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Letters to the editor

Monday, June 04, 2001

Another drug war insanity: We're supporting the Taliban

I was outraged to read that our government has given $43 million to the vicious rulers of Afghanistan ("Taliban End Crop of Opium Poppies," May 20). The Taliban may have managed to reduce drug production, but they also kill and torture women! Since they took control of Afghanistan, females are not allowed to work, attend school or receive basic medical care. A woman who accidentally exposes a tiny bit of her skin in public may be brutally murdered with the government's approval and encouragement.

Oddly enough, the article didn't mention the Taliban's crimes against women, nor did it remind readers that this is the same group of Islamic extremists who recently destroyed many ancient statues of Buddha. The article says that the loss of poppy revenue adds "another layer of difficulty for a government that is already isolated and not recognized diplomatically by most nations," but it doesn't say that the reason for that non-recognition is Afghanistan's repeated affronts to human rights and religious freedom.

Now the Taliban are forcing all non-Muslims in their country to wear special clothing that identifies them. Gee, that sounds familiar! Our tax dollars are going to support a regime as evil as the Nazis, yet somehow this news only merited a small article on page A-6. How ironic that it appeared in the same issue as the Forum piece "The Drug War Is Insane." The insanity of making drug eradication our only priority is clearly illustrated by the Bush administration's willingness to give millions of dollars to these monsters.

Squirrel Hill

Bad old days

The Post-Gazette's editorial decrying Afghanistan's decree requiring all non-Muslims to wear distinctive garb states that the ruling "profanes Islam" ("Badges of Dishonor," May 28). Unhappily, the current Taliban edict is not an innovation, but rather a resurrection of ancient rules regarding "dhimmi" -- the protected but inferior status of Christians and Jews under Islamic jurisdiction. As long ago as the eighth century, documents elaborating the details of that status included mandates on the wearing of distinctive footwear and clothing of specific color.

Nor was Islam alone in such applications. In 1215, for example, Pope Innocent III convened one of several Lateran councils that, among its many decrees, imposed numerous hostile restrictions on Jews throughout the Christian world, among them being the requirement that they wear yellow cloth on their outer garments and reiterating earlier demands that they wear pointed hats. (Muslims were also subject to special dress requirements.) The ongoing refinements of such restrictions, not to mention the creation of ghettoes and numerous expulsions, laid a grisly path towards the Nazis' ultimate program of extermination.

To repeat the editorial's words, "you don't need a Ph.D. in history" to be aware of the centuries of ominous and odious precedents that culminated in the Nazi infamy. At least, you shouldn't.

Squirrel Hill

Delay dredging

Your May 30 editorial "Is Dredging Worth It?" was great. Dredging for navigation has some public benefits but mining for sand and gravel only helps dredgers and their customers, at the expense of the general public.

Gravel and sand are essential to river life. The whole food chain needs it, including plants, aquatic insects, fish, turtles, fish-eating birds and anglers. It is a practice not found anywhere in Pennsylvania but here in the wild West.

River mining contaminates drinking water, harms wildlife and reduces the quality of life for human residents of river valleys. It consumes riverside property as shorelines and islands gravitate to fill mining holes. Past mining has badly damaged the Allegheny and Ohio and it's time to reclaim what we've lost.

The Department of Environmental Protection should hold a public hearing on river mining and not make permit decisions until an impartial environmental impact statement is complete.


A mother's anguish

I am writing in connection to your May 29 article " 'Uncleared' Homicides in Pittsburgh for 2001." In the article you mentioned my son Jaime Daniels' murder.

I call homicide at least once a week to see if they have gotten any leads. Every week I get the same answer: No one is talking.

It is so sad that we are killing our own and no one is willing to help the police solve the crimes. We as African Americans are so quick to blame the white race for our mishaps when we are our worst enemy in this case. We are doing this to ourselves.

I also feel that these after-hours establishments are giving the perfect opportunity for these crimes to be committed without many (or no) witnesses to help the police. Some killings, like Jaime's, are taking place in the middle of the night when no witnesses are out.

I just pray someone comes forward with information that would help solve my son's murder and all of the others. This is senseless!

Kansas City, Mo.

Quite a pickle

Let me get this straight: About a year ago, Heinz gets the city to put pressure on the Pittsburgh Wool Co. to vacate because Heinz needs its property, otherwise Heinz threatens to leave Pittsburgh. Fast-forward a year and Heinz is unloading North Side property (650,000 sq. ft. on four acres) for conversion into luxury apartments ("Apartments Planned for Heinz Plant," May 31).

Am I missing something ? Did it occur to you guys to ask Heinz about this strange turn of events ? Couldn't they just as easily have expanded into this area and left the Pittsburgh Wool Co. alone? Or did they just want to force out a company with fewer powerful friends? Does the patron saint of the North Side (Murphy) have an opinion on any this?

Why did Heinz really want the Pittsburgh Wool Co. out of the way? And who's going to want to live in a luxury apartment with the smell of vinegar hanging in the heavy summer air? Instead of asking questions like this, the story ends up being a love letter to the developer.

Swisshelm Park

Still mean

Thanks to Sen. Jim Jeffords for getting the American people out of a political straitjacket. In 1994, Pittsburgh experienced the same sophomoric from Republicans attitudes. Bob Cranmer, then head of the Allegheny County Republican Party, invited Teresa Heinz to change parties after she criticized Rick Santorum and praised Democrat Harris Wofford, who were both running for a U.S. Senate seat.

As a freshman senator in 1995, Santorum brought attention to all Pennsylvanians by bringing a "Where's Bill?" sign with him when speaking on the Senate floor to chide President Clinton over the budget. In addition, he demanded the head of a Republican colleague, Sen. Mark Hatfield of Oregon, who had voted against the party. Santorum was soundly chastised for his arrogance then -- as the Republicans are now by losing control of the Senate.

Some things never change and regardless of the nice, warm, fuzzy tittles like "compassionate conservative," this administration continues to prove by their actions that the party of means continues to be the mean party.


WWII Memorial design evokes a greater architectural tradition

In her May 30 column ("World War II Memorial a Classic Example of Excess"), Sally Kalson denounces the soon-to-be-built World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., because classical architecture invokes for her the memory of Albert Speer and fascism. I think that your architectural writer, Patricia Lowry, instead of confirming her prejudice, should have disabused Ms. Kalson of this notion.

While the quality of this specific memorial can be debated (and my own mind is not made up about it), Ms. Kalson blithely discards an architectural tradition of 3,000 years -- the core of the Western architecture and urbanism -- because it was favored decades ago by a few Central European tyrants. Those same tyrants also invented the high-speed, limited-access highway (the autobahn). Does Ms. Kalson refuse to drive on expressways because of this connection?

Mussolini commissioned buildings from early Italian Modern architects and the murderous Lenin was the patron for the Russian Constructivists. Should we reject Modernist architecture for these reasons alone?

I prefer to recall that classical architecture was adopted by our Founding Fathers as the representation of our democracy and representative government. Thomas Jefferson, who was also one of the first great American architects, was inspired by the classical tradition in his masterpieces, Monticello and the University of Virginia. The Capitol Building and the White House -- existing classical monuments in Washington, D.C. -- are beloved embodiments of the ideals of our Republic.

This tradition, with its beauty and adaptability, is too great and too profound to be embodied by the favor of those dictators whose memory produces such a crabbed perspective in Ms. Kalson.

Highland Park

Editor's note: The writer is an architect and a former historic preservation planner for the city of Pittsburgh.

A desecration

Amen, Sally Kalson! She calls the desecration of our beautiful Washington, D.C., National Mall with a pretentious World War II monument a return to Nazism ("World War II Memorial a Classic Example of Excess," May 30).

I call it neo-Mussolini. Help! Help! How can we prevent it from happening?

Mt. Lebanon

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