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The obscenity of war is still with us, but so is hope

While rummaging through some old clippings in my files recently, I came across a story written by Times editor emeritus Eugene Patterson nearly 11 years ago, reminiscing about his World War II service. Among his final comments were these:

". . . There is my certainty that war is the ultimate obscenity. I came away from the terror convinced that it is the antithesis of civilization for human beings to organize the killing of one another when, unlike animals, they aren't even hungry. Civilized ways simply must be found to settle man's post-jungle conflicts."

Patterson adds, "My post-war calling as a newspaper editor never seemed to lift my battle-battered being very far above the combat. But I keep hoping."

Powerful words, Mr. Patterson, but I'm afraid we're still in the Stone Age when it comes to settling differences between opposing forces.

We're still hoping, too.

Dennis Crabtree, Clearwater

Reject Gonzales for lack of answers

Re: Tortured answers, editorial, Jan. 8.

Why is it assumed that Alberto Gonzales will "no doubt" be confirmed as the U.S. attorney general? Just the fact that he has not directly answered any pertinent questions should be justification for refusing to confirm him. The people of all parties need to have confidence in his judgment and not feel that he is being influenced by the president. His performance would justify naming him "The Great Equivocator."

How can he distance himself from his views that the Geneva Conventions are "obsolete" and "quaint"? His ideas certainly do not fit in with what I would term "moral values," as defined by the Republicans.

Ruth Boe, Sun City Center

Providing legal cover

Re: Tortured answers.

If Alberto Gonzales is confirmed to become the U.S. attorney general, he will apply the law of the land. But the law is very broad, and prosecutorial discretion is key to its application. Today's attorney general, John Ashcroft, demonstrated that in his choices for prosecution. Several of those choices are the subject of lawsuits in the federal courts today. Ashcroft was a man on a mission.

In 2002, Gonzales' boss, George W. Bush, asked him for a legal opinion about torture. Gonzales saw to it that the opinion was consistent with his interpretation of the law. In 2005, if confirmed as attorney general, he will enforce the law as he interprets it because that is the very definition of the job. The two interpretations are likely to be the same because the boss is the same, and Alberto Gonzales is, above all else, a loyal servant of G.W. Bush. Never mind his assertions that he is for human rights and against torture, because the law is so broad that almost any interpretation is possible. George W. Bush will decide and Gonzales will provide legal cover.

John Chase, Palm Harbor

Be vigilant for the environment

Re: The forest for the greed, editorial, Jan. 4.

Thank you for speaking up about the Bush administration's policy in regard to our national forests.

The Sierra Club and Audubon Society have published similar articles warning of the same danger. To further your understanding of how this and other environmentally unfriendly policies are hatched by the Bush administration, I recommend reading Crimes Against Nature by author and environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

It is important for citizens to educate themselves on this issue and pay attention to what is being done by those in power to our outstanding and irreplaceable natural heritage. Then the next step is to get active. Write a letter or send an e-mail to your elected officials. Even our shopping habits and lifestyles can reflect our values in regard to the environment.

It is not "conservative" to squander and loot our old-growth forests.

Bev Griffiths, Riverview

Conflict seems clear

Re: County officials to keep tickets, Jan. 7.

I was astounded to read that the Hillsborough County commissioners can see no conflict of interest in their acceptance of high-priced tickets to the Bucs games! As an "average person," I know the difference between a contribution and a gift. For the benefit of the commissioners, a campaign contribution is used to fund your campaign, and a gift is for personal use. Receiving thousands of dollars worth of gifts from special interest groups sounds like a pretty nice perk.

Let's hope the recipients have the decency to claim these perks on their income tax forms.

Jim Krest, St. Petersburg

Rudeness and the language barrier

Re: French bashing.

As one who travels abroad several times a year, including two trips to Paris and the French-speaking areas of Belgium in the past four months, I have had little problem with rudeness or America-bashing. Interestingly, many engage me in conversation about politics and what it is like to live in Florida. Most Europeans under the age of 45 speak better English than we do, since is has been a requirement in the schools there for years.

No matter where you travel, whether it be from one side of Pinellas County to the other, or from one side of China to one side of Russia, there will always be that rude person. It is a fact of life. I experienced more rudeness in Pinellas County with people stressing out over the holidays than I have experienced in Europe or a faraway place.

A hint to those who travel to foreign-speaking lands: Learn just a few words of the language and attempt to speak a little of the native tongue. Even if it is just "please" and "thank you." You will be surprised how far that gets you.

Jeff Francis, St. Petersburg

The Muslim way of giving

Re: Pat Oliphant cartoon, Jan. 5.

As an American who has lived and traveled in Saudi Arabia for three years, I found the Oliphant cartoon racist and wrong. One of the five pillars of Islam is the tax known as zakat, a portion of one's income which goes to the poor. It is the sacred obligation of all Muslims. They are also instructed to give all charity secretly, without fanfare or boasting or revealing their name. To depict Saudis as obese thugs lolling about a tent, questioning their country's donation to the tsunami victims (most of whom are Muslims) is belittling and, once again, demonstrates our American arrogance. When we lived in their country we were always treated with warmth, hospitality and generosity. Not all Muslims are terrorists.

Aileen Vincent-Barwood, Sun City Center

Don't overestimate the public

Re: Deficit deception, Jan. 10.

In the last sentence of your editorial regarding George Bush's manipulation of the budget deficit you state, "He may find out that Americans aren't so easily fooled."

I doubt that he will find that. They were easily fooled in 2000 and even more easily fooled in 2004. I don't share your trust of the American electorate.

David A. Cimino, St. Petersburg

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