The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 2, 2001 · Page 7
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 7

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Wednesday, May 2, 2001
Page 7
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THE SALINA JOURNAL WEDNESDAY. MAY 2, 200t-A7 V Tom Bell Editor & Publisher • Opinions expressed on this page are those of the Identified writers. To join the conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS A 67402 Fax: (785) 827-6363 E-mail: SJLetters® saljournaLcpm Quote of the day "IftHegoalis impasse, we are working diligently toward impasse." Sen. David Adkins R-Leawood, on negotiations between the House and Senate over balancing the ^ state budget. The play's the dimg for Salina THERSOE Salina Community Theatre THEARGUMBVT "Wif cast brings recognition to Salina S alina's standing as a center for the arts is well established in Kansas. That reputation has also spread to neighboring states, gaining our city respect among arts enthusiasts throughout the region. Now we have a chance to enhance our community's image on a national level. The opportunity comes through the efforts of Salina Community Theatre, which won a regional competition over the weekend and is now on the way to a national contest. The regional crown was won with a production of "Wit," a Pulitzer-Prize winning play about one woman's battle vvith ovarian cancer. It played to enthusiastic audiences in Salina, then an abbreviated version was entered in competition. The "Wit" cast apparently won over regional judges. The play took first place from among nine competitors, plus it won five individual and group awards. The regional win has earned the cast a trip to national competition June 25 to July 1 in Harrisburg, Pa. But, as with many worthwhile endeavors, this effort will take money Michael Spicer, managing artistic director for SCT, said the theater will need $15,000 to make the trip. That is a lot of money to raise in less than two months. But it is a drop in the bucket compared to what our community would have to spend to gain comparable recognition on the national level. Additionally, such opportunities to shine on the national stage don't come along very often. The last time SCT won a trip to national competition was in 1983. This is a prime example of artistic and image-building endeavors that deserve support of public and private funds. The Journal will contribute cash and in-kind services to help SCT reach this fundraising goal, and other local entities — including the Salina City Commission — should also consider donating to the effort. Contributions should be mailed to: Salina Community Theatre, P.O. Box 2305, Salina, KS 67401, noting on the check that the contribution is for "Wit." — Tom Bell Editor & Publisher T ESSAY The return of the Vietnam Syndrom^ WILLIAM SAFIRE Tlie New York Times # Making war by remote control will still kill civilians, but can reduce our guilt W ASHINGTON — Medal of Honor winner and former Sen. Bob Kerrey, joined by five members of the Navy Seal team sent into a free-fire zone in South Vietnam for the purpose of killing Vietcong communist leaders, asserts that they were returning enemy ^ fire on that dark night 32 * yeiars ago. To their lifelong dismay, their blazing response kiUed civilians of all ages, One member of the team disagrees, claiming that Kerrey ordered deliberate murder. That lone account is supported by the wife of a Vietcong fighter, speaking with the approval of Vietnamese officials, whose story has already changed from what she said she "saw" to what she now tells reporters she "heard." In our system of justice, the burden qf proof is on the accuser and a presumption of innocence belongs to the accused. N;^ hard evidence is offered to support this grave allegation.-That is why the denial by the anguished Kerrey and his fellow veterans deserves respect. They have long been burdened by guilt at the mistaken wartime killings, but they are not murderers. This story is another manifestation of the self-flagellation that led to the Vietnam Syndrome — thait revulsion at the use of military power that afflicted our national psyche for decades after our defeat. It is the pacifist position that holds Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon morally culpable to have helped the South Vietnamese defend their nation from communist invaders from the north. The American elites that ducked the draft were right to refuse to get involved in somebody else's civil war, goes this voice. Many of those too poor or patriotic to arrange deferments to avoid service were shunned as killers on their return. The national affliction called the Vietnam Syndrome carried this message: because war means killing, and because killing brutalizes and dehumanizes those charged with doing it, we should never again become involved in such a messy endeavor Honoring commitments to allies? An excuse for imperialism. Containing the spread of communist tyranny? One day the democratic and communist sys- T POINT OF VIEW LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL SJLetters @ The best and the worst in sports It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, it is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness. Especially in the world of sports. The "lump in the throat" crack of home run number 70 has been replaced by a time when a rising majority of baseball players and others want more and more and more and no longer know how to hold a Bic. It is a time when we, the fans, are asked to feel sorry for a Darryl Strawberry, again and again. It is a time when ticket prices and concession prices are so high it relegates many families to the TV "stands." It is a.time when a Super Bowl quarterback is sacked for a real loss and sent looking for another teaim. It is a time when the performances of Jackie Stiles and Shane Battier can quickly be clpuded by the bickering of Shaq and Kobe and the displays of temper by Rasheed Wallace. It is a time when a volatile basketball coach can be hired and have his past magically go Poo// Sadly, it is a time when teams are built by "bucks" and not by individuals. Superstardom no longer means hero or role model. Instead, the term apparently carries with it the unalienable right to do anything, act any way And who is watching these displays? Our young people. But wait a minute. There are some "feel good" things going on in the world of sports. There are the "comeback kids." Tim Raines of the Montreal Expos is trying again at 41 and setting an example for younger teammates and fans alike. Jennifer P.O. Box 740, Salina, KS 67402 Capriati survived self-doubt, drugs and her father's "spell" to play again and upset Martina Hingus, not once but twice. And what about Mario Lemieux? He has returned after battling Hodgkin's Disease and major injuries to be a role model for his young son and to help his team. And who can forget the outpouring of emotion and support for Arizona coach Lute Olsen during the NCAA Tournament after the loss of his wife. Maybe there are enough gpod things in sports today for the fans, if we just look more closely at what is going on. But thank God for the good guys and gals like Jeff Gordon, Tiger Woods, Nancy Lopez, Jerry Rice, Mark McGwire, Michael Jordan and the many genuine stars who care not only about themselves but other people like you and me, too. Now if we could just get Pete to say he's sorry To quote the Beach Boys, "Wouldn't it be nice?" — PEGGY KELLEY Tescott tems would peacefully converge, we were assured; therefore, never hesitate to accommodate. In commentary that followed the accusation of Kerrey and his men, the point was hammered home that never again must Americans be turned into savage brutes. Time magazine puts it this way: "Nations have no business sending their young into battle without lasting moral justification." In the 1960s, the majority of Americans agreed with three presidents and most in Congress that resisting the spread of communism was morally justified. We saw a vast difference between free nations, with all their faults, and tyrannous regimes determined to gain control of their neighbors. Some of us, in our simplistic Manichaean way, saw democratic freedom as good and communist despotism as evil. That was America's moral justification for sending our troops to defend Europe in the Cold War against a Soviet Union determined to dominate the world. That was why it was right to send troops to South Korea to defend it against communist aggression from the north and later to send troops to South Vietnam to do the same. We won two out of those three. Because America was ready to fight, Europe is free. Because Americans were united and limit­ ed war was successful in South Korea, that nation is free. But because we were divided and limited war failed in Vietnam, the people there now are unfree. Ah, but the Syndrome's requirement is "lasting moral justification." If the justification does not last — that is, if we lose, or if real or imagined horrors surface decades later — then ex post facto morality kicks in and it becomes wi*ong to have sent our young into battle. Partly to avoid late-hitting charges of individual brutalization and atrocity, military planners are banishing close combat in favor of long-range missiles and smart bombs from 15,000 feet. War by remote control means that more civilians may die.but less guilt-will be felt. Some Vietnam heroes in the Senate condemn that conflict even as they forgive Kerrey and his team any possible transgression in the fog of war. Are there no voices left, after that costly loss of human life, to reject the Syndrome's humiliating accusation of national arrogance — and to recall a noble motive? • William Safire was a speechwriter for the Nixon White House and is now a; cofiqn- nistfor the New York Times, 229 W.'-43rd Street. New York, NY 10036. Yet another 'atrocity" from Vietnam Kerrey's story reminds us that Vietnam was full of the slain and the slayers WASHINGTON — The true horror of the mistake that was the Vietnam War has been demonstrated once again in gut-wrenching, heartbreaking fashion with the disclosure of yet another "atrocity" that produced only victims •— those slain and those who did the slaying. The simple tragedy on the -American side of the war, in addition ^ to the 55,000 killed there, always has been the devastatr ing toll it took on the souls of thousands of youngsters who returned home to face years of often-debilitating memories and collective guilt. Among them was a group of Navy SEALS who have lived for 32 years with the nightmare of having ended the lives of women and children of a Vietnam village in 1969 while on a mis- • sion to eliminate Viet Cong guerrillas in a free-fire zorie in the Mekong Delta. It is perhaps more noteworthy than other such incidents, including the highly publicized massacre of civilians at My Lai, largely because the leader of the Navy commando team was a former Nebraska governor and U.S. senator, Bob Kerrey Recollections differ regarding exactly what happened, but not as to the result for which Kerrey has accepted responsibility (He earned the Bronze Star for the mission in question and was given the Medal of Honor — the highest decoration for bravery this nation can bestow — for an unrelated incident). One must hesitate in calling the dead "noncombatants" because this was not a traditional war where lines are drawn. DAN K. THOMASSON Scrips Howard News Service The real culprits in all such incidents, of course, are the politicians, elected and appointed, who pursued the war knowing full well that this nation's interests were not at stake. One never knew who was or wasn't the enemy in the soggy hell of Indochina. Even children were enlisted to toss hand grenades or empty a rifle at unsuspecting soldiers. Women were not excluded from the Viet Cong ranks and, indeed, one who witnessed the Kerrey-led expedition and has related her story was the wife of an active Viet Cong. But that is no excuse and neither Kerrey nor any of his team is trying to absolve their actions on those grounds. Those slain were civilians and the rules of civilized behavior even for a soldier are clear If those conducting the war had instituted an unwritten take-no-prisoners rule in free-fire zones, and they have seemed to have done so, then they were as guilty as those who pulled the trigger or wielded the knife indiscriminately in this and other not-yet-revealed atrocities. From every indication, team members all have suffered, mostly in silence, and like many of their comrades in arms have tried to survive as productive citizens. Kerrey reportedly lost his leg' partly because he was so unsettled by his earlier experience that in another operation he was determined not to make the same mistake. It was for this later action that he won the Medal of Honor The real culprits in all such incidents, of course, are the politicians, elected and appointed, who pursued the war knowing full well that this nation's interests were not at stake, that this basically was a civil and ideological war whose outcome was not worth one American's life — neither in battle nor in the living purgatory of its aftermath. None of these men bears, any more blame for the tragedy than former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, for instance, who 30 years later, in an apparent effort to win expiation for his sins, revealed that he had known all along the war was lost but did nothing to stop the slaughter Can one say that John E Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon is any less responsible for what occurred than Kerrey and his men? Of course not. This was ^nightmare designed by politicians and professional soldiers willing to carry it on for such ignoble reasons as career advancement. Its cause was rooted in the huge standing army of the Cold War and in misguided geopolitical and ideological concepts. Amazingly, the youngsters they depended on to achieve their objectives were much quicker to realize its fallacies and hastened its end. Those who earlier went forward as "good" Americans doing their "duty," were met with derision and hate that continues to this day to haunt many of them. Few if any came home undamaged. If war itself is hell, as Gen. Sherman said, then that hell for many never ends. It is not easy to calculate how one might react in the fear and pressures of battle, real or perceived, whether in a tiny village in Vietnam or on the campus of Kent State University. Kerrey has been quoted as saying that his real concern has been when he meets his maker and is held accountable for his actions. It seems to me then that we should leave the final judgment to that authority Oddly, the Vietnamese understand this and have expressed their willingness to forgive. • Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of Scripps Howard News Service, 1090 Vermont Ave. NW, Suite 1000, Washington',.D'.C. 20005. DOONESBURY FLASHBACKS By G.B. TRUD.EAU Tell it like it is I have been following the columns of Kristin Conard over the last few weeks and have found them to be right on. Kristin certainly has a take on things that is both fresh and perceptive. She manages to strip away all the "spin" and calls it like it is. This letter is a request for her to continue the good work that strips away the smoke and b.8. so common now and to keep teUing it like it is. — ROYH. VANLIEW Downs THeN 15NTBR MY RUSe- m?P. ''ROTidUr! BIN60! eorcNB Piece operMAiu om 'BR. UP, pFomo! 7b: Allreaderv. Seek hotneJcM male with ba «ic OMnpuier sWlte ft>r weJi-paid, secure job. tnainjngand mental health can. Cm tact writer. 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