Kyndra Rotunda's March 2 Opinion piece, "Denying self-defense to GIs in Iraq," is wrong to contend that rules of engagement limit the right of soldiers in Iraq to defend themselves. Our rules of engagement allow our soldiers to fire immediately at clearly identified enemy forces and, with respect to unidentified individuals, upon observing hostile act or intent.
There is, of course, concern that our soldiers avoid unnecessarily injuring innocent civilians at checkpoints. Our soldiers train for such situations and establish clearly recognizable checkpoints.
Our soldiers also train for "escalation of force" procedures such as firing warning shots if time permits in the situation. Given the exceedingly challenging environment in Iraq, decisions to use lethal force can be tough. Still, the ultimate decision is up to our soldiers, and they are fully empowered to make that decision.
Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the Multinational Corps commander in Iraq, has reminded soldiers that our "respect for noncombatants is not incompatible with the offensive mind-set."
As Gen. David Petraeus, the new Multinational Force commander in Iraq says: "No one may issue supplementary guidance [to the rules of engagement] that forecloses the judgment of an individual facing a split-second and independent decision whether to engage a threat."
Finally, investigations are only required in escalation-of-force incidents involving death, injury requiring hospitalization, or substantial property loss to a civilian. No investigations are required in routine engagements with clearly hostile forces. These constitute, by far, the bulk of daily situations in Iraq when our soldiers employ lethal force.
Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV
Spokesman, Multinational Force in Iraq
In response to your March 9 editorial, "Wikipedia's sticky wicket": Several months ago I came across my name on a blog that was run, surprisingly, by a professor at a major research institution. In a four-page mini-essay, the blogger concluded, after a few Internet searches, that he had determined the origin of a word I've addressed in my research. He quoted from an author who in turn quoted my definition of the term. Though my definition was never contested, in a careless manner, he stated that both the author he'd quoted and I had "misread."
This is something that most any reader for a peer-reviewed journal would have flagged. I made the scholar-blogger aware of the misinformation and told him it had made its way to Wikipedia. I tried to point out that the issue was more complex than he had presented, and that other scholars had done serious work that challenged his facile conclusion. Although the blogger posted what I wrote on his blog, he selectively responded to certain points. He also retroactively modified his thesis. This mode of scholarship-lite not only leads to bogus conclusions and misinformation, it can also be a significant cause of aggravation and a waste of time.
Regarding Jeffrey Shaffer's March 9 Opinion column, "Stop the trend of putting people down": Young people learn how to put people down in part from television programs, where such behavior is considered acceptable and normal. How can parents and teachers compete with this?
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