- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 22, 2005

On France

If history is nothing more than a lie that is believed, then readers of Brett Decker’s curious article, “The Battle of Trafalgar,” will be counting their blessings (Op-Ed, Friday), reminded of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson’s brilliant and stunning achievement over the Emperor Napoleon’s fleet at Trafalgar which vouchsafed “not only a victory for Great Britain, but for the world.”

As John Stoessel might say, “Give me a break!”The conflation of Revolutionary France with Imperial France under Napoleon is a horse that will not run. France, not England, liberated the Jews from the ghettoes of Europe. France, not England, was the country in which the classless society was taking root, where any individual could rise based upon ability and not birth.And it was France, not England, that overthrew the corrupt, debased, feudal world of the 18th century and replaced it with the nation-state that endures to this day, in which the destiny of peoples, for good or ill, is in their own hands.Not a bad epitaph that.

Honor the memory of Viscount Nelson, yes, for his courage, tenacity and skill.But drop this “evil empire” stuff.For it debases genuine history when it invites invidious comparisons that neither inform nor satisfy.



Breezy stuff, that Con law is

Harriet Miers might not have practiced a lot of constitutional law, but how would that disqualify her from being a U.S. Supreme Court justice (“Miers asked to flesh out answers,” Page 1, Thursday)? You learn that area of law the same way you learn any other — you read, you debate, you reflect. It’s accessible to every ordinary person with enough time. The complexity arises when justices turn themselves into Wizards of Oz, making decrees that we’re not supposed to question, inserting into the Constitution things that aren’t there. Where’s Toto when you need him?

Pull back those judicial robes and you’ll find — “Oh, my” — mere lawyers. They really should not think they’re smarter than the Framers.



The Air Force’s religion problem

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Mark Loncar misses the constitutional point of Michael L. Weinstein’s lawsuit over purported proselytization in the Air Force (“Religion and the Air Force,” Letters, Oct. 16). Mr. Weinstein is not anti-Christian; he is anti-state-sanctioned religion, whether it be it Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or otherwise. It is not the government’s business to be advancing any religion — nor is it Chief Master Sgt. Loncar’s or Mr. Weinstein’s or yours or mine.

Mr. Loncar appears to have a misunderstanding of the chaplaincy in the U.S. military. It is not a recruiting service for any religion. It is intended to provide support for our uniformed men and women, whatever their faith or lack thereof. The Air Force has problems because it “unofficially” allowed a document from the National Conference of Ministry to the Armed Forces — a private organization that recruits chaplains for the military — to be distributed at the chaplain school at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. This de-facto policy statement encouraged chaplains to target “those not affiliated” with other religious bodies. To quote from the group’s Code of Ethics: “I will not proselytize from other religious bodies, but I retain the right to evangelize those who are not affiliated.” This is the constitutional problem the Air Force has brought upon itself.

Chief Master Sgt. Loncar is right about chaplains having to chose. Either they support the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state or they need to resign their commissions and return to civilian status and enjoy the constitutional rights men and women in uniform support and defend. As he knows, when we in the military raised our right hands and swore to support and defend the Constitution, we gave up rights and protections that our civilian counterparts enjoy.

Mr. Weinstein, in his lawsuit, is not asking the Air Force to run from the First Amendment for chaplains. He is demanding that chaplains live up to the oath they took that supports and defends the Constitution. They should not use the machinery of the state to advance their individual beliefs.


U.S. Air Force (retired)


A message for Bono

Thursday night at the MCI Center, I stood on the floor at the U2 concert, my ninth concert on U2’s current tour and the umpteenth since I fell in love with Bono and his Irish brothers in 1982 (“Breadtime for Bono,” Show, Friday). So it is with a heavy heart that I find it necessary to say in public that Bono needs some courage.

Bono spoke with much-deserved pride about his work in Sarajevo in the 1990s, about Martin Luther’s King’s America, Nelson Mandela’s Africa and about Asia, Ireland and Louisiana. He thanked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — who was present at the show — and President Bush for their work on AIDS and global poverty relief.

But he fell short where he always falls short. Don’t the poor struggling democracies of Baghdad or Kabul deserve mention, too?

Except for some truism about followers of the three monotheistic faiths being all “sons of Abraham,” he was silent about the “march of equality,” as he calls it. It seems as if Bono has slept through the past two years or so.

White Muslims in Bosnia in the 1990s got concerts, live-video feeds, daily mentions and even a song (“Miss Sarajevo”), but other Muslims — brown Muslims, including the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan — get silence from Bono.

I know Bono is not a racist, but is he too politically correct to root for success in places his celebrity friends have rebuffed and ridiculed?

Don’t brown people — I’m one, an Egyptian — deserve even the hope of a freedom that the rest of the world enjoys?

Shouldn’t brown people get the chance to speak the way they want and pray the way they want?

Additionally, as the giant screens and speakers mentioned the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Thursday night, couldn’t it have occurred to Bono that declarations without enforcement mechanisms are both empty and cruel?

Why doesn’t Bono recognize that Mr. Bush — more than John Lennon — is working to “give peace a chance” to Arabs, Egyptians, Iranians and Asians?

By uttering just one word — Baghdad — Bono would recognize publicly that the Arab innocents whom terrorists murder every day in schools, hospitals and mosques deserve the same rights to exist — the same human rights, the same freedoms.

Come on, Bono, be consistent. Be brave.


Jersey City, N.J.

Thoughts on big government

In “An illusion ripped wide open” (Commentary, Wednesday) Bruce Bartlett wrote, “The truth is now dawning on many movement conservatives that George W. Bush is not one of them and never has been.” He concludes that “Bush has never demonstrated any interest in shrinking the government.”

Movement conservatives seldom win elections. The only Republicans who genuinely want less government are in the affluent minority. The white blue-collar workers and Protestant fundamentalists who left the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and since want a government that will help them get through life.

Moreover, while lower-income Republicans are also hostile to the government; they are hostile because of what the government permits, not because of what the government prohibits. They know that a government capable of enforcing their repressive value system would need to be large, powerful and expensive.

The president understands all of this. That is why he was re-elected.


Wilmington, Del.

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