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Letters to the Editors

Striking Iraq fails the 'just war' test

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2003


Re: Not opposed to all war; just opposed to this war, by Mary Jo Melone, March 9.

I strongly oppose the plans of our country for making a unilateral, pre-emptive strike on Iraq. President Bush and our national leaders have failed to produce evidence of an imminent attack by Iraq on our nation or any evidence of Iraq's connection to terrorist attacks here. Like columnist Melone, I have no doubt that the president believes in his mission, but I also see his indifference to what U.S. citizens think about the war as unsettling.

The proposed war on Iraq fails to fulfill the four criteria needed for a war to be just, according to the Catholic Church's "just war" theology:

-- War must be defensive and never aggressive, no direct killing of noncombatants.

-- The means used must be proportional to the actual threat.

-- There must be serious prospects of success with a reasonable expectation of a lasting peace.

-- War must only be a last resort after all possible means of negotiating peace have been exhausted.

I also feel such a war would likely further inflame, and perhaps even unify, Muslim radicals to terrorism against their perceived Jewish and Christian enemies.

The Office of Social Development and World Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops raises the following objection to war against Iraq: To permit the use of force to pre-empt an incipient threat or an attack that is merely possible is to sanction preventive war, which would be a troubling moral and legal precedent. What if other countries, such as India and Pakistan, adopted such a strategy? Would the world be safer and more stable?

In a recent talk in Tampa, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, auxiliary bishop of Detroit, documented how the percentage of civilian deaths in wars has increased from 5 percent in World War I to 90 percent in the Vietnam War. In the 1990s, he said, more children were killed in wars than soldiers.

Last October, the U.S. Congress gave the president the authority to use military force against Iraq. But the vote was not unanimous. The country is, as Mary Jo Melone pointed out, clearly divided on this issue.
-- Sister Carol E. Stovall, SSJ, St. Petersburg

Pacifism's perils

I recently read a magazine article containing a quote made by Albert Einstein in 1941:

[Letter to a pacifist, 1941]:

"If all the young people in America were to act as you intend to act, the country would be defenseless and easily delivered into slavery."

It is truly amazing how relevant it is today, not only for Americans, but for a worldwide audience, too.
-- Marie Schoessow, St. Petersburg

War's reality

Re: Jarheads at War, March 9.

For all those people who wrote to the Times regarding the insensitivity of placing the information about the Pentagon ordering 10,000 body bags on the front page, please read Anthony Swofford's account of his experience in the Gulf War.

Your family members, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons and daughters, enlisted in the military to defend our country. This is not an exercise in getting an education or benefits later on. It is about fighting and killing and dying and defending whatever our commander in chief has ordered, and they took that responsibility upon themselves when they signed up. It is about death and destruction, which will certainly happen.

The president wants to go to war and is actively pursuing that endeavor with or without the approval of the United Nations or many of our allies. So consider this: The probability that your relatives may be gassed or biologically infected or burnt up or blown up and put into one of those body bags and sent home is now very real. So wrap yourselves tightly in the flag. The reality is about to come home. Think about it.
-- Alida Duchene, St. Petersburg

Offensive language

I have been a Sunday Times subscriber for years. On March 9, I picked up the paper and proceeded to read a story in the Perspective section titled Jarheads at war. I saw the expletive: F---. But there in black ink was something much worse. God's name in vain, spelled out for all to read.

You chose to keep this F-word hidden in your article but chose to offend many Catholics, Christians and Jews alike by using the Lord's name in vain.

Though the man who wrote the article may not take offense at this, I am sure many of your readers, like myself, do. I understand that the story was to be true to what went on over in the Gulf War, but since you chose to remove the F-word, why did you choose to leave this other one in? Many children have current-events assignments and look to your paper for articles that they can use. I find this in bad taste on your part.
-- Karen Underwood, Clearwater

Thanks to the troops

I just want to say "Thank you" To all the men and women who have and will fight for our country and our freedom. My dad was in the Vietnam War and he made it back home. I pray everyone from this one will, too.

I thank them for their bravery, their risking their lives for people they don't even know. That's the best and sweetest thing in the world. So thank you, my heroes and angels. Come back safely. Please.
-- Michelle Johnson, New Port Richey

Palestinian motives

Re: Joined at the hip, dragging each other down, March 9.

Bill Maxwell's column, while containing valid points about the Israeli-Palestinian interdependence, is amazing for its distortions.

First: Ariel Sharon's visit to Temple Mount did not spark the latest round of violence. Palestinian Authority officials themselves have admitted (although not for Western consumption) that that visit was at most a pretext for the violence that was coming anyway. Arafat had made the decision to resume fighting because he did not get 100 percent of what he wanted at the Camp David summit -- especially the right of return. All he got was 95 percent.

As for the question of Palestinians having a right to defend themselves, the answer lies in the origin of the fighting. If Maxwell remembers his last visit, before the fighting, the vast majority of Palestinians were living under Palestinian rule and the Israelis were not attacking or invading their areas. The renewed Palestinian attacks, especially the suicide bombings, drove the Israelis into renewed occupation and attacks. The goal of the Israelis is to stop Palestinian terror attacks. What is the goal of the Palestinian attacks?

The question Maxwell should be asking is not whether the Palestinians have a right of self-defense, but rather, why are the Palestinians sacrificing their children's future and their very lives in this quest to destroy Israel and kill Jews? Why, Maxwell should be asking, won't the Palestinians accept Israel's existence?
-- Bill Blocher, Lakeland

Dyslexic thinking

Re: Tallahassee's test bullies, March 9.

Martin Dyckman might want to reconsider one sentence in this column. Dyslexia may not be a miswiring in a student's brain. When dyslexia is cultivated, it is a gift. It is the ability to see order where others see chaos. My dyslexic son, when asked what letter in the alphabet followed "A" answered "they all do." All his teachers answered "B."

Dyslexics are not linear thinkers and process information far differently from those of us without the gift. My son did graduate from high school, went to a college that allowed tape recordings and student note-takers but opted for a career as an electrician using his hands. He took another four years of trade education to get a journeyman card, but now he earns nearly $80,000. Absent good vocational training in many of our schools, we force all of our kids into one-size-fits-all testing and destroy many gifted young people. Is it possible that we have many learning-enabled kids in a teaching-disabled system?
-- Tony Leisner, Tarpon Springs

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