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Letters: Oct. 16, 2006

10 minute read
DEPARTMENT

A Chilling Preview of War

As Iran continues to disregard demands that it stop enriching uranium, the U.S. military has issued a “Prepare to Deploy” order and is reviewing plans for blockading Iranian oil ports. Does that mean war? Most readers said, No way, and blamed escalating tensions on a trigger-happy Administration at home

Thank you for producing an intelligent article about the follies of going to war with Iran [Sept. 25]. That is what the media are here for. Otherwise, we might be convinced that we would be greeted in the streets with flowers as liberators, that the war would last scarcely six months and that the cost both financially and in the blood of our sons and daughters–as well as Iran’s–would be minimal.

ZIGGY PANTAZIS

Sarnia, Ont.

Your cover story on the possibility of war with Iran was right: there is indeed an out-of-control President hellbent on forcing a war between Iran and the U.S. But that President is George W. Bush. He is the President who started an unprovoked war with Iraq under false pretenses, a war that has cost tens of thousands of U.S. and Iraqi lives and is sure to cost many more. The media were asleep at the switch during the run-up to that war and appear to be repeating the same mistake. Wake up, America! Don’t let it happen again.

TAD HARDEE

Afton, Va.

Every country knows it would be bombed back to the Stone Age if it attacked the U.S. We’re supposed to be frightened out of our wits about the threat from Iran, which is still several years away from producing a nuclear weapon? In George Orwell’s novel 1984, the state was in a perpetual war with a constantly changing enemy. Does that sound familiar?

ARLEN GROSSMAN

Monterey, Calif.

Americans are embroiled in the Middle East and forced to listen to people like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran because of our need for oil. We cannot expect success in dialogue or negotiation when those people have something we desperately need. The only way to attain objectivity in foreign policy is to eliminate the oil factor. Americans need to make huge lifestyle changes (sell–or junk–the Hummer, and tighten your belt) while we develop oil alternatives. Otherwise, we will have only ourselves to blame for the huge number of young lives that will be sacrificed in the name of a killer oil habit we couldn’t break.

GERALD WITTER

Norman, Okla.

The ostensible reason for the current hysteria is that Iran might make a nuclear weapon, but the timing seems convenient. The saber rattling comes as Republicans find themselves hard-pressed to explain why they shouldn’t be thrown out of office. Maybe the Bush Administration can save the day for Republicans by selling Americans another war. But who will save the day for the American and Iranian people, who would have to pay for Bush’s folly?

JOE HEAPHEY

Greencastle, Ind.

It is a sad indictment of our society that we are already asking questions about “What war with Iran would look like” rather than “What diplomacy with Iran would entail.”

MATTHEW D. HINDMAN

Minneapolis, Minn.

In “A Date with a Dangerous Mind,” you described Ahmadinejad as a “man who had come out of nowhere to win Iran’s presidential election.” You seem to have forgotten that the election was marred by the accusations of reformist candidates that hard-liners had rigged it. TIME’S interview with Ahmadinejad, in which he revealed his supposedly peaceful intentions, sounded hauntingly like the polite conferences European and American diplomats had with Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. While Ahmadinejad is a bit more forthright than Hitler about his disdain for Jews, declaring that Israel should be “wiped away” and the Holocaust is a “myth,” Neville Chamberlain would have probably found him trustworthy.

FRED S. CARR JR.

Virginia Beach, Va.

Papal Fallibility

The extreme reaction of Muslims to an obscure 14th century quotation by Pope Benedict XVI serves only to demonstrate their fanatical bent [Sept. 25]. Had 25 ayatullahs been kidnapped and beheaded, the reaction would not have been greater. While Christianity has taken its rightful share of blame for the Crusades, the Inquisition and crimes against Jews, Islam seems to be exempt from criticism–with a death penalty waiting for those who dare criticize. Today a faith that foments violence in the name of God must be roundly condemned. Admittedly, the slaughter is the work of fanatics and supposedly is not representative of true Islam. But then where is the restraining voice of the so-called saner elements of Islam?

EUGENE RYAN

Estero, Fla.

Pope Benedict XVI’s quoting of a medieval text that basically states that Islam is a violent religion resulted in predictable–and violent–reactions in parts of the Muslim world. The irony is so glaring, it is hardly bearable. But the same type of irony can easily be found in Christianity. How much violence has been committed to defend teachings that advise turning the other cheek? It is apparent from history and current events that Christians, Muslims and Jews all believe in the same God. One can only wish he had been more consistent in advocating nonviolence.

PATRIK LINDENFORS

Nairobi

The Pope said what needed to be said, period. Radical Muslims have insulted, abused, murdered and otherwise endangered the lives of many non-Muslims for decades. It is about time a world leader stood up and called a spade a spade.

BILL EVANS

Bainbridge Island, Wash.

Terms of War

“The Face of Haditha” [Sept. 25] inappropriately asserted that what happened in Haditha, Iraq, on Nov. 19, 2005, was a “notorious massacre.” Although two dozen civilians may have been killed in a wartime firefight, the term massacre concludes that the acts of that day occurred under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty or constituted wanton murder. As no charges have been filed in this case, no one yet knows that to be true. While this incident was certainly a tragedy, the Marines are innocent until proved guilty, and your magazine, as well as the rest of the media, should cease its use of the derogatory term massacre.

MARK S. ZAID

NEAL A. PUCKETT

Washington

The writers are attorneys for Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich.

Doing unto Others

The issue regarding the treatment of prisoners suspected of being terrorists is fundamental to the strategy for winning the war on terrorism [Sept. 25]. The Bush Administration is living in the world of 50 years ago, a time when wars could be won militarily. In today’s world, wars are won or lost ideologically. To win the war on terrorism, we must win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. Those in the Muslim mainstream must isolate the terrorist fringe within their own communities and eliminate their popular support. To win Muslim hearts and minds, we must regain the moral high ground. Over the past five years, we have sunk to the level of our antagonists. Our actions have driven moderate Muslims to become supporters of extremists and created a seemingly endless supply of terrorist recruits. We must begin to reverse this course by adhering to the rules on prisoner treatment in the Geneva Conventions.

J. WILLIAM VEGA

Corrales, N.M.

Bush stated that he wanted “Clarity” about the rules in the Geneva Conventions that apply to wartime detainees. But how about simply relying on a longstanding, tried-and-true rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Or is that too Christian?

BILL BURNS

South Elgin, Ill.

The President professed that he cannot understand the Geneva Conventions. It is a sad day for the civilized world when the President of the most powerful country on earth can stoop so low as to openly promote barbaric treatment of prisoners of war. By flouting the humane terms of the Geneva Conventions, President Bush and his supporters should, at the very least, lose the votes of all servicemen and -women and their families.

LEEPI M. BASU

New York City

Expensive Education

I was disappointed to see in your article “Who Pays for Special Ed?” [Sept. 25] that only the slightest mention was made about the flip side of the special-education question: highly gifted children. They are rarely given any special education and are often mainstreamed alongside average or even below-average students. With more and more money going to educate disabled children, gifted children sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Think of the potential benefit to the well-being of our country if school districts were to spend an amount of money to advance the education of the brightest students equivalent to what they are required to spend on special-needs students. It could help ensure the superiority of the U.S. for years to come. Naturally I understand that parents of disabled children have many obstacles to overcome that the parents of gifted children do not, but the Department of Education needs to recognize the obligation and the value of educating our gifted children too.

RACHEL E. HUGHES

Denver

I worked for years in one of the more prestigious residential special-education facilities in eastern Massachusetts, and I can empathize with what must be nothing less than a herculean effort by the parents in your story to get the best education for their autistic son. They are real modern-day heroes. It pained me to read the complaints of those who said public funding of the autistic boy’s education causes other children to lose out. Those words could only be uttered in ignorance. Most students don’t have special needs and are free to amass what knowledge they can from a standard education.

REED T. HIX

North Providence, R.I.

No Fun for the Bulls

Re “Bring on the Bulls” [Sept. 25], on the popularity of bull-riding shows on TV: I was disappointed to see such a promotion of blatant animal cruelty. I grew up on a cattle farm and know that bucking is not normal behavior for bulls. Those exploited by the Professional Bull Riders are domesticated animals that “perform” out of fear and in response to irritation from electric shocks, painful bucking straps, tail twisting and flesh-gouging spurs. The supposedly aggressive behavior is actually a terrified animal’s attempt to escape extreme pain. I urge fans of bull riding to find forms of entertainment that don’t hurt animals.

MONICA BALL

Peoria, Ill.

Rappers’ Demise

“A Tale of Two Mothers” [Sept. 25] concerned the efforts of the mothers of murdered rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. to honor what TIME called “their sons’ legacies.” What a sad commentary on society. Those two individuals promoted hedonism and violence. There was nothing honorable about the lives they lived, and the perverse fantasies they sold to inner city youth were probably more damaging than any good they may have done. I wish the mothers of the two rappers would denounce the lifestyles their children were proponents of. They succumbed to the thuggery they preached and died much too young. Their tragedy should not be glamorized.

JAY ROSS

Glendora, Calif.

Internet Idiocy

Book reviewer Lev Grossman’s Essay about his feud with a blogging critic initially made me think, Great–a critic got a taste of his own medicine [Sept. 25]. But I read on and found out Grossman had experienced the cyberslander that is so prevalent in Internet blogging. Unfortunately, the Internet has allowed anyone with a computer to pretend to be an expert on anything. No matter how uninformed, unintelligent or unrestrained people may be, they can declare themselves authorities and everyone else complete idiots. Since our society loves sensationalism over substance, such ranting gets more attention than legitimate literature. So maybe the bloggers are right after all. Perhaps trying to produce a thoughtful, responsible opinion makes you an idiot in the desolate wasteland of bloggerspace.

CLARK GERHART

Hazleton, Pa.

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