Preserve my room but do not shed a tear ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Hello Altercators, Lieutenant Colonel Bob Bateman here for the next two days.

I have a commission.

This, as readers of Altercation may have discerned over the years, means a lot to me. A little more than 18 years ago, I took an oath. Only after I had sworn to that oath, did I receive my commission. I have taken the same oath upon each promotion. This is the text of my oath.

"I, Robert Lake Bateman, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

Words are important. The specific words used in the oath we require of commissioned officers are very important. They state precisely what an officer must do, to wit, "support and defend the Constitution of the United States ..." I have mentioned this before. It is not an affectation. This is at the core of what it means to be an officer. But, of course, you cannot very well accomplish the elements of your oath if you do not understand the Constitution to which you are committing yourself.

Oliver North once took the same oath. Commissioned into the Marine Corps after graduating from Annapolis, North raised his right hand and said the same words. Apparently, however, he either did not mean it, or was too stupid to understand the words and the meaning of the Constitution itself.

In the mid-1980s, Mr. North took it upon himself to do the following two things: He orchestrated the sale of advanced weapons to Iran, and he set about pumping up Manuel Noriega, then-dictator of Panama, with money and weapons.

North did this because he thought helping the "Contras" in Nicaragua was the right thing to do. He thought that what he was doing was even more important than not trading weapons with a nation that had taken American hostages and declared us their sworn enemy. He thought it was even more important than not dealing with a drug-peddling narco-dictator whose own actions resulted in a more efficient stream of drugs into this country and against whom American soldiers would fight and die three years later in order to stop. Ultimately, he thought it was more important than telling the truth to Congress. For that last offense, among others, he was convicted.*

I think he fits the definition of a traitor. Let us go back and look at that whole Constitution thingee, shall we?

Article III, Section 3, of the Constitution of the United States reads as follows: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court."

OK, I get it. Technically the government of Iran was not then (as it is technically not now) our enemy. Technically, though our Congress had expressly placed a ban on weapons going to Panama, that country and its pineapple-faced, drug-dealing leader were not (yet) our official enemy. So technically, Oliver North could not be charged with the only crime expressly delineated in the Constitution. Why he was not court-martialed I do not know.

I hold Oliver North in the same professional contempt with which I regard the likes of Robert E. Lee. Both of them swore an oath to the United States, and in North's case, to the Constitution as well. But quite obviously both of them felt justified in ignoring the elements of their oaths that were personally inconvenient to them. Both, in the end, betrayed their country.**

Now Ollie is at it again. Not quite another act of treason, I cede, but an assault against the ideas embedded in the Constitution nonetheless. Oliver North, despite being a journalist, does not like journalists. OK, that is fine. But that does not entitle you to your own set of facts. Journalistic criticism is valid. Making stuff up is not. A friend of mine sent me one of his latest rants. It seems when The Traitor Oliver North (TTON) runs into an inconvenient part of the Constitution, such as, say, the establishment clause that created Congress, the bit about not aiding or comforting the enemy, or as in this case, the part about the need for a free press, he feels free to ignore it or attack it. In this case, he makes things up about the media, since his previous technique (of lying) worked so well with Congress. This is the part from his latest that really annoys me:

Second, despite the importance of the war to the American people, there are relatively few western -- particularly American -- journalists outside Baghdad's "Green Zone." Much of what we see on television is videotape bought from Arab cameramen, many of whom spend most of their time with their favorite Al Qaeda terror cell or Shia militia unit. My media 'colleagues' then cut this tape -- usually the aftermath of a heinous terror act -- stand on the balcony of an air conditioned hotel room and tell us the "latest news" from the war. Lead stories rarely mention the courage and perseverance of American troops or their Iraqi counterparts, how many new schools, hospitals and police stations have been opened, or the clean water and sanitation that's now available to the people of Mesopotamia.

That is a crock, and it stinks. For starters, absolutely none of the major media outlets have their operations set up inside the Green Zone. None of them. Zero. Zip. Nada. In fact, one of those that comes the closest is Fox News itself, which has a compound not too far outside the Green Zone. (For the sake of all of the reporters there, I will not say exactly where.) All the others -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, Reuters, etc. -- all of them live and work from bases outside the Green Zone. For most of them, it used to be a 20-minute drive across some of what has always been the nastiest terrain in Baghdad, just to get to Assassin's Gate on Haifa Street and into the Green Zone. Now a few of them are a bit closer, though none as close as Fox News, to the safe zone.

As for getting out and about, he is wrong there too. Reporters from NPR, to name just one prominent example, are regularly filing from all over Iraq, and even the hairiest situations within Baghdad. I haven't seen North file from Sadr City, but I have heard Anne Garrels from NPR do just that. Perhaps if North quit trying "parachute journalism" (popping in and out of Iraq for a few days or a week or so at a time) and instead put his life on the line by living there for months at a time, like the rest of the "mainstream" media, he might actually learn a thing or two.

I wonder if Fox News is willing to put its credentials on the line to back up North. Seeing as how he talks about the "clean water" that is now available to the people of Mesopotamia ... perhaps they would be willing to put the Fox News FOB on the Baghdad water supply system for a month?

But on top of that, North completely belittles the sacrifices made by legitimate journalists, both Western and Arabic, in Iraq. So far as I can tell, at least 115 have been killed in Iraq since the invasion of 2003 (92 as of 2006, and 23 more that I know of with any degree of certainty). Rough, back-of-the-envelope calculations here. Let us assume that there are roughly 2,000 journalists (this includes Iraqis) in Iraq. An average of 29 journalists has been killed per year there, which is 1.5 percent per year. To balance that against my own profession, and the one North purports to support, we have lost an average of 923 men per year (over four years) out of an average in-country troop strength of 145,000, or something around one half of one percent. (0.636 percent)

Yes, I think it would be appropriate for North to walk the walk, since he is so willing to "talk the talk." So what do you say, Ollie -- why don't you go spend a little more time with your "colleagues"? Check out those stories of clean water and abundant power in Iraq, and tell us when the Fox News compound there in Baghdad converts to the Iraqi power grid and water supply system. I, for one, would be interested in your in-depth from the streets reporting from Sadr City, akin to what NPR does. But until then, stop undercutting the Constitution. Take your lead from our secretary of defense. Remember him? This is what he said at the commissioning/graduation ceremony at your alma mater about 10 weeks ago:

Today, I want to encourage you always to remember the importance of two pillars of our freedom under the Constitution -- the Congress and the press. Both surely try our patience from time to time, but they are the surest guarantees of the liberty of the American people.

The Congress is a co-equal branch of government that under the Constitution raises armies and provides for navies. Members of both parties now serving in Congress have long been strong supporters of the Department of Defense, and of our men and women in uniform.

As officers, you will have a responsibility to communicate to those below you that the American military must be non-political and recognize the obligation we owe the Congress to be honest and true in our reporting to them. Especially when it involves admitting mistakes or problems.

The same is true with the press, in my view a critically important guarantor of our freedom. When it identifies a problem, as at Walter Reed, the response of senior leaders should be to find out if the allegations are true -- as they were at Walter Reed -- and if so, say so, and then act to remedy the problem. If untrue, then be able to document that fact. The press is not the enemy, and to treat it as such is self-defeating.

But then he was citing the Constitution, wasn't he, Ollie? I expect you rolled your eyes at that, or maybe, as before, did not even hear that part.

Traitor.

I love this: TTON's bio on Fox. Notice anything missing?

You can e-mail Ollie here: colonelscorner@foxnews.com

A history of our oath.

In that TTON essay linked to above, he said, "Even before the 'troop surge' was underway, they were telling us that it wouldn't work." Oh, the irony. But of course it is no surprise to most that TTON is not the most consistent fellow. Here he is back in January talking about the plan now known as "the surge."

This, on the other hand, is the measure of the man that we, as a nation, lost on 23 April.

I do not often get involved in congressional issues. But I personally hope this bill passes through the House the same way it passed the Senate.

What a surprise: Fox News caught changing Wikipedia entries to smear people they do not like. Yep, that is why they call it "Fair and Balanced," I guess.

By the way, here is Oliver North's Wikipedia listing.

You can write to LTC Bob at R_Bateman_LTC@hotmail.com. If you want to re-fight the Civil War, however, expect that it may take some time for a response. Serious comments come first.

* The ACLU got his conviction vacated. Ain't that a kicker? Were it not for the principle of the thing, it would make me want a refund on at least some of my dues.

** Yes, dear readers, I am a damned Yankee. Noted.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Mark Bond
Hometown: Agoura

While you proved prophetic, the two best were the shortest and representative of the opposite ends of the Bell Curve.

Way ahead of the curve I give you:

Spike Lee is the director most recently of 25th Hour.

"Not in favor of war on Iraq. Bush is hoodwinking and bamboozling the American public."

And part of the knuckledragger set we have none other than:

Charles Murray is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

"I'm in favor, for the reasons that the administration argues. "

Good thinking there, Chucklehead.

Name: Andy Glassberg
Hometown: St. Louis, MO

One especially curious aspect of Michael Ignatieff's NY Times mea culpa was its indirect linkage of opposing intervention in Iraq with appeasment of Hitler.

Iraq is described as a "faraway country of which we know little." This unusual language is a direct quote from Neville Chamberlain's formulation of what he, and Britain, thought about Czechoslovakia at the time of the Munich agreement.

Pretty strange language for a retraction of his hawkish views about Iraq.

Name: Carl
Hometown: Muscle Shoals, AL

The federal government installed so-called GO zones to provide tax incentives for redevelopment along the Gulf coast following hurricane Katrina. Coincidentally, the GO Zone included Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 200 miles inland and home to the University of Alabama and Senator Richard Shelby. Now investors are using the tax breaks to finance luxury condos near the football stadium.

Perhaps Mr. Pierce would like to purchase one as to broadcast his love of New Orleans along with the Crimson Tide.

Name: J DAlessandro
Hometown: Crestwood, NY

For those who care about such trivia, WFAN [sports talk radio] in New York, which fired Don Imus for his racist and sexist remarks, has announced that it will replace him with a former football quarterback and a radio DJ named Craig Carton.
Who is Craig Carton?

Well, here's some highlights of his career from Wikipedia so far:

"In 2005, Carton became embroiled with an on the air feud with NJ Acting Governor Richard Codey. Carton made comments about Codey's wife Mary-Jo's battle with postpartum depression prompting Codey himself to confront Carton in the studio. Carton would say "What Gov. Codey ought to do is approve the use of medical marijuana so women can have a joint and relax instead of putting their babies in a microwave. Then all they want to do is cook Doritos. Women who claim they suffer from this postpartum depression ... they must be crazy in the first place." Codey would go back to respond: "I wish I weren't governor, I'd take you out", but did not say he would challenge Carton to a fight.

In March, 2007, Carton, with his on-air partner Rossi was involved in another controversy. This involved taking a political stand against illegal immigration in New Jersey by asking listeners to report illegal immigrants to the proper authorities. The campaign was termed "Operation La Cucha Gotcha" and was considered to be slanderous against Hispanics."

The standards of radio stay the same; only the bigots change.

Name: Jason Boskey
Hometown: Blairsville, GA

I am shocked at the number of people who are outraged that Huckabee believes in creationism.

Similarly, I am shocked at the number of people who are down on Richardson for saying he thinks homosexuality is a choice, particularly since it's the same groups of people.

In the creationism case, what matters is whether Huckabee would force the creationist teachings into school. If not, then it does not matter in the least. As long as the vast majority take many ideas on faith (starting with the existence of God), then as long as he doesn't push it on you, it shouldn't be a problem. Isn't that, after all, the point of freedom of religion?

As for the uproar over what is being called on Huffpo as Richardson's "macaca moment", there has been -0- direct evidence of a genetic link to homosexuality. Further, the idea of homosexuality being genetic in nature goes against evolutionary theory, unless it is a remnant of a time before the dinosaurs when animals had homosexual reproduction (don't you have to go all the way to the earthworm for that?) Nevertheless, isn't what really matters whether Richardson would grant and protect full equal rights for homosexuals?

The shame of it all is the false choice. Choosing between creation and evolution does not leave room for "God allowed it to happen". Choosing between "genetic" and "choice" does not leave room for the often forgotten factors, environment and upbringing, which would make being homosexual neither genetic or choice.

Name: Rob Stafford
Hometown: San Diego

Eric (whichever we have today!) --

Regarding the beliefs of the American people (& granting Eric A.'s point about elections):

"E pur si muove"

Name: Ken
Hometown: Junction City, Oregon

Eric, Mr. Huckabee will not be getting my vote, nor my company in his community of believers. But I agree with you that his answer to the creationism question was a good one. I think what he meant was that his religious beliefs would not necessarily determine his policy decisions. Isn't that very much like what, just for example, John Kennedy said in 1960 when fears of undue influence from the Vatican were raised against his candidacy? Given the likelihood that every man who has served as President in our history would have, in one form or another, embraced a belief in "creationism," I think it's a little bit silly to raise the specter of irrationality in response to Huckabee's position. As you point out, setting up a false dichotomy between religious belief and rationality will get you nowhere politically.

Name: vic
Hometown: Windsor

Sorry regardless of how good a Pres. Huckabee might make he is disqualified because of his funny sounding name. Never work. The name Huckabee just isn't Presidential -- so why waste your breath?

Name: Karl W.
Hometown: Bloomfield, CT

Eric A:

"What the world needs now is civic-minded philanthropists like the great Mrs. Astor. Let's hear it for the girl."

Agreed. If only you were able to title the column with the words of Cole Porter.

And 100 years from now, will anybody be leading tours through the mansions being built today, like The Breakers, or turning them into museums like the Frick?

Name: George Giordano
Hometown: Littleton, MA

If Rees's blog was the second greatest of all time, who's was the greatest?!?!?!?! I was laughing so hard my wife thought I was going to have a heart attack.

Altercation at your service: Here it is, the best blog post ever: "Poker with Cheney."

(And the The Berman to Packer letter appeared not on Altercation, but on Kevin Drum's blog at The Washington Monthly here.)

Also, here's today's Marty Peretz Quote of the Day: "I'm a Left Banker, the 6th to be precise. I recall some thirty-odd years ago suggesting to Woody Allen (and Diane Keaton) that we eat at some restaurant on this side of the river. ... I won't tell you about our picking him and Diane up at their hotel (Plaza Athenee, as I recall) and going to the restaurant (Vivarois, then new to three fork cohort), in a Rolls Royce (his), except that Ed Zwick, fresh out of Harvard and a summer as a TNR intern, was with us."

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