- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 9, 2002

Readers oppose Anaconda critics, publication of story in Times

I respect The Washington Times but question your judgment in reporting that military officers are criticizing the handling of the battle of Gardez ("Military officers criticize rush to use ground troops," March 7). As the battle is still unfolding, it is much too early for any professional soldier to be criticizing his own colleagues.


Sacramento, Calif.

The Washington Times front-page story "Military officers criticize rush to use ground troops" reports the opinion of an unnamed senior Air Force officer. We do not need this type of journalism at this point in the war against terrorism. In particular, your use of unnamed sources to criticize our military calls into question your judgment.

As a Korean War veteran, I fully understand the danger of any military operation, and my heart goes out to the young volunteers who are putting their lives in danger for the safety of our country.


Lodi, Calif.

Your Air Force officer contact's comments anonymous, of course border on treason. It is well-known that tactical decisions are made in-field. Second-guessing by career-oriented bootlickers is unnecessary.

It is one thing to criticize a campaign in a positive and constructive manner, after it is over. It is quite another thing to make such criticisms as the battle continues.


Racine, Wis.

It is reprehensible that an officer in a uniformed service of the United States would use the deaths of U.S. servicemen in a blatant attempt to enhance his service's share of the Pentagon budget.

The air campaigns in the Gulf War and Kosovo would not have been so effective if it had not been for our own and our allies' Special Operations troops on the ground lazing the targets for the Air Force's "smart bombs."

As a former officer with three years of ground combat experience in Vietnam, I am disgusted that this unnamed Air Force officer would stoop so low. He implies that, had the Air Force only been allowed to come into play in Somalia in 1993, the 18 Special Operations troops who were killed would still be alive. In addition, he indicates that the troops recently killed in Afghanistan would be alive today if the Air Force had been allowed to work its magic.

This is a pure, unadulterated grab for more of the Pentagon budget. This officer and the Air Force should issue an apology to the Army and the families of those troops who gave their lives in Somalia and Operation Anaconda.


Vista, Calif.

Ground troops essential to Anaconda strategy

In your March 7 story, "Military officers criticize rush to use ground troops," you quote an unnamed Air Force official who is quick to condemn the use of conventional ground forces in Afghanistan.

"Smash them with bombers" is the Air Force's answer to everything. Bombing is a good tactic, but it doesn't fit the Gardez scenario.

If we were to continue using an air campaign with only proxy ground forces, we would be bolstering Osama bin Laden's belief that we lack guts. This, in turn, would enhance al Qaeda's morale and encourage others in the Muslim world to support bin Laden.

Closing in on the enemy and killing him at close range sends a clear message to bin Laden and his followers: We have the courage and fortitude to destroy them, even if it comes at a price. This will demoralize al Qaeda and discourage its supporters.

Putting combat troops on the battlefield also takes advantage of al Qaeda's obsessive desire to kill Americans. At Tora Bora, they slipped quietly away from the Air Force bombing because there was no reason to remain and resist the assault. At Gardez, in contrast, al Qaeda forces appear to be driven by their desire to kill U.S. troops. The presence of our ground force has given them a reason to remain and fight. This makes their otherwise scattered, elusive guerrilla force an easily targeted and destroyed light infantry force. Once they attack us head on, we can crush them with our superior firepower.

In the 1968 Tet Offensive, the Viet Cong fought toe-to-toe with U.S. forces. This is a good example of how a guerrilla force essentially commits suicide when it throws itself against a superior force. Although the Vietnam War continued after Tet, that was the result of a massive infusion of North Vietnamese conventional troops; al Qaeda has no such reinforcements.

Finally, we have relied on Afghan ground forces since October. We would eventually lose credibility with these tenuous allies if we did not take some of the risks ourselves.

Your Air Force sources miss the strategic point that it is sometimes necessary to put men at risk on the ground to defeat the enemy. Our Clinton-era reluctance to slug it out on the ground at close range emboldened bin Laden.

The impotent cruise missile strikes against supposed aspirin factories and tents were seen as symbols of our lack of moral resolve. Bin Laden (and much of the Muslim world) interpreted our reluctance as a sign of weakness, cowardice and fear.

The battle at Gardez may not win the war, but it will go a long way to discourage those sympathetic with bin Laden from joining the fight. Although the loss of U.S. men at Gardez saddens me, I believe it is necessary if we are to defeat this enemy and limit the spread of bin Laden's corrosive philosophy.



In Tora Bora, we learned that bombing did little or no significant damage to caves. Using the same tactic at Gardez would be similarly ineffective. Those tactics are precisely the reason the current battle is taking place.

As for the Pentagon civilians who your unnamed source claims are upset, they are administrative personnel. They should mind their own business and stop trying to manage the battlefield. These are the same type of people responsible for the fiasco in Somalia, and now they have the audacity to compare this battle to Mogadishu in 1993?

If politicians and Pentagon civilians are allowed to interfere in Operation Anaconda, it will surely not end well.


Springfield, Mo.

Editorial underestimates Virginia tax increase

Your March 6 editorial "The Virginia referendum sham" proves that the tax-increase disinformation campaign is working beyond the most fervent tax-and-spenders' wildest expectations they were able to fool even The Washington Times.

The editorial mentioned that "The Senate has approved a statewide sales-tax referendum to increase the 4.5-percent sales tax by a half percent to pay for education and to permit Northern Virginia voters to decide on yet another half-percent increase for transportation."

Have you been using public-school "new math"? My old slide rule tells me that an increase from a 4.5 percent rate to a 5 percent rate is an 11 percent tax increase. The full percentage-point raise would be a 22 percent tax increase.

Many people (like myself) who would pay little attention to a 1 percent tax-rate increase will not soon forget the politicians pushing for double-digit tax-rate increases.



Norton abandons Bush country

Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton's March 5 Op-Ed column, "Era of citizen conservationists," glosses over the assault on private property rights and rural communities included in the Department of the Interior's current budget proposals.

Mrs. Norton proposes to cut nearly $50 million from the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which will severely damage local government budgets in many rural areas.

When the federal government gobbles up land, that property is taken off the property tax rolls the feds do not pay property taxes to counties or cities. In many areas of the country, especially out west, the federal government is the dominant property owner, owning more than three-quarters of the land in many counties. PILT replaces a part of the tax revenue lost due to federal land grabs. It is an important part of many county budgets.

That $50 million will go instead to federal agencies for "partnership-based land enhancement." This is a euphemism for the power-hungry Interior Department mafia making landowners "an offer they can't refuse."

It goes like this: The feds work in collusion with environmentalists to discover or plant endangered species on someone's land. Then they threaten to shut down all use of the property unless the landowner "voluntarily" agrees to join in a "partnership" with the feds, which entails severe limitations on land use.

The brainchild of this program is Karl Hess, an extreme preservationist who led the attack against the Republican Contract With America when Republicans took control of Congress in 1995. Incredibly, Mr. Hess is now on the Interior Department's payroll as a top aide to Mrs. Norton.

Mrs. Norton is certainly seeking, as she states, to "put cooperation ahead of conflict." Unfortunately, Mrs. Norton is doing so by pushing aside the small towns and rural communities that voted for President Bush, capitulating to the environmental movement's insatiable demand for taxpayer funds.

Selling out your core constituency and financing your enemies is not a good formula for success.


Executive director

American Land Rights Association

Battle Ground, Wash.

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