Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

September 15, 2007

Progress in Iraq will prove fleeting

Reports of "progress" in Iraq - and really, the claim is about progress in one province - deserve our skepticism ("`Uneven' progress in Iraq," Sept. 11).

Here's what some of the approximately $3 billion per week the United States is spending on the war in Iraq is doing:

We are now giving money and military aid to Sunni militias who were insurgents. In return, they have done two things: First, they have forced many of the Shiites out of Anbar province, and second, they are fighting al-Qaida.

Many of the Shiites are living in refugee camps without clean water or other necessities.

U.S. soldiers are safer in this one province. But many Iraqis are not.

On the first day of Gen. David Petraeus' congressional testimony, ABC News released a poll of 2,212 Iraqis.

Here are some of the results:

70 percent of Iraqis believe the U.S. increase in the number of its forces in Baghdad and surrounding provinces in the past six months has made "security in areas where these forces have been sent" worse; 18 percent say the situation is better.

47 percent of Iraqis say U.S. and other coalition forces should "leave now" from Iraq; 34 percent say they should "remain until security is restored"; 10 percent say they should "remain until the Iraqi government is stronger."

Twenty years ago, we were allied with Saddam Hussein because he was the enemy of our enemy - Iran.

Twenty-five years ago, we were allied with Osama bin Laden and other mujahedeen because they were the enemies of our enemy - the Soviet Union.

Perhaps in a few years, one of the sheiks we are "reconciling" with in Anbar province today will be blowing up our cities or beheading little girls who want to attend school.

If Congress truly represents the interests of U.S. citizens, it will provide further funds only to withdraw our troops, not to continue this war.

Charlie Cooper

Baltimore

Bottles a burden to state waterways

Congratulations to St. Paul's School for Girls for its "Green School" status and its efforts to limit the purchase and use of plastic water bottles ("Green is now routine at Brooklandville school," Sept. 8).

People would be surprised to see how many plastic bottles make their way into our rivers and streams and then out into the bay and the ocean.

Plastic bottles last for hundreds of years in the environment without degrading, and once discarded, they can leach toxic chemicals or injure or kill marine animals.

The bottles thrown away instead of recycled clog up our landfills.

With Americans so concerned about oil and gas prices, we should remember that one ton of recycled plastic can save 685 gallons of oil - so recycling bottles does good all around.

I hope Maryland will soon join the states that require deposits on plastic bottles as a means of preventing them from being thrown away - and they are being thrown onto our streets.

Last September, in a one-day event sponsored by the International Coastal Cleanup, more than 6,000 bottles were picked up in Maryland alone.

And I'm sure there will be lots of bottles to clean up this year.

Geri Jaron Schlenoff

Towson

The writer is Maryland coordinator for the International Coastal Cleanup.

Some students just don't care to learn

I was an assistant principal at Loch Raven High School with more than 30 years' experience in the Baltimore County public schools when the ill-conceived High School Assessment testing program was born.

I said immediately that the tests would never be required for graduation in their original form.

Over the years, the tests have been watered down in an attempt to help more students pass them.

Yet recent costly studies by the Maryland State Department of Education have indicated (as anyone with a clue could have predicted 10 years ago) that many minority students still do poorly on the tests ("Blacks in suburbs failing Md. exams," Sept. 6).

This is not a racial issue per se.

There are numerous factors that influence academic success, including genetics, in-utero health issues, early childhood environment and (most of all) culture.

However, the words of two students from New Town High School quoted in the article sum up the problem best.

As one 15-year-old put it, teachers provide opportunities but, as The Sun paraphrased his position, "students don't take them seriously."

Another 16-year-old hit the nail directly on the head when he stated: "Some kids just don't care."

Dennis Sirman

Selbyville, Del.

Selective schools have built-in edge

One problem with reporting the High School Assessment test data to the public is that people such as the writer of the letter "Technical schools shine on the exams" (Sept. 9) may use that data to make ill-founded arguments.

The writer praises the test results of the technical schools in Baltimore County and implies that the reason other schools do not do as well is that the faculty at the technical schools is superior and uses better teaching methods.

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