"Not only do the men and women who serve in all branches of the military deserve our respect and support, their survival demands it."
James M. White
TIME's choice for Person of the Year [Dec. 29-Jan. 5] was like a holiday present from you to those of us who have loved ones guarding freedom around the world. My son is stationed in Afghanistan, and along with countless other soldiers, he spent Christmas away from home for the first time. Thank you for a brilliant choice!
Let the world salute TIME's person of the Year—the American soldier! I am so glad that I have walked with heroes: the American soldiers during the Vietnam War.
Colonel Chen-hua Chu
The American soldier was an appropriate selection, yet there was no mention of the coalition soldiers from other nations whose lives have been sacrificed in Iraq. I do not want to sound churlish, but without the help of the forces from numerous other countries, the task of overthrowing Saddam Hussein would have been considerably tougher.
Bravo for honoring the Heroes of the Year! There may be differing opinions about whether the troops should be where they are, but there is no disputing that they deserve the utmost respect and admiration for being willing to serve and protect us. We must not only be grateful but also let the people in the services know we are. Thanks for doing your part.
Victoria S. Hutchinson
I was appalled by your choice. American soldiers are victims of an aggressive U.S. foreign policy, but they are also the ones implementing that policy. In that role they have alienated virtually the entire world. Anywhere you go outside the U.S., the American soldier is seen as the embodiment of a power-hungry regime intent on world domination. TIME's selection reflects America's desire to feel that its bloody and violent occupation of Iraq is somehow doing good.
I appreciate your choosing the American soldier at a time when the men and women in uniform are fighting in Iraq and elsewhere. Each service member is the embodiment of valor, honesty and self-esteem. One hopes the U.S. will continue to respect those in uniform, even at the expense of being called a propagator of jingoistic values. The indomitable spirit and sacrifice of those in the military guarantee the safety of every American.
Whether or not one agrees with what George W. Bush has done, it is beyond belief that TIME did not select him as Person of the Year. He was clearly the dominant influence on world events during 2003. Our fighting men and women deserve a tremendous amount of respect and admiration, but who made the decision to deploy them?
Scottsdale, U.S. I was amazed that you named the American soldier as Person of the Year. I respect U.S. service members. They are often sent to fight for causes they don't understand, and their profession can require the taking of human lives. But the people who work day in and day out for the well-being of children or to help the poor and elderly all over the world are more deserving of recognition.
Venlo, the Netherlands
A more courageous choice for the person who most affected the world for good or ill would have been America's neoconservative policymakers, who completely changed the geopolitical scheme of things in 2003. Of course, that might not have been a feel-good cover. I look forward to Time's recovering its backbone.
Whether the war is right or wrong, those in the armed forces are risking their lives not only for the countries where they serve but also to defend all of us at home. Time's report was the best description I have read anywhere of what our feelings should be in response to the sacrifices of those in the services.
Columbus, U.S. The Year in Pictures
James Hill's picture of a dead Iraqi soldier lying on the ground as a U.S. troop convoy passed by was in your selection of "The Best Photos of the Year" [Dec. 22]. While that photo conveys the horrific reality of the war, it is unbelievable that TIME would publish a picture of a dead Iraqi soldier and not also show dead American soldiers. Are Iraqis any less human than Americans? I wish the U.S. media, especially TIME, would show the same respect for all human beings and not run any photos of dead soldiers.
Katherine J. Harrison
Silver Spring, U.S.
It is a sad and poignant commentary on our times that few of the best photographs were of anything remotely joyful. To revive our spirits, could you publish a compilation of "Cheerful Photographs of the Year"?
The New-New Democrats
Joe Klein's column on how Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean is changing the Democratic Party [Dec. 22] comes down to this: Dean and Gore are angry and hate George W. Bush. Is that a winning [presidential] campaign strategy? Highly unlikely. Hoping that things go badly in the economy and in Iraq is not a philosophy the American people will latch on to. Dean is doomed by his own anger.
Klein missed the obvious implication of Gore's endorsement of Dean: Gore expects Dean to lose big and is positioning himself to lay claim to Dean's followers for the 2008 election.
Your article on "The Lost Gospels" [Dec. 22], about early Christian Scriptures that were dropped from the canon and are now being revisited by biblical scholars, could have noted that Gnosticism's appeal was not confined to ancient times but has proved to be widespread and enduring. Gnosticism addresses the feelings of displacement and alienation that have haunted us in recent times. Many people today feel frightened and amazed by the complexities and irrationalities of the world. The platitudes of organized religion do not seem sufficient. Gnosticism offers a consolation to be found in an esoteric mystical insight.
Ignacio L. Gotz
Point Harbor, U.S.
For this struggling Christian, the theory of religion professor Elaine Pagels—that John intended his Gospel to debunk and debase the Gospel of Thomas—is as plausible as it is unsettling. If Pagels is correct, does John play equally fast and loose with the truth in the sayings he attributes to Jesus? John's Gospel is the most direct assertion that Jesus is the son of God, and if this Gospel were put aside as unreliable, then Christians would be much closer to being left with a man who is merely another prophet, a peer of Confucius, Buddha and Muhammad, but nothing more.
The life of Jesus is like a Rorschach test: people look at it and see what they want to. That applies to us atheists, too. We see continuing confirmation of what we've long contended—that man created God in his own image.
Richard S. Russell Madison, U.S.
This article made me realize once again that all religion is man-made and that astronomy has shown us how insignificant our world—and, indeed, our solar system—is. To make this world a better place (as religion has obviously failed to do), it is time to stop blindly following ancient man-made philosophies and come up with new doctrines for human interaction.
"The Lost Gospels" was much ado about nothing. Gnostics may feel that they have peace of mind now, but with only these fusty old fairy tales to guide them, they will never be sure if they are on the right track. After all, the ultimate purpose of the canonical Bible is not to help us feel good in this life but to prepare us for what comes after. Therefore the Gnostic books will soon gather dust on the bookshelf, but they truly belong in the trash.
Why am I not terribly impressed or terribly relieved by the capture of Saddam Hussein [Dec. 22]? It took an awfully long time to capture him, and in the sorry state he was found in—disoriented, bearded, tired—he seemed hardly a threat to anyone. But what's worse, the Americans got the wrong man. It wasn't Saddam who masterminded 9/11, nor was it Iraqis who flew the planes that day. The man to go after is Osama bin Laden, and the one Arab nation we want to keep our eyes on is Saudi Arabia, where 15 of the 19 hijacking terrorists came from.
Odd Terje Dovik
Sadly, in your report on Saddam's capture, there was not a word of compassion for the civilian victims of the war. Don't we realize that for decades to come, devastated Iraqis—maimed, orphaned, destroyed—will live in pain because of a fate they did not choose? We were so pleased to arrest the monster Saddam that we seem to have ignored the high human cost of the West's longtime support of his regime.
By broadcasting the videotape of the medical examination of Saddam, the Americans aimed to humiliate the whole Arab world. They divested Saddam of human dignity by filming him during the procedures that he was forced to undergo. Arabs turned away in shame from those pictures and felt a deep disappointment about this tactlessness. Whether such dubious tactics will help U.S. efforts to achieve good relations with the Arab population remains highly questionable.
Kyrgyzstan Awaits You
Many thanks for the TIME Traveler article on touring the Central Asian former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan [Dec. 22]! It was the first time I found a report on my country in TIME, and I must say you introduced it to readers in a perfect way. I'm sure many people throughout the world don't even know that Kyrgyzstan exists. Maybe your article will encourage travelers to visit this beautiful country in the heart of Asia. It has everything to offer: snow-covered mountains and clear lakes, as well as large forests, vast plains, lovely villages and a vibrant capital city, Bishkek. Since we gained our independence from the former Soviet Union, we have become a secure and democratic state that is looking ahead to modernity and increasing wealth. Tourists, we're ready to welcome you!
The Gnostic Codices
Our story on the new interest in early Christian Gospels [RELIGION, Dec. 22] noted the discovery of Scriptures that were unearthed in 1945. We once reported on the significance of these codices as interpreted by Christian experts after years of study [June 9, 1975]:
"Today Gnosticism is the object of renewed interest among scholars, owing largely to the publication of a remarkable library of Gnostic scriptures. Known as the Nag Hammadi Codices, for the town in southern Egypt near the site of their discovery, the library consists of twelve 4th century papyrus books containing texts that are thought to have been translated from the original Greek into Egypt's ancient Coptic language ... The Nag Hammadi texts are already adding new fuel to a long-standing debate over the relationship between Gnosticism and early Christianity. Scholars have long believed that some New Testament passages attack incipient forms of Gnosticism. The traditional explanation is that Gnosticism matured after the birth of Christianity and became its archenemy ... It was largely the threat posed by the Gnostics that forced the early Christian church to codify its beliefs ... As orthodoxy won out, Gnostic scriptures were destroyed, and for centuries the religion was known chiefly from church attacks against it."
Setting the Record Straight
Terms of the Lease
In our report on the U.S. military detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba [Dec. 8], we mistakenly said that in 1903 the U.S. leased the base in perpetuity from Cuba for "2,000 gold coins a year, now valued at $4,085." The original lease called for an annual rental of $2,000 in gold, an amount that today would be worth about $40,000.