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Minorities, Lower Classes Bear the Burden of War

The editorial ``War, Class, and National Service,'' Nov. 20, brings to mind images of the imminent carnage that will befall the Mexican-American community if we go to war with Iraq. During the Vietnam conflict, Mexican-Americans made up 5 percent of the total US population but we suffered 20 percent of the casualties. A war in the Gulf would be twice as detrimental; our share of the population has almost doubled since Vietnam. Mexican-Americans, as well as other Hispanic groups, have distinguished themselves fighting US wars. Are we expected to perform in the same manner in the Gulf conflict? Will we suffer 40 percent of the casualties because we continue to be denied the same opportunities as more fortunate, lighter-skinned, and better politicized groups? Is this the equality our leaders speak of?

The Mexican press tells a frightening tale. Estimates suggest that close to 50 percent of the front-line infantrymen are of Mexican or other Hispanic origin. May God have mercy on us. Victor M. Macias, El Paso, Texas

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There is a notable difference between the conflict we are facing and the war in Vietnam. Today our military is filled with volunteers and career people. Educational levels, training, and military professionalism have all improved. In Vietnam, the majority of those who served were conscripted. It was relatively easy for the upper-middle class to join the Coast Guard or National Guard or obtain a deferment. I felt so strongly about this inequality that I gave up my teaching job and volunteered for service. I don't feel the same way about the Gulf conflict since those who are serving are knowledgeable about their purpose, their mission, and the risks they face. Bob Chernow, River Hills, Wis.

We cannot say that we are acting from principle in going to war if we are being unprincipled in the way the burdens and sacrifices required by war are assigned almost exclusively to the poor and lower-middle class. A war is either justifiable or it is not. If war is justifiable, then the sacrifices must be shared by all classes. Vietnam is a perfect example of a war in which the wealthy, privileged, and influential were virtually exempt because of the ``porous'' draft cited in the article. The poor, alas, are always called upon to defend the American way of life, the privileged qualities of which most have never experienced and are unlikely to experience in the future.

In wartime there are those who reap fortunes from the misery of those who make sacrifices. If we could take the profit out of war and devise a method whereby most of the persons who vote for war (elected representatives) would be obliged to share the perils of war (possibly as front line observers), then they would judge more carefully whether war was necessary and take into closer consideration the peril facing Americans and their way of life. Tom Doherty, Cedar, Mich.

Rough seas for US-Israeli relationship The article ``Crisis of Trust Cools US-Israeli Ties,'' Nov. 19, accurately portrays the ebbing US-Israeli relationship caused by US recognition that Israel's utility as a cold war ally has been obsolesced by the end of the cold war. Israel can hardly qualify as the strategic cornerstone of regional security when virtually no other country will cooperate with it as a partner. However, the article fails to explain why American policymakers continue to subsidize Israel at a cost of over $3 billion annually. If Israel really cannot play a useful regional security role, what are Americans paying for? Edward A. Olsen, Salinas, Calif.

The article suggests that America is pulling away from its warm support of Israel. Not so. After the US delayed the composition and issuance of a resolution condemning the Oct. 5 Temple Mount massacre in order to make it as benign as possible without losing the support of its allies, the US intervened and had Israel accept an envoy of Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar rather than a formal independent UN investigative team. Meanwhile Arieeh Bibi, the local Jerusalem police chief in charge at the time of the massacre, resigned only to be promoted to a national position. The US also promised to resume its policy of vetoing any UN resolution critical of Israel. Richard Bates Harris, Leominster, Mass.

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