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Tuesday, July 18, 2006 - Page updated at 02:36 PM

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Letters to the editor

Wartime violence

Where's the outrage over rape, murder allegations in Iraq?

Editor, The Times:

The media silence has been deafening since the latest allegations of atrocities by U.S. forces in Iraq surfaced a couple weeks ago ["Four more U.S. soldiers charged with rape, murder in Iraq attack," page one, July 10]. I have not seen a single column, editorial or letter to the editor in The Times condemning this almost unimaginably horrific crime. So I guess I'm a bit shocked by the apparent lack of outrage.

Now, of course we're all innocent until proved guilty. And I realize that in war "stuff happens," in the immortal words of Donald Rumsfeld. Like the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. Like the murder in Hamdania. Like the Haditha killings. And now like this — an incident in which several soldiers in Mahmoudiya allegedly carried out the premeditated, cold-blooded rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman, also murdering three members of her family and burning her body to destroy evidence.

Aside from the irreversible, unspeakable violence suffered by innocent civilians, whether any of these incidents turns out to be true is beside the point. What is most damaging to America's efforts in Iraq, in Afghanistan and anywhere else we try to "spread democracy" is that the people there believe them to be true.

All foreign occupations must someday end. And when this one does, no matter how many U.S. soldiers conduct themselves with the utmost propriety and humanity, history may ultimately paint the Americans in Iraq as immoral, vicious and evil, hardly better than the regime they ousted. Not only do these terrible events reflect poorly on all of us as Americans, but they make the work of the rest of our troops infinitely more difficult and dangerous.

This is the incalculable damage done by a few "bad apples," and we should all be outraged.

— Daniel P. Draheim, Seattle

Our democracy's future

We all should join columnist in reflection

Thank you for Ryan Blethen's July 7 editorial column "A time for reflection in a mature democracy." His insights should offer all of us perspective on what we consider important about the traditions of our nation and its values.

As the Fourth came and passed I heard many talk of how they spent their time barbecuing or lighting off fireworks, but was appalled that few, if any, spent time reflecting on our country's values or its policies.

Blethen's column was a welcome sight among the rampant nationalism that has plagued our country and his conclusions were right on point.

The leaders of this country should not spend time and money debating issues that are used simply as political wedges to pry our nation apart (gay marriage, flag burning, etc.). I am with Blethen on this one; I want to celebrate an America that works for the people, not one that simply panders to its political parties. We all need to reflect on our democracy as Blethen has, or as he pointed out, we may not make it another 230 years.

On the next Fourth of July, think deeply about the actions our nation has taken and whether they truly reflect our democratic traditions, not just how many hot dogs you'll eat.

— Austin Siadak, Seattle

Missing signs of strength

Congress held a vote on the U.S. flag two weeks ago, but Ryan Blethen misunderstood the issue. The vote was not to make it illegal to burn the flag. It was to amend our Constitution so that it was up to Congress whether to make burning the flag illegal. Now the courts hold the power to rule that flag-burning is legal; the amendment would return that power to Congress. Then Congress could choose.

The United States has the democracy that is the model for all of the world and the strongest economy in the world. Blethen can't see these signs of strength, but gazes far beyond to see that we will soon be "the sick man of North America, choking on the ashes of American flags."

When Blethen yields to temptation and burns our flag be sure to put his photo on the front page. Don't bury it on page B-something. People need to know The Seattle Times' position on this issue.

— Ron Hebron, Lake Forest Park

Voting by mail

The magic's gone

Your editorial board points the finger of apathy in the wrong direction in its July 4th editorial "Apathy's creep hurts the land of the free." The democratic right to elect people to office is being systematically undermined by corporate voting-machine companies working in conjunction with election officials who want to eliminate controversy in elections by eliminating public oversight.

While you point out that Oregonians are showing increasing apathy, you fail to point out that their vote-by-mail system is at least partially to blame. You also fail to point out that just a month ago, the Metropolitan King County Council moved forward on its own vote-by-mail system, specifically citing Oregon's increased participation in elections as a good thing. Yet your editorial contradicts the message of the King County Council to the public that Oregon has seen increased participation when in fact it has not.

Voting and participation in democracy are both learned behaviors rather than autonomic functions like breathing. When you take away the voting booth, you take away the magic of participation that children used to learn when they accompanied their parents to the polling place. Most people would say the apathy lies with the media, which have become little more than a distribution channel for government propaganda. This has resulted in an electorate feeling powerless to make changes without the help of an independent press.

— Richard Borkowski, Seattle

Columnists

More background, please

Jonah Goldberg and Charles Krauthammer frequently write as though they are the Voice of Israel. They are rarely, if ever, critical of any decision or action taken by Israel. For these writers to venture opinions [July 10] about the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that curtails Bush's grand ploy of absolute monarchy-dictatorship is beyond chutzpah.

Please enlighten your readers about the background of these two writers. Do they, along with Secretary Michael Chertoff, hold dual citizenship? Since Krauthammer advances the cause of military tribunals with suspects detained and locked away without legal counsel or their day in court, it is clear that he favors dictatorial powers for the unitary executive. Since Goldberg feels that SuperBush's cloak has been shortened by the Supremes, perhaps he would like to have a trial visit to Gitmo with all legal rights removed so he can write with authenticity about that grim prison that is likened to the Black Hole of Calcutta.

I am curious. Do they, along with Ann Coulter, advocate assassination for justices who curtail Bush's power to commit war crimes? They come just short of making such a recommendation.

— Sara DeHart, Lynnwood

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