Goal: Achieving Peace in the Middle East

Saddam Hussein may not be frightened by George Bush's words, but I am. Saddam may not be confused by Bush's conflicting statements, but I am. And neither Saddam nor Bush may be worried about the horrible casualties which even a short war could cause, but I am. If war occurs (and lasts only three months), the Center for Defense Information estimates that as many as 205,000 military casualties will occur, including 10,000 American dead and 35,000 Iraqi military dead. In addition, 100,000 or more civilians could be killed or wounded. Such a war will leave a power vacuum in the Middle East to be filled by Iran and Syria. The financial costs will be over $50 billion initially and will continue to take resources away from critical problems at home and around the world.

This is the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place. It is still not too late to stop it.

James Robertson, Ashland, Ore.

From the beginning, President Bush has been ridiculing and threatening Saddam Hussein, while at the same time increasing troop reserves in Saudi Arabia far beyond what defense calls for. He has made it clear that he will not compromise. Is this consistent with diplomacy? Martha Plescia, Sunnyvale, Calif.

Let's support our president. He has finally been able to activate the UN. We should help him make it work. Our soldiers chose to be in the military. Let them do their jobs. Stina Strom, Duncan Mills, Calif.

The Gulf crisis has reached the stage of inevitability. Yet we can still steer the president in a different direction. The US must be relieved of responsibility for actions that will tarnish its image. Trying to solve Middle East problems piecemeal will set the stage for more problems in the future. Desert Shield will be a success only if our soldiers bring home the tools of a regional peace, forged at the conference table. If Saddam's aggression leads to a Middle East peace, it will not be the first time that a violent disruption has provided the opportunity for a peaceful solution. However, it will be the first time a fully prepared army returns victorious without firing a shot.

Edward G. Boettiger, Woods Hole, Mass.

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