Protecting US soldiers led to killing Afghan civilians

"Help for survivors of Afghanistan's land mines" (Jan 4) reports on the death and injury to civilians caused by American cluster bombs. While cluster bombs leave a legacy of ongoing casualties, American airstrikes have also resulted in many hundreds of direct civilian deaths. In most cases, such as the Dec. 29 bombing of Niazi Kala, where deaths of at least 25 children have been independently confirmed, the cause was inaccurate intelligence on the ground. Surely these civilian deaths could be reduced if American forces were placed on the ground before bombardment so they could directly identify unfriendly forces and protect noncombatants. Of course, such an action carries with it increased risks to our soldiers, but, at the same time it reduces the risk to innocent civilians.

As the US military embarks on what may be a long campaign of targeting suspected terrorists, it is essential that Americans are aware of the moral choices implied by the tactics of our military. Current policy minimizes the risk of death to American soldiers and places these risks on innocent civilians. This policy is immoral and gives every impression that the US government and the American people believe that an American life is worth more than the life of an Afghan.

David Ahlfeld Amherst, Mass.

Bush isn't wiser, but just the same

"Antiterror war speeds the maturing of a president" (Jan. 2) fails to demonstrate the assertion that the "antiterror war" is maturing President Bush. Historian Allan Lichtman states in the article, "Bush has found purpose and meaning." And polls show that the president has high approval ratings.

But given the fact that "the war's timing on the political calendar" presents a problem for the White House (a fact Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was well aware of when he stated, "war presidents don't necessarily fare so well in the aftermath of war") a reader is led to believe that Bush would be motivated to make this war last until the next election campaign.

Bush is profiting from attacking Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden. But that doesn't mean Bush is maturing. In fact, the president seems to be unchanged by these tragedies. He is still snubbing our coalition allies, he pushed through his education bill, he is having his way on environmental issues, and - amazingly - he moved ahead with the missile-defense shield. Bush is the top war profiteer, that's for sure. But this doesn't mean he's grown wiser and deeper in these sad times.

Grace Katherine Anderson Crestone, Colo.

What about Palestinian individuals?

William S. Dillingham's letter (Jan. 4) rightly asks questions about who is being killed in the Middle East. However, I was disturbed by its bias. The first three questions about Palestinian deaths implied that most/all were suicide bombers, and gun-firing terrorists or militants. Finally, almost as an afterthought, it gets around to asking about women and children. In stark contrast, the first question about Israeli deaths was about women and children; the only other question was about IDF soldiers, and it never bothers to ask about the gun-toting Israeli settlers.

We also need to be asking about the root causes of the violence. Under the Geneva Accords, the Palestinians have every right to resist Israel's occupation, settlements, and collective punishment. Suicide bombings and other terrorist tactics cannot be condoned, but neither can Israel's use of violence to maintain its domination of another people. There are too many people on both sides who care only about their own tribe.

M. Terry Johnson Longmont, Colo.

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