How dismal and disappointing was the "essay" by Hank Stuever on last weekend's peace rally and march ["The Art of Peace," Style, Jan. 20].

Not because of the substance of it, because there was none, but rather because the writer and your editors saw fit to denigrate and devalue the importance of the issue itself (possible war involving most of the world) and the process by which such matters are confronted and debated in a democracy by running a cutesy, (used to be) hip, cynical detachment piece. This style of writing was ubiquitous for much of the 1990s -- real life as entertainment, existing for our observation and dismissive comment, but having no inherent value. Does real life involve actually caring about anything? Not if you're on the informed inside.

Reasonable people can conclude that a preemptive war is necessary to prevent a larger confrontation later, or that it will leave decades of backlash more harmful than anything it helps to avoid. They can work to influence policy in one direction or the other through a variety of means.

But an essay that suggests that engaging on the issue is cliche, that caring is goofy and that the knowing response to the most profound issues of our time is to passively watch while occasionally lobbing wisecracks as the history of the world is unfolding for our entertainment, is astoundingly corrosive.

-- Alan S. Larsen

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Hank Stuever is better than every one of the hundreds of thousands of people protesting war with Iraq.

Protesting war? How last millennium. Why would they care about changing the world when they could be home watching reruns about changing their living rooms?

He's so cynical that he pokes fun at nuns praying for parking.

He's so hip that he uses "hep." He takes a sneering and disdainful view of a movement that lacks his fashionable cachet.

Your paper shouldn't demean citizens practicing democracy.

-- Gail Martin

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In his recent rant against the novelist John le Carre for le Carre's antiwar views [op-ed, Jan. 23], Richard Cohen exemplifies the madness that has gripped Washington over a possible war with Iraq when he defiantly asks of le Carre, "If there is an argument to be made against a war with Iraq, then what is it?"

Truly we have entered the twilight zone when the question posed presupposes that war -- and not peace -- is the normative state and that only a highly persuasive argument can change the inevitable.

Someone needs to remind Cohen that despite what emanates from the Bush White House, the justification for war with Iraq is not a zero-sum game. Nor should the justification for war ever be allowed to succeed simply by default.

-- Vincent E. Cobb

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George F. Will ["Holdovers From the '60s," op-ed, Jan. 23] heaps gratuitous insults upon opponents of war with Iraq, and then accuses them of being unable to mount "a critique that rises above rock lyrics and name-calling." I would hope that Will's elegant vocabulary includes the word "disingenuous," because he certainly exemplifies it.

Contrary to Will's typically disrespectful (and increasingly tiresome) denigration of those with whom he disagrees, plenty of well-reasoned arguments can be made against the Bush administration's rush to war. And whether Will likes it or not, those arguments are resonating. As your paper's own poll indicated this week, opposition to attacking Iraq is increasing steadily, to the point where 41 percent of Americans are against it.

-- Patrick J. Kiger

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I have to laugh at Michael Kelly's characterization of last Saturday's antiwar demonstration as marching "with the Stalinists" [op-ed, Jan. 22]. A large demonstration will always bring out as many reasons to protest as there are protesters, so the odd individual who compares George Bush to Adolf Hitler or tries to defend Palestinian terror bombing shouldn't be a surprise in so large a crowd. I don't know if Kelly watched the march, but I can tell him that while I saw no images of Joe Stalin in the crowd, I did see many of Martin Luther King Jr., met a veteran of World War II and even read one sign that went something like "Conservatives Against the War." If Kelly can only fault the 100,000 Americans willing to rally in the bitter cold by resorting to the tired guilt by association, then it shows just how broad-based and mainstream the antiwar movement has become.

-- Dennis Wallick

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Michael Kelly feels that anyone who does not share his bloodlust has to be a commie. That is so '50s! He should stop watching black-and-white TV and get into the new millennium. If the commie name-calling doesn't spur the country to support his fascism, will he start calling his critics witches?

-- Thomas Haskin