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Keeping A Military Man At Attention

August 20, 1995

Considering the alternatives available, I hold yet to my votes for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984. Nevertheless, I find the review of "The Nightingale's Song" (July 16) importantly incomplete in overlooking the enormous vacuum in which Oliver North, Robert McFarlane, and John Poindexter ended up "running their very own free-for-all foreign policy in the Reagan White House." With William Casey gone, nobody else was minding the store.

I go along completely with the reviewer's denial of excuse for transgressions, but, damn it, Ollie North, trained in command but not adequately in the Constitution, thought he was doing his job! All of us who so comfortably ignored what was going on until the roof blew off likewise should not be excused. I do not imply that we knew and ignored details. But we did know that we had essentially given an administrative blank check to the Reagan White House, and we should have had an auditor from the outset: the Fourth Estate should have been on the job from the outset, and we should have been alert enough to prod it into such performance.

As for the system, it should NEVER place a military or naval officer in a civilian position in the government. Any officer doing duty in support of civilian officials should be always in uniform, and some civilian should be openly supervising at all times. Civilian authority over the military is recognized in principle, but can be too easily subverted when an eager beaver attacks his assignment as if storming an enemy fortification.

GILBERT S. BAHN, MOORPARK

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