Reader Mail

Drawing Lott

Trent's comeback put on permanent hold. Also: A new Crusade. War ain't beanbag -- Lt. Pantano in light of WWII. Plus: Priceless Klein.

5.11.05

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THAT SINKING FEELING
Re: The Prowler's The Counsel of Trent:

As memory serves, Trent Lott is the knucklehead who agreed to the set up the "power sharing" arrangement with the recently departed Tom Daschle, when the Senate was 50/50 (post-Jeffords defection). That worked well. So now this modern-day Republican Clauswitz would like to strike a strategic deal with the Democrats in order to get his power back. Several years ago upon seeing a spider, my daughter, then four, said to me: "Daddy, a bug, crush it." My sentiments exactly.
-- Ron Pettengill
London, United Kingdom

Leave it to Sen. Lott to blame the wrong people for his downfall after the Thurmond incident. He then compounds his error by siding with those same Democrats to assure that the unconstitutional filibuster of judicial nominees will continue against these fine people, all because of his bruised ego. Does Lott not remember it was the Democrats who recently destroyed his fellow Mississippian's judicial career? McCain, Hagel, Lott et al., are fine examples of the self-absorbed "me first" political calculus that sickens those of us who worked hard for the senate majority. What a waste of our time and hard earned money. Frist sends us weekly pleas for money; my written response back is "no judges, no money." Hey guys, keep doing the Democrats bidding and minority status might just be an election away, and while we're on the subject, McCain and Hagel can forget about '08 as well.
-- A. DiPentima
Connecticut

The Senate GOP never fails to amaze me. The Senate Democrats could be down to their last ten Senate seats and they would still control the agenda, if not the Senate Floor itself.
-- Jerome
Indiana

At least Lott knows how to fight, knows that fighting is the only way to deal with the Dems, and apparently enjoys the contest. Better that than the gentlemanly entreaties of Frist and the anguished hand-wringing of Hagel and company.
-- unsigned

Tent Lott lost his leadership position in the U.S. Senate because he was an abysmal leader. The flapdoodle over his comments at Strom Thurmond's party were merely proximate excuses to move him away from the key Republican position in the Senate. Why? Because Lott was an Appropriator, not a Republican, especially when exerting power.

His legislative order of priority was Lott's Pork first, Club Senate second, and whatever as politically expedient at some other convenient priority trailing. His leadership style consisted of a quick, unforced compromise, followed up by a complete surrender of the core principles of any debate, and followed up by a chance to insert some personal goodies into a bill for the favor. At some point, the conflict had to be resolved.

Senator Frist has been a much more capable, if a little too timid, for my tastes. He still finds Club Senate too attractive, but cannot be labeled an Appropriator. He has been a necessary mid-range step toward solid Constitutional, Conservative Republican leadership. George Allen is to be commended for his wise support of Senator Frist. If my fondest desire weren't for bigger and better things for Senator Allen (yes, I will be pleased to sign up for the Allen for President campaign in my county), I would love to see him as the next Majority Leader. Alas, that position is a presidential ambition killer, and he would be better off reminding the electorate of his excellent stewardship as Governor of Virginia.

I would like to see a solid forceful Conservative Republican with little use for Club Senate, and more use for the Constitution take Senator Frist's place; Senators Mitch McConnell or Jon Kyle of Arizona come to mind. The specter of Trent Lott, once again surrendering his way to glad-handing Democrats for the TV and Mississippi pork projects is a true nightmare.
-- John W. Schneider, III
Bristow, Virginia

Isn't Senator Lott the one who negotiated the deal with Democrats when he was Senate leader that gave the Democrats equal representation on all of the committees when the Republicans had the majority, though slim? Doesn't this "deal" he's talking about with Reid have in it the catch that the Democrats will still be able to filibuster in "extreme" cases? How long will it be before that comes back to bite Lott? Of course, every judge nominee will be an "extreme" case to the Democrats and we'll be right back where we started. The Democrats can play Lott like a fiddle. Can't he see that? What a foolish, foolish man. The President should have supported him in the Strom situation. It was ludicrous to give in to the media over that silly mistake, but the Republicans always do that. Silly, silly people. Now, the President may reap the whirlwind.
-- Lisa Ragusa
San Ramon, California

Trent Lott better watch out or he may not even be a Senator for long. And Frist better get going on his option, we want an up or down vote on EVERY nominee or what is the point.
-- Elaine Kyle
Cut & Shoot, Texas

It's stomach-churning to see one man, so intent on rehabilitating himself, that he'd sacrifice the party and assist the Democrats in their campaign to paint the Republicans as the wrong-doers in this.

The guy's a profile in perfidy. If the real Republicans don't thwart what he's doing, he'll be worse that the Democrats who obstructed. And he'll be waving that old flag of racism by blocking Judge Rogers and sexism by blocking her and Justice Owen. And blocking Bill Pryor? This is disgusting.

And should he become Senate Majority Leader in 2007? Lott will feel good about himself and will have stuck it to Mr. Bush, his own party and we voters. Can anyone spell self-absorbed egoist?
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, W.Va.

"Pride goeth before a fall," my grandmother used to tell a much younger me when she saw me getting full of myself. It's a pity that the former, and un-missed, Senate Majority Leader doesn't get the fact that his Strom Thurmond gaffe was merely the straw that broke the camel's back of his generally mediocre tenure (cliché when thinking of Trent Lott is almost a requirement, isn't it?). I can understand the Mississippi Senator's longing for his old job, but the thought of his return to the leadership is enough to send shivers down the spine and quaking through the vitals.

On second thought, it does stiffen my personal backbone. Lately I've gotten several solicitations from the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee requesting contributions for the upcoming campaign. Because of Sen. Frist's overly drawn out threat to invoke the constitutional option regarding up or down votes for judicial nominees, I have been returning the pledge cards to the committee sans lucre, but with a note to the effect that if they desire the support of those who have contributed significant time and money to gaining the majority for the GOP, they should show they deserve that support by confirming John Bolton and changing the rules to allow up or down votes for judicial nominees. "No votes, no dinero," is my campaign slogan, and I'm sticking to it. If the GOP senators compound the felony by entering into a pusillanimous "compromise" that prevents good minds like those of Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owens from sitting on the appellate bench, the GOP will have to putter along without my support in '06. The single exception will be my senator, George Allen, running for re-election.

Speaking of Sen. Allen, it would seem from the Prowler account that Sen. Lott is in danger of falling into the same misunderestimation trap that captured so many Dems regarding Reagan and GW Bush. Behind his aw-shucks manner and sunny optimism, Allen has a strategic mind and a highly competitive streak. His history shows it; he plays to win, and he usually leaves dazed opponents in his wake, wondering what hit them. Lott would be well advised to keep his bloviating mouth shut and tend to his constituents in Mississippi. Lord help the party if he becomes leader again; we had enough of him the first time 'round.
-- Frank

Et tu Brutus, or in this case, Trent? Just what we need -- a power play by a disgruntled Republican. Why is it every time the republican majority is on the verge of achieving a victory, we get some two bit has been upsetting the cart for their own political gain? We really don't need someone like Trent Lott in a leadership position so why doesn't he be a good boy and take his orders like a good soldier? As this congress progresses, it seems to get more and more bogged down in it's own politics. This whole thing reminds me of the movie "Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire" when at the end as they bury the Emperor, members of the the Roman Senate are busy "negotiating" for who is going to replace him. Has democracy died in our great nation to be replaced by the same type of imperialism? For the first time in a long time, we have the chance to turn around the course this nation has been on and what do we get? We get a Trent Lott looking out for number one, the nation and history be damned.
-- Pete Chagnon

What Trent Lott may get (if he pulls this off) is the position he would be better suited for, Minority Leader.
-- Geoff Bowden
Kalamazoo, Michigan

JEWS AND CRUSADING CHRISTIANS
Re: James Bowman's Kingdom of Heaven and Reader Mail's Heavenly Criticisms:

James Bowman's review of Kingdom of Heaven may have been a little off the mark on a few points, as many of the letters written in response to his comments suggest. It must be said, however, that some of the letters themselves perpetuate grossly distorted images of past relations between Christians, Jews and Muslims. This is particularly true of the letter alleging that "until the latter part of the 19th century Muslim lands were the safest place for Jews to live."

In fact, Muslim pogroms in such purported multicultural utopias as medieval Spain killed many more Jews than did the Crusader pogroms in places like the Rhineland. To cite merely one of many instances, the Muslim pogrom at Granada in the late 1060s is estimated to have resulted in the murder of at least 5,000 Jews, more than are typically believed to have died in the Rhineland pogroms or even in such infamous cases as the Russian pogroms of the late 19th century. One could cite many more such cases of Muslim violence against Jews during this supposed "golden age", leading even such great Jewish theologians as Maimonides (himself forced to flee Muslim anti-Semitism by disguising himself as a Muslim) to complain that "never did a nation molest, degrade, debase, and hates us as much as they... "

This also should be kept in mind when comparing living conditions for Jews in Christian as opposed to Muslim lands: Jews when given the opportunity to live in Christian or Muslim lands most often chose the former. According to Yehuda Bauer in his History of the Holocaust, those Jews expelled by Christians from Spain in the 1490s often chose to go to other Christian lands in Europe, not the supposedly safer Muslim lands. "Although relationships with the Christian world in Europe were difficult and contradictory, between the persecution long years of relative peace ensued, with socioeconomic ties developing between the Jews and their neighbors."

Historical memory is a funny thing, and Jews do indeed remember the years in Muslim Spain as a golden age. The historical record, however, suggests that until the middle twentieth century, Christian Europe, not the Muslim Middle East, was the place where most Jews found the kind of life they wanted.
-- David T. Murphy

TAKING PRISONERS
Re: Paul Beston's Ilario Pantano, Patriot, and letters in Reader Mail's The Joys of Republicanism (under "Bill Spears") and Lightened Up (under "Hardly the Hero"):

With regard to Paul Beston's Ilario Pantano, Patriot, and the follow-up letter of 9 May from Christopher H., just a few notes. First, the U.S. Army lieutenant from Band of Brothers was Lt, Ronald Speirs (not Spears). And it appears from the testimony not just in Stephen Ambrose's book about E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, but also in Larry Alexander's Biggest Brother, the recent biography of Major Richard Winters (who commanded the company at the time in question), that Lt. Speirs's reputation was such as to make the accusation that he had killed German soldiers after they surrendered more than credible.

But in fact, such behavior would not have made Lt. Speirs that unusual. In fact, during World War II, even in the relatively civilized milieu of war on the Western Front (we needn't examine the far more barbarous behavior that pertained on both sides in the Pacific and the Russian Fronts), surrender in the heat of combat was a difficult evolution fraught with danger. Unless a formal surrender could be organized beforehand, or one surrendered in a large group, the odds of being killed out of hand were probably greater than 50 percent. This was true of Americans surrendering to Germans, or Germans surrendering to American or British troops. One must remember the context of the act: troops advancing under fire, facing incredible levels of stress, having seen friends killed and wounded at either side -- their blood was up. A slight hesitation in raising one's hands, a disdainful look, a false move -- all could and often were greeted with a bullet in the chest.

Certain types of troops almost never were allowed to surrender. Among these were snipers, flamethrower operators, and machinegun crews. Snipers were universally reviled because they struck from hiding and could seldom be spotted and fired upon in turn. When a man with a telescopic sight was caught, he was usually shot out of hand -- if he was lucky. The same would be true of men armed with flamethrowers -- a weapon so horrific that those who employed it could expect no quarter. Finally, German machinegun crews were in a class by themselves. With the German defenses based on well-concealed and expertly sited MG42 machineguns, crossing an open field or a street became an incredibly dangerous act. Usually these machineguns continued to fire until overrun or outflanked, by which time the attackers were in no mood to be merciful. There are repeated instances of German machine gunners trying to surrender at the last minute, only to be told, "Too late, Mac," and shot in cold blood.

It should also be noted that the U.S. Airborne troops waged a ruthless vendetta against the German 2nd SS Panzer Division after a number of paratroops were found executed in the 2 SS Panzer area operations after D-Day. Though the 82nd and the 101st were on the line for more than 60 days, facing off against 2 SS Panzer much of that time, remarkably few SS troopers made their way to the POW pens. Perhaps they just didn't want to surrender?

Finally, one must note that whether or not one took a prisoner depended largely on the tactical situation. Units in exposed positions, with no way of evacuating POWs to the rear, or of guarding them in the tactical area, often avoided the problem by not taking prisoners at all. And even after one was taken prisoner, the chances of getting to the safety of the POW pens in the rear were problematic at best. At various times during the campaign in Northwestern Europe, American troops found themselves with significant numbers of prisoners, who would have to be evacuated to the rear under mortar and artillery fire. Most of the troops assigned this duty naturally found it onerous and somewhat ridiculous that they would have to risk their lives to ensure that these prisoners got back to safety, while they would still have to make their way back to the front under fire. Not surprisingly, a lot of those prisoners were shot trying to escape.

Despite volumes of testimony concerning this treatment of prisoners, I have found very little to indicate that the killing or mistreatment of prisoners by combat troops was ever systematically prosecuted. Guards and MPs in the rear areas, as well as those at POW camps, were far more likely to be prosecuted for prisoner abuse than an infantryman on the front lines. Basically, U.S. and British commanders tended to turn a blind eye to such abuses, which usually occurred only in the heat of battle (in pursuit, or on quiet sectors, prisoners were usually treated humanely, if not always gently).

So what, exactly, am I saying here? Mainly that war isn't beanbag, and that the conventions governing war are entirely relative and contingent, regardless of what armchair lawyers would like to believe. Commanders in the Second World War were far more realistic in their expectations of combat soldiers, and were much less influenced by legal niceties. But then, they didn't have CNN looking over their shoulders. They understood that their troops were ordinary human beings under extraordinary stress, and that their actions in the heat of battle would not always conform to what the Geneva Conventions demanded. Some things were certainly beyond the pale (shooting incapacitated enemy troops, for instance), but on the whole commanders were more latitudinarian precisely because they understood their men were not cold blooded killers (which, ironically, is what some people would have our soldiers become through an excessive legalism), and because they simply knew that trained, experienced combat troops were worth too much to fritter away in criminal prosecutions. After all, an infantryman in the ETO had a 100% statistical probability of becoming a casualty in the 11 months between D-Day and VE Day. What's a stint in the stockade as compared to a month on the line in the Huertgen Forest?

Regarding Lt. Pantano, unless political correctness has totally run amok in the USMC, I fail to see how any court martial could proceed, given that the prosecution's prime witness did not see the actions of which he accused the lieutenant, given the absence of any bodies or physical evidence, and given the confused tactical situation at the time. It speaks reams of the JAG-ridden era in which our troops must fight that the military seems to have nothing better to do than prosecute the soldiers, airmen and Marines who actually constitute the sharp end of the stick. Perhaps a tour of duty as an infantry platoon leader or company commander in a combat zone ought to be a prerequisite for service in the Judge Advocate General corps -- but that would hardly be fair to the grunts and Marines who would be under the command of these lawyers in uniform.
-- Stuart Koehl
Falls Church, Virginia

THE NO, NOTHING PARTY
Re: Philip Klein's The Spirit of '05:

Philip Klein ends his delightful satire with the line, "Whatever it is, we're against it!" I wonder if he consciously quoted the actual originator, Professor Wagstaff ("You've disgraced the name of Wagstaff, if such a thing be possible!"), better known as Groucho Marx. It captures perfectly the antics of the Democratic Party these days, the symbol of which is, appropriately, a jackass. As they are utterly devoid of any ideas, they devote all their energy to being obstructive.
-- W. B. Heffernan, Jr.

I just read Mr. Klein's article. A priceless example of American political satire. Thanks so much for printing it.
-- Michael Tobias
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

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