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By going to Iraq on Thanksgiving Day [Dec. 8], President Bush did what any decent leader should do during wartime: he took a great risk to show his country's soldiers that he was proud of them and grateful for their bravery. Was this trip dangerous? Sure. Unnecessary? No. I would have loved to see the G.I.s' faces firsthand when Bush entered the room. I'm proud of the President for going forward with his heart, as he always has. I can only pray that despite the constant media bashing, he can continue to show everyone he's not afraid to do the right thing. LAURA WAGNER Pickerington, Ohio
The White House claims that the President went to Iraq to boost the morale of the troops, but he was in Baghdad for only 2 1/2 hours, and fewer than 600 troops saw him. Because of the secrecy, thousands of military personnel in the area didn't even know he was there. So how was their morale helped? Let's call the trip what it was: political grandstanding. FORREST G. WOOD Bakersfield, Calif.
That President Bush has politicized the Iraq war is not novel. The chief executive of any state waging a war depends on the political will of the people to support that war until its conclusion. The campaign to sustain the public's political will includes appeals to patriotism, freedom, democracy and sacrifice and is a recurring theme in American history. Abraham Lincoln constantly worried about those who criticized the Civil War for its enormous loss of life and its aim of ending slavery to save the Union. And while World War II raged in Europe, F.D.R. had to defend his Lend-Lease program against isolationists in Congress. Only time will tell whether the Iraq war is worth the cost. WALTER LEE Orange, Calif.
If the war had truly been for the liberation of the Iraqi people, as Bush claimed, he would have been enthusiastically welcomed by cheering multitudes of Iraqis in broad daylight. Instead the President had to sneak into and out of Baghdad in the dark. Pathetic. ANDY MAHLER Paoli, Ind.
MOURNING IN AMERICA
In "Why Bush Stays Away," Charles Krauthammer defended President Bush's policy of not attending the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq [Dec. 8]. Of course, it is not feasible for Bush to go to every funeral, but have either Krauthammer or Bush considered President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address? It was given on Nov. 18, 1863, in the middle of the Civil War. Lincoln eloquently honored the fallen soldiers without suggesting any weakness. His words of compassion and hope were not written by a professional speechwriter. Is it too much to expect that Bush will emulate Lincoln's humble example and honor the dead without waiting until the war is over? HAROLD RICHARD PIEHLER Lawrence, Kans.
Krauthammer's Commentary was well balanced and intelligent. Soldiers are fighting men and women. Victory or defeat and death are part and parcel of being a military person. I am sure every patriotic American feels the pain when news reaches us that yet another soldier has been killed in the line of duty. But freedom and preservation of our way of life come at a price. ADI DAMANIA Woodland, Calif.
As soon as presidential strategist Karl Rove realizes the damage caused the President by his absence from memorial services, a funeral will be found somewhere for Bush to attend. LANCE COLLINS Sugar Land, Texas