Debating the merits of humanitarian airdrops

Cheers to President Bush for approving hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to poor Afghans - perhaps the wisest decision of his presidency. Obviously, any use of force - no matter how precise - will erode international support and escalate the cycle of violence. But with help, hope, and humanity, we might have a chance at a truly lasting victory against terror.

Keith Sanders Oakland, Calif.

Resources spent on humanitarian airdrops are resources diverted from self-defense. It shows our leaders putting US lives below those of citizens in enemy countries. It is also appeasement. Some fear Muslims will think we're fighting Islam and support airdrops as an attempt to show this isn't true. But 50 years of appeasement led to Sept 11; more will mean worse.

Christopher J. Grace Aurora, Colo.

Desert won't deter well-trained troops

Regarding "Afghan odyssey: Few roads, many guns" (Oct. 4): The same arguments - that sand would bog down equipment, machines would fail, and our army would grind to a halt - were made during the Gulf War. It didn't happen then and won't happen in Afghanistan. The US military has trained in the desert for years. If there is any environment where our combat units will excel, it is in rugged, desert areas.

Daryl Northrop Clive, Iowa

Taking down the American flag

On Monday, I took down my American flag. I am ashamed that the world's most innovative county can think of no better action than violence against a destitute nation. We had a chance to seek peace through new alliances, an opportunity to solve terrorism as a team. Instead, we echo the terrorism we fight. I am not placated by token humanitarianism - people in exodus offered meager food drops. With winter coming, I can't imagine feeding millions while waging war.

Peacemakers, let's teach America that violence begets violence. Our numbers may be small, but we must make our voices heard.

Janice Ceridwen Boyertown, Pa.

Turning a worrisome page in world law?

While the US attack on Afghanistan may be a legitimate reaction to terrorism, it turns a new page in international law. One must wonder whether we want foreign governments to use similar force in their future foreign policy. New weapons may be discovered that can be launched against the US. Will America be willing to expose its citizens to the force it has claimed is legal under international law? I hope we will think about how we'll feel if others apply our rules to America. Maybe this is what already happened, on Sept. 11.

Curtis Doebbler Cairo

'Psyops' all around

Many understand wartime "psyops," or psychological operations, as strategies such as dropping leaflets, monitoring and jamming enemy transmissions, and the clandestine nature of Pentagon missions. The strategies of ordinary civilians are underappreciated. When organizations hold dinners in honor of firefighters who lost their lives, they are engaged in psyops. When memorial services combine poignant testimonies of survivors with soothing, unifying music, they are psyops. Celebrities' telethons and concerts that raise public awareness and funds are psyops, too. Music alone is a powerful psyop tool - often used most effectively by civilians - bringing structure to chaos, offering a vehicle for grief, and galvanizing civilians and soldiers alike. Citizens could be greatly empowered in this war on terrorism if they were made aware of the power of their own psyop roles, and the huge arsenal of unconventional weapons at their disposal.

Bruce L. Thiessen Sacramento, Calif.

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