Freedom of Speech: U.S. Strength and Weakness

If truth is the first casualty of war, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) got hit by shrapnel ("Daschle Under Fire by Lawmakers for Criticism of Bush's Diplomacy," March 19). The insults Republicans have directed at him cannot blunt his message: The Bush administration has brought us to war because of a spectacular failure of diplomacy. Lives will be lost because of the seemingly willful incompetence of President Bush, and his supporters in Congress need to come to grips with that if we're ever going to straighten this mess out.

John J. Flynn

Culver City

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Daschle may have been tardy with his criticism (editorial, March 21), but the "Republican Guard" didn't waste any time in hammering him. It seems we have legions of them monitoring every speech, every broadcast, every publication, every utterance, ferreting out the "disloyal," then creating hit lists for verbal ostracizing. I suppose that as long as the punishment remains verbal, so be it.

Surely it won't go any further than that. Could it?

Keith Frohreich

Anaheim

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Whatever happened to that great deliberative body, the U.S. Senate? What could be more important than debating the pros and cons of going to war -- and it stayed largely silent. Instead, we were exposed to the propaganda of the executive branch of government, almost each day offering new reasons for going to war (some of which were lies) when yesterday's reasons no longer seemed sufficient to convince the public.

We were never told the cost of the war, how it will affect the economy, the future relationships with other countries. Yet the Senate sat idly by, spending three weeks on why we should or should not appoint a judge.

Harold Einbinder

Long Beach

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On Wednesday, Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said, "Today I weep for my country." A Byrd on hand is worth more than two Bushes.

Rama Rao

Irvine

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It is my sincere belief that 100% of Americans did not wish to have war. However, a significant majority of Americans realize that military action is the only legitimate answer to solving our problem with Iraq. The myriad voices in support or in protest of war are among the healthiest and greatest symbols of democracy.

What is disconcerting is the use of this freedom as a means of blame, criticism and disrespect to the choices that ultimately our elected leader of this free, democratic nation must make. In the end, the president symbolizes each and every one of us dutiful citizens who make up a single nation. Our commander in chief has made a difficult decision and, as with all decisions, not everyone can be satisfied. We must come together as one, to support the president's judgment and resolve and rally behind our mission at hand.

Andrew Wu

Palos Verdes Estates

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I just wanted to thank the demonstrators at the Federal Building in Westwood. Thanks to their determination to repeatedly block all traffic on Wilshire Boulevard, I will be forced to stop commuting on a clean, natural-gas-powered, efficient Metro Rapid bus. Instead, I will get into my car and burn several gallons of gas every day, just to avoid the Wilshire corridor. I will continue to burn large quantities of fossil fuels in my daily commute until they take their "no blood for oil" signs and go elsewhere. Might I suggest the front of a Hummer dealership?

Michael Gat

West Los Angeles

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I was driving my ambulance down Wilshire Boulevard and came across an antiwar/anti-Bush demonstration, and both my partner and I, being veterans of the U.S. armed forces, felt very upset. This should not be happening right across the street from a national cemetery, where thousands of fallen service members are resting after sacrificing their lives for our country.

We are aware that as part of our Constitution-given rights people can demonstrate and disagree, but please take it somewhere else and let our heroes rest in peace. How dare you disrespect them like that?

Francisco Varela

Los Angeles

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Thank you, Steve Lopez (March 19), for summarizing so clearly everything that is wrong about the president's drive to war on Iraq. Our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will suffer the moral, political and financial consequences of this misguided effort. Democracy cannot be instilled in a tribal society by war, only another kind of dictatorship. Please continue expressing your opinion (which is shared by many) in this most democratic and patriotic format -- freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Judy Fenton

Irvine

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I totally agree with Lopez; war is wrong. But not this one.

What is wrong is for people to be acid-washed, their eyes gouged out or tongues pulled out, women raped and children beaten in the presence of their parents. What is wrong is for children and adults to suffer malnourishment and be deprived of vitally needed medical attention while Saddam Hussein and his cronies live in opulence in their numerous presidential palaces. What is wrong is for people to be illiterate and live in poverty in a country that takes in billions of dollars from its thriving oil sources. What is wrong is for the leader of a nation to gas thousands of its own citizens. Thankfully for this country we have a determined president and a steadfast and loyal ally in the prime minister of Britain. Doesn't Lopez believe that the people of Iraq deserve more than has been their lot in the last several decades?

Charles Jones

Calabasas

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The people interviewed in "Fear and Loathing in Baghdad" (March 19) have been living with Hussein's dictatorship all their lives. They are comfortable and most probably afraid to say anything against Hussein's government (and a lot probably also profit from this government).

Their hatred toward Americans (I haven't heard them chanting against British and Australians) is bigger than their dissatisfaction with Hussein. So they would rather defend him than submit to America's plan for "Iraq without Saddam."

Vicky Fong

Los Angeles

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So the first day of Bush's war on Iraq was marked by news of a cross-burning in Orange County (March 20)? Why am I not surprised? And the fact that the victim of the cross-burning was a former Marine was particularly poignant. It's nice to be reminded of what makes this nation great!

Ken Camp

Los Angeles

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Military intervention to take out a fascist dictator like Hussein is justifiable. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to have gone about it. In the extraordinary and amateurish diplomatic bungling of his administration, Bush has let down the American people and let down our allies. British Prime Minister Tony Blair deserves better friends. Worse yet, Bush's behavior is unworthy of our troops. His diplomatic ineptitude has put them in greater danger than was necessary.

Meanwhile, the peace movement has shamefully reduced itself to a reverse image of the Bush administration. In its simple-minded obsession with American power it has ignored the interests of the Iraqi people. On the one hand, the Bush administration has exploited the misery of the Iraqi people as justification for its policy while offering them no role or leadership in their own liberation. On the other hand, the peace movement has nothing to say to the Iraqi people whatsoever. Instead, it sends human shields to Baghdad, people willing to die in the defense of a fascist regime. So far, this affair has produced only shame. Let us hope, for the sake of our troops, that this shame does not prove a lasting legacy.

Charles Berezin

Los Angeles

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