Don't Rule Out Democracy for Arab Countries

The article "US 'Lukewarm' on Arab Democracy," Aug. 6, is quite alarming. The contention of some State Department officials that the Arab world is not ready for democracy defies both logic and historical reality. Up to the early 1950s, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, the forerunner Arab peoples to independence, were parliamentary democracies. It is only with the advent of military coups and one-party systems that the moral fiber of political life began to degenerate and Arab societies fell into the abyss of dictatorship and backwardness. Unless people practice democracy, they will never be democratic. How can anybody discover the value of freedom if they are constantly governed by terror and torture and intimidation? Constrained and intimidated political groups will surely malpractice their newly retrieved franchise not out of malice or evil intentions, but rather out of frustration, ignorance, and inexperience. Nobody condones reckless behavior by some fundamentalist factions; but no one has the right to condemn a whole nation to slaver y on the assumption that it is not ready for democracy. Mahammad Ridha, Rocky River, Ohio

Hostages by another name The article "Israel Is Pressed to Release Shiite Prisoners," Aug. 12, is well written, but shows an unconscious bias in favor of Israel. While the captives held in Lebanon are called "hostages," those held by Israel are referred to as "prisoners." The act of kidnapping, always reprehensible, is apparently placed on a higher moral level when committed by a state. However, when people are abducted from their homes and imprisoned for years without criminal charges and without trial, the victims are properly called hostages and the perpetrators are terrorists. Peter Yff, Muncie, Ind.

Great White Father strikes again I read the opinion-page column "Indians Bet on Gambling," Aug. 12, with interest. So far we have introduced the Indians to deadly diseases, guns, alcohol, environmental trashing, racial discrimination, and now gambling as an industry. This exploitation of white weakness may be the economic boom that Indians clearly need and deserve. But judging from the rise of problem gambling I am concerned that again we may have introduced Indians to a social problem of significant magnitude. What kind of people are we - the richest and in many ways the most advanced society in history - that contact with us can be so destructive? Victoria Punnett, Fort Myers, Fla.

No laws against party bias The editorial "Legislative Districts and Race," July 30, fails to acknowledge an important distinction between racial identity and party identification. There are numerous protections against electoral discrimination on the basis of race, but not on the basis of party identification. The US has a history of political institutions being used by the white majority to nullify the voting power of black Americans both by preventing them from voting or manipulating district lines to ensure their status as a minority constituency. This is not ancient history. "White primaries" and "literacy tests" were used into the 1960s; the poll tax had to be constitutionally banned in 1964. In order for a discriminatory practice to pose a threat to the vitality of the democratic process, it must be related to a long-standing suppression of fundamental rights. There is such a pattern of voting discrimination against African-Americans; there is no such pattern adversely impacting either of the political parties. Franke S. Hess, Bozeman, Mont.

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