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Jewish World Review April 30, 1999 /14 Iyar, 5759

Paul Greenberg

Paul Greenberg
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Bumpers' 'B.S.'

(JWR) ---- (
THE LADY CAME INTO THE OFFICE bearing pamphlets, statistics, a cause. They all showed that the United States spent twice as much as all our possible enemies combined on defense, and wasn't that awful? Scandalous.

The lady wanted to know what we intended to do about it. The world needs to know about this, she said. It ought to be exposed, published in the newspaper, shouted from the rooftops. She'd already written a letter to the editor about it, and shouldn't we be editorializing about it, and . . . .

I glanced down at the list of all our Possible Enemies. One needs to know these things. Our eye happened to fall on the Czech Republic. Vaclav Havel's republic? If we're his enemy, we surrender. He's one of the few great men left. The Czechs are our possible enemies? Strange: They've just joined NATO, along with Poland and Hungary, and were standing with us, however uneasily, in the current unpleasantness with Serbia.

Leafing through the lady's abundant material, I looked for a source of all this dubious data and these even more dubious conclusions. We'd been spending too much on a military that even now is running short of cruise missiles? Our "ready response'' team of 24 Apache anti-tank helicopters and their ground support weren't even ready for a month. Some ready response. Aircraft needed to enforce the no-fly zones over Iraq have had to be diverted to the Balkans.

We're at war, and our neglected military, it suddenly becomes apparent, is stretched to the limit, if not beyond. It is poorly prepared to fight the kind of war this is but wasn't supposed to be. And we're overemphasizing defense? Who puts out this stuff?

"The Department of Defense,'' said the lady. That's strange. I hadn't ever heard of the Department of Defense complaining that we were spending too much on defense. It would be unnatural. Ever heard of any government agency complaining it was getting too much money?

Then, in the small type, I spotted the letters CDI. Oh, yes, Dale Bumpers' outfit in Washington. Does that stand for the Center for Defense Information? Or is it a center of disinformation? Anyway, I wasn't surprised. Amused, maybe. I'd heard that the former senator from Arkansas had found something to do after his 24 years in Congress, capped by a brief stint at criminal law before that same body earlier this year. He'd got his client off, too. Earned a footnote in the history books. Do you think he'll be remembered for anything else?

The ex-senator must be mighty proud. The defendant-in-chief said he was, too -- that it had been an honor to be impeached. If so, this president must consider his recent contempt citation a canonization.

And here this lady had come to call with her facts and her figures and her cause. All on a nice spring day in April. It was Holocaust Remembrance Day. And even as she spoke, the armed forces of the United States were engaged in combat, trying to prevent another one.

We were in the midst of the worst, continuing war crime on the European continent since World War II. Our men were in the air; three were prisoners of war. And this dear lady was saying we were spending entirely too much on defense. Boy, had she picked the wrong day to call.

I told her we welcomed her letter to the editor on the subject and had been happy to publish it. That's what we're here for. I urged her to keep writing, to continue expressing her views in every forum. It's a free country, I said. And because we want it to stay that way, I had to add, some of us intend to redouble our support for the under-appreciated, under-supported, under-prepared, and, yes, under-funded armed forces of the United States. And I resolved inwardly to write another column making all that even clearer.

I wanted to say more. I wanted to explain that when America is strong, the tyrants of the world tremble. And the oppressed hope. I wanted to talk about what those Albanian refugees must feel, the ones who managed to make it out, hungry and cold and in anguish, with the kids and the old folks in tow. They must wonder if anybody cares, or if they'll ever get home, even as they grieve for the dead left behind. Has anything really changed since the 1940s?

Here's what I think: At least this time -- however late, however disorganized, however unsure and divided and squabbling -- the world is taking some notice, even beginning to strike back. If only beginning.

I wanted to tell the lady that when America is weak, indecisive and tempted to withdraw into its shell, into its old isolationist self, Kosovos happen. Bosnias happen. Holocausts happen. And Europe, cradle of world wars, the truly dark continent, slips back into hatred, violence and wars against whole, defenseless peoples. And those wars inevitably draw us in -- until the New World must once again come to the rescue of the old. It's happened before, and it was happening again.

And because we had hesitated so long this time, because year after year our hearts had hardened, and we thought we could just let Bosnia burn itself out, we were now confronted by Kosovo. And worse will come if we falter now. Or if we grant this tinpot Hitler any part of his demands.

I wanted to say all that, but didn't. There was a paper to put out, page proofs to read, news to catch up with, prayers to say and, yes, our armed forces to support. I have no reservations about them, not a one. No, ma'am. They restore my faith every day and every night. I only wish they had more to work with, not less -- more missiles, more aircraft, more support and supplies, and most of all better organization and political leadership.

I wish our forces had more of everything they need to accomplish their mission, end this thing and come home. It is only their commander-in-chief who worries some of us, he and all the other sunshine soldiers in their nice clean, well-lit offices who started this war without a plan and may yet end it without victory. But instead of explaining all that, I just wished the dear lady a good day. Hurry back. And I thought, not for the first time:In war there is no substitute for victory.


04/27/99: An American tragedy: the fall of Kenneth Starr
04/23/99: Presidents and the press
04/14/99: A revealing moment
04/14/99: War Day by day
04/12/99: Just a few questions
04/06/99: The problem with the Left
04/05/99: The problem with the Right
03/30/99: But can he convince himself?
03/26/99: Short bursts
03/24/99: Once more into the quagmire
03/17/99: Big time in Little Rock
03/15/99: Our own Roger Taney
03/09/99: A different ‘Waterfront’
03/05/99: Law and disorder
2/26/99: King Richard's revenge
2/25/99: Open season on the fetus, and a good word for the pagans
2/23/99: It never ends: Here comes the judge
2/19/99: After the storm: Going through the debris
2/17/99: Where's the closure?
2/12/99: Hussein the Hashemite: The wiliest player on the board
2/09/99: The social security game
2/04/99: Our own Inspector Clouseau
2/01/99: Night scene, night thoughts
1/28/99: The decay of the art of lying
1/26/99: Impeachment: Short subjects
1/22/99: Bounce, glitz and tedium: The State of the Disunion
1/20/99: Destructive engagement: How to encourage tyranny
1/18/99: Martin Luther King: The radical as conservative?
1/11/99: Why America is apathetic about Bill's date with destiny
1/06/99:The year of Moronica
1/04/99: Clinton’s janitorial crew of two
12/29/98:The Senate will be on trial, too
12/29/98:A look down the avenue
12/22/98: The surreal impeachment
12/17/98: Another moment of truth approaches
12/15/98: The President's defenders: witnesses for the prosecution
12/10/98:The latest miracle cure: CensurePlus
12/03/98: Sentences at an airport Sentences at an airport
12/03/98: Games lawyers play
12/01/98: Ms. Magoo strikes again, or: Janet Reno and the law
11/26/98: The most American holiday
11/23/98: Same game, another round
11/18/98: Guide to the perplexed
11/09/98: A vote for apathy
11/03/98: Global village goes Clintonesque
11/02/98: Farewell to all that
10/30/98: New budget, same swollen government
10/26/98: Of life on the old plantation -- and death in the Middle East
10/22/98: Starr Wars (CONT'D)
10/19/98:Another retreat: weakness invites aggression
10/16/98: Profile in courage
10/14/98: A new voice out of Arkansas
10/09/98: Gerald Ford, Mr. Fix-It?
10/07/98: Impeachment Journal: Dept. of Doublespeak
10/01/98: The new tradition
9/25/98: Mr. President, PLEASE don't resign
9/23/98: The demolition of meaning
9/18/98: So help us G-d; The nature of the crisis
9/17/98: First impressions: on reading the Starr Report
9/15/98: George Wallace: All the South in one man
9/10/98: Here comes the judge
9/07/98: Toward impeachment
9/03/98: The politics of impeachment
9/01/98: The eagle can still soar
8/28/98: Boris Yeltsin's mind: a riddle pickled in an enigma
8/26/98: Clinton agonistes, or: Twisting in the wind
8/25/98: The rise of the English murder
8/24/98: Confess and attack: Slick comes semi-clean
8/19/98: Little Rock perspectives
8/14/98: Department of deja vu
8/12/98: The French would understand
8/10/98: A fable: The Rat in the Corner
8/07/98: Welcome to the roaring 90s
8/06/98: No surprises dept. -- promotion denied
8/03/98: Quotes of and for the week: take your pick
7/29/98: A subpoena for the president:
so what else is new?
7/27/98: Forget about Bubba, it's time to investigate Reno
7/23/98: Ghosts on the roof, 1998
7/21/98: The new elegance
7/16/98: In defense of manners
7/13/98: Another day, another delay: what's missing from the scandal news
7/9/98:The language-wars continue
7/7/98:The new Detente
7/2/98: Bubba in Beijing: history does occur twice
6/30/98: Hurry back, Mr. President -- to freedom
6/24/98: When Clinton follows Quayle's lead
6/22/98: Independence Day, 2002
6/18/98: Adventures in poli-speke

©1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate