Pyrrhic victory in the war on drugs

Regarding your Aug. 18 article "US notches world's highest incarceration rate": America is supposed to be the Land of the Free. How can this be when we have the world's highest rate of citizens incarcerated? I don't see the situation getting any better, especially since President Bush signed a bill in April that forces judges to follow strict federal sentencing guidelines, rather than give a lesser sentence they feel would be fairer after reviewing the facts of the case.

Last year, a federal report showed that the growth in prison population would cost the federal government and states - i.e. taxpayers - about $40 billion a year. Experts attribute this to mandatory sentences for drug offenders - many of whom, believe it or not, would never hurt a fly and may be suffering from an addiction. It would be more productive to provide them with treatment at far less cost.

Congress has to take a serious look at the damages of the war on drugs.
Sandy Cote
Toledo, Ohio

NATO and Iraq

As noted in your Aug. 13 editorial "NATO's New Role," the organization's role commanding the international peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan is a welcome, stabilizing substitute for the rotating foreign military commitments to law and order in that battered country. This should not, however, have been NATO's first commitment outside Europe since the alliance's founding in 1949.

NATO's help should have been sought in addressing Saddam Hussein's regime. A well-designed US strategy against what was considered an imminent threat to national security would have included a resourceful way to get NATO involved in a multilateral effort - an effort to rid Iraq of any weapons of mass destruction it may have had and of the facilities to produce them; an effort to topple the regime itself. Failure to seek NATO's help in addressing the Iraqi threat to US and allied security is only one example of the world's only superpower failing to be super- resourceful in fulfilling its formidable responsibilities on the world stage.
David J. Steinberg
Alexandria, Va.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

Thank you for printing Enver Masud's Aug. 18 Opinion "Too soon to call for grid overhaul." My 37 years in the electric utility industry prompt me to agree with him totally. The electric system is not antiquated. It is in a weakened condition as a result of postponement and cancellation of needed construction caused by "not in my backyard" opposition, and it is the victim of misguided regulation, which fragmented the responsibility for producing and delivering power - but it is basically sound.
Harrie Nims
Leicester, Vt.

Immigration overload

Regarding your Aug. 11 article "A lesson in allaying immigrant tensions": It is obvious that the Somalis are hardworking, good people. But that does not address the problem. It will be impossible, long-term, to make the American melting pot work if the influx of immigrants cannot be absorbed without totally overloading the social fabric of our communities and country. The school systems are not working in many areas, yet millions of dollars are spent on bilingual education. Downward pressure on wages and benefits has already hurt our undereducated American workers, especially in these bad economic times.

Sooner or later, all groups concerned will cease to tolerate loss of services and increases in taxes. Competition for a piece of a pie that is too small will probably lead to the balkanization of our country and the conflicts that have plagued other parts of the world for centuries.

It is important that we change our immigration policy and enforce it vigorously.
Jim Lewis
Littleton, Colo.

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