Letters to the editor

Terrorism by any other name …

On Nov. 19 and 20, I joined 19,000 other concerned citizens in protesting at the gates of Fort Benning, Ga., to demand an end to U.S.-sanctioned terrorism by closing the School of the Americas (SOA) — recently renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

It took five hours for the rally organizers to read the known names of the innocent people slaughtered by SOA graduates. Many of their heart-breaking stories were told by survivors. The abuses span the Americas over many years and continue to this day. One of the most notorious incidents is that of El Mozote, a village in El Salvador where, in 1989, SOA-trained soldiers massacred over 900 men, women and children, including Archbishop Oscar Romero, four U.S. church women (who were also raped), six Jesuit priests, their co-worker and her daughter. The atrocities continue, especially in Colombia, dubbed the “largest customer of the SOA” because of the 2 million people killed or displaced by civilian-targeted warfare carried out under the direction of SOA graduates.

My friends and I listened with heavy hearts as Maria Brigida Gonzalez de Cartagena told the stories of the eight brutal murders that occurred this past February in the San Jose de Apartado Peace Community in Uraba, Colombia. Through tears, Maria told of discovering the body parts of the three young children — ages 11, 6 and 1 — dismembered and scattered in a communal grave. The bodies of five badly beaten adults, cut at the throat, were thrown near a river. These acts were committed by soldiers under the command of a general who graduated from SOA. On Nov. 18, a leader of the same peace community, Arlan Salas David, was killed by troops led by another commander who was trained in counterinsurgency at the SOA.

Make no mistake: Just as our leaders eschew “international terror,” they continue to fund civil wars in Latin American countries, providing billions in military aid and training.

We must speak out and hold our leaders accountable for their actions, holding fast to a vision of true democracy for the Americas. Nineteen thousand of us showed up at the gates of Fort Benning to raise awareness about the human consequences of the dirty wars our leaders sweep under the rug. Forty activists, including Brevard resident Linda Mashburn, committed civil disobedience by crossing onto the school’s property — risking up to six months in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

Currently in Congress, the Latin America Military Training Review Act of 2005 (HR 1217), which advocates for investigation into and suspension of the SOA, has 122 bipartisan sponsors. Urge Rep. Charles Taylor to sponsor this bill. Participate in national lobbying days, April 23-25. Check out soawatch.org to stay informed. Together, we must stand in solidarity with the thousands of women, men and children who have been murdered and disappeared by our government’s foreign policy.

– Kirstie Fischer
Asheville

Increase water rates, not fees

Brian Postelle made an apparently small but actually huge error in his report on the Nov. 15 City Council work session [“On the Water Front,” Nov. 23], when he reported a water “rate” increase that is actually a new fee. The difference is that a rate [generates a charge that] is proportional to the amount of water consumed and is therefore [environmentally] progressive because it encourages water conservation. In contrast, the new fee is wasteful and regressive because it corresponds only to the size and number of water meters, which can regressively drive up per-unit housing costs and only encourages the conversion to smaller meters, involving digging, erosion and new brass meters.

A fee is not a rate, and reporters should know the difference and appreciate its significance. I would support a rate increase for better maintenance, but I oppose [this fee] and want it changed.

I would use tradable rations for water (like trash disposal), issued to each city resident, who could then sell them at will to businesses or customers outside the city.

– Alan Ditmore
Leicester

[Reporter Brian Postelle responds: Mr. Ditmore’s point is well taken. A flat charge would be more accurately referred to as a “fee” rather than a “rate increase.”]

Don’t think, just consume

How silly of James Hrynyshyn to take the Mountain Xpress food critic to task for raving about sea bass because the species is “in serious trouble” [“Ethical Lapse in the Fish Department?”, Nov. 23]. Americans don’t want to be bothered with such trivialities — they want to enjoy themselves! What’s next, restaurant reviewers urged to discuss the plight of veal calves and force-fed geese? This could easily get out of hand and lead to a discussion as to why the Humane Slaughter Act doesn’t apply to the 9 billion baby chickens brutally slaughtered in America every year. And what about the hens and cows kept alive in horrific conditions so that humans can enjoy eating their reproductive secretions?

What if this foolish concept of discussing the moral considerations of our actions was expanded beyond restaurant reviews? Does Mr. Hrynyshyn expect an automobile reviewer to comment on the ethics of driving a gas guzzler? A fashion columnist to talk about the cruelty of sweatshops and fur coats, or the environmental degradation caused by mindless consumerism? A sports columnist opining on the morality of NASCAR’s use of petroleum or someone spending $2,000 on a Super Bowl ticket when people are starving? Why does Mr. Hrynyshyn hate our freedom? This is America! Consume, consume, consume, and never give the slightest consideration to whom or what is destroyed in the process! He needs to spend more time shopping; our economy is depending on him!

For individuals who insist on being concerned about the repercussions of their food choices, attempting to eat fish from “sustainable” environments is well-intentioned, but nearly impossible. How, exactly, does one know where the fish they are eating originated? Most markets and restaurateurs haven’t got a clue. And how does one keep up with the ever-changing dynamics of overfishing, etc.? An easier approach is simply to stop eating fish. To learn about the environmental, health and ethical reasons to do so, visit www.fishinghurts.com.

– Stewart David
Asheville

“Made in America” is still possible

Nothing is produced in this country anymore. Everything is made in China, imported by clever, greedy, big-profit-making large businesses that take advantage of cheap labor in Asia as well as the people here who buy the stuff. Most of the things are ugly and of no quality, not worth the price. These billion-dollar imports have been increasing the huge U.S. trade deficit; in the long run, this will destroy the country.

People, wake up! You are hurting yourselves and the country. Because American businesses move their plants out of the country, you have been losing your jobs — becoming dependent on charity or having to take low-paying jobs without health care, [instead of] making a decent living.

You are doing this all to yourselves by feeding big businesses with enormous profits when you buy all these China-made trashy products, filling up your homes with them [or] overloading your children with ugly, throw-away, sometimes dangerous toys, which often are recalled. At yard or garage sales, you get rid of the stuff to make space for new junk which big-business advertisements brainwash you to buy.

Global market? The states are destroying themselves because important producing facilities are closed or closing. The USA has become nothing but the retailer for Asian products.

Don’t the politicians see what’s going on? When will they, or the people, do something about it?

The USA should rethink and produce in this country quality products at fair prices, giving the people jobs to make a decent living. Why import junk when quality products can be made here? You get what you pay for, right?

Folks, give this a chance: Make your own toys for your children, and things for your family and friends. Ugly, plastic, China-made stuff doesn’t make precious heirlooms.

Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.

– Elli Cleber
Asheville

Let’s study that vote count again

In a recent letter to the editor, a reader advocates the nomination of Bryan Freeborn to fill the City Council vacancy created by the election of Terry Bellamy to mayor. He reasons that Freeborn is the natural pick due solely to the fact that he was the candidate with the next-highest number of votes, and that it would be undemocratic to ignore the will of the people in this matter.

However, I would like to point out a small error in his calculations: Dr. Joe Dunn received the next-highest number of votes overall, with 8,004 to Freeborn’s 7,319. This would suggest, according to the reader’s logic, that in fact Dunn should be offered the vacancy, not Freeborn.

Public commentary and media coverage continue to deny the fact that Dunn is the next favorite among Asheville voters. If indeed the people have spoken, and if we should respect the voters’ wishes — as the reader and the partisan press demand — then Dunn is the natural to fill this vacancy.

– Paul Purdue
Asheville

Borderline issues

First off, people have commented on the proposal of the 2,000-mile barrier on the U.S./Mexico border. This is a great idea, and I think the support is tremendous. Some say this is consistent with the Bush administration. I am a huge Bush supporter, and I disagree with the president when it comes to the borders. He wants open borders, so how could this be consistent? Conservatives have no problem with immigrants coming over legally. Thanks to Bill Clinton and his welfare, there are plenty of jobs for them.

Secondly, on the subject of no religion in school: If we had more religion, maybe teen crime and pregnancies would be down, and we wouldn’t have crazy things like same-sex wedding announcements in our local newspaper. These are the same people taking “Christ” out of Christmas. For all of you who believe in this, I pray for you. Hell is an awful place!

– John Pressley
Swannanoa

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