Letters to the editor

Readers write about Iraqi refugees, China's currency rate, the gardens of Tucson, and American volunteerism.

A dismal US response to the plight of Iraqi refugees

After reading the July 12 article, "Bush fights to control Iraq strategy," which addressed the Bush administration's hope of preserving executive-branch control of Iraq policy, I was reminded of what a dismal effort the US has put forth concerning Iraqi refugees. Despite justifying the war as a liberation and igniting the sectarian violence that has forced 2.4 million Iraqis to flee the country, the Bush administration continues to act as if it has little responsibility in the matter.

The US has resettled a meager 133 Iraqi refugees during the fiscal year. Yet Sweden, a nation not even involved in the invasion of Iraq, has already resettled more than 9,000. Moreover, the financial assistance the US has provided the UN Human Rights Council to process these refugees has been unimpressive. The $19 million pledged by the State Department this week represents about $7 per refugee, and only .0003 percent of the Iraq war budget.

Meanwhile, Iraqi civilians are left to pay the ultimate price. These refugees are resigned to living in overcrowded housing with no means of income. Most families have no access to medical care, education, or other social necessities.

Given that the US has played a major role in creating this calamity, one would think that the Bush administration would take the lead in both resettling Iraqi refugees and providing financial assistance.

Kevin Grigsby
Amnesty International

Revaluing China's currency rate

In response to the July 13 opinion article, "Cost of unleashing China's currency," one scary side effect of rapid Chinese currency revaluation not mentioned is that it would make Chinese imports into the US more expensive. Because so much of what the US buys is made in China, the higher prices could significantly increase US consumer inflation. Add in rising oil costs, and the Federal Reserve could have a real inflation problem on its hands.

Also omitted in the opinion article is the fact that the Chinese currency has already appreciated against the dollar in the past two years. The Chinese intend the trend to continue for the foreseeable future.

Ongoing Chinese efforts are not happening fast enough for members of Congress running for reelection next year, who must be able to claim credit and tell their constituents that they actually did something.

Marc Coan
Taos, N.M.

Tucson residents can grow food, too

I read the July 11 article, "A harvest of virtues as well as sustenance," with interest and would like to present an expanded view of Tucson beyond the description "parched Tucson, where food is a trucked-in supermarket commodity, available frozen, canned, or wrapped in plastic."

We live in the outskirts of Tucson where we have a vegetable garden year-round. This year's tomato crop has been prolific. We choose to share with neighbors and family rather than to preserve. My family enjoys fresh citrus – oranges, lemons, and grapefruit – either from our own trees or in exchange with neighbors. This summer, melons and butternut squash are growing.

If we wanted to harvest the desert's bounty, as did those who came before us, we could collect prickly pear and saguaro fruit to make jelly and syrup; plant native beans, squash, and corn at the time of the monsoon rains; and grind flour from mesquite pods. Tucson even has farmers markets selling locally grown produce. Both Tucson Botanical Gardens and Tohono Chul Park have demonstration vegetable gardens.

Elsa Swyers
Tucson, Ariz.

Decline of volunteerism in America

In response to the July 16 opinion article, "Mandated volunteerism," the article complains that children are being forced to do service hours. The article addresses a mother's role, which complains that volunteering is a requirement at some private schools.

I teach at a public inner-city high school, where some of my students have been the recipients of these services. Most of my students have never volunteered, and they find the rewards amazing. My school does not mandate these hours; we are in a club, called Interact, sponsored by the local Rotary club.

Feeding the homeless is an eyeopening experience. The students pack food in a local food bank, cook and serve meals at an outreach center for homeless people, pack backpacks filled with school supplies to send to Iraqi children, as well as performing many other services.

The students learn the art of giving and the pleasure of service to others. They also bolster their resumes for college. Obviously, they do not fly to South Africa to do service. In the middle of their extremely busy lives, they find the time to volunteer. I am sorry the article finds that children are just too busy to have time to do these services. My hope is that in America, doing service early can lead to service as an adult.

Helene Forcier
Tolleson, Ariz.

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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