Bush and Chirac both will need exit strategies

Regarding your Feb. 21 article "Between Bush and Iraq - Jacques Chirac": Jacques Chirac needs an exit strategy? Nonsense. It's President George Bush who lacks an exit strategy. He's painted us into a corner. Anything he does will have disastrous consequences. Back down and we're a paper tiger. Invade and we're seen as attacking the Muslim world, losing friends, and turning critics into implacable enemies. We're also stuck there, the flies conquering the flypaper - fools falling into Osama bin Laden's trap.

Mr. Bush might still become a hero if he would allow the inspections to continue. Regrettably, there's little chance he might do that. We're all starting to pay the price (at the gas pump) and it will get much, much worse.
Ken Champney
Yellow Springs, Ohio

French President Jacques Chirac, statesman of the free world, threatens to block from EU membership the 13 Eastern European nations who support US policy toward Iraq. He tells them they "missed a great opportunity to be quiet." But Latvia's President Vaira Vike-Freiberga will not be silenced: "We have felt the price of oppression for half a century or more," she said. "In many ways ... what we have been through has been the result of appeasement and of acceptance of tyranny."

If French appeasement renders the UN irrelevant, Latvia and friends may emerge with the US as the new defenders of freedom and world order. The countries France considers its underlings may get the last word after all.
Michael Knox
Buena Vista, Colo.

Assuaging fear with duct tape?

Regarding the Feb. 24 opinion piece "Ducking for cover - from ourselves": Fear makes people "crazy and stupid" as the author states, and this is just what the terrorists want. Unfortunately, sometimes it appears to be just what our own government and media want as well.

I recently saw Michael Moore's documentary "Bowling for Columbine," in which the filmmaker establishes a link between our nation of fear and its predilection to respond with violence. Mr. Moore also brilliantly makes the link between consumption and fear. If we don't respond to fear with violence, we respond with shopping. The more afraid we are, the more we try to assuage those fears by buying things like duct tape.

Thank you for printing an article that goes against the rising drumbeat of fear that the media has played incessantly. We must prepare ourselves emotionally to resist fear, and to respond to our everyday situations and world situations with justice and peace.
Maryellen Burke
Portsmouth, N.H.

No more automated calls

In her Feb. 12 "Connections" column, Marilyn Gardner hit the nail right on the head with her timely and humorous comments about the aggravation of dealing with automated phone systems.

I suppose that some CEOs believe that having an automated phone system projects a modern, sophisticated, up-to-the-minute image to the general public. But when one has to listen to a disembodied voice with as much personality as one's big toe, and when one has to hear a whole litany of options, instead of a live person asking how one's call may be directed, the actual image projected is: Who cares about the public?

Fortunately there are still some people-oriented companies. When I reach such a firm and get a live, eager-to-help voice on the first or second ring, I begin by saying, "Good morning! How nice to be greeted by a real person."
Robert McKie
Greensburg, Pa.

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