Hearts and minds vs. bombs and guns

Kumar Ramakrishna's opinion piece "Stop bombing and start thinking 'hearts and minds' " (Nov. 1) seems to forget who started the current war.

This terrorist network is contemptuous of democratic principles, modernity, and universal notions of humanity. It deliberately chose Afghanistan as its headquarters and place of refuge. In that desolate and war-torn place of ethnic warlords, false prophets, and drug smugglers, it found a willing ally in the equally intolerant and violent Taliban regime.

The war against the Taliban/Al Qaeda alliance is not a war against Islam or the Afghan peoples. It is also not a public relations war. Informed public opinion understands what is at stake. It is a just war to end the alliance's reign of terror. And that calls for harsh measures and a no-nonsense strategy.

The crushing poverty of Afghanistan is the terrorists' greatest advantage, and this should be our highest order of concern in our war strategy. Real coalitions and big-time humanitarian/economic operations work, and they work like gangbusters. With a UN-US humanitarian/economic tidal wave, Osama bin Laden's support would be washed down the drain.

As President Bush says, this is a different kind of war. In this war, generosity is the supreme weapon. This war is the test of a free-enterprise system and American ideals.

Mike Dorsey Newburyport, Mass.

While you're at it, help free Iran

Your Nov. 2 editorial "Bringing Iran on board" was truly refreshing. Finally, an intelligent commentary exposing the reality of theocratic fascism in Iran and the unfortunate US policy of having courted that regime! It is about time for America to take a stance for what it has always stood for: democracy and freedom. President Bush said that we are at war to defend freedom. Then let's get down to business and end the misery of tens of millions of Iranians whose only wish is to regain friendship with America.

Yves Ghiai San Francisco

As an Iranian American, I would like to point out that the political landscape in Iran has been changing for quite some time, however the Iranian government continues to muzzle discords. America should pay attention to the majority of Iran's population - the youth. They are desperately trying to be heard. They do not support the mullahs. They do not hate America. And they yearn for democracy and freedom. Iranians are not Arabs, and do not feel kinship with the Arab world. Tragically, there is a war going on at their border, and the US may try to use the present regime in Iran for leverage against the Taliban. That would be a mistake, since with a democratic and secular government in Iran, America would once again find a partner that would help bring stability to a volatile region.

Shahla Samii New York

I found your editorial "Bring Iran on board" somewhat superficial in its analysis. The soccer riots are not an innocent case of kids wanting to have fun, but a way to hijack soccer rowdiness to further political aims of undermining the government. In addition, whatever dissatisfactions may be found among the Iranian populace, it is not a desire "to be free of their theocratic jail." Iran is a much freer society than most countries in the region, and the people here enjoy the benefit of democratic institutions to an extent that rivals the most open of societies where political apathy is so common. If you really want to advise on how not to lose Iran for another couple of decades, review your own attitudes about this country.

Muhammad Legenhausen Qom, Iran

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