"Peaceful change" may be the purported topic of the April 8 news story "For Some, Syria Looms as Next Goal," but the story sounds more like a summation of Pentagon threats. Richard Perle is quoted as saying, "We're not going to make war on the world for democracy," while also saying, "I hope the example of Iraq after Afghanistan will prove persuasive."

That sounds like a threat to me.

Doesn't anyone have a problem with the Pentagon making foreign policy? Don't we have a State Department? Pentagon threats send a sinister signal to a world already suspicious of American intentions.

JAMES R. KNAUB JR.

Arlington

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An April 13 front-page headline said, "Confused Start, Decisive End." Farther down the page I read about the Bush administration emerging "triumphant from a war in Iraq that faced heavy opposition from across the globe." On the same page, The Post reported the destruction of the National Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad, one of the greatest archaeological museums in the world.

According to the Hague and Geneva conventions, an occupying power is responsible for protecting a country's cultural heritage. Sumerian and other treasures that survived Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Arab, Mongol, Ottoman and British invasions have been destroyed. It happened on our watch.

The museum director quoted in the story said she believed that a few Marines could have kept looters at bay. If this constitutes emerging triumphant with a decisive end, I dread what comes next.

TOM GREENE

Bethesda

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Why is The Post so sure ["The Arab Opportunity," editorial, April 11] that the Arabs of Iraq will be against normalizing relations with Israel -- especially once they see that resentment of Israel was one method the government used to channel their frustration away from the regime?

Now that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power, what makes The Post so sure that antagonism toward Israel is still Iraq's main goal? Normalization of relations with Israel would be a good thing, although The Post seems to think otherwise.

BEN NIDUS

Malden, Mass.

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Like Nancy Fish [Metro, April 9], I'm a "product of the '60s." I wore long dresses and beads then, but I also wore a uniform and combat boots as an Army nurse who served two tours in intensive care units in Vietnam. After seeing so much devastation, I too turned against war and marched as a civilian in peace demonstrations during my year home. I returned to the Army and to Vietnam for a second tour because even though I opposed the war, I supported the troops.

What I found demoralizing then was not the protests (though I was spat on and called names during one of my returns) but the lies from the military (casualty counts that were lower than the numbers we had seen in my hospital alone), the human devastation no 21-year-old should have to witness and the incongruity of a nation that said it was fighting for freedom but would tell protesters, "America, love it or leave it."

I supported the Persian Gulf War because I felt that it was necessary to throw out the invader and that President George H.W. Bush waged a limited war with a broad coalition of nations to achieve that goal. But I have opposed this war and the manner in which it was implemented.

President George W. Bush slapped allies in the face with his "you're either with us or against us" rhetoric. He turned us into an invader nation and opened the road to preemptive strikes worldwide.

If there is any shame, it is not on our men and women in uniform but on those who sent them off to a preemptive war.

PATRICIA

HILL-VANDERMOLEN

Leesburg