Saturday Mailbox


February 03, 2007

Army officer defied both law and orders

Paul Rockwell's column "Truth has consequences for soldier of conscience" (Opinion Commentary, Feb. 1) is misleading. Army 1st Lt. Ehren K. Watada is not facing charges for "telling the truth" or for making "public speeches on presidential decisions" or for exercising any of his other First Amendment rights.

Lieutenant Watada volunteered to become a soldier.

Along with becoming a soldier comes the duty to obey the law; in fact, Lieutenant Watada swore to obey and uphold that law when he received his commission.

Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice requires that soldiers abstain from using "contemptuous words against the president."

Article 88 is not ordinarily used for private conversations; however, the public platform Lieutenant Watada chose for his comments makes them suitable for punishment.

Moreover, Lieutenant Watada then refused to follow his orders to deploy to Iraq.

Mr. Rockwell believes that Lieutenant Watada "has a right, even a duty, to disobey illegal orders."

However, neither the law's dictate to refrain from using contemptuous language nor the order to deploy is illegal.

This officer knowingly engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer that violates the law. He now faces a court-martial for that conduct.

Is Mr. Rockwell unaware that there are consequences for the choices we make?

Douglas A. Dribben


The writer is a retired U.S. Army officer.

Prosecutors owe police an apology

The Sun's article "Rape charges dropped" (Jan. 27) reported that prosecutors dropped all rape and misconduct charges against Baltimore police Officers Steven Hatley and Brian Shaffer. More important, it revealed for the first time how badly the prosecution, in my view, mishandled the case.

These officers went through hell for the past year waiting for the case to be heard.

At least three times, the prosecution requested a delay. Meanwhile, these two young officers were suspended without pay, hung out to dry and painted by the state's attorney's office as common criminals.

I hope other readers were as shocked as I was to learn that the officers wanted to testify before the grand jury last year, but prosecutors declined.

Guilty people don't volunteer to go before the grand jury.

The officers also waived their right to remain silent and gave statements to sex crimes and internal affairs investigators. But they could not speak out publicly until now because of a gag order imposed by the court.

To me, this case has parallels to the Duke University lacrosse team rape case, in that the prosecution played politics with people's lives, disregarded facts that suggested these officers had committed no crime, and caused perhaps irreparable damage to the reputation of two of Baltimore's finest.

I was impressed with the way the officers and their attorneys handled themselves throughout this ordeal. I hope they can pick up the pieces and put their lives back in order.

This may be wishful thinking on my part, but at a minimum, it seems to me that the state's attorney's office owes these officers a public apology.

That could go a long way toward righting a terrible injustice.

Jim Scott


Hemorrhage a rare dialysis dilemma

On behalf of the Maryland Commission on Kidney Disease, I am responding to The Sun's article "Dialysis deaths prompt warning" (Jan. 25).

Incorrect information was used in describing the public health alert concerning deaths caused by vascular access hemorrhage in dialysis patients over a six-year period.

There are approximately 7,500 dialysis patients in Maryland. The rare complication described in the article affects about four patients annually, or about 0.05 percent per year.

The Maryland Kidney Commission has been on record since October 2006 as recommending education for dialysis patients and the development of lifesaving measures to prevent deaths from vascular access site hemorrhage.

More research is required to identify and prevent the underlying causes of this potentially fatal complication.

Dr. Roland C. Einhorn


The writer is the chairman of the Maryland Commission on Kidney Disease.

Still far from equity for public officials

Karen Hosler's Editorial Notebook "Where the girls aren't" (Jan. 20) hits the nail on the head as to the primary reason that the United States and the state of Maryland do not have gender equity among elected officials.

As she explains, representatives in parliamentary systems - unlike our elected officials - do not have to mount expensive, time-intensive campaigns for office.

European countries with greater gender equity in political office also have high-quality child care programs and other policies that assist families with children, allowing women the time and energy to participate more fully in the work force and in politics.

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