Helena Cobban's July 21 column, "Next step in helping Iraqis: Set a withdrawal date," is one of the best cases I've seen yet, with a few qualifications.
Granted, space is tight, but Ms. Cobban made no mention of economic necessities, though it is equally probable that such considerations were contained under the "political" heading, which she stressed continually.
US withdrawal must encompass not only military and administrative elements, but US-based companies currently making a pretty penny off the occupation without producing much in return (Halliburton being the most obvious example). Since so little has been done, and so few resources directed toward reviving Iraq's devastated infrastructure and nonexistent economy, there is no reason to believe that the US government would have any interest in doing so in the future; therefore, withdrawal is a must if the Iraqi people are to restore any degree of functionality to their country.
The fact that the situation in Iraq is considered a political situation in the minds of some is the very reason why the Bush administration should not set a specific withdrawal date for US forces from Iraq.
First of all, announcing a withdrawal date would serve to give validity to the insurgency. Instead of reassuring the Iraqi people, a "speedy" US withdrawal would leave them with a sense of abandonment and fill them with even more resentment.
Secondly, President Reagan's withdrawal of US troops from Lebanon was a mistake. It served to make America a paper tiger in the mind of Osama bin Laden - evidence that at the first sign of difficulty and destruction, America would back down and withdraw. No amount of labeling ("redeployment offshore") will hide the obvious.
The US presence has brought stability to Iraq. While 152 Iraqis may have died in four major acts of violence in one week in July, I believe that the Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein. The true bloodbath occurred while Hussein was in power. To announce a date for departure would only increase the levels of violence in Iraq.
Michael A. Esparza
Virginia Beach, Va.
Your July 21 editorial, "What to Ask Nominee Roberts," was generally sensible, but one part displayed a glaring misconception of the Constitution.
You urged senators to "delve into [Roberts's] understanding of the court as an interpreter - not a maker - of law, and as a body that upholds constitutional rights, but doesn't create new rights not clearly in the Constitution ..."
In fact, there are lots of rights not mentioned in the Constitution. See Amendment IX: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
A more salient issue for the Supreme Court is distinguishing between rights and entitlements. Enjoying the enumerated right to free speech requires only that the state refrain from prior restraint. Enjoying the inferred right to abortion or "a decent home" or a "living wage" requires that someone else be dragooned into providing funds, materials, or labor for you. Those demand-on-others "rights" are quite different from the ones enumerated in the Bill of Rights.
Serious senators - which excludes the grandstanding leftists - should be asking nominees what they understand the concept of rights to entail, lest we invite more judicial invention of "rights" that in fact are claims on other citizens.
Clark T. Irwin
Cumberland Foreside, Maine
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