Freedom to choose one's stand on the war

Regarding Pat Holt's column "Dissent must be tolerated - or we've lost the war" (Jan. 3, Opinion): My daughter and I, living in a town with a very active veterans group, are in the minority locally; we are among those dissenting from the war on terrorism, from most of President Bush's ramped-up military spending, and from other policies he's pursuing in the name of national defense. Although we are patriots, we are of the opinion that more killing and intolerance are only exacerbating the underlying, immediate issues.

Indeed, my initial comments in discussions after Sept. 11 (but before the war was declared) were that taking military action against Osama bin Laden would only weaken our peace-brokering position with Israel and the Palestinians, and escalate the situation there. These statements have been proven to be the case.

In the spirit of American freedom, to foster more understanding among various groups, and to counteract the media's unending focus on the war that Bush has declared, I feel a need for expanded coverage of the "dissenters."

Ellen Tannenbaum Porterville, Calif.

Obviously, Pat Holt's concern about dissent ought to be heeded. What really bothers many of us out here in the hinterland is that there are those, particularly in academia and other positions of authority, who have taken it upon themselves to try to censor the free expression of patriotic feelings all across the land. Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, singing the "Star Spangled Banner," or flying the American flag ought not be abridged by political thought police who are offended by patriotism.

Folks should have every right to express their dissent. But I, and others like me, also have every right to point out the way some people tend to blame America for any and all perceived evil. The terrorists attempted to deprive all of us of the right to dissent, but they failed miserably. The freedoms we enjoy are a credit to our great nation, where people have the right to choose.

David McGuire Owatonna, Minn.

Maintain a drug watch on all borders

Regarding "Drug traffic off Florida spikes as US turns its focus to terrorism" (Jan. 4): It astounds me that the Bush administration would shift Coast Guard coverage of the coast and virtually allow drug trafficking to go unchecked. Isn't drug trafficking terrorism, too? Besides, illegal drugs have a history of coming from many parts of the world, not just South America. The government is delusional if it thinks drugs and terrorism are mutually exclusive. It should be compelled to watch all borders, including coastlines.

Lane Pilbin Golden, Colo.

Not feeling so secure flying

I felt compelled to respond to "Securing the skies" (Jan. 3, Editorial). It states "Security inspectors seem much more earnest and thorough, although not nearly as competent as National Guard soldiers supervising them." What supervision? I have flown many times since Sept. 11. All the National Guard soldiers seem to be doing is chatting among themselves, or playing with their dogs. I actually feel more threatened, since anyone can grab their guns when they seem to be absorbed in their socializing. This so-called security is just window dressing to try to assure the traveling public, when in reality I do not see any fundamental changes.

Srini Anne San Francisco

Correction: The byline for the letter "Death Penalty will make martyrs of terrorists" (Dec. 31) was omitted by mistake. It should have read: Madeleine Goodrich of Concord, Mass.

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