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Who is better off after years of war?

As we observed last week the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war, I think we should pause for a moment and ask the question candidate Ronald Reagan asked more than 25 years ago: Are you better off now than you were four years ago ("We won't go," editorial, March 21)?

The answer may depend on whom you ask.

Ask many of our troops who shouldered a disproportionate burden in this war.

Ask the many who have returned home after multiple combat tours injured, maimed, overlooked and haunted by war. Or ask the relatively few families who have sacrificed and ask, if you could, all those troops who can no longer answer our questions.

Ask the Army, whose most sympathetic supporters call it "broken" by this war.

Ask, if you could, the thousands of innocent Iraqis who died violently or the millions displaced or without basic services in a country thrown into chaos and civil war.

Ask the people of the world who looked to the United States for hope and freedom and who now see unrestrained power unleashed thoughtlessly.

At the same time, the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan, Iran is a more powerful player in the Middle East, and Halliburton's stock has risen substantially since March 2003.

So having spent hundreds of billions of dollars to throw a country and a region into chaos, are we better off now than we were four years ago?

Geoffrey K. Mudge


Confront honestly the threat of terror

Kathleen Parker's column "Getting serious about the clear and present danger America faces" (Opinion

Commentary, March 19) provides a must-read face-slap for those who refuse to acknowledge that there is a global war, with the United States serving as the primary defender of Western civilization against our rarely named enemy, Islamist totalitarianism, which is, as Ms. Parker says, a "virulent, religion-based ideology."

Iraq is a crucial battleground in this war, one where our premature withdrawal would spell a major defeat and encourage the jihadists to continue spreading death, destruction and terror.

I hope that Ms. Parker's column will be not only widely read but also debated on the editorial, commentary and letters pages of The Sun.

We need an open, honest discussion, with no politically correct restrictions on discussing the religion of Islam and controversial concepts such as jihad - just as the Committee on the Present Danger is arguing.

Nelson L. Hyman


Gore reminds us of road not taken

It was a wistful experience to read of former Vice President Al Gore's return to Washington to testify about global warming ("Gore tells Congress of 'crisis,'" March 22) and then read, on the same page of The Sun, an article describing the Bush administration's pitiful attempts to avoid scrutiny over its politicization of the Justice Department ("Bush's legal case shaky, experts say," March 22).

It is not hard to imagine how much further along we might be in trying to avert a global environmental disaster, not to mention how much better our standing among the other nations of the world would be, were we now in the second term of a Gore presidency rather than experiencing the miserable failure of the Bush presidency.

David Schwartz


Let rich and famous give up their perks

I will get rid of my four-wheel-drive Jeep, my midsize ranch home and my infrequent plane trips when Al Gore and his rich and famous politically elite friends and the Hollywood crowd get rid of their limos, big gas-guzzling SUVs, trucks and RVs ("Gore tells Congress of 'crisis,'" March 22).

I'd also like to see them give up their energy-gobbling mansions, second and third homes and private jets.

There is nothing wrong with being a good steward of your personal space. But I know who is going to feel the financial pain and loss that may be caused if we accept the theory of climate change.

And it won't be the politicians, the Hollywood crowd or the rich and famous.

Janet Witman


Make maintenance a school priority

Many Sun readers were probably surprised to read about the poor conditions of Baltimore County schools ("School system flunks repair," March 19). But those of us at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees were not.

For years, the Baltimore County Board of Education has not made facility maintenance a real priority.

The employees who make these repairs are underpaid, with starting pay of less than $9 per hour, and the facilities budget is underfunded.

As Fenwick English, the lead auditor of the independent review, told the school board, "This is a problem, and it's not just aesthetic. This is a problem of learning and teaching in facilities that are conducive to improving achievement for all students."

The Board of Education needs to recognize that custodians and facility maintenance are as vital to a child's education as teachers and curriculum. Outsourcing maintenance work is a shell game that shifts the buck and the responsibility.

What the Board of Education should do is make these employees and the work they do a real priority.

Kory Blake


The writer is a staff representative for AFSCME who represents Baltimore County school employees.

Legislature scorns abuse victims again

Once again, Maryland legislators failed to see the wisdom of holding child molesters responsible for their actions as the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee killed a bill that would have allowed civil actions for cases of child abuse too old for lawsuits to be allowed under current law.

This bill would have held those who have preyed on children for decades accountable for their despicable behavior.

The Maryland Catholic Council of Bishops should be ashamed of itself for opposing this legislation.

Maryland's children deserve better.

Kurt Gladsky


The writer is founder of the Greater Baltimore Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Soldier's sexuality isn't Army's affair

The writer of the letter "Comments condemn the sin, not the sinner" (March 21) is guilty of splitting hairs.

Perhaps it is true that Gen. Peter Pace was merely condemning homosexual acts and not homosexuals.

However, I would argue that one's sexuality is an intrinsic part of one's identity as a human being, and that the sexual orientation of adult soldiers is none of the Army's business.

The military should have no more right to judge its employees on the basis of their sexuality or gender than any other American employer.

Grant Hamming

College Park

The writer is a student at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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