Mail Call: Paying The Ultimate Price

Readers were outspoken about Iraq and heartbroken by our cover story on the 12 American soldiers who lost their lives in a Black Hawk helicopter crash. "We need to be reminded every day what our soldiers and their families are suffering because of the foolhardy actions of our president," one said, while another added that "the death of or injuries to soldiers fighting for our country must never lose the power to shock. Details should never be blurred and we should never feel numb." But one saw such accounts as unpatriotic. "Iraq is a mess, but such reporting is aiding the enemy strategy by turning the American public against the war." Of the fallen, one said regretfully, "Our lost soldiers aren't faceless individuals who are mere tools for politicians and pundits. They are men and women who come from our big cities and our small towns who wanted to teach children, become actors, play professional sports or become scientists."

I was deeply moved by your Feb. 5 cover story, "The True Cost of War," on the downing of a Black Hawk helicopter costing 12 lives. As a WWII combat infantry veteran (66th Division) and part of a convoy near Cherbourg, France, I witnessed the sinking of the troopship Leopoldville on Christmas Eve, 1944, while my troopship was crossing the English Channel. This incident cost the lives of more than 750 Americans, including a number of close buddies. Your piece touched me more than anything has since that incident, as it powerfully brought home the true cost of war.

Norm Jacobson

Delray Beach, Fla.

I have to express my sincere thanks to you for putting a human face on the debacle in Iraq. Each of us can project ourselves onto the persona of one of the soldiers reported on in this tragic story. As a country we are collectively deprived by their deaths. I can only hope that our political leaders were as touched by your story of these fine Americans as I was.

Jeffrey S. Lee

Raleigh, N.C.

The tragic human cost of war has to be weighed against the tragedies of not going to war. The millions of WWII deaths might have been averted if countries had faced up to Hitler in the late '30s and suffered a few thousand deaths. Weren't the deaths in the Revolutionary War justified by the results that have lived on over the past two centuries? The sacrifices in Iraq may have been in vain, or they may result in changes of lasting benefit to millions in the Middle East and hence to the world. History will decide.

R. Murray Campbell

Cohasset, Mass.

As the mother of a fallen soldier (Sgt. Mark Maida, May 26, 2005), I was brought to tears by your excellent article. This war needs to be kept in the forefront of the news. Despite more than 3,000 casualties and thousands more injuries, the sacrifice is carried by a small minority in our country. If it affected all of us, it would be over by now and our soldiers would be back home.

Diane Maida

Madison, Wis.

Most Americans don't have any personal connections to the fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters dying in Iraq, and I greatly appreciate your efforts in telling the nation about these families. But they're not just dying on the battlefield. Jonathon Schulze, a Marine from Minnesota, committed suicide after seeking help from a local VA hospital which allegedly had a long waiting list--waiting list!--and insufficient staffing to assist the influx of emotionally and mentally wounded veterans. While we are suffering far fewer fatalities because of advances in technology and improved battlefield medicine, this unfortunately correlates to an increase in the walking wounded who return with missing limbs and emotional scars. My fear is that we are woefully ill-equipped to help these soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and, in increasing numbers, Guardsmen. For all the rhetoric about nonbinding resolutions, our elected leaders should stand in front of the cameras and say, "We have a responsibility to take care of our troops, and this is how we're going to do it."

Misty Trent

Annapolis, Md.

Thank you for Nadine Chaffee's essay on her son Cameron's decision to move to Canada where he can legally marry his partner ("One Son's Choice: Love or Country?" my turn, Feb. 5). She expresses an important idea: intolerant states lose some of their most talented sons and daughters as gays and lesbians move to more welcoming places. My daughter, who was an outstanding student and citizen growing up in Tennessee, now lives in Massachusetts with her wife of 15 years and their 3-year-old twins. I hope Chaffee's son does well in Canada. When will less progressive places wise up?

Isabel B. Stanley

Johnson City, Tenn.

Nothing would make me happier than to see Nadine Chaffee's son Cameron have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, yet I do not support his decision, or her support, of his impending move to Canada. By leaving, he is giving many conservatives exactly what they want--a country diluted of progressive, open-minded citizens. America was founded by people who fought for what they believed in. If people like Cam-eron stay and battle zealots for their basic rights, human compassion will eventually prevail, people will realize there is no danger in extending equal rights to all loving people, regardless of sexual orientation, and this issue will no longer be a political tool too often employed by conservative Republicans.

Brady Olson

St. Petersburg, Fla.

Nadine Chaffee's essay assumes that if a person or group strongly desires something, society should grant that desire. Her son strongly desires to have society apply the label "marriage" to the association between him and another man. For hundreds of years marriage has been the social recognition of a particular commitment between one man and one woman. Some people now strongly desire not marriage as commonly understood, but an entirely new arrangement between people other than a man and a woman, and they want society to call it "marriage." The basis for such an arrangement is to be simply the feelings that the parties declare for each other. This is a radical departure. In terms of social purpose, marriage has not existed primarily for the emotional satisfaction of individuals who marry. Its social basis is not feelings, but social responsibility for the continuation of human existence. Chaffee implies that being "soulmates" is an adequate basis for applying the label marriage to a mating. But society does not confer the status of soulmates on those it marries. It does something far more profound. It confers on the man the status of husband and on the woman the status of wife. If two people are not husband and wife, they are not married.

Peter Hartley

Golden, Colo.

I understand Cameron Chaffee's decision to live where his love and commitment to his partner can be most fully realized. My son, Mike, faces a similar dilemma, with a slight twist. He and his partner, Aki, would probably be willing to work around the denial of civil rights to same-sex couples in order to live here together, but Aki is not a U.S. citizen. Unlike for married couples, U.S. immigration law makes no accommodation for same-sex partnerships. Like Chaffee, Mike and Aki plan to live in Canada. These are two documented instances where families are being forced apart by intolerance of same-sex couples. I'm still waiting to hear of the first heterosexual marriage, which the various "Defense of Marriage" amendments are supposed to "protect," being damaged by the marriage or union of a gay couple.

John Haley

Greenfield, N.H.

In "The Man Without Doubt," your Feb. 5 interview with Dick Cheney, when asked about Sen. Chuck Hagel, Cheney invokes Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican." But the dark side of Reagan's homily--the exploitation of party loyalty to suppress criticism of bad policy--was predicted long ago. George Washington warned of the destructive effect party loyalty can have on a nation. By failing to publicly question President Bush's policies from the beginning, Republicans have left both the nation and their own party increasingly vulnerable to poor leadership.

Stephen Hiltner

Princeton, N.J.

The problematic attitude of our current administration is nicely summed up by Dick Cheney at the end of his interview: "Well, I'm vice president and they're not." This goes hand in hand with George Bush's "I'm the decider." Not very democratic words for an administration trying to instill democratic values in other places.

Ken Mitchell

Seneca Falls, N.Y.

As a Vietnam veteran who experienced heavy combat, I identify with what my fellow Nebraskan Sen. Chuck Hagel is saying ("A Reluctant Rebel's Yell," Feb. 5). Hagel is an American who happens to be a Republican. Vice President Dick Cheney puts a higher importance on being a Republican. George Bush, Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld all avoided combat in Vietnam through influence, money and possibly even cowardice. In the "Ping-Pong game with human beings," as Hagel puts it, I would much rather have Chuck Hagel holding the paddle.

Don Ulrich

Weeping Water, Neb.

In his book "The Enemy At Home," author Dinesh D'Souza blames the 9/11 attacks on a vast left-wing conspiracy ranging from activist Michael Moore to actress Sharon Stone ("America's Most Wanted," Feb. 5). D'Souza accuses this "domestic insurgency" of aiding the jihadists by fueling their view of America as a morally decadent society steeped in what Osama bin Laden termed "fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants [and] gambling." D'Souza misses the irony that his attack on permissive, progressive values suggests that he's firmly in the grip of much the same moralizing mind-set as bin Laden & Co.

Joel Black

Athens, Ga.

Taking a stand against torture, no matter the perpetrator; fighting for a belief in human rights and dignity for all, including women, homosexuals and others who are mistreated simply for how they were born; nurturing a hope that America will unswervingly uphold the principles of democracy and justice that it preaches to the rest of the world: tell Dinesh D'Souza I'm proud to belong to the "domestic insurgency" that holds these "decadent moral values."

Judy Nollet

Eagan, Minn.