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Declare WarEditor: The Sun editorial, "On Going...

Declare War

Editor: The Sun editorial, "On Going to War," states that the war powers of Congress are, "quite murky under law." There is nothing murky about the general powers of Congress under the Constitution.

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Congress has the power to "declare war" -- period. The real problem is that Congress is too cowardly to use the power.

Just because Congress "declares war," doesn't mean the United States has to come out shooting. Congress could, as visible moral support to our military in the Gulf, respond to President Bush's assessment that Kuwait is "of vital interest" and declare war on Iraq, with never a shot to be fired.

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Then again, Tom Paine did once write something about summer senators and sunshine representatives.

Quentin D. Davis.

Aberdeen, Md.

Fixing the Blame

Editor: In a Nov. 5 letter, A.W. Goodman criticized the United Nations for trying to send a delegation to investigate the death of Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis in Jerusalem, when the U.N. had earlier failed to investigate gassing of another internal minority, the Kurds, by Saddam Hussein. He then stated that Mr. Hussein later gassed the Iranians and that the U.N. again failed to investigate.

There are at least 10 detailed Security Council reports of several U.N. teams headed by physicians and other experts from neutral countries -- such as Spain, Sweden and Switzerland --who visited Iran on multiple occasions, and once Iraq, between 1983 and 1988. Those visits were made, at considerable personal risk to the scientists, to investigate allegations of chemical warfare against Iranians, and on one occasion, against Iraqis. The attacks were alleged to have occurred from 1981 to 1988; the reports are dated between 1984 and 1988.

They describe compelling scientific evidence of the use of mustard gas and nerve agents against the Iranians, but do not substantiate the use of chemical agents against the Iraqis. Unfortunately, the Security Council members, including the U.S., made no serious effort during those years to blockade or otherwise isolate Iraq. The U.S. is even said to have assisted Mr. Hussein.

Mr. Goodman will not, however, find any reports of a U.N. investigation of the alleged genocide of the Kurds by Saddam Hussein's troops in 1988. Mr. Hussein refused to admit the U.N. experts. Turkey also refused to admit U.N. investigators into Kurdish refugee camps on its territory. Smaller private groups and one U.S. government team did carry out investigations which supported allegations of genocide of the Kurds by chemical weapons. One was the Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights which published a report of its investigation in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1989.

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There are two serious take-home messages here.

The first is that both Saddam Hussein and the Israeli government seriously undermined United Nations efforts to investigate and prevent genocide of minorities by refusing to cooperate with U.N. teams of experts from neutral countries. If there is nothing to hide, there should be nothing to fear from an expert investigation.

The second is that the United States and other Security Council members failed to take firm action against Iraq in 1983-1984 and during the ensuing years when multiple investigations clearly documented repeated violations of the Geneva Protocol by Iraq. If they had acted at that time, they might have prevented the subsequent invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Are the lives of Iranians and Kurds worth less than the lives of Kuwaitis -- or does the U.S. government care more about oil than about the lives of poor people in developing countries?

Peter Barss.

Baltimore.

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Wellspring

Editor: This is in response to Will Englund's Oct. 18 article about Mayor Kurt Schmoke seeking ideas for schools. The mayor continues to overlook an important source of ideas, the teaching staff, specifically those teachers who have completed the Maryland Writing Project's course of study.

This particular group of teachers has demonstrated a commitment to students by participating in a five-week intensive course offered each summer by the Maryland Writing Project at Towson State. For the past 10 years, the MWP has quietly been revolutionizing teaching in these summer and in-service courses.

As one of this summer's participants from across the state, I had the opportunity to observe dynamic teachers from Baltimore City's system and their teaching methods. From the kindergarten to the high school level, each individual was a talented, articulate, caring person who has stayed within the system for the students.

Here is a wellspring of creativity from which to draw. Here, already on the front line and not in the main office, are the people in touch with students and parents alike. Stop making pronouncements and let these people, Maryland Writing Project teacher consultants, demonstrate what they do best, teach Baltimore City's students.

Stephanie M. Leddy.

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Reisterstown.

Booby Traps

Editor: In his Oct. 18 apartment living column, Carleton Jones missed the mark when he warned first-time renters of possible booby traps. Number one on his list should have been a suggestion to first talk to other residents in the apartment complex and to ask some hard questions about the quality of property management.

Unfortunately, far too many apartment dwellers in Baltimore are at the mercy of management systems that make empty promises and seldom follow through. The waiting game is well known to all too many apartment dwellers who have been short-changed by shoddy management practices and patiently wait for repairs that are never made.

Also, Mr. Jones mentions that senior housing is in "short supply." Anyone who has looked knows that moderately priced senior housing is not available in Baltimore and scarcer still in the surrounding counties. There are long waiting lists, two to three years, with many seniors called to their heavenly home before apartments are available to them in Baltimore.

Travers.

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Fallston.

Sigsbee History

Editor: Sigsbee was recently in the news because of the sinking of the 91-year-old skipjack of that name.

That and my grandfather's aged horse, which foaled about the turn of the century, lead me to the hunch that they were named after Capt. Charles Dwight Sigsbee, USN. He was commander of the battleship, Maine, destroyed in the Havana harbor in 1898, precipitating the Spanish-American War.

My grandfather, Dall Worthington, let me at a very early age ride Sigsbee on his farm in Baltimore County. But it wasn't until years later in a history class that I made the possible connection. The skipjack's name lends credence to that probability.

Let's hope that Sigsbee, which I understand will be repaired in time for oyster season, will sail the Chesapeake for at least another 91 years.

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#Worthington J. Thompson.

Snow Hill.

U.S. and Saudi Prejudices

Editor: I was somewhat disturbed by The Sun's article describing sexism in Saudi Arabia.

The United States Army is an invited guest in Saudi Arabia, helping to stop the threat of an invasion by Iraq and not to impose American ideology on the people of that country.

The Saudi laws governing how women are dressed in public did not spring into existence overnight but have been in existence for centuries. Hopefully, our young men and women will be there for only a short and peaceful stay. But while there, they should respect the people's customs and culture.

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What gives us the right to call Saudi Arabia a sexist society any more than for the Saudis to call the U.S. a prejudiced society?

Anthony Williams.

Baltimore.

Powerful Message to Hate Groups

Editor: Ray Jenkins' Oct. 27 op-ed piece, "Punish Deeds, Not Speech," is premised on a wildly inaccurate portrayal of the recent Oregon case against Tom Metzger and on an equally inaccurate understanding of the law. It is fueled by Mr. Jenkins' obvious personal animosity toward the executive director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Morris Dees, a person who ignored death threats in his pursuit of justice for the family of Mulugeta Seraw, a slain Ethiopian student.

The Oregon jury did not award damages against Metzger simply because he is not a "nice person," as Mr. Jenkins suggests. Nor did the jury punish Metzger for "making speeches that encourage other people to do wicked things."

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Instead, the jury held Metzger liable because it found that he sent agents to Portland to organize a skinhead group to commit assaults against Jews and minorities. Indeed, the jury found that Metzger was involved in a conspiracy with the Portland skinheads to commit acts of racial violence and that Mr. Seraw was killed in furtherance of the conspiracy.

Sending agents to organize skinhead groups into instruments of violence is a far cry from protected First Amendment activity or from the type of activity that the Communist Party or the NAACP were engaged in back in the 1950s and '60s.

As the Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized, "the teaching of the moral propriety or even the moral necessity for a resort to force and violence is not the same as preparing a group for violent action and steeling it to such action."

The fact that Metzger has not been held criminally responsible for Mr. Seraw's death is obviously not a bar to a civil suit. Nor should it be. If the law made a criminal conviction a prerequisite to a civil action, the rights of victims of injustice to seek compensation would turn on the decisions of local prosecutors -- officials who are always overworked, often interested only in the sure-fire conviction of those caught red-handed and occasionally reluctant to prosecute on behalf of the politically unpopular.

Equally irrelevant is the fact that Metzger was in California when the murder was committed in Oregon. If presence at the scene of the crime were required, the law would be powerless to punish the organized crime boss who orders a murder or the corporation whose low-level officials break the law on behalf of the company.

Lawsuits alone will not stop the racial violence that is all too common in our country today. But they serve an important role in compensating victims of intolerance.

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They can send a powerful message to organized hate groups that there is a line that they must not cross. In the Oregon case, the evidence was overwhelming that Metzger crossed the line. For this reason, we are confident that the jury verdict will not be overturned.

J. Richard Cohen.

Atlanta, Ga.

The writer is legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center.


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