- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 8, 2004

A legal and moral obligation

The portion of the “Lawyers” item in Friday’s Inside the Ring (Nation) that concerned the Combined Air Operations Center contained some errors of fact.

The first concerns location: The CAOC mentioned has never been in Kuwait. In addition, and contrary to the implication in the article that the CAOC only recently became concerned with “law and order,” Central Command Air Forces has had Air Force judge advocates general supporting CAOC operations dating to 1990 and the Gulf War.

JAGs advised operational commanders and the CAOC equivalent in this region throughout the 1990s. I did so myself while deployed in 1995. During Operation Enduring Freedom to free Afghanistan from al Qaeda and Taliban domination, JAGs advised the combined forces’ air component commander 24/7 and were advising the CAOC leadership when an unauthorized bomb release killed and injured some of our Canadian allies.

Twelve JAGs were working rotating shifts 24/7 during the early phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I recently visited our CAOC in the region and found the commanders there making great use of their JAGs. The long reliance by our commanders on their operational JAGs affirms the bedrock principle that our Air Force, our sister-service air components and our coalition partners employ combat air power consistent with the laws of war.

Conscientious, dedicated people inside the CAOC, including our JAGs, help the commander meet that legal and moral obligation and have done so for more than a decade in that theater.

MAJ. GEN. THOMAS J. FISCUS

Judge advocate general

U.S. Air Force

Arlington

‘Particularly grateful’

Thank you for publishing columns of substance in the Op-Ed and Commentary sections of The Washington Times. I am particularly grateful for the financial columns that explain in detailed but layperson-accessible language the basis for statements made about the economic health of our country.

Bruce Bartlett’s “Haunted by tax cuts past” (Commentary, Jan. 28) began my education about how tax cuts stimulate economic growth. There have been many excellent columns since, which have fleshed out my understanding of this issue.

Donald Lambro’s “CBO’s taxing pie fight” (Commentary, Aug. 23) explains how the data from the Congressional Budget Office shows that “everyone, especially the middle class, has benefited from the Bush tax cuts …” The column further reveals how a special study was requested by the Democrats based on household data rather than income data so that they could “make it appear the middle class pay more and the rich do not pay ‘their fair share’. ” I like reading an article that explains how it is possible to arrive at diametrically opposed conclusions about the tax burden.

Alan Reynolds’ “Income gapology 101” (Commentary, Aug. 29) details the level of poverty from 1973 to present. He concludes, “Nothing but political bias can explain why last year’s below-average poverty rate will soon be reported as unusually awful.” He recommends joint degree programs in journalism and economics. I concur.

On a similar note, I especially enjoyed William Campenni’s “Answering Kerry’s Questions” (Op-Ed, Sept. 1). Once again, I was informedwithfactsand explanations rather than unsubstantiated sound bites and innuendo.

Reading The Washington Times helps me keep my feet on the ground and my head straight. I regularly clip articles to send to my brother in California, who says much of such information is not available in the many sources to which he has access.

LINDA SLAGLE

Arlington

Regrettable consequences

I am writing with regard to “French connection armed Saddam” by Bill Gertz, which appeared yesterday on the front page of The Washington Times.

If the claims were not so serious, I would hail Mr. Gertz’s talents as a novelist, considering the way he reinvents recent history and persists in his fanciful stories on France’s support for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Repeating such claims, however, does not make them true.

According to Mr. Gertz, France sold dual-use and military parts to Iraq in the 1990s and up to early 2003. He also claims that it provided blank French passports to Iraqi leaders.

Mr. Gertz already peddled these accusations last year, and I rejected them in an open letter of May 15, 2003. There is nothing new to support these gratuitous, serious and false accusations, apart from supposed quotes from “American officials” who remain anonymous throughout the cited excerpt.

I observed that the regrettable rash of fabricated articles and dubious anonymous sources that shook up the American press in recent months made reporters and their editors extremely cautious about employing such “anonymous sources.” However, such caution clearly does not apply to Mr. Gertz or the editors of The Washington Times.

Mr. Gertz’s articles are liable to have two types of consequences that I can only regret: In the short term, Mr. Gertz may succeed in rekindling the flame of French-bashing, which might provide short-term satisfaction to Mr. Gertz but will not help solve the difficult situation we face in Iraq. French-bashing in the United States as well as anti-American sentiments in Europe are both dangerous trends that we must all do our best to combat.

In the longer term, history will easily show that Mr. Gertz’s wild imaginings are exactly that: the crudest inventions. His readers will then be enlightened as to the reliability of his writing. In the meantime, Mr. Gertz will have helped tarnish the image of one of the most noble professions there is, a profession for which some at this very moment are risking their lives in Iraq and elsewhere: the profession of journalism.

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE

Ambassador

French Embassy

Washington

In defense of Kerry

A number of the charges against Sen. John Kerry during the Republican convention were spurious and weaken the quality of our national debate. In particular, Sen. Zell Miller’s suggestion that Mr. Kerry has categorically opposed a long list of important weapons systems during his career in the Senate is just plain wrong (“Georgia Democrat puts family over party loyalty,” Nation, Sept. 2). Consider the following:

Mr. Kerry has supported 16 of 19 overall defense-authorization bills in his Senate career. This is the bottom line on Kerry’s defense record; these in the end are the bills that count.

It is normal, and in fact constitutionally required, that Congress scrutinize and sometimes challenge the specifics of defense-budget proposals offered by the Pentagon and other parts of the executive branch. It’s called democracy — and separation of powers — and it’s healthy for our country.

Sometimes it is wise to cut spending on certain weapons. As Dick Cheney showed when he was secretary of defense during the post-Cold War drawdown and proposed canceling many good weapons systems because we already had enough of them or could make do without them: The only way to cut the defense budget is to cut the defense budget.

More recently, when campaigning for the presidency in 1999, then-Gov. George W. Bush gave a speech at the Citadel in which he called for us to “skip a generation” of weapons systems. Unless Mr. Bush didn’t really mean what he said, that expression suggested canceling certain types of arms. In fact, as president, Mr. Bush has, among other things, canceled (correctly, in my view) the Army’s Crusader howitzer and Comanche helicopter as well as the Navy’s lower-tier missile defense system.

Mr. Kerry’s current defense plan clearly endorses the same continued increase in military spending that the Bush administration plans. Mr. Kerry would spend more on soldiers and less on missile defense, but the overall commitment of the two to the nation’s security as measured in dollar terms is similar, if not identical.

There is a lot to debate in this campaign, and there are plenty of real differences between the candidates. Let’s get on with the important debates and get away from the silliness.

MICHAEL O’HANLON

Senior fellow

Brookings Institution

Washington

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