- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2003

A medal, not a court martial, for Col. West

While Lt. Col. Allen B. West may have “pushed the envelope” of Article 32 when he discharged his weapon to extract information from a prisoner of war (“Army files charge in combat tactic,” Page 1, yesterday), he was communicating with the enemy in a language the enemy understands. Force speaks, while talk too often is considered a weakness to exploit.

Communication in a combat zone — especially for protecting one’s own personnel assets — is paramount. U.S. policy-makers and U.S. forces on the ground ignore this precept at their peril.

MIKE BRASSARD

Toronto

I am not only enraged but embarrassed that our military would even consider charging Lt. Col. Allen B. West with aggravated assault.

His concern for the safety of his troops and the nonlethal interrogation technique he used to gather information that ultimately saved American lives should be applauded, not prosecuted.

“Peace activists” and Democratic presidential hopefuls complain about the deaths of American soldiers on a daily basis. Where is their outrage now that an American officer is being punished for preserving the lives of the men he leads? As a veteran, I do know this: The families of the troops in his unit will forever be grateful to him for his actions.

Col. West will be forced into resigning one year short of his retirement or be court-martialed for doing what any competent commander would do to protect his troops and complete his mission. Some “reward” for doing the right thing rather than the politically-correct thing.

This is one time when our leaders should step in and do the right thing rather than allow a career patriot to be lynched for his heroic actions. It surely will be a sad day in America if they do not.

DAVID BLANKENSHIP

Alexandria

Rowan Scarborough writes that the Army is charging Lt. Col. Allen B. West with abusing an Iraqi prisoner by firing his weapons in order to coerce an informant to give information on an impending attack, arguably saving the lives and limbs of soldiers in his charge.

Flash back to Panama, 1989: A Vietnam-veteran sergeant first class and several of his men are wounded by a grenade thrown by a Panamanian soldier. The sergeant engages the soldier in hand-to-hand combat and overwhelms and kills the aggressor with his knife. Although he receives a Purple Heart (his third), his lieutenant files murder charges against the intrepid sergeant for using “excessive force” for killing the enemy once he was “subdued.” Only after being cleared of the charges is the sergeant awarded a Silver Star for saving the lives of his men. The Army needs a serious reality check.

Combat is a terrible thing. It is the most obscene undertaking of man. Little good comes out of combat — there is death and destruction of unbelievable proportions and capriciousness to those who have not seen it (estimated at 85 to 90 percent of the force). Good men and women may adjudicate laws governing the conduct of war, but only those actually facing the crucible can measure the circumstances of individual actions. Political leaders who send men to war bear much responsibility for the “kill or be killed” results of their edicts. Unless egregious, as in the My Lai massacre, warriors’ conduct should not be gauged by civilized mores; war, by definition, is uncivilized.

When I was in combat, my primary concern was not for my own safety, but that I wouldn’t do something to get any of our men killed or injured. That is a combat leader’s ultimate responsibility. No matter the outcome, their decisions will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Under my commanding officer,we brought all of our men home. I salute Col. West for his fervent pursuit of that goal.

M.C. AGRESTI

Lieutenant commander

U.S. Navy (retired)

Alexandria

Would you like cheese on that burger?

It’s not surprising that Dr. Neal Barnard is trying to convince Americans that cheese and meat are “addictive” (“Maybe just one bite …,” Life, Tuesday). Dr. Barnard is one of America’s most devoted animal rights leaders. Last week at an FDA hearing, he referred to milk as “a drug” and cheese as “dairy crack.” We should expect this sort of nonsense from him, but it’s troubling that The Washington Times would blindly print Dr. Barnard’s radical assertions without alerting readers to his animal-rights agenda.

Dr. Barnard’s group, the deceptively named Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, is allied with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The two groups have some common board members, and tax records show that the committee has received more than $850,000 in funding from PETA and an additional $450,000 from other animal-rights groups. Dr. Barnard himself sits on the board of the PETA Foundation.

The American Medical Association has formally censured the physicians committee, calling it a “pseudo-physicians group.” The AMA officially considers the recommendations of Dr. Barnard’s organization “irresponsible and potentially dangerous to the health and welfare of Americans.”

Dr. Barnard’s mission is the same as PETA’s: to permanently remove meat and dairy foods from our diets. It’s sad that news outlets continue to treat him the way they would a legitimate, credible medical spokesperson.

DAVID MARTOSKO

Director of research

Center for Consumer Freedom

Washington

Just the facts

The Commentary column by Pete du Pont in Monday’s edition (“Missteps on natural gas”) contained serious factual errors regarding the costs of gas-pipeline alternatives from Alaska’s North Slope.

Former Delaware Gov. du Pont (writing as policy chairman of the National Center for Policy Analysis) claimed that building the pipeline along the northern route would cost $7.8 billion, versus $14.6 billion for the southern route. If true, that would represent a difference of $6.8 billion.

I am president of Veco Corp., one of the principal contractors on a $100 million study conducted for the North Slope producing companies on potential routes for a gas pipeline.

The terms of our agreement with the producers prevent me from revealing many details of the study’s findings, but I can tell you that Mr. du Pont’s numbers are wrong. The costs for constructing a pipeline along either route were approximately equal.

Though the northern route would be somewhat shorter, such a pipeline would have to be laid under the ice of the Arctic Ocean and offshore from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

That route would entail engineering and environmental challenges and related costs offsetting any potential savings from a shorter line. It also would, for all practical purposes, make future expansion to increase production for the pipeline very difficult, which would not be the case with a route through Alaska and down the Alaska Highway.

Mr. du Pont did not give an end point — at which the gas would enter existing systems — on which his cost figures were based, but I can tell you that the cost of a pipeline along either route to Alberta would be far less than $14.6 billion. The additional costs of processing and related facilities would be virtually identical for either route, so his figures are off by a considerable factor.

Because of these and other realities, both BP and Conoco Phillips, two of the three largest North Slope producers, have publicly supported the southern route.

Mr. du Pont is just one of many people who have spread inaccurate information about the alternatives for the gas pipeline route. It is time to correct the record.

PETE LEATHARD

President

Veco Corp.

Anchorage, Alaska


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