Continued bombing vs. a humanitarian halt

I disagree with Helena Cobban's opinion piece "Time for a humanitarian halt" (Nov. 8) and its contention that the US should declare a humanitarian timeout during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It would not require any "moral toughness" or "vision" for President Bush to call a halt to hostilities during this time. On the contrary, he would be caving in to the usual failed UN policies, similar to the resolutions his father agreed to in Iraq - which arguably might, in some way, be responsible for our present predicament. Continuing the war through Ramadan, despite international pressure to do otherwise, would seem to me to be the tougher choice. It is the Taliban that is directly responsible for the impending catastrophe. Our primary consideration should be ridding Afghanistan of these thugs with the greatest possible alacrity. If you really want to reduce suffering in Afghanistan, by all means, get this war over with as quickly as possible.

George Pepper Adelphi, Md.

If the Taliban does not agree that it is time for a humanitarian halt in hostilities, we should not initiate a unilateral halt. I suggest we remember the numerous times we have been struck by terrorists bombs: the USS Cole in Yemen, our barracks in Saudi Arabia, our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the World Trade Center. In each case we showed great restraint. Imagine the reaction Osama bin Laden and the worldwide Al Qaeda terrorist organization would have to halting our hostilities now. Where would they strike next? Appeasement has never won a war.

Lawrence M. Tilton San Luis Obispo, Calif.

A halt will only embolden our enemies and give them time to regroup. In war, the object is to cause a "humanitarian" crisis among your enemies so they can surrender on your terms. Using Ms. Cobban's analysis, no war would ever be won, for no damage would ever be inflicted upon an enemy. Would Osama bin Laden or the Taliban agree to refrain from attacking US targets?

Steven Stern Goodyear, Ariz.

Instead of bombing Afghanistan during the month of Ramadan, we should show the generosity of the American people by bringing in massive humanitarian aid before the harsh Afghan winter. There has historically been a Christmas truce in other wars. By not doing the same for Ramadan, doesn't it send the message that Islam is somehow less important? Halting bombing, coupled with humanitarian aid, would show the Afghan people that we want to help them. This would undermine the sympathy for Osama bin Laden, while increasing US support and potential local sources of intelligence.

On the other hand, continuing bombing during Ramadan will reinforce the impression of many in the region that we are waging a war against Islam and not against terrorism, dramatically increasing anti-American feelings. Let's take the month of Ramadan as an opportunity to ease a nation's hunger and suffering. There is both a moral and a strategic reason to do so.

Christiane Rey and Mona Luxion


I am very sympathetic to the struggling families in Afghanistan who are caught in the middle of our attacks against the Taliban. However, I do not feel we should offer the Taliban any time to regroup and conspire about a retaliation. At this juncture, it is pertinent that we maintain our momentum in disrupting their regime. Although we have not actually captured Osama bin Laden, we are making it more and more difficult for him to continue on his maniacal path.

Paul Christel Manhattan, Ill.

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