Straight, Bush high

John McCaslin
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Posted: May 21, 2003 12:00 AM

The "Iraqi Most Wanted" playing cards have met their match - President Bush, the newest ace of spades.

GreatUSAflags.com, exclusive distributor of the "official" Iraqi cards, has introduced a new deck honoring the U.S. military heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Besides Bush, the new photo-filled deck honors top military brass and servicemen and women alike, as well as aircraft, ships, vehicles and missiles deployed in battle.

A special Golden Ace tribute card honors all of the armed forces.

SHAPING HISTORY

The White House Historical Association is among the sponsors of a three-day educational conference to be held next month in Alexandria, Va., on how higher-education institutions can collaborate with schools, kindergarten through college, in improving history education.

Wouldn't you know, the opening plenary speaker is Columbia University historian Eric Foner, who after the Sept. 11 attacks spouted, "I'm not sure which is more frightening: the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House."

Foner's topic: "Teaching History After September 11."

LOOTING EXPEDITIONS

The U.S. military has taken to shooting looters in Iraq. The strict new orders didn't go out, however, until thousands of Iraqis - and even U.S. servicemen and women, and a journalist or two - pocketed some of Saddam Hussein's more precious loot.

In past wars waged by U.S. troops, looting was the rule - nowhere better described than in A Marine Tells It to You, written by Col. Frederic May Wise upon his retirement in 1926.

The Marine's 27-year military career resulted in two Distinguished Service Medals, as well as numerous honors and campaign badges for his service in the Philippines, France, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico and finally China, where we pick up his story:

"For the first time since I entered the Marine Corps, I found a situation where rank did not take precedence. Here it was a case of 'first come, first grab.' I gathered up one large bolt of beautiful brocade; an armful of furs, sable, ermine, white fox; eight or nine large cloisonne bowls. I hurried with them to my own quarters where there was a big Chinese box with lock and key. Into this I put them. I put the key in my pocket."

He didn't stop there, recalling looting expeditions by Americans and allies alike "three times a day."

"I could go where I liked. Do what I liked. All Pekin was ahead of me. That first afternoon, accompanied by another officer, I went out on a scouting mission ... to look for jewels."

Almost every palace they entered in the Imperial City offered silks and vases and porcelain.

"I started out with a Chinese cart and a Marine driver (and) also a Chinese manservant who spoke English, and who had been supplied me by the Reverend Gilbert Reed, a missionary," he wrote, pushing through room after room of the palaces mostly.

"The jewels would be there," the colonel explained, snatching string after string of perfectly matched pearls, carved jade and rings set with stones - his servant tagging along with a big box.

"When it was full we made our way outside," he said. "There I intended to get those two Pekinese dogs. My father (the allied commandant at Tong-ku) had asked me to get him a pair and said the Palace of the Emperor's Harem was the only place I would find them."

When shipping crates runneth over, a large boat the U.S. military chartered from the British arrived to pick up the men and their valuables, including more than Pekinese puppies.

"In my charge were 51 beautiful Chinese ponies, the personal loot of officers," Col. Wise wrote. "I got them all aboard."

CONSUMED BY TERROR

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, announcing the indictments late last week of two Yemeni men in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, paid tribute to retired FBI Agent John O'Neill, who took the early lead in the Cole investigation.

O'Neill retired amid accusations that the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, Barbara K. Bodine, had interfered in the investigation and successfully blocked the agent's return to Yemen after his Thanksgiving visit home.

Upon his retirement, O'Neill took over as head of security at the World Trade Center. He died during his first week on the job, a victim of the Sept. 11 attacks.

"John O'Neill worked tirelessly on the Cole investigation," Mueller said. "And the relationship we enjoy with Yemeni law enforcement today and its importance in the war on terror, which cannot be understated, is a direct result of John's efforts."

SANITIZING HISTORY

D.C. court judges and accompanying officials of the D.C. court system requested that two framed Civil War paintings hanging near the lobby of a Williamsburg, Va., hotel be removed in advance of a management training conference last week.

Instead, the general manager of the Radisson Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center - in close proximity to the historic Confederate fort of the same name - had the paintings covered with white bedsheets.

"The sheets are now down," hotel manager Larry V. Wood told this column in a phone interview Monday (May 19).

The paintings of Civil War scenes included historically accurate images of the Confederate flag in the smoke of battle.

"There are things in the world's history which are offensive and many things which we are proud of," D.C. court spokeswoman Leah Gurowitz told this column, defending the court's action. "Similarly, there are many things in a nation's past which are troubling."

The court, Wood confirmed, made it clear in its contract that they wanted the paintings hidden from view prior to their arrival at the hotel on Wednesday.

"We thought they would change the pictures and put them elsewhere," Gurowitz told us. "The method of handling the request (with sheets) was their choice" (no word on whether the sheets, similar to those used by Ku Klux Klansmen, offended the delicate sensibilities of the judges).

Wood said it is "not unheard of" for his hotel and others like it to remove items that for whatever reason are offensive to certain guests, "be it a flag or a portrait."

But was this sanitizing history?

Said Wood: "Our actions certainly are not a direct reflection on our opinions or views."

LACI LINK

Two conservative lawmakers are highlighting the Laci Peterson homicide case in California as argument that a federal law is needed to protect fetuses who are killed in violent crimes against pregnant women.

Under a California law, attorneys are prosecuting Laci's husband for her murder as well as the murder of her unborn son, Conner. There is no equivalent law for crimes committed against pregnant women under federal jurisdiction.

"That's not right," says Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.), urging Americans to contact their lawmakers in support of federal legislation to change that.

Pitts and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Ka.) have begun distributing a weekly report to make their case. The two host a weekly meeting with like-minded folks, called the Values Action Team.

Besides the Peterson murder, the two lawmakers in their first report last week cited legislation that would provide money to prevent and treat AIDS around the world. Brownback said conservatives would have to work hard to protect bill provisions that stress abstinence as the key way of preventing AIDS, and allow faith-based organizations to receive the money even if they opt out of certain things, like handing out condoms.

PARTISAN PROPERTY

Six Washington-area lawyers have contacted us to say they'd be happy to file suit against landlord Peter Kelley, who in a letter published in this column cited a prospective tenant's Republican affiliation when rejecting the soon-to-be intern's request for housing.

"I assume someone will inform Mr. Kelley about the fair-housing laws," says Michael D. Garabedian of Garabedian Properties in Colleyville, Texas, adding: "As a partisan (Republican), I have had the privilege of building a home for a top aide to Al Gore. We agree on almost nothing, but she and her husband were good, decent folks and a pure joy to know and work with.

"I would be curious if I had refused to do her job or charged her more because of her position, how quick I would get a letter from her lawyer."

Kelley could not be reached for comment, but his letter to the parents of a University of Georgia student who, starting in September, will intern for Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.), generated a tremendous reaction from our readers.

Searching for housing for their son, Chuck and Linda Moseley, of Snellville, Ga., wrote a polite letter to Kelley, inquiring about room availability.

Kelley wrote back and said that he is "usually very encouraging of young people doing congressional internships and staying here while they do them."

"However, I do have to say that ... as someone personally quite alarmed about the direction that Congress and the president are taking with the environment, I have concerns about Rep. Linder's record."

The landlord cited, among other things, the lawmaker's vote not to prohibit drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"I would not feel right about having someone stay at our place who was working to advance views such as these, which I believe amount to abandoning our responsibility to future generations. And so I must decline your request for a room here," Kelley wrote.