Saturday Mailbox


September 29, 2007

Columbia finally creates a dialogue

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger was right to invite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak ("Iranian president gets hot reception," Sept. 25).

As a Jew, I think, of course, that Mr. Ahmadinejad is either ignorant or belligerent when he denies the Holocaust and calls for Israel's destruction; as an American, of course, I am skeptical and anxious about Mr. Ahmadinejad's claim that his country's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

In that light, when he said that Iran "love[s] all nations" and is "friends with the Jewish people," I can only smile wryly and shake my head.

However, these statements and possible falsehoods in no way lead me to condemn Columbia University, as many in New York and across the country have done, for giving this controversial figure a platform.

I would hope that our imbroglio in Iraq demonstrates the folly of rushing headlong toward reliance on military options and that North Korea's impending disarmament would show the success diplomatic initiatives can have.

In this light, the Bush administration's refusal to open a real dialogue with Iran, and its advocacy of sanctions against that country without such a dialogue, is alarming and morally irresponsible.

With American troops already overcommitted in Iraq and Afghanistan, we cannot afford to avoid diplomatic overtures to Iran the way we did in Iraq.

I, for one, am thankful that Mr. Bollinger and Columbia were insightful enough to start doing the diplomatic legwork President Bush is either unwilling or unable to do.

Michael Chapper


Burns underscores the ravages of war

I hope everyone in the United States over age 13 has been watching Ken Burns' series on World War II on PBS this week ("Moments of quiet storytelling hold real drama," Sept. 23). This television series will make you feel patriotic, and it may also make you furious.

One veteran noted at the beginning of the documentary that he felt there were no really good wars but there were necessary wars. He said he still believes World War II was a necessary war.

The way this series makes the participants in World War II come alive, even as some die and never come home, underscores the incredible waste of youth and life we are enduring now in the war in Iraq.

The war we are in now was never a necessary war.

It began with an arrogant and ignorant president and vice president, who lied again and again to the American public about the reasons to go to war.

We have helped create millions of refugees in Iraq. Under our watch, the horrors of Abu Ghraib prison occurred.

We spend about $1.3 billion a day on defense, while our children are worse off than those in any other industrialized country except Great Britain and our president is about to veto a bill that would provide health care to uninsured children because he says it costs too much.

The thousands of American lives lost and the tens of thousands of lives lost by Iraqis as a result of this war, the children growing up without their fathers and mothers, the failed marriages, the horribly injured whose lives have been shattered - all of these things may clearly be laid at our president's doorstep.

It's time to focus our collective fury upon this president and the people in Congress who keep him in control - mostly Republicans but some Democrats, too.

It's too late to impeach Mr. Bush.

But it's not too late to throw everyone who has supported him out in the next election.

Laurie Taylor-Mitchell


Repairing Rosewood really is essential

Keeping the Rosewood Center open is essential ("Legislators tour Rosewood Center," Sept. 26).

It may not be essential to the powers-that-be in Maryland; nevertheless, it is essential to those who are residents and those who call the center's residents "my daughter," "my son," "my niece," "my nephew," "my cousin" or "my friend."

For my family, the resident has been living at Rosewood for 33 years. She is profoundly retarded.

If the state closes Rosewood instead of making the necessary repairs, what would happen to such residents?

Has anyone in the politically driven world of money and power thought for one split-second about the families of the residents some political leaders appear to want simply to put someplace else?

Many of Maryland's residents lack the financial resources to place their disabled children in private facilities. They have no choice but to rely on the state.

And they should not have to be put through the state's periodic toying with the lives and locations of their children in its debates over the future of Rosewood.

If my visits to Rosewood to see my cousin have taught me one thing that has carried over to my own life, it is how blessed I am to have a healthy mind and body and how even more blessed I was to have four healthy children of my own and one healthy grandson.

Although mental disabilities cannot be fixed, the Rosewood Center can.

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