Letters to the Editor

Readers write about Russia's intervention in Georgia and shifting taxes to promote conservation.

How Russia justified its attacks in Georgia

In response to your Aug. 29 editorial, "Russia trifles with genocide": The editorial cites the United States attack on Serbia as a legitimate intervention, and the Russian attack on Georgia as the opposite. In fact, the Russians don't see it that way at all. Nor do many others acquainted with the original situation to which you refer – the US bombing of Serbia.

Prior to that 1999 bombing, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors were present in Serbia's Kosovo Province, and the thrust of humanitarian organizations present was to return refugees from the earlier 1998 conflict to their homes.

The US short-circuited this process. It ordered the OSCE monitors to withdraw. Then it began bombing. A massive refugee outflow followed. This was subsequently incorrectly presented as having preceded, and been the reason for, the bombing.

In obvious response, the Russians have now chosen to parrot the exact same terminology used by the US in 1999 – referring crucially to a "humanitarian catastrophe" as the basis for intervention, to the "will of the (secessionist) people," and to a "genocide." All just as the US did. And the Russians have followed the US example to the end by recognizing the independence of a secessionist entity and acting outside the Security Council.

Marko Gasic

Founder, Serbian Information Office

Regarding your recent editorial on Russia's actions in Georgia: You assert that Russia invaded Georgia on the night of August 7-8. The historical fact is that an opportunistic Georgia took the initiative against its breakaway province.

Russia's response was predictable. We would do the same if Mexico were to invade Texas should Mexico consider that area its territory. (That already happened in 1846.)

On this issue I have to side with Russia. We've no leg to stand on in criticizing them.

Paul Swart
San Jose, Calif.

Regarding your recent editorial on Russia's right to protect: So next time Russia should wait for at least 8,000 deaths?

I'll agree that what happened was not yet genocide, but do you really think they should have waited until it was?

Jim Donelson
Lake Worth, Fla.

Tax land, not buildings

In response to Bob Doppelt's Aug. 27 Opinion piece, "The greatest failure of thought in human history": What many miss is the role of public revenue. Every environmental problem we oppose, we subsidize.

Why do people make unsustainable choices? Prices tell them to. By taxing and spending, governments make coal power cheaper than wind power, etc.

Higher "land dues" on prime sites draw development centerward, reversing sprawl. That spares farmland. Cities become walkable and less polluting. Plus, de-taxing buildings lets homeowners make improvements that save energy.

Shifting the property tax in particular and the flow of public revenue in general is the sort of policy imperative one arrives at when employing "systems thinking" systemically.

Jeffery J. Smith
Portland, Ore.

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