Time for a 'normal' Japan

Regarding your Aug. 15 article "Pacifist Japan beefs up military": In light of the security challenges facing their nation - North Korea's threats and China's rise - it is understandable why many Japanese today, especially the young, are amenable to the idea of Japan becoming a "normal nation." An economically prosperous and militarily robust Japan poses no threat and represents a key pillar of stability in East Asia, because in the past half-century it has transformed into a pacific democracy, just like post-World War II Germany.

Japan, however, must be sensitive to its neighbors' wartime pains. Before Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi makes his next visit to the Yasukuni Shrine - an annual ritual fraught with unwanted political symbolism - he should first relocate the ashes of war criminals at that shrine to another location. This can both help assure Japan's Asian neighbors that Japan has severed ties with its imperial past and allow the Japanese people to honor their war heroes as other normal nations do.
Vincent Wei-cheng Wang Richmond, Va.
Associate Professor of Political Science and Asian Studies, University of Richmond

Americans need those jobs, too

Thank you for your thoughtful and intelligent editorial opposing the acceptance of the matricula consular as valid identification in this country ("Mexican IDs in the US," Aug. 14). My only question is: Where are the data showing that Americans don't "want" to do the work now being done by illegal immigrants? This line is constantly being tossed around without cited authority, and I question its validity.

If there weren't a continuous influx of illegals willing to work for low wages and be paid "under the table," the businesses that now exploit them would be forced to pay decent wages and attract the millions of currently unemployed in this country.

I'd be more than happy to pay the extra dollar for honest services, and I'd be pleased to know that the workers in question were paying taxes like everyone else.
Margaret Manning
Los Angeles

Seeds of Peace in the right camp

Just when I was steaming up after reading the Aug. 14 article on Israel's fence building ("Israel's new barrier cuts old ties"), I was thrilled to see the article in the same issue on Maine's Seeds of Peace camp ("One year later, Middle East teens still cling to ideals"). Israel's new fence, supported in part by billions of dollars in annual US aid, will create greater isolation and hostility, aggravating the already desperate situation of the Palestinians.

Until Israel stops the settlements and gets out of the occupied territories, there isn't a fence high enough to guarantee its safety.

Real solutions will come from the patient building of relationships, such as those fostered by the bold camp in Maine. Each time we draw fences around ourselves - mentally or physically - we limit our capacity to see the needs of our neighbors and the hope for world peace.
Ann Hymes
St. Michaels, Md.

US enlightened by a blackout?

Regarding your Aug. 15 article "Pride and peril for US as global cop": The article referred to the continuing disorder in Afghanistan and Iraq, such as the power cuts and water problems. I could not help thinking of the hours of electricity loss in the Northeast United States recently, and wonder if many US citizens are thinking of what it must be like to be in Iraq with sewage problems and water and energy shortages.

Could there be a lot more compassion, empathy, and particularly some forethought?
Angela Sands
Wombarra, Australia

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