I read Bill Frist's op-ed column with increasing disbelief and dismay ["When War Is the Best Medicine," March 16].

It is staggering to me, a public health professional, that a physician (as in "first, do no harm") would suggest that preemptive war is a "nontraditional means of preventive care," especially considering the magnitude of death and destruction it will mean for millions of already oppressed Iraqi civilians.

How is war an effective way to destroy and eliminate the threat of stores of chemical and biological agents such as Frist describes? Could bombing ensure that these substances are destroyed? Wouldn't some be released in the ensuing destruction? Imagine vials of these horrific chemicals lying around in the postwar rubble. We have seen no discussion of any of the potential catastrophic effects of bombing facilities where these agents are being stored or manufactured, let alone any conclusive proof that such facilities still exist.

Frist exploits his dual role as doctor and legislator to engage in irresponsible fear-mongering. His implication that Saddam Hussein is tied to al Qaeda and Sept. 11 is based on no evidence but is clearly meant to amplify everyone's fear of chemical and biological warfare. These are shameless tactics to build support for this administration's otherwise indefensible positions.

-- Lin Kaatz Chary