A mom's letters mean a lot to children living far from home

In response to Sue Diaz's Dec. 5 Opinion piece, "A soldier's doodling bridges the distance for a mom's heart," I write thanks.

Thank you so much, "Mom" Diaz, for writing about your experience at home while your son is in Iraq. I have greatly appreciated the insight your pieces provide, and the way I feel a little more connected to my US countrymen and women - both those on the home front and those on the duty front.

I can only imagine the conditions your son faces, but since I'm living in Japan, your piece on letters grabbed me.

While my mom's letters sometimes come off as "yadda-yadda," it comforts me to know where she is and what she's doing, and it reminds me to get on with what I'm doing. At the times when I wondered which way was up, even the "newsy" letters from home rang with the gentle authority of tuning forks and the reverberation of the bells at local temples. Perhaps the farther a letter travels, the less its content speaks, and the more the character of the one who sent it speaks.

Only your son can tell you how he navigates the dichotomy between war and home, but I'm sure he's as happy to get a letter from you, as you are to receive one from him.

Please keep your articles coming, too.
Nathan Smith
Komono, Japan

Iraq needs a deadline for US withdrawal

Regarding the Dec. 2 article: "How Murtha's call to exit Iraq plays back home": The controversy that exists over the war in Iraq is a given. Whether present policy is wrong or right is immaterial, I think, since the only relevant issue is: When does the United States disengage?

An exit strategy is necessary, not just because of events in Iraq and the US, but because Iraqis need to face this inevitability. Statements from the US government that a military presence could be there for years do nothing to expedite Iraqis' independence.

Such statements are like giving a student an assignment, but not giving him or her a deadline for completion. Unless there is a deadline, it is unlikely the assignment will be completed in a timely fashion.

Likewise, the Iraqi people will not rise to self-rule if they are not given some sort of timetable for US withdrawal. Presenting an exit strategy is not the same as surrendering to the violent aims of the terrorists, and it should not be presented as such.

The Iraqi people must bear the responsibility for controlling their destiny. The time has come for the teacher to step back and let the student begin his timed task.
Richard Villata
Eden, Utah

Democrats should assert their vision

I echo the sentiment in Dante Chinni's Nov. 29 Opinion column, "Republican woes won't rescue Democrats from their confusion." The Democratic party needs to say something more than "we're not them." I say this not as a Democrat longing for a resurrection of his own party, nor a Republican hoping to talk about something other than scandal.

As an independent voter, I join in the call for the Democratic party to stand up and let the electorate know for what it stands. I am concerned that without (at least) two parties setting forth positions on critical issues, no real debate over policy choices will be had.

Politics is not a sporting event. Governance is the point, not winning. Good governance is, right now, the responsibility of all elected officials, not only those in the majority party. We need two parties, and we need to have a real, substantive debate on the issues and problems facing our country.
Luke A. Repici
President, Association of Young Americans

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