Southampton County resident retracts Obama/Gen. Greene letter to the editor

Published 9:37 am Wednesday, October 1, 2014

To the Editor:

If you wish to print a retraction of the letter I sent you which you published verbatim, please do so. I apologize for not checking it more thoroughly before I sent it to you. Even though I was not the author, I take responsibility for sending you something which appears to contain some false information.

Here is some of what I found on

Although neither President Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden attended Gen. Greene’s funeral, a high-ranking Obama administration official was present. As the military publication Stars and Stripes noted in its reporting of the funeral, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attended the ceremony and met with Greene’s family:

A cannon boomed across the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery as a two-star general killed in an insider attack in Afghanistan was buried with full military honors.

The somber ceremony for Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene included a riderless horse following the caisson — an honor given to an Army or Marine Corps officer ranked colonel or above — and was attended by more than 100 mourners.

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno presented the flag that had covered Greene’s casket to his widow, Susan Myers, a retired Army colonel. Odierno then presented three more flags to Greene’s son, Matthew, a first lieutenant in the Army; his daughter, Amelia; and his father, also named Harold.

The burial was preceded by a chapel service that was closed to media. Lt. Col. Juanita Chang, an Army public affairs officer, said the 650-seat chapel at Arlington was filled beyond capacity. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel attended and met with the family.

As for President Obama’s allegedly breaking precedent by not attending the funeral himself, Byron York, one of the journalists who passed along some of the misinformation related to this issue, noted in a mea culpa Washington Examiner follow-up that:

[Morris Davis, a retired Air Force colonel] stated definitively that Nixon had attended the Dillard funeral in 1970 and Bush had attended the Maude funeral in 2001, a “tradition” of presidential attendance that Obama “bucked” by ignoring the Greene funeral. As it turned out, none of that was true, and Davis, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who played an important role in the War on Terror and who today teaches law at Howard University, knew it when he wrote it.

Curious about what Davis had said, I looked for any sign that Nixon had attended the Dillard funeral. I went to the Nixon Library website, which has posted the minute-by-minute White House logs of Nixon’s activities. They’re very detailed; if Nixon had gone to the general’s funeral, it would have been listed. I looked through the month after Dillard’s death and found no evidence Nixon had attended. Likewise, it turned out Bush did not attend the Maude funeral.

In regards to the coda of the example reproduced above, which claims that President Obama “hasn’t even ordered flags to be flown at half-staff, like he did for the deaths of singer Whitney Houston, as well as the former communist and South African President Nelson Mandela,” President Obama did issue a proclamation ordering that U.S. flags on government buildings be flown at half-staff in December 2013 after the death of Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid politician who served as president of South Africa in the late 1990s (A relatively uncommon gesture of respect for a deceased foreign head of state — the last foreign dignitary whose death had been so honored in the U.S. was Pope John Paul II in 2005.). However, the claim that President Obama ordered U.S. flags on government buildings be flown at half-staff after the death of singer Whitney Houston in April 2012 is a long-running piece of political misinformation — the President issued a statement of condolence through his press secretary and nothing more; the gesture of flag-lowering was undertaken only at a state level by Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, Houston’s home state.

Ash Cutchin
Southampton County