

Mr. Clinton's action has compromised the United States' hard line on terrorism and undercut our efforts to pressure other governments to stand firm against it.

While the president has the legal right to grant clemency, he has the moral obligation to explain his motives to the families of the dead Americans, wounded police officers and other victims of the FALN's 130 bombings from 1974 to 1983.

The release of prisoners was strongly opposed by the nation's law enforcement institutions and criminal prosecutors.

In a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Henry Hyde, FBI Director Louis Freeh stated, these individuals "participated in activities resulting in no fewer than nine fatalities, hundreds of injuries, millions of dollars in property damage . . ."

In a bipartisan vote, Congress overwhelmingly condemned the president's decision -- the vote was 311-41 in the House and 95-2 in the Senate.

The White House spin -- that the 16 terrorists released did not commit violent acts -- is simply wrong.

Eight of them were found waiting to kidnap a Chicago businessman in a stolen van filled with weapons; three held employees of the Chicago Carter/Mondale headquarters hostage during an armed takeover; two were caught on tape making a bomb and planning a breakout of Leavenworth prison; and three were involved in plotting an armed holdup of an armored car.

The president's release sends the wrong message. The release of one terrorist is one too many.

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Washington

The writer represents Maryland's 2nd District in the House of Representatives.

Even assuming President Clinton's clemency offer for the FALN terrorists was a sincere and humane effort to be just (and I believe it was), it was the wrong thing for him to do.

The FALN's attacks left victims blinded and crippled and permanently traumatized. As a society, we are desperate to block such terrorist behavior.

It is not unfeeling or unjust to expect that the FALN members be made to serve out their full prison terms. Making them do that would have shown some empathy and compassion for their victims.

Like former President Jimmy Carter -- who encouraged Mr. Clinton to offer clemency -- Mr. Clinton's heart is often in the right place. But he can also act with an arrogant blindness about how his decisions impact those around him.

In this case, the president famous for feeling other people's pain failed to feel the pain of those hurt by the FALN.

Kenneth Hudson, Baltimore

U.S. government was part of East Timor's problem

I don't understand how Charles Madigan can ask why the United States was so slow to "help craft a solution to violence in East Timor" and not even mention the role this country has played in backing Indonesia during the past 25 years ("E. Timor was victim of West's politics, too," Opinion Commentary, Sept. 28).

Mr. Madigan speculates that the United States was slow to become involved because it wanted to give Indonesian President B.J. Habibie the benefit of the doubt and not offend Indonesia.

How about the fact that the U.S. government helped arm and train the Indonesian military from the time of its 1975 invasion of East Timor right up to the start of the most recent violence?

Our government needs to answer for a whole lot more than just being slow to help find a solution.

Douglas P. Cunningham, Baltimore

Millions can't forgive the president's misdeeds

On Sept. 28, President Clinton publicly thanked Americans -- primarily his family and staff -- for their "unmerited forgiveness" of his sins ("Clinton gives thanks for forgiveness," Sept. 29).

Please allow me to speak for millions of Americans who have not forgiven the Clintons for the disgrace in which they have smothered the presidency.

To us, Mr. Clinton stands, unforgiven, as an ugly scar on the presidency.

C. Richard Bowers, Frederick

We need honest leaders, rather than great spellers

The Sun's Oct. 3 editorial cartoon depicting Dan Quayle waving goodbye with the background words "QUAYL 200" (instead of 2000), and the caption "I quite," was a sad commentary on American values and politics.

Why do we belittle and bash leaders with decent principles, while we praise or make excuses for criminals, terrorists and liberal politicians?

If I had to choose between a president who's a great speller and one who's trustworthy, I'd take the man of integrity.

We have lost our moral direction. We are paying the price for putting our faith and trust in the Clintons and Buchanans of the world, instead of in God.

These are dangerous times, and Americans must vote wisely and seek new role models -- not make fun of those who may not be the best spellers in the world.

Barbara Ann Bloom, Owings Mills

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