For US soldiers, an honorable alternative to desertion

The Dec. 16 article "The pattern of discontent in US ranks" may have given readers the inaccurate impression that only those 5,000 or more soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who have deserted are against the Iraq war. In fact, thousands more soldiers in the US oppose it. Every month, approximately 3,000 of them call the GI Rights Hotline looking for help.

I called and was directed to the Center on Conscience and War, which provides solid advice concerning a GI's legal options. One of those options is to apply for a fully honorable discharge as a conscientious objector. I was honorably discharged as a conscientious objector in January 2002.

Soldiers sign enlistment contracts and accept commissions to defend the Constitution of the United States, but they are not required to surrender their consciences when they do. When a soldier's religious, moral, or ethical beliefs no longer permit him or her to participate in war, then military regulations provide a both legal and fully honorable way out - a testament to all Americans' fundamental freedom of conscience.

For a growing number of soldiers, I know that desertion, disciplinary action, a dishonorable discharge, or even jail may seem trivial in comparison to maintaining one's moral, ethical, or religious integrity. Indeed, conscientious objectors in the past endured these hardships and ultimately won the military's provision to discharge those who oppose war legally and honorably.
Anita M. Cole
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Cure for anti-US sentiment: 'honkbal'

The Dec. 16 article, "What US emissaries are hearing," should be required reading by those in the State Department and at our American embassies, who have the primary task of demonstrating the "depth and power of the connection people feel towards what America - and Americans - represent." The article cites a number of cultural exchanges that have included noted musicians, dancers, singers, and sports stars.

From my tour of duty at the American Embassy in the Netherlands, I recall most vividly the support from the appreciative Dutch honkbal (baseball) coaches and players when two American major leaguers came to conduct baseball clinics.

When a Major League umpire heard of the players' presence, we accepted his offer to come and teach Dutch umpires. It was a memorable and effective experience with lasting consequences not only for Dutch baseball but also for Dutch-American relations.
Lefteris Lavrakas
Costa Mesa, Calif.

Not the 'reality' of adoption

In their Dec. 20 column, Adam Pertman and Hollee McGinnis do a fine job of exposing the tastelessness of Fox TV's latest venture, "Who's Your Daddy?" This coming reality show features an adopted woman who tries to guess the identity of her biological father for a $100,000 prize. However, in criticizing the privacy of adoption, Mr. Pertman and Ms. McGinnis draw the wrong conclusion about what drives this show.

The vast majority of the 6 million to 7 million adopted people in this country, myself included, do not feel a need to search for their biological parents. Their parents, as the law reflects, are the people who adopted and raised them.

The confidentiality laws that Mr. Pertman and Ms. McGinnis oppose are not responsible for tasteless reality shows, any more than the people participating in this show are representative of the adoption community.
Rosemary C. McDonough
Narberth, Pa.
Board member,
National Council For Adoption

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