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Apply peace dividend to domestic needs

The columns by Colman McCarthy (Glorifying the irrationality of war, May 25) and Jack Payton (It's time for U.S. to take a look at itself, May 28) and Bill Moyers' PBS program The Home Front (Channel 3, Feb. 29) are all smack on target in trying to wake us from our mesmerized fixation on the gulf war while neglecting our domestic problems. It is heartening to see these thoughtful voices of dissent emerging from the false euphoria in which most Americans seem to be basking. It is, indeed, a travesty on our best national ideals that we have succumbed to the exaltation of military might as practically the only thing about which we can boast. We are in danger of making militarism _ "exaltation of military virtues and ideals" _ our national god! Meanwhile, our national leaders seem to be unwilling or unable to work at solving the shameful problems of homelessness, poverty, racism, inadequate health care, crime and a rapidly deteriorating system of public education.

The Pentagon proposes to go on with out-of-date Cold War spending at a time when our domestic weaknesses pose a real threat to our national security. The Bush administration's proposed 1992 defense budget is $5-billion higher than last year's and does not include the cost of the war against Iraq. The Center for Defense Information in Washington has concluded that the United States could reduce military spending from $286-billion this year to $200-billion in 1995 and still fulfill all military requirements.

We seem not to have realized that a nation's real strength lies in its economic productivity and the strength of its social system. We would do well to listen to a distinguished German editor, Theo Sommer of Die Zeit when he writes: "we are rapidly moving from the territorial-military-political age into an economic-financial-technological age The United States, due to its economic, budgetary and societal shortcomings, is bound to lose political and, ultimately, also military clout." And he adds: "The gulf war does not disprove this analysis. It was a last protuberance of the Cold War, by no means a herald of things to come, a paradigm of the future" (Guardian Weekly, April 28).

We need to let Congress and the president know that we must have a "peace dividend" which will be applied to our pressing domestic problems. We also need to let the Democratic Party know that we need clearer and braver leadership on these issues than it has thus far given us.

William C. Wilbur, St. Petersburg

Once again, I read a letter to the editor that offers nothing more than an opinion lacking in any insight whatsoever.

The writer tells Jack R. Payton "that the good old U.S.A. is not as bad as you make it out to be." Evidently he only looks at the fruit ripening on the branch so as to avoid seeing the fallen fruit that spoils and rots on the ground at his feet.

He believes that our educational system, our unemployment rate, our poverty level, our national debt, our trade deficit are in such a state that we are superior to Japan in these aspects. He believes our crime rate is less than most of Western Europe. He believes our health care system is better than Canada's. He believes America exists in racial harmony. He believes our leaders are the best in the world.

When one sits sucking the sweet bounty of his own fruits, it's impossible to see beyond the trees of his pleasure. It is easy to say there are "some scenarios other than doomsday out there." However, it is far more difficult to offer what those scenarios are.

Timothy F. Bidelman, St. Petersburg

Baker's plain talk

Re: Baker says Israeli settlements are biggest obstacle to peace, May 23.

Hooray for Secretary of State James Baker! He's stopped speaking "diplomatese" and has plainly said what many have known but refused to verbalize _ that the Israeli government is obstructing peace negotiations in the Middle East by continually expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

The Middle East is a quagmire of century-old hatreds, memories of injuries _ real and imagined _ embedded like rock in the minds of Arabs and Jews. To say there is dissent over the West Bank and Gaza Strip is tantamount to calling the universe vast. And, like the universe, no one can grasp the edges and pull it into shape. So why beat our communal heads against a wall if one of the parties isn't interested in peace?

More galling than the Israelis' defiance of peace initiatives as they build new settlements is that we, the U.S. taxpayers, continue pumping money into Israel through our foreign aid program while the Israelis thumb their noses at us. Without the U.S. dollar for support, Israel's economy might collapse. New settlements in the territories would cease to be an obstacle.

Michael Levin, a member of the Y'esh Gval Party in Israel, spoke recently at George Washington University. He recommended the United States withhold or reduce foreign aid to Israel until the present government makes a sincere attempt at peace. If citizens of Israel know money talks and wields power, why doesn't Congress?

Let your congressman know that you want foreign aid curtailed _ to Israel and every other country in the world. We have more than our share of problems in the United States. Sooner or later the Arabs and Israelis will resolve their problems. We need to focus on our own instead of frittering away our money and resources on a "peace" that may never be.

Kathryn L. van Heyningen, Palm Harbor

As time passes, I just become more confused by the antics of the Bush administration.

While Secretary Baker spends months touring the Middle East in the quest for peace, we are busy aiding and abetting Israel, the biggest threat there is to peace in the area. On the same day Bush announced his support of an arms embargo in the Middle East, Secretary Cheney also announced that we are giving Israel a fleet of F-15s and anti-missile hardware.

Does giving exempt us from arms embargoes or is this just a crude attempt to arm Israel to the teeth before arms embargo resolutions can be passed?

Louis Freund, Holiday

For more than 15 years, the United Nations has been calling for peace negotiations under the sponsorship of the United Nations as a means by which Israel and its neighbors could resolve their differences. The United States and Israel stand virtually alone in opposing a Comprehensive International Peace Conference. Israel rejects any negotiations, and Washington is weak in pressing Israel to exchange land for peace.

A web of issues cannot be separated out by national boundaries:

1. The end of Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights;

2. The Palestinian right to an independent state;

3. The plight of more than 2-million Palestinian refugees;

4. The need for Israel to have secure borders and signed peace treaties with the Arab states.

A forum sponsored by the United Nations is necessary to achieve a peace settlement, fair to all sides.

The Israeli government insists on choosing the Palestinians it will talk to. Unless the parties to the negotiations are authentic representatives of the people, the resulting agreement will not be worth the paper it is written on. Goals should be:

1. The return of the territories that Israel has occupied since 1967 and 1982.

2. A creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

A just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires that the national rights of both peoples be recognized.

In 1988 the Palestine National Council, which represents the vast majority of Palestinians, affirmed its willingness to respect the security of Israel's borders and live in peace in return for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

An end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is possible if the United States will join the effort to achieve it, and not continue to subsidize the party blocking settlement. Secretary of State Baker seems to be trying. Where is the resolve of Congress to support Baker's initiatives?

There is hope of peace if we try non-violent agreements. We never learn from history. Wars settle nothing, only leave deserts full of dead bodies. The Middle East is a testimony of the failed policy of violence. We need to work toward peace for one, peace for all.

Betty Schroeder, member for Women's

International League for Peace and Freedom,

Tampa Bay Branch, St. Petersburg

Another view

In order to arrive at a fair understanding of the Middle East, Americans require accuracy in reporting. In addition, we are entitled to editorials which do not manipulate events and history. Unfortunately, in its one-dimensional and continuous bashing of Israel, the St. Petersburg Times fails to serve us well.

For example, two editorials merely mirror each other in blaming Israel for Baker's failure to resolve the Middle East problem (St. Petersburg Times, May 4 and May 25). Perhaps the strategy is to divert our attention from the shameful desertion of the Kurds. To confound the issue, Martin Dyckman has the chutzpah (gall) to invoke the Holocaust in his condemnation of Israel's leaders, even as he exonerates Saddam Hussein's clone, Syria's Hafez Assad, and the PLO terrorists (May 26).

Much is made of Israel's settlements in the West Bank. Accurate conclusions, however, must be based upon a complete set of facts. Fairness requires the inclusion of the following:

1. Israel's population is 4.9-million. Fourteen percent of the population, 686,000 residents, are non-Jews. The Arab residents are Israeli citizens, and there are Israeli Arabs in the Israeli Knesset (Parliament).

2. Seventy-seven percent of the original Mandate of Palestine was arbitrarily taken to create the Arab state of Jordan in 1950. Palestinians make up more than 60 percent of Jordan's population.

In summary, the current effort is to create a second Arab state in the 23 percent of the original country. While the "Jewish State" has an Arab population of 14 percent, no Jews are to be allowed on the West Bank. Fair?

Norman N. Gross, Palm Harbor

Debate not about personalities

Re: The debate continues, letter to the editor, May 30.

Those who choose to believe that a human zygote is a person have every right to their conviction. The truth is that, legally, personhood is not ascribed to this fertilized cell. Until zygote/person believers convince or persuade the Supreme Court otherwise, the argument is moot.

The abortion debate is a tug of war between the logic of law and the fervor of individuals' opinions. Thus far, logic prevails over fervor. This is not a debate about personalities on either side of the issue.

In the final analysis, the question will be resolved by lawmakers, from Congress and the Supreme Court to state legislatures. One's personal beliefs regarding the personhood of zygotes will not be an element of the equation. The issues are our constitutional rights to privacy and a woman's right to choose abortion, privately and legally.

Carolyn Dundas, reproductive rights committee

National Organization for Women

Pasco County chapter, New Port Richey

House in disarray

Isn't it about time that we get our own house in order, what with our astronomical deficit, the savings and loan problem, health care, drugs, crime, etc.?

So what is our president doing about it all?

His main concern seems to be more on foreign affairs. By the way, Saddam Hussein is still around and probably laughing up his sleeve.

Charles Rosboril, Spring Hill

A worthy goal

How about our striving to have a society with no need for battered women's shelters? How about that instead of throwing women into jail who "break" under the assault? Let's lighten up the assault. A marriage ends in murder (May 27) shows us a scene we cannot escape. Again, Diane Mason writes lucidly. Only the most simplistic would ever attempt to judge the actions of a woman subjected to the hurt, the agony that battering brings.

Pat Hardin, Clearwater

Share your opinions

We invite readers to write to us. Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, 33731, (FAX number, 893-8675). They should be brief and must include the handwritten signature and address of the writer. Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length. We regret that not all letters can be printed.

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