• U.S.

Letters, Aug. 14, 1995

8 minute read


Your coverage of the political storm brewing around the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms pulled no punches [COVER STORIES, July 24], but the ATF is clearly the victim of reactionist politics. You pointed out the ATF’s tactical errors, but you failed to mention a crucial fact: the people inside the Branch Davidian compound had a civic and moral obligation to submit to the execution of a legal search warrant. If this truth is obscured in politics, there will be more Wacos and more people will die. DENNIS J. SANDUSKY Wilmington, Delaware

“ATF Under Siege” was an attack on the National Rifle Association so thinly veiled that even a dead man could figure it out. Is it necessary to bash the N.R.A. simply because it has the courage to point out the brutality visited upon innocent people by the ATF? I’m sure the ATF has had its share of “successes,” but those are negated by the numerous cases of innocent people rousted from their bed at night and houses damaged with no apologies or reimbursement. So the ATF is having internal troubles. Is that an excuse for barbarism? NANCY MRAZIK Chesapeake, Virginia AOL: Ft Courage

We seem to have lost sight of the fact that David Koresh was sexually molesting children and hoarding illegal weapons when he was approached by federal law-enforcement officers with a legal warrant; he fired on them, killing four agents. Could this action have been handled differently or better? Probably, but then almost every law-enforcement raid, when scrutinized after the fact, could stand improvement. Let’s support the ATF, the FBI and law-enforcement officers in their jobs and send our legislators back to doing their jobs. GENE BRINK Sun Prairie, Wisconsin AOL: GENE3235

To most average americans, a government shooter is a government shooter. The U.S. Marshal’s Service, the ATF and the FBI are separate organizations but operate in tandem and cross operational lines all the time. Once someone has been shot, the question of which government gun did the killing is irrelevant to the grieving families. DONNA HEADRICK Portland, Maine AOL: DONNAH1066

Why blame the ATF for Waco when Koresh was the guilty one? HOMER STEELE Ashland, Kentucky

The ATF is public enemy No. 1 in America, and we all need to be aware of the danger it poses if not stopped. MIKE DINGMAN Pleasanton, California

It is unfortunate that you did not publish additional reports and interviews of positive and productive agents from the “stack of documents piled knee high” in your writer’s office. While mistakes may have been made at the ATF in the past, the reality is that corrective measures are being taken. In a time when firearms violence is a pervasive factor in our society, regulating firearms elsewhere and dismantling the ATF would satisfy only the N.R.A. and be a disservice to our citizens. JOHN G. KROGMAN Former Deputy Director, ATF Cupertino, California

In many ways, the ATF has been the quintessential government agency–inept and staffed by political appointees performing unnecessary functions in the slowest, most inefficient way possible at a staggering cost to taxpayers. Through it all, our lawmakers have supported the ATF blindly and without question, year after year. At Waco the ATF finally earned its pay by attempting to rescue some poor, defenseless children from a lunatic cabal of child molesters. Now everyone wants to eliminate the ATF. Where’s the logic? NEIL C. THEX Mesa, Arizona


Sheila Burke, chief of staff for Senate majority leader Robert Dole, joins a line of women that stretches ad infinitum [POLITICS, July 24]. Whenever the male authority figure doesn’t meet expectations, look for a woman to blame. Adam had Eve, Bill has Hillary, Dole has Burke and everyone has good ole Mom! So what’s new? KAREN HERWIG West Des Moines, Iowa AOL: Oiuser1519

You quote a congressional aide as complaining that Burke is “notorious for rolling her eyes and glaring at you over her glasses whenever a conservative idea is expressed.” As legislative assistant to Montana Senator Max Baucus in the 1980s, I saw that look more than a few times. From personal experience I can tell you the “glare” is not reserved for conservative ideas; it is used for stupid ideas. It is aimed at people of all political persuasions. Like many other successful executives, male and female, Sheila Burke does not suffer fools gladly. MEG FERGUSON Baltimore, Maryland


Your scare article about pornography on the Internet is being exposed for what it is: a report based on shoddy research by an undergraduate with credibility problems. The irresponsibility of your publishing it and your weasel-worded attempt to deflect criticism about it [INTERNET, July 24] have disappointed me greatly. Act responsibly, and admit fully that you have seriously erred. BOB RUBINSTEIN Miami AOL: HORATIO K

Thank you for having the integrity to print a follow-up to your original cover story on cyberporn. In its short existence, the Internet has shown itself to be a worthwhile product. It is truly a boon to worldwide research and communication. It would be a shame to scare away potential new users of the Net with an inaccurate and misleading characterizations. Despite all the difficult questions raised by the uncontrollable content and capability of the Internet, its use and continued growth are something we should all encourage. KENNETH LUEBKE Middleburg, Florida Via E-mail


I served in Vietnam in the late 1960s with the 101st Airborne Division, and I believe President Clinton made the right decision in re-establishing relations with Vietnam [DIPLOMACY, July 24]. It was Senator Bob Dole’s World War II generation that decided the baby boom ers should go through the Vietnam War. It is fitting that the Vietnam generation, which paid such a high price, should be the ones to end the war. BOB MULHOLLAND Chico, California

The war is over, but the MIA issue still needs attention. Let’s press for its resolution in an atmosphere of cultural and economic exchange. In the big picture, we may have lost the battle for Vietnam, but we have won the political and cultural war. Let’s finally show our inherent generosity and grace to the nation that proved itself a most worthy opponent. GARY LORENTZEN, Vietnam veteran Vancouver, Washington AOL: GLorentzen

American policy toward China and Vietnam appears to be driven largely by business interests. The U.S. has granted most-favored-nation status to China, a country that locks up large numbers of political prisoners. We should have normalized relations with Vietnam years ago. However, the President does it now so American business won’t “miss out” on opportunities. Can the interests of a few large corporations be so important? Will American diplomacy always be so bankrupt in principles? DAVID E. PASCUCCI Northampton, Massachusetts Via America Online TEARS AND TERROR IN BOSNIA

I am appalled by the actions of the Serbs [BOSNIA, July 24]; they are hitting way below the belt. It’s time for Western nations to put a stop to this. Otherwise, every genocidal dictator in the world will read this reluctance to act as permission to eliminate whomever opposes his notions of ethnic, racial or any other kind of self-bestowed purity. STEPHEN VINCENT San Francisco AOL: Steph4848

In this fight, the U.N. troops are about as useful as a crystal hammer. ALDO CAMMAROTA Los Angeles

Those who want to lift the arms embargo should ask themselves whether pouring gasoline on a fire is likely to reduce the flames. There seems to be a notion that if the Bosnian Serbs win the war, that will somehow be a terrible thing. The plain truth is that the Serbs as victors will treat the Muslims reasonably well. Western powers should assist in the massive movement of people that will accompany the inevitable partition of Bosnia into three sectors: one Serb, one Croat and one Muslim. There will be movement of nationals of all three groups from one sector to another. The people who are forced to move will lose everything. The real opportunity for someone here is to find a way that is fair to handle the claims of these people for the property they will lose. Providing them with aid to rebuild would be cheaper than maintaining the army of U.N. peacekeepers in Bosnia. W. DAN MYERS Houston Via E-mail

The U.N. has failed to do the minimum, which is to protect the so-called safe areas from Bosnian Serbs. The U.N. soldiers cannot be considered peacekeepers; they are more like warkeepers. NICOLAS PELLETIER Montreal


It’s not the cameras in the courtroom that are on trial [LAW, July 24]; it’s the judges who allow everything to be complicated and elongated and who end up pushing legal fees higher for their lawyer chums. The charade is nationwide. RICHARD P. BOSA Berlin, New Hampshire

Thank heavens that some sane judges are controlling their courtrooms. Banning TV cameras and putting a gag order on self-promoting lawyers will help get the courts back to their proper role. Trials are meant to find the truth. How does it help to critique Marcia Clark’s clothes or listen to street-smart Johnnie Cochran providing the press with dubious premises? ELIZABETH WILKERSON Greenville, North Carolina

You want the public’s vote? Ban ’em! LES BROCKMANN Los Angeles

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