Peace Disturbances - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Peace Disturbances

Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.’s Their Sound and Their Fury:

To add to Tyrrell’s article on liberal hysteria…

Whether or not President Bush mentions Iraq in a major address is a non-issue that he cannot win anyway. The media and the liberal Democrats (isn’t that redundant?) have already proven that. When Bush gave his second Inaugural address, in 2004, he never once mentioned Iraq. The talking heads were all atwitter!

“Why,” they surmised, “it must be because it’s going so badly, and the President doesn’t want to draw attention to it.”

Fast forward to Monday, September 11, 2006. Bush devotes roughly one-fifth of his national address to Iraq. Liberals in Congress and the media are shocked — SHOCKED that he would dare politicize 9/11.

Suppose for a moment that he hadn’t mentioned Iraq. Would this have brought unanimous praise from the liberals? Would this have so unified the country, that Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric and Chris Matthews would have thrown down their arms, rallied to the president, and declared all of his sins (real and imagined) forgiven? Granted, we can only speculate, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Greg Hoadley
Deerfield Beach, Florida

This article hit the nail right on the head. Liberals don’t feel comfortable being civil or conventional. Freedom of the press means always dissenting no matter what.

In your last paragraph you mention congenital alienation. That’s it! They can’t stand to go along.
Tom Masles
Alamo, California

The good doctor is again at his perspicuous best in describing the liberals’ alienation from the difficult battles, moral, spiritual, and military, we fight today. They are essentially embarrassed to be on the side of conventional and virtuous America. More than that though, liberals behave as they do for the simple reason that it’s easy. Yes, it’s easy to criticize people who are willing to fight for things that they won’t fight for. It’s easy to placate a bully rather than to confront him and ultimately fight him. It’s easy to bribe some entity as rather than to oppose and defeat him. It’s easy to buy one’s way out of difficulty and it’s even easier to do the buying with someone else’s money. In short: it’s easy to avoid and avoid and avoid. Less wear and tear on the organism and all that. Trouble is: the time comes when you finally come up against the unbribable, and you discover you no longer have any fight within you.
J. C. Eaton

In your above-referenced article you characterized our adversaries as “Islamofascists.” That description is a contradiction in terms. Islam has nothing to do with Fascism.

Fascism was an exclusive, secular, authoritarian and racist (not necessarily anti-Semitic) system. Islam, whatever its faults, is decidedly inclusive, and certainly not racist, everyone must submit to Allah (the merciful and compassionate), at the point of a sword if need be and though it is religiously authoritarian (as any religion must be), it certainly is not in political terms.

We are not fighting Fascists; we fought them, wiped the floor with them and hung them up to dry. Our mortal enemy is Jihadistan and they mean to win.

Are they winning? Well, just try to board an airplane or enter a Federal building and the question answers itself. As for term “Fascists,” a word once fully understood with which men could agree or disagree with, it has become a meaningless and vulgar term of abuse.

Gresham’s Law applies to words as well.
E. David Litvak

“It stems from the liberals’ only unwavering political value, the political value that now stands alone at the heart of liberalism. That value is…disturbance of the peace.”

Great article. As to why liberals like to disturb the peace, it is because the world does not work the way they want it to, bourgeois normalcy being the most vexing example. The more normal something is, the more liberals hate it. Neighbor keeps his lawn neat and goes to church? Must be some kind of religious fanatic, and not too bright a fanatic at that.

If we then ask, do liberals want to remake the world because they are children/narcissists, or because they really care so much (consequences be damned)? If you consider their innate pacifism, the habitual moral relativism, the utter lack of realism tarted up as idealism, their overall devotion to disastrous and failed ideas; the only explanation is that they want people to listen to them, period. They really have no ideas, much as a child, they just want to tell everyone what to do.

I disagree with you that the Democrats main principle is a misdemeanor. Their central virtue seems, no matter the struggle, to encourage our enemies to kill our children. Not the effete, mediocre children of this country, but those young men and women of heart, courage and honor who demonstrate their love of country by racing to the sound of the guns. They did this in Vietnam. There are documents in existence which bear this out. The North Vietnamese exhorted their soldiers to take more casualties but kill more Americans because of the shrieking democrats.

Do they not think the foreign fighters from Iran and Syria causing the carnage in Iraq do not hear their cries to surrender? Do they not think these adherents to a Stone Age religion that wishes to move the world backwards in time, will not react to their voiced cowardice in the same way the North Vietnamese did? The central value of the Democrat party is not a misdemeanor, it is treason.
Jay W. Molyneaux
Wellington, Florida

Re: Michael Fumento’s What World Trade Center Illness?:

I am not a distinguished physician in the medical establishment but I do have a couple of observations regarding the WTC illnesses. Years ago, as a young newly wed, we often made trips to Houston, Texas. We were stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas, and the journey was a few short hours. My husband’s family lived near Pasadena, a Houston area suburb.

As an asthmatic I found out something about the Houston air was destructive to me. This was in the early 1970s and meteorologists were just beginning to identify air quality and temperature inversion, which makes the air quality bad for folks with breathing problems. By 1973 we were able to listen to weather predictions for the Houston area, based on air quality, and would postpone a trip if the air quality was predicted to be worse than what it already was. My mother-in-law never understood any cancelled trip. She would tell my husband that it was all in my head. My husband, however, had needed to take me to the ER enough with severe and debilitating asthma attacks that he knew the difference.

I remember seeing the buildings fall that day long ago on 9/11. I remember seeing that pulverized dust cloud spewing down the street with people running, barely ahead of its arrival. And at that very moment I remember thinking….dear God in Heaven, that dust is everything that was in those buildings, pulverized concrete, human remains, asbestos, insulation, paper fragments, and who knows what else. And that dust was breathed in by so many people. The lungs of those working about the scene were as damaged as the lungs of those who work in coal mines and later get black lung. I remember thinking that very moment that many would have health problems resembling emphysema and asthma.

I am not educated in the school of medical science but I knew back in the 1970s that if you could smell bad air, like the air smelled in Houston, polluted by refineries and other factories, that it could not be good for a person to breathe. I believe that illnesses resulting from the WTC are not psychic induced any more than my desire not to drive to Houston because the air quality was bad. The workers were breathing in minute pulverized particles that autopsies have now shown are imbedded in the lungs.

I cannot speak to the Gulf War illnesses but our soldiers were exposed to chemicals that could have damaged their bodies the same way my husband was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam and still suffers from what he calls “foot rot.” This began while he was in Vietnam and has continued still some 35 years later. This was an established proven result that came from the Vietnam War. Saddam’s chemical agents were in the air our soldiers breathed and though scientists may not know exactly what exposure soldiers’ had the results will someday be verified the same way Agent Orange was. Who among us remember our soldiers fighting for their rights over illnesses obtained through being in Vietnam? I most certainly do.

Some things cannot be explained until years later when all the effects are seen. To not accept that seems to be self-limiting for science, don’t you think?
Beverly Gunn
East Texas Rancher

I appreciate Mr. Fumento’s article about the politicization of environmental pollution from the WTC, but I have to disagree with a couple of his criticisms of the study, mainly his comments about spirometry. While the study’s authors do not comment about quality control of the testing itself, there is nothing wrong with using spirometry to reach the conclusion that people suffered from lung injury. Spirometry has been used for over 150 years and is still used every day in general medical practice as well as pulmonary medicine for several simple reasons: it’s accurate, it’s reproducible, and it’s easy to do. In fact, spirometry is an integral part of the definition that clinicians use to make the diagnoses of obstructive pulmonary disease, restrictive pulmonary disease, and normal lungs. I would bet that a number of TAS‘s readers are familiar with spirometry. There are standards for the validity and interpretation of spirometry, and according to the authors, they followed those standards. The measurements that they reported are generally accepted for the diagnosis of obstructive and restrictive pulmonary disease because they reflect the physics behind those disease states and are effort independent. In other words, this is objective data as opposed to the subjective data of symptom self-reporting. Can people sand-bag the test? They can try, but if the tester is well-trained, those results will be thrown out and, indeed, about 1000 tests in the study were thrown out as invalid, although the authors do not break down the reasons for the tests being invalid (another weakness of the study). Are there better tests for pulmonary function? It depends on what question you want answered. Do you want to know whether they have obstructive, restrictive, or no lung disease? Then the other tests add nothing. Do you want to know the diffusion coefficient, total lung capacity, physiologic dead space, residual capacity, work-of-breathing, and muscle strength? Then, yes, there are other tests that the authors should have performed. That was not the point of this study.

My main criticisms of the study are that they report no quality control, they used the wrong controls (should have used firefighters or cement workers or poultry workers instead of the general population), the testers were not blinded, the subjects were self-selected, and they do not consider that the pulmonary function tests at 1 year out could be different from those conducted 2.5 years out. In other words, were all the abnormal tests from subjects at the beginning of the study while those who presented later in the study had normal tests? The authors don’t say. In addition, the whole study reads like it was conducted as a work in progress and a social work in progress at that. Or a legal one. All are things that should have disqualified its publication.

Overall, however, the findings of the authors square with a gajillion studies about smoking and pollution: if you breathe in toxins, your lungs won’t like it. What we’re arguing over is how much of a problem it is and if it’s permanent. The people in the study were heroes and may be paying the price with their lungs. Regardless, we (the American taxpayers) are going to be paying with our wallets, but quite frankly, if 20 percent of the 10,000 people in the study actually have lung disease and the government pays them $1 million each, we’re talking only $2 billion dollars. Congress will give that away and more every single day between now and November. So here are my takeaway political points on this study: Having terrorists knock down our buildings is a bad thing and we should try to prevent this, the American people have the biggest hearts in the world and will help their fellow Americans regardless of the costs to themselves, no good deed goes unpunished, and Congress will not ignore 40,000 good-deed-doers who get punished.
Andrew J. Macfadyen, M.D.
Omaha, Nebraska

Michael Fumento replies::
The problem with spirometry is that while in the hands of a trained pulmonologist it can spot a faker, I never even hinted at “sandbagging.” I cited stress. Spirometry only measures the force and volume of expelled air and not the CAUSE of an abnormally low reading. Similarly, there is no instrument that can look at a hive and determine whether that hive was brought on by stress or by an allergic reaction to shellfish. In both cases, the hive is caused by a sudden release of histamines but you also can’t analyze the histamines to determine the sudden rush. You have to do further background research, such as determining possible causes of stress or allergies. The machine can’t do that for you.

As for the effect of breathing in “toxins,” Mount Sinai and especially co-author Phil Landrigan use a definition that is almost unique to them and supporters of the theory of multiple chemical sensitivity. These people will insist that breathing in ANY perfume or cologne is toxic, despite much research indicating elsewhere. I submit that the “toxins” that Mount Sinai is blaming are not recognized toxins at all or are not recognized in the context of causing such symptoms. For example, asbestos dust is a known cause of three killers — asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. But shipyard workers in the ’40s who worked in clouds of it day after day for years didn’t report any symptoms at the time of inhalation or even several years after. It takes about 20 years for symptoms to begin showing up. Likewise for tobacco smoke.

As to the final point, I would suggest that with the massive deficits we’re running and the fact that on 9/10/2001 we were spending 3.1 percent of GDP on defense and yet five years later it’s only 4.0 percent (compared to 14% during the Korean War), that if we find a few billion in loose change laying around we should spend that on preventing future attacks and not on presumptive payments for unproved illnesses.

Re: Paul Chesser’s A McGreevey Kind of Love:

I personally don’t care about McGreevey’s sex life. I despise the man for the way he lied to and stole from the citizens of New Jersey. Of course, he personal and professional corruption are just two different aspects of the man’s complete lack of morality. Anyone who reads his book and believes it is delusional.

He is just another in a long line of disgraced New Jersey politicians. My regret is that he is going to profit from it instead of being prosecuted and jailed for his corruption (as much as he may have enjoyed that experience).
Chris B.
New Jersey

Re: Christopher Orlet’s No Fear:

Mr. Orlet’s article on fear was spot on. One can tell when Democrats squeal like the proverbial stuck pig…loudly and high pitched that a remark is on target. Such was heard in the last few days when Rep. Bayner remarked about the Dems caring more for the rights of terrorists than they care for our own welfare. How very true! One only needs to replay Murtha’s condemnation of the military, Durbin’s comparing the American military to Nazis and I could go on ad nauseam. It replays daily with the only change being which Democrat is giving disparaging remarks….
Beverly Gunn
East Texas Rancher
Proud Military Mom

“Time and again Democrats object on principle to every proposed law and security measure put forth by the Bush administration…”

It might be more exact to say that the Democrats and three Republicans oppose anything that looks like an offensive move against terrorism. On the defensive side, Democrats are voting like there is no dollar too precious to spend on making technology available at the ports or more money for local response and training. If you could make a Mexican border fence that only excluded conservatives, they would be all for that too.
Danny L. Newton
Cookeville, Tennessee

Re: Bongo Don’s letter (under “Anger Distribution”) in Reader Mail’s An Angry Scene:

As a Scot who appreciates the sacrifices America is making on behalf of the West, I am sorry that Bongo Don is an all too typical product of our diminished education system and apologize for his remarks. He (it’s a pretty fair bet that Bongo Don is a man) might like to consider that while many buildings in Scotland are older than the United States, many buildings in the U.S. are older than Bongo Don.

Can it be that Bongo Don is a trifle angry and upset? Nah! That drool coming from his mouth is just saliva to wet down the uneatable haggis while beating his bongos looking for the fictional Loch Ness monster. In other words, I think Mr. Bongo Don is a nutcase waiting to explode. (They’re coming to take me away, ha ha. They’re coming to take me away…)
Ruth Warren
Canal Fulton, Ohio

The letter from Bongo Don from Scotland could have very well been the content of a fund raising letter straight from Howard Dean’s DNC. By repeating and using these monstrous lies, the radical left and the leadership of the Democrats think they will regain their former power and glory. Though I pray it will not happen they may do so. One thing I do know is I can never support anyone running for office as a Democrat. No matter if they seem to be of wonderful character and say they support everything I support. By running as a Democrat they are aligning themselves with a Party that has shown itself to not only be feckless in defense of the nation but actively pushing “talking points” and policies that may advance the Party but will surely destroy America. They thereby prove that they are either stupidly naive or cunningly evil. Neither are qualities that I want in a person to run the government. I was not alive in the 1930s, so I don’t know what the Republicans did then that forced them to wander for 60 years in the wilderness before regaining the trust of the country to run things again. I am alive now and the Democrats look to be heading for that same wilderness.
Geoff Bowden
Battle Creek, Michigan

Interesting, Bongo. In the first paragraph of your letter Re: David Hogberg’s “Look Back in Anger” you deride him, insisting on evidence and proof that “nineteen Islamofascist thugs murdered nearly 3,000 innocent human beings.” Then, in your second paragraph, you scream (I assume that’s what all caps means) “THEY WERE ALL SAUDIS and MOROCCANS… NONE OF THEM CAME FROM AFGHANISTAN OR IRAQ. FACT!” Not original though. You were against the fact that the terrorists who crashed into the Towers were Arabs before you were for it. Concept’s been done before.

As to what 9/11 has to do with Iraq, documents have been unearthed, countless facts have been verified, and example has been piled upon example of al Qaeda members and leaders finding sanctuary, support and training in Iraq prior to and after 9/11, but none of that matters. Though Bush never, ever, said that Saddam was involved directly in 9/11, the average European mind is already set in the cement of Bush-bashing U.S. hatred and resentment, and no amount of truth appears to be able to change that mindset.

I don’t often agree with him, but your Tony Blair has been spot on regarding the War in Iraq, and the greater War on Terror. Whether you accept it or not, there is a militant version (perversion?) of Islam, its adherents are gaining ground in the Arab world, and they call for the destruction of our Western culture. If the U.S. were to disengage from the world, as Blair fears, Scotland, and the rest of Europe, will sooner than later come to regret that a cowboy such as Bush won’t then be riding to your rescue.

You accuse us of “destroying the freedom of others.” A New York fire captain was asked at a press conference after the Twin Towers fell why the firemen didn’t run out of the buildings when they felt they were going to collapse. He replied with as much disdain as possible, “Firemen don’t run out of buildings, they run into them.” The U.S. doesn’t destroy freedom, we fight for it. We want it to flourish throughout the world. Whether in our own country in the Civil War, in Europe during both World Wars, or in Afghanistan and Iraq, tyranny dies, and freedom is born, when the US fights till the job is done.

Finally, you ask what do we know of freedom? It’s historical fact that for hundreds of years, millions of Europeans, Asians, Africans, even Scotsmen, have come to this country yearning for the very freedom you sneer at us for. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free…” Is it envy that causes you to jeer at us, knowing that many of Scotland’s greatest achievements came to fruition in this country, created by immigrants from your very own land? That should make you proud, not angry.

We in this country have much to thank Scotland for. Much of the strain of courage and determination we possess as a nation finds its roots in your native land. We are brothers, Bongo Don, Scotland and the U.S. Why do you in Europe resent us so, when all we’ve ever done is stand with you, time and time again?
Tim Jones
Cordova, Tennessee

To answer Donny’s first question: you’re quite right — since Mr. Atta and his Islamofascist henchcreatures were incinerated in their respective conflagrations, absolute “proof” is a bit beyond us, wouldn’t you say? (Ergo, you demand “proof” which, logically, cannot be provided — talk about a safe bet!)

In answer to Donny’s second demand: about as much as Imperial Japan’s 1941 attack on our fleet had to do with Italy under Benito Mussolini — which didn’t prevent us from handing Il Duce his keister, along with Adolf Hitler. Had we not done so, you’d now be speaking German. “100,000 innocent Iraqis”? I see that you’ve been swilling the left’s Kool-Aid (or perhaps it was the water from your bong). To whatever extent there are “innocent” Iraqis (hard to tell, since the Islamofascists don’t wear uniforms and hide within the so-called “civilian” population) the number the propagandists toss out has been inflated by a factor of at least three — the vast majority of which were killed by their fellow Muslims. They, de facto, had something to do with the 9/11 attacks because their leader was an enabler of al Qaeda. He — along with the Afghanis — provided training sites for the al Qaeda terrorists. True, the Islamofascists who attacked us on 9/11 were Saudis and Moroccans (it’s hard to spell when you’re screaming, isn’t it?) and, AFAIK, none of them came from Afghanistan or Iraq. But they were all members of al Qaeda (Proof? OBL confirmed this in one of his tapes.), and it’s been established that al Qaeda had training sites in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

As for your allusion to a “spoilt child,” I’m quite certain that you would recognize one — if only through “projection.”
David Gonzalez
Wheeling, Illinois

Dear Bongo Don —

Here are some answers to your questions.

1. Proof? You want proof? How about the phone calls from Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania? How about the phone call from the flight attendant on the first flight to hit the World Trade Center? How about the phone call from Barbara Olson to her husband on the flight that hit the Pentagon? How about the black box recording from flight 93? How about the proof of nearly 3,000 dead Americans and other nationalities from that awful day five years ago? I grow tired of the conspiracy theorists who get their “facts” from left-wing, anti-American newspapers and websites. Just because you want it to be the U.S.’s fault doesn’t make it so.

2. The President said, “The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.” He also said in his January, 2002 State of the Union address (you can find it here) — “The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens — leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections — then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.” The United States tried for over a year to get Saddam to comply with U.N. resolutions before the war, to no avail. It see ms he had something in his back pocket — the French, the Russians, and many other members of the United Nations who were getting rich from the Oil for Food scam. He was starving his people while your European friends were getting fat. So, who’s the guilty party here?

3. What do we know about freedom? We know it’s worth fighting for. We know it isn’t free, as you apparently think it is. We know that we won’t continue to be free if we (the West, which includes you, Mr. Bongo Don) don’t take our heads out of the sand, stop looking backwards instead of forwards, and face the existential threat to our freedom posed by Islamofascists, which includes the maniacal regime in Iran. Your fellow Europeans have been doing what they do best, talking. What the hell has that gotten us? An Iran on the brink (if not already there) of acquiring nuclear weapons — also fed by Europeans out to make a buck by selling and building nuclear paraphernalia for them: French and Russians (and I’m sure others that I don’t know about). See a pattern here? Once again, Americans are left to clean up the messes created by our betters in Europe. Thanks, we just love losing our soldiers while you cowards yell at us.
Deborah Durkee
Marietta, Georgia

I for one would love it if my country, America, just closed its purse and told all these countries that have a hand out, go suck an egg. Would love it if every country that has a war or famine to go call someone else, do you think maybe we can send these people to Scotland? NO, I did not think so.
Elaine Kyle

I was going to respond to the points raised by Bongo’s letter, but by its end I couldn’t see through the flecks of spittle on the screen.
Michael B.
Los Angeles, California

Re: Jeremy Lott’s Hold the Anvil:

Congrats to Jeremy Lott for figuring out this War on Terror thing in “Hold the Anvil.” He’s right, you know: the terrorists always follow up a big attack with a lot of little squibs that barely manage to go off. We can live with this.

If every five or six years we have to take a hit with thousands killed, only to have it followed by several years in which only a few dozens or hundreds are lost to weaker bombs, sniper attacks, anthrax poisonings, kidnappings and beheadings, it’s not too big a price to pay for relative peace without big wars and high gasoline prices, not to mention constant criticism from the left.

As I said to my wife after our first-born was killed in a drive-by shooting, “It’s not that bad, Sweetie, we have all the other kids yet.”

Or, as George Patton’s chief of staff told him when they approached the Rhine, “The enemy’s quite weak here, General, let’s not send in the Third Armored to finish them off. We can live with a some petty attacks. It’s manageable.”

Only thing is, Jeremy old chap, who is going to volunteer to be among those few we sacrifice every year in order to avoid using “The Anvil”? Whose daughter do we chain to the rock for the dragon to devour? Whom do we pitch out of the sleigh to pacify the wolves?

I eagerly await your next column, preferably entitled, “We Can Do Business with Mister Ahmadinejad.”
Richard Donley
New Lyme, Ohio

Re: Quin Hillyer’s A Clear Plan? Where? and George Tobin and GnuCarSmell’s letters (under “Big Plans”) in Reader Mail’s An Angry Scene):

How about a draft of all Iraqi males? This would get a lot of trouble-makers off the streets, give them some income, and raise the number of forces needed to secure the borders and sweep through the terrorist strongholds.
C. Baker

As one who was deployed for OEF and OIF 1, I concur with George Tobin and Mr. “Smell.” Suck it up. We won the war and are winning the peace. That’s right we’re winning. According to military theory coming out of Quantico it takes 9 years to totally defeat an insurgency. We don’t need more troops in Iraq (McCain as always was wrong) we need time and patience on the part of the American people who think war is a video game. War is not a game and pundits are not brilliant strategists. Grant would have gotten his ass kicked in an asymmetrical war.

Finally, in five years of the GWOT we’ve lost 3,000 troops. At this rate it will take more than 50 years to even come close to our losses in Vietnam. Time to do like President Bush and leave the war fighting to the warriors.
Michael Tomlinson
Crownsville, Maryland

I agree with your assessment. Here’s how I put it to the president after his speech on Monday night:

Dear Mr. President:

I do readily accept and endorse 90 percent of what you said this evening (and I think you said it very well). But where I reluctantly, and with respect, have to disagree is with regard to your talk about us taking the “offensive” against the enemy.

I don’t know, Mr. President, perhaps I watched too many TV cowboy shows and war movies while I was growing up, but my notion of taking the offensive is when a combatant power, having achieved a strategic advantage, basically runs roughshod over the enemy — trampling their fighters, cowering their civilians, destroying their infrastructure, delivering a message of such fear and intimidation that any thoughts of resistance and retaliation are rendered moot.

My notion of taking the offensive is what the Eighth Air Force (of which my late father was a member) did over the skies of Germany in World War II. My notion of taking the offensive is what Patton’s Third Army did on the ground. My notion of taking the offensive is what the Enola Gay dropped from its bomb-bay doors. In short, Mr. President, my notion of taking the offensive is using all the power at one’s command to destroy the enemy as quickly and decisively as possible. Indeed, while I can’t now remember the exact words, I know that Douglas MacArthur said in effect that any nation at war which fails to fully exploit its advantages, which fails to prosecute war as ruthlessly as possible, is guilty of grave sin…because only the ruthless prosecution of war can bring about its end as quickly as possible, thus minimizing the loss of life on all sides.

I believe that what MacArthur said is true, and thus I have to believe that, if this is truly a global war on terrorism, we are prosecuting it with one hand willfully tied behind our backs.

We have come nowhere close to unleashing the power at our command. Our prosecution is constrained and restrained by politics. While our enemy is busy with plots to destroy whole cities of ours, we allow ourselves to be distracted with concerns about the kind and quality of food served at Guantanamo Bay.

I’m sorry, Mr. President, but such actions and inactions do not in my mind comport with the notion of taking the “offensive” against the enemy. And while I realize and appreciate that you have been constrained and restrained by a hostile media and an opposition party that is anything but loyal, at the same time I reluctantly conclude that you personally have done far less than you could have in terms of using your bully pulpit to explain, to inspire, to steel, and to lead. Hell, Mr. President, it sometimes seems that you take a perverse delight in the fact that you have not asked our civilian population to make any real sacrifices, despite what I believe is their willingness, even eagerness, to do so, and despite the likelihood that if you actually were to ask them to get some skin in the game they would be more amenable to your pleas to stay the course, be more supportive of your policy, and be more apt to keep Republicans in power…all of which is your purpose, and all of which I think is imperative if we are to prevail.

I don’t think you can have it both ways, Mr. President. I don’t see how we can be in a war for our very survival, and at the same time how it can be business as usual. And I think that your failure to genuinely tap the Spirit of America, about which you spoke tonight, may ultimately prove to be the single greatest omission in the prosecution of this war. People who don’t feel invested can’t be blamed for feeling blasé. Certainly not when many have come to think that their leaders are playing games rather than prosecuting guerre.

On this solemn occasion, amidst all the rueful and respectful remembrance, of all things I’m reminded of the movie, The Untouchables, and specifically the tough, Irish cop character played by Sean Connery. I recall the scene where Kevin Costner’s Elliot Ness character asks the cop how he can bring down Capone. And the cop replies: You want to get Capone, I’ll tell you how to get Capone: when one of his pulls a knife, you pull a gun; when he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue…and so on, and so on, until the reason for all the bloodletting no longer exists.

Sorry, Mr. President, but I just don’t believe that we have yet pulled the gun, or that we have yet sent enough of them to the morgue. There is still too much politics going on. If this is a clash of civilizations, another world war, then hadn’t we better get about it as though we were genuinely serious in our purpose?

A final thought: I was drafted into the Army in September of 1969. I wasn’t happy to go, but I was proud to serve; I certainly did nothing to avoid or evade, and I was determined to do the best I could no matter what. After basic training I was classified 11-B, Infantry, and was told that I was almost certainly headed for Nam. But whether through dumb luck or divine intervention, I was instead sent to The Old Guard, which as you know is the Army’s ceremonial unit in D.C. There I spent the next eighteen months as a member of a casket team, a pallbearer, and though I didn’t keep count I’m sure I helped to bury at least two hundred guys, less lucky than me, in Arlington Cemetery. The sights and the sounds of their grieving parents, spouses, and especially their children, will never leave me. With each new burial I was (and sometimes still am) tormented by thoughts of ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’ At the very end of each burial, after our casket team had lifted the flag from the coffin and folded it, after the rifle platoon in the distance had fired its 21-gun salute, and after the bugler in the farther distance had blown Taps, as the OIC handed the folded flag to the next of kin and mouthed the pro-forma words about how ‘On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation…’ I often marveled at the composure, the stoicism, of the recipient of the flag. This was, after all, 1970 and ’71, when for all intents and purposes the war was already lost, and pretty much everybody knew it was, although it need not have been. And yet not once did any of the mourners do or say what I think I, in the same circumstances, would have done and said: namely, refused the flag and demanded an explanation of why my loved one had been sacrificed on the altar of politics…why did my husband (son) have to be slain in support of a cause which in Washington had already been given up as hopeless? And so I sometimes wonder, Mr. President, about the feelings of yourself and other officials when you attend the funerals of our men and women lost in Afghanistan and Iraq…whether you are able to look into the eyes of their loved ones with absolute conviction, and with your words assure them that, yes, this death was not in vain, and we did everything possible to prevent it.

Mr. President, with great respect for the horrendous burdens you bear, with even greater respect for the integrity with which I believe you seek to discharge them, and with all appropriate humility, I cannot help but question whether the prosecution of this war is being carried out with the maximum deference to our defenders, and with the minimum concern to the opinions of Kofi Annan, the European Community, the Islamic world, the domestic and foreign media, your political opponents, or any other group or entity which stands between us and the quickest, surest route to victory.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Sincerely yours,
C. Vail
Glenolden, Pennsylvania

Re: Lisa Fabrizio’s The Blame Game:

Lisa Fabrizio’s articulation of the firm grounds for allocating blame on the Democrats (“The Blame Game”) is good reading on the occasion of the death of Ann Richards. The most important action for which she should be remembered is that she switched the momentum of the 1988 campaign TOWARDS George H.W. Bush with her speech at the Democratic convention. Her “born with a silver foot in his mouth” line meant that the Republicans had psychological permission from the voters to mount a strong negative and successful campaign that would not be considered out of bounds since the Democrats had struck a first blow that was “over the top.” (The overconfident giggling speech by Ted Kennedy reinforced the permission.) So Ann Richards not only lost the governorship to George W. Bush, she helped elect George H.W. Bush to the U.S. presidency.
R.L.A. Schaefer
Dubuque, Iowa

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