SATURDAY MAILBOX

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Plans for war alter our role in the world

Just when President Bush's address to the United Nations on Iraq had me wondering if some common sense had found its way into his administration, he returned to typical, arrogant form by mocking those who believe the United States must work through the United Nations ("Bush pressures Hill Democrats over Iraq vote," Sept. 14).

I have news for Mr. Bush: Working through the United Nations on Iraq is what's best for the United States.

Saddam Hussein is not a clear and present danger to the United States. And we have no business unilaterally attacking Iraq.

The high-principled country I grew to love even as a child doesn't go around invading sovereign nations without being attacked first.

Mr. Bush's recent threat to do just that is a disgrace to our national honor.

Scott Norris

Baltimore

At the United Nations, President Bush urged action against Iraq to achieve the "just demands of peace and security." I believe that a pre-emptive strike would have the opposite effect.

As a nation we are extremely vulnerable to terrorism. Invading Iraq would increase the risk of such attacks by magnifying the hatred many people throughout the world harbor toward us.

And while the possibility of a country such as Iraq acquiring weapons of mass destruction is daunting, we had better get used to it. There is no way we can prevent other countries or terrorist groups from acquiring such a capability, and this is not a problem we can solve through brute force.

Indeed, attacking Iraq would exacerbate the problem by showing the rest of the world that its independence and security depends on its ability to counter such attacks.

Finally, an attack would set a terrible precedent. If we feel such an attack is justified, why shouldn't India attack Pakistan or Israel attack Syria?

In physics, it is axiomatic that every action causes an equal and opposite reaction. Violence follows a similar law.

The United States should use its position of world leadership to break the cycle and set a precedent of nonviolent conflict resolution.

Larry Magder

Baltimore

As President Bush works to rid the world of one dictator, he is creating a new one -- himself.

The threatening tone with which he addressed the United Nations has been surpassed by the threatening tone in which he addresses members of our own Congress, and those in this country who don't agree with him.

What is happening to our democracy? It's going the way of our constitutional rights.

Mr. Bush needs to be reminded that we are a nation of more than 270 million people, not one man.

Kurt Kroncke

Baltimore

Few disagree that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and his weapons programs a threat, although probably not an imminent one, to our security.

However, I believe war is unjustified, since we have not received an attack or a credible threat of attack, as international law requires to justify war. In addition, there are more effective ways of eliminating the danger Iraq poses.

If our goal is eliminating Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, then the more appropriate means to that end is resuming intrusive inspections. In fact, the destruction of Iraq's missiles and chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs in the 1990s was the result mostly of inspections, not military attacks.

Bringing U.N. inspectors back to Iraq could neutralize what remains of its weapons programs.

And lifting sanctions when disarmament is complete would alleviate the suffering of Iraqi children and adults.

Marilyn Carlisle

Baltimore

As a community of women who follow the gospel of Jesus, we must voice our concern about our government's aggressive promotion of its intent to initiate a war with Iraq.

War with Iraq would be costly. The human cost is of primary concern. American and Iraqi military personnel would lose their lives. Civilian casualties would be inevitable.

Resources that could go into making life better for people at home and abroad would go into creating devastation and destruction. The cost to our moral force as a nation that stands for peace and justice would also be staggering.

The risks of initiating a war with Iraq far exceed the possible benefits. Perhaps Saddam Hussein would be killed or captured. But would that create peace and stability in that region? Or create further instability in a region already fraught with tension?

Could we even be risking Christian-Muslim warfare of global proportions?

Violence begets violence. War will not be the solution. It will only intensify the problem.

Sister Kathleen White

Baltimore

The writer submitted this letter on behalf of the Benedictine Sisters of Baltimore.

Gratitude seems to have such a short memory. For 50 years we were Europe's rock and shield against Soviet subjugation. And for 50 years the Europeans were so grateful, so shamelessly accommodating.

But now that threat is gone, and so is the last glimmer of gratitude.

Had it been the Eiffel Tower or the Tower of London attacked last Sept. 11, the Europeans might not be so blind to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein .

In the Middle East, just about every state in the region has been queasy about our exhortations about Mr. Hussein and his despotic regime. Evidently, the Arab world doesn't see Mr. Hussein as a threat to its stability or security.

But if Mr. Hussein is not a threat, why are we spending billions each year to protect Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States from a nonexistent threat?

Meanwhile, in Washington, there has been a lot of chatter about the difference between a pending threat and an imminent threat. One would have thought that after Sept. 11 that difference would be seen as marginal.

So what are we to make of all the dissonance?

There is one thing quite evident: Being a superpower can be a very solitary affair.

Mitchell Finkel

Silver Spring

Rep. Ehrlich has long opposed limits on guns

Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. confirmed our worst fears about his position on gun violence when he called for reviewing the Handgun Roster Board created by the highly successful 1988 Saturday-night-special law ("Ehrlich says he would review Md. gun laws," Sept. 14).

This law, which Mr. Ehrlich opposed as a delegate and which Marylanders overwhelmingly endorsed in a referendum, has saved about 40 lives per year, according to a study by experts at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Now, consistent with his previous votes, Mr. Ehrlich wants to review it.

Under the 1988 law, a gun cannot be sold in Maryland unless the board determines it has legitimate uses and is not just a crime gun. So far, more than 100 low-quality weapons have been banned in Maryland thanks to that law.

If the board were eliminated, the gun industry would be free once again to sell these crime guns in Maryland. This would be a disaster for the effort to reduce gun violence in our state, and roll back the progress we have made.

In addition to voting against the Saturday-night-special ban, Mr. Ehrlich voted in 1992 against a measure to keep guns away from children.

Then, in 1994, he led the fight against banning assault weapons in Maryland. And in 1996, as a congressman (who received substantial campaign funding from the gun lobby), he voted to repeal the national assault weapons ban.

Both of these measures have worked extremely well to keep assault weapons off the streets. But if Mr. Ehrlich had had his way back then, terrorists today could go into a gun store and purchase weapons such as Uzis and Tec-9s.

Mr. Ehrlich's positions on the gun issue are not only outrageous, but offensive even to responsible gun owners.

And, as he will find out, these positions are completely unacceptable to the vast majority of Maryland voters.

Vincent DeMarco

Baltimore

The writer was, from 1988 to 1994, a gun control advocate for Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse.

State's gun laws do need review

According to The Sun, the campaign of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend "responded almost gleefully" to Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s proposal to review some of Maryland's gun laws ("Ehrlich says he would review Md. gun laws," Sept. 14).

Mr. Ehrlich specifically mentioned the 2-year-old "ballistic fingerprint" program. And late in the article we learn that this program has cost more than $1 million, and has not yet yielded one conviction.

In a state that, thanks to the Glendening-Townsend administration, is staring at a $1.7 billion deficit, reviews such as the one Mr. Ehrlich proposes are not only prudent but necessary. And while Mr. Ehrlich is honest enough to lay his proposals on the table for the voters, Ms. Townsend is reduced to reacting with classic Democratic mudslinging.

Michael Simon

Columbia

I am disappointed by Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's histrionic response to her opponent's remarks about the state's gun laws.

The fact is that Maryland's gun laws would not significantly change if Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. were elected governor. Any change would have to be sanctioned by the overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature.

Ms. Townsend and her surrogates know that, and they should stop trying to scare people.

According to FBI statistics, Maryland leads the nation in robberies, and has the third-highest murder and violent crime rates in the country.

In light of these abysmal numbers, taking an honest look at existing crime-fighting strategies to see what works and what doesn't -- as Mr. Ehrlich has pledged to do -- is the least we should expect from any governor.

Gina M. Cross

Abingdon

Which candidates care about poverty?

At this time when we are engulfed in campaign hype and election fever, what about the least among us? Who is the voice for our most vulnerable citizens -- the poor, the hungry and the homeless? Which candidate has made "fixing the poverty problem" part of his or her campaign platform?

In the last decade, Maryland has experienced an increase of almost 11 percent in individuals living in poverty, even as it has become the nation's third-richest state. And the ranks of the working poor (individuals who work every day but languish in low-paying jobs) are burgeoning, spurred by the nation's weak economy and the use of an antiquated federal poverty measurement (fundamentally unchanged since being adopted in 1968) that renders many of the nation's poor ineligible for government assistance.

Maryland has one of the nation's lowest rates of poverty (7.6 percent). But sprinkled throughout the state are pockets of poverty, where individuals and families live in substandard housing, with outhouses instead of toilets, no health coverage, inadequate food that isn't nutritious and huge deficits in education and literacy.

Which candidate is looking beyond our low rate of poverty and declaring that no poverty is acceptable in Maryland?

In the budget-cutting era that will face our newly elected state officials, which candidate will have the foresight and conviction to act on the belief that if we improve the plight of our most vulnerable, the state becomes stronger and its people more empowered?

Alma Roberts

Baltimore

The writer is president and CEO of the Center for Poverty Solutions.

Endorsing a religion is the real problem

The writer of the letter "Defending symbols of religion is right" (Sept. 1) pointed out that if he were walking past the Ten Commandments monument in Frederick, and those commandments were not part of his religion, he could avert his eyes and not be offended.

While some people might be offended by seeing the monument accidentally, offense is not the issue. Official endorsement of religion is.

And to erect a religious monument on public property is to give official blessing to the sponsoring of religion.

It is simply not the case that the Ten Commandments are a neutral statement of American principles. The commandments were written long before there was an America. And there are at least three versions of them (Catholic, Protestant and Jewish), all somewhat different in their emphasis.

Erecting the monument says the city government supports one religion over the hundreds of others in the world and over agnosticism and atheism.

Regardless of their personal views, the writers of the Constitution concurred that for government to give sanction to one religion over others (to "establish" one) would place the others and their members in perceived or actual jeopardy.

That would divide the nation, and a house divided must fall.

They wisely prohibited the establishment of a religion.

And it is the most patriotic Americans, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who vigilantly oppose establishment when it arises.

Philip L. Marcus

Columbia

The city needs trash containers ...

I am a recent transplant to Baltimore and have previously lived in New York; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; Boston; and Washington.

Sadly, I have to agree with the observation that newcomers could perceive Baltimore as "one of the trashiest places in the world" ("Cleaner harbor is in the works," Aug. 25).

And while the plan to place litter filters in some of the Chesapeake Bay tributaries that run through Baltimore is laudable, it's only part of the solution.

What's missing is a plan to place trash receptacles on neighborhood sidewalks and in city parks and for public education to encourage residents not to litter.

Given that the city of Baltimore is strapped for cash, why don't local businesses, neighborhoods and park associations join together to purchase trash receptacles for city sidewalks and parks?

These receptacles would not only help residents do their part to prevent litter from flowing into the Inner Harbor, but they could also promote local businesses and important messages such as, "Pitch in today to save the bay."

Once they were in place, many people would use the trash receptacles, and in doing so would play a small but not insignificant role in helping to improve neighborhoods, parks, the beloved Chesapeake Bay and Baltimore's image.

Phoebe McKinney

Baltimore

... and mass transit that links the region

I wholeheartedly agree with the writer of one of the letters titled "Region isn't ready to host Olympics" (Sept. 6) that Baltimore "needs a better subway and transportation system that connects people to the city and surrounding counties."

In fact, the Baltimore area's best-kept secret right now is the Maryland Transit Administration's Baltimore Region Rail System Plan, which would connect the region with a seamless network of new rail lines, stations and intermodal connectors.

When completed, this system would carry riders to White Marsh, Columbia and Arundel Mills Mall.

Phase I would begin with the east-west "Red Line" from the Social Security Administration's headquarters in Woodlawn to Dundalk and extend the existing Metro ("Green Line") northeast from Johns Hopkins Hospital to Morgan State University.

Everyone who cares about improved transportation for our region should find out which candidates support the rail system plan and will commit to appropriating the funds needed to get it started.

Our city can only become "The Greatest City in America" -- and have a shot at the Olympics -- when we have a first-class transportation system. Now is our chance.

Barbara Cutko

Baltimore

The writer co-chairs the Transit Riders League of Metropolitan Baltimore.

Find right setting for memorial wall

Edward Gunts is right in his assessment of the monument proposed for the Camden Yards area ("Memorial makes the monumental minimal," Sept. 8).

The new design not only minimizes the scope of what once adorned the front of Memorial Stadium, it erases the old memorial's impact.

If the designers (as was reported in The Sun) had more than $100,000 to use in planning the new wall, could they not have afforded the imagination to include more of the stadium wall's contents than the familiar words, "TIME WILL NOT DIM THE GLORY OF THEIR DEEDS"?

Taken out of the context of their original setting, those words seem almost a token on the proposed memorial.

The front wall at Memorial Stadium was like the eighth wonder of American stadiums, no less a deco treasure than the Orange Bowl's facade.

The contents of that wall, in addition to the war memorial they comprised, deserve a better fate than being stored in some archive, uncertain of ever seeing the sunlight again.

Give me the whole thing or forget about it.

But how? As the wall on 33rd Street is no more, I doubt vertical display would work too well.

Short of altering Ravens Stadium's facade (where, aesthetic concerns aside, the memorial would be diminished by the logos of the next corporation to name it), the only options I can see are the far end wall of the Camden Yards warehouse or the back wall of the War Memorial building. But because of historic preservation guidelines, neither of those ideas is likely to work.

However, I think displaying the memorial flat might work. A reflecting pool could allow the memorial's words to be seen and protected at once. Another possible memorial would be a plaza or garden with the letters set in pavement.

War Memorial Plaza would seem like a possible site for any of these ideas. If not, one of Baltimore's larger parks could provide space.

The stadium was always a living tribute to our dead from the world wars.

Whatever is done with the remains of that cherished place in Baltimore's past should encourage remembrance, and never be forgotten.

James Egan

Baltimore

Honor the glory of veterans' deeds

Memorial Stadium was supposedly a monument to our eternal gratitude for those who died for our country.

But when the new stadium was built, it was deemed far more important to give the naming rights (and revenue) to a taxpayer-funded stadium to the Ravens, rather than continue to honor our war dead or even place a monument on the premises.

And now, perhaps on the eve of another war, we have a proposal that we should rename the stadium not to honor our war dead, or to honor those who died by an enemy's actions on Sept. 11, but to honor a single football player -- Johnny Unitas ("Naming stadium for Unitas costly, not unprecedented," Sept. 17).

I'm no fan of the empty symbolism and pompous display that so often passes for patriotism. But simple decency argues that if the name of the stadium is to be changed, we should honor the promise this community made in 1954 to remember and honor those who gave their lives to preserve the freedom that allows us to play, or watch, this mere game.

Kenneth G. Olthoff

Linthicum

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