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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Current course in Middle East just won't work

Jules Witcover is absolutely right: The Bush administration's "staying the course" in Iraq is a sham ("On staying the course," Opinion * Commentary, June 2).

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Everything the Bush administration has done concerning the war on terror, Iraq and the 50-year Arab-Israeli conflict - which is the source of most, if not all, anti-American sentiment in the Middle East - is part of a disturbing pattern that clearly illustrates excruciating ignorance. And, as Mr. Witcover states, "a series of switches and retreats."

In its 3 1/2 years in office, the Bush administration has largely ignored the Arab-Israeli conflict. Unless we resolve that issue, nothing we say or do will have any credibility for the people of the Middle East.

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The administration also took our country to war based on assumptions that have proved wrong, yet refused to change direction.

The only way to get the United States out of the current morass is to hold elections in Iraq sooner rather than later and turn real sovereignty over to the Iraqi people. And, at home, to change administrations and show the world that in a democracy, governments are accountable.

Fariborz S. Fatemi

McLean, Va.

The writer is a former staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Tenet the fall guy for Bush's failures

George J. Tenet had to resign as CIA director because of the political imperative to tell the president and his administration what they wanted to hear - that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction ("CIA director Tenet resigns," June 4).

The Sun's article "'Understated' No. 2 man will step into Tenet's job" (June 4) reports that senior administration officials decided they were not happy with their briefer, John McLaughlin, deputy director of central intelligence. "He was too soft, too understated. They wanted someone more forceful." So the White House brought in his boss, Mr. Tenet, who was better able to make a forceful case. Mr. Tenet did what he had to do, but this led to the current disaster in Iraq.

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This is a classic case of a president refusing to listen to anything he did not want to hear. Mr. Tenet is the fall guy for bad leadership.

Robert Schulze

Elkridge

Why are contractors deployed in Iraq?

Thanks for the article on the raid on Ahmad Chalabi's office and home, especially the accounts of witnesses and the investigation of who the Americans were ("Chalabi raid adds scrutiny to use of U.S. contractors," May 30).

The ambiguous status of such contractors is clearly a problem for American interactions with Iraqis in the near future, and the behavior of the people in this event, as reported by the witnesses, was ugly and offensive.

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But I think some points have not yet been elucidated regarding the reason for the presence of DynCorp employees with the Iraqi police. How and where are the contracts made with DynCorp and other contractors? What federal agency enters into the contracts? What are the criteria for selection? How are the contracts administered?

I'd like to see The Sun report further on these topics.

Edna E. Heatherington

Baltimore

A lesson in loss of students' rights

As an arch-conservative, I usually agree with Gregory Kane. However, Mr. Kane and, more important, Baltimore County public school officials, Perry Hall High School students and parents missed the big picture entirely about the students who did not return yearbooks and were denied the opportunity to graduate on stage ("Yearbook racial slur incident a valuable lesson for students," June 5).

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Replacing the offensive page in the books was an excellent idea. Banning those who failed to turn the books in from participating in the graduation ceremonies was not.

There was no legal or disciplinary justification for denying students the right to receive their diploma on stage simply for not handing over an item that they had purchased, which, once purchased, became their private property.

There certainly was a civics lesson here: that students' rights (including those related to free speech, privacy and due process) do not exist in Baltimore County when the school system is embarrassed and seeks to repair its stature.

Dennis Sirman

Westminster

Killer's cruelty isn't standard for conduct

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The letter "Execute Oken as he killed others" (June 6) presents an argument often presented by death penalty supporters - Why should the killer get an appeal (or mercy, or compassion, etc.) when he offered none to the victim?

Do the proponents of this argument suggest that Steven Oken's behavior is a model we should follow? Should we base government policy on the example set by killers? Does the outrageous behavior of another justify our own inappropriate behavior?

The death penalty is a complex issue. Serious and thoughtful debate is necessary and important. This simple-minded, thoughtless, emotion-driven argument contributes nothing constructive.

Dan Shemer

Lutherville

Society need not forgive murderer

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Rabbi Rex Perlmeter suggests that forgiveness for Steven Oken's crimes is between "Steven, his victims' families, and his God" ("For rabbi, stance on execution evolves," June 6).

But Rabbi Perlmeter fails to recognize that murder and other crimes are not just personal but impact society as a whole. Society doesn't have to forgive Mr. Oken, and the court, as society's voice, has ruled accordingly.

As for Mr. Oken, he may or may not seek God's forgiveness or that of his victims' families, but that is irrelevant.

Gary Gamber

New Windsor

Continue revival of Charles St. area

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We should all be excited about what has happened on Charles Street over the last several years, particularly in the blocks immediately above and below Pennsylvania Station ("'Just gets better' on Charles," June 4). And yes, I even like the "Male/Female" sculpture looming over it all.

Now isn't it time for someone to pick up the ball and transform the old Chesapeake Restaurant into something special - another restaurant, perhaps, or something equally appealing that would further enhance this wonderful area?

Robin Coblentz

Baltimore

Cicadas' song reflects spark of the divine

Be kind to the cicadas. They are creatures of God ("Cicadas' arrival triggers weighty talks with kids," June 2).

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Karl Berger

Owings Mills


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