IN TIME OF WAR LEADERSHIP AND UNDERSTANDING NEEDED
[from November 2001 issue]

PRIOR EDITORIALS ARCHIVED HERE


On November 6, presumably well-aware of a dangerously developing undercurrent of raw tension in this city between Jewish and Muslim residents, the city council approved an "emergency" resolution aimed at encouraging tolerance between peoples of differing cultural heritages.

What was this breakthrough by our leaders to lend some help in staving off the possibility that tensions will not only continue to fester but grow into a tear in our social fabric?

Well, it was bold and brave. By a vote of 12-1, our city council adopted a resolution calling on the Washington Redskins football team to change its name! Only at-large Councilmember Harold Brazil had enough sense (gumption, courage?) to register a "no" vote. We only wish he had had the courage to offer in its place a resolution denouncing those, city employees included, who have taken up the cause of the enemies of our country who have donned a false cloak of justification by claiming that September 11 was all about our government's support of the State of Israel.

We have been terribly disappointed that not a single member of the council has publicly denounced that kind of rhetoric; not one member has even offered any thoughts regarding our editorial of last month. (See, "Why Won't The Mayor Renounce His Employee's Vicious Anti-Jewish Statements and Apparent Condoning of Acts of War Against Our Nation," October 2001, page 2; also available by clicking the link for prior editorials.) Not even the members who were specifically asked by us for their comments responded; at least Mayor Williams has made the effort, and his letter in response is printed here at page 3.

Councilmember Brazil has correctly stated the true purpose of the authority conferred upon the city council to enact "emergency" legislation: "The criteria used to determine whether or not legislation may be introduced on an emergency basis state that the public safety and welfare of District residents must be severely and negatively impacted. This clearly does not qualify as such." We totally agree. This issue is so trivial it defies comprehension, especially in light of the hatreds unleashed by our country's enemies on September 11.

We have the distinct sense that a substantial number of this city's citizens have not yet come to grips with the reality that the United States was attacked by foreign powers with the intent to further the ultimate objective of destroying our society. This is not hyperbole. At the time we penned our October commentary we did not yet have proof positive that these attacks against New York and here were the work of an actual state power; we were still, at least "officially," believing that the attacks were the work of terrorists not necessarily an integral part of a functioning state power--that is, a foreign government. But now we have no doubt that, at a very minimum, an act of war was committed against us by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as the Taliban rulers have styled it. We see no difference between September 11, 2001 and December 7, 1941.

We have no recollection that 60 years ago anyone (other than maybe Hitler and his gang) were apologists for murder and mayhem by citing possible credible grievances about our foreign and economic policies toward the Japanese in prior decades, thereby excusing them for their act of war against this country when they attacked Hawaii.

Citizens, let's get real out there. By all rights we ought to formally declare war; certainly, the words of President Roosevelt are as true today as 60 years ago: ". . . A state of war exists between [fill in the blanks]. . . ." If many of our readers refuse to believe this, then we urge them to start looking behind the headlines, photo-ops, and talking heads. Start reading the in-depth stuff and be very worried.

A good starting place might be the very recent, extensively documented essay on "Militant Islam in America" by noted scholar and commentator Daniel Pipes. This can be read on his website, http://www.DanielPipes.org. Then follow the link to find his essay, No. 144.

We raise these thoughts only for the reason that we believe it is urgent that we all be fully honest with our neighbors about our concerns and also because we believe we do ourselves and our community no favor by pretending that the attacks were a mere "lashing out" by some disgruntled nuts over our country's foreign policies. We must recognize that this nation is at war; that we have probably entered into what will become understood as World War III. That being the case, our political leaders are going to have to do more to exercise leadership than pick nits with an out-of-state football team.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


THE MAYOR RESPONDS AND READERS REACT
[Commenting on Our October 2001 Editorial]


The Mayor Responds


Please excuse the tardiness of this reply to your email from last month. As you can imagine, we have been unusually busy dealing with the anthrax situation that has affected us all here in the Washington DC region.

I did not want another issue of The InTowner to go to press without an opportunity to respond to your column from last month wherein you ask for my reaction to ANC Commissioner Leroy Thorpe's public statements regarding the September 11th terrorist attacks and other comments attributed to Mr. Thorpe in the Washington Post. [See, "Why Won't The Mayor Renounce His Employee's Vicious Anti-Jewish Statements and Apparent Condoning of Acts of War Against Our Nation?," InTowner, October 2001, page 2.]

Let me begin by saying that I do not concur with the statements that have been attributed to Commissioner Thorpe. They do not reflect my views and they do not represent the views of my administration.

Perhaps the hardest part of the job of mayor is to visit with relatives of those who have been touched by tragedy. Meeting with the families of three District schoolchildren and their teachers who lost their lives when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon brought me to tears. The losses of U.S. postal workers Thomas Morris and Joseph Curseen were equally tragic. I cannot imagine how any reasonable person could view these senseless and random killings as justifiable and I can only pray that those responsible for these deaths will receive swift and appropriate justice.

As for Mr. Thorpe, I do not support his views but I do support his right to voice his opinion. Free speech is a basic tenet of our democracy. Leroy Thorpe has been elected in his neighborhood and he has as much right to express his point of view as any other citizen. Ultimately, the voters in his ANC district will determine if he continues in his position.

Lastly, I am mindful of Mr. Thorpe's other role as an employee of the District of Columbia and I have been assured by those who supervise Mr. Thorpe's job at the DC Youth Services Administration that they have counseled him to keep his political views out of the workplace so that his job performance will not be compromised.

I hope this clarifies my position on the matter and I appreciate the work of The InTowner in bringing this discussion forward.

Anthony A. Williams, Mayor, Washington DC


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Readers Split on Mr. Thorpe


Based on the few facts you present, your editorial about Mr. Thorpe's views sounds unreasonable. I've never heard of the man before, but he has my sympathy because your shrill accusations are not supported by the statements you attribute to him. What you quoted from him in no way indicates "hate-mongering" or "indoctrination," nor does it sound "vicious." I, too, happen to believe that mischief by our corporate and political leaders is at the root of terrorist attacks on the rest of us. No doubt you'll disagree that I'm a patriot. But for a journalist to try to silence dissent is contrary to the freedoms we're supposedly preserving by bombing Afghanistan. Sure it feels good to huddle when we feel threatened. But we don't have to suspend critical thinking so totally in the name of unity as to disallow alternative viewpoints. Nor do most Americans agree with you that opposition to the government amounts to blaming "Americans generally."

I'm quite offended by the current wave of blind loyalism and believe we'll be less safe and free when we're through bombing. But I don't presume I can lash out at those who for the time being hold the opposite view. I'd certainly be wrong to smear and intimidate them. The freedom to differ is what makes America beautiful, and we need more of it, not less, in times like this.

You tried to stir up your readers against Mr. Thorpe by referring to the Nazi evil. I respectfully submit that the reason most of us react with disgust to Kristallnacht is precisely because it represents intolerance. I'm sorry to say your editorial is alarming more for your demonstrated intolerance than for anything Mr. Thorpe reportedly said. Based on your reporting, he just exercised his Constitutional right to dissent. You acted with extremism, not he. The day people widely get in trouble for their unpopular views will mark our descent to Fascism in America, as the McCarthy years nearly did. With the current hysteria and Congress' assault on civil liberties, that's a little less unimaginable.

Similarly, your accusation that Mr. Thorpe's Israel comment (as quoted) is anti-Semitic is a tired repetition of the campaign by Israel apologists here to equate criticism of Israel with ethnic hatred. Not even most Israelis raise this fallacy as they dismiss their government's detractors. Such distortions, even by well-meaning personalities like Mr. Wolff, trivialize bigotry instead of helping the Jewish cause. As a sovereign nation like any other, Israel must expect scrutiny for its wise and unwise pursuit of its interests as it defines them. It doesn't need or deserve special treatment. If anything, the billions we donate yearly to Israel (and on its behalf to Egypt) do entitle us to ask tough questions. I happen to be critical of Israeli expansionism and do blame that government for the backlash against Americans. But let's not confuse a political dispute with ethnic hatred. I make my views known every chance I get. But it'd be utterly wrong for me to try to impose my views on those who think differently.

If you have substantial evidence that Mr. Thorpe is a traitor or spreads ethnic hatred, I'd like you to publish all the specifics you know. Your readers are intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions. What you've presented so far is far more damaging to your credibility than to his.

Ross Pourzal, Falls Church, VA


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


As a long suffering resident intimately familiar with the "Thorpe" problem I can assure P.L. Wolff that there is a much longer history of egregious behavior going much further back than four years. He is not the first to attempt to get the "powers that be" to act.

For example, is he familiar with the hearing [at-large DC Councilmember] David Catania held on ANC 2C02? Over the period of several hours, residents testified orally and in writing on the dysfunctional management and often illegal misrepresentations foisted on the community by Thorpe in his capacity as an ANC rep, as well as the numerous incidents of threats, name-calling, etc., similar to what was documented in your piece. After hearing testimony which included a threat to a police officer, Mr. Catania proceeded to do nothing. There was a tape recorder going during this testimony as well as numerous written statements from residents on the receiving end of Thorpe's thugishness. I propose you obtain these and publish them in total in The InTowner as well as interview Mr. Catania on his lack of oversight of the ANCs in general. As a resident whose ANC rep has had to deal with Mr. Thorpe over the years, I have attended more that one ANC meeting that ended with threats and insults being thrown by Thorpe and the police being required to respond. One would think the Mayor, Council or, at a minimum, someone in the HRO office would care that Thorpe's violent disposition (well documented) is a disqualifying trait in a "youth" counselor (he has spent time in jail for assault) if not his long symbiotic association with the 5th & O crew. Then again, this is the bureaucracy that Marion built on the motto of "Work-Free Employment."

Mr. Thorpe "mau-maued" the 3rd Police District commander into replacing our effective PSA officer (the policeman threatened at the meeting, by the way) with a more, shall we say, "compliant" member of the force. Quality-of-life crimes, prostitution, etc. have gone up exponentially. As for his election, well let's just say that Florida ain't the only place with "irregularities." Curiously, in spite of his homophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-white, misogynistic tirades, he apparently has a coterie of black media (Jonetta R. Barras, the Post, etc.) that still consider him a "source" for information on our community. Go figure.

Perhaps some enterprising journalist will do a thorough expose of Leroy and the dysfunctional anachronistic ANC system, but I'm not holding my breath. It appears that everyone from the Mayor on down is frightened of this xenophobe. After all, his favorite epitaph is, "I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE. . . .!"

Sadly, like the events of September 11, prior threats and attacks went unheeded. As stated above, I {and many others} share P.L. Wolff's concerns. Unfortunately, those who can do something about it, don't.

Name Withheld by Request, Shaw/NOMA


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Here is a copy of a letter I sent to Mayor Williams:

"Dear Mr. Mayor:

"I am writing to you to express my deepest disappointment with you for failing to take any action to repudiate Leroy Thorpe. On September 11, hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Mr. Thorpe told The Hill newspaper that he felt this was a 'great day' and that America deserved the attacks. He reaffirmed these comments in the Washington Post on September 20.

"By remaining silent and doing nothing, you have implicitly condoned these remarks. There are many things that you could do to repudiate Mr. Thorpe:

  • "Denounce him publicly.

  • "Cut all ties between him and your government. Mr. Thorpe currently serves on the citizen advisory panel for Kennedy Playground. He should be removed from that position. In addition, Mr. Thorpe is the leader of the COPE organization, which receives substantial support from the Metropolitan Police Department. The MPD should cut all ties with COPE as long as Mr. Thorpe is its leader.

  • "Consider firing him. This is a drastic step, but I believe it is justified. The courts have long and consistently ruled that government employees may not be dismissed on the basis of their off-duty conduct or speech, unless there is a clear connection, or 'nexus,' between such conduct and their ability to perform their government functions. However, it is obvious from these comments that Mr. Thorpe is unsuitable for his current position as a youth counselor. Keep in mind as well that it appears that Mr. Thorpe made these comments during working hours from his place of work.

    "I consider it an unconscionable display of cowardice on your part that you have not addressed this matter."

    Nick Keenan, Shaw