Letters

For democracy to work in Iraq, all groups must use restraint

Your Feb. 14 editorial, "The Baghdad shuffle," is well thought out and hopefully summarizes the current situation we Americans and the Iraqis face. Under the British mandate, several difficult alliances were forced between Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds, and others. These groups have proven a hard mixture of people to govern.

We are well aware of how Saddam Hussein governed this mix with an "iron fist." After the past three years, I think such an iron-fist policy might have been necessary to keep these factions in line.

For the sake of peace and stability in the region, let's hope democracy can have long-term success in this mixture of competing ethnic, tribal, and religious groupings. Time, however, is running out, and the matter will be increasingly in the hands of Iraqis themselves.

The fundamentalist part of the Shiia majority appears to be the least hopeful prospect for the future of Iraq. It will require a great deal of wisdom and restraint on the part of Shiites, and from the Sunni and Kurdish minorities, to make democracy work.
Jim McDowell
Fairfield, Va. Colonel, US Army, ret.

Don't spend unclaimed property funds

In response to the Feb. 16 editorial, "Where money politics is on the run": While it may be a step in the right direction, I'm not sure Connecticut's new campaign financing law can be characterized as "aggressive ethics reform." At issue is the mechanism chosen to pay for campaigns. The notion that Connecticut is "tap[ping] revenue collected from unclaimed property" is incorrect.

The state is a custodian of unclaimed property; it never assumes ownership. Funds from unclaimed property are supposed to be held in trust until the property is returned - not spent. Although subsequent claims will still be honored, spending the money creates a strong incentive not to find the rightful owners.

Last year alone, government custodians collected $22.8 billion in unclaimed property, yet only $916 million was returned to owners or heirs. Most unfortunate is the fact that a disproportionate share of those affected are the retired, elderly, and those who lost track of assets in times of personal crisis or catastrophe.
Mark Tofal
Author, "Unclaimed Assets: Money the Government Owes You!"
Palm Coast, Fla.

A border force could stop illegal inflow

Regarding the Feb. 15 article, "Rising tide of border crime and violence": The government and the media have failed to seriously consider forming a "border force." Everyone I've proposed this plan to has ignored it.

Military forces are required to secure national borders. Army and National Guard units are not trained or equipped for this mission. I think a force, conceptually similar to the Coast Guard, is needed to patrol and protect our land borders. Border force infantry units could defeat armed drug smugglers, or renegade military units, yet operate in a humanitarian way toward immigrants illegally crossing our borders for a better way of life. These units could channel the latter group to safer entry into the US.

The border force would free border patrol and immigration officers to find and deport millions of illegal aliens already in the US. As a nation of immigrants, our diversity is a major factor of national strength, but sneaking across our borders is unacceptable. Though expensive, a border force would be cheaper than being struck with WMD smuggled across undefended borders.
George Jackson
Erwin, Tenn.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted will appear in print and on our website, www.csmonitor.com.

Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to (617) 450-2317, or e-mail to Letters.

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