- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 9, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I want your readers to know that we have never been closer in our battle to return to the people the right to protect Old Glory. As you know, the flag amendment passed the House for the sixth time last June. And right now, we are within one vote in the Senate. One vote.

The leadership of the Senate failed to get us a vote in the 108th Congress, but Sen. Bill Frist has promised a vote in this session. In fact, he has given us a date — the week of 26 June.

As we near the vote, we can expect the long knives in the media to begin a rabid disinformation campaign. In their passion to protect flag burners, they rant that the flag amendment will violate the free speech of flag burners and will amend for the first time the Bill of Rights. Had they read the amendment, they would realize it does neither, and this is a very important point.

It says simply, “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.” The flag amendment does not say thou shalt not burn the flag; it says thou shalt not call flag-burning speech. The flag amendment does not protect the flag; it simply clears the minefield the Supreme Court has laid around flag protection.

There can be no flag-protection law unless and until the Congress passes a flag-protection amendment. This point is vital and it makes indefensible the position of those who propose a flag law in place of the flag amendment to protect Old Glory.

Clearly some who propose a flag law instead of the flag amendment are pandering. They do this knowing full well that the court has made it very clear they will ban such laws and has done so. They also know that their colleagues will vote down their statute and have done so. Yet they persist, pandering to both sides, using a statute to claim to constituents that they support flag protection.

Interestingly, on the day after the Supreme Court legalized flag burning in 1989, some of these same senators voted for a resolution which said: “The act of desecrating the flag is clearly not ‘speech’ as protected by the First Amendment.” That resolution passed without dissent. There is no way around it. A statute will not pass the court until the flag amendment is ratified.

Very few Americans, many of them in the media, believe that flag burning is “speech.” It is also true that any senator who sincerely believes that our flag should be protected by statute will vote for the flag amendment, the whole purpose of which is to clear the way for a flag-protection law. We need one vote, one senator to cast that vote and become a hero to our Constitution and millions of Americans.

Sincerely,

Retired Maj. Gen. Patrick H. Brady, Army

Board chairman, Citizens Flag Alliance

Dear General:

The 99th Congress passed House Joint Resolution 424, which was signed by President Reagan on Dec. 17, 1985, designating 1986 as the year to study the flag and its history, and to display the flag more often as we approached the bicentennial of the Constitution of the United States. Following is an excerpt from Public Law 94-33:

“That Congress declares the twenty-one days from Flag Day through Independence Day as a period to honor America, that there be public gatherings and activities at which the people can celebrate and honor their country in an appropriate manner.”

I can think of no more appropriate gesture during this period for the Senate to vote on and pass this long-overdue amendment.

Shaft notes

It is about time that Congress pass H.R. 34, a bill introduced by Rep. Walter B. Jones, North Carolina Republican, to change the name of the secretary of the Navy to the secretary of the Navy and Marine Corps. This was among the first measures introduced in the 109th Congress and is similar to a bill introduced by Mr. Jones in the 108th Congress.

This proposal would highlight the role of the Marine Corps as an equal member of the armed services in the eyes of our citizens who have always admired Marines for the dedication and loyalty to the nation. The commandant of the Marine Corps is a permanent member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is sufficient justification to recognize the Corps as an armed service equal to the task of providing its opinion and recommendations on joint and combined operations with the Army, Navy and Air Force. The Corps’ participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom prove again the Corps merits this recognition.

The Corps has filled a unique niche in our nation’s history not duplicated by any of the other armed services. As Joseph L. Barnes, national executive secretary of the Fleet Reserve Association, has stated: “The Corps, as the second most senior armed service, should receive the honor it truly deserves — equitable distinction among the military departments in the U.S. defense structure.”

• Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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