"Whether or not the Iraq war was right, it's the troops on the ground who are bearing the brunt of a failed strategy. We need to get them out."
Herbert M. Dicker
Port Washington, U.S.
Your asking what went wrong in Iraq does irreparable harm to the morale of America's troops and their families [Oct. 6]. Ridding the world of Saddam Hussein's regime was a lofty achievement, and if we accomplish nothing else politically in Iraq, we have still done the people of that country and the world a great service. How about focusing on the good that has come of U.S. efforts there? Now an entire generation of Iraqis is able to help lead a freer Middle East, a more stable one that can help return the Muslim countries there to the peace they claim to desire. With Saddam in power, there was no hope.
Red Boiling Springs, U.S.
Since President George W. Bush announced in May that "major combat operations" in Iraq were over, the U.S. has lost scores of troops there, reconstruction of war-torn Iraq has stalled, no weapons of mass destruction [WMD] have been found and we can't get substantial support from our allies. What a turnabout it would be if the Democrats use pictures of Bush landing on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln when they campaign to regain the White House.
Where I come from, if an employee embarked on a major initiative without planning for the long run, misrepresented important facts and made ruinous miscalculations, that employee would be fired, along with his management team.
In "So, What Went Wrong?" Michael Elliott asserted, "If the assumption that Saddam had deadly weapons looks, at least for now, to have been mistaken, it was to an extent understandable." But letting Bush off the hook in this manner is equivalent to saying it is O.K. for a district attorney to tamper with evidence because he truly believes that the accused is guilty. Cherry picking only the most supportive intelligence reports, ignoring others and making a case that is much stronger than the evidence warrants in an effort to convince the public that war is necessary are wrong. It doesn't matter whether you truly believed there were WMD in Iraq.
Rochester Hills, U.S.
If the U.S. hadn't taken out Saddam, sooner or later he would have done everything possible to destroy us. He definitely would have supported terrorist acts against America. If we had waited, the cost in money and lives would have been far greater.
I voted for Bush, expecting fiscal responsibility and nothing like a war in Iraq. Richard Nixon was forced to resign after he lied about Watergate. Now it appears that Bush misled us about the reasons for attacking Iraq. Impeachment proceedings should have begun. Why must U.S. troops remain as an occupying force in Iraq? Are we in for another Vietnam?
Saddam presented a threat to the stability of the Middle East. The West needs oil to function. Wasn't it better to invade while we could outgun the Iraqis than to wait and suffer more casualties later on? At least the world is rid of a despot. And who knows how many innocent Iraqi lives have been saved? I hold no brief for Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, but I support them in this. The daily death toll of allied troops is heartbreaking, but it will be worth it in the end. I am the father of a British soldier who served in Northern Ireland during the worst of the "troubles," so I know how soldiers' families feel.
If the true American objective is to fight terrorism born of Islamic fundamentalism, it would have been far more effective to spend the same amount of money (or less) on education and the relief of poverty in Islamic countries instead of spending tens of billions of dollars on a military operation in Iraq. Young Muslims are not born terrorists. Some go to madrasahs [Islamic schools] because they cannot afford to go anywhere else. Some go to madrasahs just to get food. It all starts there. Fight that.
Some readers reacted angrily to the cover headline "Mission Not Accomplished" and the photo of President Bush wearing a flight suit on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln in May. "How dare you put our President on your cover with such a despicable headline?" wrote a Connecticut man. But not all readers saw red. A Washington State resident wryly approved of "the cute picture of the guy in the fighter-pilot costume. Too bad you didn't save it for Halloween—that's when most of us play dressup." Quipped a woman from New Hampshire: "Despite your negative headline, I could still see what a hottie our President is."
Bush Wouldn't Listen
It is clear that the Bush administration decided to invade and occupy a sovereign country that had never attacked the U.S. and was not even a real threat [Oct. 6]. There was no link between Saddam and al-Qaeda, and no WMD have been found. The French tried hard to warn the Americans not to invade Iraq, which is what you would expect from your oldest friend. But Bush wouldn't listen. This is a very sad time for those who used to look to America as the beacon of freedom and respect for human values in a troubled world.
The failure of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is the expected result of arrogant unilateralist thinking, a tough-guy mentality and ignorance about the rest of the world. Bush and his handlers were so sure they had it right that they viewed culture and history as irrelevant. Plenty of friends and allies warned the Bush Administration that the Iraqis would not welcome U.S. occupation any more than the Palestinians or the Lebanese have welcomed Israeli occupation. And there was no shortage of people who could report on the crumbling Iraqi infrastructure. I don't buy the explanation that the U.S. just didn't know how bad conditions were in Iraq. We are where we are because of a President who made up his mind and did not want to be confused with facts. Overseas Americans, like myself, who live surrounded by foreign nationals know that Bush has made a colossal mistake and that the entire world is less stable because of it.
Where Are the WMD?
Your report "Chasing A Mirage" said that some Iraqi scientists claim the country's weapons of mass destruction were destroyed before the war [Oct. 6]. Rather than spend more money looking for the elusive weapons, President Bush should allocate a few million dollars to hire the Iraqi personnel who were supposedly responsible for hiding or destroying the WMD. The government could save some money, and Bush and our intelligence agencies might learn a few things.
Caught in the Middle
"Is Pakistan a Friend or a Foe?" that's a good question [Sept. 29]. The answer is complicated. Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf is in a difficult situation. He must deal with both Islamic extremists of al-Qaeda hiding in the tribal lands of Afghanistan and Muslim extremists in his own country. As your story reported, there are terrorist training camps in Pakistan, and that makes it very hard for the country to be considered a U.S. ally against global terrorism. Musharraf has a lot of work to do to normalize an explosive situation. Pakistan is also a regional nuclear power, along with India. The future will tell if Pakistan is a friend or a foe. At the moment, the signs aren't comforting.
Ready for Liftoff
With its new manned space program, China is hoping to join the space race as an equal partner [Sept. 29]. In pursuing its goal of becoming a modern power, the nation that invented rockets should not forget that a space program carries a considerable cost. The money could be more wisely used on other projects. A degree of openness is required to attract the expertise and funding necessary to keep such an ambitious project on track. It is time, however, for the U.S. and its allies to see that China assumes its rightful place. The West should be willing to share power and knowledge.
Asia's Johnny Depp
Your article on actor Takeshi Kaneshiro was intriguing [Oct. 6]. As a longtime fan, I am happy that the half-Taiwanese, half-Japanese star speaks five languages, including Japanese, so he can play parts in Japanese movies. I think his "lost-puppy look" can be appealing worldwide, not just in Asia. But, as you reported, he is not strictly interested in gaining fame. He is curious about spiritual matters. He seems to be the type of guy who could be happy just playing with computers at home. But who knows? Maybe he will take a chance on success in Hollywood!
In Praise of a Partisan
Palestinians and all people of conscience are profoundly saddened by the death of Edward Said, defender of Palestinian rights [Oct. 6]. The plight and dispossession of Palestinian refugees weighed heavily on Professor Said. He was a relentless fighter for justice for Palestinians. His published works aimed to represent the Palestinian experience to the American public. At this sad time, we renew our commitment to continue the struggle until Palestinian refugees achieve their right to return with their families to their homes and land of origin.
Thongs: Right or Wrong?
As a volleyball player, I was surprised that Claudia Wallis' piece on the popularity of thong underwear among young women mentioned none of the practical reasons for wearing thongs [Oct. 6]. Instead, she focused entirely on their perceived sexual aspect. I began wearing thongs under the spandex shorts of my volleyball uniform because they are more comfortable. Unlike other underwear, thongs show no panty line and prevent the inevitable bunching. Although my 50-year-old mother was reluctant to try them, she now swears by them. Maybe you should give thongs a chance.
Amy R. Liever
Walnut Creek, U.S.
Your item on Halle Berry playing the title role in the upcoming movie Catwoman reported that Eartha Kitt made the character famous in the Batman TV series in the 1960s [Oct. 6]. But the most captivating actress to play Catwoman in the Batman shows was the incomparable Julie Newmar. No one else could hold a paw to her. Please give credit where credit is due, along with a saucer of warm milk and a sprig of catnip.
A Professional Amateur
TIME critic Gerald Clarke, who often covered the literary side of writer George Plimpton [Milestones, Oct. 6], wrote a profile of Plimpton that included a telling list of experiments by Plimpton as he bravely followed a variety of pursuits [Sept. 21, 1966]:
"[No situation] is totally beyond the limits of the talent or imagination of George Plimpton, the world's consummate amateur... Consider what he has done. He has sparred three bloody rounds (his blood) with Archie Moore, then light-heavyweight champion of the world. He has pitched to major-league baseball stars in Yankee Stadium; he has shanked and hooked his way over golf links... and lost to Pancho Gonzales on the tennis court. He has fumbled handoffs as a training-camp quarterback for the Detroit Lions and missed baskets while working out as a forward for the Boston Celtics... He toured with the New York Philharmonic as a percussionist—and was severely chastised by conductor Leonard Bernstein... among other things [Plimpton] is editor of the Paris Review, a fine literary quarterly ... Says Polish-born novelist Jerzy Kosinski: ... 'He comes closest to the American conception of what a writer ought to be—that he should not just live off the imagination, like Proust, but should re-create an ideal search for experience.'"
To Set the Record Straight
In the article "Will We Be Safer?" about security in the future [Sept. 29], we said that "current anthrax vaccines require 18 injections over six months." The vaccines require six injections over 18 months.
Our story "Pan-Asian Sensation" [Oct. 6] misspelled the name of Turn Left Turn Right director as Johnny To. His name should be spelled Johnnie To. Also, Takeshi Kaneshiro's name in Mandarin should read Jin Chengwu, not Kin Chengwu as it appeared in the text.