- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Statesmen status?

William Hawkins is an extremely thoughtful analyst with whom I often agree. But it is hard to imagine him being more wrongheaded than he is in yesterday’s Commentary article “Statesmen don’t panic.”

Does anyone really believe — as Mr. Hawkins insists — that the September 11 attacks (for which no one has yet claimed responsibility) were “predicated on the belief that a painful rap on the nose was all it would take to make the United States cut and run from the entire Middle East”? I suspect it was predicated on exactly the opposite assumption: that the neoconservatives in the Bush administration would lash out widely, exactly as they have done.

It’s hard to imagine many things more fundamentally adverse to U.S. interests and treasure than to divert U.S. forces from hunting al Qaeda and undermining broad U.S. support throughout the world for the unnecessary rush to adventure in Iraq. Can anyone seriously doubt that this misadventure in Iraq is helping al Qaeda and others to recruit vastly more suicide terrorists than we can kill, or than they would have been able to recruit had multinational inspectors continued to encircle Saddam Hussein and degrade his already minimal capacity to make trouble?

Could China have written a better script to sell its ridiculous idea of China as a necessary counterweight to a power-mad United States hostile to all other interests but Israel’s?

Over the centuries, the United States has killed, removed from office or (as with Fidel Castro) rendered powerless scores of heads of state. These actions were accomplished with more or less expertise and with more or less cost and other adverse effects for the United States. The Bush adventure in Iraq is easily the most incompetent in our history, providing the least U.S. advantages and — by far — the greatest costs.

President Bush does seem intent to run his re-election campaign on the Hawkins formulation. Like the record deficits in trade, jobs, production, investment and the budget, this unapologetic mishandling of our country’s security just may be enough to overcome all the corporate money and make Howard Dean our next president.



The rites of Ramadan

What a disappointment it was to see the headline “Islamists mark holy month with bombings” on the front page of Friday’s paper. Let’s break down barriers that are causing problems in our society, not add to them.

This is irresponsible journalism, designed to get attention and to agitate, not to simply report events (that are far from the minds and hearts of most Muslims at any time). Journalism can be used to facilitate peace or to intensify division. Let’s be responsible.


Worcester, Mass.

It is incongruous that while Muslims protest any attack on them during their holy festival of Ramadan, apparently the same holiday means open season on their opponents, particularly non-Muslims. This anomaly is hard to understand in the Western world, but evidently, this one-sided rule of engagement is supported by many of the religious leaders in Islam. What a wonderful way to conduct war and terror, only one side attacking while the other must be quiescent and respect the religious holiday of their opponents.

Unfortunately, this stratagem has hurt not only the United States, but also Israel, as the 1973 war with Syria and Egypt was not only started on the most holy day in the Jewish calendar, but also during Ramadan, with sanction by Islamic religious leaders as an attack against the infidels.

Perhaps in the future, knowing this strange code, both the United States and any other non-Muslim nation will choose to breach the holy month of Ramadan, not only by defending themselves, but if necessary, by also attacking the enemy. Observance of jihad can be a two-edged sword.


Silver Spring

More support for Col. West

Thank you for your lead editorial Saturday, “Persecuting Col. West.” This is to call your attention to a piece of U.S. military combat history that may be of use.

I refer to Byron Farwell’s book “Over There,” page 329, on which he records an event that is very similar to the Col. West case. In October 1918, Lt. Dwight Shaffner was leading his platoon, which encountered a group of German soldiers who, with raised hands, called out their surrender. As our soldiers lowered their rifles to accept the terms, the “prisoners” fell flat, and hidden gunners emerged to cut down many of Lt. Shaffner’s men. The officer managed to fight his way to the German captain in charge, and he dragged him back. Threatening the captain with his pistol, Lt. Shaffner forced the officer to reveal the German positions ahead. The author reports that in spite of the violation of provisions of the Geneva Conventions, Lt. Shaffner was awarded the Medal of Honor.

I hope this case will assist in the defense of Lt. Col. Allen B. West.


U.S. Air Force, retired

Branchport, N.Y.

It’s hardly a sensible debate anymore. No military officer, active or retired, can bring themselves to pretend that Article 128 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (assault) harbors any appropriate context in a combat zone. Yet, Lt. Col. Allen B. West has seen his 20-year career go down the tubes over that very silliness.

I’ll go out on a limb and speculate a bit, if nothing else, just to ramp up the screech of the politically correct contingent.

I’m guessing Col. West is not being put through this ordeal because any officer in his chain of command actually believes that he did anything “unlawful” (a key word in Article 128) by using the scare tactics he did to get the vital military intelligence that has proved to be life-saving.

But in acquiring that vital intelligence, Col. West committed a breach of etiquette far more heinous than scaring the enemy: He upstaged two female interrogators.

Any soap opera critic would quickly recognize this little scenario. Citing The Washington Times: Four persons, “including two women professional interrogators” had worked on the Iraqi detainee before Col. West, with zero intel to show for it.

Col. West then intervened. That’s when he grabbed the Iraqi by the neck, hauled him outside, told him he was going to cap him if he didn’t talk and then discharged his pistol behind the guy’s back.

The Iraqi spilled his guts, giving up the next day’s plan of attack and the names of three accomplices. As result, there was no attack on Col. West’s troops in the following days.

Consider those two professionally trained “interrogatrixes” working at the pinnacle of their profession. This is and was their proving ground, and they’d failed miserably. And now they’d been made to appear grossly inept by this ruffian colonel and his Wild West tactics. We can’t have this.

Fast forward to October. Army attorneys are poring over records in the course of a surprise “Command Climate Investigation,” and lo, they just happen to encounter the report, filed by Col. West himself, on the “interrogation incident.” Imagine that.

The attorneys howl on cue that something must be done, and a senior officer caves in and offers Col. West a “broken sword” option. Get booted out of the Army, kissing goodbye an exemplary 19-year career and forfeiting all retirement benefits, or face an Article 32 investigation and possible court-martial. And all this just a week or so short of Col. West’s 20-year service mark.

If you don’t catch a whiff of something extraordinarily rotten in all that, maybe it’s time to give the soap operas a rest.

Regardless what the Article 32 presiding officer recommends, every military veteran who knows the smell of cordite knows precisely what should be done. The charges against Col. West should be dropped, and an investigation should be launched to determine the military value of whoever instigated this legal lynching against him.


U.S. Army, retired

Charleston, Ill.

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