Harassment Charges Are No Surprise

Is is difficult to fathom why Army brass could not have anticipated the rash of sexual assault and harassment charges as reported in "New Army Sex-Abuse Charges Highlight Counseling Needs," Feb. 5. Any command and control organization with a vertical hierarchy of rank should realize the potential for abuse, particularly when those in command are male and those being trained are female.

It now turns out that the Veterans Affairs Department has already counseled 15,000 victims over the past three years. This should have raised a red flag. If senior officers ignored these warning signs or dismissed them as insignificant, they should be reprimanded or retired. Counseling and hot lines should be set up before there is a scandal, and results of such efforts should be monitored by those in command. The answer is not to separate women from men in their combat training but to anticipate problems and act accordingly.

George A. Dean

Southport, Conn.

Conscientious objectors

Thank you for the coverage in "Hazing Rituals in Military are Common - and Abusive," Feb 11. The article incorrectly says the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO) is based in San Francisco. CCCO was founded in 1948 in Philadelphia. The San Francisco office was founded in 1967. In 1995, CCCO in Philadelphia and CCCO-Western Region in San Francisco merged to form one group with two regional offices. The GI Advocacy program is based in Philadelphia.

Many CCCO supporters are still confused by the merge. Many of them also read the Monitor and might be dismayed to see our San Francisco office credited with founding CCCO.

Susan C. King

San Francisco


Slavery in Mauritania exists

The article, "Where African Slavery Still Exists in the Eyes of Many," Feb. 13, confirms - and yet trivializes - the existence of human bondage there. The Africans interviewed say that thousands of slaves work for Arabo-Berber masters, and that masters forbid slave children to go to school, decide who slaves may marry, and inherit slaves's belongings.

The author's treatment of our efforts to end slavery in Africa is skewed. We did not testify to Congress that Arabs raid Mauritanian villages and sell people for $15. (That happens in Sudan.) And the tortures of disobedient slaves we described is testimony from Human Rights Watch/ Africa investigators. As for the testimony of the US State Department, congressmen were baffled and unconvinced by its spokesperson.

Why has our State Department abruptly reduced its estimate of 90,000 black slaves in Mauritania - made just two years ago - to only "vestiges" of human bondage now? The speculation in the human rights community is that this is a payback for the Mauritanian government's tilt back to the West after that country foolishly backed Saddam Hussein in the Gulf war. If so, this is shameful - America almost tore itself apart over the issue of one man owning another. Should we now turn our backs because the slavers are our "friends"?

Charles Jacobs

Somerville, Mass.

American Anti-Slavery Group

Refugees create more victims

In "Wandering the Wilderness of Zaire's Broken Land," Feb. 12, the photographs show Rwandans in excellent health, with no obvious signs of malnutrition or disease. A refugee explains that they survived on roots, grubs, forest plants, and local farm crops. I thought about the impact 200,000 refugees might have on the local people from whom they stole food.

This has received very little attention in the press. How many local people are facing crop shortfalls? Where will they make up their losses? Are UN officials or Zairean rebels concerned about that?

Reed L. Wadley

Tempe, Ariz.

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