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Coming face to face with war

To the Editors,

Last Friday, I watched something so moving and pertinent to our current national dialogue that I wanted share it.

The program was PBS’ “Bill Moyer,” and the subject was a documentary directed by Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue called “The Body of War.” It is the story of a 24-year-old Iraq veteran, Thomas Young, who came home paralyzed.

Regardless of politics, I feel this program touches on the truth of what has happened and continues to happen concerning the Iraq war, even though, according to major media outlets, the public is not interested in hearing it. For the third year in a row, Britney Spears is the No. 1 hit on the internet and in the news. Yet the tragedy of this war, the total disregard for the law, and arrogance toward accountability by our elected representatives gets sporadic sound bites and meaningless committee hearings. We had the fifth anniversary of the start of the war last week, and since the recent sex scandals were so good for the bottom line, a few days of war headlines were given the green light (but kept short, and nothing depressing … focus on the money.) The kids fighting this war are the age of my children, and the age of my friends’ children; our sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and each of their friends. A lot of them, like Thomas Young, signed up for the service believing they were fighting to protect this country. These were not kids who had no other choices but military service. They signed up because they were committed to going after the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks. But the leaders of this country let them down, and we, their parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends let them down. It never occurred to them they would be used in such a needless and senseless manner. They were KIDS. We, on the other hand, lived through Vietnam, Nixon, Kissinger and Gen. Westmoreland.

When I watched this program and saw Sen. Robert Byrd in October 2002 raging about the prospect of war and facing the C-SPAN camera on the Senate floor and pleading with the American people to contact their representatives to stop war authorization, I could not help but choke up. So many voices drumming the beat of war, and so few pleading to stop and debate what it would mean. All neatly packaged and carried out just a few weeks before election. And as we now know, the majority did not even read the intelligence on whether the claims of imminent harm were justified. Fool me once ... the saying goes.

When leaders like Putin or Kim Jong II or China’s Hu Jintao do something atrocious, we rightfully cast the responsibility at them and their accompanying leaders, as we know the people of those countries have little control of those officials. But when the world sees what America does, how our leaders act, they know that it is by the will of the American people. They know WE are responsible for our leaders. We are the great democracy, and we give consent when we elect and re-elect people who carry out our own atrocities. This may have started as Bush’s war, but this became our war in 2004 and will remain our war until we demand an end.

I probably should not send this now, since I learned a long time ago from my mentors that you never send a letter when you are upset … you wait some time and see if you still feel the same way. But on this issue, I feel we need to feel emotion, and we need to speak emotionally because we need to be heard. I believe the vast majority of Americans would feel revulsion and shame if they truly understood what action our government has taken with our permission. And not only for the American lives lost, but for the people in Iraq who have lost everything and still live in fear.

But many Americans do not understand and still believe that Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attacks and that they had WMDs. They still cannot believe their government would deceive an entire population, the majority of Congress and the national press into going to war. Maybe they still believe it because we have not said to them it was not true.

The link to the program is: http: //www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/index-flash.html

Please watch it and pass it along to anyone you know. Whether they agree with the premise for the war or not, I feel we should all have to face what this war has done.

– Kurt Schneider, Durango

Cheney’s ‘so what?’ attitude

Dear Editors,

When VP Dick Cheney was asked by a reporter what he thought aobut the fact that two-thirds of Americans think it was wrong to go to war against Iraq, he replied, “So?” I bet he would also say “so?” to the following: 4,000 troops have been killed, more than 20,000 injured, and billions of dollars spent on five years of war with no end in sight. Longer than WWII.

His daughter and the Bush twins have not joined the service or gone on USO tours to support the troops. His answer “so?” The government has not asked Americans to give up anything to support the war, have they? So?

So, we need to get out of Iraq ASAP ... So when you vote, think about it and vote for someone who will get us out or better yet move to enact the draft with no exemptions. Then it will end.

– Bob Battani, veteran, Durango

Wager benefits community

Dear Editors:

As reported in recent published letters, features and columns, my Global Warming Challenge hinges on whether the world will warm or cool by 2017. I am betting on cooling, while Dr. Richard Grossman wagers it will warm. Naturally, the offering stimulated vigorous public exchanges of opinion. It also produced a $10,000 contribution to Durango Nature Studies (DNS). Dr. Grossman and I have made our respective contributions. With the help of the Community Foundation of Southwest Colorado, the funds will promote the continuity and expansion of DNS programs. The DNS Vision Statement says the program “inspires a positive personal relationship with our natural world through outdoor learning, thereby promoting enhanced respect for nature.” The contributions will help children learn about and enjoy the natural world. I am delighted by this development and look forward to reporting periodically on how the Earth’s temperature is doing.

The wager period begins at a time when the Earth has cooled rapidly over the past year and is for now at the same temperature as the early 1940s. While such cooling is unusual, it is not unprecedented and should not be taken as a sign of a new climate trend. More significant is the fact that air temperatures have flatlined for more than 10 years. “Global warming” eked out a statistical 0.01 degree surface temperature increase over the last decade (HadCRUT3 data set) and a 0.04 degree drop in the lower troposphere (RSS data set), both insignificant by any measure. Meanwhile, the UN’s climate panel (IPCC) had told us to expect a robust 0.36-degree warming. For statistically inclined readers, the IPCC’s forecast was several standard deviations too high, meaning it is virtually certain that the forecast was too high. In fact, the central forecasts of the four IPCC reports, going back to 1990, are all above the subsequent temperature record, three of them significantly so. Yet these forecasts are the basis for advocates’ proposals for worldwide, mandated restrictions on energy use.

Not only has global air temperature been constant, there is strong evidence that the oceans haven’t warmed either. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory reports that the “Argo” system of 3,000 robotic diving buoys deployed in 2003 has recorded no ocean warming since that time. This result is important because the oceans hold far more heat than the atmosphere and dominate global warming – or cooling.

Advocates are scurrying around trying to rationalize these discrepancies, but cracks in the façade have begun to appear. For example, NY Times science columnist John Tierney asked in January, “Are there any indicators in the next one, five or 10 years that would be inconsistent with the consensus view on climate change?” Tierney reported that he received “much invective” for simply asking this question. The question was prompted by the observation that no matter what happens to the climate – warmer, cooler, wetter, dryer ... or nothing – it is proclaimed as “consistent” by global warming advocates. This has become fodder for jokes and ridicule, but there is nothing funny about the impact of advocates’ proposals on the world’s future economic development. Rationalizations, when offered, have become ever more convoluted, opaque and at odds with common sense. And at the end of the day, we are told that no matter what has happened recently, things will soon get much worse.

Professor Roger Pielke Jr., of the University of Colorado’s Environmental Studies Program and the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, notes that “philosophers and scientists ... have asserted that a hypothesis, proposition or theory is scientific only if it is falsifiable,” meaning that a real scientific theory must be tested to give it a chance to fail. Pielke remarks that if everything that could possibly happen is “consistent” with global warming, we are in the realm of politics, not science, and that “one of the risks of playing the politics game through science is that you risk turning your science ... into pseudo-science.”

Well, the wager draws attention to the fact that another 10 years without warming would bring us to more than 20 years altogether and would constitute a strong scientific disconfirmation of catastrophic human-induced global warming. However, since we are in the realm of politics, we can be sure that advocates will scream louder than ever that catastrophe is just around the corner. As forecasting expert Professor J. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School, challenger of a reluctant Al Gore, notes in his “seer-sucker” theory: “No matter how much evidence exists that seers do not exist, seers will find suckers.”

– Roger W. Cohen, Durango

A call for immigration control

Dear Editors,

Let us agree that the United States is a nation of immigrants. Everyone here (and that includes Native Americans) have either migrated here or are descended from someone who migrated here in the past. We need a legal, but controlled flow of new immigrants into this country. However, what we have now is nothing short of chaos. Chaos that leadership of both national parties want. The Republican leadership wants cheap labor. The Democrat leadership wants new voters. Whatever the reason, the current system is ruining this country and our State of Colorado. All three remaining candidates for president want amnesty, as does President Bush. Both John and Ken Salazar favor amnesty for illegals already here and more legal immigrants as well.

Each year, the State of Colorado loses 22,500 acres of open space and farmland due to immigration (both legal & illegal). Vehicle traffic on Colorado’s highways has increased 60 percent since 1990. That means more dependence on foreign oil, more greenhouse gas emissions, longer commutes and more wear and tear on our already overburdened roads and bridges. Between 2000 and 2005, school enrollments in Colorado went up 8 percent, or 71,700 additional students that need more classroom space, new textbooks, more teachers, more schools.

Legal and illegal immigration already adds a minimum of 1.1 million new people to this country each and every year. Historically (until the 1980s) the U.S. had admitted an average of only 250,000 people per year. Since then, the numbers have gone through the roof. The Census Bureau estimates that the population of the United States will increase from 300 million today, to over 420 million people by 2050. That is an increase in our population of over 120 million people in less than 50 years over today’s levels. Colorado’s share is expected to be another 2.4 million more, or almost a 50 percent increase in the number of people here today.

The way of life that we cherish and wish to pass on to our children and grandchildren will be gone unless we get a handle on this mess. That does not mean another McCain/Kennedy amnesty bill co-sponsored by Sen. Ken Salazar. Nor does it mean rounding up every illegal and deporting them. Those that argue we have only those two choices are lying to us, the American people. They use terms like racist or nativist or xenophobe.

We need lower numbers of legal immigrants and to eliminate illegal immigration entirely. Whether that be border crossers or visa overstays. It does not matter where the immigrants come from. It does matter that we should not accept people with less than a high school education, nor should we accept people here that cannot support themselves. We cannot and should not afford to pay for everyone that wants to come here.

There is a bipartisan bill in the House, known as the Safe Act (H.R. 4088) which will reduce the numbers of people coming here. As of yesterday, there were 189 members of the house who favored an up or down vote on the bill. Speaker Pelosi and Rep. John Salazar do not even favor a vote on the measure. We need immigration reform and new people in the Congress that want to protect American jobs and our way of life. Sadly, many in Congress now favor big agri-business or the special interests of the few over the will of the American people.

– Mark Hansen, Bayfield