Can't compare this war to past ones

There has been considerable stretching of historical facts to draw analogies between the present-day United States military operation and those of previous wars. "In new US foreign policy, unlikely friends and foes" (Dec. 5, Opinion), John Hughes likens President Bush to Roosevelt and Churchill. That's a bit much. Additionally, no one "wooed Stalinist Russia" into the war to defeat Nazism. Once invaded, Russia asked for support. Each week, there's a new theme of how this military engagement is "just like when...." We are waging war on an enemy without an address or any identifiable indicator of his affiliation with the organizations we seek to eradicate. You can't draw parallels with any military engagements the US had in the past. This operation is unlike any this country has seen before.

Jack Gribble Republic, Wash.

Obstacles to identifying Taliban fighters

In "Readers Write" (Dec. 5), Kenneth H. Thomas suggested that we apply fingerprint and iris scans to identify potential terrorists. This is a good idea in theory, but it has some practical pitfalls - No. 1 being expense. The cost of building and maintaining the suggested database could be prohibitively high. Also, when scanning Taliban fighters, how do we know which are, in fact, pro-Taliban? Not to mention the difficulty of separating the pro- and anti-Taliban civilians. These are obstacles we should not overlook.

Aaron Pellman-Isaacs New York

Applause for 'West Wing'

"TV's changing landscape" (Dec. 7, Arts& Leisure) passed lightly over the "West Wing" episode in response to Sept. 11, characterizing it as "condescending." It is rare that we see entertainment TV used in a socially responsible way. The program did a remarkable job of putting perspective into our collective reaction. It was an example of what quality programming can do. "West Wing" should be singled out for its sense of civic responsibility. We should hope it serves as an example to other programmers.

Andrew C. Twaddle East Boothbay, Maine

New gift ideas for kids

I'm glad "Gifts kids won't expect" (Dec. 3, Work&Money) provided a few ideas for your readers. Here are some more. There are "experiential" gifts that can also be cool: a rock- climbing clinic, an adventure (mini-Outward Bound) experience, a day in circus school, a trial martial arts class, gymnastics class, or a subscription to publications matched to the child's' interests.

One other comment: the article mentions that a penknife is "fundamental to a life of boy scouting." I know many adventurous girls who love outdoor activities, and I even had a Swiss Army knife when I was 12. My mom also had the good sense to get me not just a doll, but the basketball I wanted. (The basketball was what got the most use.)

Zilia C. Estrada Ann Arbor, Mich.

Boys knit, too

I enjoyed "To knit is a hit" (Dec. 4, Kidspace) about Judith Austen teaching fourth graders to knit. Two of my sons and their friends (ages 9 to 12) were playing computer games one evening when I was knitting. They, on their own, asked me to teach them to knit. I have seven boys who I am now teaching to knit! Many have made pot holders and one made a scarf. This has been a real thrill for me, and I enjoyed reading that other boys like to knit. None of my "guild" seems to be the least embarrassed about it; on the contrary, one fifth grader has knit on the bus going to school. When one older brother tried to tease, his two younger knitting brothers were quick to tell him he was just jealous.

Carol Stark North St. Paul, Minn.

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