Re: Lawrence Henry’s Back to Basics:
Mr. Henry’s latest piece, “Back to Basics” (2/24), was indispensable in its retelling the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, and the seeming disregard of it by those who would abandon the security of this nation to others. But the line that really hit the nail on the head was his last, referring to the peace-at-any-price antiwar fanatics: “They’re afraid we’ll win.” It recalled something Dinesh D’Souza wrote a few weeks ago about the Left. Their belief system is based on, 1. Economic Piracy, 2. Moral Degeneracy, and 3. Anti-Americanism. That last standard is what undergirds the protesters, not concern over civilian casualties, or ecological damage, or regional instability, or any of their other pretenses. Would they have the grace to admit it.
I wish Mr. Henry a quick recovery to full health.
— Paul DeSisto
Cedar Grove, NJ
Thanks to Lawrence Henry. Has any writer better summed up a simple situation quite so, well, simply? As Mr. Henry points out, it’s just not complicated. We just need to do it and quit worrying about a fringe left wing that cares nothing about war and little about security but everything about denying a President success.
— Bob Hinkley
For months we have been watching the impasse between the supporters of the Bush administration and the adherents of the pacifist doctrine who shrink from the use of force against the Iraq regime. The calls for action are generally founded on rational arguments while the arguments for delay are rather based on fear and squeamishness to commit violence under any circumstances. It is time for the proponents of endless inspections to face a series of questions to justify their position:
Question 1: In Iraq there is a set of 100 inspectors armed with Toyota vans trying to find forbidden arms in a very large country. Immediately outside Iraq a U.S. Army is ready to invade. Would the inspectors be there at all and able to do anything useful without the presence of the threatening army?
Question 2: If the U.S. Army were to come home without toppling Sadism, would the inspection regime continue with any useful effect?
Question 3: If the violent removal of Iraq arms is called off and the U.S. Army leaves the region how difficult will it be in the future to reconstitute a similar force should some state, anywhere on the globe, sponsor or harbor a terrorist force? For instance, in eight years from now with a Democratic president would we have the national resolve to face down such a threat?
The proponents of inaction must find answers to these questions if they are to face their consciences in coming years.
— Basil Weir
San Jose, CA
THE CAT BOMB
Re: Jed Babbin’s Not ‘N Synch:
According to OSS research chief Stanley Lovell, the notion of a cat-guided bomb was broached in the U.S., and actual tests were made. The result was as Jed Babbin wrote: the cat became unconscious within seconds of being dropped, and couldn’t guide the bomb.
This story is reported in Lovell’s memoir, Of Spies and Stratagems, in the chapter “Schemes That Failed to Work,” along with the story of the Bat Bomb and the attempt to dose Hitler with female hormones.
— Rich Rostrom
CALLING IN SIC
Re: Amos Blood’s Too Cool for School:
To accuse an entire generation — and all those who disagree with President Bush, to boot — of irrelevance because of a few embryonic journalists is a real waste of space. Not that I have anything in common with anyone who goes to Brown, but I read the piece quite differently. While I found the 9-11 comparison something of a reach, it seemed to indicate a recognition of the horror that makes your central point meaningless. And I see no reason why the relatives of the victims — your audience, presumably — should consider the piece offensive. Then again, the problem with right-wing hacks such as yourself is that you’re forever mistaking these kinds of attacks for legitimate commentary, especially when you’re attacking those you consider intellectually inferior. Frankly, as a disinterested party in this particular difference of opinion, I’d be embarrassed, if I were you.
— B. Wallstin
Mt. Laurel, NJ
The word “vicious” is spelled… v-i-c-i-o-u-s, vicious. No [sic] needed.
The word comes from “vice.” For example, extremism in defense of language is no vice.
The sub-literate construction you are confusing it with, “viscious” [sic] is an ugly conflation of “vicious” and “viscous.” The latter means “resistant to flow” and is value-neutral among literate folk.
— John J. Scocca
The Editor replies: “Sic” has many uses. In this case, it was a comment on the semi-coherent phrasing of the sentence in question, “In a post-Sept. 11 world, response to tragedy seems especially vicious.”
Re: George Neumayr’s First France, Now Mexico:
Maybe if this country’s leadership showed some gumption, the U.S. would stop helping those countries who thwart our National Security agenda. Instead of rewarding France, Mexico, etc. for their obstructionist moral pomposity, the US should halt the process that is allowing the foreign government-subsidized Airbus to compete with the swim-if-you-can non-government subsidized Boeing for the lucrative USAF tanker replacement contract. Maybe we’d get serious about stopping the silent invasion of the United States by hordes of illegal aliens. But since we don’t play hardball on these issues and others near and dear to our foreign friends and their peso/franc filled pocketbooks, we can continue to expect to get shoved around and spit at.
— Mike Slater
While I agree with Mr. Neumayr regarding Señor Fox, a larger point is being missed. George Bush is leading down a path to no where.
Remember when George looked into Mr. Putin’s eyes and divined his soul and pronounced that they would be pals? Remember how Ted Kennedy was invited over for popcorn and movies and George pronounced that they could work together for the good of the country? Remember the hugs for Tom Daschle and how they could work together for the good of the country? And, yes, George and Mr. Fox were going to be bosom pals also? And these are just a few of the more egregious examples. The only ones truly “dissed” were Conservative folks like Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), whom Karl Rove has banned from the White House.
Remember the “new tone” that George was going to bring to Washington and the world? Can’t we all just get along? Well the answer is in. Both nationally and internationally, the answer is a clear and distinct “NO!!!!” In fact, I would argue that Mr. Bush’s attitude and tactics have been judged by critics and many supporters as a definite and sure sign of weakness and indecision.
Mr. Bush has developed a definite pattern. Come out smoking. Talk tough. Remember the wanted dead or alive talk about Osama? Immediately after these statements, the back pedaling and waffling begin and the stalling begins and the dragging out begins.
Right or wrong, George, for Heaven’s sake make a decision and stick to it for once. Oh, yes, would it be possible to get you to concretely favor your friends and stop lavishing all smoochie smoochie on your opponents who don’t like you and will never like you, no matter what you do.
— Ken Shreve
Fox seems to believe that we are obligated to do whatever he wants done. President Bush has failed in his obligation to protect the US by not completely sealing the southern border. The Mexicans have no reason the prevent terrorists from crossing into the US from Mexico and, in fact, may be taking cash to facilitate the traffic.
Amnesty is a word that should never be used. From the lips of Mr. Bush, it would cause a million new illegal aliens to move north, confident that they too, would be anointed in the future. If we are ever to give special status to Mexican workers, it must be under our terms and to the next million coming north, not the last million. We must reward those who follow the rules and not rewards those who have violated our laws. Foxy shouldn’t care because he and his friends will probably get the same cut of repatriated funds, no matter which million workers send the money home.
HEARING WITHOUT LISTENING
Re: Peter Hannaford’s Hillary: Vindicated at Last!
Peter Hannaford’s article concerning the vast right-wing conspiracy and the liberals’ idea about another effort to get their message out on radio was interesting and perceptive. Another point worth considering is that the success of broadcasts hosted by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity is in fact due to the success the left has had in getting its messages out. If you listen closely to these broadcasts you realize that most of the effort is not directed at getting a message out. More time and effort goes into challenging the absurdity and illogic of what the left espouses. And that is what has resonated with listeners. Maybe if the left tried to understand why Limbaugh and Hannity are so successful they wouldn’t be responding with the prattle drivel that someone like Al Franken will serve up.
— Dick Melville
Ozone Park, NY
THE WAY WE WERE
Re: James Bowman’s review of Gods and Generals:
Happy coincidence: last night I got to enjoy Gods and Generals and this morning I get to enjoy a review by James Bowman. Unfortunately I cannot agree with the characterization of “laughably tiresome.” Tiring yes, from sheer size; tiresome, no.
Mr. Bowman’s metaphor, that the characters speak like “statuary,” is apt in some cases but woefully wrong in others. The script and acting are very uneven, but the actor playing Stonewall Jackson did a really amazing job. Truly, all the “famous” actors in Hollywood should hang it up compared to him, because he delivered a real, natural, live human being despite the sometimes overly-portentous script (and I do mean “sometimes” — often it was quite correctly portentous).
But I don’t think the portentous speechifying was an accident or bad movie making. I think it is a deliberate assertion of the hypothesis that people of that era had a very different mode of interaction derived from a wonderful civility and high regard for the cultivated life, and actually spent substantial time and energy philosophizing about their own lives and national events. The sheer weight of the endless hours of parlor boredom — in the absence of the sickening media over-saturation and satiation we have today — required that people had to rely on real, down-home culture to lighten and enlighten their lives. People really did sit around the dinner table quoting scripture at each other, they really did sit around talking about “what it all means,” a substantial number of average kids really were forced to memorize long passages of classic poetry, to read and comment in Greek and Latin on philosophers of life and war. The average upper-middle class home really did have a piano and one or two people who could play it well. There was not today’s widespread, automatic, cynical contempt for erudition. People of all stripes strove to be gentlemen and gentlewomen, even if it sometimes resulted in a Huck Finn hilariously mispronouncing and misapplying a Latin proverb. The streets tried to emulate the salons, instead of the salons trying to emulate the streets as we have today.
You can see this in some of the incredible letters written home from Civil War battles, letters written by men who were uniquely talented but of average experience.
I think Bowman is probably wrong about the battle re-enactments being unrealistically stiff and lifeless; they are realistically non-melodramatic. He’s too used to recent Hollywood portrayals that are overly dramatic. In that era generals often emphasized that military effectiveness derived from keeping lines and formation, and constantly drilled men on the need to keep a stiff upper lip (and heaped scorn and contempt on the alleged cowardice of those who flinch, and trained the men to police each others’ behavior with this codified bravado). So individual men probably did strive mightily to maintain an impassive mien. The movie convincingly portrayed the breakdown of this bravado discipline in the face of overwhelming fire in the scene at Fredericksburg, when the union ranks reflexively flinched again and again at shell bursts but forced themselves to move forward.
The movie realistically portrayed how this set-piece warfare (e.g. first battle scene) gave way to surprise, guerrilla-style action, sniping, and chaos as Jackson and others adapted. We should remember that the transition from inaccurate smooth-bore weapons to accurate long-range rifles was still being worked out with a new generation of tactics.
I cannot count the number of times during the movie I noted the absence of the kind of facile payoffs that you’d get from Hollywood. (Other than the music which, yes, was a little heavy at times.) This movie was tiresome in a good way, in the way I enjoy about some European movies I’ve seen.
Granted, this script was not Shakespeare, but I think it often succeeded in summarizing key philosophical arguments of the time into 30 seconds of talk coming out of the mouth of an average guy.
But most of all the movie showed us that people of different eras were not merely moderns in togas, they were different people with different motivations. They did not seek to wear all of their emotional underwear on the outside à la Madonna and Jerry Springer, but tried to display the higher feelings and conceal the baser ones. Today we wrongly call this hypocrisy, when in fact it was people working the kind of discipline they needed to survive and live up to a higher level. The reason so many American kids find it impossible to understand historical people and why they did what they did is that they don’t understand how differently their characters were formed. The average modern — especially a French or German modern — cannot understand why anyone would risk anything for aught but a month paid vacation, national health care, and a 30-hour workweek. They cannot understand why a man from Michigan would fight and die for the freedom of a complete stranger, or why a man from Virginia who loved the Union, disliked slavery, and had friends in Washington would calmly go to war against the Union on the principle that it violates the principles of freedom for a nation to deploy its army against itself, even to put down rebellion.
There are today groups of people who understand this kind of commitment to principle, but unfortunately their commitment is to a vile, violent, threadbare, impoverished non-culture culture of death. If only our young people had a little of the culture and commitment portrayed in this movie — or even understood it — we’d have a better chance of meeting evil with good. We will over the next few years re-learn the fact that homespun erudition is not a luxury, it is a survival necessity. The liberal arts degree is the most practical degree in the world.
— Eric Richter
Grand Rapids, MI
I would imagine that Mr. Bowman is an avid Kennedy fan who would rather sail off the shores of Nantucket Island than ply the Mississippi on a raft and I bet he would come closer to saluting the United Nations flag than Old Glory. If he would take some time to research the War Of Northern Aggression he would find that this movie stays right in step with the Confederate Army. He seems to have a hard believing that the generals knew where their troops were deployed and the foe that they were facing. Have him read about Golden Spurs (Jeb Stuart) or the Wizard of the Saddle (Nathan B. Forrest). This should open his eyes so he can see through the burnt gunpowder. By the way, what Yankee state did Alvin York and Audie Murphy hail from? Makes one wonder.
— Rick Henson
Whispering Hills TN
Re: George Neumayr’s What Winston Churchill Said:
An excellent piece on Churchill. I used the “what if” analogy Saturday night at a dinner party with friends of a post-WWII Germany where Hitler had been allowed to remain in power. What would the Allies response have been if in 1952 he had kicked out all of the inspectors and begun to rearm?
Your essay points to an even better analogy of 1930s Germany, because it actually happened. Who was it that said that if we do not learn from our history we are doomed to repeat it? The example of Europe’s situation in the ’30s needs to be expanded upon. The title of the piece should be “Old Europe Flunks History (Again).”
— Stephen Loftin