- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 30, 2005

Drugs and judgement

Alan Reynolds’ column “Let judges use judgment” (Commentary, Sunday) is the most accurate description I have seen of the federal criminal justice system, especially as it relates to so-called drug offenses. Justice Thurgood Marshall, who said he would never give a drug dealer a break, would turn in his grave if he could see the Constitution-bending results of that kind of thinking.

Now that the system is beginning to regain some sanity, we must consider the tens of thousands of prisoners who sit in prison sentenced on charges not admitted to and never heard by a jury — that is, in violation of the Sixth Amendment, as recently ruled by the Supreme Court. In fairness, their sentences should be recalculated to what they would have been if those unproved charges against them had never been made. At the barest minimum, those prisoners should be allowed to earn more than the current, and varying, limits on “good time” toward their release.

JOHN CHASE

Palm Harbor, Fla.

More ground forces

It was encouraging to find items in your paper that advocated increasing the size of the Army, especially the number of infantrymen in it (“Ground forces too small,” Op-Ed Tuesday, and “Increasing our ground forces,” Editorial, Wednesday). In World War II, our nation of 130 million produced a military of 16.1 million in service, of which 11.2 million were in the Army. Now as a nation of more than 280 million, we depend on the good graces of about 480,000 volunteers to take care of our defense. That’s embarrassing.

We talk about how expensive a larger Army would be. Some say we can’t afford it, but if we were able to produce such a large Army in the 1940s, why can’t we do it now? Were people smarter back then? Maybe they were just more dedicated.

I learned as an action officer in the Pentagon in the early 1980s that we couldn’t support a two-front war against a determined enemy with an Army of 780,000. What makes us think we can do it with an Army about half that size? Precision weapons are great, but only a fool would think we will win this war against Muslim terrorists with a bunch of bombers and a handful of special-operations soldiers with laser finders.

Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales in his Op-Ed column recommended that the Army be increased by 150,000, with most of the additional soldiers being infantrymen, which is what we really need in this international guerrilla war against Muslim terrorists. In your editorial the next day, you mentioned that Sens. John Kerry and Carl Levin suggested the number should be 40,000. I believe both figures are low if we want to win this war. You would think a nation of 280 million folks could afford an Army of at least 1 million. In 1861, citizens of this great country produced from a population of 42 million a total force of about 3.8 million (2.8 million Union and about 1 million Confederate). Of course, that was back when, as one observer put it, “ships were made of wood and men were made of steel.”

I noticed that Gen. Scales and Sens. Kerry and Levin did not mention where they plan to get these extra troops. I suppose they figure that many volunteers will come forward from somewhere, or that the Army will come up with new efficiencies. This is the “do more with less” argument. It’s worth pointing out here that doing more with less is very close to getting something for nothing. We can get some efficiencies by moving certain troops in support jobs to infantry slots, but not 150,000 or more.

Well, maybe they’ll volunteer. You might be able to get people this way if you figure out a way to motivate them, but that’s probably wishful thinking. As an old infantryman, I learned a long time ago that getting folks to volunteer is like finding roaches after you have turned on the lights. Once they figure out what the life of an infantryman is like, a few will be left standing around, but the vast majority will be gone.

I’m not confident that the citizens of our country are really all that engaged for the war on terrorism. After the September 11 attacks, we were all upset. We put flags on our cars and mailboxes and helped the victims of the attacks. However, I don’t remember armed forces recruiting stations being jammed on Sept. 12 the way they were on Dec. 8, 1941. Apparently, 3,000 civilians killed in lower Manhattan wasn’t nearly as bad as 2,400 military personnel killed at Pearl Harbor. I’m not impressed by what our citizens, our press and our government are doing to win this war. It seems that we expect wars to be handled by our all-volunteer armed forces in a few months with little or no cost or inconvenience to us.

Unless something drastic occurs, we are not going to get 150,000 troops to volunteer to be infantrymen, much less the 500,000 or so that I believe we really need to do the job right. However, some things could occur to get us the infantrymen we need. One would be reinstituting the draft, which both presidential candidates during the last campaign said would never happen — so maybe they’ll recall all of us old retired grunts. (If so, count me in.) The other would be a terrorist strike that would make September 11 look like child’s play.

Neither Adolf Hitler nor Emperor Hirohito had the capability to kill 3,000 innocent persons in the center of New York City. These terrorists did that. They also have the capability to do much worse. We didn’t find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, probably because they disappeared to parts unknown while we frittered away time trying to figure out whether, when, and how to attack Iraq. Somebody knows where that stuff is and is working as I write to employ it against us. It is this attack that might motivate us to get serious about winning the war. Perhaps we can prevent it and save several thousand lives by implementing a draft. The choice is ours. Which is worse, a draft or 25,000 dead in downtown Chicago?

I know we no longer have ships made of wood, but maybe a few men of steel are left. I hope so.

LT. COL. JOHN M. JENKINS

U.S. Army, Infantry (retired)

Aiken, S.C.

Reconsider drug policy

Doug Bandow’s outstanding review of Joel Miller’s “Bad Trip” and Jeffrey Miron’s “Drug War Crimes” (Books, Sunday) didn’t mention it, but when all types of recreational drugs were legally sold in local pharmacies for pennies per dose, the term “drug-related crime” didn’t exist.

Neither did drug lords nor even drug dealers as we know them today. These were all created by our drug-criminalization policies — not the drugs themselves. When all types of recreational drugs were legally available in local pharmacies and other licensed business establishments, deaths from recreational drugs were very rare. That’s because the drugs were of known quality, known purity and known potency. This is just the opposite of our black-market drugs of today.

Mr. Miller and Mr. Miron are right on the mark that our drug-criminalization policies are counterproductive. When marijuana was criminalized via the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, the vast majority of Americans had never heard of marijuana.

Now everybody in the United States knows what marijuana is, and our government estimates that at least 90 million Americans have used it. About half of all high school students will use it before they graduate.

People, especially children, want what they are told they cannot have. The lure of forbidden fruit is very powerful.

KIRK MUSE

Mesa, Ariz.

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