On Vets, O.J., Colleges, Petraeus, Hillary, Putin, etc...

Ross Mackenzie

10/4/2007 10:42:19 AM - Ross Mackenzie

Every other Friday about two dozen wounded veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq fighting are honored by thousands — mostly combat vets themselves — assembled in the Pentagon’s Army corridors. They walk or are wheeled to a rolling wave of low, sustained clapping. Says one observer: “Some insist upon getting out of their chairs, to march as best they can with their chin held up, down this hallway, through this most unique audience. . . . No man in that hallway, walking or clapping, is ashamed by the silent tears on more than a few cheeks.”

Yet apparently none of that moves The New York Times. It wants the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq — even as it acknowledges the likely consequence of regional instability and “further ethnic cleansing.”

Is O.J. guilty this time — in an apparent break-in (he terms it a “sting operation”) with gun-toting sidekicks to retrieve property allegedly taken from him years earlier? He speaks: “I’m O.J. Simpson. How am I going to think that I’m going to rob somebody and get away with it? You’ve got to understand, this ain’t somebody going to steal somebody’s drugs or something like that. This is somebody going to get his private (belongings) back. That’s it. That’s not robbery.”

Here’s a head-shaker: General Motors sells fewer Buicks in the U.S. (last year, 241,000) than it sells in China (304,000).

Here’s another: Three of the planet’s most inhumane regimes — Zimbabwe’s under Robert Mugabe, Libya’s under Moammar Gadhafi, and North Korea’s under Kim Jong Il — hold coveted seats on the boards of United Nations human rights and development organizations. Will the U.N. ever make any sense?

In July, the University of Colorado’s board of regents fired Ward Churchill from the faculty for research misconduct (a faculty committee accused him of plagiarism and falsification). Churchill first achieved notoriety with an essay terming some 9/11 victims Nazi-like “little Eichmanns . . . a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire.” Getting rid of this ideologized loon took the school years.

But then, well, that’s the American academy. We have had these recent dismal episodes. (1) Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia dissimulating in the name of free speech. (2) Stanford’s faculty and students protesting the appointment of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as a visiting fellow at the campus-based Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. Apparently Rumsfeld enjoys fewer free-speech rights than Ahmadinejad. And ditto (3) former Harvard president Lawrence Summers, disinvited to speak at a branch of the University of California because the faculty deemed his views on the role of women in science intellectually unworthy.

Do grades hold the key to cracking the college admissions code? Community service? Extracurriculars? Pull? Nope: esoteric essays. In an effort to move beyond drab topics for its mandatory admissions essay, the University of Chicago recently has asked applicants (a) to write something “somehow inspired by super-huge mustard” and (b) to “use the power of string to explain the biggest or the smallest phenomenon.” Uh-huh.

Question: If Gen. David Petraeus and increasing numbers of others are right that the “surge” strategy at last has turned the U.S. toward success in Iraq, why do some — notably in Congress and Hollywood, etc. — now want to change from a strategy that is working back to one that did not?

And mention of Gen. Petraeus invites speculation regarding the curious calculus of Sen. Hillary Clinton in voting against — (BEGIN ITALICS) against (END ITALICS) — a sense-of-the-Senate resolution deploring the MoveOn.org ad that implied betrayal by the general in hauling hod for the Bush administration. The resolution carried easily, but a majority of the Democrats voting (Sen. Clinton among them) said essentially that the ad trashing Petraeus — an exercise in the Clinton-detested “politics of personal destruction” — was OK by them. She needs neither MoveOn’s money nor manpower. Maybe she simply deemed the ad fair game in the war of politics.

Finally, what is it about the Russians that they utter hardly a peep about President Vladimir Putin riding roughshod over friends and neighbors, but they go ballistic over a photo of Putin with his shirt off? On Aug. 15, a holidaying Putin was pictured shirtless along the Khemchik River in Siberia’s mountainous Tuva region. In the Russian mind, that’s apparently worse for a president to do than play roulette with members of his regime — the better to position his own successor.