Questioning war with a man born under a bad sign


Letters, calls and the roar of the crowd:

John O. Herrmann, Baltimore: My question is directed to you and to all the others who piously protest that they "support" our servicemen but oppose the war in which they are involved and whose objectives they strive to achieve.

How do you "support" someone when, in the next breath after expressing such "support," you inform them that they are pursuing objectives with which you are in total disagreement? That is, that you think their efforts are ultimately wrong or -- worse yet -- evil.

COMMENT: I think you're confusing the Persian Gulf with Vietnam. One big difference between this war and the Vietnam War is that the anti-war people this time do not oppose the war's objectives. Everybody wants Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.

The difference of opinion this time centers on whether sanctions would have worked had the administration pursued them longer. We won't ever know the answer to that now.

But this time, everybody I know supports the troops, supports their objectives, wants them home quickly and in one piece.

Vietnam offers few comparisons to this war. It was a different war in a different place in a different time. And the trouble with getting caught up in a time warp is that by the time you come down, all your library books are overdue.


A. V., Baltimore: It's a shame you have nothing better to do than to bash President George Bush and Governor Schaefer.

As a pimp your colors came through loud and clear.

What was the Simon real name before your folks adopted an American name?

Did your folks ever wear the uniform of our great nation? Or were they as gutless as the members of Congress that oppose this war?

COMMENT: Actually, my father fought in the Pacific in World War II. He received a number of decorations, including a Purple Heart, but that is not important. (It certainly was not important to him. When the medals were finally sent to him many years after the war ended, he gave them to me, his youngest son, as toys. Like a lot of veterans he didn't care very much about medals, though he was proud of his Combat Infantryman's Badge.)

What is important, however, is the "war" story my father told me over and over again. I'll share it with you:

My father came back from the war hating the Japanese. He was not a prejudiced man, but he had a hard time doing what governments do so easily: instantly pretending that the people who were your enemies are now your friends.

By the time the war ended, my father had been in the Army a long time. He had volunteered for the Army as a young man, had served his three-year hitch and then got out and got married. He and my mother went to California to honeymoon. They arrived on Dec. 7, 1941.

My father went back into the Army the next day and served, I think, four more years. And he told me that spending year after year trying to kill people (who were, of course, trying to kill him) is a process that can change you. He also told me that he had been told by his officers that the Japanese people were subhumans and therefore he should have no remorse when it came to killing them.

My father didn't really believe that, but that's the kind of thing you are sometimes told in wartime. That's the kind of thing soldiers were sometimes told so that they could fire a flame-thrower into a cave.

OK, so the war ended. But my father still didn't like the Japanese. They had killed a number of his buddies; they had tried to kill him, etc., etc.

Then one day my father got a terrible toothache and went to his dentist. His regular dentist was out sick, however, and the dentist filling in was -- can you guess? -- of Japanese descent.

My father didn't want to use this dentist, but his tooth really hurt and so he got into the chair. The dentist did a good job, and as my father was about to leave the office, he simply blurted out his experiences in the war and his feelings about the Japanese people.

And the dentist blurted out his experiences in World War II -- I can't remember now if he also served in the Army or was in an internment camp or what -- but, anyway, he and my father became friends.

Needless to say, there is a lesson here. Which is why my father told his children this story. It is not a story about the glory and grandness of war. It is a story about how war can make you pay a price even when you win it.

Now as to my father's name, all I can say is that he signed it in full to every letter he ever wrote, A. V.

He would have considered doing otherwise to be completely gutless.


Virginia Miller, Nashua, N.H.: What do Hussein and Hitler have in common? Both have three planets in Taurus, and both have their sun in Taurus. Taurus is the most stubborn sign of the zodiac and on a negative level can be a very greedy and materially oriented sign. Adding to his Taurean stubbornness and rigidity, Hussein was born with Uranus, the planet of revolution, strongly influencing his self-identity.

COMMENT: I can think of three other things Saddam Hussein has in common with Hitler: A name that begins with H. A mustache. And the strong possibility that he will end up at the conclusion of this war the same way Hitler did, which is to say dead.

At least we can hope so.

But I'm curious as to how you got all this astrological information, Virginia. Did you go to Baghdad, hang out in a singles bar and ask Saddam his sign?

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