Letters to the Editor

Readers write about Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, the geopolitics of Armenia, and the definition of terrorism.

Postcolonial Africa shouldn't blame the past for its present

Regarding the May 16 article, "Why Africa won't rein in Mugabe": This article on Zimbabwe asserts that Africa's colonial past and the West's current heavy-handedness in placing conditions on foreign aid have prompted African leaders to applaud President Robert Mugabe for throwing out the white commercial farmers and standing up to the West.

But the white farmers are long gone. Mr. Mugabe has been using his security forces to brutalize black Zimbabweans in order to quash political opposition.

Some African leaders are grateful to Zimbabwe for setting this example, since opposition political parties and civil society organizations are challenging the leaders' own inclinations to hang on to power.

Blaming history or the present-day West is a red herring. Thanks to the courage of African citizens and pressure from the West, a number of African leaders are being forced grudgingly to tolerate a gradual shift toward democracy.

Tom Lantos
Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs

In response to the May 16 article about Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe: The article suggests that the reason "why Africa won't rein in Mugabe" is connected to postcolonial resentment of Western attempts to continue to interfere in African countries' internal affairs.

I suspect that this is only partly true. In Africa, corrupt, dysfunctional governments seem to be the norm, and rule by autocratic strongmen is the order of the day.

I think that many leaders are more concerned about protecting their own hold on power. Their reasoning may be that if Mr. Mugabe can be easily deposed as a tyrannical despot, then maybe they are vulnerable, too.

It makes sense that "African leaders have welcomed Chinese development loans, which, unlike those of the World Bank, don't make aid conditional on economic or political reforms."

The money coming from China is intended to be more of a bribe for the government than it is to function as foreign aid.

Wayne A. Spitzer
Faywood, N.M.

Armenia needs Iran

Regarding the May 21 article, "Another theater for US-Iran fallout: the South Caucasus": Iran has been the only friendly neighbor to Armenia in the Caucasus.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have blockaded Armenia for more than a decade. The only really sure access to Armenia has been via Iran.

Without Iran, Armenian people probably couldn't survive in that hostile region.

Though Armenia is also a US ally, the US has been unable or unwilling to convince Turkey to open the border with Armenia and establish formal diplomatic relations.

On top of this is the nine decades of political footwork on the part of the US to avoid recognizing the Armenian genocide of 1915 that was perpetrated by the Turkish government of the day.

In light of those realities, it is understandable why Armenia wants to maintain ties to Iran. For Armenia it is not a matter of choice; it is a matter of survival.

Haig Misakyan

Set boundaries on antiterror laws

In response to the May 18 article, 'Ecoterrorism' case stirs debate in US": For the federal prosecutors to expand the reach of antiterror laws to now include domestic property vandalism and destruction is a big mistake.

The main purpose behind the USA Patriot Act was to fight foreign-originated terrorism on American soil, and sticking to this purpose provides a much clearer focus on how to marshal our resources against an enemy dedicated to our national destruction.

To expand the definitions and reach of the law into yet more areas of American domestic life just adds to the continual erosion of our freedoms.

The property crimes these so-called ecoterrorists committed were serious, and there are serious laws and sentences already on the books. Obviously, starting fires also threatens human life, and there are plenty of laws to elevate this crime's status above simple property destruction.

But at this rate, one day the definition of terrorism in the US may be expanded to include arriving late to work or not paying a bill. This may sound silly, but over time things like this could happen.

We need to set firm boundaries early on the reach of antiterror laws.

Brian Stewart
Los Angeles

Regarding the May 18 article on "ecoterrorism": I really enjoyed this article. But it's a shame that it didn't take the next step and say that the current interpretation of "terrorism" is threatening to undermine traditional civil protest.

What's wrong with civil disobedience? If these groups took care not to hurt humans, and in fact do save the lives of animals and trees, since when has that been considered terrorism?

It may be vandalism, but since when do we punish vandals by sending them to prison for 20 or more years?

Besides, most vandals have no social agenda. These environmental activists have lofty goals of being good stewards of the Earth. And they act on their ideals at great personal risk.

C.L. Morgan
San Diego

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