In response to your March 11 editorial "Bush as empire-builder?": An empire exerts its power not just militarily, but also politically and economically. To name but a few recent examples: There are the venomous US reactions to allies which forget to behave like vassals (France, Germany, Belgium); the presence of US military personnel in more than 146 countries (according to the Defense Department's own "DoD 101"); and the Bush administration's economic blackmailing of countries to coerce them into complying with its desires (Turkey, Guinea).
Everybody acknowledges the United States as the sole superpower. Claiming the US obtained that power by benevolence and wields it only for "good" is ludicrous.
Bart Van Steirteghem
President Bush is simply adding to and strengthening the existing empire won through westward expansion over the course of the 19th century, and throughout the world during the 20th. To deny that our nation is an empire is typical of the "we're just a simple, straight-shootin,' hard-working bunch of freedom-loving Yanks who have developed the world's most extensive military out of a good-hearted Christian need to defend the poor and oppressed" propaganda that citizens love to hear.
As I listen to debates over a possible war with Iraq, I can't help but notice some patterns. Those on the left are "smarter" than the rest of us, and those on the right are simply "righter." Having lived in a refugee camp for two years and visited several others, I am very ambivalent about this war. I do know, however, that I have seen more scars and graves created by wicked regimes than by liberating forces. When my mind drifts toward a pro-war stance, I wonder why it's so easy to suggest that we start dropping bombs? When I feel that caution might be the better course, I wonder how many lives caution has lost in places like Rwanda, Eritrea, and Bosnia? The only thing I can conclude is that I am very afraid of anyone who thinks there is a correct or easy answer to this situation.
Regarding "As UN split hardens, war nears" (March 6): As an art student who is a Muslim and in love with Muslim art and the architecture of Baghdad, I am upset by the threat of war. Is there a way to make Americans aware of Baghdad's historic significance as one of the most important religious sites in the world and as an ancient home of rich cultural history? Is there any way to raise awareness of the danger of civilian casualties, as well as the threat to some of the world's most important sites?
Regarding your Feb. 12 article "2003 Oscar race: And the winner is ... women in film":
Success for a woman in our world doesn't come easily. Your article shows the capability of females not only in acting but in society. It also gave me confidence; I am interested in acting and learning more about how women in that profession are faring. I love the line about how the "chick flick" cliché must be overcome. I applaud the reporters for giving women credit for all they do.
Rebekah K. VanDuinen
Mt. Pleasant, Mich.
Many of the films in 2002 didn't portray women in a very flattering light. But I guess audiences are more entertained by watching a "naughty" woman than a saint.
Huntington Beach, Calif.
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