- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Brothers in arms

Thank you for the compelling story of Maj. Edward H. McDonald’s bravery and endurance under difficult and painful conditions after being severely wounded during the retreat of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army from Richmond in 1865 (“Brave officer beats bullet, odds,” Civil War, Saturday).

A sidebar to this story is an exchange of letters between Edward’s brother, William M. McDonald, and Lee three years after those events. The author of the article, Steve French, described William as the loving brother who came to Edward’s assistance and helped nurse him back to health following his wounding and risky surgery that saved his life. When the two McDonald brothers settled in Berryville, Va., after the war, William embarked on writing a history of the war as a school textbook. He wrote to Lee requesting information about his “great battles.”

According to Capt. Robert E. Lee, the general’s son, who later published the “Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee,” Gen. Lee responded with a classic and enlightening statement about the Battle of Gettysburg. Lee said, “It was commenced in the absence of correct intelligence.” This was an allusion to the separation of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry from the main body of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia during the early part of the Gettysburg campaign, depriving Lee of the intelligence he needed about the strength, disposition and intentions of the Union Army. It was precisely this “absence of correct intelligence” that led to Lee’s defeat during those climactic days in early July 1863.


Bethany Beach, Del.

Put Kyoto out of its misery

James L. Martin is correct that Al Gore strongly contributed to his own political marginalization by continued obeisance to the theory of catastrophic man-made global warming (“Time to Chill Out,” Commentary, Saturday). The self-parodying Mr. Gore, however, makes fitting a regretful reference to the Monty Python troupe: Kyoto’s “not dead yet.” Kyoto was negotiated in December 1997, five months after the July vote that Mr. Martin describes as instructing the White House not to send Kyoto to the Senate for a ratification vote. Instead, by this Byrd-Hagel resolution (Senate Resolution 98, introduced by Sens. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, and Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican), Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and all of his voting colleagues instructed the Clinton-Gore administration not to agree to such a treaty that exempted other countries from requirements applicable to the United States. Far from “complying,” the administration flagrantly ignored it by subsequently agreeing to the expensive, selectively applied Kyoto. Contrary to popular belief and reporting, the United States also then signed the treaty, in November 1998.

This raises the second point of clarification: Rather than “formally reject” Kyoto and despite rhetorically disparaging the treaty, President Bush has in fact merely, if curiously, continued the Clinton policy of refusing to send Kyoto to the Senate for a vote. Formal rejection by the executive is achieved by renouncing the signature, as President Bush, in fact, did do regarding the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute). No such communication to the United Nations has been issued regarding Kyoto, as readily confirmed by the State Department’s Web site.

True, a strong campaign for Kyoto in the upcoming presidential contest could embolden Kyoto’s supporters by indicating that U.S. support depends on the outcome. Barring this, however, European support for the Kyoto agenda will continue eroding, and President Bush’s leadership ultimately will be demonstrated. Russia, for example, forcefully compares Kyoto to Soviet state planning, or Gosplan.

Yet we should not lose sight of that fact that until such time as the United States removes its signature from Kyoto, the United States faces the prospect of a campaign to impose Kyoto or Kyoto-style standards on its citizens through, inter alia, the World Trade Organization’s dispute resolution mechanism (again, thank you, President Clinton) and the 1789 Alien Tort Claims Act.


Senior fellow

Competitive Enterprise Institute


Separate but equal threats

Christopher Lamb and James Przystup suggest that in case of failure (again) in the upcoming North Korean talks, the White House “must” continue diplomacy and supplement this with serious defense planning (“Dealing with a nuclear North Korea,” Commentary, Sunday). After two years of Kim Jong-il’s rope-a-dope intimidation diplomacy, this sounds to me like further appeasement, especially after President Bush stated earlier that North Korea’s nukes would not be tolerated.

If the White House does not force a quick resolution on this very ominous threat, the chances of a surprise nuclear attack on American cities from terrorism or missile increase dramatically. In addition, this weakness sends a clear signal to Iran to forge ahead on its nuclear development because the Bush pre-emption doctrine appears to apply to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq only.


Jamison, Pa.

Performance reflects standards

I read with interest the Friday article in the Metropolitan section headlined “Bill easing home-school rules dies in Senate.” What does it say about Virginia’s public schools when Education Secretary Belle Wheelan’s own son barely graduated from high school? Should we call into question her qualifications to be state secretary of education because of her own son’s poor performance? How about Virginia Education Association President Jean Bankos’ comment, “You have a responsibility to make sure every child in the state gets the same education you would want for your child.” To barely pass high school, like Miss Wheelan’s son?

I would encourage readers to check out the recent research study completed by the National Home Education Research Institute. Home-schoolers are succeeding on all levels, and there is no difference in the children’s success based on whether the parents have a higher-level degree. I truly hope Miss Wheelan’s son finds his area of interest to pursue and learn. He will succeed when he is excited about the subject/interest/career.


Catonsville, Md.

Abandoning Hubble

In a letter titled “Hubble honorably discharged,” printed Saturday in The Washington Times, William F. Readdy and Edward J. Weiler defended the decision of NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe to abandon the Hubble Space Telescope.

Linking the term “honorable discharge” to the Hubble desertion decision provokes interesting thoughts. In recommending the abandonment of Hubble, Mr. O’Keefe is allowing the destruction of a $4 billion piece of property paid for and owned by the American taxpayers. Four billion dollars, as former Navy Secretary O’Keefe should know, is also the acquisition cost of a nuclear aircraft carrier.

Let us therefore consider the hypothetical case of an aircraft carrier captain who decided to treat his command in the same manner as Mr. O’Keefe is treating Hubble. Allowing his vessel to sink, he would offer the following excuse in his report: “The ship developed a leak. I could have saved her by ordering seven men to go below and patch her up, but the odds in their favor were only 50 to 1. So I decided the safest course was simply to give up the ship.”

I’m not sure exactly how the Navy brass would deal with such an officer, but I don’t believe an honorable discharge would figure prominently in their list of options.



Mars Society

Indian Hills, Colo.

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