After a year of U.S. occupation, Iraq has been labeled a quagmire and the Bush Administration admonished for not having an exit strategy [March 15]. But great progress has taken place in Iraq. There is a provisional constitution, signed and in place; a Governing Council is serving as election plans are being made; and a war-crimes tribunal is formed. Those are huge steps. If the U.S. has the wisdom to stay the course, Iraq will have democracy, and that development will have a positive effect on the entire Middle East. Helping the Iraqi people recover from Saddam Hussein's brutal regime will take some time. The premature withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq for political reasons in an election year would backfire, and the whole region could be turned into an al-Qaeda stronghold.
The war in Iraq has proved to be the mother of all miscalculations. President George W. Bush has plunged America into an impossible situation. As for his exit strategy, the handwriting is on the wall. Let the Iraqis continue their infighting, as befits their complex religious ideology and culture. If endless internal strife fails to produce a viable, stable government, Iraq can turn to the U.N. to salvage the situation.
American policies in Iraq must undergo serious reform before the U.S. can transfer power to a new Iraqi government. As the June 30 deadline for handing over sovereignty comes closer, what happens in Iraq has the potential to be either a wonderful victory for democracy or a blight on America's foreign-policy record. The next few months will be crucial. Troops and money alone will not establish security and sovereignty; more nation-building techniques must be applied. Aggressive and proactive civic action is essential for a successful June transition.
Sarah J. Lippitt
Bush was right in going to war against Saddam, and Britain was right in joining the coalition. The war was not against Iraq but a malevolent dictatorship. It is true the Iraqis need a strong leader, but not the wrong leader—which is what Saddam was.
Great Grimsby, England
The U.S. invaded and vanquished Iraq in virtually no time, but how to rule the country or get out honorably is the real test. There are many exit routes, but none is honorable. The U.S. must accept that it erred in its judgment of Iraq's stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, and it must apologize to the Iraqi people. The U.S. must also compensate Iraq for the war's destruction. Otherwise, America's adventure in Iraq will be a major blow to U.S. prestige.
I can only smile when people claim that a shooting war with Iraq was unnecessary because containment was working. Saddam thumbed his nose at the U.S. and the U.N. for 12 years after Gulf War I. President Bush correctly judged that the time for talk was over. He applied the long-overdue muscle that the U.N. lacked the will to apply.
Charles H. Eypper
In "What Taiwan Wants" [March 15], you described how Taiwan's independence movement became a defining issue in the presidential election. But your portrayal of the attitude of Taiwan's people toward their national and cultural identity was stereotypical at best. It was uncannily similar to the tone adopted by Taiwan's President, Chen Shui-bian, in his attempt to purge Chinese culture from Taiwan and segregate Taiwan's people from their counterparts across the strait. If the people of Taiwan truly wish to declare themselves non-Chinese, they will have to stop speaking the Chinese language and will need to pretend that the mainland is just a place far, far away that never played a significant role in the history of Taiwan.
China's claims to sovereignty over Taiwan are almost entirely without merit by any reasonable historical, political or moral standard. Nor is there anything surprising about the people of Taiwan's desire to run their own affairs. Only their freedom to speak their minds is new.
Curing the Haitian Headache
Haitians do not seem capable of improving their political and social conditions, so outside pressure is required [March 15]. Wiping out thugs by military intervention is only a temporary solution. Nation building must begin with setting up democratic institutions under international supervision, preferably by the U.N. and the Organization of American States. Massive continuous foreign aid would help Haitians to ultimately become capable of governing themselves. Vigilance is needed to prevent the collapse of established structures and a return to chaos, poverty and iron rule—evils that Haiti has suffered too often in its history.
Remco van Prooijen
The aftermath of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's flight from Haiti raises an interesting question about American credibility. Aristide claims that the U.S. forced him to leave the country; U.S. officials deny it. I would like to believe the U.S., but I recall Bush's statements on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be far from truthful. In the case of Haiti, I accept the U.S. version of events but wish I were able to do so without thinking of the boy who cried wolf. No one believes a liar, even when he is telling the truth.
Is Greed Ever Good?
In his commentary "In Defense of Excess" [March 15], columnist Michael Kinsley proposed—somewhat facetiously, to be sure—that the greedy corporate executives currently on trial for their part in financial scandals are "martyrs of capitalism, dying financially so that others may prosper" and that such criminals are "a sign of the U.S. economy's robust health." Greed is unquestionably a part of the human condition, and in a healthy society there will be a moderate amount of greed. Excessive greed, however, is a sign of lack of judgment in those who have cannibalized their way to the top.
Whose 9/11 Is It?
Charles Krauthammer's essay "Why 9/11 Belongs in the Campaign" [March 15] rightly stated that Bush should be able to use 9/11 in his re-election bid because the terrorist attacks occurred on his watch. However, if the President continues to exploit images related to the attacks, he must be open about the entire 9/11 issue. Bush opposed creation of the independent commission to investigate government actions leading up to 9/11, and he has been cooperating with it only reluctantly. The American people are mature enough to accept the truth of 9/11. Bush needs to let the commission do the job it was created to do.
Surely 9/11 must be the worst possible thing for Bush to use in his campaign! No link between al-Qaeda and Iraq has been proved, and no weapons of mass destruction have been found. Iraq is in terrible shape because of the war, and the Madrid attacks show that the terrorists' resolve has strengthened. How could the issue of 9/11 boost Bush's re-election prospects?
Sarah Van Ingelgom
Trouble In Haiti
The unrest and violence in Haiti [LATIN AMERICA, March 15] seem part of a continuum that has haunted the country for 70 years. Among its most chaotic leaders was Dr. François Duvalier, who ruled from 1957 until his death in 1971. We described "Papa Doc's" dictatorship in an Aug. 27, 1965, report:
"In [Duvalier's] eight years of power, the onetime country doctor-turned-dictator has alienated almost every friend and neighbor... His own people regard him with horror. Yet through murder, terror and voodoo mysticism, Papa Doc has set himself up as 'President for life' and wields unshakable control over his tiny country ... The one paved road in Haiti ... is now in ruins, pot-holed with foot-deep craters ... The country's once flourishing tourist trade has dwindled from $5,000,000 in the 1958-59 season to less than $500,000 ... All the while, Duvalier's reign of terror continues. Shortly after coming to power, he organized his Tonton Macoute, meaning bogeymen in Creole, a vicious, plainclothes gestapo that collects taxes and blood money from merchants [and] tortures and murders suspected anti-Duvalierists. To help the Tonton in their grisly business, there is now even a ladies' auxiliary—the Fillette Lalo, a group of pistol-packing molls who are just as predatory as their male counterparts."