Dornan Is Not Against Debate

On Feb. 5, 1990, Times staff writer Dana Parsons wrote an open letter to Vietnam veteran turned anti-war demonstrator Ron Kovic begging him to challenge me in the 1990 election.

On Feb. 1, 1991, I was the subject of another Parsons essay. This time he went to great lengths to misrepresent my position and public statements regarding anti-war demonstrators.

In his column, Parsons implied that I want to "stifle" public debate, that I have no confidence in the American people, and that what I really want is a controlled society. While it does not surprise me that Parsons, who supported a congressional candidate based on a Hollywood film ("Born on the Fourth of July"), would make such ridiculous charges, I would still like to set the record straight.

First, I have never encouraged or taken any action that would stifle public debate, and I challenge Parsons to prove otherwise. As a journalist and a congressman, I have worked hard to encourage public debate on every issue of importance to the nation.

At the start of the war, I said anti-war demonstrators were prolonging the war by signaling to Saddam Hussein that the American people are not committed to achieving victory in the Middle East.

I never said anti-war demonstrators have no right to protest or state their opposition to liberating Kuwait or destroying Hussein's nuclear, chemical and biological weapon facilities. I merely stated that their behavior was irresponsible.

Criticizing anti-war demonstrators is no more an attempt to suppress free speech than is Parsons' uninformed criticism of me an attempt to suppress my right to free speech.

With rights come responsibilities. When the United States commits its servicemen and women to a military conflict, it is my belief that all Americans, including the press, must act responsibly to avoid endangering the lives of our fellow citizens. While we may not all agree on what is responsible behavior, we are all entitled to forcefully espouse our viewpoints. And that includes U.S. congressmen as well as anti-Desert Storm demonstrators.

ROBERT K. DORNAN, U.S. Congressman

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