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The True Cost of Military Spending

Regarding the opinion-page column "It Isn't Defense Spending That Bloats the Budget," June 7: The costs of military spending have been minimized on paper by hiding nuclear weapons under "energy" (instead of the solar and conservation we might imagine), slipping costs of past wars over to human services, and treating interest on national debt as an across-the-board and unrelated phenomenon, when actually the costs of war (cold or otherwise) have been the main reason for spending beyond tax revenues.Justification or criticism of spending of tax money should rest not only on dollars or percentages involved, but on the potential benefits. What benefits can be claimed from US defense spending of $5 trillion since the mid-1960s? The bottom line seems to be that while militarism may glorify generals, it fails to solve problems. William A. Calder, Crested Butte, Colo.

Raining on Gulf war parades Regarding Godfrey Sperling's opinion-page column "Misguided Rain on Victory Parades," June 11: I would like to offer my reasons for being a "parade-basher." Let me preface, however, by emphasizing the fact that I am a loyal fan of Mr. Sperling and appreciate his consistently balanced and insightful columns. I consider myself to be one of the many Americans who managed to support our troops while maintaining my firm opposition to President Bush's decision to go to war. Nevertheless, news of the war's quick and decisive ending made me just as happy as any other American. But in addition to boosting public morale, the war also took the lives of some 100,000 Iraqis and aggravated an already unstable situation for the Kurds in northern Iraq. I'm all for giving our troops a warm homecoming, but I'm not sure I see the logic behind spending millions of dollars on spectacular parades in both Washington and New York to commemorate an event that, for the vast majority of people involved, proved to be a devastating experience. Wouldn't it be great if, some day, Americans elected a president who decided to commit $1 billion a day (the cost of the Gulf war) to solving the myriad of domestic problems confronting us year in and year out? And wouldn't it be great if, some day, Americans decided to hold ticker-tape parades in cities throughout the country in honor of the men and women who have committed their lives to eradicating crime, illiteracy, poverty, drug abuse, and so on? It's a shame we haven't got something besides a war t o celebrate. Eric D. Nelson, Poway, Calif.

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The column's criticism of those who questioned the wisdom of going to war and those who felt that too much victory celebration was uncalled for betrays a basic misunderstanding of the principles of free speech in a democracy. The fact that critics of victory parades are in the minority doesn't necessarily make their opinions wrong. As we begin to gain some distance from the shooting war in the Gulf, we need to continue to ask the questions that might prevent our involvement in another war. Was the war really such a victory? From the military standpoint there is little doubt, but what have the positive results been? We must ask ourselves questions about the tragic environmental damage and the terrible loss of life. Many Americans feel that using war to settle international problems is wrong and will only lead to other wars. Some believe the money spent on too many parades could have been better spent on dealing with some of America's difficult domestic problems. Standing up for the principles you believe in is never wrong. Daniel W. Schiavone, Ketchum, Idaho

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