Playing with History

Article excerpt

Byline: John McCaslin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Playing with history

As far as the 3,600-member Historical Miniatures Gaming Society is concerned, this year's Iraqi Republican Guard counterattack against U.S. troops during a fierce days-long sandstorm is one of the great battles of history.

In fact, a hypothetical battle during a sandstorm, between the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division and the Republican Guard, was just played out, albeit on a tabletop. It's called "historical miniatures gaming," a relatively unknown slice of Americana that promotes the study of military history by simulating warfare through the use of hand-painted miniatures and three-dimensional model landscapes.

"Imagine a table covered with hills, trees and villages - a model landscape much like those seen on a model railroad layout," says Del Stover, a longtime war gamer and member of the Alexandria-based society's board of directors. "But then cover it with hundreds of hand-painted toy soldiers. And then watch as hobbyists maneuver their troops across this battlefield using rules much like chess."

Just this past weekend, "gamers" gathered at a convention in Lancaster, Pa., to refight not only the recent Iraq war, but other battles, such as "Crossing the Euphrates," depicting the U.S. Marines in battle with the Republican Guard during the Persian Gulf war. Also played out in miniature form was "Somalia 2002," in which American "Special Ops" strike at al Qaeda terrorist training camps in Somalia.

Last weekend's convention displayed hundreds of miniature battlefields, from ancient Rome and Napoleon's campaigns in Europe to the U.S. Civil War, World War II and Vietnam.

Mr. Stover alone has a collection of more than 7,000 miniatures. Robert Cortese, a combat veteran of the 1979 U.S. rescue mission in Grenada and an author specializing in military technology and tactics, was on hand to lecture on "Baghdad 2003." His talk centered on urban warfare in Iraq and the ongoing low-intensity terrorist campaign being fought worldwide.

No right turns

Suffice it to say if newspaper reporters of the liberal persuasion ever left the fourth estate for greener pastures, the journalism industry as we know it would fold - for lack of manpower. Consider a Freedom Forum survey published several years ago revealing that a wide majority of Washington scribes and editors consider themselves liberals or moderates. The poll of 130 journalists, in fact, found a whopping 89 percent had voted for President Clinton in 1996. Like it or not, that's the nature of the beast. All the American public can do is hope that reporters present readers all sides of a news story, as they were instructed to do in Journalism 101.

Same story for conservative scribes, what few exist. Bryan O'Keefe is editor in chief of George Washington University's alternative newspaper, the GW Patriot. Now beginning a job search, Mr. O'Keefe writes that his journalism professor had some connections with the Dallas Morning News and was able to land the student a sit-down interview with the large Texas daily.

"During the interview the Patriot came up, but I clearly told the editors that ... I can put aside any bias I might have and report everything 'fair and balanced,' and I have many newspaper clippings, from both a newspaper I worked for back home and the main newspaper at GW, to support this."

"I also could list any number of journalism professors who would say the same thing," Mr. O'Keefe adds. "Well, I get a call this morning from the editor and she officially says that because I was involved with a conservative newspaper and college Republicans they will not hire me. …