- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Honor more precious than gold

The proposal to produce the Medal of Honor in gold is the brainchild of well-meaning but vain politicians; it is not in keeping with the intent of the military honor system ("How much metal should be in a Medal of Honor?" Feb. 4). The idea behind the Medal of Honor, taken from custom and emphasized by Gen. John J. Pershing during World War I, is that military awards for valor should have little intrinsic value. (As it is, the brass medal is worth about $2.) You can't pay someone enough money to jump on a grenade or otherwise risk their lives. Rather, the motivation must come from loyalty to your comrades, and the reward (if you survive) is the gratitude and respect of those men. In addition, if the value of the Medal of Honor is increased, it is not as if that will comfort family members who mourn the numerous posthumous awardees.

A better idea would be to stop making any medals in gold and use the saved money to improve the quality of all government and military awards. Currently, most awards are cheaply made, heavily lacquered items not even suitable to put in a drawer, much less wear with pride.


Huntingdon, UK

Planned Parenthood's ill-conceived philosophy

I find it interesting that Alexander Sanger, grandson of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, smoothly diverted attention away from accusations that his grandmother was an avid racist in his Feb. 9 letter to the editor, "King and birth control." Not to get hung up on details here, but I think the social agenda of the nation's leading provider of abortion is a topic worth examining.

Mr. Sanger, chairman of the International Planned Parenthood Council, cannot escape the fact that his organization was founded by a woman who had ambitions to purify the Aryan race by weeding out what she called "ill-favored" and "dysgenic races," including blacks, Hispanics, Slavs, Jews and Catholics. Sanger also wrote that the "most devastating curse on human progress" is charity, which "encourages the perpetuation of defectives, delinquents, and dependents." Her magazine, the Birth Control Review (predecessor to the present-day Planned Parenthood Review), openly published the writings of eugenicists. She even employed the writings of Ernst Rudin, Adolf Hitler's director of genetic sterilization, in a 1933 article titled "Eugenic Sterilization: An Urgent Need."

Think that Mr. Sanger and other current-day Planned Parenthood leaders have tried to distant themselves from Margaret Sanger's radical and hateful agenda? Think again. Her ideals have been carefully slipped into the American mind-set to the extent that we hardly blink an eye at the commonplace prenatal screening used to "weed out" Down syndrome babies and other "unfit" members of society. I urge all people to re-examine the wholesome image behind which this organization hides.


Severna Park, Md.

The truth about Islam

In your Feb. 9 story "California Muslims start billboard campaign," you report, "The campaign is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation by Muslims." This is not accurate.

Since 1995, The Wisdom Fund (www.twf.org) has campaigned to present "The Truth About Islam" in The Washington Times during the Million Man March, in Washington Metrorail displays, in posters and flyers distributed all over the United States, and in magazines such as Foreign Affairs and, most recently, Teacher Magazine.


Chairman and chief executive officer

The Wisdom Fund


The importance of understanding the enemy

Frank Gaffney's Feb. 12 Commentary column, "Intelligence postmortem," makes some excellent points particularly concerning the Clinton administration's politicizing of the intelligence process and the culture of timidity that Congress and the executive branch imposed on CIA human intelligence (or humint) operations and FBI internal security efforts. These naive, often emasculating restrictions were made in the pursuit of political correctness. However, Mr. Gaffney either misses or glosses over some equally troublesome aspects of the surprise attacks of September 11.

It is unrealistic to expect any intelligence system to provide specific warning of every possible event, completely eliminating the potential for surprise. No intelligence system has ever been or will ever be able to do so. Rather, the primary focus of intelligence is to understand the enemy and to ensure that understanding is injected into the policy- and decision-making apparatus of the government. History has shown that, even when ample intelligence is made available to the decision maker, he has often either misinterpreted it or chosen to ignore it (e.g., the Soviet Union in 1941, South Korea in 1950, and even Israel in 1973). This, then, is a failure of the decision-making process, not an intelligence failure.

While there have been a number of government studies calling attention to the threat of terrorism within the continental United States, the prevailing attitude has been: "It can't happen here." It is true that there was no intelligence warning of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, but there was an intelligence warning of impending terrorist activity. It was interpreted, however, in terms of another overseas attack perhaps on another of our embassies or another U.S. Navy ship not an attack within the United States. This was less a failure in intelligence collection than a failure of intelligence analysis, of which a fundamental role is to understand the enemy. It is in this area that the intelligence community needs to focus additional resources. We must ensure that analysts understand the language and culture of the potential enemy. We are woefully lacking in this area, and it will take years of concerted effort to get to where we need to be.

As for humint, Mr. Gaffney's observations are right on the mark, but he limits them to the area of clandestine humint operations the realm of agents and recruited sources. This really is a small subset of human intelligence. Of equal (or perhaps greater) importance is to have "feet on the street" in foreign countries: State Department personnel, military attaches, and others who can observe, report, make contacts and develop expertise in those countries. Sadly, in the last two decades we have greatly reduced this overseas presence in shortsighted economic moves. If we are to develop an adequate understanding of the enemy, this is another area in which additional resources will be required.


Fairfax Station

Rear Adm. T. A. Brooks is a retired career naval intelligence officer, a former director of naval intelligence, a member of the Defense Policy Board during the Clinton administration, and a member of the Defense Science Board 1997 Summer Study Task Force on DOD Responses to Transnational Threats.

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