- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

Heavens no, it's not a 'gay plague'

I'm sorry to see Jerry Thacker step down from the AIDS commission just because his critics can't tolerate the remark he made quite accurately that AIDS is, above all, a "gay plague" ("AIDS panel nominee withdraws," Page 1, Friday). The entire history of this disease, at least in America, has proven it to be so. And the White House never should have rebuked Mr. Thacker for his truthfulness and candor.
That HIV/AIDS is a plague among the homosexual community is undeniable. Why else would there be so much demand among homosexuals and their supporters for ever more funding to find the cure of this one disease? "AIDS quilts" and signs reading "Silence = Death" aren't being waved by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Both are singular features of homosexual activists' anti-AIDS campaign. If the disease weren't such a concern to them, there would not be such attention focused on it. Others outside this group, like Mr. Thacker himself, are the truly innocent victims of AIDS collateral damage, if you will. They didn't invite the disease by risky behavior, but had the misfortune of being infused with infected blood in the 1980s before the blood supply was screened. This is not to say that gays with HIV/AIDS deserve what they get. No, but when you light enough cherry bombs, chances are one eventually will explode in your hand.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gather statistics on diseases and report the facts without regard to who may be offended by them. They use an entirely objective term for homosexuals, "MSM" ("men who have sex with men"), and the numbers on AIDS don't lie: HIV/AIDS infection remains far more prevalent among white MSM than any other group. Doesn't this suggest that AIDS is a disease that most affects homosexuals, hence, a "gay plague"?

JACK WEBB
Fairfax

Provocateurs, not professionals

The article "Judge doesn't swallow suit about fat children" (Page 1, Thursday) contains an anti-fast food quote by Mindy Kursban, chief attorney for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which the article identifies as "a Washington-based group that monitors consumers' eating habits."
Why didn't the article describe this group for what it is? PCRM is not a professional medical group, but an extremist animal-rights organization that promotes a vegan lifestyle and seeks to end all uses of animals, both culinary and medical. (Currently, PCRM is passing itself off as a "nutritional expert.") PCRM acts as "medical spokesman" for PETA, with which it shares a nonprofit foundation. Only about 5 percent of its members are physicians, and the American Medical Association has denounced it as an "animal rights front organization."
The article correctly identified the pro-fast food Center for Consumer Freedom as an organization funded by the food and beverage industry. Why not tell the public that PCRM is more than a group that just "monitors eating habits."

SUE CONE
Livingston, N.J.

Putting ideology before methodology

Columnist Tod Lindberg claims that President Bush's approval ratings are declining due to impatience with the United States not acting swiftly with Iraq and that similar impatience led to the elder Bush's declining popularity in the fall of 1990 ("Do poll dips show dovish sentiment?" Op-Ed, Tuesday). That interpretation is totally at odds with extensive polling data from both periods.
Recent polls by every major survey house Gallup, ABC/Washington Post, Fox, Newsweek, Pew, etc. show two things. First, support for war with Iraq has been declining since the summer of 2002. Second, there is an overwhelming desire to settle the crisis diplomatically, and to work through the United Nations, even if that takes time. Polls during the 1990 Iraq crisis similarly showed that the public wanted to exhaust every diplomatic avenue before using force. Few are (or were) optimistic about diplomacy, but the large majority of Americans still favor giving it every chance. War supporters did not want a hasty war in 1990, and they don't want one now.
Divining war eagerness in Mr. Bush's sagging polls says more for Mr. Lindberg's ideology than his methodology.

DAVID T. BURBACH
Doctoral candidate
Security studies program
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Mass.

Two cheers for Rummy

Friday's Page One article, "Defense secretary criticizes top staff," reminded me why I laugh myself sick every time some Defense Department desk jockey moans and whines to the press these days.
Does anyone else recognize the irony of these done-to-death "Rumsfeld is a Great Big Meanie Who Makes Us Justify Our Existence" pieces oozing out of the Pentagon periodically? The sources for these stories no doubt spent the earlier part of their careers being hounded by barking, snarling, frothing, glaring drill instructors from the pre-dawn hours until dark, slogging with full packs through mud and sand and snow, learning to keep cool and concentrate with artillery and gunfire whizzing around their heads, and now they can't handle a flurry of paperwork from a boss who is sometimes snippy? Well, get me a hanky. I think I'm going to cry.
If there is anything these verbal diarrhea sufferers with shiny doodads on their uniforms ought to be able to take, it's a demanding boss. Even a terse, impertinent, snarky one. Mr. Rumsfeld is there to represent my fellow taxpayers and me. If there is a rear end in the Pentagon that he hasn't yet kicked, I want him kicking it. I want a barking, snarling hall monitor to remind these muckety-muck officers what life was like when they didn't have cushy jobs and cozy relationships with defense contractors at my expense. If that means their self-esteem comes second to results, well, fine. These are some of the same people who can lose a billion dollars and never find out what happened to it. Somebody had better be making them justify what they do and why.

SHERI WILD
Chicago



In "Defense secretary criticizes top staff," we learn of a leaked memo from Mr. Rumsfeld to his top assistant, Larry Di Rita. In the memo, Mr. Rumsfeld criticizes separate efforts by the Joint Staff and the defense secretary's staff to prepare documents on "vision, strategies and all that stuff."
There is a natural difference of viewpoint between military servicemen and their civilian leaders. Therefore, it is natural that there should be separate efforts to articulate vision, strategies and all that stuff. I find this healthy, not wasteful.
The military leaders and the civilian defense leaders are all accomplished, successful people. They should feel free to criticize each other openly, and they should accept criticism more gracefully.
Mr. Rumsfeld is a knowledgeable observer of the military bureaucracy. His brash style obviously irritates some people, but I find his candor refreshing, even when I disagree with his positions.
I believe that Americans deserve the same candor from military leaders, especially when they disagree with their civilian bosses. Unfortunately, such candor is currently discouraged. Instead, we witness this disagreement via leaks and indirect channels. While civilian control of the military is essential to our country, the open, free-wheeling discussion between civilians and military leaders should be officially encouraged.
Congress should affirm civilian control of military decisions while also stating its support for open discussion and disagreement between civilian and military leaders. Calling the president the "commander in chief" should not make open military disagreements insubordination.

HOWARD B. GOLDEN
Northridge, Calif.

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