Rummy mail

John McCaslin
|
Posted: May 11, 2004 12:00 AM

It seems the Pentagon's postal system isn't any speedier than Uncle Sam's - yet another cause for Democrats to demand the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

(Burning question: Will the Pentagon, when it releases videos Rumsfeld says exist of U.S. military personnel humiliating Iraqi prisoners, also release videos of Americans and fellow allies being beheaded, burned alive and hung out to dry by enemy captors?)

Back to the mail problem, the House tomorrow considers a bipartisan resolution directing the Defense Department to rectify deficiencies in the military postal system to ensure members of the armed forces stationed overseas are able to receive and send mail in a "timely manner."

That includes receiving and sending election ballots in time to be counted in the 2004 presidential election.

PASS THE SYRUP

Should a commander in chief of the U.S. military be out campaigning for re-election?

No, says Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), a member of the International Relations Committee, who says "our wartime president is missing in action."

As U.S. troops are coming under repeated deadly attack in Iraq and one of the "worst" scandals of U.S. military prisoner abuse is uncovered, the congressman says, Bush "is in Ohio flipping pancakes, and in Michigan, of all places, riding in a $1 million bus made in Canada."

DUCK AND RUN

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

Or so observes House Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri, condemning last week's wartime rhetoric of Democrats who say the Iraqi conflict cannot be won.

Blunt says Democrats "hiding behind podiums" are now "engaging in the same soft bigotry that the French and Spanish use."

"They don't believe that democracy can ever take root in an Arab nation. This belief is wrong."

STOP THE WHIPPING

Regarding the turmoil surrounding Iraqi prisoner abuse by certain members of the U.S. military, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) says, "Americans should not flagellate ourselves because of a tiny number of American personnel who humiliated or abused prisoners."

"Certainly, the vast, vast majority - if not 99.99 percent - of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have conducted themselves in a courageous and honorable way," notes Rohrabacher, who says such abuses of prisoners, although illegal and not to be condoned, "have occurred in every war."

"From the American Revolution on, we have seen soldiers who ... lash out with revenge, killing a person or killing a prisoner or mistreating a prisoner," he says. "This happens in every war and conflict."

At the same time, Rohrabacher, for seven years a senior speechwriter for President Reagan, observes that "many" of the Iraqis jumping to criticize the United States today "have no such standard" of respect for life.

CONSERVATIVE KETCHUP

Former college roommates Patrick Spero and Chris Cylke, the latter a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill, are the brains behind "Bush Country Ketchup."

"While dunking our (french) fries in ketchup a few months ago, we came to a sudden realization," explains one. "With each drop of ketchup we ingested - bottled by a company whose single largest individual shareholder is the wife of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry - we were indirectly making his wallet fatter."

So, the pair took out a $5,000 loan in February and are now peddling the President Bush alternative to Heinz - although a bottle of the obviously higher-quality Bush ketchup fetches $5.99, plus $4.99 shipping and handling.

HYSTERIA AT WORK?

What's the latest take on Washington, D.C., by Travel & Leisure magazine?

"Surely this was not what Pierre Charles L'Enfant intended when the Frenchman proclaimed that he would create an American capital 'worthy of a great republic.'"

Yes, the magazine rightly points out, increased security is necessary.

But is the federal government taking too many precautions and turning the nation's capital into a city "under siege"?

Judy Scott Feldman, an art historian and president of the National Coalition to Save our Mall, is quoted as saying that row after row of concrete barriers around the city "reflect fear, not the optimism inherent in a democracy."

"The Secret Service and the (National) Park Service think in terms of the worst-case scenario," she says. "Our capital was designed as a symbol of democratic government and the openness of our society. The security measures have a symbolism that becomes oppressive."

Contributing editor Michael Z. Wise recalled that former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) once warned: "The task is to keep our nerve in the face of obvious, but scarcely overwhelming threat. We begin to look as if we are afraid, and we ought not."

SQUEAK INTO POWER

Sen. Tim Johnson is reminding Democratic colleagues up for re-election how every vote counts.

"In my race for re-election to the U.S. Senate seat from South Dakota in 2002, the Republicans threw everything but the kitchen sink at me," the senator recalls, saying that when the final vote was tallied he won by a mere 524 votes over Republican challenger John Thune.

President Bush is equally quick to remind voters how important each vote was for his candidacy in 2000.

PHOTO PLAGUE

A U.S. senator who once lived among the Muslim population in Libya says photos of U.S. military personnel abusing Iraqi prisoners will come back to haunt the United States.

"In their culture, there is nothing more profoundly humiliating than that, and humiliation breeds anger, and anger breeds terrorism," warns Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). "We have created a recruiting poster for al Qaeda that will plague us for years."

Conrad, who graduated from high school in Tripoli, Libya, says: "I lived for two years in the Arab culture among Muslims. I know if one were to try to design something that would completely and totally enrage people raised in that culture, one could not have designed a scenario worse than what has happened.

"To have an American female in a prison where Iraqi men were naked, forced into homosexual positions, you could not design a circumstance that would more gravely enrage Muslim sensibilities than that."

SHOWING THE COLORS

You might not be able to sing our National Anthem everywhere in this country, but American flags will soon be hanging in every public classroom in Florida because of a patriotic group of students at the University of Florida.

The Florida Legislature has approved a plan to place flags in every state-funded classroom - kindergarten to colleges and universities - by August 2005.

The Florida Freedom Foundation, an independent conservative student group, hatched the idea in 2002 when proposing that flags fly in every classroom at the University of Florida.