A sampling of readers' letters, faxes and e-mail.
General rigs fuses from Ground Zero to shaky territory
Editor, The Times:
How quaint that Gen. David Petraeus’ status report on Iraq is released on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks ["Iraq debate: General's plan creates dilemma for both parties," Times page one, Sept. 11].
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George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney lied to link Saddam Hussein with the attacks. But the connection between al-Qaida and Iraq was found to be cooked, and none of the other implications that Iraq and al-Qaida were allied held up. In fact, Iraq was on Osama bin Laden’s list of enemy regimes because it was secular.
This truth was no impediment for our leaders, who circulated their lie repeatedly. So effective were they that a poll a year ago revealed 85 percent of the American troops in Iraq believed Saddam had bombed New York!
Petraeus’ information is just as flawed as the fabricated data Gen. Colin Powell presented to the United Nations five years ago. The latest ABC poll shows that every Iraqi interviewed believes security is worse as a result of the surge. Our troops are dying at a faster rate than last year.
Let’s face it: The much-vaunted benchmarks Congress has focused on are irrelevant, for the simple reason that the enmities between Sunnis and Shiites are too deep for any foreigner to resolve.
How sadistic to use 9/11 as a vehicle for saving face!
— Dwight Gibb, Shoreline
“Shadow of Sept. 11 looms over Iraq debate” [page one, Sept. 12] perpetuates the same straw-man argument (i.e., “Saddam didn’t order 9/11, so why did we attack him?”) so often used — sincerely, I think — by confused pacifists to utterly miss the larger, graver point of how Iraq and al-Qaida are currently connected.
Yes, there is no hard evidence that the Sept. 11 attacks were connected to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. That fact does not mean the current conflict there has nothing to do with defeating al-Qaida and those who would supply it.
Sen. Barack Obama’s quoted non sequitur about this is breathtakingly simplistic. Of course the original decision to attack Iraq was “related to the attacks on 9/11.” The relation is this: Terrorists murdered our civilians on 9/11; we believed terrorist-enabling nation-states should also be held accountable; we believed (erroneously, it turns out) that Iraq had WMD; we were determined to not let those weapons make their way to al-Qaida, and to remove the threat; Iraq refused, again and again, to cooperate with U.N. resolutions. The rest we know.
Dangerous intents and events do not have to be in a direct cause-effect relationship to be related.
None of this is to say that our decision to go to Iraq was the best decision, nor does it mean we have fought that conflict as ably as we should. May we respectfully see this complex series of events looking through neither the exaggerated lens of world policing nor that of pacifism.
— Scott Green, Seattle
Big old crater
Hasn’t America learned? Are we about to stumble into the same hole we did 40 years ago regarding the war in Vietnam? It looks like it! We have lived all these years with the guilt and embarrassment of our surrender in Vietnam.
It is not America’s nature or style to give up and walk away. With the exception of Vietnam, we have always fought our wars to win.
The thought of our Islamic enemies rubbing their hands together, if we cut and run, and publicly bragging that they took on the “big guy” and beat him, is impossible for the vast majority of us to ever accept.
Congress cannot continue to dictate what it thinks the course of this war should be. Its members are not experienced in this area and should back off and let our military leaders do what they were trained and paid to do.
We need to finish this war with a victory. Our enemies need to understand our resolve to stay there until they finally leave Iraq and Afghanistan. It will happen.
— John Thackaberry, Newcastle
Steps from the brink
What a shame, our commanding general has to spend his time coming up with a politically ambiguous report that only sort of satisfies both sides of the war debate.
The Democrats want a pullout, so Gen. David Petraeus recommended a partial pullout. But the president wants to win the war, so the pullout is put off until next year. And Iraqi government officials want to know we have their back in a very dangerous neighborhood of nuclear renegades. The report may well be the hardest for them to accept.
Considering how many troops are still stationed in countries that lost their war more than half a century ago, only the economies of Germany and Japan would be endangered by pullout of our uniformed troops. The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, we won the Cold War. When do the troops from those missions get to come home? How much does maintaining those military bases cost taxpayers?
If Petraeus is lucky, the Democrats will accept the delay in the pullout. They will have decided on a presidential primary winner by mid-’08, so advocating for the fighting in Iraq will be less affected by the extreme anti-war wing of their party. Not to mention how quickly the debate will shift, should there be another terrorist attack that our constrained intelligence community can’t stop.
So far, so good. Let’s all pray our troops start to come home next year.
— Margaret Wiggins, Bothell
Some unattended lines
Further to Shaun Polczer’s letter in which he rightly criticizes Robert Alan Wright’s misattribution and misappropriation of John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” ["Flanders Fields revisited," Northwest Voices, Sept. 8], I would like to point out that Polczer himself errs when he refers to this famous work as “an anti-war poem.” The last stanza of McCrae’s poem is often forgotten:
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Far from being a denunciation of war, McCrae’s poem urges the living to continue the struggle for what he considered a just cause, a cause for which he gave his life.
It is for this final verse and its eloquent defense of a necessary war that McCrae’s poem can in no way be applied to the ignominious disaster that is the United States’ war with Iraq.
— Barbara Henry, assistant professor, Slavic Languages & Literatures; affiliate, Jewish Studies Program; University of Washington, Seattle
Choir in the hole
After listening to President Bush’s speech and the Democrats’ response ["Bush rejects calls to end war, wants gradual troop withdrawals" and "Democratic response to Bush speech," News, Sept. 13], I concluded they could have saved a lot of air time if they had used the following script:
Bush: I want to win the war!
Democrats: We want to concede the war as lost!
— Robert Heryla, Lacey