Doing Our Part to End Suffering in Somalia

Regarding the front-page article "View in Somalia: US Troops Face Lengthy Stay," Dec. 3; The United States should face up to the long-term reality of the Somalia conflict along with the immediacy of starvation.

President Bush promised: "[We] are determined to do it right, to secure an environment that will allow food to get to the starving people of Somalia." However noble this determination, it seems that to do it right would involve a movement toward a resolution of the conflict bringing on such suffering. Mr. Bush spoke of "the countryside now devastated by starvation." Isn't starvation the resulting devastation?

Who should we fight if we wish to end the suffering - the holocaust alone or also the selfish power-play creating it? Our compassion should spur the US to do its part in resolving Somalia's conflict as well as feeding its victims. Anne M. Greeott, Seattle

This is a letter to the families of the troops now being deployed to Somalia, from one who understands their plight.

I am president of one of the relief organizations that our troops are going to help. I am also a marine, and my son is a marine stationed overseas. I know both the pain of separation and the pain of watching children starve to death. In Baidoa, every day presents a new challenge to delivering food to the starving. The troops will give stability to these tireless workers.

An entire generation of Somali children faces a future without hope. The United Nations predicted that many of these children would not live through Christmas. Thanks to our troops, this prediction stands a good chance of going unfulfilled. Robert A. Seiple, Monrovia, Calif., President, World Vision Somalia vs. Bosnia

I've been disturbed by differences in media coverage of Somalia and Bosnia. The terminology seems to reflect a larger attitude about wars involving black Africans and wars involving white Europeans.

"Anarchy," or a tribal culture of violence, is blamed for African conflicts, while European conflicts are tied to a more solvable "political turmoil" or "ethnic civil war" with deep historical roots. Africans are shown as passive victims who need outside help to organize their own societies; but Europeans are shown as people who, after a war, can govern their own affairs with new leaders.

If helping starving civilians is really a doctrine of United States foreign policy, why has Washington not stopped war-related famines in Mozambique and Sudan? Whoever controls Somalia controls access between the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf.

When the US backed the dictator Mohammad Siad Barre, he gave back basing rights at Mogadishu and Berbera - a key military springboard to the Middle East and the rest of Africa. Such a huge role in the United Nations intervention may ensure that a similar deal will be made with a future Somali leader. One country should not play such an inordinate role in an international military effort. Zoltan Grossman, Madison, Wis.

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