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

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War of perception

Congressman sees what the military wishes to show him

Editor, The Times:

The conversion of Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, on Iraq is curious and sad [“Our troops have earned more time,” Times, guest commentary, Aug. 24]. His junket to Baghdad sounds like a promotional tour for speculative real estate. He was shown around to the view lots, and naively ended up making a down payment on the swamp.

At the same time, the authoritative National Intelligence Estimate makes it clear that George Bush’s so-called strategy is failing. The Iraqi government is unlikely to become effective any time soon. It’s an empty showpiece, like Baird’s tour.

The ballyhooed resistance to al-Qaida in Iraq by local Sunnis is likely to turn into a new center of opposition to the Shia majority. All the various factions are positioning themselves for action once we inevitably do leave, later if not sooner.

Baird was particularly affected by the plea of a soldier that “we’re making progress.” Any soldier would say that. He would have to believe in what he was doing to stay sane, and to stay alive. He’s drilled every day to believe in it, and he’s just as deluded as Baird.

— Chris Nielsen, Shoreline

Street-slighting man

Rep. Brian Baird argues that President Bush’s surge needs more time to succeed. He bases his argument on a recent trip to Iraq where he saw firsthand the progress Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker have made.

And that’s the problem with his argument. He was treated to a feel-good tour and came back with a feel-good story.

I wonder how much time he spent away from his military escort, just him and an interpreter, interviewing actual Iraqis on the street or soldiers who didn’t have superiors monitoring their every word. No, actually, I don’t wonder because if he did actually spend any time in-country without heavy security, he wouldn’t have made it back alive.

Rep. Baird got played like a fool and now he’s back home talking foolishness.

— Ron Asher, Seattle

History’s on our side

Rep. Brian Baird has some interesting takes on Iraq. He states that “we” dismantled Iraq’s infrastructure. I remember well that Saddam Hussein dismantled his own county’s infrastructure, and I ask Baird to not try to pull that one over on his constituents.

The Iraqi government under Saddam pre-trained its own insurgency and monkey-wrenched his already low-functioning nation. No one is fooled by attempts to rewrite that history.

At least Baird has the good sense to not follow the pap that has us “needing” to leave Iraq to certain remission and wholesale destruction by certain Islamicist factions. I won’t congratulate him for seeing the obvious, but there is some political courage being shown by this one liberal politician. It kind of reminds me of the “old school” Democrats from my youth in Western Washington near Baird’s district.

— Casey Klahn, Davenport,Lincoln County

Over a barrel

So Brian Baird goes to Iraq and now all of a sudden he feels he’s getting “fully honest reports” about the war from the Bush administration? [“Rep. Baird’s more optimistic view of Iraq,” Postman on Politics blog, Aug. 20.] On what basis could he possibly make the decision that this administration is being honest?

On Sept. 11, 2007, the sixth anniversary of 9/11, the Bush administration intends to release the report on the surge, once again milking the attacks for every last drop of political deception that Iraqis attacked the United States.

This war in Iraq was planned years before Sept. 11, 2001. It was and is a war about oil, as evidenced by the oil companies’ pressing for the oil-sharing agreements, which should be called oil-stealing agreements.

When the U.S. attacked Bagdad, President Bush went on TV and urged the Iraqis not to attack the oil wells, while leaving the Bagdad National Museum and government buildings totally unguarded.

If we want peace in the Middle East, we should work for justice for the Iraqi people, rather than pressing for oil agreements to take their oil as if it were our own.

Perhaps Baird and David Postman could explain exactly what’s in those oil agreements and how they do justice to the people of Iraq.

— Richard Borkowski, Seattle

What children don’t know

Not telling can hurt

It should be common knowledge by now to parents that pedophiles seek out organizations (churches, schools, Scouts) where children are [“Brothers force Scouts to reveal scope of abuse,” page one, Aug. 23]. Screening these people is every organization’s first priority, as is expelling them and alerting authorities.

However, the biggest impact on children’s safety comes from being a responsible parent. Handing over our children to people of whom we know nothing (but think we do) is an act of faith that should also be accompanied by sensible preparation.

We must instill in our children from an early age the knowledge that if someone’s touching makes them uncomfortable, they should tell a trusted adult. We must tell our children that a person might threaten them or their parents, but that they should not believe them and come tell us anyway.

Making our children aware from the beginning of the dangers out there, as hard as it is to tell them and take away some of their innocence, is the primary step in preventing child abuse. Any parent who does not do this, and blindly trusts the system, should not be surprised that their child was abused and never told anyone about it.

— Liz Benedict Steenbeeke, Puyallup

Bonds of humanity

Guys like anyone else

I think an important point has been missed in the discussion of the FBI’s release of the ferry-passenger photos [“FBI’s release of photos resented,” Local News, Aug. 23 and “FBI asks: Who are the men in this photo from ferry?” page one, Aug. 22].

The two men appear to be in their late 20s or 30s, physically fit, well-groomed and -dressed, clean-shaven with dark hair.

The description sounds like Sean Connery in the early “James Bond” films.

Or Zorba and Ari from Athens.

Or Lev and Solomon from Tel Aviv.

Or Joe and Bob from Pittsburgh.

Those who assume these men are Arabs or Muslim are the ones guilty of stereotyping. The FBI never stated, or implied, that these men were Middle Eastern.

How curious that the Arab-American Community Coalition assumes they are, and thus reads nefarious motives into the publication of the photos.

— Steven Adler, Seattle