Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Beware of man

Obviously it’s not just anthrax-laden mail that certain Americans are concerned of coming into contact with. It’s anthrax-contaminated mailmen.

“U.S. POSTAL PERSONNEL: DO NOT Go Past Mailbox. Stay Off Grass & Front Porch,” warns the ominous sign that has gone up outside a home in Bridgeville, Del., just after a 94-year-old Connecticut widow died last week from anthrax exposure.

This columnist’s brother, former Capitol Hill aide Mark McCaslin, who snapped today’s photograph, says he watched as the owner of the home erected the sign, then disappeared behind his front door, where a final warning is posted for any mailmen who stray too far.

There is no proof whatsoever that the deceased widow, Ottilie Lundgren, came in contact with anthrax-contaminated mail. Tests of her mail, mailbox and garbage revealed no traces of deadly anthrax spores.

JFK, RFK and Trent

In what is being called a “a disgraceful episode in American history,” a new book charges that President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy secretly approved the forced segregation of nearly 4,000 black U.S. Army troops during the little-known combat rescue of riot-torn Oxford, Miss., in the fall of 1962.

Author William Doyle, who wrote the 1999 best seller “Inside the Oval Office,” uncovered the segregation order while researching his new book, “An American Insurrection: The Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, 1962” (Doubleday).

He details a Sept. 27, 1962, meeting in the attorney general’s office, where RFK approved a plan to “pre-segregate” almost 4,000 black soldiers out of a force of 20,000 regular U.S. Army troops. The troops were preparing to stage a lightning invasion to enforce a federal court order to the University of Mississippi to admit its first known black student, James Meredith.

An Army document obtained by Mr. Doyle reveals that President Kennedy discussed the across-the-board segregation policy with Pentagon officials on Oct. 3, 1962.

“The Kennedys approved the segregation,” Mr. Doyle asserts, “to avoid the political embarrassment of having black troops with high-powered rifles patrolling the streets of America’s most segregated state.”

The author says the order was confirmed by the scores of black and white Army veterans he interviewed through this year. They recalled disbelief, written protests, shouting matches and even a soldiers’ riot that nearly erupted over the order.

One black sergeant of the 101st Airborne, Mr. Doyle says, “relayed the order to his men with tears in his eyes.” While at Fort Bragg, N.C., white officers of the 503rd Military Police Battalion tore up the order and threw it into a trash can, he says.

“The order violated nearly 14 years of Army practice since President Truman’s 1948 executive order desegregating the U.S. military,” charges Mr. Doyle.

Intriguingly, the book contains FBI and Pentagon documents detailing a surprise raid on Oct. 1, 1962, by troops of the 716th Military Police Battalion on the Sigma Nu house, the fraternity presided over by chapter President Trent Lott, currently the U.S. Senate’s minority leader from Mississippi.

Inside the frat house, the MPs seized and removed a total of 24 weapons: 21 shotguns, a .22 rifle, a .30 rifle and a .22 Colt pistol.

Mr. Lott, who declined to be interviewed by the author, had no immediate comment when we rang yesterday.

Try Tahiti

Americans who had hoped to spend the holidays in Afghanistan might want to consider someplace warmer.

The State Department has just gotten around to issuing a new travel advisory, dated Nov. 23, that “strongly warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan.”

“This supersedes the Department of State Travel Warning for Afghanistan issued December 12, 2000, to update the information on the security situation in Afghanistan,” the advisory states.

The new warning explains “U.S. forces are engaged in military action against the remnants of the Taliban regime and the terrorist Al-Qaida network. Afghan opponents of the Taliban regime are also engaged in military operations in several parts of the country. Travel in all areas of Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul and all major cities, is unsafe due to military operations, banditry, and the possibility of unrest given the fluid political and military situation.”

Several foreign journalists have been murdered in Afghanistan in recent weeks, while the advisory notes “an estimated 5 to 7 million land mines are scattered throughout the countryside and pose a danger to travelers.”

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has been closed since 1989, and no other diplomatic mission represents U.S. interests or provides consular services.

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