I was astonished to read Marik A. String's Oct. 13 Opinion piece, "How a hurricane fueled German politics." I voted for Gerhard Schröder; he is a great statesman, and he is not a man to support anti-American tendencies.
What Mr. Schröder did is this: He said "no" to the war in Iraq, like most Germans still do, because we do not feel compassion only for the people of America, but also for the people of Iraq. Do you call it "anti-American" to have a different opinion on war than the president of the United States?
Mr. String writes that the Katrina catastrophe "provoked such a political display of schadenfreude, anger, and German pride." This is not true at all, and it really hurt my feelings. He quotes the Tageszeitzung, saying a columnist felt happy that hurricane Katrina hit the US. I am ashamed of such sentiment, which would not have been found in a customary German newspaper. Why didn't the author quote a serious newspaper like the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Zeit, or the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung? Everybody in Germany I talked to was deeply concerned when we heard of the terrible floods in New Orleans, and our government offered help instantaneously when the catastrophe was first reported in our news.
In the quoted debate, it was not Mr. Schröder's intention to criticize America, but to make clear what Germany should not do if struck by a similar catastrophe.
In response to the Oct. 12 article, "Many big visions for new Big Easy": Please remember that the flooding in New Orleans from hurricane Katrina was in large part a man-made disaster. It is all too simple to think that not building in the lower areas of the city, or building the levees higher or stronger, will solve the problem.
The barrier islands need to be allowed to regenerate; perhaps the levee system, which caused great changes in the Mississippi River, needs to be rethought.
The levees themselves may be partly responsible for the city's continual ground subsidence. Please do not forget to factor the environment into the equation when rebuilding New Orleans.
S. Patricia Cole
Regarding Helena Cobban's Oct. 13 Opinion piece, "In Iraq, a rush toward democracy could trigger civil war": It might be well to remember that Americans, living under our great federal Constitution - devised by a group of the wisest, most thoughtful men ever assembled - had its bloodiest war to determine if it could endure as one nation.
The United States required its Civil War to settle its ideological differences. Are the ideological differences in Iraq relatively less important? Not to Iraqis.
The evidence that there will not be a peaceful outcome is now overwhelming. Indeed, some observers think the civil war, whose causes were suppressed by Saddam Hussein, is already underway. Civil war in Iraq is unavoidable and may be necessary. It will not be avoided by passage of the constitution.
The United States should leave now and give its support to the neutral humanitarian organizations (the UN, the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders...) that will do what they can to comfort and treat the sick and dying and be available to do the mediation when the two sides are exhausted.
R. E. Reinert
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