- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

Pentagon, Red Cross and Gitmo prisoners

You have to admire the Pentagon’s chutzpah. In the face of another prisoner-abuse scandal, this one at Guantanamo, the Department of Defense dispatches a team of surrogates to accuse the International Committee of the Red Cross of cruel and inhumane criticism (“Pentagon, analysts hit anti-U.S. bias at Red Cross,” Page 1, Wednesday).

Please, spare me the righteous indignation. If the president and the Pentagon can apply a double standard on human rights — that as an enlightened superpower under attack, it’s OK for us to bend the rules, but not other nations — should they be so surprised that the Red Cross applies a double standard and outwardly criticizes U.S. mistreatment of “detainees”? What does it matter whether the criticism is public or private? Torture is torture, after all.

Once again, the Bush administration is displaying its greatest strength: not the protection of human rights, but a superhuman ability to avoid accountability. If the government won’t be straight with us, we should be glad that the ICRC will.



Don’t reward bad behavior

Ken Mehlman, the likely incoming Republican National Committee chairman, said that when it comes to immigration “the president’s fundamental principles are that people who are illegally here should not be able to get in front of everybody else in line and become American citizens without having to wait, because that would be rewarding bad behavior.” (“Republicans warn of party split over immigration,” Nation, Friday.)

Yet President Bush has already rewarded more than a million illegal aliens with citizenship — the U.S.-born children of illegal aliens — and he has recently been reviving plans to go even further.

Most of the beneficiaries of these policies are Mexican. Hardly any are Vietnamese, to name just one group they cut in front of in line. By not stopping this practice, Mr. Bush has in essence already put several hundred thousand Mexicans in line ahead of Vietnamese and other groups that largely stay within the law.


Vietnamese for Fair Immigration

Lompoc, Calif.

Animal passions, animal sense

Why do we wax emotional about killing or eating horses (“Provision targets wild horses for slaughter,” Nation, Tuesday)? Are horses more “noble” than cows or bison or ostrich?

Let’s face it, we kill and eat animals — cows, chickens, geese, pigs, turkeys, alligators, bison, fish, turtles, snakes, crawfish, frogs, turtles, ostrich, emus, deer, elk, moose, raccoon, opossum and llama among others. Many other animals —whales, for instance — are used for pet food, fertilizer, perfume or other products. And we euthanize unwanted pets.

So, why single out horses for special emotional attachment? Is our culture more ethical or kind than cultures that eat animals we regard as pets or as somehow being noble? Are we better somehow if we eat only “approved” animals and bury or incinerate the rest?

Think about it. Every cow you see grazing contentedly has only one future. That’s to be killed. “Cutters” and “canners” on the livestock market are often worn-out beasts that no longer produce offspring or milk effectively. They did their duty, and now they must die and be eaten.

Why is it acceptable to kill and eat other animals — as long as we pay someone else to do the killing — but not horses? It doesn’t make sense.

Yes, wild mustangs are descended from horses introduced by Spanish conquistadors hundreds of years ago. But weren’t bison here for thousands of years before the Spanish horses? If history is justification for protection, shouldn’t the bison rank higher than horses? At least they are truly native. The modern horses are an introduced species.

The Spanish also introduced goats and sheep hundreds of years ago. Shall we revere them as well and refuse to allow them to be eaten or used for leather or other products? We have no moral objection to eating them or the bison meat that is sold at finer butcher shops throughout the country or using their skins for leather, but we get tears in our eyes if a horse dies.

Evidently it is more socially acceptable to “use” animals — that is, to kill them — for their hides. Most leather is made of cowhides, so it is “only” a cow that died to make the leather possible. Pigskin is valued for gloves and shoes. Goatskin is valued for jackets and purses. Alligator hide is made into boots and belts. Snakeskin is used for hatbands and accessories.

Horsehide is used to make wallets, shoes, rawhide and other products. Can we conclude that a horse died in the process? Would it make any difference to the horse if its muscle tissue were eaten after it is killed for its hide? Are we more ethical if we use the hide and not the meat? Is it legal to import horse leather?

In the United States we kill animals wholesale for whatever makes a product or a profit, or when it is convenient or for sport. So why be emotional about horses?

It’s worth remembering that protected wild animals have a history of breeding to excess of the carrying capacity of their habitat. The Kaibab Plateau deer problem of 1913 precipitated by Theodore Roosevelt is a textbook example. Competition to deer populations (that is, cattle) was eliminated and hunting was curtailed. Predators that would have kept deer reproduction from overpowering the habitat were eliminated (shot or poisoned) so there were no checks upon population increase. Eventually, starvation reduced the population. Is starvation an “acceptable” form of death?

As I said to an avowed vegetarian who was adamantly opposed to killing animals, “Are your shoes leather?” They were; we checked the imprint. End of discussion.


Ore City, Texas

Bumpy ride ahead for Supreme Court

The intrusiveness of the American Civil Liberties Union never ceases to amaze (“In defense of the Scouts,” Editorial, Thursday). Its ability to successfully bludgeon the Pentagon for its support of the Boy Scouts of America is truly astonishing.

Although the ACLU’s interpretation of the First Amendment freedom of religion clause may be eroding in legal circles, Pentagon lawyers apparently did not get the message. In fairness, it will never be possible for public institutions to set a more sane approach to religion until the Supreme Court destroys the wall it has erroneously built, brick by brick over the past 50 years, between church and state. Whether such destruction occurs any time soon depends upon the future makeup of the court. And that’s the rub.

One of the strongest critics of the court’s interpretation of the freedom of religion clause is Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. In his brilliant dissent in Wallace v. Jaffree (1985), he describes (a) the historical inaccuracy of the court’s reliance upon the nonconstitutional “separation of church and state,” and(b) the absence from our Constitution of any requirement to remove God from the nation’s public life. His dissent is erudite, passionate and constitutionally sound.

The likelihood that the chief justice will retire in the near future is greater than ever. Other justices might not be far behind. If this occurs, the future of the court will be in the hands of President Bush and the Senate. Mr. Bush has said he will nominate those who will interpret the Constitution as seen in its history. If so, it then will be the constitutional responsibility of the Senate to advise and consent, which includes the duty to vote each nominee up or down. If the Senate’s past dilatory filibuster tactics are a prelude to the future, we are in for the ride of our lives. The ride could be bumpy.



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