I just spent several days on a tour arranged by the Marine Corps Association, speaking to various groups of Marines at Parris Island, South Carolina, their East Coast recruitment depot, and at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, their main East Coast operating base. It was inspiring and educational in equal measure.
The educational part came from a meeting with the Marines’ newly formed Foreign Military Training Unit, part of the recently established Marine Special Operations Command. The Marines are, in essence, emulating the Army Special Forces by creating groups of eleven Marines (akin to the Green Beret A-Teams) who receive language and educational training and then journey to various parts of the world to train friendly military forces. The goal is to keep sending the same groups of Marines back to one country or region so that they can establish the personal relationships which are all important in this type of work. This initiative doesn’t get the headlines that the Marines receive for their heroic fighting in Iraq’s Anbar province, but, over the long term, it could make just as important a contribution to winning the struggle against radical Islam.
I see that commentators I respect, such as Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol, are calling for President Bush to pardon Scooter Libby. They make a very persuasive case, but I would be surprised if a presidential pardon is forthcoming—not, at any rate, until the legal process has run its full course. In an Anglo-Saxon democracy under the rule of law, it is always potentially damaging for a head of state to grant pardons, especially to friends, associates, or those who have served under him. Not only must justice be done, it must also be seen to be done.
In practice, this means that pardons are high-risk politics. The pardoning of Richard Nixon, however justifiable, severely damaged Gerald Ford politically. If Tony Blair were to be indicted for the “cash for honors” affair, he would have to resign; if he were convicted, he could expect no pardon. Even if the Queen were minded to grant him one, it would be political suicide for Blair’s successor to ask her for it.
• Robert Graves, Good-Bye To All That (1929), and William Manchester, Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War (1979). These are two of the best war memoirs of the 20th century, the first an account of World War I on the western front, the second an account of World War II in the Pacific. Graves’s book is more celebrated, perhaps because it’s been around longer, but I found Manchester’s volume to be better crafted.
The stories they tell are in many respects similar: sensitive, bookish upper-middle-class boys, one English, the other a New Englander, who grow up infused with patriotic ideals and a desire for military glory, then go off to war, get wounded, and return home disillusioned. The anger at the end of that journey has become a standard trope of World War I literature, but it is no less true of Manchester, who watched so many of his buddies turned to pulp by Japanese fire on Okinawa, the greatest bloodletting of the Pacific campaign.
South Carolina state legislators are considering a bill that would allow prisoners in the state to have their sentences reduced in return for organ donations. Short of outright physical coercion, it is hard to imagine a more blatant violation of the principle of altruism and free choice behind the nation’s organ donation system.
The federal law governing organ donation seeks to prevent exactly this kind of pressure on potential donors. It prohibits any “valuable consideration” in return for organs, and advocates of the new South Carolina bill are trying to figure out how to word their legislation in a way that doesn’t violate that provision.
What they have in mind is profoundly unethical. Offering a reward for organs to a vulnerable population under the control of the state is an appalling violation of the dignity of these prisoners. Even proponents of voluntary markets in organs must see that this extension of their idea makes a mockery of the principle of uncoerced choice.