A sampling of readers' letters, faxes and e-mail.

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Foreign aggression

Attacks on liberators stem from displaced anger

Editor, The Times:

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As an American, I’m angry and outraged at this latest attack in Mosul (“20 Americans die in mess-tent blast,” Times page one, Dec. 22).

Furthermore, I find it painful to imagine the depth of heartache and sadness the families of the dead must feel.

It’s also becoming clearer with each disaster that this war is not about terrorism, not about avenging 9/11, and not about making us safer, it’s really about bad judgment and the inability of hard-headed individuals to admit a colossal mistake.

This war can best be described as the horrible result of what happens when you get a terrible mix of Texas macho (“bring it on”), bad information and incompetent leadership, combined with a public that desperately wants to believe its leaders.

Should anyone be so foolish as to think this is going to end anytime soon, just ask yourself what you’d do if your country were illegally invaded, and your homeland occupied.

And that’s the real point: They hate us worse than they hated Saddam, and will do anything (as we would) to get us out of their country.

If only we’d had the smarts (and insightful leadership) to just go after Osama bin Laden and the real terrorists.

— Greg James, Seattle

War in a far country

Other side of conflict: Betrayal in relation to brothers in arms

Leftist critics of the war in Iraq and of the administration are very sensitive to being tarred as unpatriotic or, worse, un-American.

People who live in families with numerous siblings know that intrafamilial conflict is a given, but let someone from outside the family be in conflict with any family member and there is instant unity as all rally to defend their brother or sister.

For any family member to ally himself with the outsider in word, deed, or by criticizing his sibling in this context would be rightly viewed as the worst kind of betrayal.

It is sophistry to bleat that one supports the troops but not their mission. In the substance and the manner of their criticism of this current war, the left are not behaving as members of the American family. No one is calling them unpatriotic or un-American: They are telling everyone that is what they are.

— Richard Radford, Steilacoom

Commander in deep denial

Now that he’s safely elected, President Bush is finally beginning to acknowledge that Iraq is a quagmire from which we will have difficulty extricating ourselves (“Bush: ‘Insurgents having an effect,’ ” page one, Dec. 21). His comments are a gross understatement to anyone who has been following the news from Iraq, including body counts of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers, since earlier this year.

Even now, the president fails to assume responsibility for the situation, instead blaming U.S.-trained Iraqi troops. And he actually praises Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying “he is a good human being who cares deeply about the military, and deeply about the grief that war causes.”

Too bad Bush, Rumsfeld and company didn’t exhibit more of that concern before invading Iraq with inadequate preparation and no Plan B if things didn’t go according to their rosy scenario. As it is, we’re in for a long four years.

— Erika Giles, Mercer Island

Demolished on his word

“He called the bombings ‘effective propaganda tools.’ “

Excuse me, Mr. President, but you need to check your dictionary. “Propaganda” is what you and your party used to convince voters that you knew best how to win the war. The bombings are “fighting,” as in “war.” And the “having an effect” you referred to is from combat, not from propaganda. That makes two things you need to learn from your dictionary.

Did you really think, Mr. President, that you were redeploying troops to combat propaganda?

As for us, we need a leader who can handle a war without having to look it up in the dictionary.

— Irvin Dorfman, Bellingham

Topple brass

Explain to me why, in “The soldiers deserve better than the defense secretary we have” (guest commentary, Dec. 20), William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and standard-bearer for the political right, openly criticizes and recommends removal of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

About Rumsfeld’s decisions, Kristol writes, “In any case, decisions on troop levels in the American system of government are not made by any general or set of generals but by the civilian leadership of the war effort. Rumsfeld acknowledged this last week, after a fashion: ‘I mean, everyone likes to assign responsibility to the top person and I guess that’s fine.’ ” Except he fails to take responsibility.

What I need explained to me is not why hesitate to remove Rumsfeld, but more, why responsibility stops with Rumsfeld? A president was just re-elected who claimed to be commander in chief of the armed forces. Isn’t it more fitting to assign responsibility, as Kristol suggests, “to the top person”?

How long will the shield of blaming subordinates continue to cover the actions of a misguided leader we call commander in chief?

— Bill Kirlin-Hackett, Redmond

Dereliction of doubt

The delay by prominent Republicans in criticizing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is unconscionable. These politicians and columnists, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. former Senate majority leader Trent Lott, and William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, obviously waited until after the election to voice their grave concerns about the manner in which Rumsfeld is fighting the war.

There is no reason other than politics for them not speaking out months ago. Many soldiers have been killed or wounded while these men placed partisan politics over the welfare of our military.

— Kent Meyer, Seattle

The pen is contriter

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should find time during the holidays to personally sign condolence letters to the families of those killed in the attack on the military base near Mosul (“Rumsfeld to sign condolence letters,” News, Dec. 20).

While he’s at it, he can also pen his autograph to letters of apology to the loved ones of the more than 1,300 other soldiers whose deaths in battle or duty were acknowledged by his mechanically signed condolence letters. That’s the least a “caring fellow” can do.

— J. Paul Blake, Renton

Sorry postscript

I believe the criticism of Donald Rumsfeld for (initially) not signing letters to bereaved relatives of dead soldiers (was) misplaced. Rumsfeld is the chief executive of one of the largest organizations in the world. It is a waste of his valuable time to manually sign letters that accomplish nothing.

The issue should not be whether he signs the letters, but why the letters are there to be signed at all. Why are we wasting time criticizing him for not taking the time for a symbolic act, when we should be criticizing him, his leader, and his partners in crime for dishonestly and negligently leading us into the needless war that caused the deaths in the first place?

— Andrew Brunette, Bellevue

Quell damage

You can thank your President Bush for (the attack in Mosul), along with all the deaths that have occurred in Iraq, and those that will undoubtedly continue to occur.

Dead American soldiers chose to be over there when they enlisted: They enlisted to fight, they enlisted to kill, and they enlisted to be killed, even for a cause that has nothing to do with freedom.

Why don’t we hear about the countless number of innocent Iraqis that are killed each day by American soldiers? I care a lot more about the innocent, unarmed men, women and children who had no choice but to die.

The arrogance. The ignorance. The shame….

— Mike Long, Lyon, France

Conceding victory

During this sad time in our nation’s history, the president states the obvious and it makes headlines (“Bush: ‘Insurgents having an effect’ “).

The only news, of course, is that George Bush is in touch with reality on one point, which is one more than previously known.

— Stephen Les, Seattle

Battle in the capital

Government losing ground

As usual, the discussion of more taxes and budget shortfalls completely evades the basic problem (“The wages of sin, or how to love a can of soda pop,” Editorial Page Editor James F. Vesely column, Dec. 19).

I usually attribute this to The Times’ liberal slant. Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but it does reflect a mindset that always sees a need for more money for government.

Perhaps we need a little less government?

Drive around Olympia for a while sometime. You see clouds of overpaid, underworked bureaucrats and the new, huge, gleaming buildings the size and grandeur of palaces.

No excess seems to be enough for the “ruling class.”

If the Olympia types have to cut anything, they will only cut basic necessities that will hurt the public. Any reduction in the size or cost of government is strictly taboo. Any mention by the liberal media of the bloating of the public trough is likewise not going to happen.

We have more government than we can afford. Stop building the palaces. Freeze government wages of over $50,000 or $80,000. Most of the recipients of this largess couldn’t get a job in the private sector if they tried.

The close race for governor illustrates the fact that the balance of voters is shifting in Washington. Voters who want some accountability are finally becoming able to out-vote the liberals in Seattle.

— Pierre Stephenson, Ocean Park

Fight to the depth

Lowest level conquered

Anyone who believes that the King County election results of the governor’s race reflect the will of the people has to be naive indeed (“King County reports recount results: Gregoire by 10,” Times Web page, 5:25 p.m., Dec. 22).

Ballots were found behind every stump and under every rock. The magic markers of election workers changed the result even before the first recount. This election was stolen. King County now ranks right up there with Cook County, Ill., for its brazen corruption.

— Jack May, Seattle

Checkpoint chary

Election officials, meet Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.

Poll workers get paid a pittance for working long hours. When the polls close at 8 p.m., the emphasis shifts to supervising the preparation and shipping of ballots to a central headquarters so that the weary workers can go home. This is the time of greatest peril.

If it is possible for votes to fall into in interior of a machine, all machines must be inspected before anyone goes home. If there is a stack of boxes, every box must be inspected before anyone goes home. If there is a pile of ballots, segregated for whatever reason, that pile should be inspected by at least two people before any votes leave the polling place. There should be no drawers or file cabinets, but if there are, they must be checked out before anyone goes home.

Negligence? Incompetence? How about just trying to go home before you fall asleep on your feet?

— Robert Gardner, Renton

Save the pillage

Let’s count all the ballots fit to steal.

— John Krogstad, Burlington, Mass.

Don’t overestimate strengths

I may be one of the few people in King County who isn’t accusing anyone connected with counting the ballots with fraud.

Frankly, based on the impressive list of screw-ups the county elections division has accomplished in recent years, I’m not convinced anyone there has the smarts to pull off something of that magnitude.

Lynn Conver, Kent