September 5, 2013 at 7:32 AM
What have we gained?
I’m writing in response to the recent article in The Times, about video proof of violence in Iraq. I’m puzzled. [“Videos show rising brutality in Iraq,” News, Aug. 31.]
Let’s recap: The U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 to ferret out its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to oust President Saddam Hussein.
Hussein was considered by some to be the main instigator of the prevalent Shiite-Sunni conflicts in Iraq. There was also vague harrumphing about his allowing an active al-Qaida presence there.
As we all know, there were no WMD and Saddam Hussein, despite being no angel, had managed to keep al-Qaida terrorists at bay.
Today in Iraq, 10 years later, countless lives — military and civilian — have been and continue to be lost, hundreds of millions of our tax dollars were spent, and Shiite/Sunni violence is rearing up again. Al-Qaida terrorism is now robust.
What, exactly, have we gained?
Kathy Swoyer, North Bend
April 8, 2013 at 6:33 AM
United States should keep funding development for countries in need
Indeed, the costs of foreign wars will keep mounting if the United States doesn’t do more to improve the lives of the poorest people around the world [“Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan could cost up to $6 trillion,” front page, March 31].
In countries suffering from weak institutions and corruption where people lack opportunities for self-betterment, extremist organizations are able to thrive. These organizations are the same ones that threaten our national security, resulting in this $2 trillion burden on taxpayers.
By supporting communities in need with basic goods like clean water and education, suddenly the places that have provided a safe haven to terrorist groups like al-Qaida are now able to experience greater stability and contribute to global security.
Often, Americans argue that spending money overseas worsens our financial situation, but the public perception of how much the United States spends on poverty assistance doesn’t match the reality.
While most people think around 20 percent of the federal budget goes to developing countries, the real amount isn’t even 1 percent. This minimal investment has a huge impact by providing millions of people basic services and resources, which, in turn, can prevent the need for costly military engagements.
It was said best by former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “Development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.”
Shannon Keith, The Borgen Project, Seattle
March 29, 2013 at 4:05 PM
Remember the act of sacrifice
Today is a Good Friday for many reasons. One is the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Vietnam War across the country and in our Capitol in Olympia [“After 40 years, Vietnam memories are still strong,” seattletimes.com, March 29]. Today is a good day to remember the act of sacrifice.
Long ago, America went to help a people they didn’t know, in a country few had learned in school, in a place far away. We went to help them in their fight for democracy.
We remember today, and for the next 10 years, with gratitude the soldiers of the Republic of Vietnam and the United States and all of our allies who fought and died for freedom and democracy in Vietnam. It is a value we held together that created a bond worthy of self-sacrifice. We shared duty with honor for our countries, and for the right of freedom for all mankind.
We remember today with the honor that we keep our promise and never forgot our brothers and sisters who shared the experience of the Vietnam War, and we will never forget.
–Skip Dreps, government relation consultant, Northwest Chapter Paralyzed Veterans of America, Burien
March 5, 2013 at 4:01 PM
Manning’s actions are a public good
Pfc. Bradley Manning is on trial — and facing 20 years in prison — for releasing classified information on American troop actions in Iraq ["Private saw WikiLeaks as chance to start a debate," News, March 1]. One video shows American forces killing civilians — including children — then firing on those who came to their rescue. These actions are war crimes under the Geneva Convention.
Yet Manning is the only one being punished, while the [shooters] go free. They are even referred to as “heroes” because they wear the uniform. They give our real heroes a bad name.
Manning has done us a good turn by bringing war crimes to light.
–Anne Thureson, Seattle
July 9, 2009 at 4:00 PM
State senators should push for nuclear treaties
What could do more harm to our people and environment than a nuclear explosion?
Thank you for your editorial “An arms deal, and more” [Opinion, July 7], which nicely summarizes the state of negotiations between the United States and Russia.
We need to ask our U.S. senators to support the forthcoming treaties and to push for further steps toward worldwide nuclear security.
– Bruce Pringle, Normandy Park
With nuclear weapons, small arms should go, too
The main discussion point between President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is apparently nuclear-weapons reduction ["Nuclear-arms control heads Obama's list," News, July 6]. Obama said reassuringly that a nuclear-arms treaty “would be completed by the end of the year.”
It’s reassuring that again a president of the U.S. and Russia will reduce stockpiles — in this treaty’s case to around 1,500 to 1,650 nuclear weapons depending on what’s counted. The treaty’s signing timing will no doubt find Medvedev and Obama surrounded by holiday displays like a Christmas card on the front page of every newspaper in the world.
The sensational headlines grabbed by nuclear weapons is like déjà vu all over again, and it takes place while each year hundreds of thousands if not millions of people are killed by small arms. Small-arms manufacturers, their salespeople and the clients who buy and sell these small arms “Weapons of Mass Death” result in the chronically annual headlines of genocide, murder and mass deaths in too many places around the world.
I hope Medvedev and Obama succeed in their discussions. Certainly, it will be a step in the right direction to reduce another way to destroy life. Truly, though, many people around the world are much more worried about the weapons carried by others around them.
Small arms fail to catch headlines unlike nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, the problem cannot be ignored, and hopefully, sometime in the not too distant future, leaders of the world put these weapons on the front page of the world’s newspapers and begin to reduce the stockpiles with nuclear weapons’ reduction having lead the way.
– Peter Scott McDowell, Seattle
U.S. needs to stop defiant N. Korea
Right now, I am caught up with concerns caused by North Korea. As a person who is quite against wars, I do not like to see North Korea shooting seven missiles across the Pacific Ocean ["Defiant N. Korea fires 7 missiles in July 4 salvo," News, July 5].
If these careless people start a war, not only will South Korea be affected, but the U.S., Japan and maybe China will take its share of trouble. It is time that the U.S. stands up against this defiance. I know this is a strong country. The U.S. has every ability to stop this difficulty, and I am just waiting to see how.
– Yena Yun, Seattle
May 11, 2009 at 4:00 PM
Officers can’t choose their wars
Bert Sacks demonstrates abject ignorance of American government and of military law in supporting 1st Lt. Ehren Watada’s refusal to serve in Iraq ["Refusal to deploy: a crime to participate in war of aggression," Opinion, Northwest Voices, May 8]. The Times didn’t do much better with its suggestion to drop the rest of the Watada case ["Time for Army, Watada to part company," Opinion, editorial, May 8].
The United States is not Nazi Germany. U.S. soldiers have been prosecuted for misconduct in Iraq and Afghanistan, as were Lt. William Calley and others for the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.
In our democracy, the president and Congress determine whether a war is legal. Officers and senior enlisted leaders are entrusted with ensuring that the conduct of soldiers conforms to the law and military directives.
Obviously, the system isn’t perfect. But allowing American military officers to choose their wars and to violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice without fear of prosecution undermines discipline and subverts the chain of command. The flip side of this slippery slope is that senior officers could say, “Oh, by the way, Mr. President … we’ve started a war without you.”
I bear no malice toward Watada, who seems like a sincere, though naive, young man. But the legal machinery of his court-martial should continue until its legal conclusion.
– Phillip Johnson, Seattle
A leader of uncommon courage
The Seattle Times editorial board states that 1st Lt. Ehren Watada is not a fit military leader and should receive less than an honorable discharge. What he did, in calling attention to U.S. war crimes in Iraq, makes him a military leader of uncommon courage that exceeded that of most other military leaders, the media, Congress and the public.
The editorial failed to note that Watada did agree to deploy to Afghanistan. The Army could have let it go at that, but decided punish him for exercising his right not to participate in a war crime.
Watada was right that President Bush committed a war crime by initiating a war of aggression against Iraq. His resistance was not just in accord with military law, as noted by letter writer Bert Sacks in the same edition; it was in full accord with the U.N. Charter and the findings of the Nuremberg Court. That court defined “aggressor” as that state which is the first to declare war, invade, attack or support armed aggression in another state. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, a Nuremberg prosecutor, stated that a war of aggression is not only an international war crime is the ultimate war crime.
The editorial board should be embarrassed to ignore the crimes of the powerful and focus its wrath on lower-ranking officers and enlisted people. This is a disservice to the country, to our military and to Watada.
– Malcolm D. McPhee, Sequim
Why join Army in the first place?
In regard to Bert Sacks’ letter on May 8, I was thinking that perhaps 1st Lt. Ehren Watada should have thought of all that before he joined the military. What was Watada thinking he would do in the Army –get paid to sit around and philosophize?
Saddam Hussein told the United States he would “crush us.” He said he would “make the streets of the United States of America run with blood.” He said that in the first war and he promised it in the second.
It doesn’t sound peaceful to me, and I am puzzled why so many seem so disappointed that he wasn’t able to make good on his threat. Whether he had more weapons than they found or not, he certainly threatened to engage us in the “mother of all wars.” It’s not up to a lieutenant, or event a military judge, to decide what the U.S. should do. You don’t get to vote on following orders.
I am also surprised that so many focus on Iraq, but ignore that we’re having a war in Afghanistan. Iraq’s leader threatened us. Didn’t we go into Afghanistan just to find Osama bin Laden? Now we’re escalating the conflict and having a war. How can you rage about one and ignore the other?
Even so, nobody is refusing deployment there and only one publicly refused to go to Iraq. All the hundreds of thousands of others have followed orders like they agreed to do when they joined the military in the first place.
– Paula Heinrichs, Seattle
May 10, 2009 at 4:00 PM
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press
The Times has it wrong
Editor, The Times:
The disgraceful editorial on U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada’s judgment ["Time for Army, Watada to part company," Opinion, May 8] misses the mark on several counts: acting as judge and jury by convicting him of “conduct unbecoming”; assuming the Iraq war is legal (still very much an open question); and advocating a discharge that is less than honorable.
The most glaring error, however, is the pretzel-logic that Watada’s judgment doesn’t align with military service because he acted in “concern for his own prerogatives.” Nothing seems further from the truth.
Watada said repeatedly he opposed the war in Iraq not merely for selfish reasons, but for other soldiers under his command.
From a June 7, 2006, interview with Sarah Olson of truthout.org: “I am fighting for my men still, and I am supporting them. But the conscionable way to support them … is to oppose this war and help end it so all soldiers can come home. It is my duty not to follow unlawful orders and not participate in things I find morally reprehensible.”
We can only hope that military officers, as Watada did, take command responsibilities seriously — intended to protect their soldiers — and adhere to all aspects of military justice and the rule of law, not just select parts The Times feels are appropriate.
– Kendall Watson, Seattle
Bush administration deserves more scrutiny
I appreciate the thoughtful Bert Sacks’ May 8 letter regarding 1st Lt. Ehren Watada ["Refusal to deploy: a crime to participate in war of aggression," Northwest Voices, Opinion] and would like to further point out the absurdity that this man of conscience has endured incarceration and a long legal battle with the military when war criminals George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz will never see even a modicum of justice for the illegal war of aggression they perpetrated, which resulted in the misery, death and injury of hundreds of thousands.
If we were truly a nation of laws and not of men, these pathetic despots would assuredly experience the inside of the world court in The Hague instead of their happy retirement, and people like Watada would be well-deserved heroes.
– Brian Williamson, Seattle
Duty is to protect the Constitution
Following 9/11, George W. Bush insisted we destroy weapons of mass destruction and remove Saddam Hussein, but WMD weren’t found, nor any link between Hussein and al-Qaida.
Bush reputedly intended to invade Iraq before 9/11. If information was skewed to convince Congress in 2002 to authorize force against Hussein, then Bush abused authority, deceiving the public and Congress.
In 2004, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared the U.S. invasion of Iraq in nonconformity with the U.N. Charter. Many international legal experts and world leaders believe the Iraq war is illegal.
The Nuremberg trials held an officer’s duty to disobey illegal orders. The U.S. endorsed the Nuremberg principles and ratified the Geneva Conventions and U.N. Charter, making them legally binding under Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution: “All Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the Supreme Law of the Land.”
The Uniform Code of Military Justice stated lawful orders must conform to the Constitution and U.S law. The Army Field Manual denotes an explicit duty to disobey unlawful orders.
Watada refused deployment only after intense consideration. His offer to serve in Afghanistan, a military presence he believed lawful, was rejected.
An officer’s duty is to protect the Constitution.
– Bambi Lin Litchman, Tacoma
May 7, 2009 at 4:00 PM
A crime to participate in war of aggression
It is hard to imagine an issue more central to the future of our country than this: Will we uphold the rule of law, or simply say we do and then act however we wish?
Lt. Ehren Watada refused deployment to Iraq for one reason: He claimed the war was illegal ["Feds drop appeal of Watada decision," page one, May 7].
U.S. Army Field Manual (27-10, Section 498) says, any person “who commits an act which constitutes a crime … [is] liable to punishment … [including] a crime against the peace.” A crime against the peace is the crime of engaging in a war of aggression.
To follow the rule of law and the Army Field Manual, the court-martial of Lt. Ehren Watada had to confront the question: Was the U.S. war in Iraq a war of aggression — not of self-defense? This is the question the military judge refused to allow, disregarding his own military laws.
As one law professor put it: “[Lt. Watada] is being ordered to do something that he has every reason to believe … is implicating him in the gravest crime against peace imaginable. And if he has no chance to even raise that issue before this military tribunal, then it’s such a blatant denial of justice as to itself constitute a kind of crime because he’s being criminally disallowed from obeying the law. Franz Kafka didn’t have such a macabre imagination.”
Perhaps George Orwell had a better imagination. I hope we’ll choose not to live in that world.
– Bert Sacks, Seattle
March 9, 2009 at 4:00 PM
A broken promise
I must say I am glad President Obama is taking some steps toward bringing our troops home from Iraq, but I am disheartened by his decision to push withdrawal back to August 2010 and leave up to 50,000 residual troops in the area until December 2011.
This marks a broken promise to the American people, who want our troops home now.
An estimated 1 million Iraqis and 4,253 American troops and have already died in this unnecessary war.
A recent article in The New York Times spoke of the brutal reality of Iraqi war widows:
“As the war has ground on,” the article states, “government and social-service organizations say the women’s needs have come to exceed available help, posing a threat to the stability of the country’s tenuous social structures.”
Our money should go toward helping Iraqis rebuild their shattered lives, not toward maintaining U.S. bases and military operations.
I call on Obama and his administration to immediately withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq, as well as contractors and mercenary forces.
The U.S. government should increase efforts in diplomacy, humanitarian aid and refugee resettlement, instead. Continued troop presence will only encourage more armed opposition within Iraq and will not force the Iraqi government and Iraqi factions to negotiate power.
In addition, with the continued presence of U.S. troops, the international community will doubt U.S. commitment to withdrawal and will wait to invest in diplomacy and reconstruction efforts.
– Gabriel Lavalle, Lynnwood
Time to preserve our pennies at home, reduce our pennies abroad
At a time when we need every penny at home, our involvement with Afghanistan grows deeper every day, and apparently we do not have a clear objective for such occupation.
If our objective is to prop up the corrupt Karzai government, we will have to stay there endlessly.
If we are there to stop opium production, we first need to get rid of the ruling warlords who are the main cultivators of opium.
If we want to get rid of terrorism, we have to discourage Israel from continuing the occupation of Palestine.
The claim that the surge has worked in Iraq is highly doubtful. This is why President Obama plans to retain 30,000 to 50,000 troops, in order to intervene if an undesirable situation develops.
History has shown that occupation of Afghanistan has never produced the desired goals of the occupier. The best strategy for Afghanistan is to end the occupation and let the internal forces reach an equilibrium.
Based on such an outcome, we can devise a realistic strategy.
– Ali Karimli, Kirkland
February 26, 2009 at 5:21 PM
Military spending mounts, economy sinks
Congress has approved more than $657 billion so far for the Iraq war, and the country wonders why we are in a recession?
According to nationalpriorities.org, over 40 percent of our income-tax dollars in 2007 went to military spending. Instead of sending 40 percent of our tax dollars and $657 billion to a war that was not even supposed to be and to foreign aid, the government should think about using this money to get our country out of the current economic crisis.
The war in Iraq has become a problem that seems, at this point, unsolvable. If we pull out now, Iraq will be left in chaos. The U.S. is to blame for the current political unrest in Iraq. It is our responsibility to fix this.
At the same time the U.S. is involved in a war that it shouldn’t be involved in to begin with, we are wasting time, money and focus that should be used on internal problems in this country.
Whatever the U.S. decides to do seems like it is going to be the wrong decision.
I believe the best thing the U.S. can do is cut the money being sent to Iraq in half. Rather than focusing on sending the military aid and weapons, the U.S. should focus on helping to restore some type of functioning government that best suits the beliefs and the people of Iraq, not of the U.S.
The plan Obama has put together, in regard to pulling out troops, sounds decent as of now. However, he should also try to put a social and political plan together.
If the current political state of Iraq does not improve, there is no way the U.S. is going to be able to pull out of this war.
– Laila Alasmar, Methuen, Mass.
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