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Investigative Reporting

Behavior unbecoming Americans

| Sunday, Dec. 4, 2005

We have become a country of horrible wussies, rationalizers and apologists. In case the first, it not only is unbecoming of a great republic but a threat to our very existence. In case the second, it shows a troubling acceptance of guileless relativism. To wit:

  • The New York Times editorialized Tuesday last on the U.S. military's "use of a ghastly weapon called white phosphorous" in the continuing battle against Iraqi terrorists.

    White phosphorous primarily is used to illuminate battlefields to expose enemy positions. "It also rains balls of flaming chemicals, which cling to anything they touch and burn until their oxygen supply is cut off," The Times notes. "They can burn for hours inside a human body."

    International convention banned its use against civilians following the Vietnam War. The Pentagon says it doesn't use white phosphorous against Iraqi civilians and there is no -- repeat, no -- verified case of it being used that way in Iraq, directly or in an ancillary fashion. (The Times attempts to make a weak case for the latter but swings and misses. Badly.)

    Yet The Times calls that a "technicality" and opines that the use of white phosphorous nevertheless "further tarnished America's credibility on international treaties and the rules of warfare."

    This from the newspaper that steadfastly uses the term "insurgents" for terrorists who strap bombs to their bellies, hit a button and mix their bastard innards with those of American soldiers and little Iraqi children.

    Rules of warfare• Let's talk rules of warfare.

    These terrorists wear no nation's uniform.

    They fight under no nation's flag.

    They kill civilians -- women, children, the elderly, the infirm -- indiscriminately.

    Their brethren flew fuel-laden commercial jetliners into skyscrapers and government buildings, murdering thousands of innocents.

    And wussies, rationalizers and apologists like the editorialist at The New York Times dress down the U.S. military for using a legal weapon in a legal way to hunt down and destroy these devils incarnate?

    "Certain forms of conduct are regarded as too inhumane even for war," The Times says as part of its conclusion.

    Tell that to a U.S. soldier whose body is shattered and whose limbs have been shorn by the suicide bombing religious freak seeking the thrill of eternal nookie with heavenly virgins.

    Tell that to the families of the soldiers who got that horrible knock on their door.

    Tell that to the families of those who leapt to their deaths from the World Trade Center to spare themselves from burning or being crushed to death.

    Tell that to the families of those whose remains never were found in the destroyed twin towers, their bodies pulverized into dust.

    Tell that to husbands, wives, daughters and sons of those who were cooked alive in a giant ball of flame at the Pentagon or who were obliterated in a remote Pennsylvania field.

    Tell that to the freedom-seeking Iraqi mother who's wailing over her 4-year-old son, his bowels splattered over the street and his severed head, its eyes open and blank, resting several feet away.

    The New York Times wants to fight this war with compassion, fairness, understanding and really big rubber bands. That it keeps attempting to turn the champions of freedom, liberty and democracy into villains should make us all question if it really knows what freedom, liberty and democracy are.

  • The caller was clipped but cordial Wednesday afternoon. She said she was canceling her Trib subscription because of that day's lead editorial. The subject• The government-forced $100 million settlement against mutual-fund giant Federated Investors Inc. of Pittsburgh.

    The company was sanctioned to settle allegations that it had engaged in illegal trading. The caller said she was an employee of Federated. In fact, she claimed to work for one of the high, though not named, muckety-mucks there.

    How could one big Pittsburgh company write such nasty things about another big Pittsburgh company?, she asked.

    Had she read the Trib's news story of the day before?, I asked; had she not understood that Federated had broken the law and abused the public's trust?

    She had read the story. But she wasn't upset over Federated's behavior. The "tone" of the editorial, however, was "over the top," she said.

    Indeed, the editorial used no weasel words and none of the financial-world jargon that tends either to make a reader's eyes glaze over or candy-coat the crooked deed or both.

    "Federated cheated," we said. "It scammed the game for the benefit of a few at the expense of many. It broke the rules to play favorites. It violated generally accepted practices. It flouted the law."

    We suggested Federated be forced to hang banners from the sides of its downtown Pittsburgh skyscraper headquarters: "We cheated." In giant red letters.

    Again I reminded the caller that her company was sanctioned for doing something illegal. "Is that what you support?" I asked.

    And what to my amazed ears came next from her• The everybody-was-doing-it defense.

    Which, in her rationalization, made Federated -- the perpetrator -- a victim and the Trib -- the messenger -- the Big Bad Wolf.

    A national newspaper's editorial page gives aid and comfort to the enemy. A subordinate of a high-level executive at a Top 5 mutual-fund corporation defends her company's illegal dive into the cookie jar.

    What has become of America?

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