Protecting oil wealth for Iraqis should be US troops' No. 1 job

In her Oct. 12 Opinion column, "Bush created a mess in Iraq. Here's how to clean it up," Helena Cobban is dead on with her assessment of the Iraq mess but falls short with her solution. I think it's the oil that got us into this mess and oil that will get us out. Whoever controls the oil will control Iraq and its future.

The US should immediately withdraw troops to the oil fields in Iraq and protect only the fields and oil infrastructure. The immediate benefit is that Iraqis will no longer have US troops in their daily lives. The number of US troops required would be a fraction of the current number. Within one year, all US troops would be replaced by UN troops.

The oil fields, in turn, should be put under a UN trusteeship on behalf of the people of Iraq (to avoid a repetition of previous scandals, measures will be needed to assure full transparency). Proceeds from the oil would immediately be directed to each of the regions of Iraq on a per capita basis. Each region would be required to establish minimal governmental legitimacy and account for the use of the money. There would be no limits on how the money is used, only transparency as to where it goes. The Iraqis are capable of making their own decisions.

The role of the US would be reduced to rebuilding the oil infrastructure and enhancing long-term production for the benefit of Iraqis. This would include oil exploration, development, processing, refining, and exporting. For what we currently spend in a month on Iraq, the US could probably make Iraq the best oil producer in the world.

In time, the trusteeship will be dissolved and turned over to a future Iraqi government. But the US has amply shown that there is no way we can dictate how the Iraqis choose to govern themselves.
James A. Schoettler
St. Paul, Minn.

Microcredit fosters self-determination

The Oct. 16 article, "Big banks find little loans a Nobel winner, too," about the micro-loans Muhammad Yunus pioneered successfully in Bangladesh proves a wider point, in my opinion. This point has something to do with what our president wholeheartedly believes in – the spread of democracy. Give people the opportunity to control their own destiny, and the results will be beyond expectations.

This microcredit program works because, thanks to Mr. Yunus's idea, it gives people an opportunity to chart their own course in life, and it gives them the liberty to pursue happiness, a theme which should sound all too familiar to us Americans.

You could also think about the reasons communism was doomed to fail, and why the spread of democracy is so essential to the survival of the West in our fight against the terrorists. Thank you for such a nice article.
Robert R. Cohn
Johns Creek, Ga.

No euphemisms for school violence

Regarding the Oct. 12 article, "How to make schools safer," about a national school violence conference: The first step to eliminating school violence is for our nation to change its language and then its actions. No more would we use the words "tease" and "bully." Instead, we would use the words "abuse," "harass," and "assault."

Then we would make child-on-child crime a crime, and we would follow that by consistently enforcing our own laws. The lessons of Columbine were not learned. Our public schools are still institutions of socially sanctioned child-on-child crime.
Don Schwartz
Larkspur, Calif.

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