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Sunday, June 17, 2001

The worth of nuclear power goes unacknowledged

Thank you to Editor John G. Craig Jr. for a reasonable view on the reconsideration of nuclear power as an electric energy source for our nation ("The Untapped Power," June 3 To the Point column).

Our major challenge to the responsible use of nuclear energy in the United States is public resistance to a technology that is now a half-century mature. Our schools do not provide an adequate science education and regrettably, the mass media with their frequent off-kilter portrayals of things nuclear are the major source of the public's information on the subject.

The public knows that a nuclear weapon will kill massively and horribly, but it usually cannot differentiate among a fission bomb, a fusion bomb, a pressurized water reactor or a breeder reactor, in which the basic physics are nuclear, but the engineering makes all of the difference.

In discussing nuclear power, here is a most "critical" question: 22 years after and including the incident at Three Mile Island, how many people at U.S. nuclear plants have been injured or killed in accidents directly related to the power source?


Carriers can survive

Jack Kelly's June 3 column "Flat Tops Flat-Lining" asserts that the day of aircraft carriers is coming to a close because they are "small, very expensive, very, very vulnerable portable airfield[s]" due to anti-ship cruise missiles. This is incorrect.

This "small airfield" is not only survivable, its airwing is capable of striking almost 700 aimpoints every flying day -- more than four times its Desert Storm counterpart and increasing to over 1,000 this decade.

Moreover, carriers are on call every day protecting our interests overseas, not just in war.

The column not only was incorrect about the threat posed by anti-ship cruise missiles, but also showed little understanding of the Navy's revolutionary capabilities against them.

First, asserting that primitive cruise missiles kept carriers out of the Persian Gulf is incorrect; U.S. carriers did operate in the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm -- close enough to conduct combat strikes ashore in Iraq and far enough away to complicate the enemy's targeting problem.

Second, anti-ship cruise missiles don't sink large-deck carriers, period. They are left unused on the launcher because the carrier cannot be found (carriers can be anywhere within 700 square nautical miles in just 30 minutes); the ships or aircraft carrying the missile are destroyed or the missiles themselves are knocked down in flight by warships already fully capable of neutralizing the Russian Moskits cited (Mr. Kelly mentioned only the Close-In Weapon System, not the six other layers of defensive systems naval forces have).

Third, Cooperative Engagement Capability -- a wireless network of radar data so that "everyone can see, and shoot, what anyone sees" -- assures that enemy missiles (even future stealthy ones) will, with certainty, be destroyed in flight scores of miles away from the carriers, even in a mass missile raid.

This makes the aircraft carrier so survivable that no aircraft will be needed in its layered defenses, allowing even more aircraft for strike missions on land.

Alexandria, Va.

Editor's note: The writer is a surface warfare officer with the U.S. Navy and served on an aircraft carrier during the Gulf war.

Now I'm not so sure about Timothy McVeigh's execution

As I sat in front of my television on the morning of June 11, I had very mixed emotions. When the tragedy in Oklahoma City happened, I was horrified. Like everyone else, I watched TV and read the papers. I saw families of victims suffer.

When Timothy McVeigh was being tried, I was sure he deserved to be put to death for his crime. When his trial was over and death was decided, I felt that justice had been served.

Over the years, I have come to feel very ambivalent about that verdict. It's not that as the years have passed and Mr. McVeigh was in the news I came to care about him. It's just that we are no better than he was when he committed his ugly crime.

He was a healthy living human being who was alive one minute and dead the next. What a waste. I think what he did was terrible but I am so disturbed that we can just execute another human being.

I found myself watching that morning, like a lot of other people, out of morbid curiosity. I am so glad that they couldn't show the actual act on our TV sets.

McVeigh deserved to meet a terrible fate, but as the execution clock ticked, I just didn't know what was right.

Stanton Heights

Just a waste

On June 11, I witnessed the CNN coverage of the execution of Timothy McVeigh. I was struck by the utter waste of it all. Both McVeigh's actions and his execution seem so pointless.

His death won't give closure to the families of the victims, nor will it make them feel better because the hole in their hearts that he made will never be filled. The federal government treated McVeigh with infinitely more care and humanity than he treated the victims.

As you can see, I am truly ambivalent about this. It all just seems wasteful.

Ben Avon

What could be done?

On June 11, Timothy McVeigh was executed with mass media coverage. Family members and friends of the victims in the bombing expressed their satisfaction while opponents of capital punishment expressed their disapproval. However, I don't think anyone was satisfied.

In performing this execution, the nation seemed to be in mourning. While there is joy in bringing a new life into this world, there is none in sending one out, even that of a bomber. It is difficult to conceive how one can justify killing innocent civilians because of an event where a number of others have died. McVeigh did. He blamed the government so he killed many more to show his disapproval. Try to figure that one out.

Many are still haunted by the events leading up to the bombing. According to McVeigh, it was the tragedy at Waco that drove him to the bombing. One wonders why the president did not hold the attorney general, Janet Reno, responsible for that tragedy. In that comedy of errors, which lasted 51 days, four federal agents and more than 80 civilians were killed. Many were outraged.

One is left to wonder if the government had shown forceful disapproval of what happened at Waco by firing the attorney general (it was her responsibility), would McVeigh and the others involved have been satisfied and not carried out a retaliatory response?


Should be hotter

At noon on Monday, June 11, it was 74 degrees in Pittsburgh. I was surprised that it was not really hot out -- 90 degrees or worse -- especially with the huge bonfire going on in Hell that day.

Penn Hills

Feeling dirty

Timothy McVeigh is dead. Does anyone feel as "dirty" and as "sullied" as I do? We have lowered ourselves to the standards of terrorists by this state-sanctioned death. Perhaps we can learn something from it and stop ourselves before we kill again!

Bethel Park

Callous cartoon

Your political "cartoon" of June 12 picturing a hearse with a hazardous waste sign was as offensive as the action of McVeigh himself. His callous disregard for the life of others was perpetuated in your graphic commentary. My concern is that the violence we so abhor, we harbor in ourselves. Your commentary, in the form of a cartoon, unfortunately confirms my concerns. Let there be peace.

Point Breeze

Capital punishment wrong

Thanks to columnist Tony Norman for having the courage to devote his column to Tim McVeigh and say what a lot of us are thinking ("Murdering Timothy McVeigh Makes Us the Same as Him," June 8). I couldn't agree with him more on every point that he made, especially the comment about a thief's hand being cut off in "barbaric" Saudi Arabia.

Additionally, I believe that the philosophy behind the bombing of Baghdad and many other places and killing innocent citizens is the same philosophy that Mr. McVeigh used to justify his actions. There is no difference in my eyes.

Both the United States and McVeigh are wrong. In that way, the United States government is just as guilty for the bombing in Oklahoma City as McVeigh. Being raised in a country that espouses a philosophy of callousness and immorality perpetrates more callousness and immorality in its citizens.

Second, if the U.S. government believes that it is morally justified in executing anybody just because it has a court order, then why is it ashamed of showing it on national television? The argument that capital punishment is a deterrent to crime (which is absurd) would surely be enhanced by showing it on television for all to see.

I believe that the decision makers know capital punishment is wrong and that by broadcasting it the anti-capital punishment movement would be greatly enhanced.

Mr. McVeigh was executed because of popular opinion and in the hope that many politicians would get re-elected. The moral indignation of many citizens and the moral hypocrisy of this execution marks the beginning of the end for capital punishment.

Regent Square

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