Northern Alliance not a bad ally for fight against the...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

October 30, 2001

Northern Alliance not a bad ally for fight against the Taliban

I seriously disagree with S. Frederick Starr's column "Afghan Northern Alliance makes a dangerous friend" (Opinion Commentary, Oct. 17). His assertions, in particular, that the forces of the Northern Alliance are the equal of the Taliban in terms of involvement with terrorists, drug production and human-rights violations are patently false.

Far from associating with terrorists, the Northern Alliance regularly fights against them, including those of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Proof of this is that members of both organizations are held as POWs by the Northern Alliance.

Regarding narcotics, United Nations Drug Control Program figures indicate that until the Taliban's short-lived ban - designed to increase prices - only 3 percent of the country's opium was grown in Northern Alliance areas.

As for human rights, U.S. State Department and United Nations reports prove that the Taliban have greatly exceeded any past abuses committed by the Northern Alliance.

Confirming this are the heartbreaking stories from women who have fled the Taliban. They report that, bad as the situation may have been in the past, nothing has been worse than the Taliban.

As for the attitude of Afghan Pashtuns toward the Northern Alliance and Russia, just ask Haji Abdul Qadir, one of the leaders of two Pashtun parties among the five that comprise the Northern Alliance.

Mr. Qadir has found - as we Americans recently have - that in fighting bin Laden and the Taliban, you cannot be too particular about allies when your people are dying.

Julie Sirrs

Arlington, Va.

The writer was an analyst of Afghanistan for the Defense Intelligence Agency from 1995 to 1999.

Democracy could ruin Islamic fundamentalism

I was very happy to read Michael Hill's article "Bin Laden defeat not nearly enough" (Oct. 21).

Mr. Hill notes that human rights for a long time have been seriously violated in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Algeria. And we have been looking the other way, because these countries have been friendly to the United States.

This makes us look hypocritical and self-serving when we talk about freedom and democracy. And this perception of a hypocritical America helps breed Islamic fundamentalists and anti-Americanism.

We should not be afraid to take chances for democracy in the Islamic world. Islamic fundamentalists, if given power through elections, would soon lose appeal to the masses when their ideology cannot pave roads or feed the hungry.

The only way to get them out of the picture is to get them voted out. And, as Mr. Hill correctly notes, this is already beginning to happen in Iran.

Jai Ryu

Baltimore

The writer is a professor of sociology at Loyola College.

Don't ease the attacks during Islam's holy month

Our tendency is to act in a way we hope will cause us to be liked by other nations. But it is more important to be respected as a powerful nation that will not tolerate the actions of evil people and countries.

Instead of easing our attacks during Ramadan, we should carry on and show our enemy the same consideration they showed us.

Stanley Oring

Pikesville

Life imprisonment gives no justice to terrorists

What justice is life without parole for these monsters ("Justice for terrorists," editorial, Oct. 24) when they will be given food, clothing, shelter, medical care and entertainment for the rest of their lives?

B. J. Small

Baltimore

Power to define the enemy provides tool for repression

Giving authority to the secretary of state to determine which groups are "terrorists" gives a powerful weapon of political repression to the government.

In the past, groups such as the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador and various black liberation groups were described as terrorists or terrorist supporters while groups opposing Fidel Castro, anti-abortion groups and violent militias were never so declared.

Will the groups change depending on the "enemy" of the moment?

We've seen in the past what happens when groups are smeared as anti-patriotic or deviant. We're now well on the path to doing it again.

Steve LaBash

Laurel

Congress should be ashamed that it deserted its post

The decision by Congress to take an unscheduled, five-day holiday from the people's business was disgraceful.

Congress could simply have rented a hall, hotel or convention center to continue the nation's business while its building was checked for anthrax, but decided to run and hide.

Congress should lead by example. In this case, it failed the country and showed terrorists exactly how vulnerable some of our so-called leaders are to threats.

Thank God our military men and women do not have the same flight mentality exhibited by Congress. The military did not run, the private sector did not run, the postal workers did not run.

Could it be the Congress thinks it is more important than the rest of us?

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