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Jewish World Review April 30, 2001 / 7 Iyar, 5761

Tony Snow

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Washington's defining peculiarities: The inability of politicians and pundits to connect the dots -- THE simultaneous appearance in the news of Timothy McVeigh, Bob Kerrey and Tracy Marciniac reveals one of Washington's defining peculiarities: The inability of politicians and pundits to connect the dots.

McVeigh, slated to die next month for murdering 168 people at the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, dispatched a letter last week to my Fox News colleague Rita Cosby. The note portrays a classic black-helicopter coward -- a man who has conjured rage from ignorance and righteousness out of depravity.

When asked why he uses the term "collateral damage" to describe murdered children, he writes: "Collateral Damage? As an American news junkie; a military man; and a Gulf War veteran, where do they think I learned that? (It sure as hell wasn't Osami (sic) bin Laden.)"

Note how McVeigh attempts to cloak himself in the raiment of the armed services. But military men don't place bombs outside busy federal buildings, and they don't attempt to use their service as a shield from moral censure.

Which brings us to the case of Bob Kerrey. Former Sen. Kerrey addressed the press this week about allegations that he and members of his SEAL unit slaughtered as many as 20 civilians in the Vietnamese village of Thanh Phong. Kerrey says someone fired at his unit on the night of Feb. 25, 1969, and that he and his men returned fire. Only after the shooting ceased did he and his buddies discover that they had killed men, women and children.

One member of that squad, Gerald Klann, offers a far more grisly and troubling account. He says Kerrey lined up the victims and had them shot, and that in the case of an old man, Klann held the victim down while Kerrey slit his throat.

Kerrey has a sane enough response to the charge: He has no idea why Klann is making the allegations -- and barring further testimony from others involved, the story will remain murky for the rest of us.

In any case, Kerrey, unlike McVeigh, does not describe the tragedy as heroism and hasn't devised a grandiose justification for the killings. He has talked of a haunting encounter in a guerrilla war the likes of which Americans had never seen.

Finally comes the case of Tracy Marciniac. She was beaten nearly to death on February 8, 1992 -- four days before she was due to deliver her son, Zachariah. Her then-husband pounded her savagely, punching her stomach with all his might. The boy died. She urged Congress last Thursday to classify such beatings as murders -- and to recognize that assaults intended to kill a child still in the womb ought to count as murder of the unborn baby.

Feminists protest bitterly that the law, which passed the House of Representatives by a comfortable margin, would jeopardize abortion by acknowledging that some unborn children enjoy rights to life. This marks yet another benchmark in a growing trend: Abortion advocates are so determined to prevent any restrictions on the killing of unborn children that they condone infanticide in the form of partial-birth abortion, and now want to hold down potential penalties against those who beat pregnant women. "Choice" evidently is so important that it outweighs compassion.

This provides the thread to our three stories. Kerrey and Marciniac view children as human beings. They do not employ sterile terms to sanitize killing. They speak as we normally do.

(Ask yourself: When was the last time you saw somebody place a hand on a pregnant woman's stomach, feel a baby kick or wriggle, and say: "Oh, you must be excited. It's such a busy little fetus!" Or: "You must be so excited! You're going to have a collateral target!")

This is an important point because the dignity of life has come under assault in recent years from people who regard the right to life as provisional -- something that withers away when a person falls ill, loses mental faculties or is too young to survive the cold, cruel world. Such thinking turns every able-bodied American into a candidate for "compassionate" murder, should he or she suffer a grave injury or fall prey to the natural ravages of age. It also puts Americans with disabilities on the endangered species list. The sure tip-off for such thinking is the aggressive and jarring use of euphemism.

So: Timothy McVeigh speaks of "collateral damage." Tracy Marciniac's feminist foes snarl about "the fetus." And Bob Kerrey? He admitted "killing innocent people." Connect the dots, and decide who has greater reverence for life.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate