The Nov. 20 editorial "Irresponsible on Iraq" was right to call for a more informed debate on the war.

However, it is far from certain that an early withdrawal of U.S. forces could allow al Qaeda to "establish a base for attacking the United States and its allies" from Iraq, as the editorial claimed.

A Nov. 17 front-page story reported that foreign fighters appear to make up only a small percentage of the insurgents. Could it be that Abu Musab Zarqawi is more effective at getting publicity than at fighting? And does this administration not have a vested interest in exaggerating his role?

It's true that Iraq is "in danger of splitting into pieces" and that a new dictatorship (run by our Shiite allies?) could emerge, but is preventing that worth the United States having to commit "its own forces to the fight for years"?

We need to decide if our national security interests in Iraq justify thousands of more deaths and injuries.




The Nov. 20 editorial was spot-on. My only comment is that when Congress authorizes this or any other president to use deadly force, it needs to take ownership of and responsibility for the resulting U.S. and foreign deaths. (Let's underscore that Congress has not made a formal declaration of war since World War II.)

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth when a Senate or House member votes to authorize the use of force but declines to declare war, and then spends months or years claiming to have been misled. The taste is even worse if the lawmaker didn't take the time to read or be adequately briefed on the basis for taking military action.




As a fellow former Marine, Vietnam veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart, I applaud the decision of Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) to call for a withdrawal of American troops from a deadly fool's errand in Iraq [front page, Nov. 18].

Like Mr. Murtha -- and unlike the drum-beaters who seek to disparage him -- I remember all too painfully how more than half of the 59,000 people whose names are on the Vietnam Memorial were killed during the five years that it took the "best and brightest" of that era to find political and diplomatic fig leaves big enough to hide the bankruptcy of their policies, to cover our nation's retreat from their ill-conceived and misdirected crusade, and to insulate themselves from public accountability.

So, along with Mr. Murtha, I listen to the bellicose stay-the-course platitudes of this administration's lapel-pin patriots and I wonder how many more of our nation's heroes will needlessly sacrifice their lives, limbs, sanity and souls.


Cedar Grove, N.J.