The report on the U.S. military's frustrating struggle in Iraq sparked comment from readers who oppose the war. Others who wrote despaired of the costs of the conflict but could see no easy way out. Some letter writers, however, felt that questioning U.S. actions only gives comfort to the enemy
I was delighted to see a major American magazine giving readers the truth about the war in Iraq [Sept. 26]. You labeled Joe Klein's report as the "secret history" of U.S. mistakes and misjudgments in failing to thwart the Iraqi insurgency at its start. I contend that the situation was in no way secret. Non-Americans knew even before the war began that if the U.N. didn't run the postwar occupation, a disaster was inevitable. The U.S. is the dinosaur of modern conflict all brute force with a peanut-size brain, completely outdated in a world where credibility comes first.
It is too late to win the war in iraq only if you believe it is already lost or you want the U.S. to lose. People have failed to learn the lesson the insurgents grasped early on: It ain't over till it's over.
War is a tragic part of the human condition but is sometimes necessary to combat such evils as slavery, fascism and, yes, terrorism. The Iraq war, however, will achieve no noble purpose. There were no weapons of mass destruction, and democracy will exist in Iraq for about as long as U.S. troops are there. Many more Saddams are waiting to rise to the top in Iraq. We were naive to think we could easily paste a veneer of Jeffersonian democracy on a land where tribal allegiances date back centuries. By almost any measure, this war is unnecessary and a tragic blunder. Yet to withdraw our troops now would compound the mistake we made in deciding to invade and would leave an unstable and volatile nation to fend for itself. So what should Americans do? We should support our troops until some sort of muddled conclusion allows at least a partial withdrawal.
San Rafael, California, U.S.
Over the years, hundreds of thousands of Americans have given their lives defending freedom. The relative sacrifice in Iraq is insignificant compared with what inaction would cost us. I do not like war and wish the need for it would end, but headlines like "Is It Too Late to Win the War?" illustrate that Time has no idea what this enemy is like. Nor do you understand that the insurgents will not negotiate or play by the rules. They will not give up until they are defeated. I hope the President will use his bully pulpit to put that in perspective for the uninformed who think that the U.S. has made a mistake and that the war against terrorism is a video game you can wind up before dinner.
William H. Files
Evansville, Indiana, U.S.
The U.S.'s difficulties in Iraq were entirely predictable and show that military forces are ill suited for social work or political projects. An army is a blunt instrument. Its function is to destroy an enemy. Unless the U.S. intends to do just that, we should keep our soldiers at home.
Cynthiana, Kentucky, U.S.
I was opposed to the war in the beginning, but now I feel we must play this hand out to an acceptable end.
Troy, Ohio, U.S.
We lost the iraq war long ago. George W. Bush had no idea what he was getting us into. Now we all know that bluster and posturing don't win a conflict. If we can't stabilize Iraq, how can that country's ragtag police ever do so? Maybe peace would come if our occupation forces left.
North East, Maryland, U.S.
You asked whether the U.S. can win the war in Iraq, but a more apt question would be, Since the U.S. is losing the war, what can it do? The White House naively assumes that all countries are fertile ground for democracy. The layers of tribal fabric that make up Iraq are too complex for Western leaders to handle. Once American troops leave as they eventually must the only alternative to a tribal war in Iraq would be the installation of a strongman, a surrogate for Saddam Hussein on a short leash. With an autocratic leader in place, in six months there would be social order in Iraq good enough to protect U.S. oil interests, which is what the war is all about.
Quebec City, Canada
The financial cost of the Iraq war is driving the U.S. ever further into debt. The war looks as if it can't be won. The only course is to get out. If you can't finance a war, then you shouldn't be fighting one.
The debacle in Iraq was wholly predictable, given the history of the British occupation there in the 1920s and the U.S. disaster in Vietnam. Moreover, it is bad military doctrine to fight the inevitable guerrilla war without an integrated hearts-and-minds operation. What I'm saying isn't hindsight; many of us have known from the start that the Iraq war was insane.
J. Stephen Cridland
I am amazed that Americans don't seem to realize the gravity of the situation in Iraq. Why is the U.S. sacrificing its soldiers? The oil in Iraq is not worth it. There is no easy outcome to this war. U.S. opponents from around the world have a golden opportunity to challenge America in Iraq. U.S. troops must contend with combat conditions, unfamiliar terrain and hot weather, along with hatred from all corners of the Middle East. The sooner the war comes to an end, the better it will be for U.S. prestige. The Iraqi opposition forces are willing to sacrifice themselves to defend their country. But what are American soldiers sacrificing themselves for?
In "Syria Gets The Cold Shoulder" [Sept. 26], Time reported that most world leaders were unwilling to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad at the U.N. World Summit and that President Bush blames Syria for not doing enough to stop terrorists from entering Iraq. Does no one in the Bush Administration find it ironic that it is criticizing a developing country for its inability to guard its border with Iraq while the U.S. has been unable to secure its own border with Mexico? Why should Syria, which opposed the war, put all its efforts toward securing a border that is being used as a passageway into Iraq for insurgents? We should strengthen our own borders before we bully other nations.
Gabriel E. Sarah
Tucson, Arizona, U.S.
A Flood of Money
"How To Spend (Almost) $1 Billion A Day" reported on the Federal Government's massive post-Katrina rebuilding effort [Sept. 26] and stated, "Most of the major Katrina contracts doled out so far have been for temporary housing, and they have gone, by and large, to companies with strong ties to the Bush Administration." Average Americans, even though they are suffering enough with rising energy and food costs, loss of jobs and lack of affordable health care, have rallied to help those who are recovering from the hurricane crisis. I am curious to know what our President, representatives and wealthier citizens have personally contributed. Recovery should not be paid for by cutting funds for health care and other vital federal programs, as some have proposed. While helping the hurricane victims, we still need to maintain spending on research, education, environment, medical care and energy alternatives.
Amherst, Massachusetts, U.S.
The federal government cannot afford to foot the entire bill for reconstruction and relocation projects related to disaster relief. I propose that all federal funding for the war in Iraq be diverted to the hurricane-recovery effort. Then the money needed to pay for the war would come from members of the Bush Administration, Congress, private citizens and corporations who supported (and in many cases profited from) the invasion of Iraq. Paying for the continuing occupation of Iraq with private funds would allow the hawks to support a cause they believe in and at the same time free up more federal money for the victims of natural disasters a cause that many more Americans support.
David W. McCreery
Salem, Oregon, U.S.
Building homes in an area below sea level, on a floodplain, near an earthquake zone or in a mudslide area is stupid. Billions of taxpayer dollars should not be spent to rebuild New Orleans in its present location. Disasters like hurricanes Katrina and Rita will happen again and again.
Garden Grove, California, U.S.
Perhaps Americans are by now waking up to the humbling fact that the world has only one superpower: the climate.
Port Vila, Vanuatu
My response to time's "10 Questions" interview with ex-convict Martha Stewart, whom you described as "the indomitable domestic diva" [Sept. 19], is simply this: crime does pay.
Asheville, North Carolina
For Stewart to err, as the saying goes, was human. To forgive her is divine. But to glorify her is ridiculous.
Fighting AIDS in Uganda
Your article on Uganda's use of condoms in the past to fight aids [Sept. 26] noted the controversy over whether the Ugandan government is now promoting a "message of abstinence based on religious dogma" in response to U.S. pressure. From 1992 to 2002, Uganda had remarkable success in reducing its hiv rate because of a number of factors, including strong national political leadership, comprehensive prevention strategies and promotion of condom use and safe sex. The abstinence-only approach appeared only after the U.S. started exporting that ideology after 2001. U.S. funding for hiv prevention in Uganda has abstinence-only strings attached, resulting in a prevention program that has abandoned an effective and proven strategy that incorporated condom use. Tragically, the decade-long decline in hiv prevalence has reversed itself, and new infections are again on the rise in Uganda.
Steven W. Sinding,
Surely the outcome of the elections in Germany provides a golden opportunity for the two largest parties to form a grand coalition [Oct. 3]. They can work to institute urgently needed economic reforms without taking exclusive blame for the temporary pain they will cause. The two parties could each appoint an equal number of experts to an economic panel that decides what the most suitable reforms are.
Turkey and the E.U.
Your notebook item "how to talk to Turkey" [Sept. 26] reported on Turkey's decision to try its well-known author Orhan Pahmuk for "publicly denigrating" the nation. As you noted, this prosecution could count against Turkey's bid to enter the European Union. Advocating for Turkish E.U. membership in order to encourage a kind of moderate and democratic Islam can be a noble mission. Nevertheless, the E.U. should not ignore popular opinion. What if millions of European citizens simply do not want Turkey a militaristic, deeply nationalistic, Asiatic (geographically as well as culturally) country that has a history of disrespect for ethnic, religious and other minorities to become a powerful decision maker in the E.U.? Before going elsewhere for new E.U. members, perhaps we should be embracing our European neighbors: Ukraine, the Balkans and even Albania.
Matthew Cooper, in his article about President Bush's mishandling of the Katrina disaster [Sept. 12] noted, "In a crisis he can act paradoxically, appearing almost simultaneously strong and weak, decisive and vacillating, Churchill and Chamberlain." Please stop comparing Bush to British Prime Ministers. If Bush lived in Britain, he could not get elected to a town council. That's a fact.
The War at Home
Only those who have lost a loved one can appreciate what Cindy Sheehan, the American antiwar activist whose son was killed in Iraq, is going through [Aug. 22]. Nothing takes away the pain. The anguish a mother feels when she loses a child is different from the loss that surviving brothers and sisters feel. Sheehan has done her best for Casey, her soldier son; she did not fail him in any way. But I implore her to heed the plea of her other son Andy: to go back home because she is needed there to support her children. If anything happened to them, she would never forgive herself.
The Faithful Young
I appreciated your article about the Roman Catholic Church's efforts to connect with young Europeans [Aug. 15]. In referring to Pope John Paul II's popularity with young people, you quoted a German Cardinal: "The girls in St. Peter's Square who cheer the Pope have the Pill in their pockets." I don't think the Cardinal was referring simply to contraceptives. He was making a general statement about many aspects of contemporary sexuality and behavior proscribed by the Catholic Church. Some Cardinals are concerned that we young people are given too much freedom. In fact there are many of us who feel Catholic but in certain circumstances act differently from the teachings of the church. We all have something "forbidden" in our pocket, but if we are united, we will be able to reach the truth.