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United States: learning its lessons

The editorial ``Duarte's Day,'' May 16, appears to ignore the cost to the Salvadorean people of the US policy there. According to a May 8 mailing from CISPES (US Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador), a reliable organization, some horrifying things are still happening there, thanks to our military assistance. I do not question President Duarte's sincerity. But how can he bring about his projected reforms, including cracking down on the ``death squads,'' in the face of continued US military aid? Too many innocent people are being killed and losing their property because of US help. Mary S. King Vernon, Vt.

I would like to congratulate Joseph Harsch on his column entitled ``Lessons of Vietnam'' (April 16). Would that our leaders would read it too! The actions of the Reagan administration in Lebanon and Central America would seem to indicate that they need to. Our disengagement from Vietnam did not weaken us globally. It was our involvement there that drained us abroad and divided us at home. As Mr. Harsch says, ``Nothing could have better served the Soviet interest at that time than major US military involvement on the far side of the world from Europe.'' Our leaving Vietnam permitted us to recover. Let us resolve not to allow such involvements in the future. Jon-Christian Billigmeier Santa Barbara, Calif.

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Mr. Harsch, in the International Edition April 20-26, complains that the United States should never have fought a colonial war in Vietnam with conscripted troops from the homeland. True, but the US is not a colonial power, and had no source of local subjected forces like the British and the Romans.

On the basis of the domino doctrine, the US president of the day honored a promise made in the past. The US had no colonial experience -- like the French -- to handle a local dispute in that territory, but it acted politically in accordance with the declarations made in its Constitution. That suffering was experienced in the homeland as a result is secondary. Primary was the upholding of the ethics upon which the US was founded. It comes back to the lesson demonstrated in the Falklands war that professional forces are better suited than conscripted. John Blackford Schaan, Liechtenstein

I just finished reading Victoria Irwin's enlightening article [``Poverty burdens New York City's children,'' May 13]. That children in the US are still going hungry is a sad commentary. The final paragraph brought a tear to my eye when she told about these children contributing to the hungry children in Africa. It is a great thing for us to help other countries, but we must think of our own first. If the world is to survive, the children of the world must be cared for and nurtured; must be loved, fed, and clothed; and most important -- educated. But if a child is hungry and underclothed, how can he or she be expected to be attentive in school? Shirley B. Berg Detroit Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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