As allegations of further atrocities in Iraq surface, I feel that there must be many other Vietnam veterans who, like me, are shaken by feelings of dM-ijM-' vu.
And one portion of The Sun's article "U.S. denies civilians were targets in raid" (June 3) stands out in particular.
Referring to a raid apparently targeted at two people firing from one house, the report says, in part, that air support came "from an AC-130, a powerful gunship."
The article should have gone on to inform readers that an AC-130 can cover every square foot of a city block with machine gun fire within seconds and that specific targeting is impossible.
When troops are engaged by gunmen in one house in a small village, using an AC-130 for air support makes the killing of innocent civilians in that village an absolute certainty.
My God, has the military learned nothing about tactics and their relationship to "collateral damage" in 30 years?
When the military establishment speaks of lessons learned from Vietnam, it always seems to be in terms of some arcane notion of domestic support from the American people.
Anyone like myself who was a low-ranking enlisted man in that war can look back and easily see that tactics tantamount to using a sledgehammer to kill a fly may succeed in killing the attackers, but that the killing of innocents is far more than morally wrong.
It also undermines the mission and creates far more enemies than it destroys.
The old saying about "those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it" has rarely had as much validity as it does in Iraq.
Our troops are being led down exactly the same dead-end street they were led down in Vietnam.
As a result, our mission in Iraq is doomed.
Anti-terror funding yet another outrage
I was shocked to see that an article about the administration cutting anti-terror funding to the most high-risk cities was relegated to Page 3A of The Sun ("Big cities get less anti-terror money," June 1).
I wonder when the press and the American people are going to hold the administration truly accountable for its actions and express the outrage that has been mysteriously absent.
If the administration decides to cut anti-terror funding to New York City nearly in half yet increases funding to Louisville, Ky., and Omaha, Neb., it is clearly putting its political agenda ahead of the safety of the American people.
How is this not considered the most appalling event of the day, instead of Page 3A news?
This administration has shown a heartless disregard for our courageous soldiers, sending them into an unprovoked, ill-planned war based upon fabrications or woefully inaccurate information and not even bothering to provide the proper armor the troops needed to protect themselves.
It has created thousands of new veterans, yet found in its greedy hearts a way to cut Veterans Administration benefits.
Through policies based upon torture, arrogance, xenophobia, fundamentalism, war-mongering, homophobia, greed and imperialism, this administration has turned America into a monster in the eyes of the world.
The American people are not monsters, but we do appear indifferent and lazy.
We need people to step up, be heard and confront these greedy and violent leaders.
Playing politics with abuse charges
The writer of the letter "Leaders bear blame for pattern of abuse" (June 6) asserts, based on a few high-profile incidents of abuse, that there is a problem with the command structure of today's military.
While these incidents are regrettable and must be dealt with according to the rule of law, they do not indicate a problem with the command structure of the military. They indicate our difficulty in understanding and dealing with an enemy that will resort to any means to kill Americans.
I'd like to remind the letter writer that we are at war.
It is a war that stretches across the world with no true boundaries - against an enemy who does not wear a uniform, an enemy who absolutely follows no rules, particularly with respect to human rights.
I am a recently retired soldier who served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Every single soldier I knew in those tours said the same thing: "There is no way I will allow myself to be captured."
That is because they all knew that if they were captured, they would be brutally tortured and ultimately killed, and perhaps beheaded in front of a camera.
The letter writer should write a letter condemning our enemies for their lack of concern for human rights, especially given that the insurgents are primarily targeting innocent civilians.
Our military leadership is concerned with ethics and morality.
Every soldier continuously receives human rights training from the time he or she enters the service. These lessons are constantly reinforced in situational training.
Unfortunately, seeing your friends blown up and shot on a daily basis can cause soldiers to do ugly things.
The only answer is to show our soldiers and the world that it will not be tolerated.
But calling for the secretary of defense, the vice president and the president to be held accountable for something that transpired at the platoon- or squad-level is absurd and reeks of partisan politics.
Kevin S. Peel
Rewarding Libya before it pays up
The Sun's editorial on restoring diplomatic ties with Libya notes that "Libya has given financial settlements to the families of the victims of its airplane and nightclub bombings" ("Diplomacy takes two," editorial, May 18).
While that's partially true, it's not the whole story.
My son, First Lt. George Watterson Williams, was killed when Libyan terrorists destroyed Pan Am Flight 103. To avoid a courtroom trial, Libya agreed to a settlement with the families of the Lockerbie disaster.
Eighty percent of that settlement has been paid, with the remaining 20 percent to be paid when the U.S. government removed Libya from the list of designated state sponsors of terror.
Libya has been rewarded with the carrot of normalized relations, but the regime still has not fulfilled its remaining obligations to the victims of its terrorism.
I certainly understand the diplomatic realities confronting America as it deals with outlaw regimes.
And our government and this editorial have cited Libya's payments to victims of its terrorism as evidence that Muammar el Kadafi has changed his ways.
But what does it say about the Libyan regime when it refuses to honor its legal obligations to the victims of its terrorism?
And what sort of lesson does it give to Iran, North Korea and other rogue states when we allow a regime to fulfill just 80 percent of its obligations?
These are troubling questions for all Americans, not only those whose loved ones were killed by Libyan terrorists.
Our government should have insisted that Libya meet all of its commitments to the Pan Am 103 families before we restored diplomatic ties.
George H. Williams
The writer is a former president of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103.
Free museums open treasures to youth
Kudos, a standing ovation and three cheers for Baltimore City and Baltimore County and to those responsible for the impending free access to two of Baltimore's greatest treasures, the Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art ("Museums' art is priceless; viewing it will be free," May 31).
While the new motto "Baltimore: Get In On It" remains slightly perplexing, both locals and tourists instantly will grasp and appreciate unimpeded access to these wonderful resources.
In addition to drawing even more people to town, this decision also reaches out to the next generations and, by allowing young people liberal and repeated access to the museums, will help introduce them to art, beauty, history and curiosity.
We can only hope that our leadership's wisdom and budget can take the next obvious step - to find similar support to open the gates of the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore to all.
What better way is there to provide our young people with an introduction to - and perhaps a sense of responsibility for - all the riches of the world than to throw open the gates of our most important natural and cultural treasures?
Museums may face plague of vagrants
The Sun has reported that entrance to Baltimore's premier art museums will soon be cost-free ("Museums' art is priceless; viewing it will be free," May 31).
As a former employee of the Enoch Pratt Free Library on Cathedral Street, I would often visit the Walters Art Museum on my lunch break. I came to know some of its staff members very well.
And I learned that the Walters and the Pratt library had a problem in common - how to respectfully deal with the transient population that poured into both institutions daily.
Objects of art at the Walters became beds while the Pratt's bathrooms became a place to wash up (often sans clothes). Customers in both buildings were harassed for money.
The Walters came up with a great idea several decades ago - charge a small fee of several dollars to get in.
It worked. Serious art lovers were willing and able to pay, while those who had regularly visited the museum to lounge or harass the public were not willing (or able) to pay.
The problem of transients ceased to exist.
Unfortunately, the Pratt couldn't charge a fee for entrance (by charter and by law) and still faces this challenge every day.
It will be interesting to see how the Walters will handle an old challenge in a new era.
Believing in all city has to offer
Certainly crabs, beer (I prefer nonalcoholic) and the Inner Harbor are delightful reasons for tourists to "Get In On It" and discover Baltimore's secrets ("The secret of selling Baltimore," May 29).
But Baltimore offers so much more. My slogan would be: "Baltimore Has It All, Hon."
Think of the internationally recognized Walters Art Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the new Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture, and numerous other museums.
How about the beautiful Baltimore Opera Company and the world-class Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which will soon welcome its first female music director, Marin Alsop.
Then there is the city's great variety of good theater and music groups.
Think of some of the outstanding colleges and universities: the Johns Hopkins University and the Peabody Conservatory, the Maryland Institute College of Art and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, to name just a few.
And don't forget the major-league sports teams, wonderful ethnic restaurants, historic churches and monuments.
The list goes on and on.
As we eat our crabs and drink our beer, let's really appreciate all that we have here in Baltimore.
Then we can "BELIEVE" they'll come.
Cut bonuses to help pay the energy bills
Thanks to Laura Smitherman's reporting, we now know that if the merger of Constellation Energy Group and a Florida-based utility is completed, 13 officials will pocket a cool $72.9 million ("In merger, officials to net $72.9 million," June 2).
This shows us the way out of the energy impasse.
First, let's be fair about this. Let's compensate each of the 13 elite officials with $144,000 in income for one year. That would put them in the top 2 percent of all U.S. wage-earners.
These officials might have to tighten their belts a bit, but surely they could make ends meet. And this way, their bonuses would cost only $1,872,000, which would save us $71,028,000.
Second, this $71,028,000 could be deposited into a public fund and we could use it to pay the energy costs for the citizens of Maryland. This would take some of the burden off everyone's back, particularly those most in need.
Third, we could pass legislation that would put all the necessities of life (energy, housing, health care, etc.) in the public domain.
No more profit-making, no more greed.
The writer is co-founder of Viva House, a Baltimore soup kitchen affiliated with the Catholic Church.
No bargain solution to border control
Most Americans undoubtedly underestimate the amount of time required for an alien to receive an employment visa or permanent residency ("Skilled migrants stuck in backlog," May 30). But there is another aspect of the immigration issue that they underestimate as well: the cost of immigrant labor to employers, and the cost of an effective immigration system.
Contrary to public belief, there are no cost benefits to employers in filling job openings with immigrants who are here on work visas.
The employers are required to pay the prevailing wage for these positions. They also pay not only the applicants' legal fees but their filing fees as well.
If the employees apply for permanent residence or citizenship, the employer often also pays the fees for these applications as well as for related applications for family members.
Why are employers willing to go to this additional expense?
For the simple reason that there are not enough native-born applicants with the training and the experience for many occupations. This is especially true of many health care occupations.
Not all H-1B visa applicants are in technology fields; many are doctors, respiratory therapists, medical technologists and physical therapists.
The filing fees for many immigration applications are quite onerous (up to $3,190).
Like so many so-called user fees for government benefits, they reflect the public's understandable aversion to taxes.
Unfortunately, this aversion is the real reason behind both the backlog of visa applicants and the lack of enforcement efforts against employers who have no desire to comply with any legal system of immigration.
As a nation, we are addicted to bargain solutions.
This explains, in part, the current popularity of the idea of fencing off the Rio Grande as a silver-bullet solution to our country's immigration needs.
Unfortunately, there is no inexpensive way for America to either provide opportunities to immigrants or restrict their ability to live and work here.
Immigration, and the regulation of it, is an indispensable part of our civilization, and taxes (or spending cuts) are the price we will have to pay to handle it properly.
Cynthia B. Rosenberg Stephen R. Rourke Baltimore
The writers are immigration attorneys.
No reason to build new ramp to JFX
The writer of the letter "Quarry plan pushes need for new ramp" (June 5) contends that the development of the Greenspring Quarry will cause residents of the new community to clog city residential streets south of the community on their daily commute downtown, and that the simple solution is for Baltimore County to construct another multimillion-dollar access ramp to Interstate 83 between Ruxton Road and Northern Parkway.
I respectfully disagree with the letter writer for several reasons.
We really don't know how many of new Greenspring Quarry residents would travel downtown. But those who do will have several existing routes to get there via I-83 even without the construction of new access ramps or driving through the city's residential neighborhoods.
The current interchange between the Baltimore Beltway and Greenspring Avenue is very close to the new development that. And getting on the Beltway there puts one just one exit away from I-83.
The access ramp to I-83 at Ruxton Road can easily be reached from the new community via Old Court Road.
Residents could also travel south on Greenspring Avenue to Northern Parkway and enter I-83 via the existing ramps at Northern Parkway.
Prospective residents of the new community are well aware of these potential traffic situations and should take them into account before expecting Baltimore County taxpayers to pick up the tab for the unnecessary expense of a new entrance ramp to I-83.
Gala ignored those who work the docks
I attended the gala celebrating the 300th anniversary of the port of Baltimore (now the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore) ("Port 'godmother' honored," June 2). And while it was a splendid affair, it left a bitter taste in my mouth (although not from the excellent food).
As is typical at such events, speeches by master of ceremonies Alan Walden, port "godmother" Mrs. Bentley, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and others were replete with recognitions, thank-yous, huzzahs and self-congratulatory pats-on-the-back.
Yet aside from a single mention by Ms. Mikulski of the word "longshoremen," the men and women who have used their brains and brawn and risked life and limb every day for the past 300 years performing the actual work at the port - moving cargo from wagons, trucks and trains to ships, and vice-versa - were not recognized.
Nor was there any appreciation extended to the labor union that has represented these workers for nearly 100 of these 300 years, the International Longshoremen's Association - despite the presence at the gala of many of the ILA's local leaders.
So here's to the longshoremen who have performed this most difficult and dangerous of occupations day in and day out for 300 years and to the union that has ensured that these workers have decent wages, benefits and working conditions. Congratulations and thank you.
The writer is an attorney who represents the local affiliates of the International Longshoremen's Association.
Couples and the Constitution
The effort to deny marriage equality to same-sex couples is an outrageous attack upon human dignity and an unspeakable violation of civil rights ("Bid to ban gay unions flops," June 8).
Such a constitutional amendment would be a national disgrace and a miscarriage of justice that is no different from discrimination on the basis of skin color.
Sexual orientation is a private, personal matter, and same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue.
Our Founding Fathers envisioned all citizens as equal in the eyes of the law, enjoying the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, such as the ability to love, marry, raise a family, join the military, work, worship and play.
It is the government's mandate to uphold individual liberties and civil rights, not take them away.
Love, marriage and sexuality between consenting adults and defining what constitutes a family are not the business of Congress, the president or the Supreme Court.
And the timing of raising this issue was a blatant attempt by the GOP to distract Americans from real, important issues such as the illegal invasion of Iraq, the "extraordinary rendition" of terror suspects and the detainment of prisoners without legal rights, the illegal wiretapping of American citizens and the bureaucratic bungling that led to the deaths of hundreds in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
If The Sun's editors are wondering why they are often accused of liberal bias, they need look no further than Thursday morning's headline "Bid to ban gay union flops" (June 8).
Let's break this down.
First, the bid was not to "ban gay unions." Gay unions have, most likely, existed since before history began to be recorded, and they are likely to continue to do so.
The proposed legislation was to require all states to continue recognizing the institution of legal marriage as one that is exclusively between one man and one woman, as they have traditionally done in the past.
There are myriad reasons for this proposal, and none of them has anything to do with "banning gay unions."
The reasons include concern over rising health care costs and for the protection of the rights of traditional families, among other concerns.
Yet, once again, The Sun has implied, incorrectly, in bold print, that conservatives are gay-bashing control freaks.
Pointing to state bans on gay marriage to support his federal marriage amendment, President Bush seemed to believe that the people should decide civil rights for gays. Perhaps Mr. Bush should review his high school government textbooks ("Gay-marriage debate opens," June 6).
The framers sought to establish a government that would protect minorities against the tyranny of the majority.
History shows that gays aren't the only minority targeted by the majority and safeguarded by the Constitution.
For instance, in 1967, the Supreme Court overturned state laws prohibiting interracial couples from getting married.
At a time when our nation is faced with major challenges, I find it shameful that Mr. Bush and his fellow conservatives have been seeking to use the Constitution for political ends and attempting to write bigotry into this noble document.
It is unfortunate that the president and many in his party are continuing to call for a ban on gay marriages.
Both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association have found that the best interests of American families would be served with full marital rights for same-gender couples.
Individuals in vulnerable groups are damaged when public officials make statements that encourage discrimination.
It is sad that it has come to the point in America where elected officials feel they must exploit fear and hatred.
Robert E. Griffin
Forty Fort, Pa.
The writer is a clinical psychologist.