Cakewalks and Quagmires

Michael Kinsley asks, "What will toppling [Saddam] Hussein ultimately cost in dollars and in lives (American, Iraqi, others)?" ["No Quagmire, but Still Some Questions," op-ed, April 11]. Kinsley suggests that an honest answer to this question forms part of the serious case against the war. But how can a dishonest question produce an honest answer?

In the absence of any rational means to estimate, answers must range between supporters' hopes for a cakewalk and opponents' fears of a quagmire.

Moreover, should we ignore the knowable costs in dollars and in lives of leaving Hussein in power and obsess instead about costs of a war we cannot predict?

The fear that many lives will be lost cannot deter us from fighting a necessary war, nor can hopes for a cakewalk ever be used to justify an unnecessary one.

-- Bill Bucksten

AIDS and Innocence

The April 12 Style article "Horseman of Fear" states, "When it comes to making metaphor out of epidemic disease, AIDS is impressive. If you're looking to blame the victim, AIDS wins out because -- unlike SARS or the bubonic plague -- it spreads in a selective fashion, based on easily defined behaviors, like sex."

Tell that to the child who got AIDS from his mother and the patient who contracted the virus from a blood transfusion. What was their "defined behavior"?

-- Charlie Murphy

Outlaw Embed

The Department of Defense takes great exception to a photograph depicting enemy prisoners of war that appeared on Page A33 of your April 10 War in Iraq section. The display of such pictures is a direct violation of the ground rules signed by reporters participating in the Department of Defense embedding program.

We take these rules seriously and consider this violation inexcusable. As a result, the Dallas Morning News photographer who took this picture was removed from the embedding program. The Department of Defense has made clear that "no photographs or other visual media showing an enemy prisoner of war or detainee's recognizable face, name tag or other identifying feature or item may be taken." These ground rules were established to protect service members and journalists, as well as captured enemy combatants.

-- Victoria Clarke

The writer is the assistant secretary

of defense for public affairs.

Devil-May-Care Hair

Desson Howe, in a review of the new movie "Anger Management" [Weekend, April 11], refers to Jack Nicholson's character as having "those Methuselah eyebrows and goatee." I did a quick check of Genesis in my Bible, and I can find no mention of Methuselah's eyebrows or beard. I don't doubt that Methuselah had a beard -- any man living for 969 years would get tired of shaving after a while -- but I cannot imagine him sporting a goatee. Considering the context of the phrase in Howe's review, I suspect the intended analogy should have been "those Mephistopheles eyebrows and goatee."

-- Donald Winans

Keep It in the Fairway

I strongly disagree with Al Friebe's letter [Free for All, April 12] that Steve Twomey made a good analogy between an increased distance in golf drives and an increase in temperature. Twomey just confused things by introducing the temperature analogy, and I suggest that the two letters ["Turbo Tee Shots"] you received on the subject prove my point. Who can relate to a 7 percent increase in temperature on the Rankine scale, whose zero point is minus 460 degrees Fahrenheit?

What Twomey should have told us in his original article [Outlook, April 6], but didn't, is that the average PGA tee shot in 1990 went 257 yards, and in 2002 it went 275 yards. These two distances are the basis for the increase of 18 yards, or 7 percent, and as the subject is golf and not climate, these distances, not temperatures, provide the proper context for deciding whether the increase is significant.

-- C. Bernard Barfoot