- The Washington Times - Friday, December 26, 2003

Updating military law

Wow, talk about your heroes (“West would make ‘sacrifice’ again,” Page 1, Dec. 19). Lt. Col. Allen B. West sacrificed his brilliant military career to protect the lives of the men and women under his command, and for this heroic act, he subsequently was fined and forced into retirement.

Almost certainly his act did save lives, and almost certainly he knew at the time he committed it that the penalty would be severe. How can this be? a fair-minded person would ask.

The problem was that Col. West and his superiors had few rational alternatives under the military’s bible of laws, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). But save a huge outcry of public support, Col. West’s punishment under this outmoded code could have been worse

In basic military training, one learns that the UCMJ is an extreme interpretation of law that goes far beyond anything we have in our civil and criminal justice systems, erring on the side of administering harsh and extreme punishment for even the most minor offenses, with little regard or concern for the intent or rights of the accused.

Although Col. West is graciously accepting of his punishment and probably will enjoy his retirement with full military benefits, I remain outraged. Col. West should have been honored for his bravery by the military, instead of being threatened with a court-martial and dismissal from the Army. Another outrage is that America lost the loyal service of Col. West, who is exactly the kind of brave soldier and leader I want on the ground in our military protecting the lives of their troops as they fight together to defend our security, liberty and freedom.

The events of September 11 have caused us to review and change the rules for dealing with aircraft hijackings and many other policies and procedures for dealing with terrorists in a new, more dangerous world. Accordingly, isn’t it time we stopped challenging the Patriot Act and got to work updating the outmoded UCMJ to serve the best interests of all our citizens today and into the future?

MORGAN L. BEATTY

San Rafael, Calif.

The future of the papacy

In regard to Tuesday’s editorial “Electing the next pope”: It appears that you have swallowed the politically correct line on Pope John Paul II hook, line and sinker. This “conservative” pope has condemned the death penalty, pleaded for peaceful resolution of Middle Eastern conflicts and excoriated capitalism for un-Christian inequities in the distribution of resources and wealth. He has sought reconciliation with Jews and reached out ecumenically to other Christian communities. He has revamped the membership of the College of Cardinals in terms of both age and, as your editorial indicates, attitude.

Yet, because John Paul has refused to yield to liberal opinion on today’s hot-button issues of abortion and homosexuality, the liberal community condemns him as a reactionary conservative.

ROGER K. LAYMAN

Bowie

I am writing this note of disgruntlement over the editorial “Electing the next pope.”

As a Roman Catholic and an ardent admirer of Pope John Paul II, I, too, am interested in how the next papal enclave will play out. I even expect to read many ruminations on what will happen, but I did not expect to read this kind of speculation from The Washington Times. What was most objectionable about this article was the pigeonholing in which the writer indulged to paint a dire picture of the election. Perhaps the writer considers himself a “conservative” Catholic and is worried about the future direction of the church. If so, the descriptions of the beliefs he thinks the cardinals hold and the spin he placed on the future direction of the church implied by those beliefs are clear signs that the writer believes that the same Holy Spirit that provided us with Pope John Paul II will somehow let the church down with the next election.

As a Catholic, I expect to find little concordance with the editorial stands of the majority of what pass for “major media” today, for they continue to promote the secularity and relativistic values that make America the moral vacuum it is becoming. I enjoyed reading The Times because the worldview is typically more positive and hopeful, and the usual liberal cliches are at least questioned, if not flatly disproved.

Perhaps we will not get a pope with the stature of John Paul II; perhaps we will get one who exceeds the expectations John Paul’s exemplary papacy has provided.

The whole process is the business of the Holy Spirit, and I have no cause to distrust Him, regardless of the political speculations that may arise over the next papal election. I wonder how anyone can consider himself Catholic when indulging in such dark speculation over the future of the church. The heart of the gospel of Christ’s church is hope, but the editorial was an exercise in the kind of world-weary cynicism that is the hallmark of the rest of the major media. How disappointing to see The Times resort to such hopelessness.

JOHN HARRISON

Kansas City, Mo.

In need of a little soap?

In regard to Tuesday’s Page One article “Candidates’ curses stir debate”: Although the political climate may be changing, I don’t think you can attribute that to the fact that the Democratic candidates for president are cursing more today than before.

The real and obvious reason for the increase in cursing by the candidates is that they are doing anything they can for attention. They are losing an uphill battle amongst themselves and with President Bush.

No publicity is bad publicity, and I believe we will see more of this sad attempt to make news. I guess the saddest thing of it all is that none of the Democratic candidates have ever really been news. The only news has been that no one really cares for any of them — that is, among those who even know who they are.

BRANDON KORAB

Kirkland, Wash.

Stephen Dinan clearly has a selective sense of etiquette. While quoting the ever-popular “some observers” in accusing two Democratic presidential candidates of reaching “new lows in coarseness,” he fails to offer even a cursory “tut-tut” to one of George W. Bush’s more profane moments.

A comparison of the words at issue may prove instructive. Wesley Clark’s comment was uttered sotto voce to a single individual at a campaign event, and the C-SPAN cameras happened to record the moment. Sen. John Kerry’s remark was intended for the pages of Rolling Stone, a magazine with a target audience not unfamiliar with the senator’s verb selection. Each was chastised by the reporter for having a “potty mouth.”

President Bush, on the other hand, reportedly used the f word about Saddam Hussein in March 2002 when he stepped in on a meeting National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was holding with several senators. Mr. Dinan was not offended.

Apparently, Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment (never speak ill of a fellow Republican) finally has usurped impartiality at The Washington Times.

SCOTT KENYON

Vienna

I guess it was a natural outcome. Why is anyone shocked when John Kerry uses the f word in an interview and Gen. Clark throws out the s word? I can see these guys as president, “Hey, North Korea, remove the … atom bombs or I’ll kick the … out of you.”

That’s the stuff of grade school playgrounds, not the White House.

WILLIAM KERCHER

Vancouver, Wash.


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