Wreaths for all

John McCaslin
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Posted: May 30, 2003 12:00 AM

In addition to the wreath he laid at the Tomb of the Unknowns on Memorial Day, President Bush has once again sent a wreath to the hallowed grounds of the Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery.

Earlier this year, Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D-Nev.) - after reading a misleading article in Time magazine - took to the Senate floor to criticize the administration for having reinstituted wreath layings at the Confederate Monument, after the practice purportedly was dropped in 1990.

Reid said placing such a wreath at the monument was "racially motivated."

But it turned out wreaths had been placed at the Confederate Monument for years.

President George H.W. Bush did change the date of the wreath laying from Jefferson Davis' birthday June 3 (recognized as Confederate Memorial Day) to the national Memorial Day celebration. The Clinton administration and the current Bush administration have continued the practice.

Time later issued a correction. And when it was his turn, Reid apologized for repeating the inaccuracy, but not for his sentiment. The senator said President Bush should discontinue the wreath-laying tradition, "regardless of the past history of the practice."

In addition to the Confederate Monument and Tomb of the Unknowns, the White House Military Office placed wreaths on behalf of the president at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the Civil War, placed atop 2,111 anonymous Civil War dead buried at Arlington; on the mast of the USS Maine; and at the Spanish-American War Memorial.

CELEBRATING HERITAGE

While we're visiting the Confederate Monument, the Confederate Memorial Committee (CMC) of the District of Columbia will hold its Confederate Heritage Celebration at the Arlington National Cemetery site this Sunday (June 1) at 3 p.m. The ceremony has been held annually since 1914, when the Confederate Monument was given as a "gift to the nation" by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

"Our objective is to honor the memory of our soldiers who fought for the Confederacy as well as to celebrate our Confederate heritage," says CMC Chairman Vicki Heilig, who's encouraging participants to carry Confederate flags to the celebration, "where we will wave them proudly."

New this year, besides so many flags, will be the singing of five verses of "Dixie," helped along by a pipe and drum band, brass instruments and eight-member color guard with all the Confederate colors.

"If you cannot hold up while singing five verses of 'Dixie,' then take a few seconds to listen to the strains of this Confederate anthem as it floats across the countryside once belonging to Robert E. Lee," Heilig says, not forgetting the fact that Union troops evicted the Lees from their property while burying war dead on their front lawn.

RELOCATION MISSION

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely is as tough a soldier as the U.S. military will ever produce.

A U.S. Military Academy graduate, the highly decorated Gen. Vallely served two combat tours in Vietnam and headed myriad military missions around the globe. During the 1980s, he commanded the 351st Civil Affairs Command, overseeing special forces, psychological warfare and civil military units. He retired in 1991 as the U.S. Army's deputy commanding general and today is one of the foremost authorities on counter-terrorism warfare.

No mission was ever too big, and now - after what transpired on Memorial Day - too small.

After observing a moment of silence for his fallen comrades, the general found himself undertaking a mission unlike any he'd ever encountered before: herding seven Canadian goslings, rescued from the suction of a water fountain outside his Crystal City condominium, and walking them - with their parents in tow - an entire mile to the Potomac River and a safer home.

"Here's two Canadian geese, with their seven new goslings trapped in the pool of water, and they can't get out," Gen. Vallely tells this column. "We called animal rescue but they said there wasn't anything they could do, so I went ahead and got them out."

Which was all fine and dandy, except that the intuitive little geese - finding no other body of water to jump into - leaped right back into the fountain.

Once again, the Army general climbed in with them.

Except this time, he placed each gosling into a bird cage held by his lieutenant, er, wife, "Muffin."

"If you can picture this, here we are in Crystal City, overlooking the runway of Reagan National Airport, and I told my wife that what we've got to do is move these geese," says Gen. Vallely.

"So off we go, on foot - me carrying the goslings down the George Washington Memorial Parkway toward the Potomac River, the mother and father geese following six paces behind me. Geese mate for life, you know. The male always looks out for the female, who always looks out for the little ones. Everybody on the trail was stopping to let us through - they couldn't believe what they were seeing."

The general reports that the family of nine took to the water and is very happy in its new home.

RADICAL AFTER ALL

The Dixie Chicks will be interested to learn that Live Aid founder Bob Geldof "shocked" the international aid community, as Reuters wrote Wednesday, by praising President Bush as one of Africa's best friends in the fight against AIDS and famine.

"You'll think I'm off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical - in a positive sense - in the approach to Africa since Kennedy," Geldof said during a visit to famine-ravaged Ethiopia.

The Irish musician and activist said Bush's predecessor, Bill Clinton, might have talked passionately about Africa but did very little to help the continent.

FIGHTING WORDS

His wife gone from the White House, Democratic strategist James Carville is calling the "Bush crew" that remains a bunch of liars.

"Worst of all, they lie," Carville writes to this column on Democratic National Committee letterhead (they've been trying for three years to get us to join the party).

"These people are playing for keeps," says Bill Clinton's former adviser, "and if we give this Bush crew four more years in the White House to do their dirty work, we won't recognize the America they've created.

"Let's stick it to these guys," he says.

CHEERS FOR CHAO

By golly, we come across a new government program that seems to be working: locating jobs for disabled college students and recent graduates in the federal work force.

Announced only last month by Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, we're told that the department's work-force recruitment program already has placed more than 260 college students and recent grads with disabilities into summer or permanent jobs all over the country.

ARNETT ARGUMENT

The Southeastern Legal Foundation is asking the Justice Department to bring "criminal treason" charges against former NBC reporter Peter Arnett, who during a lengthy interview with Iraqi TV claimed that American military planning had failed in the war with Iraq.

It wouldn't be the first time the U.S. government prosecuted Americans for wartime broadcasts.

Oscar R. Ewing, a top policy adviser to President Harry S Truman and head of the Federal Security Agency - the Homeland Security Department of its day - made the national security decision to pursue criminal prosecutions against three American citizens who broadcast their pro-Nazi views on European radio during World War II.

"I argued that (past legal) cases involved nothing more than a man getting on a stump and talking to a crowd of people that were within the normal range of his voice," Ewing recalled. "I felt this was quite different from words spoken into a microphone that could project the words all over the world.

"Furthermore, that propaganda had become a definite weapon of warfare, and that anyone who used that weapon against his own country should be prosecuted for treason," he continued. "When I had finished, the Attorney General (Francis Biddle) said, 'Well, I think you've got a point. Will you prosecute them?'"

Fast forward to today, where Phil Kent, president of SLF, says the U.S. Constitution "makes plain that treason is a crime witnessed by at least two persons, there's legal intent, and it provides aid and comfort to the enemy - and Peter Arnett's worldwide television tirade on Iraqi TV against U.S. military activity certainly meets those criteria.

"The Truman administration during the post-World War II period aggressively pursued at least three Americans who gave aid and comfort to the enemy Axis powers by broadcasting their views," he said. "In these seminal cases, U.S. citizens who broadcast anti-American sentiment on behalf of Nazi Germany while in Germany during the war were extradited, tried and convicted of treason . . .

"This is the Arnett argument," says Kent. "It didn't fly then, and it doesn't fly now."