Oh, your delicious sense of irony. The lead editorial on Dec. 19, "Doctors' Orders," castigates two hospitals for their decision not to endanger their staff and patients by vaccinating their employees against smallpox. Dismissing the doctors' concerns that the lack of any tangible evidence of a smallpox threat may not outweigh the known dangers of the vaccine, you opine that "whereas few medical doctors are equipped to assess the presence or absence of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, a handful of intelligence analysts have been trained to do almost nothing else."

Having established the principle that only an elite coterie of intelligence analysts is qualified to weigh in on matters related to national security, you proceed with "The Missile Rush," which chides the Bush administration for its hasty decision to deploy an unproven "Star Wars" defense system on an accelerated timetable. Now I'm confused.

Why are journalists who are trained to write and market newspapers qualified to speak out on rocket science, while medical professionals are not "equipped" to question a policy calling for the distribution of a potentially dangerous vaccine?

Perhaps the greater irony (or confusion?) is that your paper would interrupt its increasingly jingoistic enthusiasm for the Bush war machine by questioning any aspect of the administration's dream for a 21st-century "fortress America." Beware, your lack of patriotic zeal may be showing.

-- Glenn Wiser