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If the decision is war, let it be based on reason, not price of oil

Published Oct. 18, 2005

We are being exposed to a daily diet of war talk. As election day draws closer it will intensify. The pundits darkly forecast when we will be at war, as if it were a media event. Tomorrow, next week, before the election, while Congress is in recess, before Christmas. Whenever. Coincidentally the documentary Civil War presented by PBS was a graphic depiction of the brutality of war in gory detail. It was timely. Anyone having been exposed to combat related to that horror.

As ever, the flower of the nation is being sent into the combat zone by the politicians who by bumbling ineptitude and presidential vanity _ first Reagan, now Bush (shades of LBJ) _ now find themselves confronted by a creature of their own making. So it was in World War I and World War II, the Korean "police" action and Vietnam.

The undiscredited transcript of the meeting between Saddam Hussein and our Ambassador April Glaspie the week prior to the invasion of Kuwait will dispel any lingering doubt as to our bumbling.

Of all the words written and spoken by the pundits and politicians addressing our involvement in this "oil war," 90 percent have addressed the economic upheaval; 10 percent the human costs. How many have a son or daughter over there?

How many, particularly the hard right "hawks," have experienced the white hot rain of mortar fragments tearing into their flesh? How many have experienced the stark terror of sustained combat? Of Chinese overrunning an outpost in the pitch black? The dehumanizing of men?

No one envies the decisions Mr. Bush has to make soon. (Lord protect us from those intrepid warriors Quayle and Sununu.) It is my fervent prayer that he makes a decision based on reasons other than what it costs to put gas in my tank.

Tyre H. Rimes, St. Petersburg

I am no military strategist. I am not very knowledgeable on matters of defense and of our armed forces. I have not been apprised of the economic benefits if our government chooses to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.

What I do know is that U.S. arms _ which we sold to Kuwait and which are now in the hands of Iraqi military forces _ pose a very serious threat to both U.S. and allied warplanes should an attack on Iraqi military targets become necessary.

Your Oct. 21 article, Iraqis try seized U.S. anti-aircraft missile, confirms that "although U.S. officials two weeks ago dismissed any possibility the Iraqis could operate the complex weapons," they are now saying that "in a while Iraqis will know how and that our own U.S. aircraft are not equipped to defeat the system." The fact that Iraqi military forces even have _ much less are beginning to learn how to operate _ the sophisticated U.S. Hawk anti-aircraft missiles and radars that were captured on Aug. 2 is alarming.

What is George Bush thinking? What are our members of Congress doing? Each and every citizen must react immediately to our country's leadership even considering another sale of arms to another Arab country. We cannot allow a business transaction to take place that could result in American-made arms being used to take American lives.

Helen Strait, St. Petersburg

Sunday night _ 60 Minutes: Iranian school teachers expressing their hatred for the United States refer to our backing Iraq with weaponry during the war. Sunday Times report _ "Iraq possession of sophisticated weapons, supplied by us, poses a threat to our troops in the Middle East."

How much longer will this country continue to be a "merchant of death"?

We should realize that it is a gross mistake to provide arms to any country in the Middle East due to the instability in that area.

The possibility of such armaments being used against us some time in the future did not require a crystal ball to foresee.

These weapons were the result of costly research and development paid for by us taxpayers in the name of defense and should not be used except for our own defense.

"I shot an arrow into the air, it landed, I knew not where."

W. G. Slade, St. Petersburg

We should no longer charge only parents with child abandonment. How about the Army sending parents over to Saudi Arabia, and not thinking about the children? This country seems to be going nowhere at record breaking speeds.

Clem Johnson, Spring Hill

One good reason, please

Pray tell, give me a singular reason why an event that defaces our fine downtown area, sounds like a bumblebee, inhibits travel and business, and attracts the dregs of the Earth, is perpetuated.

Ed Green, CEO, QHGL International

(one of the downtown companies adversely affected)

St. Petersburg

Bases in place

In all of the news reports concerning Operation Desert Shield that I have personally read, heard or seen none made mention of the fact that the vast military infrastructure in Saudi Arabia was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Without the air, land and sea bases constructed for the Saudi armed forces by the Corps, the current deployment would have been impossible.

This tremendous effort, which began in the mid-1970s, was completed in 1987 at a cost over $16-billion. All of the costs, including the salaries and other expenses of the Corps personnel, were borne by the Saudi government. The projects ranged from an airborne school at Tabuk in northwest Saudi to the huge King Khalid Military City at Al Batin on the eastern side of the kingdom which has a population of 70,000. To support construction of this city, located in a remote region, a commercial port was built on the Arabian Gulf. Other construction consisted of naval facilities on both coasts of the Arabian Peninsula; air bases throughout the kingdom; and headquarters facilities in the capital city of Riyadh for the Ministry of Defense and Aviation and the subordinate air and ground forces.

Much of the construction effort was in nation building: housing, schools, hospitals, utilities, roads, commercial ports, airfields and a national television system. At the same time, the Corps trained a cadre of Saudi Arabian engineers who now manage their own construction programs.

While the program was never envisioned by our planners to become a defense infrastructure to protect Saudi Arabia from aggression by Iraq, these bases-in-being have made it possible for the United States and other nations to respond to the invasion of Kuwait rapidly and in sufficient force to deter further military action by Hussein.

Warren J. Papin, St. Petersburg

What would Jefferson say?

In the Oct. 20 Times (Nude dancing and the Constitution), James Kilpatrick asks a rhetorical question about nude dancing at the Kitty Kat Lounge: "What would Thomas Jefferson say?"

I would be the last person to presume to second

guess the finest mind this nation has ever produced, but I can tell you what Mr. Jefferson did say on the day he was sworn in as president of the United States. The author of the Declaration of Independence said:

". . . though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possesses equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression."

Scant minutes later, after listing many of the benefits of the American experience, he told us how much government ought to be involved in our day-to-day affairs:

". . . with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens _ a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."

Any questions?

Jefferson, thou shouldst be living at this hour!

Frank Clarke, Oldsmar

Sending a message

On Nov. 6, the voters of Florida will finally have the opportunity to send a message to the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Despite poll after poll that overwhelmingly verify that the people of Florida and the rest of the United States want an end to immediate access to handguns and assault rifles without waiting periods or background checks, our elected officials have consistently backed the NRA instead of us. Just another example of government by special interests.

Some will remember those days back in the spring of 1988 when the NRA was able to bend the Florida Legislature to its will. Those were pretty heady days for the NRA. Not only was the NRA able, over popular objection, to pass a statewide pre-empt law that in effect destroyed all city and county gun-control laws, it was also able to force the passage of a concealed weapons permit also adamantly opposed by the public. However, those in our Legislature who were opposed to selling out to the NRA, and those who were ashamed for having done so, thankfully placed a condition on the passage of the new pre-empt and concealed weapons law. And the NRA wanted that pre-empt and concealed weapons law so badly that the NRA and its legislative supporters agreed to that condition. That condition was a zero-to-three-day waiting period, imposed only by the vote of each county's board of commissioners. The majority of the counties decided to back the NRA and not impose any waiting period at all. However, this condition also stipulated that a three-day statewide waiting period would go before the public on the November ballot.

There is nothing that frightens a politician, or the NRA, more than a public vote on an issue. When such a vote reaches a ballot, it usually means that the voters are finally fed up with government by special interest. To be sure, the NRA did everything in its power to prevent the people of Florida from voting on this waiting period. It was this or the Legislature was not willing to pass either the pre-empt or the concealed weapons law.

The proposition that will appear on the November ballot will allow each citizen of Florida to vote on a three-day waiting period. If passed it will become mandatory in all counties of Florida.

Three days is not enough time for either a cooling-off period or an adequate background check. However, that's all the Legislature could negotiate at the time. However, its ultimate value will far exceed the lives saved and crimes prevented. It will send an unmistakable message to the NRA and its legislative supporters that, "We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore."

On Nov. 6, each of you will have the opportunity to send that message to the NRA.

Arthur C. Hayhoe, Tampa

Still angry

Growing up, I was called an "angry young man" because of my idealistic ideas. I am still angry.

I am angry at the parents who abuse their children;

I am angry at those who steal from others to support their crack habits; I am angry at coke-addicted mothers not giving the unborn child much of a chance;

I am angry at our so-called justice system jailing people for victimless crimes when it allows crack houses to reopen time after time in the same location;

I am angry at the rich and powerful ripping off the poor;

I am angry at incompetent politicians taking advantage of their office for personal gain;

I am angry about the total disregard of the environment by big business and the inconsiderate.

Please help me not grow into an angry old man. Let's get together and start thinking of one another with a little regard. I am willing to work at it. How about you?

Terence A. Sinnott, St. Petersburg

Harold Pinter

Re: Harold Pinter is revered but no longer productive, Oct. 10.

The wire service story that unfortunately the St. Petersburg Times chose to print on the occasion of Harold Pinter's 60th birthday presented a distorted view of the playwright's career. At 60, Harold Pinter is incredibly productive, though in sometimes new ways. He wrote, for example, the adaptation of Elizabeth Bowen's novel The Heat of the Day that appeared recently on PBS, as well as the screenplay for Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. He has recently finished a new adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Trial, which is to be filmed in Budapest and Prague in 1991.

Perhaps even more important, Pinter has used his reputation as a playwright to speak out directly against human rights violations all over the world. In a 1984 TV interview on BBC Channel 4, he listed as matters of his public concern "the censorship of people and writers' imprisonment, torture and the whole question of how we are dealt with by governments who are in power . . ." During his visit to Turkey with American playwright Arthur Miller, he confronted the horror of systematic torture of prisoners, and he has taken pains to point out such violations wherever they occur. His dramatic sketch "Precisely" calls attention to the way in which we as a society couch the horrors of nuclear disaster in cold, technical language. He has been a consistent critic of the disjunction between rhetoric and reality in U.S. policy in Central and South America. As Ronald Knowles pointed out in an essay on Pinter's political activities in The Pinter Review: Annual Essays 1989, published in the bay area by the University of Tampa, Pinter now sees his primary responsibility as acting and writing as a world citizen, with citizen implying "both a right and a duty, a civilized entitlement of accountability of all before the law and the need to ensure that in all spheres of social and political intercourse this never falls into abeyance." When I met with Harold Pinter in his London home in the summer of 1989, he said to me directly that he must now be a committed writer.

No longer productive? Nothing could be further from the truth.

Angry? Sometimes. But as a "world citizen" ought to be when human rights are violated anywhere and those very violations are called by governments "the necessary means to preserve freedom." Pinter said of his early plays that their task was simply "to lay bare" our human condition; at 60, on a more global scale, he continues to do that.

Francis Gillen, co-editor,

The Pinter Review: Annual Essays,

professor of English, University of Tampa

Limit terms

Re: Quayle calling for limits on terms, Oct. 13. This article should have had a bold headline and appeared on page one! Limiting the number of terms

that a member of either house may serve is an idea whose time has come, and I urge the St. Petersburg Times to throw its considerable political clout behind it.

Many of America's finest minds refuse to enter public service because they do not stand a chance against the incumbent or they do not wish to put up with the public scrutiny required of a lifetime congressman worried only about a clean image so he/she can get re-elected. Limiting the number of terms to no more than two continuous terms would allow these nonself-serving individuals the opportunity to do their parts for our country and eventually go back to the private sector without losing too much income, seniority, or other private sector benefits. Issues that our spineless elected officials now refuse to address, like the budget deficit, cutting foreign aid to increase domestic spending, abortion, and other unpopular politically damaging issues (read: the real issues facing America) could be addressed and maybe even resolved.

I wholeheartedly agree with the vice president's quote regarding our founding fathers not intending Congress being a lifetime job. It is not nor should it have become one. The opportunity and time has come to correct this misinterpretation by a few power-hungry individuals and restore our government to its original design, a government for the people and especially by the people.

Jeffrey D. Walter, Treasure Island

Why no debates?

As a registered Republican, I want to express my disappointment that Gov. Martinez and former Sen.

Chiles are not engaging in more substantive public debates, on or off the TV screen. I will no longer watch most of the televised political commercials because their credibility is suspect and their blandness is deadening. Neither candidate for governor is particularly inspiring or heroic as public figures go, and in a state where residents can be indifferent to politics or have only superficial roots, there is a special need and duty for the top candidates to debate, argue and communicate with a broad electorate.

Candidates for the state legislature must earn their offices by face-offs in a variety of forums; and there is no justification for those at the top of the

elected hierarchy to be exempt from this process. If there is ever successful campaign reform there should be a condition that public funds mean public debate. I still believe that you can "size up" candidates to some extent by the way they handle one-on-one political debates.

As to the gubernatorial race, it is my understanding that Mr. Chiles is willing (to debate), but Mr. Martinez is able to do it only once. Wouldn't more debates save each candidate money and have some possibility of diminishing the influence of too much money, single-issue groups and so-called special interests? Each candidate needs more live exposure and less image.

James R. Gillespie, St. Petersburg