- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

The French were our enemy first

In his column Friday, Wesley Pruden claimed that the last time the French helped America was during the French and Indian War ("A president woos, best not to watch," Nation). Actually, the French were our enemy during that conflict, and we fought them alongside our then-fellow British subjects.

The French first helped Americans when we took arms against their British foes during the War for Independence. In 1781, they provided a substantial force of infantry and artillery under Gen. Rochambeau, which helped ensure the defeat of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown. That was, in effect, the last battle of the conflict that began in 1775 at Lexington, Mass. However, it was the French naval fleet under Adm. de Grasse that defeated the British navy off the entrance to Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake Bay, thereby preventing reinforcements from relieving Cornwallis.

Apart from this oversight, however, it was a fine column.


ROD CLARKE

Alexandria, Va.

Wrong choice

One had better not ask where Editor at Large Arnaud de Borchgrave received his "classic" education, but it certainly was not at Cambridge.

In "The new Afghanistan" (Commentary, Monday), he claims "Hobson's choice" is a choice "between two dangers, either of which is difficult to avoid without encountering the other." Au contraire.

A certain Mr. Hobson hired out horses from a stable behind Christ's College in Cambridge, in a street that still bears his name. Those wanting a horse had to take the one closest to the door, hence "Hobson's choice" was no choice: It was like the "choice" given to old-time Ford customers who were able to get a car in any color they liked so long as it was black.


GABRIEL ROTH

Chevy Chase, Md.

The first shots of WWII

Since the discovery of the Japanese minisub sunk by the USS Ward, both the news media and historians have been reporting that the United States fired the first shot in the war between Japan and the United States. This includes The Washington Times ("Answers for Day of Infamy," Page 1, Friday).

In fact, the Japanese fired the first shots of their war against the United States a little more than four years before Pearl Harbor. On Dec. 12, 1937, 15 Japanese bombers attacked and sank the USS Panay, a shoal-draft river gunboat, as it was escorting three Standard Oil river barges up the Yangtze River away from what was to be the battle and rape of Nanking. Japanese planes strafed the lifeboats on their way to shore and even combed the reeds along the riverbank for survivors.

Anxious to avoid a war for which it was not prepared, the United States accepted an apology and small indemnity for the survivors' families. Though the Japanese claimed the attack was an accident, a U.S. Naval Board of Inquiry, among others, deemed the attack intentional.

A more detailed account of the attack may be found in Volume 3 of "History of the United States Naval Operations in World War II" by Samuel Eliot Morison.


JONATHAN E. GRANT

Silver Spring, Md.

A 'chilling effect' on the exchange of ideas

Friday's article about Colorado College's choice of speakers for its symposium on the anniversary of September 11 illustrates that the college's critics are missing the point ("College rapped for 9/11 speaker," Page 2). At issue is freedom of speech and the right to hear diverse and competing viewpoints, no matter how objectionable.

This is the heart of our liberal arts and sciences educational mission and a concrete example of what academic freedom is all about. These are fundamental democratic rights that Americans, before September 11 and in the year since have given their lives to protect.

Hanan Ashrawi will provide one of 20 viewpoints over the course of three days. Our symposium, "September 11 One Year Later: Responding to Global Challenges," is about a lot more than the Middle East. The symposium addresses the hard political, philosophical and social issues facing us since September 11, not the terrorist attacks themselves or even peacemaking in the Middle East.

Colorado College is not the first institution to play host to Mrs. Ashrawi in the aftermath of September 11. The White House welcomed her in November. She spoke at George Mason University that same month. Nor is Colorado College the only academic institution to play host to her this September. She has other speaking engagements in Colorado immediately after our symposium.

If Mrs. Ashrawi seeks to justify terrorism, I would expect her to be vigorously challenged by those who hear her. That is as it should be whether it is on Sept. 12 or Feb. 12.


RICHARD F. CELESTE

President

Colorado College

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Live and let Di

I have questions about the article about the British public assigning greater importance to Princess Diana's death than to world-changing events of the past 100 years ("Britain's memories of Diana subdued," World, Sunday): Where was this information collected, and who on earth supplied it?

It has been said that there are more fools per square mile in London than anywhere else in Great Britain, and many believe that this was proved by the hysterical display of crowd emotion during the period of Diana's death and funeral. The media shamelessly promoted this reaction, resulting in the easily impressionable being goaded into displaying public "sorrow" and contributing flowers in memory of someone they did not know and never could have known in their wildest dreams.

The majority of the British kept silent, watching with some discomfort the show of unstable behavior and refraining from criticism, fearing an assault from those hyping the "show." Yet, according to the poll cited in the article, Britons rate the death of a divorced princess the most noteworthy event in twentieth century British history. This seems rather unrepresentative of the national will.

By the way, I notice that it has become a custom to mark any and every sad event by leaving bunches of flowers. It would be much more meaningful to donate the value of those flowers to a charity, but of course, florists would not agree.


BRUCE BARRON

Nairn, Highlands

United Kingdom


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