December 13, 2008

Learning the lessons of failed war in Iraq

When it comes to President Bush's invasion of Iraq, we must resist the president's continuing efforts to rewrite history ("Bush sees Mideast 'freer, more hopeful,'" Dec. 6).

Facing the truth is too important to ignore his distortions. The realities are that:

* By invading an Arab nation that had nothing to do with 9/11 or international terrorism, President Bush has, ironically, become the greatest recruiter of terrorists since the Crusades.

* The war, now nearly 6 years old, continues to be tragically costly in terms of life, limbs and money for the United States - costs our country and casualties will pay for years to come.

* The invasion of Iraq has unleashed the killing and maiming of untold numbers of Iraqis - mostly civilians. * The Iraq war has diverted our attention from the war against terrorism and has sapped our strength to pursue it.

That's a grim picture, for sure, but one that must be faced squarely if we are going to learn from our mistakes.

The lessons are, first, that the idea that America has the wisdom and capacity to dictate by war how another nation is to be ruled must forever be held in the contempt it so richly deserves. Enough with playing God. That's a form of idolatry that neither the United States nor the world can afford.

Second, when important national decisions are at stake - such as starting a war - it is better to level with the American people than to deceive them.

We are now paying, and will continue to pay, a huge price for invading an Arab nation that is foreign to us in so many respects.

However, if we can identify and remember the error of our ways, perhaps we can avoid such tragic stupidity in the future and get on with the kind of leadership that represents America's greatness.

Let the lesson of the president's Iraq war be: Never again.

Taylor McLean, Baltimore

College is too late to begin to offer care

As a college professor, I was grateful to see an article focusing on the mental health challenges of young adults ("Young adults hit by mental health issues" Dec. 2). However, as a parent of three children, I think it is simplistic to assume that it is merely the "stressful transition from adolescence to adulthood" that is responsible for these challenges.

Data reported by the National Center for Children in Poverty suggest that more than 20 percent of children have a diagnosable mental disorder and that they often display the symptoms as early as ages 7 to 11.

Parents, teachers and schools need better systems of care to serve children earlier so major mental health problems can be averted.

College should not be the first time a troubled young person can walk into a counseling center and ask for help.

We should be developing these opportunities earlier, educating parents and school personnel about what to look for, decreasing the stigma attached to mental health problems, and building systems of support so children and their families can quickly and easily get the assistance they need.

Patricia Hrusa Williams, Towson

The writer is an assistant professor of family studies and community development at Towson University.

Another option for opera lovers

I read with sadness that the Baltimore Opera Company is filing for bankruptcy protection ("Baltimore Opera seeks Chapter 11 shelter," Dec. 9). This is bad news for everyone in Baltimore, even those who are not opera fans, as an institution like the Baltimore Opera provides stability for many local musicians, singers, craftsman and artistic staff members who serve our community in innumerable ways.

But the comment in the article suggesting that "this may mean that opera is finished in Baltimore" needs correction.

Baltimore has another extraordinary opera company.

Opera Vivente, now in its 11th year, has garnered consistent critical praise for its productions, and audiences have voted with a subscription renewal rate of nearly 100 percent. It will be offering two productions in the spring.

While we all hope that the Baltimore Opera returns next season, opera lovers hungry for great opera this spring might want to take a look at Opera Vivente, a less widely known Baltimore gem.

Steven Goodman, Baltimore

The writer is a member of the board of Opera Vivente.

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