Letters to the Editor

Readers write about what the US owes Iraqis, another way to prevent forest fires, librarians as professionals, and international volunteer work.

By toppling Hussein, the US repaid a debt to Iraqis

In his June 27 Opinion piece, "What America owes the Iraqis," Andrew Bacevich says that America, by its current intervention, has incurred a moral debt to the Iraqis "whose lives we have blighted quite a lot." America is not now incurring a moral debt to Iraqis but discharging one.

During the 1991 Gulf War, the US administration urged Iraqi Kurds and Shiites to rise against the Hussein regime that had slaughtered uncounted thousands of them during the preceding years.

The US promptly betrayed the Kurds and Shiites, 80 percent of Iraq's population, as soon as fighting ceased, and Saddam Hussein's remaining forces were given a free hand in chasing them down and murdering thousands more.

Mr. Bacevich implies that America has morally soiled its hands by toppling the Hussein regime in 2003. Bacevich's moral reckoning with regard to America's current intervention is in effect an apologia for Hussein's genocidal regime. As a result of this intervention, Kurds and Shiites have a democratic government and are free for the first time to pursue their destinies. By redressing the betrayal of 1991, our hands get cleaner day by day.

Lewin W. Wickes
Millerstown, Pa.

How to prevent damaging forest fires

The June 29 article, "Tahoe fire yields lessons," implies that the main reason for the strength of the fire was the dead wood and underbrush that had not been cleared away. This may be true.

But we will have forest fires, even if underbrush has been cleared away, unless foresters change their policies. What we need in forests are several fire breaks at least one-half mile wide. The "empty" space would be just grass.

We also need to change zoning laws so that new homes cannot be built within a half-mile of a forest or in other dangerous locations. Uncontrolled growth, whether of trees or people, needs to be kept in check.

Roy Lechtreck
Alabaster, Ala.

Sternness not a tool of the library trade

Regarding the June 27 article, "Dewey Decimal divas": The fact that professional librarians should have to man library book-cart drill teams in order to "shake up the public perception of the stuffy librarian" is a profoundly distressing (and undignified) idea.

According to the article, these drill teams are part of the "image makeover and public outreach effort" of the American Library Association (ALA) because the public thinks of librarians as "stodgy, stern, always shushing," as librarian Caroline Langendorfer of Madison, Wis., put it.

However, in a lifetime of patronizing libraries, I have yet to encounter such an individual. I suspect this view may have originated more from Hollywood fantasy than from anyone's personal experience.

Regardless, public libraries are not meant to be places where individuals are free to express themselves as they would in the public square. Rather, their purpose is to provide access to information and the educational resources Americans need in order to participate in a democracy.

If the ALA and its members want to encourage more people to join the profession, they should concentrate on how to make available the higher salaries that will more adequately reflect the profession's required graduate studies and skills. In this culture (and many others), money talks, and when librarians begin to demand higher compensation for their services, then the public will begin to realize the importance of librarianship.

Maggie Peters
Wales, Wis.

A global partnership for development

I read with great interest the June 27 article, "China takes up civic work in Africa," that announces that China is sending 300 volunteers in a new Chinese "peace corps" program. This is not only a fascinating report on China's approach toward socially responsible development; it is also a window into a larger movement of international service and cooperation.

In August, rising nonprofit leaders from India and Colombia will participate in a new program called "Atlas Corps" that sends midcareer nonprofit leaders from the "global south" to volunteer for one year in the United States to learn best practices, share unique insights, and return home to create a global partnership for development.

Although this is a new program, it has received support from Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka, a global organization that identifies and invests in leading social entrepreneurs. Support has also come from one of the founders of the Peace Corps, former US Sen. Harris Wofford.

Thomas Friedman's assertion that the world is flat is true in the development sector, too. Countries are embracing the notion that answers, resources, and volunteers will no longer flow from so-called developed nations to the so-called developing nations. We all have an opportunity to address the world's most pressing challenges by promoting international cooperation through service based on mutual respect.

Scott Beale
Founder, Atlas Service Corps, Inc.
Bogotá, Colombia

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted may appear in print or on our website, www.csmonitor.com.

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