Regarding your Oct. 3 editorial "Potemkin Elections": While your characterization accurately outlines some of the problems involved in Chechnya's presidential election, it commits two significant errors. First, the present conflict in Chechnya cannot be regarded primarily as a separatist conflict. Militant ranks are filled by fighters with a range of motives - from personal retribution to monetary gain to national independence to Islamist ideology. But it is important that Chechnya had already sustained de facto independence for three years when, in August 1999, the neighboring Russian Republic of Dagestan was invaded from Chechnya by Islamist radicals bent on the establishment of a militant Islamist state throughout the Caucasus. Those who led that invasion are still fighting, and radical Islamist ideology remains the predominant motivation.
Second, many of the Chechens who support Akhmad Kadyrov do so not simply because they are "rubber stamping" Moscow's choice, but because they are so exhausted by the preceding 12 years of turmoil that they are ready to support any candidate who appears capable of promoting social order. Mr. Kadyrov is not an attractive option, but there was probably never anyone else in the field who was strong enough for the job. You are correct, however, in suggesting that the blatant manipulation of the electoral field is less likely to enhance Kadyrov's legitimacy than to intensify intra-Chechen conflict in the short term. In the long run, the gradual processes of economic development and the transformation of Chechen culture will provide a foundation for social stability.
Robert Bruce Ware
Associate Professor, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville
Regarding your Oct. 6 article, "Anglicans find it's Africa vs. West on homosexuality": As an Episcopalian, I support the Episcopal Church's stance regarding the ordination of gays as bishops, and the blessing of same-sex unions. The business of the church should not be exclusion, as has been the case in the past. Rather, the church should open positions of leadership to all who demonstrate their love of God and who strive to be followers of Christ, regardless of sexual identity.
I would regret a schism between African and American branches of the Anglican Communion, but I'm optimistic that will not happen. Episcopalians have survived challenges in the past - the ordination of women as priests, for example - and the church has become stronger as a result.
William H. Carlile
Regarding your Oct. 2 article "Goal of new 'freedom ride': integrate illegal immigrants": There is a glaring deficiency in David Koff's argument that illegal immigrants "in all other respects are Americans - in their commitment to work, to family, to their communities." What is missing is a commitment to our laws, to our Constitution, and to the betterment of our sovereign nation. There is a long queue of people from all over the world who want to enter the country legally. No one likes it when someone tries to push ahead in line. The time is long overdue for our politicians of both parties to stop illegal immigration.
Wm. "Buck" Jackson
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