Embassy: Saudi Arabians Offended by Commentary

I found the Tucson Weekly's June 6 Guest Commentary, "Why Do Congressmen Like Jim Kolbe Continue to Support a Sexist, Hate-Filled Hypocritical Regime?" by Seth J. Frantzman, to be malicious and offensive to the people of Saudi Arabia. The editorial is grossly inaccurate, hate-filled and potentially libelous. At a time when our nations are working to build greater cultural understanding among our peoples, such defamatory statements undermine our efforts by spreading myths, misunderstanding and hate.

The Saudi people are working hard to improve their society and should be encouraged in their efforts. In the past two years alone, the kingdom has held elections for its municipal councils, joined the World Trade Organization, continued with internal reforms in areas such as education and conducted an international counterterrorism conference. We also continue to work closely with international partners, such as the United States, to combat the threat of terrorism and those who support it, financially and otherwise.

In fact, cooperation has been a hallmark of the Saudi-U.S. friendship for more than 60 years. As any friend would be, we are always open to constructive and informed criticism. However, I see no benefit to the kind of derogatory and ill-informed commentary displayed by your editorial.

Nail Al-Jubeir
Director, Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia Information Office

Kolbe: Look at What Money Would Do Before Criticizing

Seth J. Frantzman's emotional response on U.S. "aid" to Saudi Arabia is far off the mark. He might have done better to check what the small amount of money (less than a half-million dollars) would do before he wrote his letter.

Of the total, $20,000 would be used to "buy" a seat at the International Military Education and Training table for the Saudi military. IMET is a program to bring officers to the United States for training in military doctrine and tactics. With that one space for training, the Saudis can then send many other officers for training--all at the expense of their government. A major part of the curriculum is training in human rights. Is it not a good idea to have Saudi military officers immersed in training that includes Western values?

The remainder--about $400,000--would go to send American experts in counterterrorism to train Saudi police and security forces. After Khobar Towers and the attack on the foreign residence compound, is it not a good idea to send such experts to hopefully prevent another such attack?

The tiny amount of aid which goes to this country, admittedly one with a poor human-rights record, is not a "gift" to them. It is about protecting our own national, self interests.

Congressman Jim Kolbe

Claim That Prince Went to Strip Club Is Vile

Seth J. Frantzman's piece in the June 6 issue of the Tucson Weekly is a hate-filled and woefully inaccurate attack on Saudi Arabia, a country about which he knows very little.

There are so many distortions I could correct or challenge, but one, in particular requires an immediate response. Then-Crown Prince Abdullah never behaved as Frantzman suggested that he did in Crawford, Texas. To suggest as Frantzman did (cleverly using the word "apparently") that the Saudi king visited a strip club is so outrageous and vile, Frantzman should be ashamed of himself. But I doubt that he has any shame at all.

James J. Zogby
President, Arab American Institute

Thanks for Giving Prostitution Law Needed Press

I'll have to admit that I am frequently annoyed by the Tucson Weekly, but it is articles like Tim Vanderpool's "Risky Business" (Currents, July 6) that make me thankful that the Old Pueblo has this institution.

Sen. Chuck Gray's bill was among the more unfortunate pieces of legislation that we passed in a largely crass and silly session. Only a few of us openly opposed it, because many in the Legislature feared that they might get characterized as standing up for hookers. Reason and compassion, after all, might be rewarded with a hit piece from an opponent.

Nobody came to testify in favor of this bill in the committee I sat on--not law enforcement, not the cities, nor any neighborhood associations. None of these groups had listed this as a priority. I mentioned this, and asked why a change in state law was necessary. Sen. Gray responded that we needed a tougher state law, because prostitution sweeps in Phoenix might drive streetwalkers into Mesa.

I never could find anyone in law enforcement who thought this was necessary. The problem that the senator cites, to the extent it exists, could be solved by coordination among various police agencies.

Oddly enough, though the senator praises their work in Mr. Vanderpool's article, Catholic Charities Community Services opposed the bill, because it will make their efforts more difficult. The senator was dismissive of their concerns in committee.

The bill represented much of what is wrong with the Republican-controlled Legislature; in particular, the use of the law as a tool for the gleeful flogging of people who are politically unpopular or basically helpless.

Rep. Tom Prezelski

Address Problems Leading to Graffiti, Not Just the Symptoms

"Don't Paint the Town Red," you write (Currents, June 22), but after a decade of the Graffiti Abatement Program, the problem is getting worse. Of course it is, for the entire program shows a total failure to address the real problem of boredom, restlessness and rebellion that fires the activity.

The young people who write this stuff--and some of it shows real artistic talent--are provided with few outlets for their energies. That the city should spend more than a quarter-million dollars puts this expenditure on the same level of folly as the millions being devoted to an elephant corral. With some imagination, and by inviting the graffiti artists to identify themselves (without fear of punishment) and agree to forbearance in return for positive gains, the city would be addressing the real problems.

As long as you have alienated people roaming the alleys with no real creative challenges, you might as well spend millions. It's about as futile as bringing democracy to Iraq.

David Ray

The Joke's on Him: The Transportation Tax Is County-Wide!

Re: The letter from Daniel R. Patterson ("Save Useful Buildings; Discourage Road Expansion," Mailbag, June 29):

Some planner! How many times are we going to have to pay for the "aviation" link to Interstate 10? Instead, you are going to tear up our streets for an inane streetcar, which cannot change with demographics. If you are lucky enough to revitalize Tucson's downtown, it's going to turn into a quagmire of clogged streets, which will drive more people out.

I, for one, will never shop in the city again. My taxes will go to the county or unincorporated areas, and I won't have to breathe the polluted air caused by congested city traffic.

Tom Schuetz

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