- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2000

Quote on anthrax vaccinations no longer true

Allow me to clarify and correct the contextual circumstances of a quote attributed to me in Robert Maginnis' March 2 Commentary column, "Distrust corroding the military." This 1994 quote is often used by opponents of the Department of Defense anthrax vaccination program to imply that I still believe that the anthrax vaccine given to soldiers in the Persian Gulf war may be a cause of the unexplained symptoms many veterans experienced. That is not true.

In an effort to determine the cause or causes of the unexplained medical problems reported by some veterans of Operation Desert Storm, no potential causal factors were ruled out before fair and reasonable evaluation. My remarks to a 1994 Senate Appropriations Committee hearing reflected my sincere and responsible commitment to looking at all possible causes, including the vaccines that had been administered to some service members.

Since that time, however, numerous panels of distinguished civilian and military experts have looked at the likelihood of any vaccine, including anthrax, being the cause of the diverse symptoms. These panels have included the Presidential Advisory Commission, the Defense Science Board, the National Institutes of Health and the Institute of Medicine. They all have concluded that there is no evidence of a connection between the illnesses and any of the vaccines, either singly or in combination.

In light of that new information, I absolutely agree with the other medical and scientific experts: There is no scientific evidence to suggest that there is any connection between any of the vaccinations given to service members in Operations Desert Shield/Storm and the symptoms reported after the campaign. I have testified to this in subsequent congressional hearings, and I have repeated my opinion on numerous occasions.

More often than not, opponents of the program choose to ignore my current opinion because it does not suit their purposes. Let me repeat myself one more time to clear up any remaining doubt about my position: There is no rational evidence to lead any responsible person to conclude there is a connection between the anthrax vaccine and the medical problems reported by Desert Storm veterans.

LT. GEN. RONALD R. BLANCK

Surgeon general

U.S. Army

Falls Church

President's revised itinerary questioned

Despite the good intentions of the Clinton administration, how can a presidential stopover in Pakistan have anything but the effect of conferring legitimacy on that country's newest military regime ("Clinton accepts invitation to visit Pakistani officials," March 8)?

On an international level, perhaps, Pakistan's military-intelligence complex may not be strengthened by such a visit. The British Commonwealth and European Union countries already have rejected Gen. Pervez Musharraf's unlawful "hijacking of democracy," as former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called it from his jail cell. However, the hand of every fundamentalist the world over, not to mention Gen. Musharraf's domestic extremists, has been bolstered by President Clinton's decision. Just as this region's brand of Islamic-extremism drove out one superpower a decade ago, so now does it summon another to the region.

Unfortunate though these effects are, Mr. Clinton's decision to visit Pakistan seems to have significantly strengthened first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's hand in her New York bid for the U.S. Senate. At a Long Island fund-raiser for her last month, Mrs. Clinton pledged her support for such a trip to a wealthy group of Pakistani-American doctors who belonged to the Pakistan-Political Action Committee (Pak-PAC). It would be grossly unfortunate if domestic political interests overrode this country's national security concerns.

AMBASSADOR ARTHUR H.

DAVIS (Retired)

Washington

Reader takes aim at gunfire numbers used by columnist

It's a shame to see Clarence Page buy into some of the irrational and dishonest claims of the anti-gun lobby, as evidenced by his column on the Kayla Rolland tragedy ("Trigger-lock crossfire … and misfire," Commentary, March 8). Mr. Page throws out a statistic of 4,223 "children" being killed by gunfire in 1997 and then defines children as anyone under 19 years of age.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, here are the facts: The actual number of children (age 14 and younger) killed in 1997 was 630, and of those, 142 deaths were accidental. In other words, more children die each year from bicycle accidents or drowning than in gun accidents. Most of the "children" to whom Mr. Page refers were young male adults, many of them involved in crime and gangs. Some were innocent victims, but the overwhelming majority did not die accidentally. To lump them in with real children and then go into a discussion of how trigger locks would save lives, is dishonest.

Like all other parents, family members and and adults living with children, those living in the house with the boy who killed Kayla were free to buy a gun lock and use it. They did not do so because they were not fit guardians to begin with. Mandating the sale of trigger locks will do nothing to mandate their use, especially by the likes of the adults that lived with the boy. Texas Gov. George W. Bush was correct in questioning how such a law would be enforced.

It's time to stop exploiting regrettable but rare events such as Kayla's death and trying to impose further restrictions on nonviolent law-abiding gun owners.

DAVID LAMPO

Alexandria

Strange remarks from senator on NATO enlargement

It does not often happen that a senator of the same party as the president takes it upon himself to inform foreign diplomats of his views when they do not conform in all points with the administration's foreign policy. As James Morrison reported in his March 2 Embassy Row column ("Straight talk breakfast"), Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, found it appropriate to point out that Russia is a "great power with an unstable political system and 2,000 nuclear weapons." Under these circumstances, the senator expressed his concern about Russia's opposition to NATO's enlargement and doubted that there would be any further NATO expansion unless, in the case of Lithuania, the newcomer nation could shoulder its own defenses and show its military capability.

Mr. Torricelli knows full well that no country is ever quite ready for a military confrontation, and a country's capability to defend itself can only be proved in real combat. Thus, reasoning that one or another applicant country is not militarily ready for NATO membership can be used effectively by politicians who lack the political will to back extending NATO as an excuse for perpetual postponement.

Further, Mr. Torricelli seems to have overlooked the fact that NATO was founded more than a half-century ago for the mutual defense of countries that alone would not have a chance to withstand a Soviet onslaught.

Leaving parts of Europe permanently to the so-called gray zone, which inevitably will become spheres of interest for great powers, will only foster further conflicts. In this respect, it is worth remembering George Santayana's immortal words about history repeating itself for those who refuse to learn from it.

Mr. Morrison seemed to have been highly impressed by Mr. Torricelli's straight talk to the foreign diplomats. This reader's reaction can be expressed best by Sir Francis Bacon's words: "Nothing doth more hurt in a state that cunning men pass for wise."

CAMILLA KUUS

Washington

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