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vulnerability may

be in Cabinet

Editor, The Times:

Last week’s confrontation between U.S. troops and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the running of the war and the support these men and women are receiving from Rumsfeld’s Pentagon was a strong reminder of what a disaster this war has been, from top to bottom (“Rumsfeld gets flak from troops,” Times page one, Dec. 9).

With a yearly budget of more than $400 billion, and with much more allocated on top of that (more than $200 billion), the troops are still sifting through dump sites for material they can use to protect themselves? Who is responsible and where is the accountability?

This is the same Rumsfeld who said he was accountable and responsible for the horrors and abuses at the Iraqi prisons. What does it mean when he says he is responsible? Where are the consequences?

For an administration that insists that people need to be accountable for their actions, it is a little hard to comprehend what that means.

Rumsfeld has been wrong about virtually every aspect of the war, as has been national-security adviser Condi Rice, and they are both still in the Cabinet. Those who raised doubts about policy (and have been proven correct) are gone.

What does it mean to be accountable and responsible in the Bush administration?

— Doug Selwyn, Seattle

Achilles’ zeal

For a long while, this administration has prided itself for speaking plainly, bluntly and forcefully, without worrying about being diplomatic or nice or politically correct. The right wing has cheered loudly these traits in George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. It was refreshing to see them on the receiving end of plain-speaking soldiers.

From the reaction of Rumsfeld, it was clear that some only like to speak bluntly, but are not so good at being bluntly spoken to.

— Riaz Amin, Seattle

Concern at low hum

At the town-hall-style meeting in Kuwait a few days ago, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld answered a soldier’s question about an apparent lack of armored vehicles going into combat, by stating that it was essentially a matter of production capability. However, it turns out this is not entirely true.

Since the issue was raised, it has been revealed that the company that is manufacturing these armored Humvees is not at full production “capacity,” it apparently could increase production by 22 percent, without investment, and has simply been awaiting an order to do so (“Marines in heart of war still must improvise armor,” page one, and “Army will add Humvees,” News, Dec. 11).

And as it turns out, the question of insufficiently armored vehicles has come up before. In a similar town-hall-style meeting with troops six months ago, a soldier asked Rumsfeld essentially the same question. And yet here we are, still sending troops into battle without proper protection. There is simply no excuse for this whatsoever.

The war began almost two years ago. And planning for the war, of course, began well before that. Our soldiers should have had proper protection when we engaged in combat in March 2003.

The fact that they still apparently don’t have what they need to protect themselves on the battlefield is simply a travesty.

— Gabriel Morris, Portland, Ore.

Roll out the homespun

Here’s an idea: a local company sells Kevlar cloth by the roll. Instead of sandbags and scrap metal, use off-the-shelf Kevlar! It can be used just like fiberglass, and with enough layers, provides light-weight, bullet-proof armor. Many of our troops know how to do body work. How about they put that skill to use with Kevlar to create armor for their vehicles?

— Brian Miller, Everett

Brad in war

The Army’s Humvee is getting a bad rap as a troop carrier in combat zones, but the Humvee is not being used correctly in this instance (“Humvees falling prey to war,” News, Dec. 12).

The Humvee is nothing more than an exotic jeep, the vehicle so famous for 50 years. The jeep (and the Humvee) were designed for patrol, military police work, traffic control, scouting, commander transport, towing supply trailers or light artillery pieces, and with modifications, a casualty ambulance transport, and with a .50-cal. machine gun, protection against strafing aircraft. They were never designed to have armor and were not designed to carry troops into combat zones or for convoy protection.

The Army has the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, which is multiwheeled, has armor, a gun turret and protection for a squad of infantry. Why the Army is not using Bradleys in this assignment is beyond me!

— Jack Ellison, Col., U.S. Army (ret.), Seattle

Tempered in deceit

We take $87 billion to rebuild Iraq but can’t spare the time or money to prepare our troops with proper weapons, transportation, armor? What was the rush to attack Iraq? Going after Osama bin Laden I can understand — and we had enough trained and supplied troops to accomplish it… but Iraq did not attack us, and was no imminent threat even if there had been WMD to be found. We could and should have waited until we were fully capable of attacking and defending ourselves.

The cavalier attitude of this administration toward our troops and their families is unconscionable. Until you’ve got the right weapons and well-trained troops to use them, you don’t voluntarily go to war! Methods and policies regarding this fiasco have got to change!

— Karen Groth, Hansville

Parent trap

Double-bind extension

I was dismayed with the imbecilic ruling by the state Supreme Court that it is illegal for a parent to listen in on their child’s telephone conversation (“Eavesdropping against law even for parent, court says,” Local News, Dec. 10). I’d like “judges” to tell me how we’re supposed to monitor our kids when judges keep carving out zones of privacy for them.

Imagine the trial. “Mr. Simon, why didn’t you stop your kid from setting free 100 hamsters in the science fair?”

“Because I didn’t know he was going to do it.”

“Why not?”

“Because some idiot judges made it impossible for me to monitor him. Said something about his privacy rights on the telephone with his hoodlum friends.”

“Political correctness is no excuse.”

And of course, the jury finds me guilty, and the same idiot Supreme Court agrees and because I couldn’t figure my way out of the double bind, I should be locked away in a lunatic asylum — an asylum that really should hold them.

— Bal Simon, Bellevue

Santa maybe

And her down the chimney

After reading “Ethnic Santas to visit local Nordstrom stores” (Northwest Life, Dec. 11), I want to share my Santa theory.

I strongly suspect Santa is a female. Doesn’t Santa display characteristics often attributed to the female? Thoughtfulness. Generosity. Patience. Attention to detail. Intuition (right gift for the right kid). Always remembers the date (Dec. 25). Gets lots of work done at night while the kids are asleep. And, above all, despite deadlines and multitasking, Santa is unfailingly jolly.

It’s amazing that after all these years, no one else has figured out what lies beneath that fake beard and padded red suit. It’s a girl!

— Marjorie Anderson, Bainbridge Island