During war, truth takes on new contoursHaving served at...

the Forum

February 22, 1991

During war, truth takes on new contours

Having served at our embassy in Saigon during the same period that Robert Erlandson wrote for The Sun about the wa there, I was interested by his recent column, "The 4 o'clock follies" (Other Voices, Feb. 11).

His account reminded me that in time of war, truth, if not the first casualty, certainly has to assume new contours as journalists as well as briefers strive to build reputations.

I once asked officers at the political section who the best columnists were on the war, regardless of point of view pro or con. The answer was Ward Just and Dave Broder, and the rest were not so highly regarded. It didn't depend upon point of view, just honesty.

My first tour ended in August 1967. At that time, the South Vietnamese were preparing for a presidential election. A New York Times correspondent had me over for lunch and pulled out a column he had written regarding the election. Surprisingly enough, it announced a smashing victory for President Thieu, although the election was to be held several weeks in the future. My friend announced that it didn't make any difference. He was going on vacation, and Thieu surely had things rigged.

Two weeks later I read his column in the International Herald Tribune. The day's news had already been that Thieu had won re-election, only by a fairly narrow margin. Before turning to my friend's column, I predicted to my wife that the column now would probably say, as it had initially, that Thieu won because he was a dictator. But to account for the results, the columnist would now add that the election results proved that Thieu was not a very efficient dictator. And that is exactly what the column said!

Had I known Mr. Erlandson in Vietnam, by the way, I could have told him that the daily briefings, which I attended several times in 1967, were held at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. That, of course, is why everybody who covered them in Saigon called them "the 5 o'clock follies."

Bill Shepard


Unnatural response

Just thought I'd drop a line to Kevin Cowherd in regard to his column, "Natural childbirth scam." After 13 years of teaching childbirth classes, I've learned not to be offended by columns like this. But somehow, I can't believe you didn't learn anything in your childbirth classes. As we have never had a teacher named "Susie," I'll assume you never took Childbirth Education Association classes. Your wife may have benefited from our special session titled, "Eliminating a major source of pain in labor: the use of general anesthesia for the husband."

On behalf of all the local childbirth educators, I strongly encourage you to hold fast to your decision not to take refresher course. But out of concern for your wife, I feel compelled to make a few suggestions: 1) Your wife should move into the hospital about two weeks before the baby is due. Third labors are often very rapid, and we don't want her to miss an opportunity to experience all the available drugs. 2) Forget the drugs and booze for yourself. Give me a call when the labor begins and I will, free of charge, provide professional labor support to your wife. I'll be happy to whack you with a croquet mallet real hard. 3) Do your wife a favor and have a vasectomy. I you need more anesthesia, that croquet mallet will still be handy.

Kathleen M. Tremper


The writer is vice president of the Childbirth Education 9 Association of Baltimore.

Women who kill

Judge Ellen Heller is expected to agree to an eight-month sentence in a halfway house for a "domestic violence" killer, as recommended by prosecutors. Would a rape victim's prior sexual history also result in such a light sentence?

Life is cheap. Ohio lets loose 26 killers and convicts, and Governor Schaefer took similar action this week. The Evening Sun, in a Jan. 22 editorial, discounted fear that a law allowing evidence of repeated abuse to be introduced as a defense in trials "might encourage more women to kill their husbands."

Despite domestic violence, Baltimore County Executive Roger Hayden refuses to help and the Maryland governor will consider legislation that would result in lighter sentences for killers. Schaefer has refused to open Maryland's family support centers to fathers and husbands.

K. H. Kokkonen


War news

We have many well-meaning people who are against violence and suffering. They are war protesters. Actually, all of us are against war.

But from time to time there are those who arise to create such trouble, violence and suffering that there is no alternative but war. Like cancer, the condition will not go away if we ignore it.

Our news media understand that war is sometimes necessary. But the media are furnishing Saddam Hussein a stage he could never buy.

The media daily show damage and suffering, plus whatever Saddam allows to pass through his censorship.

But the media also have a responsibility to present the basic causes for all this tragedy and suffering. This will help our war protesters understand, whether they want to or not.

Martin Lindsay Cardwell Sr.


See article below.

A lasting peace

Anti-war demonstrators would have the nation believe the war is over a commodity oil. But those with knowledge understand that this is a war against the sadistic, satanic policies of Saddamism.

This war will alter the geography and politics of nations in the Middle East, where governments and borders will never be as they previously were and new directives and economics will be initiated, for war makes temporary all that was permanent.

Saddam Hussein may lose the war, but will the United States win the peace?

Lillian Walston


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