Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

June 18, 2005

Guard members ought to protest unjustified war

As a patriotic American and a supporter of the Maryland National Guard, I was disappointed that not one word of protest over the war in Iraq could be found in The Sun's article "The wait now turns to war" (June 11).

The sentimental swill of baby-kissing, pregnant wives, stuffed animals and American flags needs to be replaced with honest observation as to why these men and women are being deployed in the first place.

Folks joined the National Guard to assist their communities in times of disaster or when our nation faces genuine peril. They did not sign up to drive supply trucks in a deadly region for President Bush and his friends.

When I see pictures of Maryland National Guard volunteers being sent into harm's way on a fool's mission, I weep.

The American people, Congress and the mainstream media have been lied to about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's involvement in the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Military recruitment is down, and this bodes ill for the future security of our nation.

We may bring democracy to people who have no concept of its meaning, but we are destroying ourselves in the process.

Yet the greatest tragedy is the way American citizens swallow the deceit of this administration with such complacency.

Rosalind Nester Ellis

Baltimore

Respecting rights validates our ideals

Send Thomas Sowell to the back of the class for his answer to "How will future Americans judge our response to terrorist threat?" (Opinion Commentary, June 9).

He predicts they will denounce our preoccupation with "treating captured cut-throats nicely," condemn us for being "paralyzed by a desire to placate `world opinion,'" lament our failure to build more Guantanamo Bays and rebuke us for not wielding our "power to destroy" even more countries.

Mr. Sowell's misrepresentation of history, however, is where he really earns a failing grade. For instance, he asserts that World War II-era Americans "understood then that the Geneva Conventions protected people who obeyed the Geneva Conventions, not those who didn't - as terrorists today certainly do not."

This is either a shocking misreading on Mr. Sowell's part or a poorly executed con job. In either case, he demeans our "greatest generation" by asserting they extended the conventions' protections merely as some calculated quid pro quo.

When did the Nazis or Imperial Japanese ever obey the Geneva Conventions?

Yet Americans at that time fulfilled the promises their predecessors (and ours) made to all captives we take in conflict, because that's what makes us different.

In honoring that promise, they modeled an America that lives up to its highest principles, for which we owe them a debt of gratitude.

Yes, that was the same generation whose fear built Japanese internment camps, but just as we regret today how they thus failed Japanese-Americans (and us all) then, surely future Americans will regret how Guantanamo Bay will stain our history.

My fear is that the legacy early 21st-century Americans leave will be Guantanamo Bay's indefinite detentions, the disgraces of Abu Ghraib, open-ended wars of "liberation" and an America forever shamed by what we do now.

Brian D. Wells

Baltimore

Unreliable account of scientific scruples

When one asks a scrupulously honest group of people a survey question that combines acceptable and unacceptable behaviors (such as, "Have you ever bought a newspaper or robbed a bank?"), they will answer honestly ("Yes, I have"). But reporting the percentage of "yes" responses does not provide insight into the extent of wrongdoing.

A similar circumstance is found in the article "Many scientists confess to sin of misconduct" (June 9).

The final survey question - to which the greatest number of scientists answered "yes" - asks whether the scientist has ever "changed the design, methodology or results of a study in response to pressure from a funding source."

But while changing the "results" of a study in response to pressure is always wrong, changing the design and methodology is not only acceptable, but often highly desirable. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest single source of biomedical research funding in the United States, has a mechanism to encourage just such behavior.

An application to the NIH for research funding is often returned to the applicant with suggestions for changes in design and methodology. The suggestions are made by NIH review groups or NIH staff.

Scientists most often respond to this "pressure" by changing the design or methodology and resubmitting a revised application - a process that often improves the study.

So, as a biomedical research scientist myself, I wish to confess: I have "bought a newspaper or robbed a bank." I have also "changed the design, methodology or results" of a study in response to pressures from a funding source.

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