Gen. John P. Abizaid vows that we will "fight our way through the elections" in Iraq despite deteriorating conditions ["Growing Pessimism on Iraq," front page, Sept. 29].

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves what we hope to achieve with those elections, especially when Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, says to his countrymen, "January is coming, and you can be elected by the people, and then you can decide what you want -- whether you want the multinational force or whether you want to make Iraq an Islamic state, whether you want to elect [Osama] bin Laden, it's up to you" [front page, Sept. 26].

Although he was speaking to Iraqis and not to Americans, Mr. Allawi's words send us a clear message: If the fighting ceases, and the insurgents are brought into the political process, can we expect that they will support a government any more friendly to the United States than that of Saddam Hussein? Will the war have been worth more than 1,000 American lives and $200 billion?


New Market, Md.


The speech by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi before Congress did not go beyond the expected [front page, Sept. 24]. It contained no glint of imagination or creativity, elements that a postwar Iraq is going to need in large measures. Nothing in Mr. Allawi's speech was uniquely Iraqi; nothing indicated that it was not a Washington composition.

Mr. Allawi had nothing to say to Iraq's neighbors, with which Iraq will have to establish a modus vivendi. He had nothing for the exile community, which is waiting for a peaceful country before contemplating return. And Mr. Allawi had nothing to counter the insurgents' belief that he is an instrument of U.S. officials. Altogether, the speech was an opportunity lost.