- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2004

(Mis)Interpreting immigration

Sen. John Kyl’s suggestion that Americans have misinterpreted President Bush’s amnesty/guest-worker program insults our intelligence (“Kyl calls for Bush to clarify alien plan,” Page 1, Feb. 10). We in Arizona recognize a Benedict Arnold when we see one, whether he’s in the White House or the Senate.

Arizonans know that Mr. Kyl is wishy-washy on immigration enforcement and has never seen an H1B (importation of foreign technical workers) that he didn’t support. It’s also pretty obvious that he supports, in part, the Bush immigration plan.

When Mr. Kyl argues that the government lacks both the will and the ability to enforce existing immigration laws, he speaks for himself, because the people who elected him are “the government,” not him. I would love to hear the reply of his angry constituent callers when he tells them they lack the will to enforce existing immigration laws.

Mr. Kyl should tell his retired Sun City constituents about the president’s plan for “totalization of Social Security with Mexico,” which would allow Mexicans to draw Social Security benefits with less U.S. work service than required of Americans, even if they were working illegally in the United States at the time.

Mr. Kyl’s concern that “the White House may be taking unnecessary heat” makes it pretty clear that Mr. Kyl’s office has been getting its share as well.

The White House deserves every bit of heat it has been getting from Americans, as does Mr. Kyl.

SANDRA MILLER

Phoenix, Ariz.

‘White-knuckled’ service

There is no reason for George Bush or his supporters to be timid in dealing with attacks on his military record. Let the performance evaluation written by a superior officer and made public last week be the starting point: “Lt. Bush is a dynamic outstanding young officer. He clearly stands out as a top notch fighter interceptor pilot.”

For the relatively few men who have ever been able to meet the rigorous requirements of becoming combat-qualified in a supersonic fighter used in the defense of our country, those words speak volumes. We know, for starters, that Lt. Bush had to demonstrate sound character, a solid background in physics and math, and be physically fit before he could even begin pilot training. He then spent 53 weeks in the Air Force pilot training program, mastering the subject matter of aerospace engineering and meteorology in the classroom and then going out to the airfield to fly airplanes.

Though the work of pilots has been romanticized and glamorized during the past century, the fact is that being a military pilot is difficult and dangerous. Lt. Bush had to start first in a single-engine Cessna 172 to demonstrate that he could handle that airplane. Within six weeks, he moved into the Cessna T-37, a twin-jet trainer in which the pilot not only learns to fly solo at night and in terrible weather conditions, but also begins learning the aerobatic maneuvers he will need to use in combat. At the time of Lt. Bush’s pilot training, we were not only at war in Vietnam. The Cold War threat to the continental United States posed by thousands of strategic bombers in the Soviet Union was very real and extremely ominous.

At the midyear point in his training, the pilot trainee is put into the cockpit of the T-38, a supersonic fighter-type aircraft that, if mishandled in aerobatic maneuvers or on final approach, can reduce you to a little cinder in a rather large crater. The physical and intellectual demands on a young man learning to fly a supersonic jet fighter cannot be overstated, and Lt. Bush obviously measured up. In order to earn his coveted silver wings, he had to master the aircraft at its limits of performance, pulling six and seven “g’s” in combat maneuvers, and then be able to navigate back to base and make precision approaches on instruments, often in high winds and poor weather. All the while, he was being tested and challenged by Air Force instructors who were known for producing the finest pilots in the world. They knew that a pilot with shortcomings would be killed eventually, either by his own mistakes or by the enemy, so they had to make sure every Air Force pilot got it right.

After successfully completing the 53-week pilot training program, Lt. Bush entered combat training in the F-102, a 20-ton fighter-interceptor. Every day for six months, he would walk onto the tarmac and strap on that baby, light the afterburner and go rolling down the runway to a takeoff speed of more than 170 mph, knowing he had 70,000 pounds of jet fuel on his back and one mistake or a failure of his only engine could end his life in a massive fireball. In the air, he would practice the intercept maneuvers that might someday knock out a Soviet bomber headed for New York, Chicago or Los Angeles; search for the target on radar at a closing speed of possibly 1,200 mph; acquire it; activate his weapons systems; maneuver for the kill; launch the radar-guided missiles; and maneuver into a stern attack position to use the heat-seekers in case of a miss. It was white-knuckle flying, culminating in a 170-mph touchdown and wishing the flight suit didn’t always get soaked with sweat.

Once combat-qualified in the F-102 and assigned to an Air National Guard unit, Lt. Bush was in every sense an asset to our military. He could have been ordered back to active duty at any time, whether for service in Vietnam or with the North American Air Defense Command. America’s political leadership at the time chose not to call him up. Nonetheless, Lt. Bush put his life at risk on a daily basis over a long period of time, and he has nothing for which to apologize; nor do his friends need to be timid about pointing out his achievements.

EDGAR F. HEISKELL III

Air Force Reserve, retired

Charlottesville

Hubble honorably discharged

The Hubble Space Telescope is indeed one of the most important modern scientific tools and a grand technical achievement (“Don’t Desert Hubble,” Op-Ed, Feb. 12). In almost 14 years of operations, Hubble has met or exceeded all science objectives. Our best people are working hard on plans to extend Hubble’s mission well beyond its designed 15-year lifetime.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s difficult but necessary decision to cancel Hubble’s last servicing mission was based on a careful review of a number of safety issues. One key safety concern was the requirement to have a second shuttle ready for a possible rescue mission. Such a mission would increase the risk to two shuttles and crews and would create even greater schedule pressures. After assessing these risks, we determined it is more important to concentrate our efforts on completing construction of the International Space Station. We are committed to realizing the full potential of the station rather than attempting to increase the Hubble’s already extensive scientific archive.

In his Op-Ed column opposing NASA’s decision, Robert Zubrin ignores the fact that NASA remains committed to conducting world-class astronomy in space. The Hubble is expected to operate for at least two to three more years. The Chandra X-ray Observatory and the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope are opening new windows on the universe. Our next-generation space observatory, the infrared James Webb Space Telescope, will launch in 2011.

Mr. Zubrin also argues that NASA lacks the will to take on the risks required to fulfill President Bush’s vision of sending human explorers to the moon and Mars. Though we recognize that space travel will never be risk-free, the steppingstone approach outlined by the president will enable us to learn from each step we take in this journey, thus reducing the overall risks of this forward-looking initiative.

WILLIAM F. READDY

Associate administrator for space flight

EDWARD J. WEILER

Associate administrator for space science

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Washington

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