Reader Mail

Langley’s Last Legs

The Agency in trouble. Also: The Ambulance Chaser is back. Boycott backlash -- in verse. Luttwak's Iran window. A healthy addiction. Plus much more.

5.2.06

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SHOOT FIRST
Re: Scotty Uhrich's letter (under "Hands On With Animals") in Reader Mail's Empty Tanks and R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s The American Circus:

PETA doesn't hesitate to roll up our sleeves and help animals in need, even when that means providing severely ill or injured animals, or those for whom no good home can be found, with a painless, peaceful death. When we discovered that certain pounds in northeastern North Carolina were cramming animals into a rusty, windowless box and gassing them, shooting animals, and injecting animals with a paralytic agent that slowly suffocated them, we worked with those localities to arrange for painless euthanasia by injection for those unwanted animals who were already slated to die. Our involvement spared those homeless animals untold suffering.

A loving home doesn't exist for every homeless animal. That is why PETA operates a spay/neuter clinic that recently performed its 30,000th surgery. But for those unwanted animals already discarded, euthanasia is a kindness. The same can't be said for factory farms' practice of cutting off animals' beaks, tails, and testicles without painkillers, or scalding and dismembering animals while they're still alive, as frequently happens in slaughterhouses, or beating, chaining, and shocking animals to force them to perform in circuses.

To learn more about PETA's work to help animals, visit HelpingAnimals.com.
-- Daphna Nachminovitch
Director, Domestic Animals and Wildlife Rescue & Information
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Norfolk, Virginia

BABBINIZE THE CIA
Re: Jed Babbin's CIA's Castra Praetoria:

I am not sure that Jed Babbin isn't a bit too hard on the record of the CIA. My understanding is that it was the most right, or the least wrong, government agency on Vietnam and that it had considerable success in the early Reagan years pursuing the strategy of liberating eastern Europe and fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan (although the latter may have assisted in the creation of our current problems with Islamic radicalism).

That said, his main point is correct. It is a peculiarity of bureaucracies that they are invincibly obtuse about their failures. I think of this as the "French general staff effect."

After the failure of the French general staff in World War II, which didn't just result in defeat, but in the transfer of the country to one of history's more depraved regimes, was their a housecleaning? No. Was there an agonizing reappraisal on the part of leading French generals, such that they resigned due to their failure to their country? No. They all decamped to Vichy and the next thing on the agenda was lunch. In fact, they were affronted that de Gaulle wanted to continue the war and put a death sentence on his head.

So also with the CIA currently. George Bush did not want to cripple our government with finger pointing after 9/11. But he paid a high price for it because there is no such thing as becoming modesty on the part of bureaucrats for their failures. If they are not removed, they are just as arrogant after a failure of mission as they were before.

Anyone with a sense of propriety would not dream of complaining about Rumsfeld setting up an analysis section on intelligence in the Pentagon after the incredible nonfeasance of the CIA on 9/11. Since the CIA failed at its mission, it followed that leaders would want a second opinion. But noooo, as John Belushi used to say.

And now, without any embarrassment, the failures at the CIA are engaged in a campaign of malice against the Bush Administration and therefore against the country. The Bush Administration was reelected in an election that featured the Iraq War as a central argument. The people have spoken.

I cannot understand how an employee at the CIA, if fired for cause, gets to retain their pension, even if they are only one day away from qualifying for it. Out. And call the Justice Department.
-- Greg Richards

Wow! Jed Babbin's column about the Praetorians in the CIA is a frightening one. The merging of CIA anti-Americans with media anti-Americans sends shivers down my spine. Both groups' holier-than-thou attitudes, pretending that they know what's best for us and that they can do no wrong, puts our country at great risk. Of course, we must understand that they only define patriotism differently. Orwell must be rolling over in his grave. His definition of doublethink comes to mind: "Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them." How could one believe he is doing patriotic things when in actuality he is undermining the security of the nation? Orwell again: "(Doublethink) to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed."

Thus we get the media obsession with the "outing" of Valerie Plame at the same time they shrug their shoulders when the N.Y. Times and the Washington Post actually put the country and its heroes in grave danger.

We are in perilous times, and in times of peril we need clarity in our speaking and in our thinking. I'm grateful to find such clarity in Jed Babbin and The American Spectator.

I'll close with two more Orwell quotes, food for thought: "But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought."

"So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don't even know that fire is hot."
-- Deborah Durkee
Marietta, Georgia

The CIA should be dismantled, reconfigured, and rebuilt. The massive 40 billion dollar organization is a poster child for what is wrong with big government. As Jed pointed out in his article, the CIA hasn't had any major success in 43 years. Most recently, it failed utterly in predicting the fall of the Evil Empire; the CIA also was surprised as anyone by Saddam's WMD weapons in 1991. Perhaps its biggest failure had to do with AQ Khan, the Taliban, and Bin Laden. Mid East weapons proliferation and a world wide terror network were able to occur right under the CIA's nose. Yes, the CIA was able to foil the Millennium Threat, but that was pure luck. They had no agents in Afghanistan --during the post 911 Afghan invasion, Green Berets had to build their own network and agents -- or in Iraq (we had no idea what kind of WMD program Saddam had in 2002). How this worthless agency survives is a testament to their mastery of the Beltway Game; and survival seems to be the only game they are good at.
-- JP

Very good article. Sadly, I think the only solution to the problem is to do away with the CIA, and reassign its functions to the Defense Intelligence Agency and NSA. It is also necessary to get rid of the State Department's Intelligence Section.

The rot is cultural. Too many employees of State and CIA were hired from liberal Northeastern liberal arts colleges. They came into the organizations with their biases already fixed by their backgrounds.
-- R. Goodson
Vero Beach, Florida

The CIA joins the list of other major government failures, including the Department of Energy and FEMA. We should abolish DOE and FEMA and contract our intelligence work to private companies we can fire when they get it wrong.
-- Roger D. McKinney
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

In 1980 while in college and leading the effort to get out the vote for Ronald Reagan one issue that I used to galvanize the conservative/Republican students was that Jimmy Carter castrated the CIA and undermined national security. Twenty-six years later I not only want the CIA castrated I wanted it abolished. It is a nest of bureaucratic vipers more concerned with political agendas than national security.

The buffoons at CIA not long ago told the world it would take Iran ten years to develop a nuclear bomb. Just another failure from the gang that couldn't shoot straight. The dolts at CIA have been wrong on just about everything. It is becoming obvious we'd be safer without the CIA in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) than with them.

In 2006 maybe the Republicans should embrace abolishing the CIA, Departments of Energy and Education, National Endowment for the Arts, Public Broadcasting, legal aid and pledge to use the savings to secure our ports and borders. Then we'd see if Hillary Chucky really cared about borders or just liked "talking tough" for once in their lives.
-- Michael Tomlinson
Crownsville, Maryland

Mr. Babbin has written a truly frightening article. Part of what is frightening is that I have no doubt whatsoever as to the probable correctness of the facts and speculation. I was born and grew up and worked inside the Beltway of Washington, D.C. This is the intelligence community version of the British comedy show, "Yes, Minister," except that this is NOT funny.

What is truly scary, is that I have zero faith that President Bush will direct or authorize bringing the full force of both law and politics to the renegades. President Bush has a track record of not wanting to go for an out and out win. His track record supports the belief that he would rather just go into the rope-a-dope or the prevent defense, then to cut the opponents off at the knees so they can't do it again. Remember the presidential order to NOT go after the departing Clinton staff that trashed the White House to the tune of thousands of dollars. Has anyone noticed that "Socks" Burger has not felt the heavy hand of justice, justice, just a slap on the wrist. There are other examples, but you get the idea.

I would also love to hear some reasonable solution to the sedition of the press corps. It is bad when they are so very one sided in their make-up and sympathies. It is truly dangerous when their political bent leads them to an all out "defeat America" modus operandi. They truly have become cheerleaders for the Islamic Jihadists. They will NOT come back to America's side until or unless the Democrats retake the White House. If the Dems retake the Senate, we will see a concerted drive in the press to launch a multiplicity of investigatory hearings to embarrass the Bush administration. I would like to think that the First Amendment would allow us to correct this penchant for sedition among the MSM.

Some folks will argue that the press just takes an adversarial position toward whomever is in the White House. I truly believe that the current jihad among the press goes way beyond that. I have been old enough to pay attention to political things since the Truman years. All presidents since FDR have had their fights and feuds with the press. I have never seen the viciousness and sustained animosity from the press toward the President as I have seen with this one. And, shoot, I am not even a Bush fan myself.
-- Ken Shreve

Our Republicans have no idea of the enemy -- they thing everybody in politics are gentlemen just like they are. Our Democrats nurture no such illusions -- just remember how Clinton and his Marxist Attorney General fired all 50 U.S. Attorneys on the same day. President Bush should have fired all Clinton appointees and hires on the first day after inauguration, on the basis that they are all enemies of this country by definition. There would have been no CIA leaks, no Wilson's phony trip to Niger where he lounged around his hotel pool and decided that Saddam had no nuclear ambitions, as he had known even before he undertook his trip, on the recommendation of his wife, a CIA "analyst."
-- Marc Jeric
Las Vegas, Nevada

Not to be picking fly-specks out of the pepper, but the Castra Praetoria was the barracks built to house the Praetorian Guards on duty at Rome. When the Praetorians were finally disbanded for good by Constantine the Great in AD 337, the Castra Praetoria at Rome was leveled.

Methinks the Hon. Jed Babbin meant Cohors Praetoria instead? Although that doesn't quite fit either, as a Cohors was an extant group of 500 to 1,000 Guards, and the rot growing within the CIA has not (yet) reached such a formal status, being basically an underground "sub rosa" fraternity.
-- Bob Johnson
Bedford, Texas

Jed Babbin replies:
Dear Mr. Johnson: No, I meant Castra Praetoria as an analogy to Langley, the CIA HQ. I'm hoping it won't be necessary to tear it down, but I'm not convinced it won't be. Best, Jed.

LOSERS 2.0
Re: Shawn Macomber's Plantation Oblige:

That ambulance chaser is still around? That poor fellow apparently doesn't realize the Democratic Party is done with him, as is, hopefully, North Carolina and the rest of the country.

But since he's not real bright perhaps I could 'splain sumpin' to him. The Democrats' ongoing strategy is to continually try to recreate either of their two moments of ecstasy: the lecherous JFK years or Watergate. To that end, every other election cycle they offer us the latest Massachusetts liberal coupled with a southern running mate. When that doesn't work, during the off cycle they leave the Massachusetts moron off the bill and directly promote the southern running mate to the top slot. If the southern good old boy wins the country has to endure either an inept General/Admiral Cornpone or the really lecherous years.

When either of these techniques fails, as they usually do, the 'Rats spend the rebuilding years trying to recreate Watergate. So, it's rather obvious where we stand in that cycle. Let's just hope that that New York Belle and her MSM enablers can't affect realistic enough southern accents to fool the border states into giving us Field Marshall Scarlet O'Hara Rodham Jezebel.
-- R. Trotter
Arlington, Virginia

So John "Breck Girl" Edwards, he who talks to mediums who speak for dead children for which he created some serious junk science, continues his divisive campaign of "two Americas," regardless of whether he uses that phrase or not. No surprise there.

But it's amazing, isn't it, that the Democrats still have that tired, old, toothless crew of Wesley Clark, John Kerry, Howard Dean and Edwards--sore losers, all--and Her Royal Clintoness Hillary still trying to fragment, rather than unite, America?

It's not a winning strategy, folks.
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

Thanks for the laughs on a Monday morning! What a shallow, pompous ass!
-- CB

NO HABLA BOYCOTT
Re: Carol Platt Liebau's Primo de Mayo:

How can we expect aliens to invade our country and show love for it? Of course it's only for a paycheck. All the messages sent to these people reinforce it. Learn the English language? Why do that when you can just press "2" for Spanish or if you can read the signs in Spanish (that is if you can read Spanish). The messages have also been reinforced by our politicians on both side of the fence because they believe there are votes to be had. So who can be shocked when you read signs like "Today we strike, tomorrow we vote?"

Why show love for the country when the MSM incessantly beats the echo chamber of disdain for this country. If the MSM was your only information source, (for many it is) U.S. citizens pollute too much, get involved in foreign affairs too much or too little, engage in imperialism, tax too little, 30-plus percent (Republicans) are not to be trusted and are evil, and the whole world hates us, etc. Add to that the fact the MSM has largely forgotten the term illegal and now it's just immigration? Yes, the U.S. is the number one reason all the world's afflictions. Who can love that?

The aliens have mastered the culture of entitlement as well as anybody. You would think this issue would be foremost in the minds of a majority but the entitlement mentality has focused on gasoline prices. Drat those oil companies!
-- Diamon Sforza
Chicago, Illinois

Great article, I am sure hoping for a big backlash against ILLEGALS. Immigration is a wonderful thing and helps our country become better, but the magic word here is ILLEGAL. If the first thing these people do in our country is break the law how do they deserve respect? As for me I am heading out to the store where maybe I can hear some English being spoken.
-- Elaine Kyle

I, too, am boycotting! No longer will my wife and I purchase Mexican fruits and vegetables. I have also instructed my contractor, who is currently renovating my house, that no Mexican-born workers may trespass my property to work unless they have a verifiable green card, which I intend on seeing and verifying.

As for those Mexican illegals who intend on boycotting, can they swear not to drink American water, eat American foods, drive American cars, sleep in American shelters, use American hospitals in an emergency or send American dollars back to Mexico for the duration? I DIDN'T THINK SO!
-- Wolf Terner
Fair Lawn, New Jersey

The article is nicely done and chock full of good common sense, a commodity in short supply these days. I would suggest, however, that someone needs to convince President Bush that the proponents need to be shown the door so that they can be happy living in Mexico. Bush is too darn bull-headed. He is determined to shove his illegal alien buddies down our throat.

REMEMBER THE ALAMO -- BUSH WON'T
-- Ken Shreve

An excellent article. I so agree but in verse:

AMERICANS, WELCOME
The winds of change are all around,
And with them comes the thrumming sound
Of America's song, "Come join in the call
To the Land of the Free. We're Americans all".

Our origins are far-flung, our native homes diverse,
But when we arrive here we gratefully immerse
Ourselves and our families into the culture we see.
Above all it's Americans we want to be.

We celebrate our forebears. Tributes we pay
On Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick's Day.
In Virginia Scottish Heritage we uphold.
In Minnesota there are Viking sagas told.

Echoes of Africa grace our stages,
And Italian exuberance often engages
Our senses, while the exquisite Orient compels
Fantasies of silks and spices, fairy-tale like spells.

Bring us your tired, we want to receive
All who come here, but don't try to deceive
Us who welcome you with arms opened wide
If all you want is to try and hide
Your intentions by seeming to become our friends,
While all the time seeking other ends.

To those escaping from terrifying regimes,
We will pull you from the sea, though extremes
Of policy would send you back without caring.
We should embrace and champion your daring.

Brave Cuban refugees come to mind,
And in no way can they be combined
With unlawful opportunists crossing the border,
Fomenting anarchy, disdain and disorder.

Our flag is sacrosanct. We lower it for no one.
The anthem of our nation with swelling pride is sung.
Be absorbed into our culture, we'll be glad to call you friend.
Try to force us into yours and your welcome's at an end.
-- Mimi Winship

OIL ADDICTION IS A PERSONAL PROBLEM
Re: Peter Hannaford's The French Were Right:

America is not addicted to oil. Addiction connotes immoral, unnatural, and self-destructive acts in which we surrender control of our lives to criminals, but the act of importing oil involves none of these. Oil enhances, not destroys, our lives. Oil producers aren't greedy, criminals; they're neighbors (maybe not the best neighbors). Trading with them enriches both of us. Except for Canada, our largest supplier, most oil producing nations are much poorer than the U.S., and need to sell oil as much as we need to buy it.

Our desire for self-sufficiency in energy is anti-social, anti-community, and contradicts the Divine order, because all of the great Church scholars since St. Thomas Aquinas have taught that God ordained that all nations should be deficient in some things in order that they might trade with each other. The great economist Ludwig von Mises argued that the division of labor causes us to depend upon others and builds strong communities. That principle applies to world communities as well.

Two things caused the current "crisis," which is not a crisis, but the normal workings of the market: 1) the invention of horizontal drilling technology in the late '80s increased productivity dramatically and contributed to unusually low oil prices between 1986 and 1999. Low oil prices, and low commodity prices in general, allowed the Federal Reserve to inflate the money supply at ridiculously high rates without sparking inflation. Now the turkeys have come home to roost. The price of oil has finally caught up with the fierce destruction of the dollar's value by the Fed. For evidence, look at the price of gold, silver and other metals; they're all at record levels. 2) Americans thought the low prices would last forever, so they switched to gas guzzling SUV's with four-wheel drives pulling RV's pulling boats. You can blame the Chinese and Indians if it makes you feel better, but Americans use more oil than both put together.

Solution? Patience. It takes several years for high prices to result in significantly increased production, but they will. Meanwhile, get rid of your SUV's if you don't like the price of gasoline, but quit blaming other people.
-- Roger D. McKinney
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

I suspect that the French were right about breeder reactors also. Our decision not to go that direction in the mid-'80s was based largely on fears of nuclear proliferation.
-- Danny L. Newton
Cookeville, Tennessee

SUBVERT IRAN
Re: John Tabin's Stall Tactics:

John Tabin points out that persistent delaying tactics on the part of the Iranian government are pushing the United States into a corner with regard to Iraq's nuclear weapons program. He then goes on to note the difficulties inherent in the nuclear option.

In the current issue of Commentary, Edward N. Luttwak looks at the same situation, and comes to the same conclusion regarding the impracticality of the available military options for dealing with Iran. He notes, however, that the situation may be less dire than it appears, because Iran probably does not have the technical wherewithal to develop practical nuclear weapons (i.e., small, reliable nuclear devices that can actually be delivered to a target) in less than a decade -- by which time the internal fractures of Iranian society will probably lead to regime change. He notes that the limiting factor is the shortage of qualified nuclear scientists and technicians (most Iranian nuclear technology was purchased turnkey fashion from Pakistan's underground nuclear network).

I don't happen to agree with -- or to be more accurate, I am unwilling to bet upon Luttwak's contention that Iran will collapse before it gets its Islamic Bomb. Luttwak, however, is quite right in his analysis of the difficulties of eliminating a large, dispersed technology program with the military resources available to the United States. At the same time, Luttwak points out the solution to the conundrum by identifying the critical path (the tall pole in the tent) of Iranian nuclear ambitions -- a shortage of qualified technical personnel.

While it is easy to disperse and hide facilities, to stockpile spare parts, and to build redundant factories, it is much harder to do the same with scientists and technicians. These are highly educated elites, occupying a small circle of Iranian society, and of necessity meeting with each other, and conferring with their peers in the scientific and technical communities abroad. This cadre of nuclear scientists and technicians is also highly westernized, and probably does not agree with the apocalyptic political theology of the Iranian regime -- and thus must be kept happy through a range of special privileges and working conditions. They are not likely to be willing to die for the sake of an Iranian nuclear capability.

Given adequate human intelligence, it should be possible to identify a significant number of these scientists and technicians, and also to develop a notional organization chart for the Iranian nuclear program. Key personnel can thus be picked out of the list and targeted for assassination. Sounds nasty, true -- but it is the only really effective way of disrupting the Iranian program without risking a wider war. After a few of their peers have been eliminated, the remaining Iranian nuclear cadre may find excuses to take long sabbaticals outside of Iran.

There is a precedent for this type of strategy. Back in the early 1960s, Gamal Adbul Nasser tried to develop indigenous Egyptian missile and bio-chem weapon programs using German scientists invited to move to Egypt from Germany and Latin America. High salaries and luxurious living conditions made the offer quite attractive -- until the progress the Germans made attracted the attentions of Mossad. The Israeli intelligence agency tracked the arrival and activities of these people, and then began a campaign of systematic intimidation against them. There were some not-so-veiled threats, and, I believe, even a killing or two. That was enough for the Germans, who packed up and went home, leaving Nasser with some empty factories and half-finished rockets with which to pound sand.

Of course, the Israelis had some distinct advantages here. The German scientists were aliens in Egyptian society. Hence they stood out against the background, and also tended to live in segregated communities away from the general population. They also had no emotional connection to the Egyptian government, so their pain threshold was rather low. And it helped that the Israelis had moles in the Egyptian military to help them identify the key people to neutralize.

Whether the U.S. can pull off a similar scheme in Iran is problematic. Our human intelligence sources there are close to nil, as are our skills in this kind of clandestine operation. Some of our allies may be better positioned, and it may require the U.S. to approach one of them to do our dirty work. Of course, the Israelis have a dog in this fight, too -- and a large population of ex-Iranian Jews with ties back to that country. So it may be that Mossad is already watching and waiting, and if the rest of the West does not take effective action, we may see some Iranian nuclear scientists having a series of unfortunate (and fatal) accidents in the near future.
-- Stuart Koehl
Falls Church, Virginia

Public discourse on how to deal with an Iran that intends to obtain nuclear weapons has produced a dichotomy. One view holds that diplomacy through the U.N. or directly with the U.S. will persuade Iran by introducing sanctions; that choosing the nuclear option will not be worth it for Iran. A corollary to this view, a head in the sand approach, is that diplomacy allows us to move the problem forward in the hope that the situation may get better with time.

The other view is a military solution. Taking out the facilities involved in the manufacture of nuclear devises by air bombardment as Mr. Tabin suggests, reluctantly, may be necessary, but might possibly lead to a later ground invasion. The consequences of a military solution might be that we suffer as much injury as Iran does, through a spike in oil prices, shortages of oil, increased terrorism and possibly another ground war. So it behooves us to look at diplomacy more closely.

The biggest problem with our current diplomatic focus is that we are negotiating using Europe under the auspices of the U.N. where we are bound to be stalled by Russia, who fears encirclement by us and is building trade with Iran and every country in the Middle East and Asia. And China who will probably block any meaningful sanctions because it sees the U.S. as a future rival.

But what if we change the venue and organization through which we negotiate, bypassing the U.N. We have security arrangements around the world such as the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and NATO which are pledged to come to the aid of any nation within the pacts who are attacked. Seemingly these are mutual defense pacts. In reality, they extend the American Nuclear umbrella to those countries. The Middle East Treaty Organization (METO) would start out as the Middle East Security Organization (MESO) consisting of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait, the UAE, and possibly Pakistan. Israel would have a negotiated special status. The purpose would be mutual defense and extension of the American nuclear umbrella. Since these countries are already partners with us in the War on Terror, an opening for further cooperation exists. And a long term defense to an Iranian Nuclear bomb would diffuse an arms buildup in the Middle East, allowing the world to deal with a nuclear Iran in the same way Russia was dealt with during the cold war. The U.N., corrupt and inefficient, can still play a secondary role after the nuclear umbrella is in place.
-- Howard Lohmuller
Seabrook, Texas

SLEEPING ON THE ATTACK
Re: Philip Klein's It's Time:

Oh yes! We do still care and are inspired by their actions.

I am a retired United States Air Force Master Sergeant. Back in the "bad old days" of the Cold War, I was a Nuclear Operations Command Post Controller. We held the "codes and the cookies," we were the chain of control from the Nation Command Authority to the loaded aircraft and missiles.

I knew what the Air Defense Centers (ADCs) like the one up in Rome, New York, did and how they operated. We played "games" around the clock several times a year.

I was at the time of the Nuclear Alert "stand-down" a "staff NCO" at headquarters Tactical Air Command. The Sector Centers (as they when then known) where an area I had some oversight on their procedures and training. You may remember in the movie, United 93, that they were getting ready for a "BIG NORAD EXERCISE" with aircraft flying off the coast of New England. I would have been one of the evaluators.

I am VERY PROUD of the depiction and the duty performance of the Officers and NCOs at the Northeast Sector! They followed the checklists and when the situation changed beyond what they ever trained for, they threw them away and went on "guts."

Too bad that the "direct" connection to the FAA had been severed and the knowledge gap was there!

The FAA director KNEW he had (in the bad old days) Air Force officers in direct contact with the ADCs/Sectors and those military members could "vector in" military aircraft to get visuals on the commercial carriers...

Under the previous administration, that was "shelved." There were no "Officer or NCO Controllers" that could sit a scope, in direct contact with an ADC/Sector controller (or AWACS aircraft) and coordinate the vectoring in of any military fighters.

The two "bird" Colonels portrayed in the movie ashamed me! I you know, that was probably, exactly how they reacted too. These were, and this is MY assumption here, good men, good "TRANSPORT" pilots that were at the FAA Center in Herndon to facilitate the FAA clearances for "HEAVY" meaning cargo aircraft and for scheduled military exercises impacting on civil aviation air space usage. NOT controllers used to reading scopes. Like many Americans, they were overwhelmed by the events as they were occurring, But worse! They were ineffective in problem solving, I NEVER saw one of them take any sort of initiative, grab paper, take notes and go and make any calls!!!!

I was almost jumping in my seat, I was so angry watching these scenes! Just like I was doing on September 11, watching the events on TV, knowing what my former troops and comrades were going through. Helpless! I was now a full time mother, with a husband out TDY and kids to get off to school.

Everyone saw the perfect example of "garbage in, garbage out" when some "yo-yo" at some FAA facility on the telephone with an NCO at the Sector said "No, that was not American Air Lines 11 that flew into the Tower of the World Trade Center." And for another 2 hours the Air Force was chasing a "ghost." I wanted to scream in frustration, I HAVE been that NCO before; I have received BAD information that could not be confirmed for hours. I knew well what she and everyone else on the floor was going through.

I saw then, on that day, and was reminded in the movie theater, (like being hit with a 2" by 4"), just how much we in the Military had been "gutted." I was one of many on duty in various different places that said; "shouldn't we still be doing this?" (Standing alerts, keeping hotlines in place and operational, having exercises that hone both civil and military specialists TO WORK TOGETHER.)

Sorry this is so long, but it is a subject that I, among others, feel very passionate about. WE SLEPT, and some times I wonder if we are dozing off right now, just before "something else" happens.
-- Sandra Dent

Friday night, my wife and I ventured out for an infrequent visit to a movie theatre. Our goal, United 93. Rush Limbaugh had interviewed the writer/director, Paul Greengrass, and played clips of the interview on his radio show the day before. Rush had commended Greengrass, no conservative he, for actually portraying the 'perps' as the bad guys, as the psychotic, fanatical Islamic maniacs they were, instead of misunderstood victims of American oppression. While the two had their kumbaya moment, I decided it would be worth the effort to go see it. After all, how often does a movie bring together such diverse points of view?

The theatre was filled to capacity. My wife and I were seated in the back with an excellent view of the screen, as well as the audience. From the opening scene to the final credits, and even the short walk to the exits, not a word was spoken in that theatre, not a cough, not a sneeze, not a gasp, not a whisper. And, while my eyes were pretty much glued to the screen, I cannot remember seeing a head turn, an uncomfortable squirm, a shift of crossed legs, or a trip to the restroom. I had never before experienced such collective concentration in a movie audience. The Passion of the Christ had moments of interaction. Not United 93.

On the way home, my wife and I didn't have our usual exchange of critique. Instead, we decided to drop by a local restaurant for dessert and coffee. I finally began the conversation. We agreed that the movie was well done, the camera work, special effects, etc., normally my only area of interest. Not this time.

We know very little about the actual events that day aboard United 93. We are left with nothing but our imagination, except the phone calls from the plane to family and loved ones. Using that information, Greengrass gives us his interpretation of events, and presents us with a microcosm of the struggle, in which we have been engaged, since that awful day: the disbelief, the incomplete information, the frustrating response. He has also dramatized our political and social differences.

One of the passengers, a Dutch/German accented European, argued against taking any action, even after learning from the other passengers of the WTC and Pentagon events, choosing to believe that they would be taken back to the airport and let go. He epitomizes the general difference between "Americans" and "Europeans." Nihilistic Europe was on full display here, and in effect, there is little distinction between it, and this brand of Islamic fanaticism. They are both dead men walking, both suicides. By contrast, the "Americans"' were motivated to fight. Why? Some will say, as did a reviewer in a local rag, that they were NOT heroes, so as to tweak the noses of "our politicians":

"While taking nothing away from the courage and quick thinking of the doomed passengers, United 93 refrains from turning them into heroes in the service of rousing national spirit in the manner of many of our politicians, who have used these collective individuals as exemplars of American might and retaliation.... What we witness is not so much an organized counter-attack as a panicked, last-ditch attempt at self-preservation. Survival rather than nationalism is the instinct at work here...."

Oh, really! As Chesterton put it, "The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him."

The "politicians" were right in the truest since of the word, and most of us understand the context. The "Americans" were fighting to keep breathing, to be sure, but more to the point, as Americans, they were fighting for their way of life, the right to "have a life," and to go home to their loved ones. They would not go down like sheep, as so many others would in this world. They fought from the conviction that this act was incomprehensibly unjust, and that as an act of self-defense, their lives were worth more than the lives of those trying to destroying them. Their spirit is the foundation of American might, and their actions are a call for justice.

Whether they fully understood the geopolitical implications of the day's events is irrelevant, although they were aware that their country was under attack, and who was attacking. It is not impossible that they felt some sense of responsibility to prevent more catastrophe. This is the war we are fighting, and it isn't only against Islamic fanatics.

In all of the family interviews conducted by Greengrass, does anyone believe that these courageous souls were not considered heroes by their families? One can almost hear the response to the baited question, "Was your husband a hero?" "Oh no, he was just an average American who tried to survive." There you have it folks, see, they weren't heroes. The part left out, though, is that he tried to survive to come home again, where his children consider him a hero every day.

May there be more silence, wherever this movie is shown. Let's roll!
-- Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE
Re: David Holman's Lizza's Ideological Blinders:

Typically, the left in this country think that their view is the final word on anything, which is why they feel that it is a given that any display of the Confederate flag is racist. Of course to those of us who live in a world not circumscribed solely by left wing ideology, the Confederate flag represents a great many other things than racism.

To those whose ancestors fought under it, it represents the sacrifice of those who fought for their homes and family, which was the reason for many in the Confederacy for fighting. Historian Shelby Foote noted an exchange between a Union soldier and a Confederate one. "Why are you fighting, Reb?" asked the Union soldier. "Because y'all are down here," was the Confederate's reply.

To others it is a symbol of a geographical area, the South, with it's traditions of politeness, cuisine and patriotism.

And yet for others, it is a symbol of defiance to authority, an American attitude that dates back to the revolution. It is a way of thumbing our noses at taxes and the long lines at the motor vehicle department. Just like all the world is Irish on St Patty's Day, Americans from North and South, feel that the Confederate flag stands for that sense of just rebellion that is the birthright of all Americans.
-- Scotty Uhrich

This kills me: "The New Republic is usually -- or should be -- more sophisticated than this gotcha hit piece. But this is what happens when a reporter writes an article while wearing ideological blinders. The story line is written in advance, and square details fill the round holes."

Just substitute American Spectator for New Republic and this attempt at withering reproach is actually an accurate description of your publication's modus operandi. So, when the right does it, it's fair and balanced? Tell Holman to stop complaining that his own story now has to defend Sen. Allen's flag flying. Not that he'll be too concerned, after all when the facts don't fit the story you want to tell... right? Also, isn't the point that even if we accept that Allen's dumb politically but not a real racist, isn't it even more offensive that in high school he pretended to be one to be popular and he's pretending now to win votes; at least hatred is honest.
-- Shane Dingman

David Holman replies:
That's an interesting take. I meant to compliment the New Republic and hold Lizza's piece to higher standards than basing an attack on tired stereotypes.

Mr. Dingman should study up before he writes. There is no suggestion on the record that Allen went that route in high school "to be popular." Lizza informs us, and a classmate I interviewed confirmed, that a taste for the Confederacy didn't fit in at Palos Verdes High School. If anything, it seems to have earned him the eternal enmity of some peers.

I have no plans to defend Allen or his flag flying. But I will go after those who wield journalism to level unfair attacks without any nuance or context of the man's childhood or the history of that symbol.

AUSSIE CULTURAL ADVICE
Re: Jim Woodward's and Bruce Karlson's letters (under "George Allen of Virginia") in Reader Mail's Currant Events and David Holman's Lizza's Ideological Blinders:

In Australia we have an element of Western Australians (largest state) that still can't understand how they became lumped with the rest of us in a referendum ballot of 1900. Some still hope to find the missing ballot boxes that proves that Western Australia never wanted to be a part of Australia.

Reminds me a lot of the South in the U.S. Firstly they tried to break the U.S. in half. When they didn't succeed through bloody and deathly warfare they just decided to be American but not live like Americans. So the South kept up the inhumanity of segregation for 100-plus years. At every juncture in American history the south has "dumbed down" and stood in the way of what could be, and might be, the greatest country, the greatest collection of states the world has ever seen. If New York could run the U.S., rednecks and hillbillies (read Southern Republicans and god-botherers) would be a thing of the past, and China would be working for the U.S., not the other way around.
-- Nathan Maskiell

RECIPE SWAP
Re: Diane Smith's letter (under "The Smells of Collin Street") in Reader Mail's Currant Events:

You can tell Diane Smith, if she's up to it, I'd like to order two of her fruitcakes for Christmas, no joke. My mouth was watering as I read her letter. Collin Street's may be closer to Austin, but Diane's sound closer to heaven!
-- Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

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