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How many more must die for this dreadful mistake?

Re: Bombs, strikes kill 52 in Iraq, Sept. 18.

This second-page war story of 52 killed includes the killing of a U.S. Marine on patrol.

How many more heroic American men and women in uniform serving in Iraq will be killed by insurgents before our leaders realize that we cannot win this war? The insurgency keeps growing and becoming more deadly. The conflict has been escalating, and most recent intelligent estimates are pessimistic. Many Iraqi people are becoming outraged with the United States. We have learned nothing from Vietnam, and we will repeat the agony of defeat.

This one is different because it is a religious war. It has brought out Islamic fighters from other countries who want us out of the Middle East. This is not the first time. History taught us that the invading crusaders eventually retreated. History will be repeated once more. It is unconscionable that many more of our young military people will die for this dreadful mistake.

C.J. Bjornberg, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret.), Clearwater

Inexplicably encouraged

I just read that President Bush is pleased with the progress being made in Iraq. I would like to know which aspects he, and astoundingly many American voters, are most encouraged by?

Is it the nearly daily car and suicide bombings that are killing and demoralizing any Iraqis brave or desperate enough to join the security forces? Or perhaps the deaths that occur during frequent clashes with the fighters loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and/or Sunni Muslim insurgents? There seems to be no end to their numbers, though we're told that they are just small pockets of resistance that will soon be eradicated. Maybe it's the fact that several large cities and regions of Iraq are in the control of these same insurgents, making them off limits to American troops and impossible to include in the upcoming elections.

I suppose it could be the nearly daily kidnappings and deaths of foreign and local workers trying to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure and oil pipelines. Or possibly it's the dwindling support of our "coalition" partners, which was so limited and half-hearted to begin with. The very real possibility that the country is tearing apart and heading into civil war must be very encouraging.

Add in the $200-billion dollars spent, and more than 1,000 troop deaths and thousands of injuries (so far), not to mention the many thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, and you've got some real progress going on over there. Soon they'll be a happy democratic society that will spread peace and love throughout the Middle East and bring terrorism to an end. I think the same sort of thing happened in Vietnam some 30 years ago, didn't it?

Danny Reich, Zephyrhills

Order civilians home from Iraq

Re: Beheading of civilians in Iraq.

I would be on the first plane out of Iraq or better yet, I would never go over there in the first place.

These killings of American civilians and others have been happening for quite some time _ they didn't start yesterday _ so why are the civilians still over there? Why doesn't our government order them all back to the United States? No one needs a job bad enough to die for it. No one.

John M. Chalakee, New Port Richey

Time for nation-building at home

Re: Sen. Kerry has no credibility left on Iraq war, Sept. 17.

Charles Krauthammer casts aspersions on John Kerry's aspiration to the presidency, citing his numerous contradictions on Iraq as proof that Kerry "does not know his own mind about the most serious issue of our time."

Krauthammer concedes that before Iraq, Kerry spent most of his political career voting his conscience on national security issues. This was, of course, before he became a presidential candidate.

I can forgive some ill-considered rhetoric during a primary campaign designed to pander to an antiwar constituency. However, I cannot lose sight of the fact that the president and his neoconservative nation-builders got us into the Iraq mess by exploiting our fears and patriotism as a pretext to leading us into this unprovoked war on false pretenses. Krauthammer is dead wrong when he implies that Iraq is the most serious issue of our time. Terrorism is our most serious issue, and very little is being done about it by the present administration, save a few orange lights.

Terrorism aside, the most immediate serious issue we face is finding an honest and intelligent solution to our fiscal woes, fixing a national health-care system run amok and providing a workable retirement security system. The time has come for Americans to demand that our elected officials do some nation-building right here at home. The current president has failed us on all these issues so miserably, it is his credibility that Krauthammer should question.

Paul Corbett, Palm Harbor

CBS should apologize to Bush

Dan Rather's attempt at an "apology" for use of the fictitious Air National Guard memos in his "reporting" was misdirected and wholly inadequate. The American people should not accept it. Rather allowed his biased reporting to escalate to a point where his actions have become a blatant attempt to influence a national election.

In his so-called apology, Rather stated, "We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry." He knew he was making a mistake in judgment. CBS's own experts told him of their reservations regarding the veracity of the documents, and Rather chose to move ahead with the story anyway. That makes it an out-and-out fabrication, not a mistake in judgment.

They need to apologize directly to President Bush and the American people for their thinly veiled attempt to discredit a sitting president during a time of war. No one expects the truth from Michael Moore. However, we deserve the truth from the mainstream news media, and we expect nothing less.

Ron Pelle, St. Petersburg

What if it had been Fox News?

Assume the following scenario: Bill O'Reilly of Fox News runs a special report showcasing documents that show John Kerry earned one of his purple hearts through a self-inflicted wound. Fox does not reveal the source of the documents, but claims it is "unimpeachable." The following morning, the Republican National Committee rolls out an ad campaign titled "Operation Self-Inflicted" that includes references to the new documents. It is later discovered that the documents are obvious forgeries and were provided to Fox by John O'Neill of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Further inquiry reveals that Karl Rove had contact with Fox and O'Neill shortly before the story ran. It is also learned that Fox made no effort to verify the authenticity of the documents, and, in fact, was warned that the documents could be fake.

Anyone with a shred of intellectual honesty would agree that this scenario would be the biggest story of the campaign, with many Democrats calling for Fox to be taken off the air. Those who are attempting to downplay the importance of the story regarding the CBS memos are not being honest. When a major news organization abandons its primary responsibility to the public, to report news honestly and accurately, we risk losing our republic to special interests and well-financed political campaigns. I am grateful that the Internet allows for the free flow of information at little or no cost as a check and balance against corporate media, including Fox, CBS and the St. Petersburg Times.

Geoff Parmer, Tampa

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