The Way It Was
Editor: It's unfortunate that Garry Wills, in his May 10 column "Who Commands the Commanders?" chose to accept at face value a paragraph about me in Bob Woodward's book, "The Commanders," without ever calling to ask if his interpretation were accurate.
Let me set the record straight. I never "countered the civilian leadership of the republic" nor did I participate in the "thwarting of a presidential directive."
What I did do was to suggest an informal way for Marshal Akhromeyev, my Soviet counterpart, to communicate with me rather than using the normal system, which was cumbersome, not always timely and subject to rather wide distribution throughout the government.
At no time was there any suggestion, hint or intention expressed or intended that such information would not be shared with our civilian superiors in our respective governments.
On the contrary, I assumed that the marshal would not send me anything that he had not vetted with his government and that any of my responses would be reported to his hierarchy. That was certainly my own practice and I believed that the marshal understood that reality.
In the course of my meetings with Marshal Akhromeyev, we had hours of private discussions. I subsequently briefed the secretary of Defense, the national security advisor and, when appropriate, the president. I understood that the marshal followed a similar practice in the Kremlin.
Early in our talks in the summer of 1988, I and Marshal Akhromeyev concurred that our militaries needed some
emergency communication procedures which could be implemented in the event of an incident between our forces. Those arrangements were included in the formal agreement to reduce tensions in the wake of dangerous militarily activities signed in 1989. My informal line of communications to the marshal was never a part of this system. In fact, it was never used.
The suggestion by anyone that I was trying to set up some extra-governmental "crisis channel" for private communications with the Soviets is not only ludicrous, it's patently untrue.
0&Adm. William J. Crowe Jr, USN (Ret.).
The writer is a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Stakes Are High
Editor: I profoundly rue the sentencing of Winnie Mandela, a staunch and intrepid stalwart for freedom and justice in South Africa. It is, to be sure, a grievous and lamentable setback for her, but, too, for her husband and family and all who support equality of opportunity and social justice throughout South Africa.
The historic exclusion, denial of fundamental freedom and flagrant denial of social justice for the 25 million black South Africans by a white minority of 5 million persons raise basic questions about whether Mrs. Mandela was accorded fairness and justice in the court proceedings. I hope, if the judgment against Mrs. Mandela is not set aside, as Nelson Mandela believes, by an appellate court, that she will be pardoned by President F. W. de Klerk.
A failure to reverse the judgment, given the lugubrious and long history of exclusion of the majority black South African population from the socio-economic, political and educational mainstream of South Africa, will seriously encumber and eviscerate the negotiations currently taking place between Nelson Mandela and President de Klerk. The political stakes are high.
Samuel L. Banks.
Editor: What has happened to our lovely Harborplace? There was a time not so long ago when you ventured to Harborplace, you saw well-kept benches, the promenade was clean and bikers were not allowed.
Now, when you venture into Harborplace all you see are the dirty bums begging for quarters, bicycles running into people and trash is all over the place.
There was a time when you would nod or greet a police officer, be able to enjoy a bench or just watch the tourists enjoying themselves.
If we continue not to focus more attention on this wonderful tourist attraction we have developed, it will probably just become another one of Baltimore's slum areas attracting one-time visitors only.
Wake up Baltimore! For once try and keep something special.
Linda M. Hess.
Editor: As a former Baltimore County Gifted and Talented student, I am writing in response to Shawnee Twardzik's letter about future budget cuts threatening the cancellation of the GT program.
I grew up in Timonium, a largely upper middle-class, white-collar Baltimore County neighborhood. I feel it is relatively easier for me to appreciate the value of my high-powered education because my supportive parents were always able to insure that I never went without healthy food, clean clothes or a warm bed.
Looking back, I know that these things were just as important for facilitating my academic progress as my participation in the advanced GT classes -- yet I was never made immediately aware of their value because I never had to go without them.