Decision-making in the heat of battle

Re "," May 31

Here we go again trying to fight a war with morality. Give me a break; to win a war, you have to fight the war.

Tragedies happen; innocent people get killed; young soldiers make decisions in the heat of battle in the hope that it will save their lives or the life of their buddy who is fighting next to them. For those who have never been in a firefight or seen the look on a buddy's face when he is dying, please don't judge or attempt to set standards for those of us who have.

The Marines who supposedly killed innocent Iraqis made those decisions in the heat of battle. Don't judge them, because they are the only ones who have earned that right. Be thankful that they are over there fighting for your freedom to be safe here in the greatest country on Earth.

Albert Miranda
Rancho Santa Margarita

The Times misses the point. No one condones such slaughter, but one can understand it. We train young men to kill, then put them repeatedly in situations that expose them to death or dismemberment. Does anyone doubt that some will break under the strain?

They are ordered to fight a different kind of war than we were promised. Does anyone else remember that we were told that "shock and awe" would obviate the need for street-to-street, door-to-door fighting, sometimes to recover territory that was fought over just yesterday?

The enemy doesn't wear coal-scuttle helmets or feld grau wool uniforms but instead blends into the general population, leaving our people confused about just who the enemy is. When we cry for the heads of those young men, we must cry equally loudly for the heads of those who committed them to this massive folly.

W.L. Sibley

The June 1 article "A Town Awoke to Slaughter" gives an idea of what war does to us. I saw it years ago in Vietnam, where small girls were brutalized by the North's Viet Cong to gain village support. In an instant, war can change peaceful folk into snarling brutes who often fail to remember it afterward.

The Bahai folk are right: Only when the world realizes how much both sides lose in warfare can we realize our ultimate goals. Who and what country will lead the way?

Willard Hanzlik
Seal Beach

Negative campaigns in gubernatorial primary Re "," May 29

I am a lifelong liberal Democrat, and I am pained by the filthy campaigns of gubernatorial candidates Phil Angelides and Steve Westly. How can anyone even consider voting for either of them after the deluge of muck we've been watching on TV? Have politicians no decency left? I even thought of voting for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But no, I guess I'll sit this one out. First time in 40 years.

Robert Klein

By now, if you're like me, you have reached the point where you wonder either where the "clean primary race" has gone or how the two Democratic candidates have avoided going to jail for the stuff each claims about the other in those nasty ads. The incumbent actually starts to seem the saner choice.

Tim Shullberg
Long Beach

The Democratic candidates have predictably resorted to the mudslinging tactics of negative campaigning. For the California Democratic Party, this is terribly shortsighted.

The two candidates are doing much of the work for Schwarzenegger's campaign because whether the winner of the primary is Westly or Angelides, the Democratic candidate will enter the fall campaign covered with mud.

Should Schwarzenegger win a second term, the Democrats would have no one to thank but themselves.

Steve Hammel
West Hollywood

Re "," Current, May 28

You've got to give Lou Cannon credit for trying to spin Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's 40% approval rating into victory in November.

But Schwarzenegger's an actor, not a magician. And Cannon's a guy who has written five books on Ronald Reagan, so how connected to reality can he be?

Schwarzenegger's stardom has dissipated. His arrogance and lack of conviction have left his administration rudderless. It's time to turn California in a new direction.

Cort Casady

Defense of 'fat cats' as victims is not justified Re "," Current, May 28

I agree it is preferable that social programs be carefully crafted by our elected representatives in Washington and Sacramento. But our state and federal legislators have failed in this respect. Corporations and, more alarmingly, wealthy individuals have almost exclusively benefited from record profits and tax cuts over the last four years.

Conversely, average citizens have seen their wages stagnate and the real value of their wages eroded by skyrocketing healthcare, education and energy costs. Is there any wonder why California voters are asking multimillionaires to pitch in a little, in a time of war no less, by paying to educate our 4-year-olds?

John Ragosta
Los Angeles

Michael Boskin should know better than to argue that "the top 10% of taxpayers already pay 70% of income taxes" without noting that same group also owns more than 70% of our nation's wealth. He ignores the fact that assets amassed by the richest of our citizens generally do not come from ordinary earned income but from capital gains, dividends and often tax-free bonds. This income is generally taxed at a much lower percentage than earned income, and it also is exempt from Social Security taxes.

Among the industrialized democracies of the world, the United States has one of the greatest disparities in income between the wealthiest and poorest percentiles, with the exception of Russia — if you can consider Russia a democracy. We also have one of the highest infant mortality rates and the lowest quality of primary education in comparison to these same nations.

Although Boskin may make a case against voting on initiatives that raise taxes for narrowly earmarked programs, his defense of the wealthy "victims" of such taxation is sorely misplaced.

Jeffrey Ellis
Los Angeles

'Liberal hawks' are really just being smart Re "," Current, May 28

Jacob Heilbrunn's labeling of defense-oriented Democrats as "liberal hawks" is misleading at best.

First, no one of even cursory knowledge would call any member of the Democratic Leadership Council a liberal. They are avowed, militant centrists. Furthermore, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner have almost the same opinion of post-9/11 national security as Howard Dean and Al Gore. All of them supported the 1991 Iraq war and the 2002 Afghanistan war and believe that we should beef up the military to target true anti-American terrorism.

All of them believe that the war in Iraq is a distraction from the war on terrorism and believe that we should never have gone in. I don't think you call that being a "hawk." That's what you call being "smart."

Ben Mendelson
Santa Monica

U.S. stand is no reversal Your headline says that (June 1). I don't see it that way. What we are saying is, "If Iran will concede to our main point, we will talk with them." Heads we win; tales they lose. That's shrewd but no reversal.

Porter Ewing
Van Nuys

Crackdown goes too far

Re "," May 29

I am a fifth-grade teacher. I don't mind students bringing cellphones to school as long as they are turned off and out of sight during the school day. The New York scanner system is rather over the top, especially considering the safety factor of unsupervised trips by public transportation to and from school.

I suggest the district lighten up a bit and only confiscate cellphones that are visible or audible during the school day. That way, those who cause the problems the district is concerned about can be punished, while those who are considerate and responsible (by leaving them off and inside backpacks, etc.) can have their phones in case of emergencies.

By the way, wasn't it cellphones that provided a link to the outside world during the awful tragedy at Columbine?

Elaine Graf

Land grab sounds familiar

Re "," May 27

The Times reported: "Officially there is no private land ownership in China. This allows local officials to exploit a loophole whereby they seize property as public land, offer farmers a small sum, change the land's status and sell it to private-sector developers for a considerable profit."

How ironic. This sounds precisely like what our Supreme Court, in its recent eminent domain ruling in the Kelo vs. City of New London case has now enabled in the United States. Aren't we supposed to be encouraging China to adopt our liberalized view of freedom and individual rights rather than adopting its corrupt, totalitarian ones?

Wade Major

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