Letters to the editor: 5/18/04

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Many, many Iraqis are grateful to be free of Saddam

It is only fair to Nick Berg and all other Americans in Iraq to "thank" members of the media, who couldn't have done more to turn a very unfortunate situation in Iraq into a national and international travesty. And we can't forget the likes of John Kerry and Sen. Ted Kennedy for politicizing our war effort and in turn jeopardizing the lives of Americans by their outrageous comments.

Why don't we hear about the thousands of people in Iraq who are grateful for their freedom from the Saddam abuse and who appreciate American efforts and progress there? Why don't we hear of the incredible acts of kindness that our soldiers show toward the Iraqi people? These are the bigger stories, and yet media and our politicians are satisfied only to cause outrage, division and conflict. And the price is high. No doubt Nick Berg would agree.

Where was the public outrage by the Kerry/Kennedy camp when our own soldiers were being tortured, killed and dragged through the streets of Iraq? Sad? Yes, all Americans were. But to outrageously condemn those actions wouldn't have served their political purposes. Thank God 9/11 did not occur during an election year!

To our service personnel in Iraq: Please know that the majority of American people do support and honor you. I attended the Tulip-Time Festival and Parade in Holland, Mich., this month, and not once did a branch of the United States military march by without the thousands of attendees standing and applauding them. This is the true America -- you are loved.

DEBBIE BARRY
Bridgeville


Regime change here

Thomas L. Friedman's May 7 column outlining steps this administration must take to restore America's honor is welcome, but too late ("The First Step to Restore America's Honor"). Millions of us who opposed this war were given short shrift by The New York Times and many newspapers across the country who shamelessly hawked this war and gave the administration legitimacy.

In their wish to curry favor with the administration, they did not ask the hard questions before the war began. We were fed daily doses of propaganda from the Defense Department, particularly Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and especially the president himself. It will be a long, hard struggle to repair our reputation abroad. I can only hope that in this country, Americans will finally see through this inept administration's tactics and vote to change course in November.

We need a thorough housecleaning. The Senate, the House and especially the presidency must be changed if we have any hope of restoring honor to what used to be the America I knew and loved.

GRACE LOVE
Natrona Heights


Heartless comments

How disturbing to read the bitter and heartless responses of PG readers who feel indifference and in some cases justification with regard to abuses by American soldiers of Iraqi prisoners and civilians. What is wrong with people?

How can they believe that the bombing and torture of random Iraqis is any answer to the heinous acts of terrorism perpetuated against Americans on 9/11? When will we ever learn the wisdom often expressed by Martin Luther King Jr. that "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" or of Eleanor Roosevelt, who challenged us to "act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it"?

The recent photos of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison demonstrate, once again, the disaster the Bush administration has made of the war on terror.

JILL M. FIORE
Indiana, Pa.


A minuscule number

While I abhor the actions of a very few U.S. troops in Iraq, there needs to be some degree of statistical significance attached to these deeds. There is currently an estimate of seven to 12 soldiers involved in these inappropriate actions against Iraqi detainees and an estimated U.S. troop force of 135,000 in Iraqi.

Given the highest possible number of 12 offenders, that amounts to a rate of 0.009 percent of soldiers involved in an inappropriate activity. This is almost an incalculable rate.

While we cannot condone such behavior, we must view it in perspective. The atrocities committed during the Saddam Hussein regime are almost beyond imaginable calculation, yet these numbers seem to be lost in the memories of so many Americans and individuals worldwide.

Jessica Lynch was a prisoner in Iraqi, subjected not only to "humiliation" but, according to Rick Bragg's book about her, to actual rape and sodomy as well. Where was the world outcry then? There was limited world outcry over the treatment of the U.S contractors killed, mutilated and hung from bridges; how can this compare to what the Iraqi detainees suffered?

The media have a moral responsibility to represent all the facts on all sides and to report them accurately. The good deeds such as rebuilding schools, health care facilities, roads and other infrastructure resources are largely unreported by the mass media -- why? Objective journalism is a necessity for a free society; we need to remove politics from journalism and report the facts -- all the facts.

KIT KELLINGER
Baden


Not news to them

The hand-wringing "mea culpas" of both President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield after the prisoner pictures were published was disingenuous. Both men sounded as though this prisoner abuse was newly discovered. However, the evidence is that they both knew of the existence of the prisoner abuse, at the latest, in January.

This fact was glossed over by these two; we get only the lame excuse of "ongoing investigations" to explain why the public was not told of this scandal earlier. They smugly supposed that photos proving the abuse would never come to light.

Surprise! When the photos did appear, the two's only regret was in having been found out. They then cobbled together a hasty, disgraceful policy of "blame me."

ANDREW GERENYI, M.D.
Franklin Park


Do plutocrats care?

The torture of Iraqi prisoners has created a new pool of Iraqis for recruitment into militias opposed to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. This translates directly into the deaths and wounding of more American soldiers.

The resignation of Secretary Rumsfeld or his firing by Bush may be looked upon favorably by the Iraqis and thus save American lives. Regardless of what the Iraqis may think, it is the right thing to do.

Do the plutocrats care? Their children are not serving in Iraq.

SANFORD KELSON
Conneaut Lake


Senate Democrats are ready to support a slots bill with safeguards

In a May 11 editorial ("Slots by Summer"), the Post-Gazette urged the Legislature to approve Gov. Ed Rendell's request to legalize slot machine gambling and chastised Democrats for not giving the proposal unified support. Actually, Democrats have stood together in favor of slots. When a bill passed the Senate last summer, all 21 Democratic members cast an affirmative vote. A few weeks later, when an amended version passed the House, all but six of the 94 Democrats there voted yes.

Democrats are still prepared to give overwhelming support to legalizing slots. I have written a draft of a bill that would, in all likelihood, receive the united support of all 21 Democrats if it came to a vote on the Senate floor.

That bill places the state in a strong regulatory position. It bans political campaign contributions from gambling interests; it prohibits the "revolving door" of government officials going to work for the gambling industry; it requires tight centralized electronic control of machines to discourage tampering; it requires background checks and a license fee from a new owner if the original licensee decides to sell the business; it allows local governments a share of the gambling proceeds to address infrastructure improvements and other impacts without giving those local jurisdictions an unfair windfall.

We have worked hard to translate the concept of legalizing slots into first-rate legislation. It was the Senate Democrats who first insisted on a license fee from operators, rather than giving the slots licenses away to racetrack owners. Senate Democrats have also commissioned the only authoritative market study to determine the number and types of slot parlors necessary to meet the governor's goal of raising $1 billion in state revenue.

Democrats are not willing, however, to support a bill that lacks strong anti-corruption measures and sound protection of the revenue stream. Pennsylvania must legalize slot machine gambling in a way that safeguards the public interest. If a handful of Republicans and the administration would get behind our bill, we could have it on Gov. Rendell's desk in a matter of days, and thus deliver much-needed property tax relief to the people of Pennsylvania.

STATE SEN. VINCENT J. FUMO
Harrisburg

Editor's note: Sen. Fumo, a Democrat from Philadelphia, represents the 1st District.



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