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Letters: Oct. 17, 2005

13 minute read

Is Iraq a Futile Fight?

The report on the U.S. military’s frustrating struggle in Iraq sparked comment from readers who oppose the war. Others who wrote despaired of the costs of the conflict but could see no easy way out. Some letter writers, however, felt that questioning U.S. actions only gives comfort to the enemy

“Now that we have toppled Saddam, helped form a new government and overseen the writing of a constitution, it’s time to get out of Iraq.”


Redwood City, Calif.

I was delighted to see a major American magazine giving readers the truth about the war in Iraq [Sept. 26]. You labeled Joe Klein’s report as the “secret history” of U.S. mistakes and misjudgments in failing to thwart the Iraqi insurgency at its start. I contend that the situation was in no way secret. Non-Americans knew even before the war began that if the U.N. didn’t run the postwar occupation, a disaster was inevitable. The U.S. is the dinosaur of modern conflict–all brute force with a peanut-size brain, completely outdated in a world where credibility comes first.


Oxford, England

It is too late to win the war in Iraq only if you believe it is already lost or you want the U.S. to lose. People have failed to learn the lesson the insurgents grasped early on: It ain’t over till it’s over.


Los Angeles

The financial cost of the Iraq war is driving the U.S. ever further into debt. The war looks as though it can’t be won. The only course is to get out. If you can’t finance a war, then you shouldn’t be fighting one.


Winnipeg, Man.

War is a tragic part of the human condition but is sometimes necessary to combat such evils as slavery, fascism and, yes, terrorism. The Iraq war, however, will achieve no noble purpose. There were no weapons of mass destruction, and democracy will exist in Iraq for about as long as U.S. troops are there. Many more Saddams are waiting to rise to the top in Iraq. We were naive to think we could easily paste a veneer of Jeffersonian democracy on a land where tribal allegiances date back centuries. By almost any measure, this war is a tragic blunder. Yet to withdraw our troops now would compound the mistake we made in deciding to invade and would leave an unstable and volatile nation to fend for itself. So what should Americans do? We should support our troops until some sort of muddled conclusion allows at least a partial withdrawal.


San Rafael, Calif.

Over the years, hundreds of thousands of Americans have given their lives defending freedom. The relative sacrifice in Iraq is insignificant compared with what inaction would cost us. I do not like war and wish the need for it would end, but headlines like “Is It Too Late to Win the War?” illustrate that TIME has no idea what this enemy is like. Nor do you understand that the insurgents will not negotiate or play by the rules. They will not give up until they are defeated. I hope the President will use his bully pulpit to put that in perspective for the uninformed who think that the U.S. has made a mistake and that the war against terrorism is a video game you can wind up before dinner.


Evansville, Ind.

The U.S.’s difficulties in Iraq were entirely predictable and show that military forces are ill suited for social work or political projects. An army is a blunt instrument. Its function is to destroy an enemy. Unless the U.S. intends to do just that, our soldiers should stay at home.


Cynthiana, Ky.

I was opposed to the war in the beginning, but now I feel we must play this hand out to an acceptable end.


Troy, Ohio

We lost the Iraq war a long time ago. President George W. Bush had no idea what he was getting us into. Now we all know that bluster and posturing don’t win a conflict. If we can’t stabilize Iraq, how can that country’s ragtag police ever do so? Maybe peace would come if our occupation forces left.


North East, Md.

You asked whether the U.S. can win the war in Iraq, but a more apt question would be, Since the U.S. is losing the war, what can it do? The White House naively assumes that all countries are fertile ground for democracy. The layers of tribal fabric that make up Iraq are way too complex. Once American troops leave–as they eventually must–the only alternative to a tribal war in Iraq would be the installation of a strongman, a surrogate for Saddam Hussein on a short leash. With an autocratic leader in place, there would be social order in Iraq good enough to protect U.S. oil interests, which is what the war is all about.


Quebec City, Que.

The debacle in Iraq was wholly predictable, given the history of the British occupation there in the 1920s and the U.S. disaster in Vietnam. Moreover, it is bad military doctrine to fight the inevitable guerrilla war without an integrated hearts-and-minds operation. What I’m saying isn’t hindsight; many of us have known from the start that the Iraq war was insane.


Cape Town

I am amazed that Americans don’t seem to realize the gravity of the situation in Iraq. Why is the U.S. sacrificing its soldiers? The oil in Iraq is not worth it. There is no easy outcome to this war. U.S. opponents from around the world have a golden opportunity to challenge the U.S. in Iraq. American troops must contend with combat conditions, unfamiliar terrain and hot weather along with hatred from all corners of the Middle East. The sooner the war comes to an end, the better it will be for U.S. prestige. The Iraqi opposition forces are willing to sacrifice themselves to defend their country. But what are American soldiers sacrificing themselves for?


Lahore, Pakistan

Disturbing Revelations

Hurricane Katrina has shown the world America’s Achilles’ heel: its inability to deliver a quick and coordinated response to a natural disaster [Sept. 19]. Could the U.S. cope effectively with a terrorist attack involving biological or nuclear weapons? More than ever, the U.S. needs big thinking on a big scale.


Bény-Bocage, France

Katrina’s damage was multiplied a thousand times by the breach of the levees. That is a classic case of the penny-wise, pound-foolish policies of modern politicians and bureaucrats. The problem is not limited to the Bush Administration. Driven by concepts like cost cutting and lean government, shortsighted budget officials may save a few billion dollars but end up losing $50 billion later on when tragedies must be dealt with.


Hyderabad, India

The looters, murderers, and other degenerates who fired on rescue workers in New Orleans should have been shot at by the police to maintain civilized order. Taking food and water from a grocery store in order to survive is understandable, but stealing luxury items just because there is an opportunity to do so is criminal. I hope that those caught on camera will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.


West Vancouver, B.C.

If instead of wasting billions of dollars looking for imaginary weapons of mass destruction, the Bush Administration had spent the money on preparing for natural disasters, a number of innocent lives would have been saved.


New Delhi

The pictures of New Orleans showed that the people most affected were black, poor, vulnerable or sick. One has to ask whether that was the reason for the Bush Administration’s delayed, apathetic response. The world watched in disbelief as a superpower that could send troops to fight a war in Iraq couldn’t help its own people in their hour of need.


Stamford, England

The suffering that Hurricane Katrina has brought to the residents of New Orleans is heartrending. The entire world is awed by this human catastrophe. The international community must stand by the people of the U.S. through these difficult moments.



I literally gaped at the photos of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The storm not only blew off rooftops and took the lives of innocents but also swept away the confidence of citizens. Yet now is not the time to assign blame. Instead, Americans need to delve into the heart of the problem and rebuild for the newly homeless and the helpless, regardless of color, race or religion. I am glad I live in a safe place, but we know that disaster can strike anytime.



Perhaps Americans are by now waking up to the humbling fact that there is only one superpower: the climate.


Port Vila, Vanuatu

Instead of being rebuilt after the ravages of Mother Nature, New Orleans should be allowed to be covered by water and become a part of mythology, like the island of Atlantis. Then a different New Orleans could be built somewhere in the Southwestern desert. We could have history and mythology come together in our very own lifetime.



Caught in a Web

The people of New Orleans were trapped by more than water [Sept. 26]. Long before Hurricane Katrina struck, many of the residents were enmeshed in a web of poverty. The majority of the nation seemed to have the false sense that everything was just fine in America, including New Orleans. Now we know that it was not. The best way to honor the dead and help people put their lives back together is to use the devastation caused by Katrina to make people see the marginalization of the poor–the real national American disgrace.



Your reporting on Katrina has shown the world the ugly and the dark side of the U.S., the side where the color of the skin or the size of a bank account takes top priority. We all watched the agony and suffering of Americans, and we felt for them. Perhaps this is an opportunity for the U.S. to review its priorities and become more compassionate and morally obligated toward its own people. Next time, instead of preaching to other countries about human-rights issues, the U.S. should try to look more closely at what is happening at home. Shame on you, America.



Enough is enough! I saw the scenes of utter devastation in the newspaper and on television, and my blood is boiling! Shame on Bush. Why did it take so long for him to aid the victims? How many people died waiting for help? The buck supposedly stops with the President, but he was not in Washington and left the task to others, who failed miserably. Maybe his response would have been faster in different circumstances, but it seems Bush lacked the motivation in this case, in which the majority of people concerned were poor and black and the prestige attached to such a rescue mission would not be seen as particularly great.


Perth, Australia

Hurricane Katrina was a catastrophe that was made worse by the U.S. government’s refusal to ensure domestic tranquillity. To do that requires Big Government to maintain coherent transportation and communications systems and coordinate land management that allows the ecosystem to serve as a buffer against natural calamity. Big Government must organize access to medical care for all individuals. But Big Government has been under constant attack for decades. Most people see it as the cause of Americans’ woes rather than as part of the solution. Big Government is not the enemy; Bad Government is–inept, shortsighted and self-serving.



Comparative Failure

Matthew Cooper, in his article about President Bush’s mishandling of the Katrina disaster [Sept. 12] noted, “In a crisis he can act paradoxically, appearing–almost simultaneously–strong and weak, decisive and vacillating, Churchill and Chamberlain.” Please stop comparing Bush to British Prime Ministers. If Bush lived in Britain, he could not get elected to a town council. That’s a fact.



A Flood of Money

“How to Spend (Almost) $1 Billion a Day” reported on the Federal Government’s massive post-Katrina rebuilding effort [Sept. 26] and stated, “Most of the major Katrina contracts doled out so far have been for temporary housing, and they have gone, by and large, to companies with strong ties to the Bush Administration.” Average Americans have rallied to help those who are recovering from the hurricane crisis. I am curious to know what our President, representatives and wealthier citizens have personally contributed. Recovery should not be paid for by cutting funds for health care and other vital federal programs, as some have proposed. While helping the hurricane victims, we still need to maintain spending on research, education, environment, medical care and energy alternatives.


Amherst, Mass.

The federal government cannot afford to foot the entire bill for reconstruction and relocation projects related to disaster relief. I propose that all federal funding for the war in Iraq be diverted to the hurricane-recovery effort. Then the money needed to pay for the war would come from members of the Bush Administration, Congress, private citizens and corporations who supported (and in many cases profited from) the invasion of Iraq.


Salem, Ore.

Building homes in an area below sea level, on a floodplain or near an earthquake zone is stupid. Billions of taxpayer dollars should not be spent to rebuild New Orleans in its present location. Disasters like hurricanes Katrina and Rita will happen again and again!


Garden Grove, Calif.

Water Worries

Your report “Western Water Wars,” on the plans of the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) to diversify its water resources, contained an unfortunate implication [Sept. 5]. The foundation of Nevada’s water law is that the state’s water belongs to all its citizens, not just to residents of a particular community. All the SNWA is proposing is to utilize an unused, naturally replenished groundwater supply. The SNWA has also expressed a willingness to go beyond the legal requirements to address the concerns of all stakeholders about having an adequate supply of water and ensure that their communities and lifestyles are protected. Your article did not adequately represent our commitment to be both a good neighbor and a responsible steward of water resources.



Las Vegas

Vulnerable Borders

In “Syria Gets the Cold Shoulder” [Sept. 26], TIME reported that most world leaders were unwilling to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad at the U.N. World Summit and that President Bush blames Syria for not doing enough to stop terrorists from entering Iraq. Does no one in the Bush Administration find it ironic that it is criticizing a developing country for its inability to guard its border with Iraq while the U.S. has been unable to secure its own border with Mexico?


Tucson, Ariz.

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