- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 6, 2004

The spoils of war

It was disappointing to see a reputable newspaper such as The Washington Times publish Christina Bellantoni’s one-sided and historically inaccurate article Feb. 25 (“Minnesota stand on flag inflames Civil War buffs,” Metropolitan). In that article, Mrs. Bellantoni reported on the misguided crusade being led by Chris Caveness, executive director of the 28th Virginia Infantry Regiment, a group of Roanoke Valley re-enactors, to force the Minnesota Historical Society to relinquish the 28th Virginia Infantry Regiment battle flag captured at Gettysburg by the Minnesota 1st Volunteer Regiment. In the interest of brevity, I will focus on the most blatant falsehoods in the article.

First, the flag is neither “the property of Virginia” nor was it “illegally seized during battle.” The flag was captured during an illegal Southern invasion of Northern soil during a war. The flag was a spoil of war, and it was the dream of every young soldier, Union and Confederate alike, to capture a battle flag. In this case, Congress awarded its highest recognition, the Medal of Honor, to Marshall Sherman, the Minnesota hero who captured the flag.

Second, Congress never “ruled that Minnesota must return the flag.” A joint congressional resolution passed in 1905 “authorized” the Secretary of War to return captured flags “now in the custody of the War Department” to their home state. At the time the resolution passed, the 28th Virginia flag had been in Minnesota since the spring of 1864 — 41 years before the 1905 resolution. Some historians believe the flag was given to the Minnesota 1st Volunteers to assist with recruiting efforts when the decorated regiment left Washington in 1864. The 1905 resolution is, therefore, inapplicable to the 28th Virginia flag. Simply put, there is no legal basis to challenge the Minnesota Historical Society’s ownership of the flag.

Third, Mrs. Bellantoni should have checked out Mr. Caveness’ flat-out-false claim that the 28th Virginia flag is the only known captured battle flag that has not been returned to its state of origin. There are examples of flags carried by both sides that have not been returned.

Fourth, where does Mr. Caveness come off describing the Minnesota Historical Society as “un-American”? Relinquishing the flag would represent an affront to those who gave their lives to preserve the Union and end a real un-American institution — slavery.

Finally, before attempting a new invasion of Northern soil, Mr. Caveness and his group of re-enactors should take care of the home front. Virginia’s Museum of the Confederacy possesses two other flags carried by the 28th Virginia. Each is in need of restoration. Mr. Caveness’ 28th Virginia has not donated a dime for their restoration, while the Minnesota 1st Volunteer re-enactment group has donated hundreds of dollars for their restoration.

JOHN H. GUTHMANN

St. Paul, Minn.

Kerry’s distortions

Regarding “Kerry’s Mouth” (Editorial, Thursday): Excellent analysis right up to the conclusion, in which you state, “While voters appreciate a good debate on policies, they are offended by relentless expressions of contempt for the man who sits in the Oval Office. … Mr. Kerry seems to be making the same mistake [in nasty partisan attacks].” This is the wrong conclusion. Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, will be fully supported by the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times and The Washington Post, the “mainstream” TV commentators, etc. As “proof” I would simply ask you to review the past couple of months’ reporting, in my unscientific analysis, that has shaped the debate in terms of anti-Bush contempt:

Republicans’ references to Mr. Kerry’s Senate voting record are spun as “personal attacks” and “negative campaigning,” but Democratic sources call President Bush a “deserter,” or say he was “AWOL” with no proof, and when proved wrong offer no apology or contrition. Even though Mr. Kerry hasn’t publicly made these attacks, he hasn’t denounced them, either.

When Republicans find Democrats’ unprotected JudiciaryCommitteememos, clearly proving a coordinated agenda with left-leaning lobbyists to block or delay judicial appointments, that amounts to “criminal activities.” An investigation is under way to hunt down the “criminals” — but the memos’ subject matter, blocking qualified, minority jurists from appointment to the federal bench, is ignored.

Republicans point out that in polls conducted by pro-abortion organizations, the American people say they support a ban on partial-birth abortion, but that is called a “wedge issue” pushed by the “religious right.” Mr. Kerry’s public support of a litmus test for judicial appointments — support of Roe vs. Wade — is never mentioned.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point.

MICHAEL BECKER

Phoenix

Lest we forget, John Kerry has said the slanderous and untrue things that he has with nary a peep of reproach from any Democrat and liberal — or the liberal mainstream news media. But then, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, former presidential candidates Howard Dean and Wesley Clark, Al Gore and Sen. Hillary Clinton, among many others, also have gotten similar free rides.

This rhetoric, which no doubt will continue into Election Day, is not just going to backfire, it’s going to explode in the ballot boxes.

Perhaps then, after his defeat, Mr. Kerry and his supporters will find time to ponder this strategy and the prophetic truth that he spoke about it in February, although misdirected at President Bush at that time: “The arrogance, and the sheer sort of, almost stupidity of it, is stunning.”

C. KENNA AMOS JR.

Princeton, W.Va.

Check your frequency

I write from Prague after having read the recent column by Arnaud de Borchgrave concerning Ion Mihai Pacepa (“Cold War nostalgia,” Commentary, Feb. 27). It is a fact that Mr. Pacepa served the Western cause during the Cold War when, after a lengthy career in Nikolai Ceaucescu’s Securitate, he defected from Romania to the United States, sharing with our officials the most valuable of information. Mr. de Borchgrave is accurate in recounting the deeds of Mr. Pacepa.

However, Mr. de Borchgrave seriously misinforms his readers in directly linking a recent decision by the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) to continue RFE/RL’s daily Romanian news and information radio broadcasts to Romania and Mr. Pacepa’s problems in Bucharest. First, it is not true, as Mr. de Borchgrave writes, that RFE/RL decided to cancel its broadcasts to the European countries soon to join the ranks of NATO and the European Union; this was a collective administration, board and congressional decision. Second, the decision to keep on the air RFE/RL’s Romanian Service was in no way, shape or form based on Mr. Pacepa’s past or current activities, as Mr. de Borchgrave claims. It was based on a belief by key members of Congress that because RFE/RL was broadcasting daily to Moldova, it should also continue broadcasting to Romania.

What is especially untrue in Mr. de Borchgrave’s story is his assertion, “The reason [for the continuing broadcasts], according to a ranking RFE executive … , ‘is [Romanian President Ion] Iliescu’s idiotic reaction to the ongoing Pacepa affair.’” As president of RFE/RL, I am the ranking executive. I (or my specified spokesperson) speak for the organization; no one else does. I have had no conversation with Mr. de Borchgrave, nor have any of my closest associates, including our spokesperson.

THOMAS A. DINE

President

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Prague, Czech Republic

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