A Sense of Urgency Needed in Zaire

The Dec. 4 [World Edition Dec. 6-12] editorial, "The Work Ahead in Zaire," correctly points out the many complexities of the humanitarian crisis in Zaire.

In the short run, however, let us not lose sight of the need to get emergency assistance to the hundreds of thousands of lost refugees in eastern Zaire who have been cut off from international assistance and protection for more than a month.

In the longer term, we must also favor more "imaginative" approaches that might include an all-African military intervention force or an international conference. But the first priority is to try to save lives of refugees and displaced Zairians at such risk.

A sense of urgency is the missing element in the international response. A focus on long-term measures alone to contain the crisis is cold comfort indeed to refugees.

Lionel Rosenblatt


President, Refugees International

The protests in Serbia

Regarding the Dec. 6 opinion-page article, "Clinton's Reaction to Serb, Croat Dictators Too Slow": While I agree that both men have maintained oppressive regimes, I think that it is important to consider where the protests in Belgrade and other cities in Serbia are coming from.

Many of the leaders of Zajedno [the opposition party] have direct links to ultra-nationalists and war criminals. Vuk Draskovic, one of the main organizers, is one of the engineers of the vitriolic Serb nationalism that began in the early '80s and resulted in the campaigns of ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims by nationalist Bosnian Serbs during the Bosnian war. Zoran Djindjic has direct links to indicted war criminal and former president of Republika Srpska Radovan Karadzic. There are other opposition leaders with similar rsums.

While nationalist views do not have anti-democratic implications, the histories of these individuals do not show they have been democratic activists their entire careers. Rather, their rsums prove they have sponsored genocidal wars in other nations in order to promote their ideals.

The protests in Serbia at the moment are most definitely pro-democracy for the vast majority of the population. Serbia has a long history of political repression, and that must stop. Human rights abuses in Kosovo as well as the sponsorship of indicted war criminals in Bosnia must stop as well. However, by helping Zajedno reach the heights of power in Serbia, are we improving the situation, maintaining the status quo, or possibly throwing another piece of wood on the fire?

Talli Somekh

Medford, Mass.

How about learning Finnish?

I agreed wholeheartedly with the Nov. 15 opinion-page article "America's Descent into Monolingualism." I was born in Western Europe, raised in Berlin, and spent many years in Switzerland, and I was then, and still am, shocked at how few people in America know any language other than English.

However, the authors' style amazed me. Frequently, the sentences were very long, and I thought, "Where is a little humor, urgency, or pep to show why we have to learn many languages nowadays - not merely the 'modern' German-English-French that every school taught once upon a time?"

True, every internationally concerned publication shows how important it is to learn languages that are understood in Bosnia, Israel, Turkey, Nepal, etc. But high schools and colleges hardly dare mention those languages. Tell the average American student to learn German or (how outrageous) Finnish, and the answer is often: "Ugh, that grammar."

Also in the Nov. 15 Monitor is a short statement by Einstein under the title "Words of Note" on page 15. I think it is appropriate to use the quote again here:

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and know-ledge."

Margot Mertens

Rutland, Vt.

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