- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2005

The president’s speech

President Bush’s arguments for the war on Iraq keep changing (“Bush invokes 9/11 in Iraq War,” Page 1, Wednesday). In his speech to the nation, he didn’t once utter the words “weapons of mass destruction” but said the principal reason for his war is to fight terrorists. Yet his war has stirred up a hornet’s nest of terrorists and made our nation much less safe.

This president has botched the fight against terrorists since he took office in 2001. After intelligence reports with warnings such as “Bin Laden determined to attack inside United States” were ignored, the United States was attacked on September 11, but not by Iraq.

After September 11, Mr. Bush didn’t go in for the kill at Tora Bora, Afghanistan, which allowed bin Laden to escape. Instead, he pursued a war with a country that had nothing to do with September 11, diverting valuable personnel and resources away from the war on terrorism and bin Laden and inflaming the Muslim world, creating thousands of new terrorists.

The president’s disdain for other nations’ views, both before and after September 11, has made it more difficult to get international support in our war on terrorism. Also, let’s not forget that he opposed the creation of a Department of Homeland Security for nine months and opposed creation of the September 11 commission.

Simply saying that Mr. Bush “misled” us into war in Iraq — though true — does not connect the dots on why that undermines our war on terrorism. He has botched things every step of the way, making our nation less safe.


Iowa City, Iowa

In his address to the nation, President Bush gave a thorough and informative explanation about our purpose in Iraq and what is being accomplished. Being presidential and a man of integrity, he did not say why the American people seem to be losing faith in his efforts to protect our country.

The reason the majority of Americans do not approve of Mr. Bush’s performance in the conflict in Iraq is because of the news media’s relentless bias and negative reporting, minimizing foreign terrorists’ role and maximizing the role of insurgents and the concerted effort to demoralize the military, their families and our civilian population.

Add to the equation the overall demonization of Mr. Bush and Republicans by Democrats and the successful efforts to discourage military recruitment and then the true motives are revealed: ugly political campaigns to take back the presidency and the Congress in the 2006 and 2008 elections at any cost. That is unconscionable in these perilous times and something I will not forget when choosing news sources and when voting.


Apple Valley, Calif.

Prisoners of war

Without minimizing the trauma James H. Warner experienced during his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, his Op-Ed column overlooks an essential issue regarding the rights of those held in Guantanamo Bay (“For 5 months ‘I stayed in the box,’ ” Wednesday).

While a member of the Marine Corps, Mr. Warner was participating in a war between two sovereign nations — and as defined by international law, he gained combatant status.

When taken captive, he was therefore given prisoner-of-war status and should have been guaranteed the basic rights granted to prisoners of war. Although the torture he suffered while in captivity violated those rights, Mr. Warner knew when making a commitment to serve his country as a member of the armed forces that the possibility for capture and torture existed, and he accepted this possibility.

Those held at Guantanamo Bay are not considered prisoners of war by the standards of international law, lacking the requisite engagement between two sovereign nations, clearly defined chain of command and clear distinction from the civilian population.

Regardless of the fact that these individuals may be enemies of the United States, they are being held without charge and without access to a lawyer — rights to which they are entitled when lacking this status. This is an infringement on the basic rights of these persons.

Although what occurs at Guantanamo Bay is not as violent as what Mr. Warner suffered, without the basic rights guaranteed to persons deemed noncombatants, the impact of any humiliation, degradation or suffering they incur during their indefinite detention is intensified.

History begs us to learn from the mistakes of the past — what were considered acceptable methods of torture no longer seem humane as the concept of human rights evolves. Perhaps rather than simply comparing the suffering of current detainees to his own, Mr. Warner should consider the very different circumstances under which these acts have occurred.



Three points came to my mind after reading “For 5 months ‘I stayed in the box.’ ”

First, I cannot begin to understand or comprehend the inhumanity and lack of empathy it must take to allow another human being to suffer as Mr. Warner described. This type of behavior goes against everything the human race strives to become. This nation owes a debt of gratitude to men and women who have struggled and died in an effort to support their country’s foreign and domestic policy initiatives.

Second, whether we should have subjected Mr. Warner to any circumstance like the one he endured for more than five years as our elected officials followed a foreign policy chock-full of fallacy is arguable at the very least.

Finally,althoughSen. Richard J. Durbin’s comments may have been wrong, should we as a country lower our expectations by communicating the message Mr. Warner appears to convey, that at least our actions are not as bad as those of others before us? The United States can do better than our current policy, and comparisons in either instance are irrelevant.


Grand Rapids, Mich.

Smoking bans and other madness

In his Thursday column, “Take D.C. smoke ban to its illogical conclusion” (Metropolitan), Tom Knott writes, “Eating is dangerous stuff.” Indeed it is.

If one were to apply to food the kind of reasoning that is applied to smoking, one could ask how many “deaths from eating” take place per year. Of course, there’s no big anti-food lobby with hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on research grants, advertising and promotion of meat and dairy bans, so it’s unlikely that we’ll see such concerns gain the same notoriety as the 400,000 “deaths due to smoking” constantly proclaimed.

Nor are we likely to see any an anti-alcohol lobby take up the flag D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz threw in her satirical proposal of a ban on alcohol in D.C. restaurants and bars. However, although the council member didn’t mention it in her speech, the case for an alcohol ban is not that much different from the case for smoking bans.

Ethyl alcohol has been classified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a Class A human carcinogen when consumed. That is the same listing and recognition a half-dozen or so elements in tobacco smoke get. Those half-dozen elements add up to about one-half of a single milligram per cigarette smoked. Remember, alcohol is a very volatile liquid. That’s why it’s sometimes used as a cooling agent on a fevered forehead. According to an article on BMJ.com, a British site that collects medical journal reports, a martini puts roughly one full gram of alcohol vapor into the air per hour, which is roughly 2,000 times the Class A exposure for nearby innocents that a cigarette would produce. You don’t see it in the air, and you don’t even usually smell it. But it’s there.

Should we take Mrs. Schwartz seriously and ban alcohol from restaurants and bars? Of course not. I am not crazy, nor is the council member — but the justification for such a ban isn’t all that different from the justifications used for smoking bans. The big difference simply lies in the amount of money poured into political efforts and advertising over the past decade or two.



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