This is to thank the editors of this newspaper for the number of stories published about the deployment of U.S. troops in Somalia for humanitarian reasons.
However, please allow me to correct an error made by a local Somali lady, Fathia Karsha, a resident of Silver Spring, who was quoted in a Dec. 5 article as saying: "Sending troops is not enough. Nobody talks about a political settlement or any peace talks. It's not as if we (Somalis) are so uncivilized. We lived for hundreds of years together."
First, nobody ever made the argument that the sending of troops to Somalia is enough to solve the problems of whatever is left of Somalia.
Second, there are a lot of people, from U.S. Ambassador Robert Oakley, President Bush's special envoy to Somalia, to United Nations Secretary General Boutros-Boutros Ghali, who are talking about the notion of political settlement and peace talks.
Third, nobody ever raised the issue of whether Somalis are so civilized or, as Ms. Karsha put it, "so uncivilized."
Fourth, and finally, the fact that Somalis have lived together for hundreds of years has nothing to do with the tragedy that led to the current famine which resulted from civil war among various tribes.
The problem of Somalia is the collapse of the nation-state which existed in Somalia for 31 years, or from the time of independence in 1960 to the collapse of the previous regime of President Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991.
Prior to the establishment of the Somali nation-state, the country was under the colonial rule of Great Britain and Italy; before that, the country was divided into various little states that were based on tribal identity.
The current attempt to re-establish these tribal states by Somalia's various tribes shows that the experience of the nation-state is very young in Somalia. Therefore, Ms. Karsha's argument that Somalis have lived together for hundreds of years in a nation-state has no basis in history.
Abdul Raham Abdi
Too Little, Too Late
Over 3,000 human beings died each day in Somalia while the United States pondered intervention. It took months for the administration, which was so concerned over getting re-elected to office, to bolster the support for Operation Restore Hope.
Why was there such gridlock and caution in aiding millions of starving people? Because in our politically correct society, we are so concerned with our economy and layoffs that we neglected our responsibility to the world.
We blasted George Bush for spending too much time concentrating on foreign policy that when a crisis arose outside the borders of the U.S., he was too timid to intervene, worried about the polls.
We call ourselves a caring country, yet when another country in need bangs on our door we don't answer. It is already too late to bring back the hundreds of thousands who have died already, but it is not too late to save others from starving.
We should install a program for distributing aid to starving people so that in the future we are ready to deal with crises around the world with a program that doesn't rely on government gridlock and indecision for aid.
Good News Today
The Sun has been criticized for a lack of "good news" stories, and there is a lot of bad news to report. It seems to me, however, that there is a real attempt to print good news, and many of us appreciate it.
Front page news, for example, on Dec. 16 included: "Baltimore Co.'s Kenwood High School to offer day care," and "Towson becoming heaven on earth for book lovers," and ". . . a lot of help going to Somalia starts in the rural Carroll County town of New Windsor," and "Baidoa recovering from famine's siege."
There is a lot of good news at all levels created by a lot of good people who make it happen. It is encouraging to read about it.
R.O. Bonnell Jr.
God Is Not Only Christian
I cannot allow Blanche Howard's letter of Dec. 15 to go unanswered. She may be right that this is a Christian nation; I don't know what that means anyway.
But I am outraged by her so-called proof: that on currency is inscribed with the motto, "In God We Trust."
I would not have thought it possible that anyone living in this multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society of ours still believes that trust in God is an attribute arrogated to Christianity.
The letter of Blanche Howard in The Sun Dec. 15 raises a number of issues that merit response.
Her premise seems to be that America is a Christian nation whose ideals have put us "ahead in kindness, consideration, ethics and integrity." Having lived and worked in several non-Christian countries -- namely Japan and Korea -- I can attest that America does not have a monopoly on the values she enumerates.
All societies display a complex mix of kindness and cruelty, consideration and indifference, morality and immorality, integrity and venality. Failure to recognize the spectrum of noble and ignoble values in all societies can lead to a smug and dangerous nationalism.
Ms. Howard concludes that Christianity works because "the non-Christian nations do not have half of what we have here." This observation must be questioned as we look at the poverty, ignorance, poor public health and violence so prevalent in the Christian countries of Central and South America.
Even a superficial glance at the living standards of the Christian Philippines contrasted with those of non-Christian Japan will suffice to show that something other than a country's religion must account for its status and behavior.
At this season when we celebrate peace and good will, the time is appropriate to bury the "us-them" divisiveness and seek the threads of commonality that knit together all humanity.
Your editorial, "Egyptian Perils," (Dec. 15) reflects short-sighted thinking. The media labeled Muslims as fundamentalists, radicals and extremists to give the reader the negative presentation of Islam and Muslims, in order to advance the agenda of certain groups in the West.
The Islamic movements in Egypt are dangerous to U.S. foreign policy only if this policy aims to interfere in the internal affairs of Egypt. Bill Clinton would serve the U.S. and its interest well by recognizing that Egypt is governed by a military dictatorship through the power of the gun.
As recently as a month ago, the Egyptian government decreed it illegal for Islamic organizations to help people affected by the earthquake. Egypt has been under martial law since the assassination of Anwar Sadat.
Thousands of Egyptians are arrested and jailed simply because they appear to be members of one group or another that the government deems dangerous.
The president-elect has a golden opportunity to stop a policy that in the past nurtured dictators and gave them more guns and money to enslave their people (example: Iraq) and to nurture democracy and the will of the people.
One billion Muslims worldwide are watching, waiting for the new president to lead the U.S. down the path of democracy and justice for all.
Ahmed G. Awad
Teaching: A Tough Profession
I agree with the move toward a restructuring of teacher education in Maryland.
Teachers of tomorrow need to be thoroughly competent in the subject matter they intend to teach. A strong undergraduate program in their area of interest makes a lot more sense than the taking of a lot of general education courses. An intense period of internship (longer than just several weeks) would also seem to make sense.
The only way that people know if they really have what it takes to teach in the schools of today is to do it.
Hitters can take all of the batting practice they want but it is only under game conditions that they find out if they can perform. However, if a five-year teacher certification program is to be implemented, the other end of the equation needs just as much consideration.
In order to attract the type of individuals that schools are going to need in the next century, steps need to be taken to make the profession a reasonable alternative to business and industry.
I don't feel that you can ask a person to make a five-year investment without offering a beginning salary that is competitive. Additionally, the top end of the salary scale needs to be expanded upward so that continuation in the profession would be considered.
A competitive salary structure is only one item that needs to be addressed. Teaching conditions must be dramatically improved if young people are going to be attracted to teaching. Reasonable class size (25 or fewer pupils), heating and cooling conditions, availability of adequate supplies, adequate planning time, enforcement of a disruptive student policy and recognition of job worth are just as important, if not more important, than salary.
Unfortunately, I don't see a serious effort to address many of these items. If improvements are not forthcoming, I don't see a big rush by talented young people to embrace the proposed five-year program.
There is a saying that I firmly believe in -- "You have to spend money to make money." If those responsible for education are not willing to address the items I have mentioned, then they can't expect to get much of a return.
The last paragraph of your Dec. 15 editorial gets to the heart of the issue. Teaching is one of our society's most difficult occupations. Unfortunately, the general public doesn't really appreciate or understand this.
John H. Gregory