Footnotes of an America United

And now some footnotes to America's war on terror. Sears got some awful press earlier this week when a Chicago newspaper reported that the retailing giant had instructed its truck drivers not to place flags on their vehicles because the star-spangled banners could make it difficult for drivers to see.

 Thousands of callers and writers sent complaints to Sears and the drivers said they were miffed, too. So now Ted McDougal, a Sears spokesman, says they company has begun attaching American flag decals to all 15,000 of its service vans.

McDougal also adds that the company has given $3 million in cash and hundreds of thousands in merchandise to the relief effort and that thousands of Sears employees have donated blood since the terrorist attacks.

Jerry Falwell has apologized for insinuating on Pat Robertson's "700 Club" that the September 11 attacks might have expressed divine unhappiness with, quote, "pagans, abortionists, feminists, homosexuals, the American Civil Liberties Union, and People for the American Way." Falwell's apology evidently isn't good enough for long-retired CBS newsman Walter Cronkite.

Cronkite recently likened Falwell and Robertson to those who murdered 6,000 Americans. The broadcaster told "TV Guide" that Falwell's, quote, "makes you wonder if they are worshipping the same god as the people who bombed the Trade Center and the Pentagon."

CNN says it has not banned the use of the word "terrorist" on its air, saying it uses the term to describe, quote, "the persons responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon." The network refers to Osama bin Laden as a terrorist: actually, calls him a suspected terrorist. But when it comes to the people who commandeered jets, slashed passengers' throats, and flew aircraft into the trade towers and the Pentagon, CNN employs different jargon. It calls the actual murderers, quote, "hijackers" or "alleged hijackers."

We hope this clarifies CNN's alleged policy.

And Judy Mann of "The Washington Post" wins this week's "Noam Chomsky Award" for commentary. Her Wednesday column opens with the suggestion that, quote, "Maybe the problem is that Americans are plain bone-stupid." In the course of her piece, she alleges that airport security was lax because, quote, "That's the way the airlines wanted it."

She repeats a false rumor that the administration gave the Taliban $43 million this year for cracking down on poppy growers. The sum was for humanitarian food aid.

She says the first President Bush failed to kill Saddam Hussein because, quote, "the oil industry owned him."

And she concludes: "Killing the murderers and their accomplices may make us all feel better, but it won't make us any smarter and it won't prevent future attacks. It's time we thought through the difficult problems we face and stop succumbing to flatulent patriotic rhetoric."

Judy Mann of "The Washington Post."