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Three Rings

Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.’s The American Circus:

I am a Texas permitted small mammal rehabilitator and am not a fan of hunting unless you really, really have to hunt for food. Let’s face it: going to Wal-Mart and buying meat is much cheaper than hunting, when all your expenses are figured in. Most hunters I know are not really after the meat; they want the trophy, which means the prime antlers are the ones killed, the biggest fish kept. I know someone that has a roadrunner mounted. Now that one was a battle, I am sure.

What has gotten me on my soapbox is the fact that most states make it much harder to get the permit to raise and release animals than they do for the hunter to just plunk down the money for the license to go kill them. Believe me they sure do not pay us to raise these babies. Everything comes out of our pockets, food, cages, and vet bills.

I DO NOT approve of PETA’s way of doing things and do eat meat.
Elaine Kyle

I just want to say before you approve an article to be written, maybe it’s a good idea to make sure that the journalist doesn’t enter fake information making himself sound like a complete idiot and well…your company.

“The Ringling Brothers case is significant because PETA has used the courts to harass the circus for years. In this case the circus owner, Kenneth Feld, was willing to face PETA’s charges in court. Had PETA merely complained to the press people might have believed that Feld maintained a vast spy ring against his harassers. In court their evidence was dismissed as nonsense.”

The court did acknowledge that they did steal things from PETA and wired and video taped things…HOWEVER, the court decided that PETA came across no harm because of this action.

Man you guys should really get your stories correct!

How right on the money you are. During my six years on the Hartford City Council, I would receive a visit from a representative of Ringling Brothers, usually several weeks before Ringling Brothers was due in town, to gauge what the prevailing political climate was and if we harbored any concerns with the circus. After assuring her (as I recall it was usually a woman) that all was well and that PETA had not overtaken the Council, she would then regale me and other council members present, with tales of the latest political machinations of PETA nationwide. After five minutes, despite my being a devoted animal lover, I quickly concluded that PETA was a group of people sorely in need of a real life. I’m happy to report that good government prevailed in Hartford and that the circus made its ritual arrival parade up Trumbull Street, much to the delight of those watching.
A. DiPentima

If you really knew what some “mad scientists” did to dogs and cats in laboratories in the name of science you wouldn’t be so quick to condemn animal rights people. (I don’t agree with everything they say by the way.) But you really need to know the truth.

To stick knives in dogs’ eyes just to see how much they “scream” is not science and NOT helping anyone. If you don’t believe me, just really make inquiries or try to visit such laboratories. There is senseless, cruel, barbaric treatment going on at many of the so called research centers. Go ahead. Find out for yourself!!! I dare you and then EXPOSE IT!! For God’s sake, expose it!!

Marshall Farms, North Rose, New York, breeds beagle puppies by the thousands only to sell and send to China, Korea, and other ugly laboratories and if you think these puppies are humanely treated, YOU ARE CRAZY. They suffer terribly. Dr. Marshall sends them every Friday by the hundreds. “Dr. Marshall,” if you want to call him a doctor, call him Dr. Death, is a millionaire with a well guarded facility. They have literally sent hundreds of thousands of puppies thru the years for torture.

Bravo for the Ringling Bros. Now if something could be done about the worst offender of the all, the ACLU.

Re: David Holman’s Gone Shadding With George Allen:

I understand that Shad runs were just the venue for David Holman’s essay. However, his throwaway line about even shad roe for the brave displays a glaring gap in his culinary education. Shad roe is ambrosia. I used to live for the shad runs in New York. Later, in D.C., where the shad run later, it remained a spring event. If you haven’t tried it (how about caviar, too), don’t knock it.
E.G. Tripp

David Holman replies:
No throwaway line — I tried it. And I still knock it. It must be a matter of taste. It seemed many others shared that opinion yesterday, as the most common joke was about the quality of the fish. As for caviar, count me in.

Re: Quin Hillyer’s A Matter of Course:

Quin Hillyer’s article brings to mind Edmund Burke’s thoughts on the importance of manners in his “1st Letter on a Regicide Peace” written in 1796. Here is a brief quote:

“Manners are of more importance than Laws. Upon them in great measure the Laws depend. The Law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, invisible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and colour to our lives. According to their quality, they aid morals, they supply them or they totally destroy them.”

One wonders what a Burke or a Gibbon a hundred or more years hence from our era will say about our political manners.
Bob Keiser
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

My goodness, child, where have you been? This is very old news, especially to those of us who thought we had friends on the left, and now, sadly, can no longer talk to them because they can not hold a rational discussion of issues without it degenerating into a screaming, name calling, emotional rant. Rush Limbaugh has been talking about this since 1994. I love my left wing sister-in-law but we can no longer have the political discussions we used to because she does just what Maryscott O’Connor does in her blog — and I won’t tolerate it. If you can’t be an adult, I have other things to do with my time!

Nice article, by the way, Quin.
Deborah Humphrey

Executive editor Quin Hillyer asks “Does a rational Left still exist in the American political firmament?”

He then proceeds to answer the question decisively and without fear of any credible contradiction, to wit: no.

Given his passing observation in re “the puerility — indeed, the perpetual adolescence — of the Left’s fascination with vulgarities” a more interesting question comes to mind. What has caused the intellectual disintegration of what was once (but is no more) the genuine liberal wing of politics in America?

The turning point was the revolt — and revolting behavior of — the revolting Cry Baby Boom cohort that destroyed both the candidacy of the nominee who emerged badly wounded from the Democrat Convention of August 1968 and the Democrat Party itself. From that moment on hard working, God fearing, largely Catholic, blue collar, pro-labor Democrats had no political party they could call their own. What had been their party became instead a patchwork shelter for every freak, misfit, weirdo, slime ball and degenerate that ever clogged the gutter of American culture under the Cry Baby Boom banner that reads, “If it FEEEEEEEEEELS good, do it.” The Democrat Party thereafter and under such feel good captions as “multiculturalism,” “diversity,” and “who are we to judge” was suddenly transformed into the cesspool of American politics in which true Liberalism was not just disowned, but snuffed.

When one stops to think about it, the post war Cry Baby Boom elite, upon whom an unparalleled cornucopia of material wealth and political stability was heaped — entirely unearned by them — have shown their gratitude and appreciation by giving back to their country of birth precisely ZERO.

I have a theory as to why the greatest generation brought forth the most gutless, garrulous generation of self-inflated gasbags ever to trod American soil: these pampered spoiled brats bitterly resented having to live in the shadow of such greatness. They responded by turning on their parents with every bitter, remorseless, vindictive measure they could find. In the process of denouncing their parents and everything they stood for, these crybaby losers have revealed themselves to be cold, soul-less vipers without the slightest trace of human compassion. Having abandoned shame in the pretense they were “liberating” themselves, these utterly trivial crybabies have abandoned all claim to honor forever and will reside in memory — if at all — only among the eternally damned.

The good news, of course, is that the Blame America First/Cry Baby Boom elite are quite obviously self-destructing at a furious rate in the face of a bitter and VERY public rebuke: the courage, maturity, compassion, patriotism, and self-less devotion of young people who have arisen in such numbers since the air attacks on our homeland fifty five months ago to defend Freedom. The ADULTS are at least elbowing the aging, gray hair pony tailed, ear ringed, dope smoking, tattooed, filthy-mouthed, infantile, tantrum throwing members of the precious pampered Cry Baby Boom set out of their precious limelight… and on to the ash heap of history where they belong.

When the last of these Cry Baby Boom scum finally achieves room temperature, no one will even notice. In every real sense of the word, these intellectually inert lumps of piss poor protoplasm never found the grit to live at all. They can’t even claim to be has-beens because they never were in the first place. They are cheap, fraudulent knock offs utterly without any redeeming value.

As Ronald Reagan often observed: the best is yet to come.
Thomas E. Stuart, public school teacher (and Vietnam veteran of an earlier vintage)
Kapa’au, Hawaii

As my mother would have said, “Ms. O’Connor seems to have worked herself up into a ‘tizzy.'” I agree, and therefore, I recommend Ms. O’Connor listen to at least two hours of Bach everyday before sharing her “insights” with the rest of us.
Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

Re: Charles G. Kels’s Generals Behaving Badly:

“Rummy make me cry!” blubbers retired general. “Him abusive. Him arrogant.” (background music darkens) “Him not listen to me. My plan best. Better than other plans.” (sniffle) “Rummy go away now!”

Poor babies. Did Rumsfeld hurt our feelings? Apparently so, judging from the curious armchair campaign of the No-longer Active Generals. The NAG’s, in a rare display of spontaneous combustion — possibly caused by global warming — are feverishly demanding the firing of Rumsfeld. We now know the SecDef practices psychological torture of underlings — even those who never reported to him — suggesting the unlicensed use of mental thumbscrews. Of course, none of the NAG’s actually cried on camera, but a good drama coach could fix that.

The “retired general” hubbub is little more than a transparent political stunt. Some of the NAG’s have future ambitions and are betting on a Democrat win in 2008. They are positioning themselves as good Bush-hating defeatists — showing in a very public way their willingness to damage the Bush administration. Being “on record” that they undermined Rumsfeld’s (ergo Bush’s) efforts in Iraq will be an asset. They are burnishing their resumes with the quagmire credo cherished by the failure fetishists. It’s possible some of them may have no political aspirations and are only acting out of mean-spiritedness. Whatever the motivation, all have allowed themselves to become useful idiots of the left-wing media, and none have offered anything constructive.

Donald Rumsfeld possesses the precise qualities needed for his job. He is very, very smart; he has an incredible work ethic; he is tough. He is totally dedicated to the mission, he considers all sides (but does not become paralyzed by endless “listening” to the unfocused), and he is an unquestioned patriot. That lesser men seek his downfall is no surprise. Democracy guarantees free expression — indeed, mindless criticism — among the most petty among us. Small-minded men will always belittle their betters. Men like Rummy will always make them cry.

To Capt. Charles Kels, I offer a hearty Oo-rah! and a sincere “thank you” for putting some of this in perspective. You remind us how important is our separation of military and civilian leadership. I suspect that for every Zinni or Batiste out there carping, there are hundreds of officers like yourself quietly serving our country. God bless you all, sir.
Jacksonville, Texas

I’d never presume to speak for grunts, swabbies or jarheads on how they feel about their generals, but as a 26-yr blue-suiter, the last 12 as a First Sergeant, I know where I stand. O-7s and above occupy the rarest of military air, and so few airmen come in contact with them on a daily basis that you’re left with forming your opinions based on what everyone else thinks, particularly the officer corps. And yes, they do talk about the big guys/girls.

When Gen. Merrill McPeak, Ret., USAF, came out for one of the weenie Dem candidates in ’04 (can’t even remember who!), I couldn’t help but snicker a soft “Like I’m surprised…” One of the most reviled USAF chiefs of staff of all time pipes up, and you could hear the guffaws make their way from Yokota to Langley and straight through to Kandahar. Strange that his was a lonely voice, but still, even he had a right to be heard.

Let these men and women speak, for they’ve certainly earned their right to do so. If TV face-time is so important to them (as opposed to resigning in protest of Dubya/Rumsfeld,) then so be it. There’s not a doubt in my mind that this is good for our country, and our military, for it will spur others to speak up, like Gen. Myers, Ret., USAF, one of the most decent men I’d ever served under. The fact that Dubya/Rumsfeld are still considered so highly and continue to draw such warm receptions from the “lower ranks” (reminding more than a few of us of the days of Ronaldus/Cap) will eventually put the current General Revolt to bed.

God bless our country and our troops.
Jeff Kocur
Milford, Delaware

The president as commander in chief is the top boss over the Military. Thank God. Our forefathers were right keen to see the pitfall of having a military in charge of a government. Rumsfeld ’08
Martin N. Tirrell, Vietnam ’67-’68
Lisbon, New Hampshire

Re: Jay D. Homnick’s From Abbas to Abyss:

Our enemies are finally “decloaking.” This simplifies many things. I started rereading Demon by John Varley last night and this passage, on page 32, sticks in my mind.

“First you have to decide how important survival is,” she said. “Then you know what you’ll do to survive.

“With enemies, there were no rules. Honor didn’t enter into it. The best way to kill an enemy was from a great distance, without warning, in the back. If the need arose to torture your enemy, you ripped his guts out. If you had to lie, you lied. It didn’t matter. This was the enemy.

“Honor only arose among friends.”

Getting your enemies to be seen as enemies by your friends is a step toward defeating them. Not the only step, but a good start on this long war.
Geoff Bowden
Battle Creek, Michigan

Re: Jed Babbin’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner:

Jed Babbin’s concern is well-founded. China is a danger to the U.S. A few years ago, it was disclosed that they had stolen 100 percent of our nuclear secrets. This was an act of war. They have spies everywhere in the U.S. They are producing cheap goods with slave labor, and buying advanced technology from us. They are using their $200 billion annual profit in trade with the U.S. to build their military to compete with ours. They steal our patents. They brutally oppress their own citizens. They are an enemy and should be treated as such. They killed our GIs in Korea and Vietnam. They are allied with terrorists today. They support the insane nuclear-armed criminals in North Korea.

U.S. complicity with China goes back to Nixon’s toasting Chairman Mao, the #1 mass murderer in history; George Bush senior, former ambassador to China, coddling them as President; Bill Clinton accepting money from them in exchange for weakening U.S. security, and the current President’s inaction.
C. Baker

Jed Babbin replies:
It’s much worse than that. As my forthcoming book will explain, we’re headed for war with these guys in the next decade if we don’t get real smart real fast.

Re: A. DiPentima’s letter (“Newt Naysayers”) and Kendall Eskew’s letter (“Remember the Contract Fondly”) in Reader Mail’s Good as Gold and Shawn Macomber’s There’s Only One Newt:

To learn from experience it is more necessary to pay more attention to our defeats than our successes. That is why I thought it necessary to consider why the brilliant Newt failed. Not only may it help us see notice that he does not seem to have learned the correct lessons, it may also stimulate thought by those who would aspire to follow him. Judging by the two responses I received, I succeeded.

First I want to thank Mr. DiPentima (“Newt Naysayers”) for reminding us of Newt’s “wonkishness,” which is a great summation of one of his main problems. Newt loved to go on the talk shows and analyze his own political calculations for everyone. When the magician explains to his audience exactly how he does the trick before performing it, he destroys his own magic. Newt never seemed to learn, perhaps because he was more interested in flaunting his intelligence than using it, unlike Reagan and GW Bush, who were quite happy to be taken for fools by those about to be outsmarted. Newt got so wrapped up in his poly sci exercises that he forgot his real purpose was governance.

And I thank Mr. Kendall Eskew (“Remember the Contract Fondly”) for reminding us of the score on the Contract, and thereby helping me make my point. Seven of the items may have been approved by the House within the first 100 days, but only two or three of those ever became law, and as soon as an item was stymied, Newt pushed it away like a stale hors-d-‘oeuvre instead of fighting for it. We iggerant yokels from the provinces had the strange idea that getting the laws passed was the idea, not diddling some wonkish legislative win-loss tally, and making token gestures to appease a restive base. If Newt really believed those ten Contractual items were important, he could have continued to hammer them during the succeeding 630 days of the congressional term. When the Democrats lost a vote during the Great Society and Civil Rights crusades, their response was to demonize the individuals in opposition and to return to the issue again and again till they won, all the while emphasizing the moral urgency of their cause rather than its “wedge issue” qualities. Instead it seems all was just “boob bait for the bubbas.”

But it seems it was my mention of Mr. Clinton that really bothered Mr. Eskew, who appears the one unable to accept the fact that Willie was, after all, successfully impeached. I actually grant the Democratic point, at least in part, that Mr. Clinton’s perjury was an issue that justified impeachment only in a legalistic sense. I listed the other, more substantive grounds for impeachment, which seems to have served as a disturbing reminder to those with an eskewed vision. Had Newt taken action on those serious charges earlier, when Clinton’s support was at low ebb even in his own party, he would have been more thoroughly and properly discredited, and there would have been some reconciliation amongst the general electorate afterward, much as was the case with Nixon. There seems to be a uniting theme to Newt’s failings, and Mr. DiPentima sums it up with his word “wonkish.”

And yes, John Kerry is the only Democrat nominee I can imagine who could persuade me to vote for newt; my anti-Kerry animus is personal and transcends his politics. In a race between Newt and Hillary, I would probably sit it out, or write in a vote for a third party.
George Mellinger
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Re: Jed Babbin’s Fighting for a Ticket on the Titanic:

Mr. Jed Babbin’s article of 7 April 2006 mistakes General Zinni’s straight forward delivery for political maneuvering. I served under Gen. Zinni in the I Marine Expeditionary Force and can attest to his talents as a natural leader and a straight shooter.

I suggest to Mr. Babbin that Gen. Zinni’s comments about the Iraq conflict are generally right on the money. Specifically, the General’s assertion that CentCom’s long-standing plans for post-invasion Iraq were ignored and that there were insufficient troops in the immediate aftermath of the invasion to provide security and quell internal unrest should be, at this point, beyond debate.

I just returned from a year in Iraq and I affirm, from personal knowledge, that the situation on the ground now bears out the truth of these remarks. The imperative in any counterinsurgency is to gain the trust and the support of the majority of the people. We clearly have not accomplished that task. Our lack of concern with the people’s safety in the immediate chaos following the fall of the Hussein regime is beyond dispute to any Iraqi one speaks to. It is clear to any Iraqi on the street, even today, that our troops’ safety is more important to us than the safety of Iraqi civilians, as we hole up in our secure forward operating bases and speed through their villages in armored cocoons. For the majority of the Iraqi people, their lives are more dangerous and less prosperous now than under Saddam Hussein. Because of this reality, most Iraqi’s believe that we are only concerned about oil and war booty, despite our relentless propaganda to the contrary. And this is in spite of our best efforts and the loss of many of our brave countrymen, many of whom were my friends.

Finally, Mr. Babbin’s effort to paint Gen. Zinni with the Clinton brush is simply slimy. Gen. Zinni rose to the highest ranks in the Marine Corps purely on his merits. Any insinuation that he kowtowed to the Clinton administration to achieve his rank is an insult. Maybe Mr. Babbin has forgotten that Gen. Zinni publicly endorsed President Bush in the 2000 election. He has stated since then that he will not endorse any political candidate henceforth, nor endorse any political party.

Mr. Babbin should refrain from ad hominem attacks and address those with whom he differs on the issues at hand.

Semper Fidelis,
Shaun T. FitzPatrick

Jed Babbin replies:
Many thanks for the note, and thanks to you — and your family — for your service to our country. I don’t quarrel with much of what Gen. Zinni says about the current state of events in Iraq. What I do quarrel with is his open political grandstanding that he’s trying to cloak as apolitical military judgments. Surely you don’t agree with his statements such as Rumsfeld “disbanded” the army. And I would bet that you don’t agree with him that stability in the Middle East trumps our duty to defeat the regimes that want to destroy our way of life. Gen. Zinni — like all the generals who rose to prominence did qualify under the Clinton political criteria. Now that Zinni has undertaken to be a political person he lost the immunity we usually afford military people talking about military things from a non-political standpoint. Gen. Zinni has to take his lumps along with Gens. Clark, Newbold, Riggs and the rest. That’s not “slimy.” That’s the reality he’s chosen to become a part of.

Re: Ben Stein’s Greetings From Rancho Mirage:

I am an Air Force Reserve recruiter, I started my military career with the Army and I was stationed with the Old Guard in Washington D.C. where I had the privilege of burying over 300 of our honored dead. I then joined the Air Force Reserve as a Firefighter while I was going to college. I graduated the University of Arizona in 1991. I have now been a recruiter for 12 years and have worked hard to be an honest one (usually a contradiction or oxymoronic at best) I received your letter by way of a friend and found it very touching. It is nice to see that there are those who do appreciate those of use who serve, some for a few years, some for many, and some with their lives.

To you, I say thank you, for your years in entertainment-as I was reading the letter your voice, your mannerisms, your meter and cadence, all sounded in my mind as if you were standing beside me, you have a very distinct way of speaking-and to your kind words and thoughts.

To your friend who is bored counting his money I say, he can do something with it. Specifically make a no-interest loan to me so I can retire in three years in a better condition then I am now! The military doesn’t pay us enlisted folks too well and even for the smallest of comforts it takes years and years to pay them off at our pay scale (I have a double wide in the desert of Alamogordo, N.M., and even this simple abode will not be paid off till I’m dead) Paying our debt doesn’t bother us, but the interest rates exceed our pay raises so it’s a never ending cycle.

Anyway, I got a bit off track. Thanks again for the letter. I’ve already passed it on to many who needed to hear what you said. Our dedication comes from within, but recognition can only come from without.

With sincere appreciation,
MSgt Phillip T. Burleigh

I am a wife of a Marine. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. We humbly accept them and gladly do what we do for God, Corps and country. As they/we say in the Marines…
Semper Fi,
Laura Gambrino

The best line in your article was that if we never do another thing in our lives we are still heroes to many in the world.

Thanks Ben Stein for writing about what so many forget about. I have been in the Air Force for 25 years, and have often wondered what it would be like to just carelessly go out to work and back and not even pay attention to what is going on around me. But that is the extent of my thoughts. I have been to 29 countries with the Air Force, and would not trade the life experience for all of the riches in the world. Okay maybe a few of the riches would be nice, but the actual cultural interactions that I have had are priceless. As for Oprah, I think she does a lot, but much of it seems for self glorification-I don’t know? Remember, all of the good deeds alone will not get you to Heaven.

Thanks for listening! Take care and God bless!
SMSgt Jeffrey T. Stark
5th MXS Fab Flight

Read your letter, “Greetings From Rancho Mirage.” I must say… I enjoyed your letter very much! Your commentary touched me.
Mark A. Kellie, MSgt, USAF

Please pass to Ben my appreciation for his kind words for the following article.
CWO4 Keith Kaiser

Thank you Ben Stein.

Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. My fellow Airmen and I are just common folks who when joined together do very uncommon things. We are proud to serve, but far more proud that we are part of something greater than ourselves.
Cari A. Kent, CMSgt, USAF

You ROCK!! Very refreshing. Thank you for your outstanding perspective and ability to communicate it. You are a great American…definitely worth protecting!
Lt. Col. Scott “Chemo” Long
USAF F-16 Pilot/Combat Veteran

Re: Carol Sturm’s letter (under “Mean Mouthed”) in Reader Mail’s Civilian Civilities:

I was quite taken with Ms. Sturm’s assessment of how the “Bush cabal” was intent on dismantling America. I would suggest to her that she look back at the ’60s to see which side of the political spectrum set its course for the dismantling of America. I might add that they have rejoiced at every turn. Is it the conservative right that shouts down liberal speakers? Is it the “Bush cabal” that pushes for open borders and social services to every “undocumented worker” here? Is it the conservative right that believes that the primary function of business and industry is to provide jobs for workers? Is it the conservative right that believes that pedophilia is an expression of constitutional freedom on the part of the child? I was a registered Democrat for many years. I even (God forgive me) voted for Jimmy Carter. Now I refuse to align my name with a party that for the second time in living memory has committed itself to losing a war in order to gain political power. How repellant! Ms. Sturm may indict President Bush and his “cabal,” but thinking, reading, honest people are pretty much aware of who is dismantling America, and of how and why.
Joseph Baum
Garrettsville, Ohio

I don’t know if it was good editing or just chance but Mr. Spencer’s comment regarding the rabid dog left wing, “They are not rational, they do not present or discuss facts,” was perfectly illustrated in the preceding rant from Carol Sturm.
Tom McGonnell
Alexandria, Virginia

I can’t let the rant by Mz. Sturm go unchallenged in its lack of any substantive logic or any substantive proof of her thesis — other than how she feels. I would like ONE solid proof of every unsubstantiated charge she made. Even the Californian ACLU no friend of democracy or America could find an example of someone’s rights being violated by the Patriot Act at the behest of Nancy Pelosi, who was later forced to admit same on the record. The courts have begun to catch up with the same allegations and are resoundingly siding with Mr. Bush in his use of Presidential War Powers. No attack has taken place on American soil since 9/11 and nothing of substance has been “dismantled” except the self esteem of the wannabe fascist left. Mz. Sturm’s letter was a perfect example of the substance of Mr. Hillyer’s discourse, minus the profanity (maybe that was the editor’s purpose). I am sure it took more self control then Mz. Sturm knew she had to write her missive without them. I would love to see the first draft.
Craig C. Sarver
Behind Enemy Lines, Seattle, Washington

Re: Dave Pechman’s letter (under “Behavioral Studies”) in Reader Mail’s Civilian Civilities:

For some days now I’ve been reading and listening to commentary about the retired generals calling for Secretary Rumsfeld’s resignation. Most of the commentary from the Right has been well-reasoned, and even some of that from the left has been worthy of consideration, and I never thought I had much to add to the discussion. But after reading David Pechman’s April 20 letter I feel obligated to add my two cents worth. I will not address the rightness of the generals’ comments, only the fact of their speaking out.

First, however, I find a bit inconsistent Mr. Pechman’s statement that he would follow Kerry and Clark into battle, but not Rumsfeld or Bush. For the record, Donald Rumsfeld was an active-duty naval aviator and is a retired Navy Reserve captain. George Bush does not have the “Ret.” after his name but is an honorably discharged Air National Guard pilot. John Kerry, on the other hand, while a bona-fide war hero had to have his discharge elevated to honorable several years after his actual discharge: He originally did not have an honorable discharge because as a naval officer holding a reserve commission he later spoke out against both his country and the service members still fighting in Viet Nam, actually accusing American troops of war crimes. But Mr. Pechman wants to follow this guy? (One may debate whose service was more “heroic,” but that really is beside the point.)

Now, to the Bush/Rumsfeld supporters now criticizing the generals, their glib dismissal of them as being only seven out of thousands of flag officers is feeble. These generals are very recently retired and were serving during the Iraq war, two of them commanding divisions there. Clearly their comments carry much more weight than other generals and admirals. Too, during the 2000 election season both Generals Schwarzkopf and Powell assailed the shrinkage of the military under Bill Clinton and supported Bush’s candidacy as a way to reverse it. For this they were roundly criticized by the left for speaking out against the president as commander-in-chief, some Clinton/Gore supporters going so far as to suggest they be court-martialed. But they were celebrated by conservatives who strongly backed their right to speak out. Have Rumsfeld’s supporters on the right changed their minds about this?

A few years ago Eliot Cohen wrote a book called Supreme Command. He discussed the relationship between heads of governments and supreme military commanders, (Lincoln and Grant, Clemenceau and Foch, and Ben-Gurion and Dayan). I suggest it as a way to a better understanding of the issue.
Paul M. DeSisto, Lt Col, USAF (Ret)
Cedar Grove, New Jersey

If most share buck sergeant Pechman’s view that the Commander in Chief or his Secretary of Defense should always defer to retired military officers, then he is right. Our democracy is in great danger. Zinni wants to return to a fantasy pre-9/11 stability and many of the others are upset with Rumsfeld’s vision of the future versus theirs (most of these can be put in the category of “fight the last war” types). On top of this are the remnants of the Clinton politicizing of everything. Wesley Clark was fired by the Clinton administration (rightly so for attempting to start WWIII with Russia). John Kerry’s disgraceful record of phony purple hearts speaks for itself. Maybe one of these days we will see his records that he promised to release. When you are in the military sometimes you have to follow someone into combat like buck sergeant Pechman, General Wesley Clark or Senator John Kerry and you just hope that the fact that they are Democrat or Republican doesn’t affect how they will approach their job. These three don’t give me any confidence in that regard.
Clifton Briner

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