Source control

I was immensely relieved to see that Karl Kment (Jan. 30) discovered a simple way to cite a factual source without reverting to pedantic, academic-style footnotes. If he had identified his sources in that first letter, Mr. Kment would have enhanced the "flavor" of his opinion, and the second letter would not read like historian Stephen Ambrose trying to rationalize how he used sources.

But I would also add a word of caution. Determining the death toll in military actions and natural disasters is not an exact science and can lead to misleading conclusions, as the U.S. discovered so often during the Vietnam War. Additionally, the constant revising of the death toll in the World Trade Center incident demonstrated that local "contacts" in New York City could also give inaccurate information. Tragedies are tragedies, no matter whose or how many bodies are counted, and Mr. Kment is correct in suggesting that a public dialogue should focus on the broader issues of American foreign policy. But that dialogue should not focus only on Central Asia, and he needs to remember that his key word is spelled "pharisaic."

At the risk of being more pedantic, I will suggest that my essay, "Oregon at War," in the current issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly (Winter 2001) adds some historical perspective to questions about Oregonians and war.

Finally, Peter H. von Oppel (Feb. 2) still does not seem to realize that he repeated a false account of testimony allegedly from the Iran-Contra hearings in 1987. Osama bin Laden was never mentioned in those hearings. The name linked with Oliver North was Abu Nidal, our 1980s terrorist of the moment. Check "urban legends" websites.

Eckard Toy


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