I wouldn't want those who don't read this column to find
out, but I've got a little confession to make concerning my military
service in 1954-56. Here it is:
There were parts of it I found tolerable. No, not just
tolerablethere were parts of it I even enjoyed.
That's it. That's my confession. Don't tell anyone.
Notice my years of service: '54-'56. It was after the 1953
cease-fire in Korea and before we even knew where Vietnam was.
And after some no-fun basic infantry training at a place
diabolically called Fort Bliss, I got sent to Ulm, Germany, where
Germans were still trying to forget WWII, in part because being nice
to American GIs could help them earn a living.
The central feature of Ulm wasand I assume still isa
magnificent cathedral they started building in 1377 and didn't finish
until 1890. It hadand I assume it still hasthe tallest church
spire in the world.
Or as it was described by a sly scholar in the 1911
Encyclopedia Britannica, "the loftiest ecclesiastical erection in the
Hey, I was 21 years old. How could I not have been taken by
One of my fondest (if a bit fuzzy) memories is of getting
tipsy on Christmas Eve, 1955, with some fellow draftees and wandering
into the cathedral in time to hear an angelic singing of "Ave Maria"
by a pre-pubescent boy still a soprano.
It was ethereal and lovelyso much so it almost sobered us
But the thing I remember most about the cathedral was a '44
or '45 photo of it standing untouched in the middle of the carnage of
an otherwise destroyed section of Ulmthe work of our Air Force. Not
one stone atop anotherexcept for all those that came together so
wonderfully as part of the cathedral.
Some, I suppose, would attribute that to Divine
Intervention, but my information was that it was the result of
American bombers being equipped with those amazingly precise new
bombsights. We simply chose not to destroy a work of religious art as
imposing as the Ulm cathedral.
Seemed to me, even then, that it was a wonderfully nice
decision to have made. Still does.
And I was reminded of all that last week when I read about
what a U.S. Congressman from ColoradoRep. Tom Tancredosaid to
radio talk-show host Pat Campbell in Orlando, Fla.
Rep. Tancredo reportedly aspires to being the 2008
Republican presidential candidate so he says things he hopes will
appeal to Republican voters.
What, Campbell asked, should we tell our Islamic enemies
around the world to keep them from attacking us with nuclear weapons?
The following is from a transcript:
"Um, you know," Rep. Tancredo said, "there are things you
could threaten to do before something like that happens and you may
have to do afterwards
The Truth, Mainly
"Such as?" Campbell asked.
"Well," Rep.Tancredo said, "what if you said something like,
'If this happens in the United States and we determine that it is the
result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims'? You could take out their
"You're talking about bombing Mecca?" Campbell asked.
"Yeah," Rep.Tancredo said. "What if you said, 'We recognize
this is the ultimate threat to the United States, so this is the
ultimate response.' I'm just throwing out some ideas because you
would be talking about taking the most draconian measures you could
Get that? We'd deter Muslims by threatening to destroy
their holy places like Mecca. You know, sort of like trying to deter
Christians by threatening to destroy the Vatican. Or Bethlehem.
Imagine the reaction to that.
Diane Carman, a Denver Post columnist, printed the printable
excerpts from several letters she received from Tancredo supporters
who thought his idea was just fine. The letters came in response to
her lack of enthusiasm for the idea.
One wrote that "the problem is with the religion of
.These people are EVIL!"
And another: "I think Mr. Tancredo is right
are barbarians and it's bed-wetting cowards such as yourself who
somehow think they can be reasoned with."
One more: "Tancredo hit a nerve. Good for him. I'd prefer
a first strike. Why wait?"
In other words, Rep. Tancredo wants to do today what we were
too civilized to do when we were bombing Ulm 60 years ago. And do it
to an Islamic regime less bloody than the Christian regime led by
Remember the six million murdered Jews.
The question: Why does Rep. Tancredo think that saying such
things will help him become a Presidential nominee in 2008? Who does
he think we are? Does he think the majority of us are represented by
the three letters above?
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail