- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2005

Reacting to a threat

Though I laud Gen. Robert Scales’ sentiment that our soldiers and Marines are the best in world at what they do, I take exception to his notion that there is anything new under the sun about the unfortunate incident involving the recently freed Italian journalist (“Been down this military road” Op-Ed, Thursday).

Gen. Scales’ premise is that in a new era of warfare, it is no longer the high poobahs’ exclusive purview to make what he describes as the “strategic decisions.” He also asserts, “But now that privates, sergeants and lieutenants have become strategic decision-makers we must make them better.”

Better how? The choice to fire or not fire on that car was not a strategic decision, but rather a tactical decision. The troops perceived a threat, attempted to mitigate the threat within prescribed rules of engagement and acted in self-defense.

Tactical decisions have always been, and always will be, the purview of privates, sergeants and lieutenants. In order to agree with Gen. Scales’ assertion that we must make our young fighters better, one has to accept the not-yet-proved assertion that the soldiers who decided to fire upon that car, and then did so, were wrong.

At first blush, the situation is at best a “who shot John” incident in which both sides claim diametrically opposed factual circumstances.

The wounded journalist claims the car was not traveling at a high rate of speed, the roadblock was not marked, and there were no warnings of any kind before rounds impacted the car.

The soldiers claim that the car approached their marked roadblock at a high rate of speed and refused to stop after repeated warnings — lights, hand and arm gestures and warning shots — and that they fired to disable a potential threat to themselves.

Given just these statements, even if I weren’t inclined to defer to the basic honesty of American soldiers, I still would have to come down on the side of “innocent until proved guilty.” Add to the mix the knowledge that the journalist in question writes for a Communist newspaper that advocates the abandonment of Iraq by all Western forces.

Also add to the mix that said journalist suspects that she was specifically targeted (does this ring familiar?) by our soldiers. Finally, also add reports that our intrepid journalist was, mere minutes before the incident, on a cell phone describing her flight from captivity as an almost out-of-control car ride.

This decision was no different from thousands upon thousands of tactical decisions our young men and women have made and will continue to make as long as we field soldiers. I am continually amazed and gratified that they get it right so often. Imagine if they had the benefit of making all their decisions Monday morning.

LT. COL. MIKE THYRRING

U.S. Marine Corps (retired)

Stafford, Va.

Sen. Byrd, filibusters and retirement

Regarding judicial confirmations, a lot of attention seems to be spent on what some call the “nuclear option” (Democrats to maintain filibusters on Bush nominees” Page 1, March 2). In fact, it is the “constitutional option.” This would simply allow a majority, rather than requiring 60 percent, to confirm judges.

Sen. Robert Byrd compared this strategy to tactics used by Adolph Hitler in Nazi Germany and said it would eliminate free speech.

This was an unusual comment for the former Ku Klux Klan member, considering that he has supported the constitutional option numerous times in his long service in the Senate. If passed, the constitutional option still would grant him the privilege of stating his objections to any or all nominees.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy also objected to the use of the constitutional option. However, as research from the office of Sen. John Cornyn shows, Mr. Kennedy also has repeatedly supported the procedural change when it has suited his purposes.

It is time for order and constitutionality to be restored to the judicial confirmation process.

ALLEN MARSH

Nampa, Idaho

It is sad to see Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who has contributed so much over the years, be reduced to a bumbling fool and a racist by the major media across the nation (“Drifting backward,” Inside the Beltway, Wednesday).

I don’t care what political affiliation you are; the senator embarrassed himself with his latest remarks comparing Senate Republicans to Nazis.

By doing this, he cheapened the memory of the 6 million Jews, Catholics and others murdered by the Nazis. Adolph Hitler was a horrible, evil man; Senate Republicans are not. They are Americans who, in at least one case, fought Hitler’s Nazis.

I remember the day I was in Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom and I saw Mr. Byrd, my senator, on Fox News, lashing out at the president and calling the war in which I was serving unconstitutional. That hurt me deeply. I could see the morale slipping in the faces of all the West Virginians with whom I was serving.

The more than 30 million listeners a week to Rush Limbaugh’s and Sean Hannity’s radio shows are hearing him called “Robert Sheets Byrd” and “Robert KKK Byrd.” This is what Mr. Byrd has done, and he needs to apologize and retire for what he said last week.

Pro-abortion and liberal groups have made it known that they will block any and all presidential nominations to the federal bench that are pro-life and disagree with Roe v. Wade.

West Virginians are overwhelmingly pro-life, and Mr. Byrd should represent West Virginians first, not liberal special-interest groups.

I fear next year’s election may get ugly. Mr. Byrd must either come to grips with the fact that the president won West Virginia by more than 90,000 votes or retire. No one wants to witness the deterioration of a great political mind in the midst of a re-election campaign. Now is the time for the senator to retire and ready the reins for a new generation.

HIRAM LEWIS

Treasurer

West Virginia Republican Party

Morgantown

The U.S. is no empire

Remember when the Soviets used to help insurgents fight what they called “wars of liberation” against authoritarian dictators? They also hijacked terms such as “democracy,” “liberty,” and “republic.” Once the communists took over, the country would call itself “The People’s Democratic Republic of (fill in the blank).”

These countries were neither democratic nor republics, and they did not belong to the people. The deposed dictator was merely replaced by the Communist Politburo.

Georgie Anne Geyer’s “Sobering lessons of empires” (Commentary, Wednesday), reminded me of the Soviets. By their Orwellian mislabeling of reality, the Soviets hoped to give legitimacy to their philosophy.

Miss Geyer uses the same device to gain legitimacy for her point of view. She writes: “Even as the Bush administration and the president’s neo-conservative ideological Praetorian Guard celebrate … warning signs begin to surface about their empire.” So, Mr. Bush is an emperor, and his empire has invaded Iraq, “a country we had no reason to attack.” Because “every great empire was dead within 50 years of its height,” America is doomed.

For the readers of The Washington Times, the surfacing “warning sign”is that Miss Geyer needs a Soviet ploy to make her point. The United States is an empire as the Soviet Union was a republic.

ALI F. SEVIN

Fort Washington

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