The Baltimore Sun

Pakistan is proving an unreliable ally

In Thursday's Baltimore Sun, Pakistan's top army officer was quoted as saying that Pakistan "would not tolerate American incursions" into its territory. He also stated that the army would defend the country's sovereignty "at all costs" ("Order bypasses Pakistan," Sept. 11).

This statement was made in reference to President Bush's recent decision allowing U.S. forces to attack al-Qaida and Taliban fighters (terrorists, maybe?) who seek refuge in Pakistan after engaging allied troops in Afghanistan.

Whether or not one agrees with the war or the decision of the president to authorize this step, I feel one question must be asked of this Pakistani officer: Does this mean that Pakistan's government will not tolerate incursions into its territory by al-Qaida and Taliban forces also?

Or does this policy indicate that only incursions by U.S. troops will not be tolerated?

Not only have al-Qaida forces sought refuge in Pakistan, but they also have taken up residence there, with the approval of some elements of the Pakistani government.

Is it possible that the Pakistani government wants only our money and has no interest in disarming al-Qaida and the Taliban?

The U.S. is paying a huge cost in blood and treasure in that area, and there are still people in the administration who consider Pakistan an ally.

But with Pakistan as an "ally," one thing is certain: With friends like this, the last thing we need is enemies.

Rich Scanlan, Baltimore

The writer is a retired CIA communications officer.

Surge enables Bush to evade his defeat

The editorial "Iraq maneuvers" (Sept. 10) asserts that what has made it possible to shift troops from Iraq to Afghanistan is the reduction in "the deplorable level of violence" in Iraq as a result, broadly speaking, of "the success of the administration's troop surge."

But reducing violence was supposed to be a means to an end - time for the Shiite-dominated government to build a democratic and safe Iraq.

But there's the rub. There is scant evidence that there has been any meaningful political reconciliation in Iraq, a fact acknowledged in the editorial's closing sentence: "The Iraqi leadership shows little interest in uniting the country."

Encouraging President Bush to insist that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki make nice, as this editorial does, is not going to change that. Since the surge began in January 2007, more than 1,000 (and counting) additional American troops have been killed, nearly 8,000 (and counting) have been wounded and we have spend more than $200 billion (and counting) in Iraq - and for what?

With the likely outcome, which has long been in sight, of this vain attempt at nation-building being an Iran-friendly Shiite government in Iraq that is more or less at war with its Sunni and Kurdish minorities and a vicious political struggle here at home over "Who Lost Iraq?" the lasting measure of the surge's success will be that President Bush may be allowed to ride off into the sunset saying that it didn't happen on his watch.

Michael Burns, Catonsville

Marine's death matters more than Mechanic

With no disrespect to the reporters on these stories who have no control over their placement, I think it is a sad day when an article on the first page of The Baltimore Sun addresses the status of the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre ("Landmark status ruling due for Mechanic Theatre," Sept. 11) and the paper relegates the death of a Marine in Afghanistan to Page 3A ("Marine dies in blast in Afghanistan," Sept. 11).

My heart goes out to the late Marine's family far more than it does a building.

Jay Block, Baltimore

Voters need to focus on issues of substance

In this election, whether or not Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin can be a vice president and a good mother at the same time is not an issue ("Obama hits 'phony' tactic," Sept. 11).

The fact that Mrs. Palin is a woman is not an issue. The only issue concerning Mrs. Palin should be whether she is experienced enough or knowledgeable enough to be president should John McCain die in office.

These are dangerous times. Some of the most important issues this country has ever faced may lie ahead of us.

This is not a time to let our decision-making be clouded by non-issues.

Paul Ciesla, Aberdeen

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