- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 22, 2001

Columnist confused about censorship

Columnist Cal Thomas vituperatively accuses gay rights groups of "intolerance and bigotry" because of their campaign to derail Dr. Laura Schlessingers TV show ("Censored not in the lexicon," Commentary, April 8).

Yet when Southern Baptists boycotted Disney in 1997, he extolled them.

"It´s encouraging that at least one (denomination) is willing to suffer ridicule from the elites on a matter of principle," he wrote in a June 1997 column about the Southern Baptist Convention´s action ("Dissension over Disney," Commentary, June 25, 1997).

The immediate reason for the boycott was Disney´s decision to offer domestic-partner benefits to its gay employees. But as Mr. Thomas pointed out, the Southern Baptist Convention´s broader goal was to protest the "product and some policies coming out of Disney´s world, a world of fantasy and joy created by the father of modern entertainment, Walt Disney."

In other words, Southern Baptists are principled when they exercise their right to speak up, but gay rights activists are intolerant and bigoted.


ALAN L. LIGHT

Iowa City, Iowa






In his April 8 Commentary column, Cal Thomas equates state-sponsored censorship with the cancellation of Dr. Laura Schlessinger´s TV show.

"Although the Founders specifically prohibited Congress from making any law that would limit press freedom," he says, "court decisions have expanded that right to include virtually any kind of expression except one." That "one" kind of expression to which Mr. Thomas refers, I presume, is of the politically incorrect variety.

The cancellation of a TV show, however, is hardly a First Amendment issue, nor is it censorship properly understood. Paramount Television was compelled to cancel the show not by any branch of government but by poor ratings and lack of sponsorship due at least in part to the vocal opposition of the gay rights community.

True censorship is state sponsored. Dr. Laura´s cancellation was due to corporate self-interest.

For groups of citizens to freely organize and protest is a First Amendment right. Unfortunately for Dr. Laura, to have your own TV show is not.


THOMAS DACRE

Greenville, Texas

Israeli prime minister has shown pattern of disregard for human life

Your April 17 story, "Israeli attacks increase tensions," mentions that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon " has a history of military involvement in Lebanon. As Israels defense minister in 1982, he engineered an invasion of the tiny country aimed at quashing PLO guerrillas who had used south Lebanon as a launching pad for attacks on the Jewish state."

You left out one thing. In September of that same year, he was responsible for the massacre of thousands of innocent Palestinian refugees living in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. I believe this also falls under his "military involvement" in Lebanon.

Judging from his latest blitz in Gaza (of which your newspaper has made little mention), at least we can say he´s consistent in his disregard for human life. Israel is now in the unenviable position of having elected as its prime minister a man who should be a convicted war criminal.

Depending on what the future brings, the Hague may still make an entry in his resume.


MYRIAM HAMDALLAH

Washington

Personal attacks cannot tarnish career of Pentagon aide

Stephen E. Herbits does not need a Marine such as myself to come to his defense against the "personal attack" story "Gay Pentagon aides naming irks right" (Nation, April 13). He has served this nation in a civilian capacity with distinction for more than 30 years.

At age 26, Mr. Herbits was one of the brilliant behind-the-scenes architects of President Nixon´s 1969 Gates Commission, which developed a plan to move from conscription to an all-volunteer military. He also happens to be one of the key people who helped Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney assemble one of the most talented Pentagon staffs in 1989 having served a previous secretary of defense equally well a decade earlier.

From initial results, it is clear Mr. Herbits is bringing his considerable talents to bear in helping Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with the extremely difficult job of recruiting the caliber of leaders necessary to transform the Pentagon for the 21st century.

I had the privilege of working with Mr. Herbits when I was the staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee when Sen. Sam Nunn was chairman. On the first occasion, Mr. Herbits worked with the committee as Mr. Cheney was setting up his Pentagon. A highly successful businessman in his own right, Mr. Herbits was thoughtful and informed in his approach to all matters, producing the desired results in an effective manner.

On the second occasion, the Clinton administration attempted to lift the ban on homosexuals serving in the military. Mr. Nunn, myself and others were strongly opposed to this attempt, and our position was ultimately codified in the law. Mr. Herbits was most helpful to me in helping the committee to understand how to craft a series of hearings to insure all viewpoints were heard and respected without the emotionalism exhibited in your article.

I remain strongly opposed to lifting the ban on homosexuals serving in the military and am not aware of any serious effort either in the administration or in Congress to change that. The writer of the column is painting shadows.

I certainly don´t agree with the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, who says that Mr. Herbits´ service is a "slap in the face" to our service personnel.

I have had the great privilege of serving in uniform for more than 32 years, and I look forward to serving for several more. One of the genuine rewards of service is seeing that our military protects the rights and freedoms of patriotic Americans such as Mr. Herbits, who continues to make significant contributions to our national defense just like my father did by fighting in World War II.

I am greatly reassured that Mr. Herbits is assisting Mr. Rumsfeld with key personnel, organizational and other decisions. The nation and our military will be better for it.


MAJ. GEN. ARNOLD PUNARO

U.S. Marine Corps Reserve

McLean

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