Want to help Africa? Boycott all diamonds.

I write regarding the Dec. 11 package of Opinion pieces, "Inspecting Africa's conflict diamonds." In both "Titans looked the other way," by Greg Campbell, and "Industry reforms are working," by Marcus Noland and J. Brooks Spector, the authors missed the point. They argued to what degree the diamond industry has managed to ensure that the diamond on a person's engagement ring didn't come from a war zone. Like most commodities, there is essentially one worldwide market for diamonds. When people buy diamonds – any diamonds – they are helping the De Beers cartel keep the price of diamonds artificially high. It is this artificially high price that keeps the rebel armies in Africa in business.

Contrary to popular belief, diamonds are not that rare. If their price were allowed to fluctuate with the free market, they would become so cheap that they wouldn't be worth fighting over. A rebel warlord with an army to feed and equip would never be able to mine diamonds cheaply enough to compete with a legitimate mine that doesn't have that expense.

Until more price fluctuation is allowed, the best thing that we in the West can do for Africa is to boycott all diamonds, regardless of their source. If I had known four years ago what I know now, my wife's engagement ring would look very different.
Daniel Schein
San Jose, Calif.

Obama is not the leader America needs

Regarding the Dec. 12 article, "Obama-mania: What gives?": Obama-mania? Well not in Illinois. What has Sen. Barack Obama done for Illinois lately? He's mostly on tour promoting one of his two books. From time to time, he will appear and make a common-sense statement that sounds great to the ear. But where is his record? In a time where men and women of real accomplishment and records of legislative achievement are truly needed, what do we get with Senator Obama? Another political celebrity.

This is not the 1990s. America can't take another personality president just because the press makes him look good. We are in the middle of several crises that need to be handled by an experienced leader who has a record to back up mere words. And I'm sorry to say, Obama falls far too short.

Our country loves celebrities. But what it needs to love is a man or woman with a strong record of legislative accomplishment. What we don't need is a politician posing on the cover of Vogue and parading around the country when his state needs real reform on healthcare, schools, and jobs.

As an African-American who would love to see a qualified African-American in the White House, I regret to say that that person isn't Obama. Wake up, America. We deserve so much more, and we need it, too.
Henry Bemis
Evanston, Ill.

Stop Iran's and Syria's misdeeds

Regarding Robert Zelnick's Dec. 8 Opinion piece, "A reality check on the Iraq Study Group report": That the ISG assumes that Iran and Syria are interested in a peaceful and stable Iraq seems insane, especially since it is those countries that are facilitating much of the transit of men and weapons that perpetuate the chaos. The only thing that will stop Iran and Syria in this activity is some cost to or limitation of their influence, or some direct cost to their well-being. The US should take out any staging area in Syria used for terrorists. It should also clamp down on any goods coming across the Iranian border and send a clear message about what will happen to Syria and Iran if their malevolent activities continue – i.e., a direct US military response.
Wesley Johnson
Hurst, Texas

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