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Leadership and the Future of Congo

Regarding the article "Patience Is Required in Congo" (June 2). I agree with the argument that the Democratic Republic of the Congo should be given time to initiate national elections. The war-torn country is indeed ill-prepared for elections. Last fall my company was approached by former President Mobutu Sese Seko's reform-minded, Western-oriented son, Nzanga, who wanted assistance to prepare for national elections.

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Seven months ago, at the beginning of the uprising, many influential world leaders still regarded Mobutu as the only man who could save Zaire from ethnic warfare. We urged Mobutu to begin a number of serious reforms, including cooperation with international humanitarian relief efforts and the incorporation of the opposition party leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, into the current government as prime minister. As rebels mounted victory upon victory against Mobutu's forces, his regime was revealed to be a paper tiger. We advocated direct talks with the rebels. Our counsel fell upon deaf ears.

Now that Mobutu has fled, it falls upon President Kabila to govern Congo. The world is watching with hope for a broad-based coalition of political forces to take part in the transitional government before national elections are held in 1999. With proper leadership, Congo can seize the opportunity to make significant contributions to regional security. The new era offers possibilities, but no guarantees, of historic progress for the country and the region. Ethnic divisions, the Belgian colonial legacy, and Mobutu's own shortcomings leave Congo unprepared for a smooth and rapid transition to democratic ways. But the goal is worth pursuing, and for the United States, it is worth supporting.

Edward J. von Kloberg, III


Washington World Group

A matter of duty and honesty

The article "New Backlash Against an Old Sin" (May 22) dealing with the Kelly Flinn dilemma illustrates how the news media incorrectly focused on the adultery issue, ignoring the important fact that Flinn disobeyed a direct order and perjured herself.

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As a former member of the military, I can testify that we learned from the first days of training the importance of obeying an order. This woman was not a teenager - she had been to the Air Force academy and was given the responsibility to handle nuclear weapons. Ms. Flinn disobeyed orders and falsified the truth, that is why she was discharged.

Dee James

Tionesta, Pa.

Incorrect gender

Your book review "Women and the War Story" (June 11) attributes to "a German woman, Erich Maria Remarque," authorship of the 1929 antiwar classic "All Quiet on the Western Front." Wrong gender. In reality, Remarque was a male German soldier in World War I. He left his homeland for Switzerland in 1932, a year before the Nazis condemned his novel to public burning. He came to America in 1939, was naturalized in 1947, and married actress Paulette Goddard in 1958.

Ted Berkman

Santa Barbara, Calif.

Uplifting photographs

Every few years there is a rare moment in photo journalism. Two such images of special note are Dorothea Lange's pictures of a dust bowl mother and her children, and a young Vietnamese girl running naked, having torn off her clothes to get rid of chemical agents. Those fleeing moments that will stay with us forever are joined by a photo of an American officer shielding a young African from the roar of a helicopter "American Rescue of African Orphans" (June 4). I hope I don't get tired of looking at it.

Unfortunately, there are many in the United States who, like Timothy McVeigh, think men like the one in this picture deserve to be killed for working in the federal government. Would that Mr. McVeigh had been protected like that little girl.

Thomas Gallant

Town & Country, Mo.

Letters must include your address and telephone number. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617 -450-2317, or e-mail (200 words max.) OPED@CSPS.COM.

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