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Letters to the editor (part 2) - 5/11/03

May 12, 2003

Hardly a splendid little war



To the editor:


Now that the war in Iraq is all but over, the expected victory in hand and relief widespread amongst the coalition forces, it may seem inappropriate or irrevelant to mention anything negative about the war.

But there is a single tragedy among the many engendered by this campaign that I hope will not be forgotten. Not forgotten because it concerns a boy of 12. Not forgotten because it's most tragic when innocent children suffer at the hands of adults.

I first heard of him in Leonard Pitt's editorial in this paper. His name is Ali Ismaeel Abbis and he lost not only both of his arms during a missile attack in Baghdad, but his father, brother and five-months-pregnant mother as well.

Ali is one of the innocents that Pastor John Miller, in his letter to the editor, describes as necessarily "caught in the crosshairs" of this war - their losses outweighed by the many other innocents who will theoretically be saved by toppling Saddam.

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I have to wonder how Pastor John can be so sure that the certain numbers of collateral damage, like Ali and his family, would definitely be fewer in number. How can anyone be so certain of such things?

The U.S. government only perceived a threat to Americans, just as it perceived the existence of the yet to be found "weapons of mass destruction." It seems the very height of hubris to play God in this way, deciding it's OK to kill some people so, supposedly, others can live.

It doesn't take a crystal ball to guess how Ali and his family would feel about being considered an acceptable statistic to people living thousands of miles away - or how Pastor John would feel if the situations were reversed.

Ali has become something of a poster boy in the Middle East and Europe for American brutality. And as one of the primary goals of our present administration is to stop terrorism, one can only wonder how this one boy's tragedy, just one of many similar cases, might encourage further acts of terrorism against us.

People who have supported this war should consider this question: Would you be willing to fire the missle that devastated Ali's life? Or, more to the point, would you be willing to take a weapon and do this face to face? Perhaps this seems monstrous to even ask, and your reply might be that no one in their right mind would do this intentionally.

But this kind of carnage always happens in war, whether intentional or not. It's the very nature of war. And if you think this war was absolutely necessary then you should be willing to do it yourself.

And if you are willing to commit this kind of act, how different are you from Saddam? What difference does it make that the killing or maiming is done for differing ideological reasons? The end results are the same - innocent people like Ali suffer inhumanely.

Yes, Iraq will be free of Saddam, but who can say with absolute certainty what follows will be better? The fate of Ali was known before the first bomb fell; we just didn't know his name yet. It's my hope that Ali's travails will not have to be in vain, or engender more hatred. That this little boy, who hoped to be a doctor, will somehow heal the hardened hearts of the world and become the poster boy for the futility of war.

For until we view him and all God's children as the same, as one of us, there can never be a united family of man and there can never be peace. This seems to be the overriding message of Christianity, to forgive those who trespass against us, to love thine enemies. Christ's ministry came to replace the Old Testament's eye-for-an-eye mentality. Christians believe he was willing to die for the sake of others. What do you think he would want of us?

Dan Wallace
Williamsport




Qualified teachers: What a concept



To the editor:


The "No Child Left Behind" act forces upon this nation's reluctant education bureaucracies the need to professionalize the nation's teacher colleges.

In order to dramatically improve the quality of public education, the act requires that teachers have the academic preparation (i.e. subject matter mastery) in the subjects they teach.

Must-reading for anyone involved or interested in public education, particularly our superintendent of schools, the county commissioners, the teacher unions, and support organizations, are two reports commissioned by Nancy S. Grasmick, Maryland's Superintendent of Schools. They are:

"Aiming Higher - The Next Decade of Education Reform in Maryland," (62 pages).

"Achievement Matters Most," The Report of the Visionary Panel for Better Schools (111 pages)

These reports make very clear that for classroom teachers to be considered professional and for their credentials to have any meaning at all, they must subject themselves to "standard training" that has an "accountability mechanism" which makes sure the practitioner is working according to "standards." Doctors and lawyers are certified professionals and paid accordingly for that very reason.

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