- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Let’s debate the real issues

I agree with Tony Blankley (“Speak up, Mr. Kerry,” Op-Ed, May 5); we need a genuine national debate on how best to address the threat posed by al Qaeda. A well-run presidential debate between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry would be a good start. It would allow them to state their positions clearly and hopefully engage the American people on this difficult issue.

Mr. Kerry would be asked to state a coherent and comprehensive approach to battling terrorism. Mr. Bush would be forced to articulate his plans (both prewar and now) for postwar Iraq and address the issue of growing anti-Americanism worldwide. They could both (not just Mr. Kerry, as Mr. Blankley suggests) address the important issue of when to go to war. I, for one, believe “targeting rogue states with ties to terrorism and the potential for developing weapons of mass destruction” covers a lot of countries, and I also believe it is important for the American people to know if either candidate is contemplating additional pre-emptive military action.

KEITH ROHR

Austin, Texas

No excuses, no exceptions

Some of your readers seem to feel there is little or no cause for outrage at the despicable behavior of the U.S. military personnel and private contractors who tortured and terrified Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison (“Thoughts on Iraq,” Letters, Monday).

First, we have no idea if any of those prisoners are guilty of anything. They haven’t even been charged with a crime, never mind tried and convicted. Second, there are laws that prohibit such treatment of any human being, even prisoners of war.

Third, I would urge these people to think very carefully about how they would feel if one or more of their loved ones, or any American, for that matter, were treated in such a debasing, disgusting and inhuman manner. If we want to prevent terrorism, acting as bad as or worse than the terrorists is hardly the way to go. I cannot think of anything that will increase recruitment for al Qaeda faster than the actions of those U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib.

There is no excuse for behavior such as this. Everyone all the way up the chain of command who shares responsibility should be brought to justice.

JOANNE HEISEL

Columbia, Md.[[$PARAGRAPH_OFF$]

A tough call for Bush

Anyone would expect President Bush and his re-election campaign to attack the record and policies of Sen. John Kerry for political advantage, but it’s disconcerting that they would unfairly criticize the difficult decisions made by his father in the last Iraq war (“Bush aims to avoid father’s mistakes,” Page 1, Monday). The president claims he deserves election because he is capable of making decisions when times get tough. The second President Bush should have learned from his own problems in Iraq that his father was a good president. Not only did he take credit for making many tough decisions, but he also took responsibility for his mistakes.

The White House is fond of repeating the mantra that this Mr. Bush is a strong leader who should not be “misunderestimated.” But, as he misused that word, they have failed to understand that when dealing with the lives of our brave military men and women, we must be determined to get it right.

A strong leader accepts responsibility for mistakes made in war and corrects them before more lives are lost.

JOE OTTERBEIN

Shrewsbury, Pa.

Rigging a ‘free’ Iraqi market

Your report “Iraqi probed in rigging of cell-phone pacts” (Page 1, Sunday), which said cell-phone contracts were awarded improperly in Iraq, raises the question of why such “lucrative” contracts have to be awarded at all.

If the Coalition Provisional Authority were interested in establishing free markets in Iraq, it would allow (subject to security clearances) any willing seller to offer telephone service to any willing buyer.

Reliable and cheap telecommunications are essential to Iraq’s economic development. As in many other countries, they can be supplied competitively by private firms, Iraqi and other. If “lucrative” contracts were indeed offered, customers in Iraq must be paying more than necessary for telephone service.

Does anybody in the CPA understand how free markets work?

GABRIEL ROTH

Chevy Chase

Dear Mr. President,

As members of the Women’s Alliance for a Democratic Iraq (WAFDI), we are horrified and disgusted by the sadistic, heinous and blatantly criminal acts committed by the morally deficient supervisors and staff entrusted to run Abu Ghraib prison.

The abhorrent actions of the American military and intelligence personnel at the prison have tarnished our nation’s credibility and affected the image of our men and women in uniform, who are serving a good cause and have freed Iraq from a brutal, tyrannical regime.

We expect swift and decisive action to remedy this situation and to identify the military personnel, officers, supervisors or civilian leaders who committed these acts or caused them to be committed. Each individual must be identified and punished as warranted by the severity of his or her crimes. You must demonstrate to the world that these actions are not representative of the American military or the values of this country and subsequently convince the Iraqi people that they are in good hands. Otherwise, the purpose of the war will be forgotten or misconstrued.

This issue must be examined fully, so that the rules, policies, guidelines or directives that allowed such a travesty to occur can be corrected to ensure that it never happens again. Our image and reputation, damaged not only in Iraq, but also throughout the world, will have to be rebuilt slowly and carefully. There must be no hint of holding back at this point. Everything must be brought forth into the public view, and we must be fully accountable.

Additionally, the Abu Ghraib prison, originally a symbol of the brutality and injustice of Saddam Hussein but now also the symbol of the recent debasing events, should be decommissioned and torn down. This will convey to the world that the United States is serious about correcting this problem.

In the process of remedying the situation, we encourage the administration not to release any detainee before ensuring that he or she does not have a criminal history. We also ask for the establishment of a legitimate Iraqi justice system that holds those accused of crimes during the former regime accountable for their actions. Those who are found not guilty should be released immediately; unnecessary detention should be avoided at all costs because it builds resentment among the population of Iraq.

WAFDI has fully supported the efforts of this administration toward the removal of the Ba’athist regime and the rebuilding of Iraq. However, we have been disillusioned by these recent events, and we look to you, Mr. President, to set things right.

Please do not hesitate to call on us if we can be of help in the struggle to build a free and democratic Iraq.

BASMA FAKRI

President

Women’s Alliance for a Democratic Iraq

Plymouth, Mich.

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