Canadian military lacks soldiers too I read with interest the problems facing US military ("Soldier shortage" series Aug. 5,6,9,10). In Canada, this downward spiral has all the same hallmarks you mentioned except for one other major obstacle to recruiting. Despite the downsizing of the US military, there is no comparison (in proportion to national population) with the minute size of the Canadian military. The latter has little real support from the government and has not had any for about 30 years. The field Army itself is smaller than the Toronto Police Force (about 19,000). The Navy has 16 frigates and the Air Force's 100 or so fighters are mostly grounded because of lack of maintenance funding.

One of the fallback comments heard in this country is that if Canada ever really needs properly equipped armed forces, we can always call on the Americans. Our forces are not even large enough to handle the fairly small number of overseas commitments in Bosnia and Kosovo.

It looks as if many Canadians' expectations regarding help from the south if and when it is needed will have to be tempered with the knowledge that even American forces are beginning to get into a rut. Try not to stay in that rut too long - our forces have been in said rut for some time.

Paul Crober, Victoria, BC, Canada

Stumbling through the war on drugs

Resounding cheers for the opinion article "Antidrug contradictions" (Aug. 5) and its evaluation of Prohibition's failures.

The author sees the disastrous peripheral social consequences of prohibitions. Prohibition also multiplies the availability of illegal drugs for our children and the adverse consequences for the user and society in general. If the science relating to the actual pharmacology of these drugs becomes more generally known, a new level of absurdity will become apparent.

The French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) rated drugs by their danger in 1998 at government request.

They established three groups: Most dangerous (heroin, alcohol, and cocaine); second-most dangerous (tobacco, amphetamines, and others); and least dangerous (cannabis, and others).

The French Health Minister, Bernard Kouchner, then asked the key question: "Why does society persecute those with some kinds of addiction, while calmly putting up with others that are far more widespread, dangerous, and expensive?"

Mr. Kouchner also observed, "My job is to reduce risks, not to lay down morals. All I know is that repression does no good."

It is time for an independent federal commission to disseminate factual information and examine our policies. This would promote the vigorous open debate that educates citizens and terrifies the politicians and special interest groups who rely on unchallenged scare propaganda to retain their power and profits from the drug war.

Jerry Epstein, President, Drug Policy Forum of Texas Houston, Texas

Feeding the masses

Your editorial ("Environmental caution," Aug. 3) was right on the mark. Especially with regard to genetically enhanced products, environmentalists need to be concerned with the law of unintended consequences.

If an organic grower can produce food for 50 people and, on the same land, genetically enhanced food can provide for 100, which is better? In a world where the global population reaches 6 billion this year, it seems obvious that to feed everyone, we need to rely upon the latest scientific advancements.

Craig Lennon Kysar, Sherman Oaks, Calif.

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