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Cruel and Stupid Leaders
V"We had to destroy the village in order to save it," was the dumbest and most cruel "reasoning" guiding America's attempt to conquer Vietnam. It failed, but not before millions of people lost their homes and lives.
Now, Bush and Cheney are about to repeat that cruelty, "big time." Thousands of American "smart" bombs are aimed, ready to destroy electrical substations, telephone exchanges, water reservoirs, and sewage treatment plants, as if water and sewer pipes were weapons of mass destruction.
Then, if there is a "then," Cheney's friends at Halliburton, Bechtel, Flour, and Kellog Brown & Root companies will spend U.S. taxpayers' money to rebuild the infrastructure we just destroyed. The job will be expensive. The results will be incomplete. People will hate us.
Our government could simply give those sweetheart contracts to its best friends to go in there and improve the infrastructure, without destroying it first. The Iraqis would love us. But, no, that would be "nation building", something the Bush Administration opposes. Or, our tax money could be used to fix the infrastructure right here, in our own cities. No, that would be "social welfare."
Cruel and stupid, that is the policy of our unelected leaders.

Bruce Joffe
Piedmont, CA
March 18, 2003

Co-Conspirators in Economic Terrorism Should be Prosecuted
VKen Lay (ex-CEO of ex-Enron) and his associates stole nearly $4 Billion from Enron's customers, investors, employees and U.S. Taxpayers. Yet, the impact of that crime, the loss of trust in the stock market, was a thousand times worse. The market has dropped nearly $4 Trillion since its all-time high on March 10, three years ago.
The economic damage to our country was far greater than the loss of property Osama bin Ladin caused on 9-11, so Ken Lay's crime could be classified as "economic terrorism." If it were, U.S. government prosecutors could shut down his foreign bank accounts and bring him to justice. They haven't. Why? Could the reason be that Lay and the Bushies are co-conspirators?
Bruce Joffe
Piedmont, CA
March 13, 2003

Barbaric Traps
VRecently a fox was caught in a leghold trap in Columbia’s attempt to keep the animals off of a golf course. The trap was only 50 yards from an apartment complex. A concerned citizen rescued the fox, who is now recovering at a shelter waiting to go back into the wild.
There is never a valid reason to use inhumane leghold traps, especially not for something as trivial as fashion or the “beautification” of a golf course.
Four Maryland counties already have a leghold trap ban in place, but many (including Howard County) do not. If you hike, bike, or otherwise enjoy the outdoors at Patapsco State Park or most other wooded areas, then leghold traps are an issue that affects you. There are no enforced regulations about where these traps are placed. The bait in the trap often attracts pets and other unintended animals such as birds and rabbits.
In addition to concern for you, your children, and your companion animals, steel leghold traps are a brutal and barbaric way to hunt an animal. It’s got to be one of the slowest and most painful ways to die. Plus, since it’s only intended to be a device to capture, not kill, animals are often still suffering a day or two later when the trapper arrives, who then kills the animal in very inhumane ways so as to not damage the pelt...
Please write a letter to your local Delegates supporting Support H.B. 365, which will ban leghold traps statewide in Maryland. Also write to the Senator of your district in support of S.B. 262, to ban leghold traps.
Janet Deery
Elkridge, MD

Firefighters’ Plight
VThe training, the knowledge and years of experience from American firefighters have been wasted. These are seasoned veteran firefighters with specialized training and experience in aircraft firefighting and rescue, hazardous materials incident response and confined space entry and rescue...
What a terrible waste when city and suburban fire departments remain constantly understaffed, as reported by local government leaders....
Now, to add insult to injury, some of these same firefighters are involuntarily retired early, and are punished by having their federal firefighter pensions substantially penalized...All because they were not 50 years old when their firefighter jobs were eliminated.
Thankfully our politicians in Washington have seen the injustice. Congressman Elijah E. Cummings from Maryland has authored “The Federal Employ­ees’ Benefits Equity Act.”
This bill will eliminate the inequities in the federal firefighters retirements, and will stop the penalties that retired firefighters now face.
This bill was authored and introduced in the 106th Congress as H.R.1769. The bill again was reintroduced in the 107th Congress as H.R.2523....Still, after almost seven years and two Congresses, the bill has not passed. We are hopeful that these third- and fourth-term reelected Congressional leaders will again reintroduce and finally pass “The Federal Employees’ Benefits Equity Act” in the 108th United States Congress....
Please pass this bill and put a stop to the punishment of America’s firefighters.
Gary J. Schuld
Cleveland, Ohio
New Category?
VIn a 2-13-03 Sun article titled “Detainees at Guantanamo Rewarded for Behavior,” we learn that 58% of them are being rewarded for “good behavior” with such expensive luxuries as “an extra blanket” pr “an extra serving of rice and lentils”!
In another Sun article published two days later, “Terror Suspect in Cuba Tries to Hang Himself,” we learn that, of the 650 detainees, 16 have attempted suicide!
These men should either be treated as prisoners of war, in which case they deserve appropriate humane, Red Cross-inspected treatment like German and American POWs received during World War II—or as suspected “terrorists” awaiting trial and deserving of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
America now has a new category of prisoners and of organized torture, reminiscent of Hitler’s concentration camps.
If the American people permit the government to behave like Nazis in this case, who are we? and who will be next?
A. Robert Kaufman
Celebrity Money
VOne of the most disturbing facts about our capitalist nation is the misappropriation of funds directed to the salaries of entertainers.
Everyone should agree that the value an athlete, movie star, talk-show host, team-owner, etcetera, brings to the average citizen is very small. Granted, they do offer a minuscule of diversion from our daily trials and tribulations, as did the jesters in the king’s court during the middle ages. But to allow these entertainers to hoard such great amounts of wealth...unacceptable.
Our society is also subjected to the “profound wisdom” of these people because it equates wealth with influence....Such undeserved wealth should be taxed at a very high rate....Does anyone think this will reduce the quality of entertainment? It seems to me that when entertainers received less income, the quality was much higher.
Joe Bialek
Cleveland, Ohio
‘Hesitant Hawk’
VNew York Times columnist Bill Keller recently declared himself a “Hesitant Hawk” and joined George Bush’s war party (“The I-Can’t-Believe-I’m-a-Hawk Club,” Times, Saturday, February 8, 2003). I, however, see a deep internal contradiction in Keller’s reasoning.
Keller asserts that most liberals support war [in Iraq], with reservations” because they disagree with “the logic for standing pat.” He concedes that liberals “wish the inspectors had a year instead of three months” but concludes that liberals are “hard-pressed to see an alternative [to war] that is not built on wishful thinking.”
But if he thinks the inspectors should have a year, why does the logic of standing pat not hold?
Saddam Hussein’s yearnings for weapons of mass destruction were well enough contained between al-Qaeda’s 9/11/01 attack on the World Trade Center and the beginning of the 2002 congressional election. A tougher inspections regime, as currently in place, is doing even better. So why go to war?
.....It may be true that the international community should undo Saddam’s regime as it did Milosevic’s. It should not do so, however, under chicken hawks whose thirst for blood is even greater than is their foe’s. Let regime change begin at home before we join the world in considering regime change in Iraq.
Peter D. Molan, Ph.D.
A member of Veterans for Peace, Dr. Molan is a retired USDOD Middle East Analyst.
VOkay, here’s what’s bothering me now. When the ill-fated Columbia space shuttle lifted off, there was an observed ‘incident’ when a piece of something came off an external booster tank and struck the front of the shuttle’s left wing.
When questioned about it, NASA’s spokesman, Dittemore, said that they investigated (on the ground) and decided that it was not significant. Under further questioning, he acknowledged that they had not ordered an inspection (no cameras with a good angle) or an EVA to check for damage because ‘there was nothing we could do about it anyway.’
Now, help me out here. Did they figure out it was OK because they couldn’t fix it if it wasn’t? Clearly, they had no contingency plan, other than sticking their heads in the sand.
When an oxygen tank exploded on the Apollo 13 mission, there was no contingency plan either, but in a heroic example of what smart and dedicated technologists can do, they worked feverishly in a mockup of the capsule on the ground, cannibalizing everything in the capsule to jury-rig a solution that preserved the lives of the astronauts until they returned safely to Earth.
Have the priorities, dedication or self-confidence (or quality) of the mission support team dissolved? Do we ignore threats now because they’re ‘bad press’?
I worked for an airline for eight years, and our number-one corporate priority was safety. This is not public relations or self-aggran­dizement—I would never knowingly fly on an airline that did NOT have that as first priority: that would mean that something else, punctuality, profitability, public relations or cost-control would sometime take precedence over my safety. No thanks.
NASA, don’t tell me about your ‘family’ if you don’t want to know if your children are in mortal danger, and don’t want to do anything about it.
Is anybody saying this?
Jay Fogelman 
Budapest, Hungary
Use Satellites
VThe satellite photography of Iraq, which Powell used to bolster his argument for war, is information that could have been shared with the inspections teams on a daily basis. Whenever US surveillance identifies trucks removing material from a suspected weapons site, they should alert the UN inspectors, who can dispatch a team to that location immediately.
Why has Powell not suggested such a collaboration? His presentation to the UN, rather than making the case for war, revealed how the US wants the inspections to fail. President Bush is beating his war drum so loudly, nobody near him can hear the voice of reason.
Scott Kravitz
San Francisco, Calif.

Flight 93 Questions
I would call your attention to the absence of news regarding the strange happenings of Flight 93 on 9/11 and the six witnesses who saw a military plane flying very low over the crash site before the plane actually crashed. See for a complete rundown on this story. It has not been, to my knowledge, published in any other paper, as if it’s not important enough to cover, or it’s too important to touch by news organizations.
Elisabeth Ham
Who’s Next?
VWith so many nations building nuclear technology, the world has grown very small indeed. Today North Korea, tomorrow Iran… who’s next? With the health and well-being of humanity now residing in the hands of so many different governments—some unstable, others fanatical—we are at grave risk.
After 50 centuries of conflict, we must finally come of age. No longer can we afford to be a world divided. A world of warriors drunk on testosterone or religion and armed with nuclear weapons is a world doomed to destruction.
As the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, we too must emerge from a violent and ignorant past. National pride must be replaced with world pride. The United Nations represents one plausible means to emerge from a past of violence and separation, to a future of unity and peace.
For our country’s leaders to do whatever they please despite world opinion, is incredibly shortsighted. We can’t move America to another neighborhood.
This country has a jury system to decide important matters. That system works. The UN works the same way. We cannot afford to dismiss and disdain the wishes of the rest of the world, while the potential for nuclear war and nuclear terrorism now shadows our planet, and demands that we all co-exist or face unthinkable consequences.
Like it or not, our adolescence is over, and we must have leaders of vision, to uplift us to a new world unity, not drag us down into the final dark ages. It is not the UN who faces a “moment of truth,” it is the United States.
David Singelyn
Warner Springs, Calif. 

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This story was published on February 10, 2003.
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