- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2004

An illogical leap

Former Rep. Bob Barr lists the scandals at Abu Ghraib prison, scandals involving Bill Clinton, and news stories involving Kobe Bryant and Michael Jackson, none of which is connected to or involved with Wicca or neo-pagan religion in any way (“Culture clues,” Commentary, Sunday). Then Mr. Barr makes an enormous illogical leap and states: “In the modern, 21st century military, in which the practice of Wicca or witchcraft is tolerated, accepted, and protected as a bona fide religion, and in which ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is the watchword of the day, we haven’t a chance.” This as if Wicca had anything to do with these unethical and/or illegal activities.

Wicca is a bona fide religion, Mr. Barr. It has been recognized by the courts, and legal Wiccan clergy can be found in every state in the United States. We have chaplains in many American and Canadian prisons. Our guiding principle, the Wiccan Rede, admonishes us to harm none.

The abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison and the child abuse attributed to Michael Jackson are abhorrent to Wiccans. How dare you make such outrageous claims about us? There is no excuse for making such accusations about us in this day and age. An enormous amount of accurate information is available on Wiccan practices, none of which would lead any intelligent person to assume that we would ever be involved in illegal or unethical activities of the sort you describe.

Thousands of Wiccans are serving proudly in the U.S. military. Many more defend North America and their communities as emergency services personnel. I have served as a police officer for 28 years and have been a Wiccan for 35. I am the leader of Officers of Avalon, a nonprofit society representing police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians who follow neo-pagan spiritual paths, and I demand an apology from Mr. Barr for making such unfounded claims.


Vancouver Police Department

British Columbia

Forgetting a family’s loss

Your article “Press accused of ignoring beheading,” (Page 1, Friday) advances the ludicrous premise that the news media are somehow downplaying the murder of Nicholas Berg — which can be refuted with as little effort as it takes to turn on a television set or do a Google search.

Moreover, in The Times’ surveying of West Chester residents and acquaintances of the slain contractor, you conspicuously seem to have avoided the victim’s father, Michael Berg, who publicly has blamed the Bush administration’s misguided conduct in Iraq for his son’s murder.

Specifically, the Berg family has charged that U.S. authorities in Iraq arrested Mr. Berg in March and held him illegally, thus preventing him from making a scheduled departure March 30. After Pentagon officials tried to deny this, the Berg family released e-mails from a State Department consular official in Baghdad verifying that their son had been held by U.S. forces. In early April, the Berg family filed a lawsuit against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others, accusing U.S. forces of detaining Nicholas Berg illegally without charges or access to counsel. Apparently as a result, Mr. Berg was released — just in time to fall into the hands of terrorists. The elder Mr. Berg told a radio interviewer, “My son died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. This administration did this.”


Takoma Park

Amazing how S.A. Miller’s story using pain and tragedy to bash the press by accusing it of ignoring the beheading story even more cruelly ignores the family’s determination that their son’s death was the fault of President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The right-wing spin never stops. Use a family’s pain to try to distract from the truth more and more Americans see: Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Bush should be tried along with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein as war criminals.


Highland Park, N.J.

Kennedy’s real allegiance

“Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam’s torture chambers reopened under new management — U.S. management,” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said Tuesday (“Nick Berg and Iraqi detainees,” Editorial, Thursday). In his obsession to undermine the credibility of the Bush administration and the morale of our troops in Iraq for the sake of influencing the election in favor of his underling, Sen. John Kerry, Mr. Kennedy once again has demonstrated that his first allegiance is to the liberal left and the Democratic Party and that his concern for the national interest is placed well below that. He is proving to be the best of support to the cause of the terrorists and insurgents operating in Iraq. Every time he opens his mouth with his partisan drivel, the task for our troops is made more difficult and dangerous.

Our country would be much better served if Mr. Kennedy would resign instead of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld — and take Sens. John D. Rockefeller IV and Patrick J. Leahy with him. Though the prison incident is sad, disappointing, ill-timed and isolated, I am not in the least ashamed of President Bush, Mr. Rumsfeld or our troops in Iraq. I do think it’s a shame that the people of Massachusetts continue to elect this irresponsible political dinosaur to a position of power and influence in the conduct of our nation’s business.



Legal not always moral

I read Richard Rahn’s column “Responsibility and governance” (Commentary, Friday) with great interest. I don’t think he went far enough.

I think too many organizations (public and private) have fallen into the trap of confusing “illegal” and “immoral,” in the sense that any action is viewed as legitimate if it is not proscribed explicitly by statute or regulation. This situation, I believe, is the result of overreliance on written regulations that have been crafted by careful lawyers.

In the public sector, U.S. interrogation procedures and the Geneva Conventions provide a current example: Armies (or at least squadrons) of Department of Defense lawyers drew up schedules of practices that purported to comply with the conventions, until Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Peter Pace expressed revulsion in their Thursday congressional testimony. In the private sector, I believe that hiding transactions in “off-balance-sheet” accounts is a moral problem; regulatory (accounting) compliance caused Enron and Arthur Andersen to dance along some very fine legal lines.

Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco infamy presents another good example: His actions surely were in bad taste, to say the least, whether or not he exceeded his board mandates and delegated authority; the latter issues and how well the Tyco legal team set up and helped enforce the appropriate procedures will determine his legal culpability only.



The Limbaugh lesson

L. Brent Bozell III’s column about Rush Limbaugh not only is misguided, but also contains factual errors (“Silence of the Rush haters,” Commentary, Saturday). His assertion that Mr. Limbaugh’s former housekeeper, Wilma Cline, and her husband, David, were paid $250,000 for telling the National Enquirer their story of supplying Mr. Limbaugh with painkilling drugs is wrong. In light of his ranting against the news media’s lack of responsibility in covering the story my publication broke, I wonder why Mr. Bozell did not call me to check this “fact”? Politics aside, Mr. Limbaugh broke the law. He bought thousands of prescription pills illegally, so pointing out that his drug dealers are of low moral character is somewhat laughable. Mr. Limbaugh’s strident calls for punishment for white-collar drug abusers before his own addiction was exposed is undeniably hypocritical. The only lesson here is that hypocrisy and scandal know no political ideology.


Editor in chief,

National Enquirer

Boca Raton, Fla.

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