Letters to the Editor, Bird Cage Liner
What does the layoff of the influential opinion leader mean?
The San Diego Union-Tribune’s layoff last week of Bob Kittle, the conservative editor of the paper’s editorial page, was huge news. He was an institution in San Diego who had more influence over public policy than any other local journalist. Politicians were often sent scrambling to hold press conferences to respond to editorials either written by Kittle or published under his watch. He had direct lines of communication with local leaders—not just Republicans, but also establishment-type Democrats.
Simply put, Kittle was a key defender of the old business guard, a reliable booster for civic projects backed by longtime, well-heeled corporate interests. He had little use for left-leaning rabble-rousers such as former City Attorney Mike Aguirre or City Councilmember Donna Frye—Frye couldn’t buy a word of praise on Kittle’s page even when she stood firm against pay raises coveted by the unions, which Kittle detests with unparalleled ferocity.
Let America see
Lift ban on showing returning war casualties. 2:00 a.m. February 21, 2009
Since 2001, there have been nearly 5,000 flag-draped coffins containing the remains of servicemen and servicewomen killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. But these Americans have come home to a nearly oblivious public because of a ban on photographing or televising these solemn events.
The ban was imposed in 1991 by President George H. W. Bush after the television networks showed him in a jocular mood on a split screen as the bodies of the first American casualties were being returned from the brief military action in Panama. Since then, presidents have made rare exceptions to the ban. Last week President Barack Obama was asked if he would keep the ban in place. Not tipping his hand, he said the policy was under review, and he likely will learn the findings of the review as early as next week.
We think it is past time for the ban to be lifted. Americans need to know the high price military families are paying for the wars.
Since Vietnam, which some claim was lost in America's living rooms as images of the fighting there weakened U.S. resolve, military officials have been averse to cameras. But in his 1972 book, “On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War,” Col. Harry G. Summers, an Army War College professor, wrote after examining the military's own appraisal that public support waned for that war not because of battlefield images seen by the public but the failure of the Johnson and Nixon administrations to articulate clear goals and an exit strategy while watching their sons die.
The military also rightly has expressed concerns for the families of the returning Americans. If the ban is lifted, we believe the decision to allow cameras still should remain with families, as is the policy here for the limited number of interments at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery and for those at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Oiling the skids
A ruling only zealots cheer demands a quick reversal, Union-Tribune Editorial, 2:00 a.m. January 4, 2009
The recent hike in regular unleaded gasoline prices, despite continuing drops in the price of crude oil, threatens to break the $2-a-gallon mark. Blame the spike in San Diego on a major malfunction at a refinery in Los Angeles County in mid-December and the bankruptcy filing on Dec. 22 by a refinery owner in Bakersfield. With California's capacity to produce gasoline reduced, its wholesale price rose, bumping up prices at the pump.
On Dec. 19, however, the barely adequate refinery capacity in the state and nation suffered a potentially disabling blow. A federal appeals court panel sided with environmental activists who sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency on industrial pollution rules. Unless stayed and ultimately reversed, this decision will cripple refineries for no good reason.
At issue is an EPA rule that in 1994 set permissible levels of air pollutants from large industrial facilities. Given the realities of industrial production and the limits of technology, the EPA allowed such facilities to exceed permitted levels temporarily when they start up, shut down and malfunction.
The activists argued that this regulation and subsequent amendments by the Bush administration violated the Clean Air Act. Whether the court should have accepted their suit is debatable, but two members of the three-judge panel also accepted their argument, vacated the regulation entirely and mandated that the same emission levels apply at all times.
Since excess emissions during those three events are ignitable and no other alternative exists, facilities release them. Given the emissions' volatility and unpredictability, the EPA omitted them in setting the permitted levels for each industry. Raising the levels to permit unavoidable excess emissions offers the fastest compliance with the panel's mandate. Regular EPA studies find no risk to public health from refineries' excess emissions. But even refineries oppose that approach.
Technology may someday offer options. For now, the EPA must get the mandate delayed while it decides how to reverse it. Less gasoline and fewer drivers may please activists. But shortages of refined oil also imperil medical devices and other necessities. That prospect shouldn't please anyone.
holiday message from the publisher
These are extraordinarily difficult times. Our new president will face untold challenges not just here at home, but beyond our borders, where the instability across the globe foments. Our collective unease is also voiced by Longfellow:
“And in despair I bowed my head, 'There is no peace on earth' I said, 'For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men.'”
Somehow Christmas Day arrives, with its magic of hope and promise of “peace on earth.” It forces us to stop and reflect. That's when all the reasons we have to be grateful, even hopeful, resurface.
ed: What a hypocrite. Bob Kiddle and the editorial board of the San Diego Union Tribune constantly spread the Reaganist message of hate and divisiveness. Spewing the same message will get you the same results. Kiddle is so full of hate towards liberals that he would rather destroy our country than live in peace.
What do Indian casinos take out of economy?
Regarding the East County Editorial Aug. 23, “Casinos help shelter East County from economic downturn” where you attempt to make a case that “casinos are now a vital part of the East County economy.”
Oh, let's see, what would we do without these massive, non-taxpaying, monopolistic behemoths sucking billions of dollars out of our economy so we can receive $2.5 million in charitable donations and have to read about it in your newspaper? Even worse, you make this statement without the slightest mention of the negative economic impacts gambling brings to the community. With billions of dollars being sucked out of our local economy annually how can a measly $2.5 million in charitable contributions become news?
How much is the local community losing from the billions of dollars being sent to sovereign nations that do not pay income taxes or property taxes like all the other businesses in the East County. Net out the taxes not paid, the legitimate business lost, i.e., restaurants, entertainment, etc., and I think you'll see that they are a massive negative to the East County economy.
Finally, I would like to see evidence that the casinos are treating their employees any better than the thousands of other taxpaying businesses in East County.
PETER E. SHENAS, Jamul
Offering answers to Blackwater critics
Nobody should profit from war. [ed]
Regarding “Blackwater Q&A raises more questions” (Dialog, July 27):
The Q&A was refreshing. Blackwater founder and CEO Erik Prince answered direct questions that people wanted to know the answers to. Blackwater is a company just like many others that has found a way to support our military and give jobs to those men and women who have spent their careers protecting our freedom.
Reader Alan Segal (Letters, July 30) asked why Republicans aren't complaining about “this waste of my tax dollars?” As a local Republican leader (first vice chairman of the San Diego County Republican Party), the answer is simple: If a job can be done better and cheaper by having an outside group do it, then it saves our tax dollars. Why should the military spend millions of dollars fighting the environmental lobby and building facilities that private companies and community colleges already have and use to train law enforcement?
Reader Myra Webb (Letters, July 30) asked, “The military can't train its own sailors and troops?” The military trains people for specific tasks and as Prince stated, after the Navy destroyer Cole bombing, there was a need for further training in the use of weapons and defensive tactics.
The relationship between civilian companies and the Department of Defense has been on going for years. Private companies provide expertise and state-or-the-art technology and training facilities so that the military doesn't have to invest millions in either. The Army doesn't build its own tanks, the Air force doesn't build its own planes, the Navy doesn't build its own ships, etc.
Companies such as Blackwater provide needed services, while saving the taxpayers dollars.
MICHAEL McSWEENEY San Diego
Hunter's critique of border results faulted
Regarding “Guarding the Border/National Guard enhanced security” (Dialog, July 27):
Congressman Duncan Hunter sounds like he is still running for president with the exultation of accomplishments that are word substitutes for hiding failures and lack of action that would have truly made a difference in border security. Hunter claims his 1996 initial border fence was a huge success stopping illegal border crossings, yet from a level of 976,101 apprehensions in that year, illegal entries in California rose to 1,159,303 in 2004, an increase in each year of Hunter's “success.” Regarding his assertion of the seizure of 322,000 pounds of illegal drugs as being a huge success, that amount represents 161 tons, a figure the Mexican military bettered just this year. What Hunter doesn't say is that during all his years in Congress he has done nothing to curtail the magnets for illegal immigration and drug smuggling – jobs and drug usage.
Hunter has long assailed the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act because it provided amnesty, while doing absolutely nothing in his own district to enforce the section of the act mandating stopping the hiring of undocumented workers. Businesses got a free pass from him.
Likewise, he favors defense contractors with government funds to secure the border with unproven or meaningless new technologies, but has not supported or approved any funds toward eliminating drug usage or drug rehabilitation.
PATRICK OSIO, Chula Vista
Blackwater Q&A raises more questions
Q&A: Erik Prince & Brian Bonfiglio http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20080727/news_lz1e27qanda.html
Regarding “Q&A with Blackwater's Erik Prince and Brian Bonfiglio” (Dialog, July 27):
I wonder how much of what these two Blackwater executives say can be believed. Their claims and numbers certainly sound more than a little inflated. How about turning some of your Pulitzer-winning investigative reporters loose to find out the truth behind their claims? The military can't train its own sailors and troops? If true, maybe that is a story in itself.
Given this company's nefarious track record in carrying out its contracts in Iraq, are these the kind of people who should be connected with our military or State Department in any way? And how is this company winning its contracts? Through congressional earmarks or other congressional and/or administration wheelings and dealings? Another story, perhaps?
MYRA WEBB, San Diego
When we won World War II, do you think the government had to hire very expensive private contractors to teach sailors how to handle a weapon to defend themselves and their ships? I wonder why we don't hear any complaints about this waste of my tax dollars from the old Republican sailor/pilot running for president? Who taught him how to shoot? It wasn't Blackwater?
ALAN SEGAL, San Diego
Erik Prince makes the company he founded, Blackwater, sound benign and wonderful in this interview, but there are some questions unasked that might add some reality to the picture. He said 95 percent of the opposition to Blackwater here is as a proxy for the Iraq war. It would be nice to know where he got that figure.
The “nonsense” in Potrero had a lot to do with Blackwater's impact on the community: noise, fire risks, traffic, the environment. That's why the residents were concerned, why the Sierra Club was involved, not because of Iraq.
Prince makes a case for the quality of his company's work. Does he see that deadly November 2004 plane crash in Afghanistan as an example of Blackwater professionalism? Or how about the unprovoked massacre in September 2007 that left 17 Iraqis dead in Baghdad? Was that Blackwater professionalism? If it represents the United States, if it is killing people in our name and reaping profit from war, it must be accountable to the American people. But it is not.
People have lots of objections to Blackwater; the surreptitious permit process in Otay Mesa questions its true intentions, but I think the biggest objection is that we aren't comfortable having an unaccountable private military at our doorstep. This is a military town, why do we have to have these mercenaries taking their place? Is Blackwater hoping to cash in on some sort of privatization of the U.S. military? Are we going to outsource that, too?
GREGG ROSNER, El Cajon
Honoring the sacrificesof the Founders
Do you ever wonder what happened to the signers of the Declaration of Independence? Do you care?
Five were captured by the British, tortured and died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; two had their sons captured. Nine died as the result of wounds and hardships fighting the war.
What kind of men were these 56 who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, 11 were merchants and nine were farmers. Many others were plantation owners and men of means. They all signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well they faced probable death if captured.
Carter Braxton, a wealthy trader, saw his ships destroyed, he sold his home to pay his debts and died in rags. Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British he had to keep his family in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and he ultimately died in poverty. Eight others had their properties looted. At the Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr. noted that General Lord Charles Cornwallis had taken over his home as his headquarters. He quietly urged General Washington to shell and destroy it. Nelson died bankrupt.
Please remember that Independence Day is more than beer, hot dogs and chips. It is also a time for us to thank these patriots who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor – for us.
D.T. RADMILOVICH San Diego
Contrast this with our leaders today. They get rich off of the rest of us and dodge personal responsibility for their errors. I have no respect for BUSH and CHENEY. I long to read the news story that starts: "George W. Bush arrived in Guantanamo Bay today to begin his 8 year sentence for obstruction of justice, conspiracy and perjury. His war crimes trial will start soon and will be held in a courtroom located within the prison at Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. For those charges he faces a potential sentence of 20 years to life."
Hoping for return of O.B.'s peace sign
Regarding “Activists plead for return of peace; sign taken from rock over weekend” (Our Region, Jan. 8):
Knowing the history of the peace symbol, it is hard to imagine why anyone would be offended by its presence. It was designed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom, a British professional artist and became identified with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The symbol is a mix of the military semaphore signals N, representing nuclear, and D, representing disarmament. The sign was not copyrighted and is a symbol of freedom, and is free for anyone to use.
According to its Web site, “the CND campaigns nonviolently to rid the world of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and to create genuine security for future generations.”
I do not know anyone who would disagree with such intentions. I congratulate the peace rockers for their efforts, and I hope their peace sign finds its way home.
ROBIN LOVE San Diego
Critical assessments of our 'religious impulse'
After reading “Recognizing our religious impulse” by commentator Michael Novak (Insight, Dec. 23), I realize that what you print is not just news but also articles designed to please your Christian readers.
Not being Christian affords me a certain objectivity. Consider Novak's statement that faith, as Jews and Christians understand it, honors reason. Gosh, my dictionary defines faith as a belief unsupported by proof. So where's the reason?
Even more creative is his statement that Christianity is based on truth. Whose truth? My truth is that Christianity and religions like it are complex fantasies, written by men who wished to control the masses. Just consider the lowly position afforded to women! Does God hate women? Of course these religions are popular, and there lies the danger. An atheist like myself would be burned alive in many countries for what I've just said.
Christianity has been effectively marketed to millions of people who are simply afraid of what's going to happen to them after they die. I have one simple question: What was your life like before you were born? Nothing, right? Well, that's exactly what we're going to experience after we die. Popular or not, that's the only thing worth considering. So live your life fully and consciously, and honor the time that you have.
ROBERT FAULKER, La Jolla
Michael Novak admits to being “an unabashed Christian.” He should instead admit to being “a poorly educated Christian.” He states that Europe was once “a cradle of faith” but that faith there is in decline due to an influx of Muslims. Don't Muslims worship the same God of Abraham and Moses as Christians and Jews? Do they not hold Jesus as a revered profit and teach his vision of peace? Muslims outnumber Christians in the world, so if Novak is trying to make a case that faith is essential to liberty, should he not include Muslims in this category as he does with Jews?
But Christianity is not essential to liberty. Democracy was born from pagan Greeks and our republican form of government from pagan Rome. Christianity only brought us kings, popes and other authoritarians. Perhaps it's because pagans were inclusive of other religions and peoples while the Ten Commandments tell us that the Judeo/Christian god is a jealous god, and “thou shalt have no other gods before him.”
Christianity is certainly no friend of reason. While Muslims were inventing higher mathematics and innovations in architecture, Christian society suffered through illiteracy and ignorance during the Dark Ages. Some Christian fundamentalists would like for us to return to the Dark Ages beginning with teaching creationism in our public schools and rejecting evolution.
So don't place a creche in our public spaces as a symbol of freedom. Instead, pick up your Bible and look for the word “Democracy.” You won't find it. Then pick up our Constitution and look for the word “God.” You won't find it, either. Only by separating church from state can both flourish.
RICHARD GILLOCK, Costa Mesa
Analyses of evolution arguments
Kudos from the San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry to the four Steves – Kay, Briggs, Hedrick and Wasserman – for the wonderful commentary on evolution (“Why Evolution Matters,” Opinion, Nov. 15). And as president of SDARI, a hearty thank you to the Union-Tribune for running it above the fold.
SDARI is a science-based skeptics group with public lectures by authorities defending science against credulous ideas. Evolution has always been high on our list. Nothing can be more important than a rational study of who we are, how we got here and where we are going. Indeed, two of our last three speakers talked on the subject. In January 2005, Eugenie Scott, of the National Center for Science Education, filled Scripps auditorium to capacity on a dreary, rainy Monday night with her SDARI-sponsored talk on “Evolution vs. Creationism.” Evolution is an important topic of great interest to many people, and we look forward to more excellent coverage of this important topic.
PAUL WENGER, Escondido
Is this the best evidence “Project Steve” can muster? The examples of “evolution” cited – selective breeding, disease mutation, chemical defenses that develop in nature – are all examples of changes within species, so-called “microevolution,” a concept to which creationists adhere.
This is a far cry from “the theory of evolution,” which the public continues to soundly reject. None of my adult sons' public-schooled, non-religious friends believe in evolutionary theory. They all find it more logical to believe an Intelligent Creator was responsible for the complexity, diversity and order of the cosmos. Which is easier, for example, to believe: that a common Creator used similar genetic material to produce a variety of species, or to believe fruit flies and humans both evolved from a common ancestor via millions of random changes?
Until evolutionary scientists show some respect for the intelligence of those on the creationist side, they will continue to be baffled at their failure to change America's hearts and minds.
KATHLEEN JORDAN, San Diego
Atheists still being kicked around
Regarding “Atheists are Evolving, too” (Opinion, Nov. 15):
Jai Ghorpade demonstrates once again that atheists are still a minority who are OK to kick around.
To make our participation in the political process contingent on banding together and presenting a plan to answer the same unanswerable fundamental questions of human existence that religion has been unable to answer for the past several thousand years is disingenuous to say the least. I need to do nothing of the sort.
All I ask – like any other minority – is equal treatment. The obvious corollary to the backhanded compliment that half the country now tolerates me is that the other half does not. That's pretty insulting, but to then demand that our price for a seat at the table is to become as evangelical as the religious – in other words, “we'll tolerate you as soon as you become more like us” – is just downright bigoted.
I suggest the next time Ghorpade wishes to harangue atheists about their “evolution” – who knew, atheists evolve, too, just like real people – or lack thereof, he substitute black or gay for atheist and see how it reads.
STEVE TRUNK, North Park
No evolution in this debate
Regarding “Why Evolution Matters” (Opinion, Nov. 15):
Thank you for publishing this enlightening commentary. As a biologist, I am in awe when I contemplate the beauty of life on Earth, and when I reflect on the evolutionary processes that gave rise to it. Although surveys generally are skewed by the questions asked, I agree that much too large a fraction of the public embraces creationism over the scientific facts. This may change when we scientists more strongly focus the public's attention on why science has the right answers rather than on why creationism is wrong. Kudos to the authors for doing that with clear arguments.
EDVARD HEMMINGSEN, La Jolla
Why all the hoopla about evolution? The answer is not, as the four Steves propose, censorship, but in presenting the facts to students and letting them choose which theory better explains them. For, after all, evolution – like creationism – is only a theory. To dictate to students that they must shoehorn the facts into one particular theory – even if it resembles putting a round peg into a square hole – is to commit educational malpractice.
Why all the hoopla? Well, all I can conclude is fear. Why else would a group band together to gag a theory? If, as the writers assert, evolution is true, let it compete on a level playing field with creationism. Surely, at least one Steve will admit, the more intellectually robust theory will prevail. After all, it is survival of the fittest – isn't it, Steve?
WILLIAM G. GILLESPIE, Poway
In my college biology class prior to the study of evolution, Dr. Moore, with string tie and Southern drawl, stated: “Ah believe in evolution, but ah believe it had a guidin' hand!” I've never forgotten his remark, and smile every time I see the evolutionists and creationists lined up to do battle.
JIM HEINER, La Mesa
Bridge players: Shut up or speak out?
Regarding “Championship bridge players slammed over anti-Bush sign” (A1, Nov. 14):
Championship bridge players need to shut up and play bridge. I am as insulted and embarrassed by their behavior against our country as I was when the Dixie Chicks decided to open their mouths and spout off – they needed to shut up and sing. I do not care about any of their politics. Entertain me is what they are paid to do. I believe the bridge players should be reprimanded. Who cares what other countries think. Whether you support our president or not, be true to your country. Keep the politics out of it – and let the “professionals” deal.
CAROL L. BEARD, San Diego
Who are the corporation sponsors that would withdraw sponsorship because they are against the right of free speech for bridge team members? I would like to boycott those corporations. Is it not possible that some day the best bridge players in the world could come from a country with the most repressive government? And, if they were to raise their voice and protest that government, there would be many people worldwide who would praise them for their courage to stand up for their human rights. Afterward, when that person returned to that country, they could be imprisoned, or worse.
It is an appalling and outrageous action by the USBF. Where does it get the authority to interfere with a person's freedom of speech? Perhaps it inadvertently left the “A” out of its name: United States ABRIDGE Freedom Federation.
DOUG PETERSON, San Diego
Questioning the generals'failure to question
In response to L.E. Stillwell's letter, “Critical ex-generals should remain silent” (Sept. 30):
Questioning authority and speaking truth to power is as American as apple pie. Silence and a failure to ask questions is what got us into this war. Stillwell's statement that “officers are not called upon for advise or council after retirement” and thus have “a subconscious resentment at having to adapt to a lesser role as a civilian” is a blatant attempt to marginalize and call into question the motives, impugn the reputation, question the patriotism and silence the free speech of an unwelcome knowledgeable and experienced critic with whom he disagrees.
We cannot allow any one person to define the bounds of free speech for any American citizen, civilian or military. I only wish that more military men felt compelled to act upon their conscience and freely speak their minds now and during the run-up to this war. Shame on all of us for not speaking out more forcefully.
His statement that the president's “strategy becomes an easy target for those who never had training or experience in heretofore unknown tactics employed by radical terrorists who observe no rules or regard for life” is an attempt to deny history, or it shows a lack of knowledge in history. As a Marine who served two tours in Vietnam, I am someone with “training and experience” in that type of warfare. It's called a “guerrilla war,” and we called them “godless communists” and “Viet Cong.” Now it's called the “war on terror,” and we call them “terrorists” and “insurgents.” The British coined the word “terrorists” to describe the strategy and tactics employed by the colonists in America's war for independence. Same strategy, different tactics with catchy new words to fit the psyche of fear.
J. ALLAN RUHMAN, San Diego
Blackwater and outsourcing the war
Focusing only on Blackwater's killing of Iraqi citizens is diverting us from the real problem with outsourcing the war. The Bush administration stated that the war in Iraq is critical to the defense and security of our nation. If this is the premise, then all the nation's resources should be called to action, including drafting as many men and women necessary to assure that this war and the war against terror will be defeated. This includes drafting enough personnel without having to contract the private corporate sector to do what the military can and should do.
The Bush administration realizes that attempting to draft the necessary number of troops would result in a much greater challenge by the public to the purpose and need for conducting this war. The administration has been able to minimize these challenges by relying on an all-volunteer military and contracting a significant amount of security and other services to the private sector. Not many well-paid individuals would jeopardize their paychecks by challenging their boss on the need for or the morality of conducting this war.
MATT TARNAY, San Diego
Critical ex-generalsshould remain silent
It seems that departures from tradition have become commonplace today. To echo an old song, “anything goes.” As for retired generals opposing or criticizing the conduct of the Iraq war (“The revolt of the generals,” Opinion, Sept. 12), it is what one might expect from those who have been removed from a position of authority in the military.
Most high-ranking officers are not called upon for advice or council after retirement. Therefore, there is, at the least, a subconscious resentment at having to adapt to a lesser role as a civilian. The George Bush strategy becomes an easy target for those who never had training or experience in heretofore unknown tactics employed by radical terrorists who observe no rules or regard for life. Perhaps it is time for disgruntled critics to revert back to the time-honored policy of supporting our leaders in time of war, or remain discreetly quiet pending the outcome.
It is bad enough when many members of Congress, in their vocal way, serve to embolden a determined enemy. There is no favorable purpose served when professional military retirees voice their unsolicited opinions to the benefit of those who are dedicated to destroying us and everything we stand for.
L.E. STILLWELL, El Cajon
Planted weaponsnot easy to ignore
Regarding “U.S. snipers killed Iraqis who took bait, court told/Army planting fake guns, bomb materials, officer says” (A1, Sept. 25):
One wonders what percentage of those shot are actually insurgents. If you found yourself in an environment where there is virtually no security, and your life is threatened by militia death squads or members of rival religious sects, ask yourself whether you would arm yourself with a weapon that looks as if it had been lost or abandoned. This would be true for Iraqis who are friendly to Americans as well as Iraqi insurgents.
NORMAN E. TIPTON Sr., El Cajon
Military policyworking against needs
Marine Capt. Dave Meadows is quoted as saying, “Having someone who can speak good Arabic is like having another infantry battalion. It's just that valuable” (“Taste of the culture/Marines learning Iraqi customs, language before deployment,” Our Region, Sept. 12). The military has a policy of abruptly discharging trained Arabic-speaking personnel only because they are found to be gay. Discharging one talented patriotic gay Marine is more important than having another infantry battalion? I would think not. It's time that our military join most others in the West by welcoming qualified persons to honorably serve regardless of sexual orientation.
THOMAS WINTERS, San Diego
Malkin's commentary'a slap in the face'
Apparently, commentator Michelle Malkin believes the homeland needs protection from me (“Every American has a role to play,” Opinion, Sept. 13). I had no idea I was such a danger to our country. You see, I am one of those “constitutional absolutists” she mentions in the same sentence as Muslim terrorists, anti-war goons and academic apologists for our enemies, among others.
What she fails to acknowledge in her rant is that one of the things that makes this country great – some would argue the most important thing we have – is our Constitution and the rights and protections that go with it. Our nation was founded on the principles outlined in this document, and to cast it aside so casually, as she has done, is a slap in the face to all who hold our freedom dear. We who believe the Constitution actually means something get nervous when people start taking away the rights and protection it guarantees, particularly when they are removed to “protect” us.
How frightening it is to know that our commander in chief and his minions, including fear-mongers such as Malkin, have worked very hard to subvert this document for their own gain. This country has a lot more to fear from Michelle Malkin and her ilk than it does from me.
MERI JO PETRIVELLI, San Carlos
Killings in Haditha and the Corps' image
On Nov. 19, 2005, in the Iraq town of Haditha, a Marine was killed in a roadside bomb incident. Following the incident, members of the Marine's squad killed four students and their taxi driver and then went door to door into three homes and killed an additional 19 people, all apparently unarmed. Included in the 19 were five young girls two young boys and the mother of one of the children. Most of those killed were shot execution style at short range. Within the three homes only one gun was found, and there was no evidence that it had been fired.
Initial false reports were filed by the squad. Later it became clear that the initial reports directly conflicted with the evidence and two in-depth investigations were conducted. These investigations resulted in eight Marines being charged in December 2006, with four being charged with unpremeditated murder. In April, one of the four had charges dropped in exchange for immunity for his testimony. On Aug. 9, Lt. Gen. James Mattis decided not to court martial another one of the four as the Marine said he shot three men in self-defense – a statement that neither of the investigative reports support.
While military boards felt that the Haditha incident may be the gravest violation of the law of war by U.S. forces in the Iraq conflict, the message that Mattis seems to give it is a wink and a nod. Mattis is the same person who said, “It's fun to shoot some people” (“Haditha charges dropped for 2 Marines,” A1, Aug. 10). In my opinion any officer who says that is either psychologically sick, stunningly stupid or actually evil and should never be given a command.
As a young naval officer with Assault Group Two, I often worked closely with Marine units. All of them impressed me with their dedication and valor. In addition to their duties, they saw their role as protecting civilians. I feel that the justifiably high regard we have for the Marine Corps should not be allowed to be tarnished by condoning the despicable acts of a few.
JOE FRISINGER, La Jolla
U-T should 'tackle the real issues of America'
Regarding “Spy Wars/Washington's bitterly divisive battle over counterterrorist intelligence” (Insight, Aug. 12):
Robert J. Caldwell writes, “America's defenses against the next 9/11 likely will fail without the advance knowledge that only seamless intelligence gathering can provide.” Where was this “seamless intelligence gathering” prior to Sept. 11, 2001? There was not even an attempt to “connect the dots” by the Bush administration even when it was spelled out up front in the Presidential Daily Briefing of Aug. 6, 2001, that anticipated a possible terrorist attack by air. Once again, you and your newspaper are years late in performing your due diligence. Our nation's defense, health care, education, poverty, working-class America . . . when are you going to be proactive and tackle the issues of real America instead of pandering to your dwindling neoconservative readership?
DAVID ODELL, San Diego
Rove's departure from Bush team
Regarding “Bush's architect bowing out” (A1, Aug. 14):
I see White House senior adviser Karl Rove has “cut and run” following all the others who have left the Bush sinking ship. Perhaps both the president and vice president should do the same. It would be the right thing to do since their incompetence has destroyed the credibility and honor our country once enjoyed in the eyes of the rest of the world. It is time to replace the Bush regime with skilled leadership that understands that there is more to running the country than raw politics.
NORMAN I. RADIN, Del Mar
There is a God in heaven – Karl Rove is leaving the White House. Of course, we do have a bit of a problem. How will this nation and the world survive until Jan. 20, 2009, with Dick Cheney in complete and exclusive control of the president's cognitive skills? Something to think about?
FRANK FERRONE, El Cajon
Court's ban on sonar use off local coast
Regarding “Navy ordered to stop using sonar/Groups fear harm to marine mammals” (Around Our Region, Aug. 7):
As I was reading the story, I was reminded of a scene in the film “Tora, Tora, Tora” wherein Jason Robards, playing the part of U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Walter Short, is heard to snort derisively, “Wildlife Preservation Society?!” when told by one of his staff that the organization that has drawn his ire has stopped his men from positioning a new-fangled gizmo called radar on the highest accessible point on Oahu. While not the sole factor in the successful Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, not being able to optimally place such equipment and train its operators because of interference by such shortsighted, albeit well-meaning, activist organizations certainly didn't help.
Having spent roughly 13 of my 25 years as a naval officer at sea in the company of dolphins and whales, I can readily attest to their grace, beauty and intelligence. However, I can also attest to what happens when crews are not properly trained to operate their equipment, particularly as we transition to a period when rogue states can field the newest generation of ultra-quiet, diesel-electric submarines that are best detected via active means. “Active,” in this case, involves putting those sound waves in the water and evaluating the objects they bounce off of.
The world, not being a perfect place, and irony always waiting to rear its capricious head, I have no doubt that the likes of Judge Florence-Marie Cooper, attorney Joel Reynolds and the membership of the Natural Resources Defense Council will sound off long and loud about how the Navy failed to do its job should one of the aforementioned quiet boats successfully fire a cruise missile or low trajectory submarine-launched ballistic missile at one of the cities on our Pacific Coast; but we can all take cold comfort in the fact that Flipper will be happy.
MIKE EAGEN, Phoenix
There is just no other way to put this, it is plainly self-evident and clear. The war in Iraq is a complete failure. George W. Bush's dream has wrought nothing but death and destruction to both the United States and Iraq. Iraq is making terrorism worse; it's a breeding ground, and we're sowing seeds to a bitter fruit we never wanted and certainly don't need. We need to leave as soon as possible without creating a regional war. We are not helping the Iraqis by staying. They are building their imperfect institutions and they must live with the result.
ELIZABETH ANTONIO, San Diego
The attorney general and the president
Regarding “In Gonzales' wake/He hangs on while department deteriorates” (Editorial, July 31):
I find your editorial on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales puzzling at best and dishonest at worst. The damage that is being done to Justice is by the Bush-haters of the left and their enablers. Is it any wonder that any administration official is reluctant to give more than name, rank and serial number in sworn testimony in the wake of Lewis “Scooter” Libby's conviction? Once they have you under oath as saying something as you remember it, then all that is needed is someone with a different memory and suddenly you are a perjurer.
You then go on to fault the AG because there are open slots in Justice unconfirmed. You should be upbraiding partisan lawmakers who for seven years have dragged their feet on up-and-down votes over presidential appointees. Gonzales and the president are the victims, not the cause.
If Congress cared more about the country and less about partisan gain, it would be passing meaningful legislation to stop earmarks, fund Social Security, reform the tax code, fight terrorists and allow U.S. energy producers to develop domestic sources of energy.
SCOTT ANDREWS, San Diego
“Fury over attorney general is taking heat off White House” (News, July 28) refers to President Bush's “loyalty” to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. I opine, however, that rather than loyalty, this is merely a function of more pathological lying by a leader who is unwilling to admit he has made an error, or “out” another liar.
THOMAS HARPLEY, San Diego
Assessing the war: the front lines and at home
We Americans do not understand Iraq, the Middle East or the broader world of Islam. In 2003, blinded by our pain over Sept. 11, 2001, we invaded a nation whose languages we do not speak, whose religions we do not know, whose culture we do not understand, whose ethnicities and social structures we do not comprehend and whose history we have not learned. We fight and debate, but in reality we don't know whom we are fighting or what we are debating. Even our politicians and military leaders do not know. We just keep on seeing Iraq through our American cultural glasses and interpreting their behavior in our own terms.
When we invaded, we did not know what we were getting into; when we withdraw, we will not know what we are getting out of. And we do not understand Afghanistan or Pakistan, either. We have blundered, and we are in an awful fix. A big dose of humility, an admission of ignorance, and a request for help would seem to be in order, but this is not likely anytime soon. How this all will turn out, no one knows.
JOHN MUSTOL, San Diego
Regarding “U.S., Iran to meet for second round of talks about Iraq/Passage dim for oil law's passage” (News, July 23):
The article omits an important fact. This law, one of the U.S.-required “benchmarks,” was written by the United States to primarily benefit U.S. companies. The law would open two-thirds of Iraq's oil to foreign control through contracts that could last as long as 30 years. Foreign investors would receive 70 percent of oil revenues, and Iraqis would receive the rest. Adoption of this law by Iraq is required by the United States in order for Iraq to receive continued reconstruction aid. Thousands of Iraqi people took to the streets on July 22 in protest of this law. It's easy to see why they don't want to lose control of their most valuable natural resource.
JULIET SALTMAN, San Diego
The idea that the work of the military is “God's work,” as expressed in “Frustrated supporters rush to help accused U.S. troops” (A1, July 22), is as ludicrous as ascribing to the burning of witches those same virtuous ends. The stark fact is that war crimes like those being committed in Iraq have been a ubiquitous feature of the military occupation of hostile populations throughout history. They are as inevitable as flies on left-over ribs.
To make matters worse, the U.S. Army, and to a lesser extent the Marine Corps, have been forced to lower recruiting standards to fill enlistment quotas since the first year of the occupation. Individuals with histories of mental problems, juvenile offender records and lower intelligence test scores have been accepted for service when they would have been routinely rejected before. The Army has even been caught recruiting the autistic.
The pressure of close combat in a civilian environment without a front in places like Algeria, Vietnam and now Iraq are so stressful that to expect such things not to happen routinely is absurd, but the cheerleading for entering such conflicts still goes on. All aboard. Next stop, Iran, where our vice president advocates the use of nuclear weapons.
RICHARD DiMATTEO, San Diego
Regarding “President isn't taking care of our military” (Opinion, July 25):
I find it reprehensible that President Bush sends our troops to fight a useless war and then refuses to grant them even the most basic family support they deserve. How can he expect our brave soldiers to give up their lives in a futile and self-serving war but not support the families who deal daily with below-poverty incomes?
Many of these families are forced to live on food stamps and generous handouts from various relief organizations just to put enough food in front of their children. Yet, he won't support an extra 0.5 percent increase in pay? Cutting combat and family separation pay while ordering service members to return to combat two, three and even four times? Calling up reservists for multiple deployments and then refusing to extend health care benefits to them? Creating the situation that daily increases the number of disabled military who are forced into retirement, and then preventing them from collecting both retired pay and disability pay simultaneously? How does this man sleep at night?
MARGO MILLER, San Diego
Senators complicate our war effort
Where do we go to get our nation back from the “pusillanimous” senators? It is time for each senator to do something to justify being a senator.
For starters, they need to stop criticizing and pressuring the president and Gen. David Petraeus and allow them to conduct this war. We do not need 100 commanders-in-chief! And we do not need all of them rushing to the microphones, Sunday talk shows and TV giving their opinions and talking about the mistakes that have been made in this war. These are just their opinions and they all have perfect hindsight but have failed at foresight.
I expect the Democratic Party to renege on the war effort. But it revolts me to see the Republicans do the same. The Republicans should not be agreeing with them and helping them jeopardize our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If Congress had supported President Bush, this war would have been over three years ago.
MARY ARDOIN, Bonita
War in Iraq as seen from the homefront
It's amazing that every time the Bush administration feels the heat of public opinion, they recycle the al-Qaeda threat and the media trumpet it – to change the subject and re-instill fear in all of us. Since there's nothing we can really do individually, wouldn't it be so much better if the Department of Homeland Security did its job (not by Michael Chertoff's “gut feel”) and let us enjoy our time on Earth without the mass depression and fear with which most of us live.
LEO ADELMAN, San Diego
Write us The San Diego Union-Tribune welcomes letters to the editor. Because of the number of letters received, and to allow as many readers as possible to be published, it is the policy of the newspaper to publish no more than one letter from the same author within 120 days. Letters may be edited. It is also our policy to publish letters supporting or opposing a particular issue in a ratio reflecting the number received on each side.
To be considered for publication, a letter must include an address, daytime phone number and, if faxed or mailed, be signed. It may be sent to Letters Editor, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Post Office Box 120191, San Diego, CA 92112-0191, faxed to (619) 260-5081 or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters submitted may be used in print or in digital form in any publication or service authorized by the Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
I am very concerned that President Bush continues to deny the lack of progress in the war in Iraq. I don't understand why he can continue to come before the American people and state that black is white and have anyone agree with him. The war never should have been authorized, and the press in this country has an obligation to call the president on his distortions of the truth.
The report just out on the resurgence of al-Qaeda's ability to operate and threaten us and the rest of the world is just one more fact that proves the reasons given for the United States starting the war in Iraq were and are erroneous.
It's time to end this war and focus our energies on the real threat that the numerous terrorist efforts brewing outside of Iraq will devastate our country.
KATHERINE REMMERDE, San Diego
Robert Caldwell's “Still a winnable fight” column of July 15 shows that he, like President Bush, is living a fantasy totally removed from the realities of our Iraq war fiasco. Four years after our misguided invasion and our completely inept occupation of Iraq, the truth is clear that this war was doomed to fail from the start. The only “winners” are the war profiteering contractors, who have ripped off the American taxpayers for billions of dollars.
Caldwell should go to work for President Bush, who surrounds himself with “yes” men.
D. JOSEPH MILLER, Carlsbad
The “Still a winnable fight” column is yet another attempt by Robert Caldwell to defend Bush's “stay the course” lunacy. At what cost, and for what purpose? Control of Iraq's oil resources?
Caldwell fails to mention that this unprovoked war has now lasted longer than World War II. He doesn't mention either that the cost is rapidly approaching the cost of the Vietnam War, another strategic mistake.
He fails to mention the cost in human lives, over 3,600 by now. And yet he argues for a longer stay of U.S forces and a greater number of troops for the escalation to succeed. How much longer? Ten years or more?
The general who told Rumsfeld the more realistic number of soldiers needed was fired. So, Congress shouldn't be involved in stopping the war? Clemenceau's quotation “War is too important to be left to the generals” is particularly relevant here. Remember Gen. William Westmoreland, that tragic figure of the Vietnam War, who kept asking for more troops and continued bombing of Vietnam, and yet failed to break an enemy fighting a nationalistic war?
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
RUBEN G. FIERRO, Solana Beach
Before, during and after an active naval career of 31 years – not including two in the reserves and four at the Naval Academy – I can't remember a “popular war.”
Wars are never popular with the troops who have to leave home to fight them. All this “popularity” talk starts and lives with the people left behind.
Few service families ever think a shooting war is popular; and even during peacetime, Navy deployments create family stress when fathers (and, yes, now mothers) leave the nest for six months and more.
These out of country stints are never popular when they are accompanied by funerals, hospital stints, recuperation, relearning how to live with a lost limb, eyesight and other bodily functions – long-term care rarely fully funded by our government, the Veterans Administration withstanding. Then, there are retraining periods to prepare the wounded veteran with limited skills to continue a productive life, much less provide for his family.
All these lamentations about an “unpopular war” are totally transparent political summaries aimed at undermining the administration and the troops in harm's way.
In Iraq, we are struggling for nothing less than stability in the Middle East, a contest that will become more challenging if Iran and/or al-Qaeda end up controlling things. Can we perceive peace with this outcome? The price we're paying now will seem cheap if we withdraw before Iraq can stand alone.
G.R. WORTHINGTON, Chula Vista
It is clear to even the Republican leadership in the Senate that the policy in Iraq is an abject failure. Forget, for the moment, that it was b ased on a lie and that al-Qaeda (whom the administration has ignored in Afghanistan and Pakistan) is stronger than ever.
GIL SPERRY, Chula Vista
Since no White House reporter seems to have the fortitude to ask it, I will. “Dear Mr. President: You always say let's listen to the advice of our military leaders in Iraq, yet they say that the largest number of foreign insurgents are from Saudi Arabia, just like almost all of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists were, but you keep conveying to the American public that the insurgents are mainly from Iran. Who's telling the truth?”
PAUL HARRIS, San Diego
Both in Senate debates and on broadcast programs, Sen. James Webb, D-Va., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have argued over the reason behind the record re-enlistment rates of U.S. military personnel who have served in Iraq.
Graham has argued that the troops are dedicated to seeing the mission through while Webb suggests the rates reflect patriotism and tradition rather than a desire to complete the current counterinsurgency.
It is more plausible that the high re-enlistment percentage is a result of significantly increased pay incentives. The majority of Iraq veterans are either infantry or from other combat specialties. Recent re-enlistment bonuses for these critical personnel range anywhere from $10,000 to $80,000. Moreover, if they actually re-enlist while in the combat zone, the entire bonus is tax free.
While I do not deny the unmatched patriotism or stick-to-itiveness of our service members, perhaps we've just finally come close to compensating these young warriors at the competitive rate they deserve.
RICHARD PATRICK, Oceanside
Let's get smart and stop pretending that Iraq is where the real international terrorists are. Let's mostly get out of Iraq and put the troops to work on the job of disrupting the international terrorists, wherever they are, not let them bleed our economy and wear down our high-tech military defending the streets of Iraq. That's Osama's plan, not ours.
PHILIP CALABRESE, San Diego
While many San Diegans are enjoying the beach and their pools this weekend, thousands of American soldiers are suffering in 110 degree heat in Iraq.
Few Americans will ever know what a nightmare it is to conduct military operations in full battle gear at these temperatures. You're soaking wet 24 hours a day. It's so hot you can't even get to sleep.
You'd love nothing more in the world than to take off your helmet, body armor and boots, but you can't. You lose precious seconds of vision while salt from your sweat blinds your eyes. You are constantly thirsty.
If the president, vice president, along with every U.S. senator and representative, had to go patrol Baghdad for the next seven days, the war would be ended immediately upon their return.
D.K. LILJA, U.S. Army (retired), San Diego
Instilling characterin today's work force
Regarding Ruben Navarrette's July 16 column about skills for the workplace, (“Cheating our kids”):
Some of San Diego's top executives identified 10 behaviors that they were looking for in their employees: honesty, responsibility, enthusiasm, commitment, accountability, initiative, cooperation, punctuality, self-worth and courtesy.
Teens should not have to wait to learn these skills on the job. Behaviors such as those listed are learned in the home and at school at an early age.
Children and youth have to see these behaviors modeled by adults. They have to learn these skills and practice them long before they go to work. To be honest, to be responsible, to be accountable, to be courteous and so on are skills that apply to what the young do at home, in school, on the playground, in sports and with their peers.
ED DeROCHE, Director, Character Development Center, University of San Diego
Navarrette addresses Secretary of Education Elaine Chao's lament of the lack of work ethic among our young workers but misses the point:
There is no doubt that many of our youngsters are ill prepared for the realty of sustaining themselves and becoming productive and responsible workers. However, the remedy offered, engaging them in summer jobs, is an end product, not the cure. They need to be prepared to want and to take on those summer jobs.
The editorial proposes being prepared for entering the job market starts in the teenage years. No, by then it is too late. By then teens have already developed their attitudes, mindsets and behaviors.
Character and behavioral development should begin at home and during the elementary school years. Too often, parents are not up to the job, and we look to our schools to fill in. Comprehensive school counseling programs designed for all kids go a long way to prepare kids to deal with anger management, decision-making, conflict resolution, promptness – and yes, for summer jobs.
These programs exist in all too few San Diego elementary schools. Hopefully, community awareness will change that.
SHAUN McARDLE, San Diego
As someone who has devoted 34 years to working with America's work force, I believe that what Navarrette wrote regarding employer's thoughts on the issues and shortcomings of today's youth are not much different than those employers would have cited about young people 10, 20 or even 30 years ago. In fact, most of the ongoing school-business-work-force partnerships were developed to address very similar employer concerns.
I do not think that today's youth, and those studied under the “Generation Me” label, take themselves any more seriously, hold any stronger sense of entitlement, are any less prepared for the workplace or have any worse attitudes than the two generations that came before them.
Within the same time frame that we have watched “Generation Me” grow up, we also have seen American productivity soar to all-time highs. We have seen innovation and creativity continue to stimulate economic progress and growth. We benefit in countless ways, as we speak, from the protection and services of a volunteer military made up almost entirely of those born in the past 35 years, in particular in the enlisted ranks.
While this generation certainly has its problems, there is much to be proud of from a work force perspective.
What makes the problem more pressing now is that over the last 30 years we have seen other countries' education systems and economies catch up with and even surpass our own. This is not a reflection of our young workers, but of the education and training systems that are “preparing” them, systems that have not changed much as the world and global economy have changed significantly.
Whatever employers are pointing out to the secretary of labor, I agree wholeheartedly that Americans need to have thicker skins when it comes to being called on the carpet about our faults and shortcomings.
LAWRENCE FITCH, President and CEO, San Diego Workforce Partnership
Questionable warming data and over-regulaton
Regarding “Station moves add degree of difficulty/Some doubt accuracy of U.S. weather data” (A1, July 9):
While the headline didn't indicate it, the article does a great public service by questioning the accuracy of the “adjusted” temperature data used to justify CO2 emissions warming theory. It's quite possibly wrong and certainly should not be used as the basis for Draconian government regulation.
The “settled science” may not prove to be settled at all on close analysis. I hope the Union-Tribune will continue to thoroughly delve into rest of the warming theory data and if it proves similarly shaky, call for government to halt its headlong rush to over-regulation before serious harm ensues.
JOHN SUHR, La Mesa
Hunter's jet project: The debate continues
Regarding “Hunter defends support for jet” (A1, June 13):
Rep. Duncan Hunter's justification (everybody does it) for accepting a large campaign contribution from the contractor for the DP-2 jet won't fly any better than the plane does.
EDMUND JONES, San Diego
One thing not mentioned in your coverage on the Duncan Hunter-duPont Aerospace experimental plane is the proper relationship between the public and private sectors. It may be that a “maverick” project needs to be pursued from time to time – but not at $63 million-plus at taxpayers' expense with all proprietary rights (it appears here) given away to duPont. A public-private partnership or an in-house military project would be vastly superior to the presumptive giveaway here.
ROBERT BURNS, Ocean Beach
Assailing Bush's comments on Hamas
How sad to see former President George H W Bush espousing the terrorist cause.
Bush spoke in Saudi Arabia last week at a Carlyle Group organization meeting, announcing that the United States, the European Union and Israel should mend their ways and financially support Hamas, the violent terrorist wing of the Palestinians. Yes, how sad, but understandable when the Carlyle Group allegedly benefits by millions of dollars of Arab money.
How long does it take to see the man for what he is: not the misguided idealist who has blindly made so many mistakes, but someone who has sold his soul for money – Arab money. Bush has cemented his place in our children's history books ... that sadly his grandchildren will have to read.
LINDA HOOPER, La Jolla
Bill's provision just a bad dream
Much has been made of the various Bush initiatives being the opposite of what they actually mean. “Immigration bill proposal: Join military, become legal” (A1, June 17) is yet another one. The article describes a little-known provision in the immigration reform bill known by it's acronym, DREAM, which stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.
The much-maligned illegal immigrants, whom we are seeking to spend billions to keep out of this country, would be offered a chance at citizenship. This golden opportunity would merely require them to go to Iraq and fight! Much like the mercenary soldiers in the fading days of the Holy Roman Empire, these young aliens would be offered up in battle.
We can't make recruiting goals and a draft would not be palatable to the apathetic masses. We have worn out the services, men and equipment. Even with over 150,000 contractors in Iraq now, draining our treasury, making four times what our soldiers earn, we need fresh blood, boots on the ground.
This is repugnant and appalling enough to tell Congress to say no to DREAM. Do not confuse immigration reform with the debacle in Iraq, which by most accounts will be drawing to a close next year.
BARBARA CUMMINGS, Spring Valley
Congressman's support for experimental jet
Regarding “Hunter defends support for jet/Pentagon rejected aircraft built by campaign donor” (A1, June 13):
We now have a better idea why Carol Lam was fired and why our troops did not have effective arms and equipment. Rep. Duncan Hunter was apparently concerned that the U.S. attorney would ask him the same type of questions about his junk jet project and “contributions” that brought down Randy “Duke” Cunningham.
Just think what he should have done, instead, as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. We could have had effective body armor for all of our service people, enough vehicles with sufficient armor, more effective individual weapons, and more effective IED-resistant vehicles like South Africa has used for years. Watch the Military Channel on cable for all of the things his committee missed.
JIM MARTIN, Carlsbad
Regarding the continued funding ($63 million and 20 years later) for the failed DP-2 vertical takeoff aircraft, accolades to Rep. Duncan Hunter. He is the first member of Congress to speak truthfully about the political contributions connection that is so pervasive in this country (“Cunningham helped Hunter push for locally made jet,” News, June 16).
I was impressed by his self-assurance and aplomb when he said, “If you're trying to draw a connection between political contributions and contracts from the government, you can probably say that about every defense system in the United States.”
ROBIN LOVE, San Diego
Rove's influence behind administration's woes
Regarding “Immigration judges often tied to GOP, review says” (News, June 11):
Why does anyone expect the appointment of immigration judges to be different from any other appointments made by this administration? From the inception of the Bush administration, policy has been subsumed into politics.
The architect of this politically driven policy is Karl Rove. Its success is predicated upon the gullibility of the American voter and the assumption that large groups of voters can be swayed by sound bites and trivial bits of information. For example, on May 2, 2003, Bush pranced around the flight deck of the carrier Abraham Lincoln in a jaunty flight suit under a gigantic banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished.” Then on Thanksgiving Day 2003, Bush flew to Baghdad International Airport to have his picture taken while holding a turkey in front of American troops.
Rove's agenda is and always has been the gaining and retaining of office by any means fair or foul. It now appears this pernicious strategy was behind the firing of the U.S. attorneys for their failure to disenfranchise voters or the attorneys' failure to allege some wrongdoing against Democratic candidates. Even the Iraq war resolution was timed to influence the November 2002 election so that any member of Congress who would oppose the resolution would be branded unpatriotic.
Where have all of the various media been during these critical times? As some clever person remarked about how the media treats Bush: “Bush says Earth is flat. Some Democrats disagree.”
W.C. GEORGE, San Diego
Regarding “Iraqi leaders not meeting benchmarks” (A1, June 13):
Wow! Is that a surprise to anyone? The Iraq war, dishonestly begun and ineptly prosecuted, was lost a long time ago. Today it is a breeding ground for terrorists. Now, it's time to pin the blame.
Carl Rove's already grimy political hand is all over this. In about six to nine months the administration will piously claim we did all we could to give the Iraqis a democratic government, but they failed us, and it's time to bring the troops home. Before the election, troops will begin to return with great media coverage. The Republicans will claim the war is behind us but that America remains threatened by terrorists. There will be an increase in emergency terror response drills (remember all the rainbow color alerts before the last election), some ballyhooed arrests of “terrorists” will be proclaimed. That's when the Republicans will again chant that only they can keep us safe. Those who believe in the tooth fairy will believe them.
ARTHUR E. KIRCHHEIMER, La Jolla
Giving president a no-confidence vote
Regarding “Senate bid to censure Gonzales is blocked” (A1, June 12):
Abraham Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address, famously referred to “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” In this phrase, he made very clear the authority for, and ownership of, the government of the United States of America.
In explaining his stubborn, intransigent attitude and behavior, President George W. Bush likes to compare himself to Lincoln. However, when referring to the Senate's no-confidence vote on Alberto Gonzales, George is quoted as saying, “It's not going to make the determination about who serves in my government.” My government?
I'd like to direct Bush's attention to that most famous of speeches. Any comparison between Lincoln and this impostor posing as president is shallow and totally out of context. Lincoln knew the president's role, and who he worked for. George thinks that he is the government.
TIMOTHY KERSSEN, San Diego
NASA scientist abuses post on global warming
As the issue of global warming is heating up, I cannot help but be vexed by the ongoing debate over global warming despite conclusive scientific data.
As a chemist and a member of the scientific research community, I am aghast by the ignorance and outright misrepresentation of strong scientific data by NASA chief Michael Griffin. Scientific data does not lie, but people do. Griffin is yet another victim of the plague aptly called cronyism that is affecting all who come in contact with the Bush administration.
Griffin's use of his scientific credentials for political gain is deplorable and casts ominous clouds of doubt over the legitimate scientific community.
This is yet another instance of perversion of facts perpetrated by the Bush regime. I recoil in disgust at the disservice exacted upon the public by the foolish words of one scientist clouding the prospective judgment of the masses.
KEVIN RYNEARSON, El Cajon
Global warming and our energy needs
Regarding “Ignorance on global warming” (Opinion, June 5):
Derrick Z. Jackson eagerly criticizes the “ignorance” of NASA chief Michael Griffin for his views on global warming. He offers no support for the idea that his judgment is any better. Likely, it is worse.
Depressingly, he immediately denigrates Griffin for having a different viewpoint from what we normally hear. He says nothing about trying to learn how Griffin could dare to have (how awful) a different opinion. Next, he invokes the memory of Rachel Carson as if that were somehow relevant.
As far as Carson's legacy is concerned, she was instrumental in getting DDT banned, with the help of noisy but not to bright environmentalists. Since then, the mosquito population has exploded. Hundreds of thousands of humans have died in Africa of preventable malaria, and now the mosquito-borne West Nile virus is decimating bird populations. The only way this has helped is to show, once again, how jumping to conclusions ahead of understanding usually ends badly.
The same is true of global warming. Unless more science is done before actions are taken, we are in real danger of making things much worse from unanticipated consequences. Right now, the global warming propaganda is very strident, and sounds suspiciously like the age-old cry of power-hungry, would-be rulers telling us that they can save us from dire troubles if only we do whatever they tell us to.
BARRY McELMURRY, Vista
Derrick Z. Jackson's commentary is another example of how the “global warning community” is doing its best to stifle independent thinking on the subject. Fortunately, Henrik Svensmark of Denmark has spent time applying science to the issue. His data (as reported in this month's Discover magazine) indicate that the period of high solar activity we are in is likely the dominant cause of global warming. He still has more testing to do, but if he is correct then the trend will not continue forever, and the panic response being advocated by many will do little good.
RICHARD FISCHER, Oceanside
“Among cities addressing warming, Washington conspicuously absent” (News, May 27) brought attention to the recent unacceptable behavior of the legislators in Washington, D.C. The problem of our depleting environment and increased greenhouse gas emissions is known to all of us. Something needs to be done to stop the bleeding, and the way to make a real difference is to take action and make laws.
Mayors Michael Bloomberg of New York, Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles and David Miller of Toronto have all made commitments for a brighter future, while similar thoughts are not brewing in the minds of Washington's lawmakers. Within the past month President Bush has not signed an executive order to cut gasoline consumption and the administration refused to speak on a similar matter at preliminary negotiations in Bonn, Germany.
Leaders of other cities have clearly realized that now is the time to take action before the state of the Earth's environment is at the point of no return. So what is the most powerful and influential city in the world still waiting for?
ROBERT YOUSIF, La Mesa
The South Coast Air Quality Management District (“Rules would ban some fireplaces to cut pollution,” News, June 2) is trying to do what we expect of it: Ensure that the air we breathe won't kill us. There is no confusion about definitions. Clean air is clean air. It is not air contaminated with carcinogenic particulate matter.
Clean air can be described as a type of “beauty.” The building and real estate industries, on the other hand, are unclear about definitions. To the builders and sellers, pollution is beauty. And this hokey poetry is what sells houses.
No one, they claim, will invest “emotional” energy into a house without a wood-burning fireplace. Good grief, we would rather be homeless, under the bridge, a little trash fire going, than live in a house without that cavernously “beautiful” hole in the wall with its smokestack of a chimney that spews, all over our lovely neighbors, the worst pollutant one can breathe.
M. POWER GIACOLETTI, Oceanside
I was disturbed reading “S.D. group asking state to reject Powerlink plans” (Business, June 1). I think Utility Consumers' Action Network's “wait until there is a problem and then fix” attitude is just going to get San Diego in trouble. There is absolutely no logic to its thinking whatsoever. If we know there is going to be an electrical shortfall within the next five or so years, why wait to fix San Diego shortcomings?
From what I understand, the Sunrise Powerlink is up for approval in early 2008. And upon approval, it's not like SDG&E can build the line overnight. It is going to take a couple of years to construct it, which puts us in 2010 or 2011. By that time, we're closing in on when the experts are predicting we're going to have the energy crisis. We may as well be ahead of the game, ready to fix a huge problem before it even occurs rather than scrambling to fix it after it occurs. That is what I call logical.
KYLA WILCOX, San Diego
Theater is a shell of its former self
I read Liz Neely's article on the East County Performing Arts Center with great interest. I also believe that it is a venue in search of an audience.
During the late 1970s and 1980s I went there often to see a wide variety of performances. There was a magnificent production of “Tartuffe” done in verse, highly unusual and not particularly “commercial”, but performed to a packed house of people who were thrilled to have had the opportunity to see it. Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson performed brilliantly. I even saw the Hungarian National Gypsy Orchestra for an evening of rousing fun.
A lot of musicians performed in those days, talented young people who gained experience by performing in front of many different audiences. The tickets were affordable and the programming was of very high quality.
As an audience member, I am not sure what happened, but it has been years since there has been anything there that I want to see, let alone pay to see. In addition, ECPAC doesn't pop into my mind when I wonder where to go or what to do with a free evening. What has happened to promotion? It has become the forgotten theater.
I hope some new thinking will bring it back to what it was intended to be – and was – for at least the first decade and a half, a comfortable, affordable, audience-friendly theater with excellent acoustics and interesting programming. It is sad to see such a community resource going to waste.
PATTY O'REILLY, La Mesa
Gee, the city of El Cajon is unhappy with the size of the East County Performing Arts Center.
The building was not too small when it hosted The Dixie Chicks, Clay Aiken, Tony Bennett, Kenny Rogers, Steve & Eydie, David Sanborn and many other sold-out shows during the tenure of the Arts Center Foundation. And while the city may claim the foundation owed it $2.3 million, the bulk of that was in capital improvements that the city would have had to do anyway.
The fact is that Art Beat management has been a disaster for the East County Performing Arts Center and for the businesses in downtown El Cajon. Mayor Mark Lewis should admit his mistake and bring back real professional management to the venue. Only then will downtown El Cajon stand a chance.
MITCH GERSHENFELD, Palm Desert
Judge's order on lawyer's fees in cross case
Regarding “City told to pay lawyer $962,673 in cross case” (A1, May 22):
The city of San Diego just doesn't get it! Now U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson Jr. has ruled that the city must pay nearly $1 million to Philip Paulson's attorney for fees incurred while objecting to the presence of the Mount Soledad cross on city land. The judge had previously ruled, rightfully, that the city had to remove the cross because it was unconstitutional. Then, San Diego County Republican congressmen pulled some chicanery by slipping a bill through Congress transferring the property to the federal government. The only hope the city has if a biased Supreme Court will agree with the city and approve the transfer. And we all know that could be possible when one recounts the 2000 presidential election decision by the Bush court.
The cost of appealing Judge Thompson's decision could run into multimillions before it's over. This will be at the cost of the taxpayers of this city. The cross is unconstitutional where it sits. Get over it, San Diego, and start obeying the laws of this nation.
ROGER G. LOWNEY, San Diego
This ACLU-sponsored extortion of local governments in the name of “civil rights” has got to be done away with once and for all. The state and federal laws that allow the court's discretion for tripling attorney fees in civil rights cases is a loophole that needs to be closed now. James McElroy's claim for attorney's fees before an obviously biased Judge Gordon Thompson Jr. is weak at best. It is McElroy who owes the taxpayers of San Diego all the money wasted in defending against his frivolous lawsuit for the past 17 years.
City Councilman Scott Peters seems to think that paying these people off will make them go away, as in the $900,000 settlement with the ACLU over the Boy Scout's use of public parks two years ago. On the contrary, such actions only serve to make us an easy target for every other “civil rights” extortionist with a law degree.
JOHN WINTERS, San Diego
Carter's slap at Bush administration
Regarding “Carter thrashes Bush as 'worst' ” (News, 20):
There is a rich irony in former President Jimmy Carter's declaration that the current Bush administration is the “worst in American history.” The roots of the radical terrorist movement that the Bush administration is working so hard to defeat can be traced to the Iran hostage crisis. The cowardly capitulation by the Carter administration back then was what first led the terrorists to believe that America could be intimidated and bullied with impunity. The world has been paying a heavy price ever since. It is only a small stretch to say that the actions of the Carter administration were what gave birth to the modern terrorist movement.
As to the worst administration in American history, that is an easy call: 18 percent inflation, a 21 percent prime rate, the ridiculous “malaise” speech to the American public and the aforementioned Iran hostage crisis. Not to worry, Mr. Carter, your title is still quite safe.
AUGUSTO SANCHEZ, San Diego
When I heard that Jimmy Carter has commented that the current administration is the worst ever, I was appalled. Jimmy Carter is to be commended for the work he is doing with Habitat for Humanity, but his record as president is dismal at best. We are still paying today for several actions he took during his administration. One example is our strained relationship with Iran, which can be attributed directly to his ineffective handling of the hostage crisis situation at that time.
And who can forget the long lines at gas stations and the soaring interest rates during his presidency. While I do not agree with some of the policies of the current administration, I strongly believe that Carter's pronouncements represent the height of hypocrisy. Such negative comments are most inappropriate from any former president, and in my lifetime, Jimmy Carter is the only one who has descended to this level. In this situation, it's a case of the pot calling the kettle black!
RHODA RIBER MONES, San Diego
Why the hullabaloo about former President Jimmy Carter's comments about the current administration? He merely said what many, if not most, Americans are thinking.
TOM HARPLEY, San Diego
Former President Carter said out loud what many of us in the country are thinking. The second Bush administration will probably go down in history as the worst two-term presidency, if not the worst ever. And it's not only the misguided and bungled war in Iraq.
After six-and-a-half very long years, what has this administration accomplished? I am hard-pressed to name any important issue on which it has left a positive mark. What a waste of our national treasure in blood and cold, hard cash! When I think of what the cost of this unnecessary war could have done to improve the many problems here at home, it makes my blood boil. The next election cannot come soon enough.
PETER JARMAN, San Diego
I see that former President Carter has proclaimed the Bush administration as the worst ever. Wonder if the hostages who spent 433 days in Iran during his watch would agree with that assessment?
JERRY CLARK, Rancho Bernardo
The party of surrender – Democrats – has done it again. Former President Carter has joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid by dividing our country and showing the world it is better to bash our fellow partners in office than to have fresh ideas or any solutions. Carter showed a clear lack of honor by his remarks on a president, whether they are past, present or future leaders of this great nation. Does anybody understand what the Democratic platform is besides bashing people or surrendering?
JAMES E. SCHMITZ, San Marcos
Would changing ruleson torture aid troops?
Regarding “Torture betrays America” (Opinion, May 18):
The arguments of Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar in “Torture betrays America” (Opinion, May 18) appear sound and reasonable. That is until we consider the circumstances of the men and women we have sent to fight in Iraq.
How can we possibly expect our soldiers to think abuse of the enemy is wrong when our soldiers face certain death, through brutal means, if they are captured? We are fighting an enemy that murders prisoners, attacks by remote control, and appears to be equally satisfied killing its own people as well as ours.
Our soldiers are individuals with families and futures they hope to see. As long as we keep them in a fight in which many of our national leaders seem unsure about even wanting to win, I don't blame our soldiers for not giving much thought to the larger principals of warfare and the decent treatment of prisoners. What evidence do Krulak and Hoar have to support their assertion that changing our rules would have any impact on how our soldiers will be treated when captured in the current conflict?
R. E. HERRON, El Cajon
Blackwater and Potrero (cont'd)
The lawsuit and recall drive that is under way of the Potrero Planning Group is completely understandable. This is the most unprofessional elected or county-appointed body I have ever witnessed.
When Mary Johnson was asked about her wearing a Blackwater issue T-shirt to the meeting, she interrupted like a schoolgirl and quipped back with a “what about the Stop Blackwater shirt you're wearing?”
They should not be surprised by the lawsuit filed either. The lawsuit is in regard to the lack of adequate notice about the December 2006 meeting. The planning group chairperson, Gordon Hammers, stated that the notice was included in a community newspaper. The Potrero Hot-line is hardly a newspaper. It is more of a xeroxed newsletter and is mailed only to subscribers. The current issue is eight pages with six articles (page 1 is a memorial; page 2 is about the pet food recall; page 3 is the largest and is pro-Blackwater; page 4 is about the Blackwater chaplain who is related to the memorial on page one – weird; page 5 is “He is Risen” God loves you, and the final article is about trash in the backcountry). The remainder is filled with notices and advertisements.
This newsletter is owned by a Potrero Planning Group member and all the above mentioned articles are written by Potrero Planning Group members. So I would argue that this is not adequate notice.
This planning group has forgotten that it is supposed to be a link of project information between the county and the citizens of Potrero, and then relay the consensus opinion of the citizens of Potrero after discussion at the planning group meetings back to the county. It is not supposed to be a cheerleader of the developer's propaganda right down to the uniform.
TORREY NEEL, Potrero
The members of the Potrero Planning Group are being recalled for not being the voice of the citizens of Potrero to the county of San Diego. How could you not conclude that they are in bed with Blackwater? They have been escorted around Blackwater headquarters in Moyock, N.C., for a week, wined and dined by Blackwater here on San Diego Bay, and one member even wore an official Blackwater logo T-shirt to a planning group meeting.
So, turn up the hot water in Blackwater's Jacuzzi party enough that no respectable planning group member should be in.
CHRISTY R. MEISNER, Ramona
The county Board of Supervisors should not approve a rezoning or land-use change that authorizes Blackwater or any other military contractor permission for live-fire, vehicular or other tactical operations training in either the proposed location in rural Potrero or any other San Diego backcountry area.
The economic and recreational gains that will continue to accrue to residents and tourists of San Diego County from maintaining existing land-use restrictions in our rustic backcountry will exceed, by a long shot, any potential gains that may accrue to shareholders and employees of a North Carolina-based private corporation.
While I, too, was dismayed at the sight of four Blackwater employees' burned corpses hung from an Iraqi bridge by a rejoicing mob, by no means should this incident, or Blackwater's affiliation with the military, engender county support for this land-use decision as “supporting the troops in Iraq.”
In fact, I should point out that many U.S. Army troops greatly dislike Blackwater's contractor role in Iraq, where they are regarded as overpaid mercenaries. Lionel Van Deerlin made this point, as well, in his April 18 column (“Blackwater in Potrero? No way.”).
STU WILLIAMS, Pacific Beach
The politicalization of the war
Anthony H. Cordesman's “Bipartisan Failure/Iraq war funding flap shows Bush, Democrats alike at fault” (Insight, May 6) painfully illustrates the extent to which the bloody morass in Iraq created by the Bush administration has reduced even some of our best military analysts to contradiction and confusion.
He sketches the myriad failures that have led to what he plainly sees as a disastrous state of affairs. He advocates a 10-to 15-year reconstruction/reconciliation effort in Iraq but admits to only the faintest hope of success for such an effort. Then he tries to even apportionment of the blame by accusing the Democratic Congress of “moral posturing” in its war-funding legislation.
It's hard to see what's wrong with a Congress representing the wishes of the electorate. Should the Democrats in Congress follow the lead of the quiescent Republicans before them? Should they hand the president a blank check for the war without any assumption of accountability on his part or on that of the Iraqi government (which Cordesman concedes can scarcely be called a government at all)?
It is impossible to understand what Cordesman means when he asserts “that Democrats have the same moral and ethical responsibilities for the consequences of American actions in Iraq as Republicans,” since Democrats have been effectively excluded from all decision-making on Iraq until last fall. But I at least consider the Democratic Congress' actions on the war to be models of ethical behavior that should be guidelines for the future conduct of the administration in trying to bring a responsible conclusion to this war.
AIMEE LEE CHEEK, San Diego
Anthony H. Cordesman's opinions on blaming both parties for “losing” Iraq make it appear that “winning” is dependent on better planning and more harmony in Washington. While his analysis of the shortcomings of both Republicans and Democrats is right on the money, it once again reflects the arrogance that has gotten us into so many awkward situations in the past, then kept us from exiting gracefully.
Nowhere in the commentary did he indicate what the Iraqi people want, if he even knows or cares. I suggest a national referendum be held in Iraq on the question: Do you want the Americans to stay or go? And then at least give the answer consideration in our national debate.
KEITH LARSON, Escondido
Dan Ramsey (Letters, May 6) deplored the Democrats for “bolster[ing] the hopes of our enemies while undermining the morale of our troops.” He has it backward; it's the Bush administration's relentless push to send more of our troops in repeated deployments to an internecine war that is demoralizing.
Just read the Pentagon's own report that has now been released to the public to understand the negative effects on our troops of multiple deployments necessitated by the surge. The same May 6 edition of the Union-Tribune carried a report on a newly released al-Qaeda video expressing the hope that the U.S. military will stay in Iraq and thus provide more targets to kill.
What is the “victory” in Iraq that is so secret and so elusive? Is it a self-governing Iraq with a legislature and its own security force? Well, we've had that in place for a year; Nouri al-Maliki was named prime minister on April 22, 2006, and his 37-member Cabinet was sworn in on May 20, 2006. Or do we have to stay in Iraq until the major portion of Iraq's oil resources are turned over to the multinational oil companies so closely allied with our oil-patch administration? Surely it is no coincidence that prices at the pump have reached all-time highs during the Cheney-Bush reign.
JACK SCHAPS, La Jolla
A makeover for the U.S. Army?
Regarding “I Need You for the U.S. Army/The current force is far too small” (Insight, May 6):
Simply making the existing Army bigger may not be the best solution. Bigger is not always better. The demands on the Army continue to change and so should strategies. History shows that those who do not adapt to change become less efficient and eventually fail. Perhaps instead of a bigger Army, we need a different Army. One alternative is to add a third component to the Army.
This component could be comprised of the many untapped citizens who don't want or qualify to be involved in active duty or the reserves but have the maturity, patriotism and skill-sets needed.
Third component members would not be deployed away from home nor in war zones, and age restrictions and physical limitations would be much broader. The members would work where they live, on a full-or part-time basis. The primary requirements would be desire, ability and availability. This would eliminate recruiting and retention problems, increase citizen support and involvement with the military and increase the military's flexibility and abilities. The third component approach has been proven with the Civil Defense force of World War II and with civilian contractors.
Just because we only have two components now doesn't mean it's best. We all need to think about this and other solutions. Our collective futures depend on it.
BILL HOFFMAN, Escondido
The commentary asserted that “converting today's volunteer military into a conscript force would result in a dramatic degradation of its effectiveness.”History has shown that this statement isn't true. It was a military made up of both volunteers and conscripted citizens that defeated our enemies in World War I, World War II and Korea.
Many officers who served in Vietnam will tell you that some of their best solders and Marines (yes, the Marines drafted during Vietnam) were draftees. I believe that as a democracy all of us should be involved with defending our country. We shouldn't be defended only by those of us with limited opportunities, or those of us driven by honor, courage and commitment to serve our country.
I believe that as a democracy we all should be closely tied to our military and not separated from it the way we are now. Very few Americans have any association with military service or have any idea of the sacrifice these young men and women make in the service of our country.
If the entire population between 18 to 36 were subjected to a draft, their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters wouldn't be so quick to fall in behind an administration in its rush to war. If there were a draft we probably wouldn't have invaded Iraq, and that would have been far more effective then having an all volunteer military.
JERRY OLLINGER, San Diego
The commentary calling for expansion of the Army shows that the neocon war hawks at the American Enterprise Institute never give up. Authors Tom Donnelly, Frederick Kagan and Gary Schmitt, from AEI, envision a need for our troops in all parts of the world. Keep in mind that AEI was a major champion of the Iraq invasion, and at its conferences a month before the war was triumphantly proclaiming our certain success, along with the imminent flowering of democracy in Iraq and the Middle East.
Donnelly said our planned post-invasion force levels were adequate, and Kagan has been influential in the Bush administration's “surge” strategy under way in Iraq. Most objective scholars give the infusion of 20,000 to 30,000 additional troops at this late date little chance of success.
Behind the AEI proposal is the assumption that the United States will continue to need its military all over the world fighting the “axis of evil” and other enemies. Before a buildup of the Army is authorized, the basic assumptions need to be questioned. Why is it that we are the only country with hundreds of bases around the world? The AEI justification seems to be a mixture of hubris and paranoia, which is what led us into Iraq. We were awed by our own sense of power and a belief in our high-tech weapons, which are not decisive in the type of warfare we have encountered.
We need to put aside the self-righteous attitude that we are chosen to spread our values and way of life around the world. We should use some of those resources to ensure such values are realized in our own country.
PETER COMSTOCK, San Diego
Where is GOP's support of veterans?
I am a 60-year-old retired naval officer. The Republican Party has always been my party. One of the party's tenets is to support increased base pay for service members and health care benefits for veterans and retirees. They are not truly doing that. Yet again the party (read administration) is supporting large increases in the cost of retiree health care. The Pentagon senior leadership is also trying to increase medical fees for retirees.
I am dumbfounded by that. It seems politicians always put the burden on the back of those who have served. The promise was health care for life for retired veterans. I understand that doesn't mean free (though that was the implied promise). However, tripling annual fees and increasing drug co-pays by more than 100 percent are way over the top. The reason: They are not getting enough funding for the war.
Taking proper care of active duty military and paying for the health care of retirees is a burden they can't afford. Now, in a move that amazes me, the Democrats are showing more support for veterans than the Republican Party.
I don't believe I will necessarily vote Democratic. However, I will vote for those who really support me as a disabled American veteran. Through its actions, the Republican Party has lost me as a dedicated voter. Guess I am now a very independent voter. The pity is that there are not many independent candidates with the power to win.
STEVAN MARTIN, San Diego
Sacrifices should be shared by all
Regarding “Army extends tours in Iraq, Afghanistan” (A1, April 12):
The secretary of defense just announced the Iraq and Afghan tours of duty for regular Army soldiers is being increased from 12 months to 15 months. Some of these soldiers are on their second or third tour.
The burden of these wars is being carried by a very small number of Americans and their families. The vast majority of Americans are disengaged, disinterested and uninformed. Over half of them don't even vote!
Even war protests are sparsely attended. I'm struck by a comment I heard from one soldier who said, “Sir, the U.S. Army is at war; the rest of America is at the mall.”
I believe it's time to institute mandatory national service. Every American should spend some time in the service of their country. That service doesn't need to be in the military; it can be in the Peace Corps, Urban Corps or some other service. The main point is that time must be invested. Yellow ribbon stickers on your car don't count.
I'm confident that when Americans invest time in their country, they will become more engaged. They would question politicians and be more critical of their actions. They would take a more active role in shaping the direction of our country. If we had national service on Sept. 11, 2001, I'm confident the war in Afghanistan would be over, and the war in Iraq would have never been started.
PETE BABICH, Poway
In support of the Blackwater proposal
Regarding “Officials answer questions about Blackwater plan/Training center draws opposition” (Our Region, April 6):
Our military men and women and the Blackwater contractors who support them deserve a break from the protesters. Unlike their college-student counterparts, military personnel don't get spring break. Instead, they are bombarded daily by fragmented and often contradictory bits of information before making split-second decisions. And unlike their indulged stateside peers, they possess the character to live with their decisions in the face of public contempt. I can only surmise that, faced with lousy beach weather, the protesters in the photo accompanying the story decided to entertain themselves by donning chicken masks and participating in a protest march.
This war, so mismanaged by old politicians with sagging testosterone levels, will end. Our soldiers will join the maligned Blackwater contractors and come home. And it will be these battle-hardened, intelligent realists who will one day assume the positions of power vacated by lesser men.
LAURA WESSELMANN, Carlsbad
The speaker's trip to Syria . . .
Regarding “Congress vs. commander in chief (Insight, April 1):
Kudos to Robert J. Caldwell for this commentary. Nancy Pelosi and her band of impostors masquerading as congressional lawmakers should resign in shame after adding all that pork to the military appropriations bill to get votes. Congress may call it partisan gamesmanship but they sold their votes! I feel they are guilty of bribery.
The congressional armchair generals want to publish a pullout date for our troops so that terrorists will know when we will leave for Kuwait. I think the terrorist factions will be right behind us all the way to Kuwait, inflicting as much damage to life and equipment as possible. The road to Kuwait will be a rocky one. What would make one think that terrorism will stop at the Kuwait border? Thank you, Nancy Pelosi and crew, you have done a wonderful job of trying to guarantee failure.
RICHARD J. LINDLEY, El Cajon
What is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi thinking by meeting with a known supporter of terrorism, the president of Syria? Who is next on her agenda, Osama bin Laden? Does she now have her own State Department? I am truly aghast at this latest display of idiocy.
SUSAN PAGE, San Ysidro
I want to praise Speaker Nancy Pelosi for doing the right thing and talking to the Syrians. We will not make peace between our countries if we do not talk. Last week, a historic peace agreement was made between old enemies Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams in my hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland. The peace process which began this quite incredible journey was begun by a man named John Hume, by him sitting down and talking – and listening – to the terrorists on both sides. It was a long hard journey, but it has brought about peace. We need to do the same thing in the Middle East.
PAUL NELSON, San Diego
Steve Breen's April 4 political cartoon parrots the Bush administration's criticism of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Syria. A better cartoon would have been one with President Bush at a press conference delaying the start of comments lambasting the Democratic congresswoman for undermining the administration's foreign policy of isolating Syria in order to give enough time for Republican congressmen in Syria to scramble onto an airplane from the tarmac in Damascus. Where is the administration's equal criticism of these Republican congressmen, who were in Syria just two days prior to Pelosi's trip?
JOHN MAPES, Cardiff
Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Syria visit reminds me of Jane Fonda's visit to North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Her visit is a slap in the face for all who cherish freedom and especially to those who are serving and have served in the U.S. military. Americans in influential positions such as Pelosi should support our troops, not stab them in the back. This is truly a case of sleeping with the enemy.
CARL HOLT, Oceanside
. . . and McCain's tour of Baghdad
Regarding “Crackdown in Baghdad working, McCain says” (News, April 2):
According to the article, “Amir Raheem, 32, a carpet merchant at the Shorja market, disagreed with the upbeat assessment of the congressional visitors.” The merchant disagrees because he lives in Baghdad and does not have the luxury of leaving the city after an hour; he needs to close his shop by 2:30 p.m. every day because of the violence, and he is not heavily guarded like McCain and his party. I am shocked and saddened at McCain's insensitivity and pompous statement after visiting the market for one hour.
ELLEN MacVEAN, Point Loma
Weighing the options on staying or leaving
There is no longer a viable exit strategy that will ensure a continued democracy in Iraq. We are faced with two options, both of which are bad for Iraq. Either we stay, or we go. The question should be centered on how many Americans would die as a result of each course of action? If we stay, more troops would die fighting a battle with increasingly hazy objectives.
If we leave, we would be letting down people who depended on us for results that we can no longer reasonably predict, much less guarantee. But to be honest and a little cold-hearted, they aren't my fellow Americans. They aren't children of my friends or loved ones.
We might have gone into Iraq with the noblest of intentions, but it hasn't worked out, due in no small part to the culture of its people. It's they who are failing to grab this opportunity to embrace individual freedom. It's unfortunate that our leaders didn't realize that Iraq's culture is unable to accept the concept of democracy. But our soldiers shouldn't be the continued victims of this mistake.
The advantage of excessively confident people is that they are free from doubt. The disadvantage is that they never question the course they take. It is time for us to tell the president, in mass, that his best intentions have failed and that this must stop. The president isn't evil, or cold-blooded. He's just wrong.
DOUG AUSTIN, Oceanside
The war - 4 years later
“4 Years and Counting” (Insight, March 25) was an interesting collection of commentaries because it provided three different viewpoints on the same issue. What is noteworthy is that both Christopher Hitchens' (“Asking and answering the critics' questions”) and The Economist's (“Mission accomplished”) essays largely addressed the issues related to the Iraq war. However, with Robert J. Caldwell's commentary (“Success in Iraq is still possible if we persevere”), we saw more mindless Bush cheerleading. Caldwell says “violence in Baghdad is down by 50 percent or 60 percent since January,” but fails to note that March was one of the war's deadliest months. If his essay was to look at the Iraq war, review its progress and prognosis, why would partisanship play such a central theme to his commentary?
MARK MIZRAHI, La Jolla
Robert J. Caldwell has it wrong again. It is the Republicans who do not have the political resolve to win the war in Iraq. To win the war, we need at least 500,000 to 1 million troops in Iraq. To do this, we will need to re-institute the draft. To support the troops, we will need to raise taxes, even the taxes of the wealthy.
President Bush and the Republicans have not shown they have the political resolve to do these things. Until they do, we will continue to flounder.
Of course, the American people will be strongly opposed to re-instituting the draft and the wealthy will be opposed to a tax increase. Poor judgment got us all into this mess and continues to keep us there.
JOHN BLOCKER, Coronado
Hooray for commentary such as that offered by Christopher Hitchens. It is high time the media started addressing the bigger picture of getting the Middle East – and therefore terrorism – under control. It is astounding to me, given the grave predictions of the Iraq Study Group and others regarding “precipitous withdrawal” from Iraq, that so many in Congress continue as if the war in Iraq were someplace in the stars instead of the Middle East.
Indeed, there are positive results after Sept. 11, 2001, that I doubt would have occurred with less than the total of all actions taken by the Bush administration. One is Moammar Gadhafi's abrupt turnaround on weapons of mass distruction, as Hitchens cited. Another is discovery of aid from Pakistan for Iran's nuclear program. And isn't it interesting that the issue of the backdoor get-around-the-U.N. oil deals Sadam Hussein was cooking up before Sept. 11, 2001, with some of our U.N. “allies” is no longer on the table?
I wonder if Saddam's departure and the fact there are 160,000 American troops in Iraq could somehow be connected. I also wonder if some members of Congress have ever asked themselves, “Can America be spared from greater hardship, of the kind endured in the last century, if we go ahead now and get the Middle East straightened out?”
DALE PFREMMER, Encinitas
If the insurgents wanted Americans out of Iraq, would not their best strategy be to go underground and “play dead”? Let us think they were defeated, and we would go home. So why are they fighting and killing Americans as much as they can? Because they want to kill more of our troops and bankrupt us with a war that is costing billions upon billions of dollars? Bush says a timetable for stopping the war would give them comfort and an opportunity to come back when we are gone.
It might just ruin their recruitment of other Muslims who see us as attackers. Their strength comes from fighting and killing Americans; it strengthens their position as defenders of their religion. If a time to leave is so bad, just what is Bush's criteria for victory? Does he want to defeat all the insurgents who come from all the Arab countries? How many years does he think this will take? How about some realism?
DONALD T. LEE, San Marcos
Regarding “Pentagon: Kids used as car-bomb decoys” (News, March 21):
This article needs to be on the front page of every newspaper in the United States. Such acts need to be condemned and exposed for what they are, evil created by monsters who love to kill innocent children for their own warped ideology. There can be no dialogue with such evil. You can only destroy it. When will America wake up? Our troops are doing their job. Why aren't the media?
DEL LEEWAYE, Lakeside
Regarding “Senate backs troop withdrawal” (A1, March 28):
With passage of their “troop support bill,” the Democrats formally opened a “second front” for the Jihadists movement in Iraq and around the world. A swift veto of this infamy has been promised by the White House, before the “patriots” slink off to an Easter recess (of all things).
PETER PRICE, Tierrasanta
These are some of the things the troop readiness bill would do: Require the Iraqi government to meet certain key security, political and economic benchmarks; prohibit deployment of troops not fully trained, equipped and protected; mandate redeployment of U.S. troops to begin no later than March 31, 2008; and greatly increase funding to defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Why would any compassionate American be against any of these stipulations? Isn't that what we should have been doing for the past four years? Democrats are not “meddling” in Bush's war. They're doing their job. It's called checks and balances, and that's what makes our country a democracy, and not a monarchy.
LINDA WITTMER, San Diego
Current detainee policy doesn't deserve silence
Well said! Your editorial, “We can do better/Current detainee policy harms the nation” (Feb. 27), hits home over the harm done by Washington's current detainee policy. After the cruel and indecent three-and-a-half-year detention of a possibly innocent citizen on unproven charges, you'd think our courts would jump to the defense of our fundamental right to a speedy trial.
Instead, Washington's U.S. appellate court has again denied this right to detainees. By upholding the 2006 Military Commissions Act, the court steps on our constitutional rights of habeas corpus giving cover to possible torture crimes.
Italian courts have recently issued kidnapping indictments on CIA agents for routing their “renditions” through Italy to locations where detainees could be tortured (“26 Americans indicted by Italy in kidnap cases,” News, Feb. 17). Isn't kidnapping a federal crime in the United States?
Torturing prisoners has been illegal at least since the U.S. Senate ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 1994. Why does it take Italian courts to protect us from such crimes?
What kind of a country detains suspects for years without a trial and engages in torture? The things we're doing now are not new to the world. What is new are Americans who think themselves patriots standing aside in cowardly silence, or even worse, embracing this abomination.
As your editorial so aptly expressed it, Americans are a better people than this, and it's time we started acting like it.
EUGENE MULLALY, San Diego
Your editorial is a masterpiece of understatement. Arrest, imprisonment and detention of persons without evidence, charge, access to counsel or any kind of due process, plus the casual use of torture, are an indication that our nation has suffered deterioration and rot not previously seen in our 200-plus years of history. These cases represent the worst aspect of a failed, near-totalitarian government. A better title would have been, “We cannot do worse.”
DON F. SMITH, San Diego
The war and the blame game
Regarding “The Party of Defeat” (Insight, Feb. 18):
Referring to the recent House resolution against the escalation of the war, Robert J. Caldwell states, “House Democrats are now on record as formally opposing the troops' mission,” as though our fighting men and women, not George W. Bush, manufactured reasons for invading Iraq.
He goes on to declare, “Defeating the Sunni insurgents and their allies, the terrorists of al-Qaeda in Iraq, is vital to the hopes of stabilizing Iraq sufficiently to permit American forces to begin withdrawing.” Al-Qaeda represents only a very small percentage of the fighting in Iraq. One of the great ironies of this war is that the American presence is what brought al-Qaeda to Iraq in the first place and what holds it there today.
Caldwell further chastises Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee, for his efforts to restrict escalation, which he does by setting standards for adequate training, equipment and rest between deployments. Not only is Murtha well within his bounds to establish criteria for spending, he is presenting a clear, tangible support of the troops, something the current administration has neglected, as evidenced by repeated deployments, rushed training and inadequate equipment.
Fighting on in Iraq not only prolongs our losses and blocks the way to new strategies for achieving stability in the Middle East, it endangers our homeland by using and misusing the large percentage of those units in Iraq that are National Guard and Reserve. Defeat in Iraq is inevitable, but that defeat will not be caused by the Democrats. It is time to come home.
CANDACE TOFT, La Mesa
Robert J. Caldwell states that “Democrats risk making Bush's war their war, and losing it.” He would do well to take a broader perspective than merely looking at the House debate and vote. Remember who started the war, who made excuse after wrong excuse for going to war, who failed to secure the country, who failed to plan for the post-invasion.
As for the White House assertion that “Iraq is the central front in the war on terror,” a Feb. 19 front-page story in the Union-Tribune (“Al-Qaeda training camps grow in Pakistan”) reported that intelligence points to “the prospect that the terrorist network is gaining in strength despite more than five years of a sustained U.S.-led campaign to weaken it.” Perhaps Iraq is not so central after all.
Caldwell and those like him love to predict calamity for any act by Democrats. If they are such wonderful prognosticators, why are we in this mess today? Where were they before the debacle? Why weren't they able to predict the current situation?
It's pretty clear that the Democrats are not the ones who are causing us to lose this war. The real “party of defeat” is the one that botched the operation from the beginning.
TIMOTHY K. KERSSEN, San Diego
Let the Republicans become the “party of defeat” by not raising taxes to pay for the war or bringing back the draft to provide enough troops to secure Iraq, and running the most corrupt invasion and occupation of another country in history. President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress got us into this mess, and Democrats should let there be no doubt about who loses this war.
TOM CRAIG Jr., San Diego
During the Internet stock crash of a few years ago, a common phrase in the investment community to describe the desperate attempts of individual investors buying more of a declining stock was “trying to catch a falling knife.” In Robert J. Caldwell's attack piece on the Democratic Party's opposition to the mess in Iraq, he applauds Bush's desperate risk of 21,500 more U.S. troops to help him catch the falling knife in Iraq.
Thousands of lives have been lost and injured, billions of U.S. tax dollars wasted, and our terrorist enemies around the world strengthened by a unprecedented, dishonest and failed Republican Middle East policy focused on a undefinable enemy in Iraq. Make no mistake, Iraq is President Bush's failure, and the American voters know it, even if some try to paint it otherwise.
ALAN SEGAL, San Diego
Robert J. Caldwell sanctions the Bush delusion that we can gain a military victory in Iraq. He never addresses the problem of a dysfunctional Iraq government, which impedes probability of a successful outcome. Consider that the Sunni opposition, which is one side of this civil war, does not have an identifiable leader or an announced bargaining position.
It should be obvious that the Iraq government or its U.S. sponsor is not even close to a political resolution when we can't identify the opposition or its bargaining position. We simply pursue a bullish attitude of extermination, which only leads to more conflict. Introduction of more U.S. troops is risky at best. When it is to be combined with an Iraqi force that has always proved to be unreliable, and, an acknowledged lack of supportive equipment, it is foolish. That is the situation the House resolution addressed.
The majority of the public expressed significant opposition to the Bush “course.” Caldwell wants to characterize it as Democrat defeatism. He is correct that it is Bush's war, but the Democrats and the majority of Americans see it as a mistake and want to end it before there is more loss. In any event, Caldwell should address the issues more clearly rather than treating it as a political issue where he has already staked out a position.
MARTIN L. BOYLE, La Mesa
With this debate going on and on, I cannot help but compare the situation George Washington faced in 1776 with the one George W. Bush faces today. Washington, on the run and losing every battle for virtually the entire year, was nevertheless supported by Congress. Most of the population was anti-war for all the reasons they are anti-war today; too expensive, too many body bags, etc. Let's just play nice, and the king will treat us nicely. So just what is the difference?
Today, politicians are concerned only with their ability to be re-elected. In 1776, politicians knew that if we lost the war they would be hanged. Say what you want about Bush's efforts in Iraq but we have not been attacked since Sept. 11, 2001. So how do we get congressional representatives to stop emboldening the terrorists by standing up in Congress and stating “the war is lost” and trying to micromanage the commander in chief? Perhaps we should consider charging a few with treason and offering the same incentive that existed in 1776.
G. NEIL BENNETT, San Diego
Although the road to the Iraq war was questionable, the Democrat/ Murtha plan won't work. Why turn over the country to al-Qaeda, Iran and Islamic terrorists?
RAYMOND ERNST, El Cajon
Regarding the front-page headline of Feb. 15, “Bush – No plan for war in Iran.” What else is new? There was no plan for the Iraq war either.
MARTIN DARE, Encinitas
Three years after a devastating terrorist attack from al-Qaeda, the Spanish government has identified the authors of the attack and their supporters, and is putting 29 people on trial.
To accomplish this, Spain did not need special laws, nor to keep people in special prisons without trial or charge, nor illegal arrests, nor torture. Spain did not use “rendition,” and the government did not ask for any special power to spy on ordinary citizens. Under similar circumstances the government of the United States has trampled many of the basic freedoms of its citizens, has resorted to torture and arbitrary incarceration, and has managed to bring only one person to trial in the five years since Sept. 11, 2001.
Maybe we should have concentrated more on police and intelligence than on war. Maybe we should have considered that there is a way to defeat terrorists from within the legality. Maybe we should start relearning the way democracy functions before we try to export it.
SIMONE SANTINI, San Diego
House rebuke of Bush war strategy
Regarding “Divided House rejects Bush's war strategy” (A1, Feb. 17):
The continuous cry from the Democrats during last year's election was that the president needed to send more troops to Iraq. Now that President Bush wants to reinforce the troops, the Democrats want to pass a “nonbinding” resolution against it.
They don't have the courage of their erroneous convictions to pull out or cut off funding – so it sounds like they want the status quo. But didn't they campaign against the status quo?
We don't pay them to make nonbinding opinions (resolutions). That's for the punditry. We pay them to make decisions. Their dangerous politicizing of the war aids and abets our enemy and further endangers our courageous troops. Democrats, as usual, put party over country.
MARY ROSE CONSIGLIO, Del Mar
Congratulations to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats on becoming a major propaganda arm of the terrorists in Iraq. Your actions will boost morale and make recruiting easier. Terrorists all over the world are applauding your actions.
KEN HARNEY, El Cajon
The Democrat-controlled House has just committed one of the most despicable acts in the history of the country. As they did with Vietnam, they have sponsored and passed a resolution that is nothing less than a disgraceful act of sedition. The members who voted for this outrage were motivated solely by a lust for power and to protect their privileged positions. They acceded to the wishes of the gods in the media and the pollsters rather than stand and fight the enemies of our country.
So be it. They will find that they have unleashed a backlash that will send large numbers of them out in the street after next year's election. I will support with money and personal sacrifice anyone who opposes the Democrats from our area when they run for re-election, and I will do everything I can to recruit others to this cause.
The people who voted for this shameful act are unfit to hold office, and I for one intend to do all in my power to ensure they do not after November 2008.
MAX BLUMEYER, Oceanside
Cunningham and his government pension
Regarding “Cunningham serving sentence at prison work camp in Tucson” (News, Feb. 14):
Who ever said that crime doesn't pay will be upset after reading that former Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham continues to receive a government pension that the National Taxpayers Union estimates at $65,000 a year, about $37,000 from his time on Capitol Hill and the rest from his military service.
When does one forfeit government funds after being convicted on the charges that this individual has brought upon himself? This sets a terrible example for those who work to contribute to union funds only to see them used to support persons charged with criminal acts.
DONALD B. MARTS, San Diego
The two sides in the ouster of Carol Lam
Regarding “Concerns about Lam were real” (Opinion, Feb. 15):
What in the world is Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, thinking? He bemoans the fact that in one year 367 “foot guides” of incoming illegal immigrants were prosecuted and in the next year only five guides were prosecuted by the U.S. attorney. His conclusion: Carol Lam is unfit for the job.
Let's look at an analogy: Lam is an emergency room physician. In the course of a year, 362 people with sniffles come through the ER. Four people with hantavirus also come through. Due to limited resources she has to choose, sniffles or a deadly infectious disease that could be spreading. She chooses the deadly infectious disease.
Issa would evidently go with the sniffles. It makes one wonder about his agenda. One could ask if he is concerned that the widening corruption exposure will somehow end up on his doorstep. This seems unlikely as he doesn't appear to be a sufficiently influential person in Washington.
Maybe because the exposure of corruption is centered squarely in the Republican Party at the moment, he wishes to avoid further embarrassment to his party. Possibly, though, he just wishes to be seen as “hard on immigration” as a talking point for his next election. While this is a politically viable drum for him to bang, it is incredibly self-centered under the circumstances.
Political corruption as practiced by Randy “Duke” Cunningham and associates is a situation every bit as serious as hantavirus outbreaks. That the U.S. Attorney's Office pursued the investigation and convictions, and continues to do so, is an excellent choice.
Posturing by minor members of Congress looking for a few more votes is reprehensible. If Issa actually wanted to be useful, he could have lobbied for the allocation of more resources to the office of the U.S. attorney in California's Southern District so that office wouldn't need to choose between routine immigration violations and the pursuit of major corruption in public office. Instead, he went with personal aggrandizement. When the next election rolls around, I won't be remembering Issa for “hard on immigration” – I'll be remembering him for “soft on congressional corruption.”
SUZANNE LACEY, Vista
Congressman Darrell Issa explained very clearly why it was necessary to get rid of former U.S. Attorney Carol Lam from her post – she decided it wasn't necessary to protect the public from the worst of the illegal aliens creating crimes in the United States.
Her very poor record on prosecuting those who prey on the illegals themselves, let alone the rest of the American public, is more than reason enough to say she was malfeasant and give her the boot. Obviously, if our own non-border-protecting attorney general and president thought she was bad enough to fire, then she was very, very bad. Thanks, congressman, for giving us the lowdown on Lam.
R. PATRAS, San Diego
Iraq and the numbers formula
A careful reading of the counterinsurgency doctrines cited in Robert J. Caldwell's commentary, “ 'Surge' and Strategy” (Insight, Feb. 4), reveals why the Bush surge is a case of too little, too late. Given that Iraqi army units are understaffed, underequipped, undertrained and unreliable, and the police are mostly an arm of the Shiite militias, the formula of one soldier for every 50 civilians, would take at least 100,000 U.S. combat troops, or 80,000 more than we have now in Baghdad, just to pacify that city.
Those combat troops would require support troops so to have any chance of success we would need well over 100,000 additional troops for two or three years just to pacify Baghdad. And that's if everything goes right. Most military observers agree that we don't now have enough troops to sustain that high a level for that long.
It is clear that Bush's surge is a political fig leaf to cover his administration in order to divert the debate from the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and the public's desire to withdraw from Iraq to blaming the Democrats for not supporting our troops. It's time to face facts, not base policies on unrealistic hope, and to start withdrawing the troops from Iraq, not increasing their number.
GARY PAGE, Hemet
Robert Caldwell says the reason sending another 21,750 troops to Iraq might work is that they will be used to implement the plan in the counterinsurgency manual that Gen. David H. Petraeus wrote. That plan says we need a minimum of 20 counterinsurgents for every 1,000 inhabitants. That means we would need 148,000 to secure Baghdad alone. If, as in the past, confronting the Iraqi resistance is like squeezing a balloon, and securing Baghdad just pushes them somewhere else, we would need 540,000 counterinsurgents to secure all of Iraq.
Army standards call for 1.25 support troops for every combat soldier. Combining this with the counterinsurgent troops brings the total soldiers needed just for Baghdad to 333,000, more than twice the number of troops the entire coalition has in Iraq now. Tell me again how 21,750 troops will accomplish this.
It looks like Gen. Eric Shinseki was understating the problem.
MICHAEL CARGAL, La Mesa
I agree with Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold and, I'm afraid, the Republican leadership, that the debate should be over pulling the troops out of Iraq. The time for this nonbinding resolution has long passed. The right thing to do is to end the madness now.
The Republicans ask us to consider the consequences of leaving, but I think they should consider the consequences of staying. The chaos in Iraq is inevitable, as it was in Vietnam. It is only a question of how many lives and how much money we waste before we do pull the troops out. We can do it now, or we can do it in 20 years. The difference is in how much we will have weakened our country before we do a pullout.
Let us do what is in the best interest for the country. Let us take the most patriotic action. Let us support our troops by bringing them home safe, now.
TIM CALLAHAN, San Diego
I am a liberal Democrat who marched, wrote letters to editors and to Congress and talked with my fellow citizens who reviled me for my opinion in an effort to prevent us from going to war in Iraq. My side lost that debate, and this country made a decision to go to war. Now the same people who supported this disastrous invasion want to blame someone else for the catastrophic results and just walk away from the mess we created.
We would like to blame the CIA or the generals who we sent into the mess. We would like to blame Iran for “interfering and destabilizing” its neighbor as if our traveling halfway around the globe to invade and occupy Iraq is not the reason for that nation's chaos. We even try to blame the Iraqi people.
We are the invaders and occupiers. We disbanded the army, police, the government and all social and political institutions that keep a country together. We left the ammunition dumps unguarded due to a lack of troops. We hired corrupt U.S. contractors rather than hiring Iraqis to rebuild their country. The list of blunders we have committed is unforgivable.
No matter whom we try to shift the blame to, the idea that we can now just turn our backs and walk away, leaving Iraq and the entire region in war and chaos, is immoral and as bad a decision as invading was in the first place. We owe it to the Iraqi people, the world and our own souls to at least try to get Iraq back on its feet before we walk away. For this reason and others this liberal Democrat supports the “surge” policy. Even if it doesn't work, we must still try.
THOMAS PAT JOY, San Diego
Regarding “ 'Hard is not hopeless' ” (Insight, Jan. 28):
Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus justifies the Bush-Cheney rush to war on Iraq based on phony pretext by calling the U.S.-led illegal war of aggression “the liberation of Iraq in 2003.” True enough, the mighty U.S. military machine brought down a despot, but what is the result of this so-called liberation? According to Petraeus, the invasion and removal of the Hussein regime that posed no imminent threat to America's national security have resulted in the total collapse of every Iraqi government institution, leaving Iraqi society traumatized and thrown into “complete turmoil.” The new Iraqi government is besieged by “insurgents, international terrorists, sectarian militias, regional meddling, violent criminals, governmental dysfunction and corruption,” Petraeus points out.
From the above litany of disaster and chaos brought about by the invasion, Petraeus egregiously fails to recognize the greatest contributor to the ongoing violence in Iraq is the result of the U.S. military occupation itself. No sovereign Iraqi nation is possible so long as the foreign military occupation dominates Iraqi society.
The child abuse by felonious parents analogy applies. The Bush-Cheney-Petraeus child is being disciplined by being beaten to a bloody pulp and delivered to the ER dead on arrival.
LANCE G. JOBSON, Chula Vista
A suggested source for war funding
I see that the Bush administration needs another $99.6 billion to finance its wars until this October (“Budget plan has billions for wars,” A1, Feb. 6). Just a few days ago, Exxon announced earnings of $39.5 billion for the past year. And that's only one oil company. So, we could assume that all the U.S. oil companies combined are probably earning close to what the administration needs for the Iraq war.
It is clear to me that one of the main motivations of the Bush administration's war in Iraq was to secure an unhampered (and U.S.-controlled) flow of oil to the United States. (Never mind all the fairy tales about weapons of mass destruction and the so-called al-Qaeda connection.) So, I think it seems reasonable to require the U.S. oil companies to finance the Iraq war. What could be more logical?
EDMUND JONES, San Diego
Offering a verdict on Lam's performance
Regarding “Lawmaker says keep Lam on inquiry” (Local, Feb. 8):
As the stories regarding U.S. Attorney Carol Lam being forced out of her job were coming out, I was getting more upset. Today, I realized this is probably a good thing – Lam's approval ratings would dwarf those of her entire chain of command, and heck, I would take it as a sign of a successful tenure if guys like Rep. Darrell Issa thought I did a lousy job. One Randy “Duke” Cunningham sitting in prison is worth a thousand petty thieves who happened to be born on the other side of the border.
While I understand President Bush has nothing better to do with his final two years than repay political favors now that he's lost the support of the American people, I just wish, for once, he would place competence over loyalty. So to Carol Lam: You go, girl, job well done! You got the bad guys and upset the wrong people. Just remember, they were wrong.
DAVID GRAY, La Jolla
Protecting protesters' rights came with a price
Regarding “Thanks to SDPD for keeping the peace” (Letters, Jan. 30):
The writer said she would like to express her thanks to the San Diego Police Department for its management of more than one war protest march that she has participated in. She went on to say the officers “were present in large numbers all along the route and created a very secure environment for all of us.”
Your thanks is all well and good, but apparently you are not aware that the city of San Diego has been in a financial crisis and that the SDPD has lost more than 200 officers. They left city employment due to retirements and discontent over low wages and benefits.
Just where do you think those officers came from to protect “our rights to protest”? They were stripped from their normal duties to baby sit a bunch of protesters who are upset with the war. How many crimes were committed because the patrol officer was not on his or her beat because they were at the protest protecting your rights?
If you want to protest the war, then write your representatives or go to Washington, D.C., and protest there, where the war policy-makers can hear you. Please don't protest in San Diego where the taxpayers who want police protection in their neighborhoods have to pay your bill. Instead of keeping the peace at protests, those officers should be protecting all neighborhoods in the city.
THOMAS CARMODY, Ramona
Continuing the evolution vs. creationism debate
Regarding “Santee museum brings creationism to life” (Local, Feb. 3):
Imagine my surprise to see I was reading the local section instead of the religion section. I thought the local section was for news. For those who wish to believe the fairy tales and ignore scientific fact, fine, so be it. Just put it where it belongs, in the religion section. The good news is the “museum” does not have “science” in the name. There's nothing scientific about it.
MARY ANDERSON, San Diego
I agree that empirical evidence should not be ignored, but if you want empirical don't look toward the theory of evolution. If you want to base your view on observable fact then, for example, observe this: The Cambrian period saw the Earth explode with a diversity of life leaving far too little time for macro evolution to work or for life to have evolved from a single common organism. The examples go on and on and are available to all who wish to make an honest investigation.
I take issue with some of the extreme claims made by the Institute for Creation Research and feel it does a poor job of articulating the truth. However, the fact remains that mainstream science is shifting away from any sort of “tree of life” explanation of our creation.
Given the currently available data of experiment and observation, believing in a Darwinistic evolution of our species (or any other species) is just plain embarrassing. Regardless of my personal opinion, our children should be taught the strengths and weaknesses of all theories on creation and origin.
JEFF McANALLY, Ramona
Once again we are forced to confront the embarrassment that is the Museum of Creation and Earth History in Santee, providing an ironic black eye to a region that boasts one of the finest collection of scientists and biotech communities in the world. Stating that the museum “accepts no government funding” underscores the notion that even our anti-science federal government no doubt wishes to distance itself from this monument to anti-intellectualism.
Attempting to assign some credibility with the label “museum” does little to elevate this religious theme park beyond what it is – a testament to lazy thinking. In a transparent display of solipsism, John Morris states that “you cannot convince a kid they came from a fish. Kids know better.” By the same token, I guess it should be obvious that if you just go outside and look up for long enough, it will become clear that the sun revolves around the Earth!
This museum would merely be a humorous example exposing those fringe elements that try to keep our thinking somewhere around the third century if there were not a line to be drawn from here to governmental policies impacting everything from stem cell research to global warming.
The anti-science bias that infects this society is a blight and, left unchecked and unchallenged, will have far-reaching and dangerous implications for the future of this country. Thus, for this evil to prevail, all that is required is for good – and rational – people to do nothing!
GENE ONDRUSEK, San Diego
Even though I greatly disagree with creationism, I visited the Museum of Creation in Santee over 10 years ago and found it to be very fascinating, informative and just plain fun to look at. However, the disagreement I have with creationism is the same for evolution as well.
I can't understand how people can disregard irrefutable evidence, or find it mutually exclusive. The world is not black and white; it is gray, orange and transparent, with multicolored blinking lights.
Creationists are going to have a hard time explaining the over 200 million years' worth of species continuously being discovered that didn't live with us or the dinosaurs. Their existence is literally written in stone. Yet, by the same token, one cannot deny seashells and fossilized fish found on the slopes of our highest mountains and evidence pointing to the existence of a massive wooden ark on Mount Ararat.
To me, locking oneself into a rigid belief system appears to be the greatest hindrance to humanity's physical and spiritual evolution. It's like deciding what the end of the story is after reading only two-thirds of the novel. Humanity is still evolving, and I think all of us all of us are going to be surprised when we reach the last page.
MICHAEL WHITE, San Diego
Savings and the proposed Powerlink
I was pleased to see the story on the increase in savings estimates for the Sunrise Powerlink (“SDG&E increases savings estimate,” Local, Jan. 31). It's fantastic to see a large infrastructure project that will save money – meaning that the line would pay for itself. We don't see that happen very often.
We live in a fast-growing region that needs new sources of energy to keep up with demand, and supporting a project like the Sunrise Powerlink is a huge benefit to San Diego. My favorite feature is the fact that it would connect to the world's largest solar energy facility in the Imperial Valley. And it would save $220 million each year.
It sure is nice to see money spent wisely in planning for the future – and to see money saved.
GREGORY A. SCHNITZER, San Diego
If SDG&E needs the Sunrise Powerlink so much, let's have the company put it underground. No view loss, no fire hazard, and no access problem if SDG&E puts it under existing highway right of way. This should be done along the whole length of the link – through Anza Borrego State Park and the entire rest of the route.
I can't see why we should sacrifice the park experience, nor should residents of the backcountry have their homes and property despoiled for this project. Too expensive you say? Then maybe the “savings” SDG&E talks about aren't so real.
WARREN COON, Poway
Santee's museum on creationism
Regarding “Santee museum brings creationism to life” (Local, Feb. 3):
How backward and revealing that John D. Morris, president of the Museum of Creation, is quoted as saying that “You cannot convince a kid that they came from a fish. Kids know better and people know better.”
Ironically, that is also is a very good way of saying that grown-ups who choose to ignore empirical evidence, like the theory of evolution, are like children. Children believe all kinds of dogma and superstition but that doesn't make creationism more credible. In fact, that is why we should educate children instead of shielding them from science.
The hodgepodge imagery the museum uses includes associating the theory of evolution with Adolph Hitler's photograph. Apparently, this museum can only manipulate impressionable children (and adults) with unfortunate, misleading and backward logic.
KATIE MONTGOMERY, Hillcrest
The war and the role of Iran
The “diplomatic effort” proposed by the Iraq Study Group is flawed and would lead only to disaster. It is an admission of American defeat.
Its first casualty would be the internal opposition developing in Iran to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is causing economic problems by his strident confrontation of the West. It would be proof to Iranians that Ahmadinejad is winning and would become a source of national pride for them.
Second, Iranian interests are antithetical to American interests, and Iran will give us nothing, particularly when they see us crawing to them. Flawed though it may be because of it dependency on Iraqi government compliance, Bush's plan is our only hope for victory and should be supported for at least the next six months.
JOSEPH R. ABRAHAMSON, San Diego
As the liberals entrench themselves in power and up the Iraq-Vietnam rhetoric, demanding a U.S. withdrawal, keep in mind what happened when America “redeployed” from Vietnam. Please remember that millions were slaughtered under Pol Pot and more than 800,000 (South and North armies) were killed in Vietnam. So, how many do the liberals want slaughtered in Iraq, if Iraq is so much like Vietnam?
CHARLES BONDY, Encinitas
Mr. Bondy, Liberals don't want any slaughtered in Iraq. De-escalation reduces American deaths. The war has progressed to the point where the US can have little effect on the slaughter. De-escalation has never been used but is immediately rejected by the Bush regime and neo-cons. Bush and Cheney did not learn anything from Vietnam, or the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. De-escalation will reduce American deaths and hopefully will reduce tensions; if de-escalation fails escalation is still an option. If the Bush surge fails then we are deep in the rut of Vietnam type failure, then what are our options.
Up until the past few weeks, I have been a supporter of the war in Iraq. I am a registered Republican and have supported the current administration in most of the policy decisions that have been put into law or action. I do not, though, blindly follow the party line. I make up my own mind when I am in the voting booth or voicing my opinion with friends. Debate is a big part of our social group's gatherings. But this past weekend put a halt for support of the war.
The helicopter crash with 12 Reserve troops on board did it in for me. After viewing a news report on who they were, it sent a chill through my bones. Their families will suffer, their children will wail, and the mourning will begin.
More than 3,000 troops have died. For what? The original objective has been met; Saddam has been hung, his regime is no more, the Baathists are on the run.
Now the country slowly slides into a slimy pool that will be very difficult to climb out from. The citizens of Iraq had it bad under Saddam and his henchmen. Do they have it any better now? I think not.
Now that he is gone there is no reason to pretend to like the Shiite or Sunni who live next door. Tell them to move, force them to move, kill them if they do not. How on earth are our troops going to keep this pot from boiling over into a mad, foaming, runaway train of murder and ethnic cleansing?
So I am done with the war. As a retired chief petty officer, I will give my support for the troops and sailors who go into harm's way. But I cannot support the president any longer concerning the war. I will pray that this ugliness comes to an end. Watching the news lately reminds me of the years of watching the Vietnam War every night. It got old after so many years.
JOHN CRAIG, San Ysidro
President Bush's plan to increase the numbers of our good soldiers in Iraq is an example of his continued lack of understanding. Sending more young people to be maimed or killed is not the answer. He's reacting like a cornered animal or a frightened child as he lashes out with more and more venom rather than reflecting on the true needs in the region. The situation is complex yet the security situation cannot improve if people there have no motivation, and we continue to be perceived as occupiers.
Our citizens, too, need to take responsibility for an administration that believes securing foreign oil is our right. Driving massive cars makes all of us less safe, not safer, and also makes me think SUV drivers are also just frightened souls. We are a nation of innovators, brave and hard-working. It's only when we collectively work to decrease our oil consumption that we will all feel safer.
MARILYN MITCHELL, Encinitas
I don't see how this (adding more troops) will help the Iraqi people achieve peace and democracy. Right now the U.S. military and the warring Iraqi factions are addicted to the use of violence, and more troops aren't going to solve that problem, no more than additional drugs or alcohol would help an addict. Any expert on addiction will tell you that the desire to change must come from within the addict.
Our goal in Iraq should be to accept the things we cannot change (the sectarian violence), to change the things we can (i.e., setting dates for withdrawal and stop trying to change others) and the wisdom to know the difference. It is that wisdom that is sorely lacking in Washington.
RUTH E. JONES, San Diego
The hysterical propaganda from the Bush administration in its attempt to gin up another war in the Middle East, this time against Iran, sounds like the deceptive run-up to invading Iraq. Nowhere in the press is any mention being made of the severe and even crippling problems of the Iranian nuclear project. Within the last two weeks the Iranians tried to ramp up some of the projected new 3,000 centrifuges needed to refine uranium. All disintegrated in explosions.
The Observer has noted that the Iranian program is a “shambles” because of lack of material, expertise and technology. Iranian uranium ore, available to them for mining, is so contaminated that it's useless for weapons. The technology for removing such contaminants is unavailable to the Iranians for the foreseeable future. Just exactly why should we be rushing to ramparts to fight the Iranians?
Finally, no one has produced a shred of evidence to show that Iran has a nuclear weapons program in the first place. Where's the beef?
RICHARD DIMATTEO, San Diego
According to Joseph Cirincione, director of the Non-Proliferation Project of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “There's a well-accepted definition for pre-emptive war in international law. Pre-emptive war is justified by an imminent threat of attack, a clear and present danger that the country in question is about to attack you. In such a case a pre-emptive attack is recognized as justifiable.”
Recent news reports state that Iran will be facing harsher sanctions if it continues to ignore the U.N. resolution. Does this mean that Iran can expect to be attacked by the United States in the near future (just as Iraq was)? And if this is the case, according to the definition of pre-emptive war, does this mean that Iran has the legitimate right to attack the United States and its allies before?
KRIS ROESNER, San Diego
So the new defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, believes that a congressional resolution opposing troop buildup “emboldens the enemy.” Insurgents routinely explode themselves in crowds; declare themselves “soldiers of heaven” and fight to the death, and last week drove into an Army security zone pretending to be Americans and drove out with four U.S. soldiers they later killed.
Congress could not possibly do anything to encourage the insurgents to be bolder than they currently are. In the post-Rumsfeld era, one would hope that a defense secretary can at least recognize this simple truth.
LENNET DAIGLE, San Diego
Henry Kissinger argues that U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is not an option without high potential of drawing in countries from outside the region (“The New Iraq Strategy,” Insight, Jan. 28). For example, he states that Kurdish independence from both Sunnis and Shia would raise the prospect of intervention from Turkey and possibly Iran.
As an alternative, if the United States constituted two divisions, heavy with special forces and intelligence capability, and two fully equipped air bases in the Kurdish North – as I understand the Kurds would like – then there would be no threat from either Turkey or Iran. From this perch, this military instrument could deter reckless behavior by any of Iraq's neighbors and reinforce the diplomacy that Kissinger recommends.
All other coalition forces in Iraq should be redeployed as soon as possible, including probably some to Afghanistan. There are more than the two options of “cut and run” and escalation.
FLORIAN P. MEINHARDT, San Diego
Muslim-Americans react to U-T column
Regarding “Muslim-Americans' self-image concerns” (Opinion, Jan. 31):
As director of public relations for the Council on American Islamic Relations in San Diego, I am writing to say that Ruben Navarrette Jr. brilliantly exposed the bigotry spewed by Glenn Beck in his infamous interview with Congressman Keith Ellison and included as well an excellent summary of past ethnic groups who were subjected to distrust and questioned about their their loyalty during World War II resulting from the paranoia of some Americans. I am glad to see Navarrette affirming that “Muslim-Americans have earned their thread in the national fabric.”
As far as his assessment of Muslim-Americans being concerned about their image on television, here is where I respectfully disagree. Muslim-Americans are not so much concerned about their image, but rather the likelihood that shows such as “24” are adding fuel to an already burning fire of anti-Muslim sentiment and hysteria in this country.
Some of this sentiment has ignited anti-Muslim hate crimes and civil rights violations. A Gallup poll from last year reported 39 percent of Americans admit to some prejudice toward Muslims, another 39 percent want Muslims to carry special IDs as a way to prevent future terror attacks, and 22 percent said they do not want Muslims as neighbors.
It seems that some Americans, in reality, can't tell fact from fiction when it comes to Islam and Muslims. The Washington Post ran a similar poll much later stating that over 46 percent of Americans hold negative views toward Muslims.
The result? According to the CAIR, anti-Muslim hate crimes jumped 9 percent, and civil rights complaints are up 30 percent. This is alarming knowing that these statistics have been rising steadily for over 10 years. We hope to see more voices sharing American-Muslims' contributions to our country, and we appreciate Navarrette's viewpoint on the issue.
EDGAR HOPIDA, San Diego
As a Muslim and resident of San Diego, I am happy to see that there is a small but growing concern from non-Muslims about the current situation facing American-Muslims and Islamophobia in the mainstream media. Although there are a few Muslim organizations that do their best to build bridges of understanding and show the true, peaceful nature of Islam, these groups are overwhelmed by the daily misrepresentation and attacks hurled toward Muslims by the likes of Glenn Beck and others. Thanks again.
SALIM ZAMIR, San Diego
President's directive on political appointees
After reading the commentary on how corruption negatively impacts societies (“The curse of corruption,” Insight, Jan. 28), I was stunned to read that President Bush is going to put political appointees in charge of all government agencies (“Order gives Bush more sway over agencies,” A1, Jan. 30). This is more appalling when we consider the appointments he has made in the past. Is this the democracy we are trying to export? It feels more and more like tyranny.
ZOE HERALD, Santee
During the Cold War, the United States and the West ridiculed the Soviet Union and the East for having “political officers” monitoring and manipulating the opinions and actions of everyone – including even engineers and scientists. Our avoidance of that sort of misguided political meddling was felt to be among the key factors in our “victory” in that long-running skirmish.
But in the Jan. 30 front-page story, we learn that “President Bush signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over rules and policy statements that the government develops” and that “each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries.”
The article adds that these new “gatekeepers” will shape rules that have to date been mainly “generated by civil servants and scientific experts.” Is Bush's new kind of “political science” truly representative of the highest interests of our country? And don't these people ever learn anything from past experience? Just asking.
JIM HELD, Del Mar
Rules and regulations encourage corruption
Clearly, the basis of Nathaniel Heller's thesis – that corruption impoverishes and impedes economic progress – is correct. However, rather than addressing the real problem – that government officials at all levels make life and death decisions affecting businesses and individuals – he proposes yet another layer of rules and regulations, which are all susceptible to corruption.
If a government official cannot tell you whether you can start a business, you do not need to bribe him. If the government does not supply you with HIV medicine, it cannot be bribed to supply you with ineffectual treatments. If the government does not fund alternative energy research, lobbyists cannot influence the diversion of funds to a specific state or pet project of a specific politician, leaving more promising approaches to languish. The more rules and regulations you have, the more corruption you can expect – yet another application of the Law of Unintended Consequences.
BRIAN J. GLADISH, Carlsbad
Support for ousted U.S. attorney continues
If ever San Diegans had a sweetheart in government, it is Carol Lam, whose prosecution brought down the corrupt Randy “Duke” Cunningham. Her Herculean and focused prosecution not only brought down the crooked congressman, but opened a Pandora's box of other corrupt officials and power-brokers. Apparently, Lam's investigations generated too much heat for White House and Pentagon friends involved in profiteering and corruption.
Lam's last day in office is the day after Valentine's Day. This sweetheart of integrity and ethics has been kicked out. But people who love, respect and admire her are going to honor and thank her. They will be sending her hundreds of roses on Valentine's Day.
This is not the end of Lam's public service. Such a superior public servant is destined for much higher service, and we will support her.
J. HOWARD CREWS, Fallbrook
Thanks to SDPD for keeping the peace
Regarding “Iraq war protesters hit downtown streets” (Local, Jan. 28):
It was thrilling to see so many San Diegans expressing their views against the Bush administration's disastrous foreign policy at the peace demonstration on Saturday. “End the War” and “No Surge, No Escalation” probably expressed the views of most. My favorite was “Support our troops, bring them home ALIVE and WELL!”
Write us The San Diego Union-Tribune welcomes letters to the editor. Because of the number of letters received, and to allow as many readers as possible to be published, it is the policy of the newspaper to publish no more than one letter from the same author within 120 days. Letters may be edited. It is also our policy to publish letters supporting or opposing a particular issue in a ratio reflecting the number received on each side.
To be considered for publication, a letter must include an address, daytime phone number and, if faxed or mailed, be signed. It may be sent to Letters Editor, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Post Office Box 120191, San Diego, CA 92112-0191, faxed to (619) 260-5081 or e-mailed to email@example.com. Letters submitted may be used in print or in digital form in any publication or service authorized by the Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
I'd like to express my thanks to the San Diego Police Department for its management of this, and other such events I've attended. I know San Diego has a reputation of being laid back in all things, protests and marches included. But the calm, respectful and professional demeanor of the police officers went a long way in literally “keeping the peace.” They were present in large numbers all along the route, and created a very secure environment for all of us. They are to be strongly commended for making our right to protest a safe and extremely worthwhile exercise.
SUSAN ROBERTSON Rancho Bernardo
Critiquing the president's address
Nice speech, Mr. President. But there are only so many possible explanations for the fiasco in Iraq. Either you lied about the reasons for going to war, or you (and the American people) were mistaken about the WMDs.
Let's say it was an honest mistake. Once we were in it, the war was either winnable or not winnable. But let's assume it was winnable. Your war strategy was either effective or ineffective.
With hindsight we know that it was effective in ousting Saddam Hussein but completely ineffective in dealing with the insurgency. You either didn't anticipate the insurgency or you didn't have a plan for dealing with it. Either way it was a grievous error.
Now you have a new strategy for dealing with the insurgency, and a new quarterback, Gen. David Petraeus. We all hope they will be effective. But if they aren't, then what? Blame it on Nouri al-Maliki?
Do we then begin to withdraw or redeploy our troops? If that is an acceptable strategy for later, why is it not acceptable now? Most important, are we expected to believe that his new strategy is somehow magically free of the flaws that have dogged every step so far? It's no wonder two-thirds of the American people no longer support your leadership.
DON RIDEOUT, Encinitas
Military planners, including Gen. Petraeus himself, concluded that to pacify Baghdad the Army would require 120,000 troops in the city, approximately one for every six civilians. George Bush knows this, but he has chosen to attempt to do this on the cheap using Iraqi forces instead because he and his supporters cannot bear to have their income taxes increased to pay for a sufficient troop buildup.
It is the same reason Donald Rumsfeld insisted upon using too few troops in the invasion. He was right about the force needed to rout the Iraqi army but woefully wrong about the size of the occupying force. Of course, no one was allowed to call our presence an occupation force. Fighting a war on the cheap never works. It only prolongs the agony and costs more lives.
MARIE S. MEADOWS, San Diego
President Bush has a clear plan for victory in Iraq that begins with training Iraqi forces so they can defend their country and fight the terrorists. We are making tremendous progress toward this objective.
Earlier this year, Iraqi forces led the fight in clearing out terrorists during the crucial battle of Tal Afar, with U.S. troops in a supporting role, and every day Iraqis are taking more control of the situation on the ground. Withdrawing from Iraq, as some Democrats in Washington propose, would send a dangerous signal to our enemies that we cut and run when the going gets tough.
President Bush is offering a clear strategy to win, not a political quick fix.
STEPHEN DRAKE, San Diego
Iraqi parliament's attendance problem
I found it ironic and just a bit sad when I picked up Wednesday's newspaper. I recalled Robert J. Caldwell's piece of a few days before in which he praised President Bush for proposing more U.S. troops in Iraq (“Last, Best Hope/Bush's new strategy for Iraq is a sensible, if belated, plan to salvage the U.S. mission,” Insight, Jan. 14). Then there was Jack Kemp's piece with more of the same (“Our last hope for success in Iraq,” Opinion, Jan. 24) as well as Marc Gerecht's gloom-and-doom analysis should we leave Iraq (“If We Leave,” Insight, Jan. 21). All and all, no surprises.
What really hit me, though, was your front-page piece on Jan. 24, “Absentees are majority in Iraq's parliament.” If ever there was a non-sequitur to the above articles, this was it.
“Nearly every session since November has been adjourned because as few as 65 members made it to work, even as they and the absentees earned salaries and benefits worth about $120,000,” the story reported. I assume that when these people stood for election, they knew the risks involved. I also assume that a great majority of them never had any intention of really doing what they were elected for – to work as parliamentarians and carry out the business of governing the country. This came through loud and clear when the article noted that many of these guys are alive and well in such places as London, Amman and Abu Dhabi.
The United States cannot win this war militarily – not with 20,000 more troops, or 200,000 more troops. Gerecht's argument that “a civil war between the Sunni and Shiite Arabs could easily reach genocide” if American troops are withdrawn simply does not hold up. Unless and until the Iraqi people (whoever they are) decide that civil war is not an option, and until they decide to act responsibly – by showing up to govern, for example – no amount of American effort will really make a difference in that country.
TOM BRADY, Escondido
'Bloody sectarian battle' was not the news
As I drove in on Friday, my radio reported that the Iraqi parliament, after a session in which numerous insults and accusations were hurled at opposing sides, approved President Bush's security plan. This report took all of 15 seconds – and I knew that the Iraqi parliament was in support of the proposed plan.
But when I got to work and perused the Union-Tribune's front page (“Sunni, Shiite lawmakers hurl insults in parliament,” Jan. 26), I had to go about 850 words into the article before I read, “Eventually, the tensions eased and the parliament approved the security plan.” Eleven words, just about 1 percent of the total, to get to the point of the article. Eleven words, without which one would be led to believe that the passage was doomed and soundly defeated.
Also, in this same article there were about 250 to 300 words devoted to the same ongoing slaughter in the streets, words devoted to pointing out the failure of all plans already in place. What I got from the story, albeit more from the radio than the Union-Tribune, was the positive response of the Iraqi parliament and people, despite the overwhelming negative bias presented by the media. The headlines and the story report the rancor present, and imply that this is horrible, that this is leading to the collapse of all honest debate.
This is exactly what happens in the United States Congress. Both sides of the aisle raise all sorts of Cain, making outrageous claims about the other, then they settle down and vote. Does this sound exactly like the Iraqi parliament? In this article, one could replace parliament with Congress, and the arguing party names with Democrat and Republican, and would not have to rewrite the story, except to delete the fluff about the “bloody sectarian battle.”
If you look up the definition of “news,” the battle outside only slightly fits in as news, and is even less a part of the main story. Have you considered being more objective?
MIKE KILMAN, Bonita
Fairness and the conservative media
Is the Union-Tribune even trying to give the appearance of being evenhanded anymore? The front page of the Jan. 21 Insight section had two opinions about the new Democratic Congress: one by the conservative Mort Kondracke from Fox News (“Democrats and the GOP should heed voters' call for moderation”), the other by the conservative Norman J. Ornstein from the American Enterprise Institute (“There is hope for comity, but Congress must seize the moment”). Both sides – the conservative and the very conservative!
Then, of course, there was the entire back page, a commentary by Reuel Marc Gerecht (“If We Leave”) – another conservative American Enterprise Institute fellow – about how awful it would be for the United States to leave Iraq. I suppose your idea of balance would include a piece by “Democrat” Joe Lieberman. How about Greg Palast, Michael Moore or Frank Rich?
Considering the results of the last elections, Bush's plunging popularity, and the 70 percent disapproval of the Iraq war, the conservatives in Congress and the conservative media need to learn to play fair and balanced.
THAD McMANUS, Borrego Springs
Where was discussion before the invasion?
Reuel Marc Gerecht's “If We Leave” commentary (Insight, Jan. 21) provides a lot of information related to the complex issues and political realities that confront war-torn Iraq. Seems to me that this information would have been far more valuable if it were part of the national discussion prior to this administration's decision to invade in the first place.
MARC JAFFE, La Jolla
Immigration net forgot to haul in employers
Regarding “Immigration raids net 761 in L.A. area” (A1, Jan. 24):
This action was trumpeted as a success and described in glowing terms as a nationwide crackdown, and as one of the biggest such sweeps in U.S. history. However, the “sweep” struck me as completely inappropriate and misguided.
Nowhere in the lengthy article was there mention of any effort to target the employers who hire these illegal aliens. These ruthless employers are the reason we have an immigration problem in the first place. It's embarrassing to see America attempting to solve its immigration problem not by going after the criminal employers, who are easy to find and penalize, but by tracking down hard-working immigrants – most of whom are just trying to feed their families – and dragging them, one by one, out of their homes and apartments at 4 a.m. in shackles.
JAMES B. McCORD, Carlsbad
An 'insult' to Dr. King's memory
Star Parker's attempt to draw a comparison between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s efforts to expand freedom to all Americans and George Bush's efforts in Iraq is an insult to Dr. King's memory and legacy (“King's words ring just as true today,” Opinion, Jan. 15). Parker forgets that Bush's rationalization for invading Iraq was because Americans could expect a “mushroom cloud” from Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons and delivery system if we failed to act. “Freeing” Iraqis was only another rationalization in a long list of attempts to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
President Bush is fond of saying that terrorists hate our freedom and want to take it from us. He neglects the idea that perhaps others want to be free of us establishing military bases in their homelands.
Does anyone doubt where King would stand on the war in Iraq if he were alive? Bob Herbert in The New York Times reminds us that one year before his death, King said: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
King spoke out against the Vietnam War “because my conscience leaves me no other choice.” He further stated that silence in the face of the horrors of that war amounted to a “betrayal.” We don't have Dr. King to lead us, so each of us must take it upon ourselves to carry forward his legacy.
CHERYL EDE, San Diego
Backing a change of course
Truth is an amazing elixir, as the results of the Union-Tribune's readers' survey results on the war in Iraq show. Although I took in stride the insults of those who stampeded to war wrapped in the flag of false promises and war fever back in 2003, I can't help but fault them for their gullibility. Counted upon by the administration in the sale of this tragic blunder (and how they gleefully responded, especially here in San Diego County), those who supported the invasion initially are equally to blame for its current sad state, tactical errors not withstanding.
As brigades trudge off for their third, fourth and even fifth deployment, their somber mood in the face of George W. Bush's rallying call speaks volumes. Victory to the brave who signed up to go is coming home in one piece; a far more realistic goal than securing the oil wealth that lies below, beckoning – what it was really all about from the beginning.
STAN VEGAR, Sabre Springs
The reader survey results should be required reading for all our elected representatives in Washington, including our own Rep. Duncan Hunter. The clear statement from these grass-roots individuals is abundantly obvious, including that only 20 percent favor sending more American military personnel to Iraq, that only 39 percent even understand what the U.S. mission is in Iraq, and 66 percent favor an immediate withdrawal of American forces.
How will Congress, and Hunter, respond?
LAUREL GRAY, El Cajon
In response to the Jan. 14 letter asking “if the Democrats are willing to accept responsibility for a hasty withdrawal from Iraq,” I would like to ask when are the Republicans going to accept responsibility for not only letting, but encouraging, this terrible, unfounded war to begin with?
I remember well in early 2003 when no one in the media questioned what was happening. I and many others with clear eyes were branded as unpatriotic traitors. As soon as it became clear that the war in Iraq was a total mess, it became the fault of the Democrats for not having a plan. Since when is bringing our troops home not a plan? This war is ultimately the fault of this country for going there in the first place. That responsibility lies with George Bush, the Republicans and Democrats who aided and abetted him, the news media and all the citizens who allowed this to happen.
I hate choosing between American lives and Iraqi lives, but I am a patriot and will choose Americans every time.
SHELBY FLETCHER, El Cajon
The Bush administration appears to have a fixed mind-set that military aggression is the most effective way to achieve security in Iraq. The president again uses a fear-based appeal to the people of the United States to try to gain approval for further military escalation. He emphasized several times in his speech this month announcing the troop buildup the great danger extremists in the Middle East would pose to America if they were not destroyed.
President Bush often refers to the militant Iraqi extremist as killers while never articulating publicly that the U. S. coalition is also involved in the killing of innocent Iraqi civilians. Unjust wars such as the U.S. invasion of Iraq and atrocities such as those committed by Saddam Hussein have throughout history been justified by “true believers” of every religious and political persuasion as serving a greater ideal. President Bush tries to justify the increase in American troops and the number of additional lives that would be lost in this surge as serving the greater good of security, stability and democratic freedom.
A growing number of Americans and planetary citizens believe it is crucial to find other means of achieving peace and security.
LUIS M. CAREAGA, North Park
I am a retired chief petty officer. The outcry against the escalation of the war is not about not supporting the troops. It is about continuing a failed policy. Why does dissent against the war equate to not supporting the troops? Speaking out against the war is the best way to support the troops. Speaking out and bringing the troops home is the best policy; continuing the madness and getting more American soldiers and Marines killed and maimed by supporting the president is not patriotism.
Retired Navy Master Chief R.H. Boles (Letters, Jan. 13) has it wrong. Serving the military doesn't give you an understanding of war, it gives you a understanding of what it means to be part of the team and have the team wasted and squandered in a meaningless action. These men and women are not the “troops” – they are our brothers, sisters, friends and neighbors. Use those words instead of troops and then you understand the cost of war.
MIKE BENBROOK, Santee
Once again, Robert J. Caldwell has found another Bush policy that he likes and supports (“Last, Best Hope/Bush's new strategy for Iraq is a sensible, if belated, plan to salvage the U.S. mission,” Insight, Jan. 14). Unfortunately, there is no way to spin the fact that Iraq has become a disaster. Just last week a savage bombing at a university killed 75 students. What kind of a society does that? And Caldwell supports our continuing to occupy the country?
The disaster that Iraq has become is completely, totally 100 percent the result of George Bush's leadership, hard work, curiosity and intelligence. There is no way to spin it otherwise. Perhaps it is time for Caldwell to jump off the failed Bush bandwagon before the only passengers on that bandwagon are he, Laura and Barney.
MARK GRACYK, Lemon Grove
Weighing in on the debate over President Bush's “new strategy” in Iraq, I, too, am having difficulty in finding anything new in his “more of the same, but more of it” approach. What I really don't get, however, is the perception so many writers seem to have that if we remove our troops from Iraq, the country would automatically disintegrate into sectarian chaos. True, this is one possible outcome, but we seem to have quite a bit of that going on already.
Another outcome that is entirely possible, albeit uncertain, is that sectarian violence will diminish upon our withdrawal, and the Iraqi people will learn to work together to bring their country back from the abyss. The fact is that we are unwelcome occupiers of a foreign land, and no society can function in any manner that can be remotely considered normal while under foreign occupation. President Bush stood under a “Mission Accomplished” banner quite some time ago. Let's bring our brave young men and women home to a hero's welcome.
STEVE HARTMAN, Poway
In defense of the Virginia congressman
The Union-Tribune badly missed the mark on Rep. Virgil Goode's comments (“Lesson in bigotry/A Virginia veto of Muslim officeholders,” Editorial, Dec. 29). The problem is not with Keith Ellison being sworn in as a Minnesota congressman with his hand on a Bible, Koran or comic book. Who cares!
The issue is that radical Islam has declared war on the West and virtually every war on this planet involves Muslims trying to kill their neighbors. Look at Somalia, Chechnya, Kashmir, the Philippines, Indonesia and the Middle East. The bombings of skyscrapers, airplanes, embassies, subways and trains is almost always the handiwork of radical Muslims.
Why is he a bigot just because he doesn't want to see the United States turn into France where Muslim immigrants have decided that torching cars is their favorite sport? In Britain the Muslim mullahs are constantly and publicly inciting violence against the government and openly threatening that Britain's 9/11 is coming. It's clear to me that Goode is alert to this growing danger while the Union-Tribune continues to bow to the gods of political correctness.
PAUL W. THOMAS, Carlsbad
Putting the focus on Saudi Arabia
Regarding “Fearing a war between Iran and America” (Opinion, Jan. 12):
Has anyone wondered where the most support for Sunnis' insurgency in Iraq comes from? Saudi Arabia. President Bush made it very clear in his last speech that his administration is going after Iran and Syria because of their interference in Iraq. But why not the Saudis – a country without a democratic government? (Iran is a Shiite-majority country, and Syria supports Shiite Hezbollah, which controls much of southern Lebanon.)
The U.S. government under President Reagan sided with Iraq during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. The Saudi and American support ensured Iran didn't win the war, in order to stop the spread of Shiite influence in the Shiite-majority Iraq and become a threat to Sunni-majority governments in the Gulf region.
But thanks to the administration's poor post-war planning, the Iraqi Shiites took advantage of the opportunity and gained control of the government. But throughout, the Bush administration has been pushing for a “unity” government with Sunnis who chose not to participate in the election. Something that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the majority of Shiites find unacceptable. It would be as if asking the Bush administration to form a unity government with the Democrats!
The reality is that Shiites gained control of the government through a fair and democratic election, so if any country should be asked to stop meddling in Iraq's political affair it is the corrupt, undemocratic Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia.
ALI SHAHMIRI, San Diego
What is 'real goal' of war's buildup?
Is this really about only Iraq? Doesn't it sound all too simple? More troops to help the Iraqi government achieve objectives we have set for it? A partnered chain of command – whoever heard of one of these working?
The addition of more than 20,000 ground troops, the moving into the Persian Gulf of a second naval task force – the aircraft carrier Stennis and support ships. What powerful attack forces for quelling a civil disturbance! Is all of this really targeted to pacify a city and one province? What if the real goal is something different – a buildup of our total Middle East force, an attempt to goad Iran into appearing to be threatening, or maybe invent a false claim of atomic power? Then these forces would be ready to attack Iran, not Iraq. I hope that I am paranoid!
JOHN McLEVIE, Encinitas
On Lam's exit, history and Rove
Regarding “Lam's forced exit/Deplorable politics claims U.S. attorney” (Editorial, Jan. 17):
On reading the Jan. 16 letters (“Judging the actions against U.S. attorney”), I found myself in a most unusual position of agreeing with all of the authors. However, the editorial tossed history in a trash heap by conveniently forgetting that the very first official act of President Clinton was to fire 93 of the 94 sitting U.S. attorneys and replacing them with his own people. Whether the act of forcing seven U.S. attorney resignations on purely political grounds is correct and proper is not for me to decide.
All presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt have understood that controlling this limited number of men/women is to successfully control the performance of law enforcement or lack thereof within the United States. This is a sad state of affairs but it is a political reality that has existed, to one degree or another, as long as this country has had U.S. attorneys.
I have come to trust neither political party, not the right nor the left. And I am rapidly losing any faith in editorial writers who chose to ignore the history that they and Sen. Dianne Feinstein are fully aware of in order to “spin” the issue.
My limited knowledge of the U.S. Attorney's Office makes me think that things have so deteriorated that it has turned into political star chambers that can and does act to the detriment of our citizens. They are and have been used much like the sheriff of Nottingham was used by the kings of old in England.
BERNIE SWAIM, Santee
The quiet replacement of several U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration has Karl Rove's greasy palm prints all over it. Thanks to a brief, but dangerous, provision in the Patriot Act reauthorization, these replacements are not subject to approval by any oversight organization, including the courts, and have a two-pronged purpose: Stop current or potential Randy “Duke” Cunningham-and Tom Delay-like investigations, and 2) lay the foundation for future allegations against 2008 Democrat front-runners. No longer restricted to fruitless Arkansas and Washington $60 million red herring witch hunts, now dirty tricks can be carried out nationally and even more blatantly at taxpayer expense.
That Dianne Feinstein and other senators were aware of the slick inclusion of this historical change, yet did nothing to kick up a public outcry, is disheartening. True, the Dems were helpless to prevent its inclusion, but they could have reached out to the Internet and media to warn the public about Sen. Arlen Specter's sleight of hand for the sole purpose of furthering the Republican political agenda.
Democrats who feel recently empowered by the 2006 elections should not feel complacent. Karl Rove has obviously learned a lot this past year, and his election machine is no doubt being overhauled and turbocharged with one single-minded sweeping goal: Win by any means.
SHARON GRAHAM, Huntington Beach
Continued fallout over Lam's resignation
Regarding “Lam to resign Feb. 15 as speculation swirls” (A1, Jan. 17):
Here we go again. Smooth-talking Rep. Darrell Issa is going to try to explain to the public that there were logical reasons for the dismissal of U.S. Attorney Carol Lam. If she is reputed to have done a good job then what reason could there be for her departure? Because she serves at the pleasure of the president, Issa feels this is reason enough to show her the door. Good sales job, Issa. Why don't you try your hand at selling snake oil and car alarms.
WILBUR SMITH, San Diego
It looks like Carol Lam got her throat cut (politically speaking). She did nothing more than do her job, though the time and resources spent on prosecuting the former San Diego City Council members over attempts to repeal the no-touch rules at strip clubs were a waste of taxpayers' money (a federal judge overturned seven of the nine guilty verdicts against one defendant). She is to be commended for convicting Randy “Duke” Cunningham. In the cut-throat world of the George Bushies, nobody is safe. Katherine Harris found that out, too.
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ, San Diego
Bush administration must not circumvent Senate
Unsurprisingly, the first name to surface as the Justice Department's potential replacement for purged U.S. Attorney Carol Lam is that of Pat Shea, a La Jolla lawyer and one-time mayoral candidate who was a classmate of George W. Bush at Harvard Business School. Shea says he and the president remain in regular contact with each other and he voices keen interest in the job of U.S. attorney, but says he hasn't had direct talks with anyone at the Justice Department “yet.”
Lam was ousted this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales amid heavy criticism from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and other lawmakers who accuse the Justice Department of forcing out U.S. attorneys without cause. Lam's strong record of fighting political corruption and drug kingpins certainly did not provide any grounds for her dismissal.
In a clash yesterday with Feinstein during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Gonzales denied that politics had anything to do with the firings of several U.S. attorneys around the country. Shea is widely regarded as a top-notch business lawyer, but speculation that a presidential friend who has no prosecutorial experience is being considered as Lam's successor can only fuel the charges of cronyism being leveled against the Bush administration.
Having succeeded in dumping Lam, Gonzales now has the tempting option of bypassing the Senate confirmation process and appointing an “interim” U.S. attorney here to fill out the last two years of the Bush administration. Pursuing this course, which is made possible only by a dubious amendment to the Patriot Act, would be a colossal mistake, in our view. Whomever President Bush ultimately chooses to replace Lam, the appointee must possess the qualifications to withstand Senate scrutiny. The Constitution requires that the president receive the “advice and consent” of the Senate for judicial offices. In replacing Lam, the president should follow both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.
Lam's decision to resign as U.S. attorney
Regarding “Lam to resign Feb. 15 as speculation swirls” (A1, Jan. 17):
I am ashamed to be an American today. U.S. Attorney Carol Lam's forced exit when the next phase of the Randy “Duke” Cunningham investigation is starting is beyond politics as usual. This is a hard push to protect all the other corrupt people who have been at the Bush trough for years. Look at the math: Investigation plus Lam equals loss of pork for the corrupt; investigation minus Lam equals continued pork for the corrupt. Do they think we are that stupid?
Write us The San Diego Union-Tribune welcomes letters to the editor. Because of the number of letters received, and to allow as many readers as possible to be published, it is the policy of the newspaper to publish no more than one letter from the same author within 120 days. Letters may be edited. It is also our policy to publish letters supporting or opposing a particular issue in a ratio reflecting the number received on each side.
To be considered for publication, a letter must include an address, daytime phone number and, if faxed or mailed, be signed. It may be sent to Letters Editor, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Post Office Box 120191, San Diego, CA 92112-0191, faxed to (619) 260-5081 or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters submitted may be used in print or in digital form in any publication or service authorized by the Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
NANCY REED, Escondido
Our Sen. Dianne Feinstein either has a poor memory or is being most disingenuous when she said, “It is surprising to me to see that she (Lam) would be, in effect, forced out, without cause.” She and other senators suggested the resignation requests are politically motivated. I guess the senator doesn't recall that President Clinton fired all 93 U.S. attorneys at the beginning of his first term. Was that “politics at play” or was it ensuring that all federal prosecutors were personally beholden to him? I'd guess both!
NEIL O'KEEFE, San Diego
The president and the troop surge
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., says, “We've got to start bringing our folks home” (“Bush plans surge in troops to steady troubled regions, GOP senators say,” News, Jan. 9).
I am a Marine Corps veteran and would like to ask if the Democrats are willing to accept responsibility for a hasty withdrawal from Iraq? Will they be willing to accept responsibility for the carnage that will ensue when the void is created? Things are bad now but with a withdraw or reduction in troops, they would be worse. If they are willing to accept the responsibility of the explosion of civilian deaths, then I am with them. But if they think that when the bodies start piling up they will be able to pass the blame to the Republicans, then in '08 my vote will demonstrate discontent.
LUIS A. PEREZ, San Diego
This president is like a compulsive gambler: Even when he does not have a winning hand he cannot stop himself from throwing good money after bad, hoping each time that the outcome will be different. Sad to say, this gamble isn't with just a few dollars, but with the lives of men and woman of the military who will follow their commander in chief wherever he leads.
America has spent enough blood and treasure warring against people who had nothing to do with the devastation of 9/11. Time for Bush to fire his rifle from the balcony of the White House to celebrate that he's won “the mother of all battles,” dispatched Saddam Hussein as a threat, and allowed the Iraqi people, not one, but three democratic elections since our invasion to get them launched on the road to democracy.
Then announce that he's immediately bringing our troops home for a celebration like no other.
BARNEY SCOTT, Spring Valley
I listened to the president's speech with astonishment. I heard “terrorists,” “war on terror” and other variations of the “T” word until my lids began to droop. Sadly, what was lacking was any significant mention of “civil war.” Bob Woodward's “State of Denial,” a depressing chronicle of this administration's inability to perceive reality as it is, rather than how it wants it to be, highlighted a problem that seems not to have gone away, but instead to have gotten worse. How, for example, can an attack in Iraq by Iraqis on other Iraqis returning home from a religious pilgrimage to Mecca (“Pilgrim convoy attacked returning from Mecca,” News, Jan. 11), be construed as a part of al-Qaeda's terrorist campaign against us? To call such a clearly indigenous civil conflict a war of terror against the coalition reflects a warped and confused perception.
We now know that Nixon became unstable toward the end. May we now be seeing a similar event unfolding? The irony, of course, is that the delusion is shared, and perhaps even originates, from the vice president. What an incredible irony if the two of them were driven to disability by clinging to illusion rather than reality, thus bringing the speaker of the House to Pennsylvania Avenue!
RICHARD F. PRINCE, San Diego
I am vehemently opposed to the president's plan to increase our troop strength in Iraq. I don't trust him to order a “temporary” surge, because he is not truthful about the deteriorating situation on the ground. He's ignoring any outside advice from the Baker/Hamilton commission, his fellow politicians or from his commanders, except those whom he has hand-picked to agree with him. It's shameless that he holds out promotions to four stars to get his commanders' support.
Bush is a loser who surrounded himself with losing recommendations from Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. If he truly had compassion for his soldiers, he would start removing them from this uncontrollable danger. Has no one seen the “Fog Of War,” where President Lyndon Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara were talking just like our leaders today? Another “retreat with honor” for America's current misguided political leaders.
JOHN BEAVER, San Diego
Regarding “The 'Surge'/Move is designed to save the Bush presidency” (Opinion, Jan. 10). The headline says it all. By all means, let's send more American troops into harm's way in order to save an already spectacularly failed presidency, never mind the potential further loss of life.
JACKIE McELVENY, San Diego
Not on the same page as Caldwell
Regarding “Winning in Iraq” (Insight, Jan. 7): Describing President Bush as demolishing doubts about the direction in which he is leaning in regards to a new strategy on Iraq, Robert J. Caldwell quotes the president in a Pentagon briefing as saying, “What I want to hear from you is how we're going to win, not how we're going to leave.” In other words, listening to the commanders on the ground really means “tell me what I want to hear or else.” Gens. John Abizaid and Peter Pace have already experienced what happens when you don't get on board with the “surge.”
Caldwell then goes on to tell us how the first step to “victory” has occurred with the replacement of Rumsfeld, Abizaid and Pace. An odd endorsement for someone who has defended Rumsfeld for years. In the last paragraph, he states: “Bush will be condemned and vilified for saying all this and for believing that victory, however loosely defined, is still possible in Iraq. He'll also be right.”
Caldwell has never met a Bush policy or opinion that he doesn't agree with.
SAMUEL H. SHEPPARD, San Diego
Once again, Caldwell leads the cheers for President Bush and his ill-conceived, ill-planned debacle in Iraq. Caldwell and the administration provide the same erroneous rationale for increasing troops that was used in Vietnam: If we don't send more Americans to their deaths, Southeast Asia (read Middle East) will fall like dominoes.
Even in Vietnam (also a civil war) my men and I had a better chance of survival than in Iraq where over 60 percent of the population think it's OK to kill an American. Unlike the fear-mongering espoused by Bush and his lemmings, the truth is the world will not end if Iraq is left to the Iraqis. Now that Saddam cannot launch the non-existent WMDs against the United States on a moment's notice, a withdrawal would only lessen the senseless deaths of more of America's best, and cease to inflame the majority of Iraqis intent on getting U.S. troops off their soil.
The Iraqis have to figure out how to get along, and must decide for themselves what is the best way to do it. At this point all Bush and his supporters are trying to do is have the inevitable pullout happen on someone else's watch. This is not a good justification for losing more American lives. If our president and his sycophants have to win at something, I and the majority of Americans would prefer they try something that didn't require American service personnel getting killed for nothing.
ED KNOWLES, San Diego
Positive stories on Iraq not getting out
The letters of John A. Buck and Linda Wheeler (“Accentuate the positive in war coverage,” Jan. 7) are right on about your writing only the bad news about the Iraq war. All we hear is 3,000-plus dead, insurgents gaining on Iraqi soldiers, blah, blah. The economy there is growing at a rate faster than ours, business is good there, goods are selling.
Please print the positive stuff along with your negative comments. I have never talked to a soldier who has anything but praise for the good stuff we are doing there, so please lighten up on the bad stuff you perceive.
JOAN SZABO, San Diego
Readers Buck and Wheeler are absolutely correct. It seems that publishers, editors and reporters will report anything as long as it sells papers, and violence is the primary thing that sells papers. Pictures of the conflict invariably show soldiers or Marines dead or badly wounded, but where are the pictures of Iraqi citizens thanking members of our armed forces for the helpful things they have done? Editorials and columns are published every day criticizing the government of Iraq for incompetence and greed, but where are the stories of the government doing the best it can while Sunnis and Shiites battle them, and sometimes each other? Good things are happening every day in the Middle East but they are rarely mentioned, and if they are, they are treated like side issues of no importance.
DON PRISBY, San Diego
Questioning the appointment of Fallon
The appointment of Adm. William J. Fallon as chief of Central Command with the responsibility of military ground and air actions in Iraq and Afghanistan will surely raise questions as to why a naval officer, with little to no experience in Middle Eastern affairs and lacking “boots on the ground” military experience, would be appointed as commander in this area.
Will George Bush's “self-fulfilling prophecy of Armageddon” be accomplished through limited pre-emptive nuclear strikes on Iran using the United States Navy? Will the reward for our greed and lust for petroleum be continued terrorism from countries with this natural resource or even worse, an all-out nuclear holocaust? Time will tell what will happen to the United States and the world under these strange times.
KENT HILL, University City
Remove clerics from Iraq political stage
It is surprising that no one seems to recognize the role of the clerics in Iraq. Clearly, Moqtada al-Sadr fancies himself to be the next leader on the throne of Iraq. And what is Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's role in the day's political activities? There is only silence there.
Al-Sadr not only has created the Mahdi Army to assure his political future. He even has a significant group in the parliament, a group that has just walked out a couple of times. Even the chairman of that group, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, has paid a visit to al-Sadr to calm the waters. Curiously, the strife in Iraq appears to have increased dramatically since that visit. Yet, all these car bombings and other underhanded tricks seem to have no coordinating effort. Yet they become more destructive every day. It strikes me that this is just the kind of battle that al-Sadr would command.
Remove the clerics from the political arena, send them back to being clerics and these disasters may well diminish.
ROBERT J. HOFFMAN, San Diego
Debating merits of the troop buildup
The majority of Americans voted against President Bush's plan, a distinguished, bipartisan panel advised against it, and still the guy is going to go into a deeper version of “staying the course.” I don't get it. I'd like to see us get in all the way (draft, gasoline rationing to not import any Mideast oil) and lock the country completely down or get out and not pussyfoot around like we've been doing for the past four years. Bush is going to stumble along until he gets out of office so that the news shots of the last Americans being rescued by helicopter from the American Embassy will be on someone else's head.
RAY RODGERS, San Diego
So we are sending more troops into Iraq to calm things down? Never mind that we already sent more troops in last year and it didn't calm things down. In a recent engagement, Iraqi soldiers killed some 30 insurgents during an operation to clear an unauthorized checkpoint and then called for U.S. assistance after several Iraqi soldiers were killed (“Bush to press for buildup; Baghdad battle rages,” A-1, Jan. 10). Our answer? Troops, Stryker armored vehicles, TOW missiles, Mark-19 grenade launchers, Apache helicopters with Hell-fire missiles and of course F-15 fighter jets. The Iraqi army possesses none of these, never mind knowing how to use them. But that's what it took to quell the fighting and eventually kill about 50 more insurgents in Baghdad? Wow. Now when we turn over the responsibility of protecting their own country to the Iraqis, what are they going to use? So even with our training, we still use tanks and they use pickup trucks. So please tell me what another 20,000 troops are going to accomplish.
BILL MANNING, Spring Valley
Listening to President Bush and his decision to “surge” over 20,000 more troops to Iraq reminds me of Vietnam and the push to do anything to save face on this wrong-headed war. When Bush said, “When victory is achieved it will not be celebrated like that of your fathers and grandfathers, on a battleship.” If that doesn't take the cake! Remember when Bush landed on that aircraft carrier off San Diego several years ago, donned in a flight suit with a huge sign stating “Mission Accomplished”? And then, to announce that turncoat Joe Lieberman would help head a committee to advise the president on progress in Iraq, must have had the Democrats gasping! If anything good came out of the 2000 election it was that Joe Lieberman is not vice president. We can only hope and pray that clearer and more thoughtful thinking by those in Congress can end this terrible wrong in Iraq that has turned world opinion against our country.
ROGER G. LOWNEY, San Diego
With few exceptions, they have not served in the armed forces during wartime.
Having spent a career in the military (retired Navy master chief), I think one thing is evident. The loud negativisms coming from Congress over the president's move to improve conditions in Iraq are the same people who were against the Vietnam War. They have and always will be devoid of understanding what war is about, and the necessity to do things not “popular.” With few exceptions, they have not served in the armed forces during wartime. Their unwise answers enflame the public, who mostly don't understand war anyway. The generals who have retired and are now siding with Congress are trying to make a name for themselves, because they didn't, in most cases, when they were on active duty. It better serves our country that the naysayers keep a lid on it and pray for our troops. Mother always said, if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. Good advice. God bless the troops and the USA.
R.H. BOLES, San Diego
White House firing of U.S. attorney
Regarding “Lam is asked to step down” (A-1, Jan. 12):
Firing U.S. Attorney Carol Lam for spending more time prosecuting crooked politicians such as former Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham instead of immigration violations and drug smuggling is, to say the least, absolutely amazing. There is certainly a real need to do something about the problems these issues raise but on the scale of 1 to 10, they really do not rank anywhere near the seriousness of the egregious misdeeds of our own elected officials. We would be far better off if more of our U.S. attorneys would, as apparently Lam did, spend more time pursuing the miscreant politicians, lobbyists and military contractors.
I was fortunate to serve on a jury when Lam presided as a Superior Court judge. That certainly does not make me an expert on her abilities but in the five days during the trial I did form the opinion that she was intelligent, diligent and very dedicated to the successful use of our system of jurisprudence. The president should do the right thing and reconsider his decision. We need him to appoint more dedicated public servants like Judge Carol Lam.
ALLEN NELSON, Fallbrook
The irrational and bully tactics of the Bush administration know no bounds. Before he is gone, and long after the time that he will be gone, people like Carol Lam will be needed to keep the country going. I sat in her courtroom as a prospective juror once, as have others I know. Agree or disagree with any position she may take, she is a thoughtful, proactive individual and a credit to our judicial system.
MARGO FOX PICOU, Carlsbad
To me, there is little mystery behind the Bush administration quietly asking Carol Lam to step down. The most salient aspect of Lam's record is the successful prosecution of the most egregious political corruption case in congressional history, former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham. The Cunningham scandal was a major factor in the Republican election losses. Not too many dots to connect. She bit the hand that fed her, and was bit back. This kind of vindictive political action has no proper place in the dismissal of an United States attorney.
ED BRADEL, Chula Vista
Diplomacy is key to finding a war exit
The Iraq Study Group's recommendation for broad regional diplomacy – including with Iran and Syria – is a necessary step toward bringing our troops home from Iraq. This is Bush's big mistake and where he must change first.
The ball is in the president's court; he needs to start the diplomacy and soon. Only the president can engage in diplomacy. If he fails to act, it will be harder to bring our troops home, and the loss of life will get worse.
The United States has always engaged in diplomacy – we talked with the Soviet Union all the time during the Cold War. We talked with China. Former Secretary of State James Baker got it right when he said, “I believe in talking to your enemies.”
If President Bush doesn't act, the new Congress should hold his feet to the fire. Democrats were elected with a mandate to figure out how to bring our troops home. Diplomacy is an essential part of making that happen.
CAROLYN LEBO, Encinitas
Time to face reality in Iraq
If the strife and violence that is occurring in Iraq were occurring in California, the federal government would declare martial law. Why do we not do this in Iraq?
Although the Iraq Study Group has made a significant step toward a more truthful assessment of Iraq, it still ignored two realities. First, Iraq does not exist. It is not a cohesive nation. There is no national identity. The second reality involves the training of Iraqi security forces. The people of the region carry deep loyalties to family, clan, village and religious group. These loyalties cannot be “trained out” of them. They are a part of each individual's identity.
When Iraqi army or police units are put in place and charged to keep order, these ancient loyalties will become operative. Many individuals will maintain their allegiance to family, clan and religious group before they will maintain allegiance to the central government. Some may remain loyal to the government, but many will not. Desertions and intra-unit strife will be rampant. In effect, we are not training and equiping Iraqi security forces, but are training the militias and factional armies of tomorrow that will perpetuate and expand the all-out civil war that will ensue when we draw down our forces.
In reality, we have only one viable alternative. We need to do what would be done in California. We must discard the idea of democracy for now, immediately declare martial law and set up an absolute government with far-reaching powers to suppress all factions and opposition. This is the only way stability can be attained so that we can withdraw without the country sinking into a conflagration. Also, if we are truly interested in democracy, we must begin negotiations involving Iraqi groups and regional governments on partitioning. This is the only solution.
These ideas fly in the face of all our dreams we had for Iraq, but we need to stop dreaming and face reality – the sooner the better.
JOHN MUSTOL, San Diego
Accentuate the positive in war coverage
On Jan. 1, the Union-Tribune featured a front-page article in bold type stating “U.S. military deaths in Iraq reach 3,000.” As a member of an assault demolition squad with the 1st Marine Division, I landed on the island of Peleliu, east of the Southern Philippine Islands, on Sept. 15, 1944. Peleliu was a coral limestone island that the Japanese had reinforced with hundreds of bunkers, tunnels and caves. We carried 25-and 40-pound shape charges to demolish the double-thick steel doors at the entrances to these defensive positions.
Bloody fighting was fierce and continued for 12 days, when the island was secured and the American flag raised. Marine Corps casualties numbered 6,526, of whom 1,252 were killed in action.
As a three-war veteran of the Marine Corps, I believe the media should strive to report positive military results and not dwell on the negative ones. It is vitally essential to support our military forces during wartime operations.
JOHN A. BUCK, San Diego
Once again I am seriously considering canceling my subscription to your newspaper after reading the front-page articles. Your Dec. 30 headline, “Hussein Hanged,” was appropriate and even the right-hand column was OK, though it made it seem as though he had been executed (tsk tsk) for almost a minor offense. It wasn't until the inside pages that there was any information about how much terror the man had poured on his own people through the years.
What I am really angry about is the left-hand “analysis” column (“Chaos has now eclipsed brutality of his regime”), which was pure propaganda of a very negative sort. It may be that the chaos in parts of Iraq, particularly Baghdad, has taken front and center attention. But that is not because there is nothing else going on.
The media focus on how many dead, how many car bombs, how many snipers, to the exclusion of anything good. I hear things from soldiers on the ground through an occasional letter that gets home, or an intrepid interviewer, that there are many things being done by our troops to aid in the normalization of life there.
Where are the stories about schools being opened? Where are the stories about shops and business that are doing well? I heard a humorous remark the other day that said the national flag of Iraq should display the satellite dish because the country was filled with them. Something must be going right if the people can afford satellite dishes and the TV sets to go with them.
Granted, things are far from settled over there, but there are everyday people living everyday lives. Shopkeepers and school children moving forward. With our help. Why isn't it reported?
LINDA WHEELER, Alpine
Visitor log release shouldn't be a concern
Regarding “White House wants visitor records secret” (News, Dec. 14):
I read with interest the small article tucked away on page A13. The Bush administration subjects Americans to warrantless wiretaps, assuring us that we need not worry about our loss of privacy if we are law-abiding citizens. This is an “unprecedented intrusion” into our private lives!
I believe that if Vice President Cheney has nothing to hide, he needn't worry about the public release of visitor logs, but should be happy to provide them for public scrutiny. After all, his secrets impact the country more than mine do!
DONNA McGILL, San Diego
Debating U-T on Democrats' 'backslide'
Regarding “A return to civility?/Democrats backslide on bipartisanship vow” (Editorial, Jan. 3):
Actually, you answered your question. Democrats didn't take over until last week, as your editorial noted. Yet, you are already castigating them for breaking vows of bipartisanship. You are uncivil!
Of course, Republicans are always “right.” Sure your new minority position “represents almost half the voters in the nation.” You never commented much about that when Republicans were in control. Be patient. Be civil. Maybe you'll get what you've been so weak in giving, civility.
HAROLD HEATH, Mira Mesa
The Union-Tribune is now crying that the new House leadership is “backsliding on [their] bipartisanship vow.” I would like to ask what did the editors think would happen? What we had with the former Republican leadership was the absolute worst that could have been expected.
The Republicans boasted that they did not have to cooperate with the Democrats because they could push through anything they wanted. Americans lost their checks-and-balances government. We ended up with a Republican war that has resulted in the deaths of over 3,000 Americans, torture of prisoners, weakening of the Bill of Rights, a massive financial debt and the pushing through of extremist, right-wing legislation that further divides our country. In addition, Dennis Hastert, the former speaker, may have covered for a child-molesting legislator. Now those are real family values.
Yes, Americans do want bipartisan cooperation in Congress, but we also got tired of the actions and ethics of the Republicans. The dismally low approval ratings of George W. Bush are not just a cry for bipartisanship. Americans want a major change, something that Republicans still don't get.
Republican supporters don't have to worry that the country is going to the left, we are just drifting back to the center where the country should have been. Checks and balances are back in government. Sure, the Democrats control the House, but their control of the Senate hangs on a thread, and there is still the oversight of presidential vetoes.
Republicans need to stop hypocritically crying about bipartisanship and start working with the Democrats to move our great country ahead.
NORM OLSON, San Diego
Saddam Hussein was a vicious, cruel destroyer of people
There is no question that Saddam Hussein was a vicious, cruel destroyer of people in his country and rightfully convicted of heinous crimes against humanity. That does not make it all right to display the barbaric act of hanging another human being.
The other issue of the hanging and public viewing of it can only serve to incite the various religious factions in Iraq and around the world. Saddam's hanging will not bring back the 3,000 precious American lives lost, nor the many thousands of innocent Iraqi lives lost. Killing him does not justify the illegal war against Iraq, which did not cause the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.
OK, so they hanged Saddam Hussein. Now can we get out of Iraq?
It is impossible to view the death of Saddam Hussein as anything other than an American action. We invaded his country, we toppled him from power, we hunted him down, we captured him and handed him over from our own prison for trial and execution by his enemies. If one American is killed in retribution for this it will be too high a price to pay for the death of this brutal thug.
Moreover, by associating with, much less supporting, governments that punish their citizens by putting ropes around their necks and hanging them we concede to ourselves the righteousness of such despicable behavior. How can we possibly convince the Middle East that there is an alternative to violence by imposing greater violence?
The Union-Tribune has finally gone over the top. To publish the “Analysis” by The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny with the headline “Chaos has now eclipsed brutality of his regime” (A1, Dec. 30) is simply disgusting.
Here was a man who was responsible for the murders and torture of millions of people and now this chaos has eclipsed that? I have been a subscriber of your paper for over 35 years and have watched as your paper has moved steadily to the left with its news service-provided content. This, however, truly makes me sick to my stomach.
I fervently opposed the merciful hanging of Saddam Hussein. He should have been driven north and let out alone on the main street in Kirkuk for a reunion with the Kurds. Oh yes, to satisfy their blood lust, the media should have been allowed to follow along.
Wow, Saddam Hussein executed within four days of losing his appeal. If he lived in California it would have taken 40 years.
The Iraqis wasted no time in carrying out their executions of convicted felons. Perhaps we should do the same.
It is likely that the quick rush to conviction and execution spared many a great deal of embarrassment. The trial omitted so many other crimes including the use of gas against the Iranians during the long Iranian-Iraq war.
This deprived Saddam of the opportunity in his defense to point out the firms and nations that supplied him with chemical and biological weapons before he invaded Kuwait. It also derived the Iraqis of a fuller accounting of his tyranny.
Surely Saddam was guilty of many crimes and deserved to be convicted. But the United States had aided him in his war with Iran and supplied him with some weapons of mass destruction as long as he tyrannized only his own people and did not invade Kuwait and was perceived as our good dictator.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., stated before the United States Senate on Sept. 26, 2002, that he had “letters from the CDC and the American Type Culture Collection laying out the dates of shipments, who they were sent to, and what they included. This list is extensive and scary – anthrax, botulinum toxin, and gas gangrene to name just a few. There were dozens and dozens of these pathogens shipped to various ministries within the government of Iraq.”
The removal of Saddam without a fair trial shields many others from blame and is a mockery of normal legal procedures.
William J. Aceves' “History's judgment of Saddam's trial” (Opinion, Jan. 1) is not worthy of being on the bottom of my birdcage much less in your paper. The director of the International Legal Studies Program at California Western School of Law is a perfect example of a professor who needs to come out of his ivory tower and join the real world.
The first point I will make is that Saddam was in a trial conducted by Iraqi law not United States law and not international law. Saddam's crimes were against the Iraqi people, therefore Iraqi law was applied.
Luckily for Saddam, he was served justice by a rule of their law and not Saddam's law. If it was Saddam's justice he would have been executed as he crawled out of his spider hole.
Oh no! Did Army Special Forces forget to read him his Miranda rights? How many times do they have to kill Saddam for all the trials Aceves wants? Does it really matter to try him on all the other crimes against humanity that he perpetrated? That will be recorded in history. Do we have to have trials for the next 20 years? Are we just looking to keep lawyers busy?
Comparing Saddam's trial to Nuremberg is total bloviating. Hitler, et al, were committing crimes against humanity throughout Europe not just one country and deserved an international trial. I am sure if Aceves were in the same position in the late '40s he could have found fault with Nuremberg also.
Aceves must be clueless to the power Saddam Hussein had even while in prison. The people were still terrified that he would come back into their lives.
I would suggest Professor Aceves get up to speed with the real world. I, myself just a high school graduate who works as blue-collar laborer, can find flaws with every bullet point in his opinion. I know you can find better.
TIMOTHY J. WITUCKY
Vietnam as learning lesson for Iraq
Regarding “The right type of surge” (Opinion, Dec. 28):
It all seems so simple, so rational. Retired Gen. Jack Keane and Frederick Kagan explain why all we need in Iraq is another 30,000 American combat troops for a year and a half, and our “surge” will succeed. Truly, it takes us Americans one generation to forget each catastrophe so we can repeat it. Yet some of us do remember that we had a half-million troops in Vietnam at the height of that doomed adventure, but we never could defeat the enemy who lived there.
It's 31 years, now, since those helicopters flew ignominiously away from our fallen embassy in Saigon. Can't we learn something from defeat? Sending thousands more young Americans to Iraq, for whatever term of months or years, would only delay history, will only offer the killers more targets, would only – in Thomas L. Friedman's words – send good lives after good lives.
RON BONN, Tierrasanta
Look back to Vietnam before considering a rash withdrawal from Iraq. It was after that conflict that some of the stark realities of losing came home to roost. After North Vietnam took control of the south, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were killed or put in re-education camps for being on the wrong side of the struggle. Similar numbers fled the country only to find themselves living in refugee camps throughout the world for up to a decade.
In America after 1975, the morale in our military hit an all-time low. The nation was tired of conflict. Funding dried up for military training and new weapons technology. And, as a result of our Vietnam debacle, our standing in the world declined considerably. Iran saw this weakness and in 1979 imprisoned our embassy personnel for over a year. Russian sensed weakness in the United States and in 1979 invaded Afghanistan. The Sandinistas in Nicaragua became emboldened and overthrew the Somoza government.
As a result of this lack on confidence in the United States, the dollar fell to all-time lows on the currency markets. The economy spun out of control in an hyperinflationary environment.
Although the Iraqi conflict may be different than Vietnam, the outcome of a hasty withdrawal would certainly mirror the Vietnamese experience verse by verse, line by line. A withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq – before Iraq is secure from within and secure from threats by surrounding countries – would create an all-out civil war. A civil war with unimaginable carnage and refugees by the hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions. Iran, as the region's largest military power, would use this instability to solidify its influence over the region, as the Russians did in southeast Asia.
In the United States, our standing in the world, which is currently suffering, would be beaten down severely. We could expect, as in post-Vietnam, a fall in military morale. We could expect, as in Vietnam, that our adversaries throughout the world would take advantage of our weakened state. And, we could expect the ever-growing lack of confidence in the United States to pummel the dollar, directly impacting our economy. The solutions to the problems in Iraq will not come easily.
The Iraq Study Group was a beginning. Perhaps we need another study group, and another and another.
Along with a complete state of martial law, the disarming of all militias should be mandatory. The radical Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr needs to be brought to justice.
Freedom comes at a heavy cost. The stakes are too high to not give this our highest priority. There is a solution if there is a will to find it. Let's not relive the post-Vietnam War experience again.
ROBERT ROSS, San Diego
Arab tribal politics are not our concern
Regarding “The Mideast: 15 rules to live by” (Opinion, Dec. 21):
Finally, some common sense. The key point in the commentary was Arab tribal politics. This is what separates the current situation in Iraq from the “war on terror.” They are not the same though there is a connection. Islamic terror survives in the shelter of tribal loyalties.
The long-term threat to freedom in the world is not Arab tribal politics; it is Islamic fundamentalism, sometimes referred to as Islamic fascism. Islamic fundamentalism with its political agenda is the enemy of each and every country and individual in the world. That ideology is mother and father of today's terror in the world. World terror does have an Islamic basis that is undeniable. Tribal politics are a threat to Mideast peace but not world or American freedom. President Bush seems to have confused the two (tribal vs. terror).
Let's get back on track. Go after the terror, and let tribal issues resolve themselves. Their country, their choice, but it is not in our power to force. We've given them their chance. It's up to them to take it or continue the killing.
WILLIAM DeBERG, San Diego
Blood donors come from political spectrum
Regarding “The gift tonic/A generous people reap charity's benefits” (Editorial, Dec. 25):
I doubt the statement by Arthur C. Brooks that liberals do not donate blood as often as conservatives. How would Brooks know? I am a regular donor – five or six times a year – and am quite familiar with the questionnaire at the blood bank. There are many questions concerning health issues, but nothing remotely connected to the political ideology of the donor.
Obviously neither Brooks nor the editorial writer are blood donors, or they would know the absurdity of that statement. I think that comment is just made up out of “whole cloth,” as my grandmother used to say. With this statement in question, I doubt the credibility of the whole editorial.
LUCILLE DYER Oceanside
The gift tonic
A generous people reap charity's benefits
The holidays are famously a season of giving. This can be stressful, what with the crowds, the credit card bills and the nagging feeling that something has been forgotten.
Thank goodness the season also represents the annual peak of charitable giving. Many studies have found that giving and volunteering correspond to improved health and happiness.
“In other words, we need to give for our own good,” writes Syracuse University professor Arthur C. Brooks, author of the eye-opening new book on charity called “Who Really Cares?”
Perhaps these tonic effects explain why Americans in December donate about a third of the quarter-trillion dollars we give away each year. Indeed, Americans are the world's most generous people, both in total giving and per-person. As households, we give seven times as much as Germans and 14 times as much as Italians.
At the same time, not every American is so generous; 85 million households give money each year to nonprofit organizations, but 30 million do not. A look at who is doing the donating is illuminating.
For example, as a percentage of income the working poor give more than the middle class. As a percentage of income, the working poor are as generous as the rich. Meanwhile, welfare recipients give the least. As Brooks notes, poverty does not discourage charity in the United States, but welfare does.
Another surprise is that people who are politically liberal (defined as favoring more income redistribution by government) are relatively stingy. Conservatives donate four times as much as liberals. So the folks who talk the most about curing poverty tend to do the least. And it's not just money; the U.S. blood supply would increase 45 percent if liberals gave blood like conservatives.
Then there is the powerful influence of religion. People who attend a house of worship once a week give 50 percent more money to non-religious charities than their secular counterparts. One large survey found that a religious person is 57 percent more likely to help a homeless person. And the religious are more likely to return lost money.
We bring this up not to shame the minority who are unable or unwilling to give, but rather to celebrate the overwhelming, generous majority.
It is beyond dispute that the needy among us are best helped by donations of time and money from individuals. Most private charities are vastly more efficient and effective than government programs.
And when the occasional charity becomes top-heavy and ineffective, it quickly loses donors to well-run competitors. Such pressure to shape up or become extinct is absent from the public sector.
Brooks argues convincingly that policy-makers must resist the various political and societal forces that discourage charitable giving. It's just too important.
For the rest of us, there are always the health benefits of donating, putting a new spin on the old hedonists' mantra, “If it feels good, do it.”
Let the military do its job in Iraq
My dad who served in Korea in the U.S Navy always said that politicians will get you killed.
It didn't take long for the partisan politics to begin after the recent election. Why don't the elected officials stay out of the way and let the military take care of business in Iraq? They are there in the middle of the conflict and not thousands of miles away playing Monday-morning quarterback second-guessing everything our dedicated young men and women are doing for their country.
I am so proud to be an American and represented by our armed forces. They will get the job done as usual if all the so-called experts stay out of their way. It seems to me that Congress (Republicans and Democrats) can't seem to get their act together so my advice is to leave the military alone and try to accomplish something here at home for a change.
And while I am on the subject, why does the news media have to print the number of soldiers killed in the war every day? We know American lives are being lost but I wonder if the news media had this obsession during World War II? The cost of freedom has always been high. Have we forgotten that our country lost close to 300,000 soldiers in battle deaths in World War II? Have we lost our resolve as a nation? Our young people in the military have not. What about our elected officials and us?
MIKE SANCHEZ, Carmel Valley
I feel the war in the Middle East is a battle that the United States needs to finish. We are taking casualties but that's what happens when you are in a war, and we need to show them that terrorism will not be tolerated. If we pull out now it will show a form of weakness and in doing so history may repeat itself; Sept. 11 does not need to happen again. So let's take down the threats, clean out the cities, educate the people, and establish a government that will not become corrupt. Then let's talk about going home. Until then, support our troops because they are doing an awesome job and we must truly respect that.
NICHOLAS MOLSBERRY, Chula Vista
Both of these gentlemen are sadly ignorant.
- Operation Iraqi Liberation is not about terrorism, it's about oil and greed. It's an illegal extension of the neo-con political power grab.
- We the people elected the Democrats to reign in Neo-con Fascist corruption and put Bush, Cheney, Rumsfel and their operatives behind bars.
- The First Amendment protection of freedom of the press is vital to our continued existence. The Neo-cons are tearing down the constitution while they are senselessly killing our troops for an illegal war. Didn't these people learn anything from WWII, Korea and Viet Nam?
- Mr. Molserry's leaders have led the US into an endless war. Peace ends war. Fascist bombing of foreign cities and converting the people to Christianity will result in the corruption practiced by Randy DUKE Cunningham, Tom Delay, Runsfeld, Bush, Cheney.
- Support our troops by not killing them. Explain to the troops that they were used in an illegal war. Put the leaders of that war in prison.
Conservative media should challenge policies
Since the president has delayed his decision on Iraq until after the new year, I think it would be advisable to at least look at the Iraq Study Group report. It is a bipartisan and sober look at the situation in Iraq.
I do not know what the reason for Bush's delay is. If Bush thinks the situation will improve, he is delusional. If he thinks sending in more troops provides less targets, he is delusional. If he thinks this will go away by ignoring it, he is dysfunctional.
If the generals are to be believed, according to the report, it would not solve the problem. The Iraq fiasco will not start to be resolved until the conservative media has the courage to tell the neocons and the president, the way Howard Baker told Nixon, that it is time to pull the plug. If we continue down this path of waiting to turn the corner, we will destroy our military readiness to defend this country.
I ask the conservative media,like the Union-Tribune, Fox News, and the like, to step forward and do the right thing. What will define us as a people or an institution is what we do when confronted with adversity. Do we continue to ignore facts and cling to false beliefs or do we change course and adjust to reality? The ball is in the court of Bush and the right-wing media. They can choose to do the right thing or just keep digging.
JAMES C. DUNN San Diego
Bush's hollow words
Ever since the Vietnam fiasco, the U.S. military has been extraordinarily wary of fighting a guerrilla war, perceiving such wars as hugely difficult to win and extremely messy. This history is what makes Peter J. Boyer's Nov. 20 New Yorker article particularly wrenching and disheartening.
Boyer documents how in the months after the U.S. seized Baghdad, senior military and Bush administration officials refused to acknowledge the emergence of an insurgency in Iraq – because it was not what they predicted would happen, and it was not what our forces were suited to deal with. In other words, because of pride and denial.
When Army Vice Chief of Staff Jack Keane observed that a classic insurgency had formed, he got “pushback” from Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the joint chiefs, who said Keane should be careful about using the term “insurgency.”
When Paul Wolfowitz, deputy to Pentagon boss Donald Rumsfeld, made a similar observation, he too got “pushback” from Rumsfeld and from Gen. Tommy Franks, who as head of the Army's Central Command was in charge of Iraq military efforts.
When Gen. John Abizaid took over from Franks and warned that the U.S. was up against a “classical guerrilla-type campaign,” he “got his [butt] handed to him,” said Keane.
This is appalling. Because of a refusal to acknowledge reality, we stuck with a policy that had gotten thousands of brave Americans killed and far more maimed for life.
I backed the invasion. But I and millions of others did so with the expectation that the war would be competently managed. It wasn't. And even if I continue to think George W. Bush understands the perils the world faces because of Islamofascism with much more clarity than most U.S. and almost all European politicians, this doesn't excuse the gross mistakes made on his watch in post-invasion Iraq.
The president is given to sayings things like, “The men and women in uniform are always on my mind. I am proud of them. I appreciate their sacrifices,” as he did last week. But contrast this with all the incompetence he tolerated and thus encouraged – and all the men and women in uniform who died or were maimed as a result – and his tributes to the troops he put in harm's way couldn't seem more hollow.
These are edited excerpts from U-T's Opinion blog. Check it out at http://weblog.signonsandiego.com/weblogs/afb/
Diplomacy is key to a workable Iraq strategy
A distinguished conservative panel has repudiated President Bush's Iraq war strategy and provided him with a possible way out of the mess he created. At the top of the list of their recommendations is to engage in the time-tested art of diplomacy with our enemies.
Our president's first public response was to call the recommendations “Interesting.” Interesting? This report is not “interesting.” Interesting is a bird flying backward or a dog walking up a ladder. This report is a devastating jolt of reality.
Bush then began his rhetoric of placing conditions on talks with Syria and Iran. It seems to me he's in no position to be placing conditions.
When Bush started the Iraq war, he failed to exhaust all diplomatic efforts first. He ignored volumes of research by the State Department and the Department of Defense that forecasted the exact outcome he now faces. He made a monumental misjudgement of an extremely complex region, and impatiently rushed to armed conflict.
It looks to me like we're in for more of the same. God save us.
DANIEL KOVACS, San Diego
End the name-calling over ISG findings
I just finished reading the Iraq Study Group report. Yes, I read it all. I think everyone should read it. It clearly describes the brutal reality and complexity of our situation in Iraq.
I was impressed with the report but even more impressed with the process. It did not address why we went into Iraq. It only addressed the current situation and proposed a way out. A bipartisan group of our most respected and experienced leaders came to a unanimous conclusion!
Unfortunately, the far right has already begun its name-calling and smear campaign to discredit the ISG's work. It doesn't dispute the facts; it just claims it will not work.
Of course, these are the same people that have been backing the current failed effort. They just don't have a lot of credibility with me. I think we all need to follow the ISG lead and figure out how to work together.
We all love our country and want it to thrive, but we need to recognize that there will be no victory in Iraq. There will only be a date marking our departure.
We can leave in a safe orderly fashion that leaves Iraq and the region relatively stable, or we can leave like we did in Vietnam by evacuating people by helicopter from rooftops.
Let's stop the name-calling and become the United States of America again.
PETE BABICH, Poway
Military service in the Bush administration
In response to “Maybe a bureaucrat, but not a soldier” (Letters, Dec. 13), the writer incorrectly uses the same old talking point from the left: that the Bush Cabinet is bereft of military experience (and in particular, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld).
To set the record straight, Rumsfeld served in the Navy from 1954-57 as an aviator and continued in the reserve until 1975, when he retired with the rank of captain. In addition, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales served in the Air Force from 1973-1977. Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson served eight years active in the Army and retired after 30 years of service with the rank of colonel. Numerous undersecretaries and deputies in the administration have also served in the armed forces.
One does wonder, though, why wasn't military service very important when former President Clinton was running against George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, both combat veterans of World War II?
DONALD JERNIGAN, Mira Mesa
Stop the hatred, and the fear would end
Regarding “Islamophobia/Bigotry toward Muslims is growing in the United States” (Opinion, Dec. 15):
Of course Muslims should not be required to wear distinctive arm bands or be put in detention camps, but please give us a break about Islamophobia. When Islamic fanatics stop blowing up airplanes, cutting off heads, and doing all the other terribly violent things they do, then people will stop being scared.
It is up to the Muslim community to weed out the fanatics, to stop the violence, and stop the hatred. If and when this happens, people will not fear Muslims.
BILL DiMASI, Jamul
The U.S. military and abandoned foreign bases
A reader recently (Letters, Dec. 10) argued that the only reason coalition forces invaded Iraq was to provide the United States with a permanent military presence. He supported his argument by listing several foreign nations where he claims we have been for decades and concludes that we have hundreds of military bases around the world, and we almost never leave one that we establish, even when the country asks us to leave.
His supporting argument lacks credibility. We abandoned all our bases in the Philippines when asked to leave; we abandoned all our bases in France when asked to leave; we turned the Panama Canal over to the Panamanians and withdrew our military; and we abandoned our bases in Libya when asked to leave.
The United States in agreement with Iceland is to withdraw its military presence in that country by next spring. In agreement with Japan, we are now in the process of abandoning several bases in Okinawa and relocating the nearly 20,000 affected individuals to Guam.
At the conclusion of the Second World War, which he uses as the baseline for most of his examples, we had hundreds of bases in Europe; we now have very few. Just since the Cold War ended, we have abandoned our German air field facilities at Bitburg, Zweibrucken, Hahn, Sembach and Rhein-Main, and Soesterburg in the Netherlands. This is by no means a complete list. Does he really believe that if any of the NATO countries he mentioned were to ask us to withdraw that we would refuse?
There are tens of thousands of members of the U.S. military who will not be coming home from France, the Netherlands, Libya and the Philippines. They are buried in U.S.military cemeteries in those countries; countries that they lost their lives freeing so that those countries could ensure foreign troops would withdraw when asked.
KENNETH TOLLEFSON, San Diego
The congressman and his tax bill fight
Regarding “Rep. Hunter still disputing $667 property tax bill” (A1, Dec. 1):
So we “allow” our representatives at all levels of government to vote themselves, and their colleagues, highly overpaid salaries because according to them it attracts the “best and the brightest” leadership positions. Well, after reading the story in which Duncan Hunter uses $26,000 of campaign contributions to defend a $667 tax bill on his own home, with the pension mess in the city of San Diego created by pension board reps and city officials, the University of California regents' payday fiasco, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority's obviously improbable location report (i.e., Imperial Valley with the high-speed rail line), I would much rather have the “average and just-above-simpleton” in government who could be paid a lesser salary and still get the same performance as we do now. Again and again it proves that the only people in government are those who only want to help themselves at the public's expense.
LUIS ARELLANO, Chula Vista
I believe enough has been said about Duncan Hunter's tax bill. I deal in real estate and know how our tax assessor computes taxes. Hunter purchased this property fair and square on the open market and was taxed based on the purchase price, as is everyone else (thanks to Proposition 13). Anyone at the Union-Tribune had the same chance. The U-T is trying to make another “Duke” Cunningham story out of this. The U-T hit a home run with Cunningham and is now hitting foul tips in every article over this tax issue. Get over it, move on! And I am not even a Hunter fan.
NED BENNETT, Alpine
The court's decision on the cross issue
Regarding “Mt. Soledad cross vote reaffirmed by justices” (A1, Dec. 1):
In 1994 Philip Howard wrote an excellent book called “The Death of Common Sense,” which laments how common sense plays less and less of a role in modern law. I was delighted to read the unanimous, articulate and common-sense statement from our 4th District Court of Appeal that, regardless whether the cross is characterized “as secular, sectarian or a combination thereof, its presence is a historical reality.” How refreshing. Common sense appears to be alive and well – at least in certain legal arenas.
DON SULLIVAN, San Diego
Spirit of inclusiveness dies with parade name change
What distinguishes a great city if not its values and spirit?
A great city is committed to ensuring those who reside and conduct business within its borders feel supported, represented and even celebrated.
So what is the spirit, what is the message, behind officially changing the name of the Dec. 2 Encinitas Holiday Parade to the Encinitas Christmas Parade? Why would this community event, paid for by the community, be named for only part of the community? Why would the mayor of Encinitas change the name from the inclusive “Holiday” parade, where all can feel represented and celebrated, to the exclusionary “Christmas” parade?
I am a business owner in Encinitas. I am Jewish. My company has an annual “Holiday” party. We call it the Holiday party – not the Hanukkah party, not the Christmas party – so all in our small community will be fairly represented. Some people have Christmas trees at their desks. Some have brought in festive foods of Kwanza. You'll find a Menorah or two.
We are all recognized as members of a business and individuals united by a common value system of respect, caring and mutual celebration in the spirit of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I didn't come up with this philosophy, by the way, but it sure does work.
The result is harmony and celebration of diversity and individuality. There is greatness in that acceptance. It is what I want from my communities – my family, my business, my city, my country, the world. One can hope, can't one?
So why the retraction of an invitation to all in Encinitas to feel represented as a community at the “Holiday” parade? Christmas is a wonderful celebration of a singular religion and should be sponsored with a parade if so desired by that private sector – churches, groups, or individuals.
When the city government takes general funds collected from the community and applies it to support one religion over others, what does it say about the city? What does it say about those who are not included? What is the spirit behind this? Where is the generosity, the respect?
Mayor Christy Guerin is quoted in the Union-Tribune (“Encinitas officials again upset Jewish community,” Nov. 22, North Coast section) as saying, “Why should everything we respect about the holiday be taken away because it offends somebody?”
This isn't about the holidays, Mayor Guerin. This is, however, about respect. Where is that respect in excluding many of your constituents while still having them pay for the parade?
Guess there's no room at the inn for us in Encinitas?
MICHAEL MARK Encinitas
GOP principles were not addressed by Pence
Did anyone find it strange that Indiana Rep. Mike Pence's platitude, “Republicans must reclaim their principles” (Insight, Nov. 19), was duplicated later on Page G5 by John McCain (“McCain's stock rises”)? The Republicans have not lost their principles; they are still the party of the Talking Point. Ask yourself: Do you support the Medicare drug bill that specifically prevents the government from negotiating prices with the drug companies? Or, do you support legislation making it illegal to investigate wasteful spending in Iraq? Both are Republican-sponsored, which proves the Republican Party does not represent the interests of most Americans.
Conservatism is a cover story. Other stories include morality, tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent, shrinking government, abortion, gay rights, “wars” on the “liberal media” and “activist judges.” Republicans use these “principles” to get and keep power. Other “principles” include repaying favors to corporations, covering for pedophiles instead of prosecuting, and legislation preventing Congress from investigating waste in Iraq. It's about stalling inquiries into pre-Sept. 11, 2001 and Iraq war intelligence.
Republicans have hardly failed on their principles. Theirs is to use these issues to get elected and re-elected. If they really gave a hoot about Pence's principles they would have outed Mark Foley years ago.
These are the principles that got Pence elected, and Republicans have to ask if the party has truly “lost its way” or are Americans no longer buying into the nonsense?
DAVID S. SALOW, Escondido
Too many forget we're at war
We need to stick together in time of war, especially in support of our commander in chief. We are at war. The enemy wants us all dead. The enemy wants Islamic fundamentalism to take over North America. I doubt you will appreciate this message, but here it is anyway. (By the way, my daughter just got back from Kosovo where she patrolled the streets as a military police officer with the U.S. Army. She was a part of the U.N. peacekeeping force protecting the Muslims Albanians against the Christian Serbs. Are you against that, too?)
The point is that this is a war the likes of which the world has never known. I suspect that some of you would criticize its prosecution no matter who did it or how it was done, all the while not realizing that no one knows all the right moves in such an unprecedented state of world affairs.
DAN ZEIDMAN, El Cajon
Bonuses create a force of mercenaries
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has created quite a stir with his proposal to reinstate the draft. Of course he has scant support from either side of the aisle for this worthwhile proposal. We now hear from Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, that a draft is not necessary because our forces are meeting their recruiting and retention goals. What Hunter fails to state is that we now have, and have had for sometime, a military force of mercenaries.
With the possible exception of the Marine Corps, I seriously doubt that these recruiting and retention goals would be met if the overly generous enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses were eliminated. The draft eligible youth of our nation from well-to-do families are not willing to voluntarily put their lives in harm's way to defend this nation. However, those from the lower economic tiers of our society see these bonuses as a step up from poverty.
I believe Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's ill-conceived joke attempted to address this problem. I would suggest to Rangel that he introduce legislation to prevent the Department of Defense from paying these bonuses. Only then will we have a true indicator of whether we have a military dedicated to the defense of this nation for altruistic reasons or whether we really have a military force of mercenaries.
ED GRIER, San Diego
Incompetent CHP should re-evaluate traffic blocks
Chris Martinez is absolutely correct! (“Traffic tie-up could have been avoided,” Letters, Nov. 21.) The California Highway Patrol needs some new thinking regarding clearing of accidents in a far more timely fashion. There is no excuse, no justification whatsoever, even in fatality accidents, to tie up traffic for such long periods.
How many tens of thousands of cars were tied up over the period from 3 a.m. until after noon? Nine or more hours with several miles of traffic backed up. How much time wasted? How much gasoline wasted? How much extra pollutants put in the atmosphere? How long are we going to put up with it?
Why doesn't the CHP have multilateral agreements with local police departments to lend assistance in traffic control? Why doesn't it reroute traffic to shoulders and even to center divides? Why tie up three lanes when the accident is confined to one? Why doesn't it have officers at earlier interchanges rerouting traffic to alternate freeways?
We need some innovative, or new, leadership in the CHP hierarchy to solve these problems, which all of us see far too often not only here in San Diego but throughout the state.
JAY J. VERMILYA San Diego
U.S. only given Iraq 'chaos and carnage'
Regarding “Blame U.S. failures on the Iraqis” (Opinion, Nov. 17):
Charles Krauthammer boldly asserts that “We have given the Iraqis a republic. . . .” Republics aren't given; they're earned! Indeed, at the instigation of Krauthammer and his neocon cronies, the United States has given Iraq only chaos and carnage. Today, none other than Henry Kissinger has declared the Iraq war to be lost; and neocons by the droves are abandoning their noble cause and blaming the Bush administration's conduct of the Iraq war instead of themselves as they jump ship.
Fighting the trend, Krauthammer still papers over the truth. He forgets that we really invaded Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction. When none were found, we switched our rationale to deposing Saddam Hussein and building a democracy.
He says we were mistaken not to have empowered an “Iraqi exile government.” Read the corrupt and discredited Ahmed Chalabi, the pre-war neocon poster boy who provided us with the notorious “Curveball's” mendacious claims of Iraqi WMD and then revealed our secrets to the Iranians.
In a last gasp to save the failed Iraq neocon crusade, Krauthammer would cobble together a bastardized coalition of moderate friendly elements. Talk about rose-colored lenses! Any such coalition would be tainted by its cooperation with the occupying force. It would be dead on arrival.
Krauthammer needs to get real. The United States needs to get out of Iraq before 2,800 or so American deaths become 28,000. The Iraqis have 5,000 years of recorded history. They'll be able to figure it out for themselves once freed of foreign interference.
RANDALL B. HAMUD San Diego
No vote of confidence for GOP's Rove
According to “Rove still confident in GOP's strategy” (A1, Nov. 12), even after the disastrous defeat the Republicans suffered because the public is no longer buying Bush political adviser Karl Rove's strategy of denial and lies, Rove is still sticking with his strategy of denial and lies by denying the loss was his fault and claiming the Republicans' philosophy is still alive and well.
It's hard to fathom the kind of world these people live in where nothing wrong ever happens and, therefore, no consequences imposed or recognized, only smiles and medals. All this while tens of thousands are dead and countless lives are ruined. I'm sure Rove would deny that as well.
KEVIN McLEAN, San Diego
Karl Rove is still trying to spin. His statements that the GOP election strategy was sound are amazing, considering the “thumpin' ” that swung majorities in the House and Senate. The smart money might be riding the horse named “Alter the Course” now that Bush's approval rating has dropped to 31 percent (News, Nov. 12).
Change begins with accepting responsibility. Bush, chided by some as being bullheaded, has a difficult time with that, but the real misfortune for the GOP is the White House atmosphere of denying reality, led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. Rove has been revered and feared as a guru of political strategy.
Was Rove the political genius who decided when to announce the firing of Donald Rumsfeld? The president, who has been accused of not telling the truth, only perpetuated this when he fired Rummy the week after he was given a complete vote of confidence. This is all good news for the Democrats, of course. The way the Republicans are carrying on, this may be a one-party country in 2008. Oh, and Joe Lieberman.
AL STOFFEL, San Diego
Don't compare Murtha to Cunningham
Regarding “It's a joke, right?/Ethics-light Murtha merits jeers, not top job” (Editorial, Nov. 16):
I don't think the Democrats will be reading the Union-Tribune's editorial pages anytime soon looking for advice. Comparing Rep. John Murtha to Randy “Duke” Cunningham is the joke!
Twenty-six years ago, Mutha made a comment that might be construed to be ethically questionable, but apparently there was never evidence of any wrong-doing. And don't tell us the use of earmarks disqualifies anyone from anything in Washington; if it did, there wouldn't be anyone left to even cast a vote! Can you prove Trent Lott and John Boehner have never steered money to friendly places?
But if you want to go after big-time corruption, how can you ignore the scandalous Halliburton-Cheney relationship? This not only is measured in tens of billions of dollars of probable fraud, but may have cost American lives and injuries due to incompetence.
Will you ever overcome your partisan prejudices and become a newspaper worthy of the country's eighth-largest city?
BOB GILBERG, Scripps Ranch
Suggestions on a Democratic response
Your article on alleged British terrorist cells (“200 terrorism cells monitored by British spies,” News, Nov. 11) notes that President Bush claimed in September that eight terror plots “had been thwarted as a result of intelligence gleaned from detainees” at GuantÁnamo Bay.
But how can anyone trust such claims at face value? Just three pages later (“Al-Qaeda conviction will not be set aside”), it is reported that federal prosecutors claimed (and a federal judge agreed) that an al-Qaeda supporter had not been convicted based on information obtained through Bush's warrantless National Security Agency eavesdropping program. This despite the fact (as you report) that the Bush administration had previously touted this very case as a success story made possible by warrantless spying!
Perhaps the new Democratic majority in Congress will finally conduct what we have never had: an honest, independent investigation of Bush's claims about his various illegal eavesdropping, detention, and torture programs. Maybe then we can know what to really believe.
BRYAN WILDENTHAL, San Diego
I fervently hope that Democrats will avoid letting the subpoenas fly, trying to coerce Republicans, and lording it over them now that they control Congress. While there is a perverse pleasure in retribution, it is counterproductive. Since we all, including politicians, reap what we sow, any vengeance they rain down will later come back to them in turn.
If Democrats can instead treat Republicans the way they themselves want to be treated, they will be far more effective in accomplishing great goals and serving the true interests of our nation. Ultimately, the golden rule is the only practical option in politics.
CLIFF McREYNOLDS, La Jolla
When President Bush and his political adviser, Karl Rove, publicly denounce the likes of commentators Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and the mud, vile and lies that they have spewed for 12 years, then I will believe it. Until then, I want my party to seek revenge.
EDWARD SAADE, Poway
Moderate independents stole the show
The Republican Party didn't lose and the Democratic Party didn't win on Nov. 7. The moderate independents simply handed control of Congress over to the Democrats to counter the neocon movement in this country. Nothing more, nothing less.
Democrats, don't gloat over this victory. All it represents is the will of the moderate independents to take back the control of this country and distribute it where we can do the most good for the United States.
We, the moderate independents, fully expect an expeditious end to the war in Iraq. Even if it means we have to concede defeat (whatever “victory” or “defeat” in that war means). Just get it over with and bring our troops home.
That is, until we deploy them to the real front in the war on terror: Afghanistan. Get bin Laden. Get al-Qaeda. Whatever it takes, you have our full support.
I have no problem with “fighting them over there, so we don't have to fight them over here” as long as the “over there” is the correct “over there.”
PAUL WILLEMSSEN, San Diego
Interpreting the changing power structure
As a Republican, I am obviously disappointed with the election results. At the same time, however, I am exceedingly proud of how Republicans acted after these disappointing results were announced.
Despite losing a number of agonizingly close elections, there were no selective demands for recounts in only Republican-controlled districts. There were also no bogus charges of voter suppression or intimidation, or claims the election was somehow stolen. And, despite the fact that three prominent African-American Republicans lost to three white opponents, no charges of racism were levied.
Instead, the defeated candidates simply accepted the voters' decision and congratulated their opponents, thus providing a civics and civility lesson to their countrymen. I just hope the other party acts the same way after the 2008 election, but if the past is any guide, I won't hold my breath.
MICHAEL S. KALT Carmel Valley
In defeat, President Bush has shown more leadership, graciousness, conciliation and good will since this last election than the Democrat Party and its supporters have in the past six years. During that time the Democrats, its supporters and most of the media have had a campaign that consisted mainly of sleazy rhetoric that has undermined the president, members of his administration, the war on terror, our national security and our military. Much of this rhetoric was personal in nature with name-calling.
But even worse, we heard much of this rhetoric come back to us as propaganda from the Islamic fascists who were encouraged by it and who now believe their planned destruction of “The Great Satan” is close at hand. Such propaganda did not deter the hateful rhetoric but seemed to encourage more of it.
When I remember those words and those of Democrat Chairman Howard Dean who said he hated Republicans and thought of them as evil, it's no wonder that I am a bit skeptical of the winners' offer of bipartisanship to help the new Congress solve our country's problems. There is no doubt that the people want new tactics in this war.
There is no doubt that the president and his administration have made many mistakes, and something new should be tried. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could come together to solve these problems. Sorry! I am not holding my breath. I still have the hate-filled words of Kennedy, Kerry, Pelosi, Reid, Durbin and the left-wing media ringing in my ears.
And I think of their shabby treatment of Sen. Joe Lieberman. What the left did to him was unfair, vicious and disgraceful.
I believe we can say that these descenders hate President Bush more than they love this country. That is very sad. Let's hope and pray that it's not enough to destroy this country.
RITA NITSCHE, Spring Valley
- Republicans ARE evil and corrupt! Let's pray that Bush and the vile neo-cons don't destroy our country! To Rethuglicans bankruptcy is success; the apocalypse is an exit strategy. ed
The overwhelming defeat of Republicans nationwide marks the beginning of the end of an era of fear-driven politics, an unjustified war causing the loss of thousands of American lives and billions of taxpayer dollars, tax cuts favoring the rich, raging deficits mortgaging the lives of future generations, xenophobic immigration policies, religion trumping science and blatant corruption and moral hypocrisy among our elected officials.
We as a nation should breath a sigh of relief, knowing that with the turning political tide we probably will never again, at least in our lifetimes, be led by such a divisive and extremist government. Indeed, this marks the beginning of the end of our six-year national nightmare under the Bush administration and a Congress so willing to do its bidding.
JEFF M. SKILJAN Carlsbad
The American people have just retaken their country from those who have sold us out. An unnecessary war will end, and our troops will be safe. Medicare will now be able to negotiate for better drug prices for seniors. The minimum wage will now be raised. Global warming will be addressed. The tax burden will be distributed fairly. Religion will become a private issue, with each person free to make his or her own choice, as is the American tradition.
The majority party will now try to reunite a country that has been divided by ugliness and partisanship. It's a bright new morning.
SUSAN A. RAPPOPORT San Diego
Conservatism's future standard-bearers?
I agree with George Will's assessment that Tuesday's election, in which the people transferred control of Congress to the Democrats, does not mean that conservatism is dead (“Conservatism didn't die in election,” Opinion, Nov. 9). I also agree with Will that the political ideology of the current administration and the former Congress was not conservatism.
I disagree with his opinion that conservative political thought is alive and well in this country. It died when conservatives did nothing and allowed its political leaders to use the old “bait and switch.” While wrapping themselves in the banner of conservatism, political leaders, talking heads, voices over the airwaves skillfully and successfully pushed forward a different agenda.
In what might be the biggest irony in American politics, the Democrats, in reaction to the aberrant form of conservatism that the Republican Party embraced, might just be the future standard-bearers of true conservatism in America.
BARRY S. PULVER San Diego
Rumsfeld's view of war lacked reality
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in his farewell remarks in the Oval Office, said the Iraq war was a “little understood, unfamiliar war – not well known – complex for people to comprehend.” He was one of those who did not understand it. He and his fellow Vulcans populating the White House and the Defense Department viewed the war through an ideological prism, which denied the reality on the ground.
The chaos, the looting, the destitution of everyday life, the insurgency and civil war were all interesting but irrelevant to some miracle that was unfolding in that mystical vision he had that other lesser beings could not see. He will go down in history as one who squandered the opportunity for victory, who tried to transform the Army to fight a different kind of war, and has severely damaged it trying to fight the real war, without preparation or adequate resources. He stood by while billions were squandered through ill-conceived or fraudulent contracts and while members of Congress looted the defense budget for personal gain or political power.
Rumsfeld leaves the new secretary of defense and the Congress to cope with a desperate situation, for which there are no good answers. Since it is unlikely the American public is willing to send in the additional troops (if they could be found) needed to gain control of the country, all parties will be looking for some kind of cover to claim victory and withdraw while “saving face” for the country. We will blame it on the Iraqis and they will have to endure all of the suffering that follows.
PETER COMSTOCK San Diego
Nancy Pelosi and the new majority
I could almost vomit every time I hear someone extol the virtues of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the “San Francisco Democrat” who is about to become speaker of the House. The fact of the matter is Pelosi is from Baltimore, where her father and brother were both mayor and held sway over Baltimore's entrenched and corrupt Democratic machine for decades.
Pelosi has learned dirty politics and corruption at the breast. I have to laugh at all of the Democratic outrage over Republicans. Nothing will change, and the election has done nothing to stop the gridlock in Washington. I can hardly wait until the inevitable moment that Pelosi's clay feet are revealed.
JEANNE LEFKO San Diego
In response to “Meet Speaker Pelosi/Dems must be constructive; GOP chastened” (Editorial, Nov. 8): “Get ready for a bumpy ride”? Hmmm. One can only wonder about the Union-Tribune editorial staff's perception of the ride we've been on with congressional Republicans. There is no shortage of self-inflicted potholes, fallen tree branches and roadway landslides - with one notable example uncovered by this very paper. At this point, a ride that is merely bumpy looks to be a tremendous improvement!
JOSEPH CELONA Solana Beach
Another look at Hunter's plan
Steve Silverman's rant against Rep. Duncan Hunter's plan on Iraq was so predictable (Letters, Nov. 5). The Democrats criticize those aligned with President Bush, but have no plan of their own for Iraq. At least I haven't heard their plan.
Mr. Silverman, you are just playing with semantics. The plan Hunter stated, “stand up a free government and then you stand up a military that can protect that free government and then the Americans leave.” Is it a goal or a plan? It is both. It is called finishing the job you started.
Should our government leaders reveal details to our enemies regarding specific war plans and strategies? Of course not! Hunter's explanation of a plan for Iraq is perfectly acceptable to me. He is our elected representative, and I do not need or want to know specific military strategies. That is why we elected him and that is why we have military leaders.
Using Silverman's analogy, a baseball manager should tell the opposing team when he is going to bunt or sacrifice or hit away. Get real! That is exactly why a so-called “timetable” to withdraw our troops is ill-advised.
CHARLES LACKEY Carlsbad
Hunter's plan on Iraq examined
Oh, my. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, says we have a plan for Iraq and Afghanistan to “stand up a free government and then you stand up a military that can protect that free government and then the Americans leave.” (“GOP's Hunter will run for presidency in 2008,” A1, Oct. 31.)
This, sir, is not a plan. It is a goal. A plan (which neither Hunter nor his neocon buddies have) would be a prescription on how to reach that goal. As examples, in sports the goal is to score. In baseball, with a runner on first, your plan might be to bunt, hit away, sacrifice, etc. These are plans. As to the aforementioned war zones, the goal is obvious. As for plans, you have none; and that's the shame of it.
STEVE SILVERMAN San Diego
Evangelicals and the nation's poor
Regarding “Let's top stereotyping evangelicals” (Opinion, Nov. 9):
The arguments posed by Joseph Loconte and Michael Cromartie regarding evangelical Christian social action on behalf of the poor would be more credible if we saw that action realized at the polls. But the “values voters” are focused on abortion, gay marriage, school prayer and religious symbols in public spaces.
These voters do not elect advocates for the poor who favor minimum wage increases or true family assistance in the form of public schools, mass transportation and affordable housing. While evangelicals are involved in their own social service projects, they consistently reject those who would also use government to support families. It is not a “stereotype” to say that evangelicals have elected, and continue to elect, candidates who have deliberately weakened the fabric of this nation's safety net for the poor, the elderly, and children.
REBECCA MOORE San Diego
Hunter's decision to seek presidency
Regarding “GOP's Hunter will run for presidency in 2008” (A1, Oct. 31):
Entering the field with well-established and respected credentials for supporting the military, being strong on national security and combating illegal action, Rep. Duncan Hunter makes for a qualified candidate to lead our country. Even in consideration of his lack of name recognition beyond San Diego and Washington, D.C., Hunter has a formidable opportunity to win over the support of much of the nation, and he's got two years to do it.
In comparison with other GOP hopefuls, Hunter has the best chance to garner the same voter blocs that historically turned out for George W. Bush in past elections, including Christian conservatives, security moms, business owners and those who support a pragmatic lens for policy-making. Further, riding on the historical coattails of Ronald Reagan, the slowly rising support of Bush in the polls and expected success of the Schwarzenegger/McClintock ticket on Tuesday, Hunter has the potential to put California back into play for the national election.
Of GOP hopefuls, Hunter is the most qualified – and certainly much more so than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama could ever be.
So Duncan Hunter is going to spend the next two years exploring a run for president. This person with dubious real estate transactions and low property tax payments as well as questionable actions with the House bank and several overdrafts with it. This person who trumped Proposition A on the ballot next week by adding legislation to the defense bill to outlaw civilian use of military bases in this county.
This was not the action of a representative of the people. More like the action of a person who believes he knows what is good for the people before they get a chance to vote on an issue. Duncan Hunter for president? I don't think so!
ROY BENSTEAD El Cajon
The city of El Cajon's official religion
Living on the border of El Cajon, our family has seen the David Barton videos shown by the city of El Cajon for years. There was no statement of funding on the channel, and the city avoids listing the videos on its Web site.
I always thought they were funded by a ultra-right-wing nut group that didn't mind fashioning lies and deceptions to further its cause. When I learned the city funds these, I complained.
David Barton has no historian credentials but instead was the vice chair of the Republican Party of Texas, the cesspool of corruption headed by none other than Tom DeLay and his money-laundering machine. Barton's videos are just what you might expect. Distortions of history to encourage politics from the pulpit and religion in government, and shameless partisan support of the Republican Party. The Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty had nothing good to say about Barton's work. This is something we don't need to pay taxes for.
In December 2002, the City Council approved a policy, drafted by then Manager Bill Garrett (who is now running for Grossmont-Cuyamaca College District Board). In 2003, it voted to fund the videos at the rate of $400 per month. Only council member Dick Ramos objected to the plan. Current City Manager Kathi Henry claims that no taxpayer money was spent on this program, but the video of the 2003 City Council meeting leaves no question. They were, and it was no secret that they knew they were crossing the line of propriety.
Regardless of your religious beliefs, this is patently against the law, the policies of the city, and the Constitution. Bob McClellan, a City Council member who waves the flag and Christian cross so hard, should resign from the City Council and continue his ministry outside of the council chambers.
Unfortunately, this is a symptom of a wider trend in the East County that has involved almost all aspects of local government from the City Council, to the high school board, to the community college board. Why did Bill Garrett, who drafted the video policy, fail to enforce it to perform daily logging? The opposition slate of Mary Kay Rosinski, Larry Octon, Greg Barr and Shannon Anne O'Dunn has much more to offer.
Similarly, we've witnessed the takeover of the Grossmont Union High School Board by Gary Cass and friends, relegating it to a laughing stock for the rest of the county. Ron Nehring, the chair of the county Republican Party, epitomizes the perversion of the high school board. Only now, we see a viable slate in the form of Ken Soble, Andrew Sundstrom and Dick Hoy that can move this board back to sanity.
And the City Council of El Cajon, except for occasional principled stands by Dick Ramos, continues to be a rubber stamp for the wishes of the evang-unethical forces in this area. I personally witnessed the shameless sabotage and takeover of the management firm of the East County Performing Arts Center, replacing it with management by the Christian Community Theater.
It's time to boot these guys out, too, with the better choice being Charles Santos for mayor, and John Martes for City Council.
We have a chance at this election to make a change. Please help take back our local government.
RAYMOND LUTZ President, East County Democratic Club
I read with interest the recent article on Channel 24 for the city of El Cajon. It would appear to me, as a resident of El Cajon, that our city has an ample supply of religious organizations that occupy prime areas of our city with no tax implications. One need only drive around our city to find a church located on nearly every corner, all producing zero revenue to our city.
It does not surprise me that we would devote a TV channel to religion as our elected officials seem to disregard the wishes of the residents of El Cajon.
RONALD JAMES El Cajon
GOP resorts to code words on Pelosi
During the past few months, the Karl Rove machine has revved up its attempt to instill a new fear in the hearts of American voters; Insight editor Robert J. Caldwell dutifully contributed to that effort with his commentary, “GOP: Pelosi's Party too liberal for America” (Insight, Oct. 29).
The strategy of a party desperate to overcome negative polls seems to be the repetition of code words, “San Francisco Democrat,” implying that San Francisco values are somehow less American than the rest of the country, “second in line to presidential succession,” suggesting an impending impeachment of the president and vice president, and the always popular “zealous liberal/ultra-liberal,” invoking images of higher taxes and out-of-control spending. All of those images are grossly misleading. Nancy Pelosi has been a strong leader and articulate spokesperson. The scariest behavior Caldwell and others can come up with is her vote against the so-called Patriot Act, which was about protecting our freedoms, not as Caldwell suggested, opposing counterterrorism.
In fact, the Democratic leadership is bound to do a better job of protecting this country from terrorism than the current Department of Homeland Security, riddled with cronyism, waste and inefficiency. Should we be afraid of a Democratic majority that will tackle health care, minimum wage, and the nightmare that is Iraq or the current Congress that has allowed earmarks, obscene corporate earnings and war profiting while it ignored global warming? Nice try, Caldwell, but Americans know what is really frightening, and it's not Nancy Pelosi.
CANDACE TOFT La Mesa
Duncan Hunter's oval office ambitions
Regarding “GOP's Hunter will run for presidency in 2008” (A1, Oct. 31):
Do the people of the 52nd Congressional District really want to re-elect someone who will be spending his time running for president instead of representing them? Will one of President Hunter's first acts be to pardon his buddy, “Duke” Cunningham?
MIKE THALLER Bonita
Drawing parallels on Vietnam, Iraq
Regarding Charles McCarty's letter (Oct. 29):
I was in the Gulf of Tonkin when the Maddox and Turner Joy were attacked and spent the best part of my 20 years in the Navy fighting the Vietnam War.
If we were to believe McCarty, it was the Democrats who lost that war – and nothing could be further from the truth. That war, and the present one for that matter, was lost for two primary reasons. One, we did not have the support of the Vietnamese people (North and South). See anything familiar here? Two, we lost that war and are losing this war because we entered without a defined goal and planned exit strategy.
A basic part of winning any war is proper planning, including knowing in advance what you are going to do when you win the battle. There was no question that we would win the battle in Iraq decisively and quickly. But where was the plan on what to do then?
The only thing we have managed to do is see a lot of men and women killed (defending America?) while making a lot of contractors (read vice president's friends) very wealthy as they shortchange our country and fighting men and women. I don't care if the Democrats or the Republicans win the next elections. No one who gets us out of this quicksand will remain clean.
HAL SEGAL San Diego
Administration plays on fear to get its way
Regarding “Bush nullification/FEMA 'signing statement' another outrage” (Editorial, Oct. 23):
For more than five years now, the handwriting has been written large on the wall – this White House has always been after “something more sweeping and less innocent than reclaiming lost authority or cleaning up” badly written legislation. This administration has shown a clear and extraordinarily egregious disregard for the powers of the other branches of government. From the very start Bush and Cheney have put themselves above the law. They have played on unreasoning fear in order to get away with this.
The handwriting must have been replaced by a flashing neon sign if even the editorial board of the Union-Tribune is recognizing and commenting forcefully on these issues. Let us hope the Supreme Court has the opportunity to weigh in on the Bush administration's abuses before those very abuses neuter the court and Congress. The “American way of life” has less to fear from terrorists than it does from the president and his cronies. This is a call to action for every qualified voter to make his or her voice heard and for the populace to take back control of its destiny.
TIM BOTSKO San Diego
Defining the GOP
Thank you, Philip Pryde, for your spot-on letter under the heading, “In search of the former GOP” (Insight, Oct. 15), in which you wrote that “Traditional Republicans support . . . balanced budgets, keeping big corporations and the federal bureaucracy under control . . . protection of America's natural environment and a courteous respect for the opinions of others.” You just described my own political philosophy succinctly and accurately. I can now proudly state that I am a “traditional Republican,” rather than a RINO, or “Republican in Name Only.”
JOHN A. ELDON Encinitas
Taking a swipe at the GOP, and Dems
Interesting that Robert J. Caldwell in “A Democratic sweep – and then what?” (Insight, Oct. 22) uses the analogy of the 1994 Republican sweep as a springboard to jump on the increasingly desperate bandwagon of Dem bashing. In 1994 Dems were clueless as to what was coming; today the GOP knows, but is powerless to escape from the tidal wave of defeat fueled by the dismal failures of both Bush's foreign and domestic policies.
The ill-conceived and incompetently prosecuted war in Iraq continues to drag on toward civil-sectarian chaos, leaving a destroyed country and thousands of destroyed lives in its wake. Additionally, the Iraq war has ruined our ability to influence global politics, including relationships with those states on our “axis of evil” list which now see nuclear weapons as a necessary bargaining chip. The world's opinion of the United States was also diminished by the sight of poor, black Americans floating for days in the backwash of Katrina. That “humming economy” Caldwell touts apparently only favors rich, corporate elites, widening the income gap and leaving those struggling to survive on minimum wages and no health insurance drowning in the world's richest economy.
The twin demons of arrogant incompetence and corrupt cronyism that permeate Bush administration policies, both foreign and domestic, are out of the bag now. No matter how hard Republican operatives try to spin the fear card, whether it's about terrorism or us bad Democrats, the fact is that most Americans, including many Republicans, are not happy with the direction this country is going. I for one will be glad to see the cornerstone of our democracy back in action after years of gathering dust; checks and balances that an opposition party can use to block an expansive, imperial presidency.
LINDA VASCONCELLOS Scripps Ranch
Is the anti-Bush mob engulfed in the fog of its own lies and deceitful propaganda or do they just suffer a sort of collective convenient memory loss? Whichever it is, they and the broader public would benefit from a media that prints more honesty and facts about Iraq, rather than fallacious partisan attacks.
At the top of the list is the fact that weapons of mass destruction was not the only reason for the United States and its allies going to war in Iraq. In fact, there is a very long list of legitimate justifications, including Saddam's violation of the first Iraq war treaty and 17 United Nations resolutions. And, despite Democrats' recent efforts to misrepresent the National Intelligence Estimate, it actually confirms that withdrawing U.S. troops would only embolden the terrorists and increase risks of further terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
Another important truth is that vicious personal attacks against our commander in chief during wartime and dividing our nation with partisan hypocrisy and lies is despicable. It is time for the anti-Bush extremists to grow up, face the truth, embrace reality and help solve problems rather than creating them.
DAVID BENTLEY Carlsbad
The unlearned lessons of Vietnam
Regarding Ruben Navarrette Jr.'s “Running away from the Iraq war” (Opinion, Oct. 18):
First, I want to thank you for the article. Democrats have no precedent in the last 30 years giving them the moral authority to pontificate on this issue. Rep. Susan Davis' “You know, it's difficult to clean up someone else's mess” implies that the Democrats would be better suited to the task than the current administration. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Democratic President Lyndon Johnson expanded the U.S. role in Vietnam to a point where 1.7 million U.S. military personnel were involved (500,000 pairs of boots on the ground). Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird in four years during the administration of Republican President Richard Nixon succeeded in withdrawing our forces while leaving the South Vietnamese with the skills and the tools necessary to defend themselves. His successful policy is being used today by President George W. Bush in Iraq.
Our South Vietnamese allies lost the Vietnam War two years after the Democratic-controlled House and Senate refused (to our collective shame) to continue promised vital funding to the South Vietnamese. Who cleaned up whose mess?
The United States military never lost a major battle in Vietnam. The Tet Offensive in early 1968 was an unqualified military success (at a cost) that left the North Vietnamese reeling and impotent by its conclusion. Defeat was subsequently snatched from the jaws of victory by Democratic legislators.
There is a paucity of constructive ideas on the issue from Democratic ranks. Those so far voiced would not pass a test given at the end of the first week of Logic 101. The fact is Democrats offer only a large sandbox where, if we choose to join them, we can stick our collective heads to await Sept. 11, 2001, the sequel.
CHARLES McCARTY San Diego
Van Deerlin column stirs remembrances
The “Two of a kind presidents” by Lionel Van Deerlin (Opinion, Oct. 19) brought to mind the events of the warm night in June 1967 when President Lyndon Johnson visited the new Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. I was among the 20,000 Vietnam War protesters there that night. There were doctors in white coats from the UCLA Medical Center, young families with children, old folks with canes, some even in wheelchairs; everything was peaceful and friendly.
Suddenly, a helicopter flew over us with loudspeakers announcing “This is an illegal assembly! You must leave at once!” The people coming up from the south tried to cross the street to start back down the other side, but the police wouldn't let them. They wanted that huge crowd to turn around and go back. When they couldn't, the police charged into them and chased them into a large field across from the hotel.
This field was dark and full of new trees with wire supports holding them and sprinkler heads sticking up several inches from the ground, with the sod yet to be planted. People were tripping and falling, and the cops bashed right and left with their batons. Scores were injured, and many were jailed for “rioting.” But it was clearly the police who rioted that night.
I hope that this sort of thing never happens again, but the government should realize that the citizens of this country will only put up with so much stupidity. More and more of us are sick of the war in Iraq and at some point, President Bush is going to have to change his misguided policies.
DORI BRUNS Fallbrook
The death of Philip Paulson
I want to thank the Union-Tribune for its Oct. 26 informative obituary of Philip Paulson, the citizen who initiated the legal action to remove the Mount Soledad cross. For years, I had mistakenly assumed that the person behind this fight was some embittered outcast with nothing more than a personal ax to grind. Now I have learned that this man was a genuine American hero, a war veteran who had already put his life on the line for our freedom, and whose only motivation was to further protect our freedom from people who would impose one religion above all the rest. And the story includes one other important detail. How many knew that the war memorial was an afterthought erected beneath the cross after the legal fight had already started?
DOUG HOEHN Carlsbad
I have two definitions of a hero. One who speaks truth to power and one who stands up for what's right, often at great personal risk. Philip Paulson was both. Additionally, he was a true patriot – one who served his country and stood up for our Constitution in the face of adversity.
I admired his patience to let the law run its course. I admired his perseverance. I admired his courage to stand up for what he believed in. I admired the grace with which he faced death. Regardless of how history will remember him, he lived a life of honor. I wish him peace.
ELLEN BROWN San Diego
El Cajon council crosses line on religion
Holy Moses! Thank you, Ray Lutz, for being another watchdog by pointing out the continual inane antics of the El Cajon City Council (“El Cajon yanks religious programs off city channel,” Local, Oct. 25). Most anyone with any sense has watched as Lewis, Kendrick and McClellan have pushed their God agenda down the throats of everyone for years; Gary Cass and his church being allowed to set up camp in the mall next to Motorworld; then getting the OK to move to a residential neighborhood; the approval of various condo and building contracts to their religious construction friends; the connection with the religious-oriented Grossmont Union High School District board via commissions these officials sit on; the ousting of Arts Center Foundation running the East County Performing Arts Center in favor of their religious community buddies from CCT. The hits just keep coming.
To have them sit there on their thrones and state that there should be no separation or church and state and that the videos on a government access channel are just historical fact is part of the reason El Cajon is not taken seriously by any other city in the county.
Wake up, El Cajon! Change it all on Nov. 7. Charles Santos brings experience and knows what separation of church and state means. Start voting for change.
MARVIN ROOSEVELT El Cajon
I am very disappointed by your recent endorsement of Mark Lewis and Gary Kendrick for El Cajon mayor and city councilman. You state that there are no demonstrably better candidates running as the reason for your endorsement, rather than choosing to endorse no one.
The arrogance of these two incumbents is startling in that they believe they are above the law and can defy the U.S. Constitution at will. Separation of church and state apparently means nothing to them. Only in the last few weeks has it come to light that they have been paying up to $4,800 annually, in taxpayer funds, to show revisionist religious videos on El Cajon's public access channel.
One of the claims these videos make is that banning prayer causes lower SAT scores. The airing of the videos was initiated four years ago by Bill Garrett, then city manager. (The same Bill Garrett who is now running for the Grossmont-Cuyamaca College District board.) The council refuses to provide a video log; a record of how many of these $20 videos were shown. Since the videos were produced by David Barton, vice chair of the Republican Party of Texas, and a crony of Tom DeLay, one can only imagine what Texan activities the citizens of El Cajon are funding.
Naturally, some El Cajon residents wanted to discuss this situation with the City Council. But Mayor Lewis removed the item from the Oct. 24 agenda.
It's obvious that most of the City Council does not believe in separation of church and state. Councilman Bob McClellan has admitted publicly that he does not.
El Cajon deserves better, and your newspaper ought to withhold endorsements of candidates who have lost their moral compass. Anyone is better than Kendrick or Lewis.
GAIL NYE El Cajon
Why a trustee cannot back his colleague
I would like to explain why I have endorsed Ken Sobel and Dick Hoy, candidates for the position of trustee of the Grossmont Union High School District Board, and why I cannot endorse Jim Kelly, the current board president and lone incumbent on the ballot.
Kelly is a clear and present danger to the quality of education in the Grossmont schools and the public's right to participate in critical decisions, which affect their schools. He has sponsored and perpetuated an atmosphere of intimidation and personal abuse to stomp out all dissent, discussion and participation from board member Priscilla Schreiber and myself as well as members of the public in matters of district business. He approves and modifies the agendas for board meetings, scheduling important but controversial matters at times when members of the public cannot or are unlikely to be present to participate. He has sponsored the approval of board bylaws designed to increase his control of the board, to limit questions and comments from those trustees whose opinions he does not like, and worse, to silence members of the public whose message he does not agree with.
Schreiber, duly elected by the voters, is frequently either ignored, demonized, or disrespectfully gaveled down during meetings to prevent her from speaking. Schreiber and I have had to hire our own attorneys merely to procure the right to place an item on the agenda, a right shared by every member of the public in accordance with law, but one denied to us.
Cronyism and partisan politics have been the hallmarks of President Kelly's leadership. For example, toward the end of September, there was a special board meeting to appoint two members of the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, a committee designed to independently oversee expenditures of taxpayer money. The board received nine applications for two positions. All were great candidates. Instead of determining who the best-qualified candidates were, Kelly selected two elected Republican officials.
The district needs people on this board who know how to work with others to achieve positive change, and who welcome ideas and dissent. Ken Sobel and Dick Hoy can do just that. These men are proven leaders in the community.
LARRY URDAHL Trustee, Grossmont Union High School District
The Iraq war and terrorists
Regarding “Too few troops in Iraq to win” by Robert J. Caldwell (Insight, Oct. 15):
Hallelujah! Caldwell has undergone an epiphany, a conversion to reality. Caldwell actually voiced doubts about the conduct, if not the instigation of the war, and by extension what the United States has done to Iraq, and vice-versa. He does not, of course, assign any blame or responsibility for the massive problem we have created for ourselves, or its cost to us in lives, dollars and international prestige. What really scares me is that if Caldwell, however belatedly, sees bad things happening, things must be truly bad indeed.
JAMES RANSOM San Diego
Regarding “President signs law on terror suspects” (A1, Oct. 18):
I want my First Amendment rights back. If there is anyone in the United States who believes that George Bush would not hesitate to use this new law on any American citizen if it suited his purposes, we are truly naive. If Bush would use the timing of this new “law” to influence the midterm elections, what's to stop him from using it for other purposes?
How about this scenario: More soldiers are dying, and the American people are sick of it. Anti-war protesters take to the streets with anti-Bush, anti-war signs. They march through the streets of Washington, D.C. Things get out of hand, protesters clash with police, it turns ugly. Some protesters are arrested, and because they threw bottles, or rocks or yelled out threats they are arrested. What will happen to them? They have no rights. Bush just signed them away.
CHRISTINA AVERY Alpine
It's about time that the naysayers in our midst step back and think about our country, instead of their own agenda, political or otherwise. We are at war with Iraq and Afghanistan because we didn't realize the magnitude of those who want to obliterate us and our way of life.
We were stirred from our apathy when we stood frozen in horror at the sight of the suicide planes hitting the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. These attacks were against the USA, not the nearly 3,000 individuals who were the innocent victims of the terrorists.
We finally responded forcefully as a united country by going to war. The chipping away at this unity has resulted in vitriolic, political chaos, and it gains momentum daily. This is no more “Bush's war” than it was Bush's $950 million in tsunami relief or Bush's very successful 12-day space shuttle mission last month.
We are at war as the USA. Let us regroup and show our brave and sacrificing troops the support and gratitude they deserve, and support our president and the people we elected as our representatives. They are on the line with the power and responsibility to protect us and our way of life. We need unity now.
JOE C. JACOBS San Carlos
Ruben Navarrette Jr. has it almost correct in his Oct. 18 commentary (“Running away from the Iraq war issue,” Opinion). It is true that many of the congressional Democrats voted to authorize the president to wage war in Iraq, and that they did so with insufficient evidence that Iraq was a threat to America. This is also true of all the Republicans who voted the same way. The incumbent Congress, both parties, and the president betrayed the trust of our military by sending it to war in Iraq with false justification, and every one of the betrayers deserves to be purged as a result.
What to do in Iraq? There are no good answers, but one of them cannot be to keep sending our troops to their deaths because a whole bunch of stupid and irresponsible politicians answered the war cry. I will vote against all our pathetic incumbent congressional members, Democrat and Republican. Bring the troops home now and let the chips fall as they may.
DAVID K. PATTERSON Ramona
Ruben Navarrette's column makes an attempt to paint me and Democrats with a hypocritical brush on the war in Iraq. However, he fails in that attempt, especially when it comes to the facts. Navarrette claims a majority of Democrats in Congress voted for the resolution to authorize the use of force against Iraq. A quick check of the House and Senate roll call votes shows that is not the case. In October 2002, 110 Democratic senators and representatives voted for the resolution, and 147 voted against it.
I joined the majority of my Democratic colleagues in opposing the use of force resolution. How then can you “run away” from something you did not support in the first place? Even though most Democrats opposed the policy, they did not turn their backs on the troops when it came to funding their efforts. Does Navarrette suggest that opponents of the war should abandon the troops?
The “mess” I was referring to was the one created by the Bush administration's Iraq policy. Congressional Democrats – or Republicans, for that matter – cannot be blamed for a policy planned and executed by the administration.
I do, however, believe the Republicans in Congress have failed to provide serious oversight of the administration's policy in Iraq. The reality is that Democrats and a growing number of Republicans are advocating for a change of policy in Iraq. The administration itself is also questioning its policy with the creation of the Iraq Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker. It has been reported that Baker's panel will recommend options other than “staying the course.”
This is a debate that should have occurred a long time ago. Most important, the men and women serving in Iraq deserve such a debate. And they certainly deserve a debate that respects the facts.
SUSAN DAVIS Congress, 53rd District San Diego
The Foley case and past scandals
A reader recently asked why the Democrats were so outraged over former Rep. Mark Foley and yet did not become outraged when former President Bill Clinton had an affair with an intern. I'd like to answer that.
Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were both consenting adults. Yes, he cheated on his wife. Yes, it was wrong, and his wife had reason to be upset. When caught, he shouldn't have lied; he should have said, “It's none of your business!”
As for Foley, he was going after minors. There is a difference! He is a sexual predator. And the other Republicans who covered up for him for two years are guilty of allowing this to continue. These are the so-called “family value” politicians who spout virtue at every opportunity, but as we know from the past, are far from virtuous. Those politicians who helped cover this up should be voted out of office. We need a change in November, we need some fresh faces in Congress, so don't forget to vote on Nov. 7!
LAURA LUSK Chula Vista
In search of the former GOP
In his column of Oct. 8 (“What happened to the Republican Party?” Opinion), Ruben Navarrette Jr. wonders what happened to the GOP, and especially to the traditional values that it used to embrace. Let me suggest one possible answer.
The problem is that the people currently running things in Washington are GOP in name only. Although these people are utilizing (some would say usurping) the name of the Republican Party, they are being increasingly referred to as “neocons” – neo, or “new” conservatives – to reflect the fact that their purportedly conservative values in fact represent a sharp divergence from the traditional values of the Republican Party.
As Navarrette suggests, there are numerous fundamental differences in both theory and practice between the traditional Republican Party and its neocon successor that blossomed into a congressional majority in 1994. Traditional Republicans trace their bloodline back to Abraham Lincoln, and claim as their philosophical mentors such respected Republican presidents as Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower.
Traditional Republicans still support all the long-standing conservative values, most notably balanced budgets, reduction of the national debt, and keeping giant corporations and the federal bureaucracy under control. The latter would include a high degree of governmental transparency, accountability of public officials, and support for concerned whistle-blowers. Most traditional Republicans would also support the elimination of corporate welfare, the protection of America's natural environment, and a courteous respect for the opinions of others, even if they disagree with them.
By contrast, under recent neocon management, budget deficits have mushroomed, the federal bureaucracy continues to expand, personal freedoms have been curtailed, and ethics and morality seem to have slipped badly. Alternate opinions are suppressed and whistle-blowers hounded, large corporations wield increasing control over governmental policy, and relentless fossil fuel and forest exploitation is taking a sad toll on America's landscape and natural resources.
Ironically, there are a great many traditional Republicans remaining among the American populace, but only a few in Congress, and virtually none in the executive branch. The small number of traditional Republicans left in the House and Senate attempt to uphold core conservative values but are numerically overwhelmed by the neocon delegation.
In response, various citizen groups have been formed by those who consider themselves traditional or moderate Republicans. These include Log Cabin Republicans, Republicans for Choice and Republicans for Environmental Protection. The latter, whose motto is “Conservation is Conservative” like to quote Theodore Roosevelt's observation that “conservation is a great patriotic duty.” And a core value of traditional Republicans.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that traditional Republicans will be able to regain control of their own the party in the foreseeable future. The core constituency of the Neocon Party to date has been remarkably loyal, but is it still? Navarrette says he misses the old GOP. If enough American voters agree with him, the 2006 congressional elections could prove interesting.
PHILIP R. PRYDE San Diego
Assessing Hunter's property appraisal
Regarding “Hunter got break on taxes for home” (A1, Oct. 8):
Here we go again. The Union-Tribune has uncovered another seemingly “honest” politician who has done nothing wrong. Duncan Hunter never once questioned why his property taxes never reflected the true appraisal, thereby saving himself tons of money. After all, it's not his job, he's just one of the country's top lawmakers, not an appraiser.
Adding insult to injury Hunter buys the property at the bank's purchase price. Where can I find deals like that? Hunter needs to step up to the plate, and bring his checkbook. At the very least he needs to pay his fair share of taxes both going forward and including back taxes, with interest. He also needs to respond to the Union-Tribune's questions about the circumstances surrounding these deals. And he needs to do this before the election.
JIM SCHAEFER San Diego
Your story on Duncan Hunter's property tax assessment is similar to a witch hunt. I am a real property appraiser in San Diego and have been in business since 1993. I was trained as an appraiser by the L.A. County assessor and worked for that office for three years prior to moving to San Diego.
If you want to place blame or point fingers somewhere, it should be at the county assessor, Greg Smith, or the assessor before him. It is not the responsibility of the citizen to assure that his taxes are appropriate. First of all, 95 percent of the people who own property have no clue how assessments are applied or determined. Rather, they pay the taxes when they are due and go about their day-to-day business just like the congressman.
It is the responsibility of the assessor to maintain records for all properties in the county. This is a huge undertaking, and I regularly see properties whose public record do not match what is present on the property. However, it is not the responsibility of Joe Citizen to report this to the assessor. For you to be critical of Rep. Hunter for an incorrect property record is absurd.
GREG KERREBROCK San Diego
Why are you picking on Duncan Hunter? As a real estate agent, I can tell you that you've provided no evidence whatsoever that Hunter did anything wrong. The county tax assessor errs on his home (as they do on many), and somehow it's Hunter's fault?
And Hunter isn't allowed to buy a foreclosed property that's for sale on the open market for 28 days for anyone to buy? Come on! I applaud the Union-Tribune for its crack investigative reporting, but please don't be reckless with someone's life and reputation! Duncan Hunter is not “Duke” Cunningham.
GARY KENT San Diego
News regarding the behavior of incumbent politicians only serves to deepen our disappointment with and suspicion of government. Be that as it may, while not a Republican I am at a loss regarding the purpose of your article about Duncan Hunter. While we can disagree with some of the man's politics, he has served our military well, and that means much in San Diego.
Therefore why did you focus on his property tax situation? I saw no relationship with the Randy “Duke” Cunningham fraud case? Surely many others in San Diego County have similar stories.
It was apparent that the Hunters had done no wrong. Did you intend to illuminate the incompetence of local agencies, or to show how unfair our property tax system is and how it is driving folks to madness and ruin, or was it to demonstrate that those of us who suffered losses from the Cedar fire really didn't get a break after all?
Did you notice that the Hunters are still trying to get a home rebuilt three years after their loss? Perhaps it might have been more important to continue the articles on the poor souls who are struggling to rebuild or survive after the fire, and how the county has made life miserable for so many.
C.E. ENGLUND Julian
Kelly antics, control harm Grossmont district
The Grossmont Union High School District governing board is a disgrace and the actions of President Jim Kelly are the main cause. In just the last year, I have seen Kelly and his minion, Superintendent Terry Ryan, engage in a pattern of lies, concealment and bullying of parents, teachers and even other board members.
Kelly is up for re-election this year. Please vote him out.
Truth and openness are foreign and evil to Kelly and he works hard to stamp them out. Here are several examples:
1) When a teacher at Steele Canyon High School spoke at a board meeting in support of the proposed Steele Canyon charter school, Kelly so feared the discussion that he directed the teacher's microphone be turned off, even as a thousand parents, students, and teachers in the school gymnasium chanted “Let him speak.”
2) Kelly was so afraid of the Steele Canyon principal offering a public opinion on the charter proposal that he and Ryan forbade the principal from saying a word about the charter. Naturally, Kelly ignored parents' requests that the gag be lifted.
3) The Union-Tribune reported that in June Kelly manipulated the hearing schedule on a proposed massive raise for his friend, Superintendent Ryan: “Kelly rescheduled (the issue of a raise for Ryan) to a closed session at the end of a five-hour meeting when the public would be gone. No copy of Ryan's modified contract was made public until after it was then voted on in a final open session.”
4) The U-T reported that Kelly effectively thwarted a full and public consideration of the nearly $200 million district budget, noting that board member Larry Urdahl was forced to abstain from a vote on the budget because “he received the 300-page document so late there was not enough time to study it.”
5) In May, Kelly railroaded through major changes to board bylaws by attempting to prevent their public discussion. The U-T reported that “a special board meeting was called on barely more than 24 hours' notice. With no mention on the district's Web site, few in the public were aware a meeting was being held. Trustees Larry Urdahl and Priscilla Schreiber were not permitted to discuss portions they found troubling.”
There are so many examples of Kelly's abuse of power in the last few months alone that it is scary to imagine how many things may have been concealed and gone unreported.
We must not re-elect Kelly. Just as important, we cannot allow Kelly to do what he has done the last four years, and handpick other members of the board. This has resulted in puppets who always vote Kelly's way. We must assume that anyone that associates with Kelly will be controlled by Kelly. The only relationship that candidates Shari Groce and Robert Shield have with the Grossmont district is that they are teamed with Kelly as a group.
Please do not vote for Kelly, Groce or Shield for the Grossmont board.
WAYNE SAKARIAS Alpine
Pointing fingers at Cunningham
Regarding “Ex-congressman lashes out” (A1, Oct. 7):
Randy “Duke” Cunningham blasts the Union-Tribune for exposing that the former congressman accepted more than $2.4 million in bribes. In a letter from prison, he also blames his co-conspirator.
What ever happened to the Republican tenet of personal responsibility? And what happened to the sanctity of marriage that Republicans worked so hard to “protect” when gays had the audacity to seek the right to wed? Nancy Cunningham is divorcing her husband. Did she forget about her sacred vow to stand by her man through richer and poorer, good times and bad, Rancho Santa Fe and prison?
What a week for Republican hypocrisy.
JENNIFER COBURN Del Cerro
For a party that claims to have the locks on morality and personal responsibility, the GOP has demonstrated through its actions the very opposite over the past five years. From the Iraq war to the Foley scandal, it has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing; lie and blame everyone else for its failures. When the spin fails, in desperation it blames Clinton.
The letter from Randy Cunningham is a classic example. Blame the crooked defense contractors, the reporter who broke the story and the Union-Tribune for continuing to report on the one of the biggest bribery scandals in U.S. history for destroying his life. How about the person who willingly accepted the bribes and pushed legislation that harmed our young men and women fighting the debacle we call Iraq for his own personal gain?
If the GOP is looking for scapegoats for its massive failures, it only has to look into the mirror.
JIM LYNCH Carlsbad
In his recent letter, Randy Cunningham lamented his dramatic descent from congressional power. However, he forgot that like everyone in our government, he is still subordinate to the American people, who wield the ultimate power of truth. If he doesn't understand this, then he was never qualified to be a congressman in the first place.
EDGAR HALEY San Diego
I awoke this beautiful Saturday morning only to find a story on the front page of the Union-Tribune that left the stringent, bucolic taste of disgust in my mouth. How dare Randy Cunningham lash out at anyone complicit in his downfall.
This shows his lack of remorse, his amoral character, and are nothing more than the musings of an immature brain upset because he got caught. This is disgusting and only strengthens my belief that corrupt politicians are to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. As if I'm supposed to pity a bitter old man who is in a minimum security prison for committing crimes that shattered the trust of his constituency.
I have to admit that no matter how he tried to spin this letter in true political fashion, it only makes him look worse. Kudos to the Union-Tribune for exposing this man for who he is, a common criminal.
KEITH KLESZYNSKI South Park
Congressman's property and its assessed value
Regarding “Hunter got break on taxes for home” (A1, Oct. 8):
Now lets see – Rep. Duncan Hunter buys a dilapidated home on the open market, spends a ton of money to fix it up, loses the place to a wildfire, then tries to rebuild it. Yeah, he's a crook.
I've been in the appraisal/assessment business for a long time, and it is the sole responsibility of the County Assessors Office to define, describe and assess real property within the county, not the home owner! Most home owners don't even know the actual square footage of their home, nor have they ever seen the public record.
S. DAN LEHMAN Carlsbad
Enough! Where and when does it end? Have we no elected officials with morals? How could the Alpine residence of Duncan Hunter have been so huge, along with guest house, pool and tennis court, and been taxed as though it was a small house? How could the county assess it as 2,946 square feet with no amenities, without a correction by the congressman? How could his insurance company know from day one, and correctly charge for a 6,200-square-foot home plus amenities, without the congressman challenging that it was only 2,946 square feet, since he had “accepted” the county number as correct?
How could a very large bank sell a foreclosed property for the exact price that it paid for it, knowing that shareholders expect the bank to profit from all of its transactions? How can we keep accepting the rancid personal actions of public officials who should be expected to set examples of propriety? It is no wonder that so many people now believe that honesty has become a lost trait in many of the people elected to represent us.
DAVID L. BROWN Escondido
Woodward's claims and Democrats' response
Regarding “9/11 panel wasn't told about meeting detailed in new book” (News, Oct. 2):
The reason it wasn't told may be that it never happened as claimed by Bob Woodward. In my understanding of logic and human behavior, to believe that then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice would “brush off” the alleged warnings defies reason. Further, the reported outrage of some Democrat members of the commission seems to be an ex post facto attempt to support and validate Woodward's story.
TOM SHINE Coronado
Pointing fingers in the war on terror
I got quite a kick out of Steve Breen's Sept. 29 editorial cartoon, showing Bill Clinton as a fat, empty, braggart. However, the real joke was the fact that he portrays George W. in a rowboat out in the water fishing (for Osama, one presumes) – but a closer inspection shows that George hasn't caught anything either, and doesn't even have a paddle. I'm sure that Breen didn't intend to portray the president as up the creek without a paddle – but he did, and it's hilarious.
MELVIN PRATT, Boulevard
The Democrats, Hollywood, and the media are aiding our enemies. As a result we are losing the war against the Islamic terrorists. I long for the days of World War II when we as a nation pulled together and defeated Japan and Germany. If we are to remain free we will have to fight this war in many countries, our own included, and on many fronts. It is important for us to win in Iraq, otherwise our enemies will view us as being divided and therefore easy prey. In the next election I will not vote for any Democrat nor will I vote for those Republicans who are weakening our nation by going soft on terrorists.
DEL LEEWAYE, Lakeside
Recently, when interviewed regarding the Iraq war on “Meet the Press,” Vice President Dick Cheney made clear that the Bush administration would invade again – even knowing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, the administration's primary rationale for going to war. “It was the right thing to do and if we had to do it over again, we'd do exactly the same thing.” Think hard on that one, real hard!
Does anyone believe that Congress and the American people would have supported the invasion of Iraq without the administration's guarantee that Hussein was a current threat to us with his weapons of mass destruction?
ROBERT W. JONES, Encinitas
Reviews in on Clinton's performance
Regarding “An edifying return/Bill Clinton's media blitz is all too revealing” (Editorial, Sept. 27):
Your editorial proves the truth of Clinton's complaint. Clinton was invited by Chris Wallace to discuss his global initiatives, and only addressed the political issues now the subject of controversy when Wallace bought up the subject.
There was no indication given by Clinton that he intended to, or even wanted to, “pontificate” on these matters. Then to accuse Clinton of trying to absolve himself of any blame regarding 9/11 shows that you have our former president confused with our current president. In fact, Clinton admitted that he did not do enough to get bin Laden. What I took away from the exchange, and what I know the U-T is happy to ignore, is Clinton's unanswered question to Wallace why he (Wallace) has never asked the numerous Bush administration officials he has interviewed why President Bush demoted Richard Clarke.
JOSEPH S. CARMELLINO
Bill Clinton has no credibility in my book and this is just another example of his revisionist soap boxing (“Clinton defends action on bin Laden,” News, Sept. 24). The last time I saw that finger, Clinton was telling us “he did not have sexual relations with that woman.” How does anything he says at this point hold water? Let the man's record stand. He tried, he failed, 9/11 was the result. I would prefer Bush's record on terrorist actions over Clinton's. The man is a liar who cannot be trusted. He can whine all he wants but history will reward him for his actions or inaction as the case may be.
It's election time and the Republicans haven't been doing too well. As Washington that we won't be distracted from the real issues.
Is anyone else completely sick of this war we're fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq? The story of Sgt. 1st Class Meridith Howard (“Death of gunner, 52, shows strain on U.S. military,” A1, Sept. 27) made me very upset. Our country is wallowing in old rhetoric from the Bush administration as Condoleezza Rice and members of her party bash Bill Clinton on the same front page as the story of the sergeant's death! All the while useless deaths continue in a war of ego and twisted logic started by her administration.
Why is it that Sgt. Howard and her Humvee driving companion Staff Sgt. Robert Paul on a run for supplies had to die at the hand of another messed-up suicide bomber, along with eight Afghans? It's pointless, reckless and convoluted that we're still in Afghanistan. We're hated and it's getting worse.
Change must come from the top down and it starts with November midterm elections. It's time to clean house politically and elect new faces who can help formulate a real plan for our country to come to terms with an exit out of the Middle East.
Some of your readers apparently have a very hard time with Trevor Hoffman's record-breaking number of saved games reported by the U-T on Page 1 (“Defining front page news,” Letters, Sept. 27). To them I say, “Get real!” It was a delightful change to read something local and amazing that wasn't about blood and guts strewn on the streets in some Afghanistan or Iraqi city. Believe me, even with Trevor's saves and the Padres' good work in September, I am certainly not one reader who suddenly has amnesia about our war. Support the troops? Yes, I do. I want them to live.
Now comes forth former President Clinton to accuse the the Bush administration of bungling the search for bin Laden. He thereby hopes to enhance the chances for a Democrat victory in the November elections. He hopes also that his diatribe will persuade his party to choose Hillary for its presidential nomination in 2008. Whichever administration is more to blame for not locating the al-Qaeda leader is now a moot point.
President Bush got it right when he countered Clinton's accusations with the words, “I've watched all this finger-pointing and naming of names and all that stuff. I don't have enough time to finger-point. I've got to do my job, which comes home every day in the Oval Office, and that is to protect the American people from further attack.”
This editorial illustrates exactly the slanted viewpoint Bill Clinton was and is up against, found in nearly all mainstream media. Rather than listen to what the man actually had to say, you are busy redirecting attention to all of his supposed faults. Using terms such as “pontificate,” “persecution complex” and “self-pity” merely continues the tone set by Rush Limbaugh over 10 years ago.
I am also not sure what is meant by Clinton's inability to see his presidency as others do. This implication would only be true if you were referring to the opinion of most radio talk-show hosts and other supposed conservative pundits, along with the non-critical thinkers that ditto their every word. However, if you were referring to the American people as a whole, please take a look at virtually every opinion poll that has posed questions regarding the effectiveness of Clinton's presidency. PollingReport.com is a good overall source for the polling figures that reflect the favorable opinion most Americans hold of Clinton.
Putting Islam underthe microscope
In “The perpetuation of a myth” (Opinion, Sept. 28), we are once again reminded by a peace-loving Muslim that Islam is a religion of peace.
Still, religions do go wrong from time to time. For Christianity one has only to look at the Crusades, the Thirty Years War or the Spanish Inquisition to see the truth of this. It is unlikely that those devoted Christians in times long past realized they were following a religion gone bad. Just as the millions of peaceful Muslims today cannot see what may be happening to them.
The great lie perpetrated on the Muslim faithful for the last half-century by virtually all Muslim governments is that Israel and the Christian West seek to destroy them. It is crystal clear that while the vast majority of Muslims are not suicidal fanatics, they entirely lack the moral authority to oppose those of their faith who are. This is exactly analogous to those millions of Germans that were repelled by Hitler and his thugs, but at heart believed what they had to say.
The basic issue is not the West's ignorance of his religion, as the author implied. It is that the millions of rational and peaceful Muslims believe the same lie as the fanatics do. Unless this can be changed somehow, the consequences may be catastrophic for us all.
It's interesting that Julie Wright (Letters, Sept. 25) counts out the death toll at the hands of “Muslims” yet fails to do the same for those unjustly killed at the hands of Christians and Jews. I am not condoning violence no matter who commits it. However, a little less bias and more knowledge of history before making comments are really what is needed these days. Hateful comments do nothing to bring people together; they only create more hate and separation and that is definitely not what we ought to strive for.
Kudos for the rational and logical editorial, “The pope's speech/Violent responses only prove pontiff's point” (Sept. 20). You say, “If Muslim radicals have misinterpreted the Koran ... we need to know how so. If all of us are to understand competing strains of Islam, Muslim moderates can educate the rest of us in distinguishing between them.”
Would some moderate Muslim please take the trouble to do so?
I think that Edgar D. Hopida has gotten it exactly wrong when he writes, in criticism of the U-T's Sept. 20 editorial (“The pope's speech/Violent responses only prove pontiff's point”), that the editorial “unfortunately reinforces the growing trend of misunderstanding about the teachings of Islam.” No, Mr. Hopida, what unfortunately reinforces the misunderstanding about the teachings of Islam, if indeed a misunderstanding it is, is the foaming-at-the-mouth response, escalating to threats of violence, against people and property – those threats sometimes being translated into actuality – that have characterized the Islamic world's response to any words or deeds it deems have disrespected Islam or cast upon it even the faintest of aspersions.
Apologists for Islam keep repeating that Islam is a religion of peace. OK, my question is, “As evidenced by what, exactly?” Certainly not by the reaction to those Danish cartoons, nor by the reaction to the pope's comments.
Ringing endorsementfor Chomsky
Regarding “ChÁvez book endorsement results in best-seller” (News, Sept. 23):
How can one well known author make such a cruel comment about another well know author: “I don't know anybody who's ever read a Norm Chomsky book.” Perhaps he should get his head out of Harvard Law School and discover the millions of Chomsky readers – I for one, for many years!
Chomsky, over the years, has clearly stated in his many books the real misdeeds of our Washington elected officials and offered some very good advice on how to go about cleaning up the mess. An added comment directed to Alan Dershowitz: I have seen some of your books stacked up in 99-cent stores, and that says a lot about this author. I rest my case.
RALPH D. SLOCUM
Bolton has isolated us from our allies
Regarding “A U.N. eye-opener/Recent events make decisive case for Bolton” (Editorial, Sept. 27):
The question before the Senate is not whether the United Nations has real organizational problems (it does), or that the views of some of its member states are reprehensible and un-democratic (they are). The real question before the Senate is whether John Bolton is the best person available to represent vital American interests at this important, but flawed international organization. I think the answer to that question is clearly no.
At a time when the United States increasingly needs international partners to share the burdens of promoting peace, security and democracy, Ambassador Bolton has isolated us from our closest allies and multiplied our adversaries. In fact, Bolton's wacky “management by confrontation” tactics have failed to deliver on many of the U.N. reforms he promised us at the start of his current recess appointment. Every day, the United States asks the United Nations to advance U.S. interests and solve complex global challenges including war, terrorism, disease and global poverty. As we've learned in recent years, none of these challenges will stop at our borders and none of them can be tackled by a single nation alone.
That said, the U-T is right about one thing: This isn't and shouldn't be a partisan issue. It's about finding the best person for the job. That's why Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee (RI) is holding up the vote on Bolton's confirmation (not the Democrats). Yes, Dianne Feinstein should exercise her independence and stand with moderates like Chafee to ask the tough questions and oppose Bolton's nomination. If the Senate actually does so, our country will be the better for it.
SEAN CARPENTER Imperial Beach
Saluting Marines for their service
Regarding “Courts-martial ordered for 3 Marines” (Local, Sept. 26):
I think it is appalling and shameful that we as a country allow our youngest and fittest young people to go fight a war, assuming that at age 18-plus they have the wisdom and judgment to make the correct decisions under the horrors and pressures they confront on the battlefield. If a mistake is made, they pay for it with a lifetime of punishment. I do not condone what the three young Marines did, but they were defending their country to the best of their ability. I thank them for that.
LIZ DUNASKY San Diego http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060929/news_lz1e29lets.html