Re: Mr. Wilkes’ letter (whom, for sake of full disclosure, I consider a dear friend) in which he took understandable umbrage at my remarks about My Lai and Haditha, I am truly sorry my words were understood the way he did. He states, “I am a combat veteran of the U.S. military. Our record is not shameful, it is exemplary and every American should be proud,” and I could not agree more. The men and women who risked (and still do) their lives or actually gave their lives are, in my mind, forever enshrined in the roles of the ultimate American heroes, as people who did the hardest thing any person can ever be called on to do — fight and risk death and injury for our country. I certainly never meant to cast dispersions of any kind on the U.S. military as whole.
Having said that, it is a sad but undeniable fact that My Lai and Haditha happened — unforgivable mass murders carried out by U.S. soldiers — aberrations, very uncharacteristic of the glorious and proud history of our armed forces when viewed in totality. Indeed, I’m sure many of the thousands of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan died as the result of policies of restraint intended to minimize civilian deaths.
The IDF in its past history also has some events for which it should be ashamed, in 1948 and later years. But, to the best of my knowledge, it has been many decades since any IDF unit carried out mass murders, and certainly no such thing happened in “Cast Lead.” As such, the IDF has, in my opinion, perhaps the “cleanest” record of any modern army facing actual combat conditions, at least in the last two or three decades, completely opposite of the impression Ed Mast’s group tried to convey (“Provocative bus ads go to highest levels of county government,” Dec. 24).
So, again, I apologize to my fried Robert and any one else who thought I meant to belittle the U.S. Armed Forces. I am very proud of both the U.S. Armed Forces, and of the Israel Defense Forces, and Americans and Israelis are all fortunate to be so well served by their fighting men and women. And to my friend Robert, thank you a thousand times over for your sacrifices and your service.