- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2000

Book review a politically correct critique of Kipling

Martin Rubin's review of Harry Ricketts' "Rudyard Kipling: A Life" ("English writer who lost a following," Books, April 30) begins with promise but quickly descends into the political correctness he initially decries.

Mr. Rubin calls Kipling a "bigot" and a "jingo," and asks why "his own experience of oppression [did] not create in him … more sympathy with the oppressed and downtrodden." Mr. Rubin praises Kipling's artistry and even acknowledges that Kipling's greatest works actually do not support his own charges, but unwilling to draw the only fair conclusion, he falls back on the stock image of Kipling as a racist imperialist.

Kipling's own words shatter that false image. In "The Ballad of East and West," he writes, "But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face, tho' they come from the ends of the earth!" "Gunga Din," about an Indian water carrier who saves a soldier's life, ends with, "You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!" And in "Mandalay," another soldier pines for Burma, saying, "I've a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!"

These are not the sentiments of a racist or a bigot, and Kipling's work is full of sympathy for individual human beings in all sorts of circumstances. "Kim," for instance, can only be described as a loving portrait of India and all of its enormous variety of people, including the most downtrodden.

Finally, anybody who thinks that Kipling was insensitive to the horrors of war has never read "The Children." This powerful poem has to be read in full to be appreciated, but here are a few lines:

That flesh we had nursed from the first in all cleanness was given

To corruption unveiled and assailed by the malice of Heaven …

To be senselessly tossed and retossed in stale mutilation

From crater to crater. For this we shall take expiation.

But who shall return us our children?

Unfortunately, Mr. Rubin and presumably Mr. Ricketts fail to see the larger truth about Kipling's reputation, which is that Kipling became the scapegoat for the supposed failings of the British Empire.

Kipling's views are assumed to correspond to the Empire's sins, and he is never judged on his own merits or on the full record. Their assessment of him as a great artist is correct, but only half of the truth.



Why hasn't this Congress used its powers against this president?

Rep. Tom DeLay's May 1 Op-Ed column criticizing President Clinton and his administration's illegal seizure of Elian Gonzalez correctly raises the question, "[W]hat kind of world view … allows educated adults to deny an innocent boy freedom and call it justice?" ("The federal protection farce")

One need only a modicum of knowledge of the Constitution and Bill of Rights to understand the perversion of the founding principles this president has perpetrated on this nation. Americans who understand those principles must have a feeling of deja vu seeing Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burns.

Unfortunately, Mr. DeLay doesn't get a free ride on this issue. The Constitution divides our government into three self-balancing branches. Where has Congress been while this president has subverted justice for more than seven years? Where has Congress been when this president has lied, committed perjury, obstructed justice or committed any of the other abuses of power for which he has become famous?

You don't have to impeach a president to keep the executive branch under control.

Congress has the power of appropriations. The Senate has approval power on appointments to high offices and to the judiciary. Yet Congress has never used these powers to rein in this administration. Congress has never withheld funds from the Justice Department (or any other department) despite clear indications of corruption and a willingness to obstruct justice to cover for this president. The Senate routinely has approved the appointment of virtually all nominees this president has submitted.

I can't help but see a little hypocrisy in Mr. DeLay's finger pointing when Congress itself has done such a miserable job protecting us from such an abusive president. Most people don't expect better from this president, but they certainly expected better from Congress.



Letter on Agent Orange was 'insensitive' and 'divisive'

Credible scientific debate can advance our understanding of complex scientific questions. However, the letter by Steven Milloy and Michael Gough regarding the placement of a plaque honoring Vietnam veterans who died as a result of diseases linked with Agent Orange exposure and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was insensitive and divisive ("Will a memorial to Chunky Monkey be next?" April 30).

We debated the merits of dismissing the letter summarily vs. seizing this opportunity to enlighten the Mr. Milloy and Mr. Gough regarding the importance of accurately researching the issue at hand and reporting their findings in an unbiased and scientific manner.

When scientists publish their research in peer-reviewed scientific journals, they usually are required to disclose funding sources and potential conflicts of interest so that the readers will be able to judge for themselves the scientific integrity of the work. We are independent researchers on the faculty of the University of Texas School of Public Health. We are funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health to examine questions regarding health effects among Vietnam veterans from 2,3,7,8 tetrachlorodibenzo-p dioxin (TCDD) exposure.

One of us (Anne Sweeney) served on the EPA's 1993 Dioxin Peer Review Panel. As of this date, the EPA has not released the final TCDD assessment document, although Mr. Milloy and Mr. Gough claim the EPA's Scientific Advisory Board concluded that dioxin "caused no health effects except for a skin disease seen at very high levels of exposure." In 1997, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified TCDD as a Group 1 human carcinogen. In addition, the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) Committee to Review the Health Effects of Herbicide Exposure in Vietnam Veterans has listed the following disease entities as having sufficient evidence of a significant association with TCDD exposure: soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's disease lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and chloracne. Furthermore, the IOM found limited/suggestive evidence of a significant association with TCDD exposure for respiratory cancer (larynx, lung and trachea), prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, spina bifida among the offspring of veterans, acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy and porphyria cutanea tarda. The secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs determined that the weight of the evidence was sufficient to compensate Vietnam veterans for the above 10 conditions as service-connected effects.

The reality is that the questions regarding health effects associated with TCDD exposure are extremely complex. We know that many diseases result from gene-environment interactions, and we are beginning to examine genetic susceptibility to adverse effects from environmental agents as one explanation of apparently contradictory findings in earlier studies. Moreover, sample size and selection and crude exposure assessment have been major limitations in previous studies of the prevalence and degree of TCDD exposure, as well as health effects from that exposure, among Vietnam veterans. As science continues the often slow and painstaking progress toward an accurate assessment of these issues, let us not err on the side of flippancy and arrogance in considering the appropriateness of honoring those Vietnam veterans whose deaths occur after the war has ended but that nonetheless well may be service-connected.



University of Texas School of Public Health



Assistant professor

University of Texas School of Public Health


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