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Posted on Jul 18, 2007 in Armchair Reading

September 2007 Mailbag

Armchair General

Presenting a roundup of letters to accompany the September 2007 issue of ACG!

Dear Dr. Morelock,

Your article, "Lincoln’s Cold-Blooded Decisions", in seeking to justify the Bush Administration’s attacks on judicial due process for certain crimes, begs two important questions. First, can America’s current political and military situation be credibly compared to that which existed during the our Civil War? Second, was Lincoln justified in suspending habeas corpus and taking other extra-Constitutional actions during his tenure as President?

The answer to the first question is an unqualified "No". The political fragmentation of the United States at the time of the Civil War, which had already led to the breakup of the Union, accompanied by armed conflict in its defense, is unparalleled before or since in our country’s history. While Americans are certainly divided in opinion regarding the conduct of the "war on terrorism", we are far from resorting to military action against our fellow citizens in order to gain acceptance for our views. The extremely small numbers of terrorists who may be attempting to orchestrate attacks against American targets do not justify the suspension of core liberties for American citizens across the board.


The answer to the second question is more qualified, due to the extreme circumstances in which Lincoln found himself the President. After all, the Union had been sundered, armies had been raised, and the country was in a state of armed conflict. Regardless of these considerations, and the necessity as perceived by President Lincoln of taking the actions he did, the suspension of habeas corpus and his other extra-Constitutional actions are undoubtedly among the least praiseworthy aspects of Lincoln’s legacy.

John Holme
Oakland CA

* * *

Although the article never mentions President Bush, many readers have noted the similarities between what faced Abraham Lincoln in 1861-65 and what our country faces in Iraq and Afghanistan (and the overall War on Terror) today. The only thing lacking in the situation that President Bush faces today is his actions being viewed from the perspective of a century or more in the future. Thanks for sharing your views.

Dear Armchair General,

Your article brought back memories of my adolescence. As a teenager living on Okinawa in 1966,I too had an extensive collection of artifacts collected from Sugar Loaf Ridge, Kakazu Ridge, and the Pinnacle.

I was an experienced fire arm ammunition hand loader and none of my munitions artifacts were "live". Even the primers had been deactivated. But that did not stop the EOD team from coming to my house in the wake of an accident similar to the one described in the article with tragic results, and taking every artifact I had, even those totally inert such as medical supplies, shrapnel, and leather equipment. The bottom line is that in these situations, bureaucratic zeal takes over, especially if functionaries feel they need to justify their existence. Ensuring the public safety has nothing to do with it.

Keith H. Patton
Houston, Texas

* * *


Thanks very much for your email and for sharing your experiences battling bureaucracy. I think it’s a losing battle!

This is just outrageous and your experience is another example of bureaucrats gone wild. I wonder how much of your collection ended up in some bureaucrat’s collection?

Have you been following our Interactive Combat Story "At the Sharp End" about the Pacific Marine? We are featuring 3 episodes of his combat on Okinawa in 1945 which may be of interest to you. The final installment will appear in our July 2007 issue of ACG.

Thanks for your email and best wishes,

Jerry Morelock

Dear Armchair General,

Re: the article by Brian Sobel on Napoleon and the boardroom. Would you really like a CEO that bailed out on you when the going got rough? Napoloen may have been a great organizer in many aspects but he had a tendency to leave his troops when things didn’t go to plan. In Russia he left most of the " Grande Armee" to freeze to death and at Waterloo he left the field before the conclusive end, and he wasn’t really that good in Spain! I’m sure I would like this type of CEO in charge of my company.

Re: the article on Erich Topp. I spend five and a half months a year in Germany/France and a couple of years ago I got invited to a Kreigsmarine reunion through my brother in law who was a gunner on the "Admirel Scheer.” Anyway, in the the course of the evening I met two former U-boat crewmen and watched some "home" movies of their life on the boats. It was pretty cramped to say the least. Anyway, during part of the film show Admiral Doenitz was seen and I swear to god these guys got up and saluted — the Navy salute not the Hollywood version — guess they thought a lot of him. It was a great evening with some great guys who had some great stories of life in the boats. It finished with many toasts to " absent friends" — sad that so many of them did not " finish patrol".

Gav Bowman
Stouffville ,Ont, Can.

* * *

Gav, thanks for another interesting letter to ACG. We are always pleased to read your take on our articles and other events. Keep up the good work on your You Command article solutions!

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