Unfortunately, apologies can't put bullets back into the gun that was used to kill those innocent 16 Afghan men, women and children in their sleep. Nor can we unburn the Korans that were inadvertently disposed of; nor can we erase the moment captured on film when U.S. Marines urinated on a dead Taliban militant. But this latest atrocity is the straw that has broken the proverbial camel's back.
And as a result of these episodes of poor behavior, the Taliban has regained momentum and been emboldened to take revenge on our soldiers and our coalition partners and to try to take back control of the country. It doesn't help that President Hamid Karzai has gone on record saying that this criminal act is unforgiveable.
It looks like we've worn out our welcome in Afghanistan, and the troops look like they are worn out too. Sadly, this war has simply become an exercise in futility, so why prolong the exit date to 2014? Bring our troops home immediately, before the Taliban militants can claim any more of our brave soldiers' lives or before we can claim any more innocent Afghan civilian lives.
Ray Brown, Tampa
Atrocity in Afghanistan | March 12
Mission was accomplished
I am reminded by the tragic rampage of an American soldier against Afghan civilians of similar incidents 40-plus years ago during the Vietnam War. As in Vietnam, we are using deficit spending to drag out a war that has long since achieved its objectives and, therefore, its usefulness: capturing/killing Osama bin Laden and denying al-Qaida sanctuary in Afghanistan.
Although President Barack Obama has committed to a delayed, 2014 drawdown of U.S. forces due to pressure from some politicians and the military, the war grinds on at great cost. It continues with American troops inserted in tribal villages to be daily subjected to acts of violence and hatred by an unappreciative population. It is no surprise that the most unstable and undisciplined of those troops succumb to the urge for violence and revenge.
It is time for the president to speed U.S. withdrawal from that primitive and ungovernable place and reserve our considerable military capabilities for use against greater threats to our national security.
James Craten, Riverview
Bring brave warriors home
The terrible incidents of the past few weeks have brought the longest-running war in our history once again to the front page. Hopefully the American people will finally look hard and deep into their souls and demand we remove our brave men and women from Afghanistan.
As one who knows (Vietnam 1967-68), the physical and psychological damage endured during combat sometimes causes irreparable harm. But multiplying that by four, five or six deployments into the bowels of hell only exacerbates this damage. I am not surprised to read about soldiers becoming unglued and committing heinous acts against those they perceive as their demons.
We have as a nation been in Afghanistan far too long. Our mission is complete — Osama bin Laden is dead. Let us bring these brave warriors home and let's take care of their physical and psychological needs.
Robert B. Palin Sr., Tampa
Personal injury protection
Rates won't come down
The current round of never-ending insurance reform will do little to stem fraud. It is merely another smokescreen cooked up by industry lobbyists and our esteemed legislators to make us think our rates will be going down. The newest reforms give the industry more tactics to delay and/or outright deny your legitimate claim. There is nothing — zero, zip, nada — in this law that requires your PIP carrier to lower your premium once the fraud statistics drop. Our legislators left that part out.
In 2010, I reported fraud at a law firm where I worked as a paralegal handling auto claims. I met personally with three investigators: one with the FBI, one with the state of Florida insurance commissioner's office and one who was a senior investigator with GEICO. They patiently listened to me (and three other employees) as we described the rampant fraud. That was nearly three years ago. No one cared. Nothing was done. The fraudulent claims were all paid and the firm is still in business.
Think about it. When have you ever read or heard of a single arrest for accident staging? When has a single insurer come forward to announce the firings of adjusters who approved fraudulent PIP claims? It doesn't happen. They don't care. The fraud, which this year is attributed to staged auto accidents, is certainly real, but unfortunately it is just another red herring for the insurers to conspire with our elected leaders to deny your insurance claim.
Julie Canton, Tampa
Apologetic White gets 3 years March 13
It's a start
Now that we're done with Kevin White, when are we going to get the other couple hundred crooked politicians in office in this state?
Dave Feeney, Dunedin
Feds: Texas voter-ID law would suppress Hispanics | March 13
Valid ID is part of voting
If it is not discriminatory for Texas citizens to be required to show ID to get married, buy alcohol, cigarettes or cough syrup, cash a check or open a bank account, it is certainly not discriminatory to make them show ID to vote.
If you desire to vote and can manage to make it to a polling station, you can manage to obtain a valid ID. If you cannot manage this minor requirement, you clearly demonstrate that you are not in the least bit concerned about your voting privilege.
John M. Whelan, Dunedin
It's obvious what the Obama Justice Department's goal is in blocking the Texas voter ID law, and it's not protecting the rights of registered minority voters. It is more likely that they want to ensure that "illegal" minorities may vote in our national elections. So the question is: Who is actively protecting the integrity of the electoral process and who is attempting to circumvent it?
Lance K. Piscitelli, Clearwater
The road to nowhere
Florida is facing daunting fiscal challenges, yet the Legislature believes we can afford to spend $36 million to design our own version of the "Bridge to Nowhere"? The Department of Transportation cannot justify development of the proposed Heartland Parkway on the basis of meeting an actual transportation need because it is truly a highway to nowhere. The primary beneficiaries would be those who own lands within the right of way, most notably Sen. JD Alexander.
It is unconscionable that the Legislature would dedicate such a substantial amount of public funding to this project while real needs go unmet. If the Heartland Parkway is in the public interest, then let it compete for funding in the sunshine, rather than be awarded it in Tallahassee back rooms.
Every Florida citizen should contact Gov. Rick Scott's office to demand that he veto this appropriation and help restore some faith in our state government.
Eugene Kelly, Brooksville
The Pill belongs in drugstores | March 12, commentary
Doctors' advice needed
Virginia Postrel's assertion that birth control pills should be available to women over the counter got me to thinking about some of the other reasons young people need to be careful.
The sexually transmitted human papillomavirus has become such a prodigious killer of women that many states are considering mandatory vaccinations for both girls and boys. AIDS still poses a death threat to unprotected heterosexuals. Japan has found an antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea "super bug" that could go global. Also, it looks like syphilis is making a comeback.
Compared to the deadly potential of unprotected sex, an unwanted pregnancy almost sounds like good news. The need for sexually active girls to consult with a physician is now greater than ever. When health factors are weighed evenly against a woman's right to birth control, society stands to gain nothing if the interactive counsel of a doctor is replaced by the availability of a vending machine.
Norma Fraser, Clearwater
Love notes | March 11
Opening hearts and minds
I want to commend you for telling the story of Brian Winfield and Kim Byrd leading up to their marriage Feb. 18. Your open and honest coverage of their relationship is an important step in combating the demonization of persons of different sexual orientation. Thank you for continuing to be a newspaper that opens our eyes, hearts and minds to the wonderfully diverse world around us.
John R. Gallo, Ruskin