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Hoping numbers were more than political statement

By Staff | May 29, 2009

As a retired Air Force officer and pilot who has lost many comrades-in-arms, Memorial Day is a very important and reflective holiday for me. So when I opened the May 22 Chronicle, Editorial Page, I was eager to read an uplifting story about the heroic act of a local soldier, sailor, marine or airman. Instead, there resided Peter Wilson’s article, “War: The names, the lives, the numbers never lie.” My pensive demeanor turned to anger. Since I believe anger is an inappropriate catalyst to generating a rebuttal I “sat on my hands” for several days before bellying up my laptop.

First and foremost, I dedicated most of my adult life to defending the rights of people like Mr. Wilson to state whatever they wish, regardless of how misguided, inappropriate and/or just plain incorrect it may be. The freedom of expression is one of our most coveted and cherished rights. Now it is my turn to exercise my freedom of expression

Mr. Wilson’s article reminds me of a very difficult situation I experienced when working in the Pentagon during the Clinton Administration. As an Air Force strategic planner I was deeply involved in shaping national security strategy and was only a few levels removed from policies emanating from the White House. So when President Clinton elected to use military people and equipment to divert the nation’s attention away from the Monica Lewinsky scandal, many officers like me were deeply offended and disgusted. Scores of officers, in fact, chose to retire after that incident rather than serve a president who viewed the military as simply political pawns.

Mr. Wilson saw fit, during the last Bush Administration, to erect numbers on the front of his house displaying the ever-growing number of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen killed while defending our nation. But now that Mr. Obama is in office “… the only numbers on [Mr. Wilson’s] porch will be [his] address.” How courageous. How Clintonesque. How utterly political. How dare Mr. Wilson use the deaths of our warriors as a statement about the conduct of the wars. On the very eve of Memorial Day you could not even find a sentence or two to honor those “numbers.”

Finally, Mr. Wilson states “I don’t know how to avoid wars, I don’t even think I’m against all wars.” Yet Mr. Wilson appears certain Mr. Bush mismanaged the war effort, while his savior, Mr. Obama, is now on the right track.

Let me tell you Mr. Wilson, from an airman who has been in conflict and never wishes to experience it again, war sometimes cannot be avoided. Some warfare is necessary and it is never, I repeat, never, conducted according to plan.

How did President Bush keep another attack on our soil from occurring? By putting up numbers in front of the White House? No, sir. He took the fight to those who killed our fellow countrymen. He took it to their backyard. He did not negotiate, mediate and have love-ins. Oh, and by the way, he freed a nation of millions from the tyranny of a monster (Saddam Hussein), where women can once again vote, children are in school and basic human rights have been re-established.

As long as I don’t see any numbers on your house I will assume you think Mr. Obama is doing a wonderful job as Commander-in-Chief. As such, I will hold you and your liberal brethren accountable for when and if we are again attacked.

I am a new member to the community and I can guarantee you that I will challenge opinions I disagree with but will defend their right to be stated.

Keith A. Hutcheson

Fernbank Drive