Land Mines and North Korea

Regarding "World Corners US on Land-Mine Pact (Sept. 11): The Pentagon argues that continued deployment of land mines in the Korean buffer zone helps defend against a possible North Korean offensive. Analysts may not have noticed, but North Korea is falling apart. Millions are starving. Families are eating tree bark to survive. How can a country in such bad shape, with such an inept leadership, pose a credible military threat?

Even granting the Pentagon's highly suspect estimates of how many US and South Korean casualties would be saved by land mines if the North Koreans attacked, their argument is fallacious. When Pentagon analysts estimate losses under various defense scenarios, they should factor in the likelihood that the supposed enemy will attack at all. In this case, it is essentially zero.

Thus, for no actual benefit, but just to flex muscle, the Pentagon is pressuring our government into letting a historic opportunity to ban land mines pass. We can't allow this.

Jeff Johnson

San Francisco

Crediting Somaliland's leader

While I was happy to see the article "Forgotten Somalia Fights On" (Aug. 28), I was dismayed to see the characterization of the president of the northwestern state of Somaliland as a "strongman," implying that he is some kind of military dictator. In fact, Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal is a civilian who was the last prime minister of Somalia before the 1969 military takeover. I worked in Mogadishu in the Peace Corps from 1966-68. I also visited Hargeisa, Somaliland, in July. There, I met and talked to Mr. Egal about the future of the country. The area is peaceful and people are engaged in rebuilding.

Viginia Jama

Jamaica, N.Y.

Editor's note: Somaliland is not recognized by the United States or any other nation. Therefore Mr. Egal is not referred to as president in the Monitor's coverage.

'Saudi Arabia' is better usage

In the two recent articles on Saudi Arabia, I was disturbed that the Monitor used the adjective "Saudi" when it was appropriate to use the proper noun "Saudi Arabia."

The use of "Saudi" as a noun for the country is common among European and American expatriates living in Saudi Arabia. In addition, many in the US military adopted this term since the Gulf war in 1991.

I look forward to the day when I will read an article about the state of "New" and have to figure out whether you are writing about New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, or New York.

Kent Morris

Los Angeles

Ethnicity and diplomacy

Regarding "Jewish Roots Deepen Role for Albright" (Sept. 12): How can US policy in the Middle East be considered evenhanded? Zionists such as New Republic publisher Martin Peretz lobbied for Madeleine Albright's appointment as secretary of state.

National Security Council director Samuel Berger is Jewish. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, who is Jewish, worked for a pro-Israeli think tank before his appointment. US Ambassador to Israel Martin Endyk, who is also Jewish, had worked for AIPAC, the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee.

What would the American Jewish community have said if equally politically active Arab-Americans working for the Palestinian cause had received these appointments?

Robert E. Nordlander

Menasha, Wis.

Keeping homes off farmland

Until seeing the Monitor article "Suburbia Consumes California's Fruit Basket to the World" (Sept. 11), I did not realize some of the facts surrounding the issue.

Most important is the effort by the American Farmland Trust. Its main thrust is a reduction in the price of water for farmers who promise to farm long-term (20 to 40 years). It appears some environmentalists are opposed. This is a strange reaction, since more houses bring more people, more cars, more pollution, etc.

Mary Meyer

Pasadena, Calif.

Your letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed to oped@csps.com

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