Politics & Policy

Miered by Nonsense

Weekend-news round-up.

Tuan Le, “of Atlanta,” according to this weekend’s Washington Times, is accused of having smashed Nguyen Quoc Huy in the face last June 21, in the course of a protest at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel here in Washington. Le is the son of “a black U.S. soldier who was killed in action during the Vietnam war.” He came to this country in 1993 from Vietnam and is a legal permanent resident. Huy is the vice chairman of the prime minister’s office of Vietnam.

Le’s lawyer, Kenneth Robinson, plans to present “a possible psychiatric defense,” because he was tortured as a child in Vietnam. Among other things, Robinson says, Le was ordered to dance by Communist soldiers. When he refused, “the soldiers stuck bayonets through the backs of his heels.” Le didn’t walk for a year. And, still according to Robinson, some of Hy’s security guards recognized Le and taunted him.

Le may be facing deportation from a court system that apparently has to find him insane or punish him. To which my question is, who’s crazy here? Le seems to me to have taken reasonable, albeit somewhat undiplomatic, action. To call him insane seems totally nuts to me. Isn’t he entitled to hit the guy in the face? But then, I’m not a lawyer.

Pentagon Non-Messaging

Meanwhile, our heroic media–the same ones urging the feckless Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana to get them a “shield law”–have been drooling over the story of some American soldiers apparently burning two dead bodies of our Taliban enemies in Afghanistan. The brave, the proud, Secretary Rumsfeld limited himself to remark that “charges of that type are harmful,” and to call on Pentagon investigators to move with “a sense of urgency.” The Associated Press thoughtfully tells us that “Pentagon lawyers had advised him to be careful about what he says because…remarks about the specifics…could complicate the proceedings.”

Heaven forfend!

But I don’t think even the Pentagon lawyers could object if Rumsfeld had called attention to another set of burning bodies, twice as many as in the Taliban incident. This one took place last month, and the victims were American. One of them was burned alive. They were contractors for KBR (owned by Halliburton), and they were in a convoy north of Baghdad when they took a wrong turn. According to the London Telegraph, “dozens of Sunni Arab insurgents [how would they know?] wielding rocket launchers and automatic rifles” attacked them. Two were killed, and the other two were dragged from the vehicle. One of those was shot in the back of the head, and the other was doused with gasoline and set on fire. “Barefoot children, yelping in delight, piled straw on to the screaming man’s body to stoke the flames.” Then the mob dragged the corpses through the streets “chanting anti-U.S. slogans.”

I wonder why it took so long for that story to break, and I wonder why it came out in a British newspaper rather than an American one. Was it available to American journalists? The Washington Post, which picked up on the Telegraph story, said “there was no explanation for why the military did not report the deaths earlier.” It’s odd, but then this Pentagon, and the major media, are not very good at informing the American public about the nature of the people we are fighting. Particularly when there is great media excitement about the two Taliban bodies-which seem, so far as we know, to have been burned because they were decomposing close by our soldiers–it seems like Rumsfeld, or somebody, should have pointed out that Americans are being burned as well, sometimes living Americans. And there won’t be any Pentagon lawyers investigating those “Sunni Arab insurgents.”

It all smacks of media overwillingness to portray our troops in a bad light, and our government’s ham-handed inability to paint a full, accurate picture of what’s going on. There seems to be no assistant secretary of Defense in charge of public affairs. Maybe Rumsfeld could appoint one?

Nuke the Whales

Finally, to round out this happy picture, on Page 9 of Sunday’s Washington Post, we have the alarming full-page headline “Navy Moves Forward on Sonar Facility Despite Concerns About Whales.” Back in the days when I contributed to The American Spectator, we used to sell t-shirts with the slogan “Nuke the Whales.” Maybe it’s time for a comeback.

The Navy wants to train our Atlantic fleet to hunt for submarines, especially because bad guys now have very quiet subs that they could deploy “in canyons and ocean beds closer to shore.” Some environmentalists say, apparently with cause, that sonar can sometimes disorient and even kill what the Post’s Marc Kaufman calls “some of the world’s most endangered whales and sea turtles.” Joel Reynolds, who heads an environmentalist group, says that “if the Navy wants to make North Carolina an epicenter for training with this dangerous technology, it must first show that we won’t see more whales on North Carolina beaches because of its actions.”

But that is certainly not obvious, is it? The usual unnamed U.S. “officials” speak of “the clear and present threat posed by quiet diesel electric submarines to our carrier strike groups…” and other Navy groups. Once again, the Pentagon’s unbelievably inept public-affairs people swing into inaction. Why can’t somebody with a name pose the question accurately? We certainly don’t want to have our coast attacked by terrorists in quiet subs. But we certainly don’t want to kill whales if we can avoid it. What to do?

Well, for one thing, you investigate the claims, and of course the government is doing that, of course very slowly. The report-from the folks at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration–was due this summer, but it’s not out yet, and isn’t even scheduled until early next year. In other words, the usual lack of accountability.

But even with all that, and speaking as a lover of wildlife from here to the African bush, if I had to choose between protecting our citizens and saving every last whale off the Carolinas, I’m gonna go with the citizens. It’s all about the children, remember?

The moral? Don’t be surprised when the administration bungles the presentation of the Miers candidacy. They can’t even make a convincing case for defending our coastline. Or our soldiers.

Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.

Michael LedeenMichael Ledeen is an American historian, philosopher, foreign-policy analyst, and writer. He is a former consultant to the National Security Council, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. ...


The Latest