Forum, Aug. 31: Who Decides About War?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Who Decides About War?

Do we really want decisions about whether to go to war made by a mentally/psychologically challenged president and three military “advisers”? Not I.

Recently, at the final Osher Summer Lecture Series, retired Adm. James Stavridis gave a thoughtful summary of various geopolitical challenges facing the U.S. today. It was an extremely interesting presentation by the former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

Stravidis sought to assure the audience that while he shared some reservations about the emotional stability of our president, we should feel confident in the sound and reasoned advice he receives from his closest national security advisers: Defense Secretary James Mattis, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, all honorable and loyal public servants with a strong military background. And in part because of his confidence in these military folks, Stavridis explained his support for the president’s plan to enlarge and expand our commitment of men and women and other resources to Afghanistan. While I too applaud their service, experience, loyalty and knowledge, I am personally disturbed — frightened, in fact, by the idea that future decisions are in the hands not of civilian leaders but in the clutches of military-connected folk. We can debate the wisdom of our ongoing policy in Afghanistan, but of greater concern to me is the lack of civilian oversight.

From our earliest days (and reinforced in the National Security Act of 1947), we have sought to avoid any kind of military rule. Civilian oversight is built into our laws and the Constitution.

And while I am not immediately fearful of a military coup (though I have thoughtful friends who are), and am personally skeptical about the possibility of any positive outcomes resulting from this expanded deployment to Afghanistan, I think, most of all, we should be fearful (and critical) of how and by whom these decisions are being made. I was a bit surprised that the always-engaged and thoughtful liberal-leading audience at the Osher lecture seemed so willingly to embrace the military message of Stavridis.

Jim Wilson


Support for Candidate

As a current member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, I am honored to support fellow Republican Vincent Paul Migliore for state representative for Grafton District 9 in the special election on Tuesday. Migliore brings to the table an important attribute: experience in both the public and private sectors. He has operated a successful business for the past 15 years. He has also been a member of the Newfound School Board for 10 years. He has demonstrated the ability to find bipartisan solutions and the talent to implement them.

His creative thinking in his recently published solution to the opioid crisis could become a model for the nation; at the very least, it separates him from the simple platitudes offered by others. I will be looking forward to working with Migliore as a representative who will carefully consider all sides of an issue prior to making his decisions. The citizens of Grafton County and District 9 deserve no less.

Rep. Stephen Darrow


Freedom of Speech and Hate Speech

We all have been taught that we have the freedom of speech. It has been vigorously defended, in some respects, by the Supreme Court.

In recent days we have seen neo-Nazis march down our streets denigrating particular races or religions. It is their right. During the campaign, we saw our future president abuse his freedom of speech to encourage violence between participants at rallies. But if one person had encouraged violence against him, they would have been jailed.

Somewhere in all of this muck, there are rules about “inciting to riot.” Are they defended? We have hate crime laws, but free speech allows you to verbally spew this hatred, encouraging the radical fringes of our society to bring harm to certain groups within our country.

We should very carefully define “hate speech” and “abridge” our freedom of speech to ban this hate speech. We should ban Nazi, KKK and other symbolism displayed during protests that only incite counterprotests and violence.

Is the right to vote a freedom of speech? Does it give one a say as to who is elected? Why then are we allowing the highest courts and the political national committees and their politicians to “abridge” this right by gerrymandering, etc.? Where is the freedom in this?

Sylvia Heath

Hartland Four Corners

Awaiting the Judgment of History

Unlike newsmen, who record history as if with “a camera,” a historian is an artist who paints in oils. Unfortunately, few people want to wait for the paint to dry, and his audience is small.

The events of the past months have swept by at a dizzying pace, and I find myself searching for words to warn of the tragedy that they portend, because history has already recorded similar epochs.

More than ever, people seem inclined to demand: “Cut to the chase!”; “What’s your point?”; “Whose side are you on?” They seem satisfied only with hyperbole, bold headlines, more and more outrageous claims, shocking stories, easily recognizable cliches, and immediacy over accuracy.

Many suppose the current administration is unique in its policies, executive actions and agenda. In an effort to resolve this so-called social shift, here in a nutshell are some attention-getting headlines for rumination:

Green Mountain Boys Terrorize N.Y. Landowners!

Ethan Allen Arrested, Tried for Treason!

Lincoln to Douglas: “I am not in Favor of Negro Citizenship!”

Lincoln Offers Lee Command of Union Forces!

Brown Murders 5 with Broadsword in Pottawatomie Creek Massacre!

Wilson Segregates Government Offices!

All true.

Relative to the recent furor over long-dead Confederates, digest the following:

There exists substantial evidence that our war for independence had more to do with the impending British ban on slave trading than any other issue.

Up to the start of the Civil War, New York City was the No. 1 slave port in the United States, if not the world, outfitting an estimated 100 ships between 1858 and 1860.

In 1862, Capt. Nathanial Gordon, of Portland, Maine, became the only American ever hung for slave trading. When caught, half of his cargo was children.

In consideration of the aforementioned, does it seem sensible that we wage a war on statuary?

Ralph Epifanio


Protection for DACA Immigrants

In mid-June, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly (now President Donald Trump’s chief of staff) assured that the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which was authorized by President Barack Obama and pertains to an estimated 800,000 undocumented residents who came here as children, would remain in place.

At the end of June, nine state attorneys general and the governor of Idaho sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatening to take legal action against the Trump administration if it does not end DACA. They gave the administration until Sept. 5 to begin phasing out the program.

On Aug. 1, over 130 members of Congress, including Reps. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Annie Kuster, D-N.H., requested President Trump to defend and continue DACA. They pointed out that DACA individuals have been thoroughly vetted for national security and criminal backgrounds. In fact, they have been here since childhood and aspire to what most of us do: graduating high school, training in a vocational field or going to college, finding meaningful work, raising families and contributing to our communities.  

We have over 60 DACA individuals in the Upper Valley and many more all over New Hampshire. They’re studying and working and aspiring to the American dream. It’s true, the Congress has failed to pass a pathway to citizenship for these people or comprehensive immigration reform. But do we really want to round our neighbors up and send them back to wherever they originally came from when they may become the next successful school principal, cancer researcher or state attorney general?  

Lindsay Dearborn



Looking at images of the events in Charlottesville, of neo-Nazis and white supremacists carrying signs with swastikas and other Nazi emblems, arms outstretched in the Nazi salute, chanting, “You will not replace us, Jews will not replace us,” I do not ask myself, “What do they want?” I conjure up images of starving Jews, cheekbones protruding ahead of sunken eyes, standing behind barbed-wire fences, imploringly waiting to be liberated from concentration camps. I see black men swinging from large oak trees, necks in nooses, bodies charred with fire from the torture from which death could only have been a release. I see the bodies of the four little girls, cotton in their eye sockets, whose lives were taken in the 1963 Sunday morning church bombing by the KKK in Birmingham, Ala. I see the slave ships from which human beings were thrown overboard as ballast during storms. I see gas ovens.

There are many things to be said about the events that occurred in Charlottesville, but one that particularly perplexes me is, Where were the good people Donald Trump referenced? Do good people stand shoulder to shoulder with those who espouse fascist ideology, an ideology that caused the deaths of over 25 million people among our allies, including over 418,000 Americans? Do good people, if only by their mere presence, signal encouragement and support in furtherance of a perverse cause? Would good people stand in solidarity, for any purpose, with those shouting for jihad? 

Jihad is what the Nazis did to the Jews. It is what slavery did to the slaves. The scars have not healed, the walls that separate us have not been torn down. After the war, the Germans had the sensitivity to remove all public symbols of the Nazi era. Later they tore down that wall.

Will white America show the same sensitivity? Will we ever tear down that wall?

Len Ziefert