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A Different South African Deserves Peace Prize

Regarding the opinion-page column ``De Klerk Deserves a Nobel Peace Prize,'' Feb. 7: While South African President Frederik de Klerk should be lauded, it would be much more in order that Nelson Mandela receive the Nobel Peace Prize. It was he who spent 27 years in prison. The prize's honor and monetary award should go where it produces a modicum of long-overdue justice. Beatrice Newby Gold Hill, Ore.

I would be among the first to firmly congratulate President De Klerk for his progress toward democracy in South Africa, but the suggestion that his actions over the last year qualify him for a Nobel Peace Prize is a further statement of our willingness to judge white South Africa by a different standard. In the South African context it might have been a ``bold step'' to release Nelson Mandela from prison, but certainly it was but the most basic minimum step in the global context. De Klerk's dismantling of the Group Areas Act, the Population Registration Act, and the like are again basic minimums to confirm the humanity of the majority population. Let us see if De Klerk ever comes to the point of backing the ``bold'' proposition of one person, one vote.

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Jeanne Marie Penvenne Medford, Mass.

Visiting Asst. Prof. of History, Tufts University

Arafat and prewar negotiations The article ``PLO Chief Says US Thwarted Efforts to Resolve Gulf Conflict,'' Feb. 5, contains fabrications that cannot be left unanswered. I was with the Kuwaiti delegation in Baghdad and am still in close contact with the government of Kuwait. Let me clarify:

Iraq did not offer negotiations with Kuwait during the Arab summit held in Baghdad in May 1990. I checked with the government of Kuwait, and what Yasser Arafat says is simply not true.

Mr. Arafat speaks of an Iraqi offer in Jiddah on Aug. 1, and blames Kuwait for refusing such an offer. I was in Jiddah with the Kuwaiti delegation. There was no offer whatsoever. In fact the Iraqi delegation came with no power to offer or reject. The only agreement was to continue the contacts in Baghdad.

Mr. Arafat states that during the Arab summit in Cairo, he told the Kuwaitis he was offering a solution through a commission and they refused, saying that ``the Americans will solve the problem.'' Arafat never offered anything in Cairo.

Mr. Arafat, with characteristic indulgence in fabrication and hyperbole, sinks to an unprecedented level of recurring amnesia.

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Abdulla Y. Bishara Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Gulf Cooperation Council

Patriotism vs. frenzied emotionalism Samuel Johnson said: ``Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.''

In reality, true patriotism is a good emotion; by definition it means love for one's country, not hatred of any one individual, or cruel apathy for another people. When we, as a society, lose sight of that fact and permit our national leaders to channel our collective goodwill for our troops into a narrow frenzy of unquestioning emotionalism, we transform valid patriotism into base chauvinism. We dull our logic, blind our vision, blunt our humanity, and find it easy to rationalize such verbal enigmas as ``collateral damage.''

So when we wave our flags, sing our songs, tie our yellow ribbons, praise our leaders, and urge our troops on, we would do well to remember the mothers, fathers, and children of Iraq and pay particular attention to the words of Ralph Barton Perry, who wrote: ``If patriotism is `the last refuge of a scoundrel,' it is not merely because evil deeds may be performed in the name of patriotism ... but because patriotic favor can obliterate moral distinctions altogether.''

William Gregg Louisville, Ky.

Where's the UN flag? The use of force against Iraq was sanctioned by the United Nations for Iraq's invasion of a small, peaceful neighbor, and for Iraq's defiance of UN resolutions.

As a visitor to the US from England, I have noticed, particularly in suburban areas, a great number of American ``Stars and Stripes'' displayed. Why, I wonder, the flag of the United States of America rather than the flag of the United Nations?

J. M. Kirkby Birmingham, England

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to ``Readers Write,'' One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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