Readers chose sides in "The War Over War," our Sept. 16 cover story. "Your coverage was highly informative and your objectivity was most welcome," one wrote. Some supported attacking Iraq. "How different the world might be if someone had 'taken out' Hitler in the late '30s," one declared. But most opposed a unilateral, pre-emptive first strike by the United States. "We all know that it is not 'America vs. the World.' It is 'Bush vs. the World'," one insisted. Another said, "One can't help wondering if all this saber rattling isn't 1 percent September 11 and 99 percent Nov. 5." And a number of letter writers commented on what one called "the bloodthirsty nature" of the Teddy Roosevelt quote on a plaque we described on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's desk: AGGRESSIVE FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHT IS THE NOBLEST SPORT THE WORLD AFFORDS. One reader wrote, "Maybe Osama bin Laden has the same plaque on his desk. Some sport!"
The President's Men and Iraq
President Bush's style of leadership is bold and forthright, and he has no fear of criticism. He appointed men like Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld because they understand more than he does the parameters of the threat that we're faced with and which must be dealt with ("War Over War: Rumsfeld vs. Powell--And America vs. the World," Sept. 16). Yes, their approaches are as different as their jobs. But both provide a reality check for the other. By probing dissimilar solutions, they stimulate serious contemplation. In considering their counsel, Bush has made clear to the world that a war against Iraq may be a long effort. Yet he shows that he has not forgotten how Neville Chamberlain delayed nipping Adolf Hitler in the bud until it was too late. Yes, we need more facts and are seeking them. But often, decisions must be taken before all the facts are in. So let us reason along with the rest of the world, yet not forget that time is running out, too. Powell and Rumsfeld should not be pictured as boxers in a ring seeking to knock the other out. They are collaborators in overlapping fields, seeking the best answers for the same president and for the rest of us on the planet.
Frank K. Hoover
My outfit in World War II suffered more than 4,000 men killed in some of the bloodiest battles of the war. Now I read that our secretary of "war," Donald Rumsfeld, keeps a bronze plaque on his desk which quotes Theodore Roosevelt as saying, "Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords." I am sure Rumsfeld has earned all his medals and citations, but I think it is unforgivable for him to diminish the memory of the sacrifice of all those we should honor. And we have never, ever, thought of them as having been engaged in some noble sport.
Edward F. McDonough
Following Rumsfeld shows American leadership in the fight for world freedom, while listening to Powell reduces us to a second-tier power in thrall to our putative allies. Persuade? Fine. Convince? Even better. But allowing other nations to veto actions that are in our national interest is unacceptable for a nation of the first rank.
G. Devin Eiband
Cedar Park, Texas
Our current leadership has inherited an America which is a leader in the world primarily because of the wisdom and nobility of those who came before us. What is uncertain, though, is whether our leaders will turn this young century into one of unimaginable horror and violence on a global scale, where anything goes in the name of pre-emption. Or will the 21st century be marked as a time when we show the restraint of power and the foresight to guide the world to a new era of peace and prosperity?
The media's oversimplified characterization of the hawk-vs.-dove conflict between Rumsfeld and Powell does a disservice to the American public. Contrasted with Rumsfeld's "kill the bad guys" ideology, Powell certainly is a "dove"--and for good reason. As a career military officer who served two tours in Vietnam, Powell has seen the real face of war: the guts, the blood, the human agony. Powell understands that when politicians decide to wage war, it is not they who are "leaning forward." To men like Powell, war is a horrifying, visceral reality; to men like Rumsfeld, war is an agenda, a press conference or two and a map on the wall.
It is time to go to war in Iraq. Saddam is an evil man running a totalitarian dictatorship. For years he has sought weapons of mass destruction, invaded his neighbors, persecuted his own people and supported and sponsored terrorism. We have every moral right to destroy his dictatorship. A nation that violates the fundamental rights of its citizens has given up any basis for claiming rights to sovereignty, self-determination and the acquisition of heinous weapons.
San Mateo, Calif.
The characterization of secretary Rumsfeld as a "damn-the-torpedoes dreadnought" reminds me of Adm. David G. Farragut at the battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War when he was reputed to have said, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." (Naval mines in those days were called torpedoes.) Taken as history would have us believe, the good admiral embodied the spirit of aggressiveness, heroism and disregard for personal safety that is the epitome of military professionalism. I do not doubt the admiral's words nor his intentions. There is no question that he won the day. But is it not possible that what he actually said was, "Damn! The torpedoes! Full speed ahead," and, with a prudent application of rudder, avoided the mines and yet carried the day? Rumsfeld and the administration might think of this. With prudence it may be possible to avoid the current minefield of public and international dissent on the "attack Iraq now" issue and still win the day.
Capt. Robyn M. Campbell, USN (Ret.)
The American people do not want war. They want well-paying jobs, a house, a family, peace of mind, a vacation each year and to be free of fear. They want leaders in Washington to provide a livable minimum-wage bill, health care for all children, a healthy Social Security, Medicare and good public schools with small class sizes. Finally, they want America's borders closed to illegal aliens and visas withheld from questionable applicants.
The contrast could not be more striking: key generals involved in our first war with Iraq are against the second war, while aging ideologues who avoided military service want our young soldiers to risk blood, limb and life in the second one. This veteran suggests we allow these war hawks to don the uniform of their country and volunteer for combat.
If or when the United States decides to attack Iraq, it will be long overdue. Saddam's people have suffered long enough.
Of course Saddam needs to be taken out of power. We could assassinate him, we could have an exiled Iraqi general incite a local insurrection in Baghdad or we could explore myriad other options--but invading Iraq should not be one of them. If we'd learned one thing in Afghanistan, it should have been how useless a land army is for conducting a manhunt. And we should remember that Osama bin Laden got away, without even close to the kind of technology and intelligence that Saddam has at his disposal. The bottom line is this: other plans for this man's ousting may not sound great, but we can be certain that an invasion will achieve little but the death of many innocent young Iraqi soldiers, the sons of the very people we are trying to save.
Saddam poses a clear and present danger to the United States and the world. Many have commented that the president is stalling; I see it another way. Bush is presenting the Saddam situation to us gradually. This way we can process all of the information so that we can understand and get used to what may eventually happen in Iraq.
Sugar Land, Texas
For the Love of a Child
After reading more than 20 pages about war or people dealing with the possibility of war, what really struck me about your Sept. 16 issue was the My Turn article "If Our Son Is Happy, What Else Matters?" about a gay couple's story of adopting an East European orphan. It was a message of hope, faith and the ability of two people striving to actually make a difference in a world that seems far too negative. More articles like this one would put the focus back on this country's strongest feature: the promise of a better future.
Silver Spring, Md.
Anyone who opposes gay adoptions has never spent time in an East European orphanage. You cannot see the sadness, neglect and solitude of these children and the terrible future that awaits them, and still hold ridiculous notions of who should and who should not parent. As an adoptive parent of a Romanian child, I spent time in such an orphanage. Children deserve love, affection, attention and caring--and it doesn't matter if they get it from two daddies, two mommies, one mommy or whoever, as long as they get it.
As an adoptive mother myself, I know firsthand the extensive screening process one must undergo when adopting a child. One must submit to a police background check, fingerprinting and several home visits by a certified agency worker, as well as have one's family members and friends interviewed. Mountains of paperwork and documentation are required. It is time consuming, frustrating and expensive, and there are many uncertainties as you await the day when your wonderful child finally comes home. To me it is ludicrous that, having undergone this process and then proving themselves to be loving and generous parents to Sasha, Scott Sherman and Marty Rouse are considered by some unsuitable to provide a home for their son.
Happy and You Know It
My glass is half full--and, yes, I was happy--to see your Sept. 16 article "The Science of Happiness" on Martin E. P. Seligman's work and the excerpt of his book "Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential." We could add another challenging area to the three he lists (love, work and raising children): teach parents how to model these to their kids. Until our society makes parenting education and family support a top priority, mental-health workers and others (including criminal-justice professionals) will play a too-often losing game of catch-up with the unhappy, glass-half-empty group. I like how Seligman said that our job as parents is to ease kids onto an "escalator" of positive emotion and mastery, but we need to get on one ourselves. We need to be taught how to do this in mind, heart and body.
Founder, Parents Forum
Genes and "positive psychology" have important contributions to make to our understanding of happiness, but emotional conflict should not be overlooked. Few things do as much to cause low mood and self-defeat as unconscious guilt, and few things help as much as meeting and mastering the mind's inner struggle.
Lawrence D. Blum, M.D.
Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia
I was enjoying the excerpt from Seligman's book. Then I read his disclaimer: "Experts are divided on the wisdom of letting your newborn share your bed," which he followed with "good reasons to do so." Bed-sharing (co-sleeping) with an infant increases the risk of infant death. This would seem to me to be the antithesis of "authentic happiness," which he expounds. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in its Safe Sleep for Babies campaign cautions that "babies placed in adult beds risk suffocation and entrapment." In this era of evidence-based medicine and malpractice redux, experts in "I like it" and "it feels good" must be balanced against modern studies of risk and benefit. For bed-sharing, the data is in: it is life-threatening for infants and toddlers. Co-sleep at your baby's risk.
Jonathan Y. Lukoff, M.D.
Mission Viejo, Calif.
Trying to Stay Safe
Your article "On Guard, A Year Later" (Sept. 16) detailed the billions of dollars the government is spending on preventative measures against terrorism, and mentioned possible future measures that sounded downright draconian. Soon the airlines will start to keep track of my ethnicity and travel plans, along with a record of which countries I visit. But there were scarier pictures of the future suggested by the article. I may be searched when going to my next football game, or checked out when I enter a public building to see if I'm expected to be there, and may never be able to park near a shopping mall again. Finally, I may have to think about buying an identity card, maintained by a private company, so that my government will suspect me less in the future. What are we doing to reduce terrorism at its source? It seems that we continue to sit here at home thinking that terrorists are just crazy, or that they hate us because we are rich, or free, or democratic--or something else that once again lets us label the problem as unsolvable without trying to understand the rest of the world.
Kids Are What They Eat
Thank you for your Sept. 16 Periscope item "How to Flunk Lunch." A recent study that was published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that adolescent vegetarians have dietary patterns that could significantly lower their risk of premature death as adults. School cafeterias could easily serve more vegetarian lunches and become a big influence on children's eating habits--and their health. Chronic health conditions take root in the behaviors we form during childhood. Several years ago, the surgeon general warned us that 68 percent of diseases are diet-related. We need to re-examine the impact of what children are eating.
In our Sept. 16 story "Powell's Battle," a photo caption inadvertently placed Colin Powell and American soldiers in Vietnam. In fact, they are pictured at Fort Campbell, Ky.
We said that Penn State is located in College Station ("Best Tailgating in Town," Tip Sheet, Sept. 16). It is actually in the town of State College, Pa.
In "Bin Laden's Bad Bet" (Sept. 11) the Stern Gang is incorrectly listed among communist radical groups of the 1960s that turned to terror. We should have said the Baader-Meinhof Gang instead. We regret the errors.