Iraq is on its way to fracturing. This has nothing to do with how smart, or educated, or worldly, or "equal to us" portions of the Iraqi population are. It has nothing to do with mothballed generals or America bashing. It has everything to do with the polarized belief systems, cultural history, tribal insecurities, ambition for power, and religious fixations of the people in that country.
Iraq is almost literally a hornet's nest of complex, deeply held, and competing forces. Iraq the nation is a shadow state, an artifice pasted together by outsiders and until recently held together by a ruthless tyranny.
We removed the ruthless tyranny. What's left is the underlying reality: a primarily Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite society that does not want or require unity to satisfy their interests or fundamental desires and beliefs.
In the face of that reality, what would constitute "victory" for the United States?
A continued long, hard slog, with insufficient forces trying to institute some model of government the West favors that bears little or no resemblance to the kind of separate governments Iraqis believe their god wants them to have?
A withdrawal of troops, followed by a civil war wherein the Iraqi "security forces" we've armed and trained break up into loyalist militias warring for territory and resources?
An all-out effort to "secure" the country and force a democracy down its throat, which would probably require half a million to a million troops; a draft; international cooperation; a huge legal, police, and economic reconstruction contingent; billions of dollars, and maybe decades of occupation?
This is the mess an arrogant administration and an acquiescent Congress got us into, in spite of "expert" advice to the contrary.
The question now is not what the government is going to do about it, but what the American people are going to do about it.
Gary Gray, Penfield
THE MILITARIZATION OF MONROE
In December, the Homeland Security Department approved funding for a $2.5 billion "virtual fence" along 2000 miles of our coastline and 6000 miles of our borders with Mexico and Canada. The focus is on high technology --- satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, and the like.
Also in December, the Monroe County Legislature accepted a $50,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to help protect Marketplace Mall from terrorists.
The Rochester Institute of Technology has introduced a new master's program focusing on counter-terrorism and nonproliferation. The U of R received $21 million from the National Institute for Health to research and develop treatments for radiation from a possible "dirty bomb" terrorist attack.
Meanwhile, in 2003 the county received only $2.1 million from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to prevent lead-paint poisoning, and those funds have been exhausted. How is it that Rochester secures $21 million for some far-fetched "dirty bomb" threat, yet gets only $2.1 million from the federal government for the lead paint disaster that has already arrived?
In December, Webster voters rejected a $75 million proposal that would have renovated and expanded its 12 school buildings. The building where I attended class --- the Montessori school on Old Ridge Road --- has been transformed into an Army Reserve facility. Where I played with blocks and learned to construct things, tanks are now kept for future search-and-destroy missions. Where I learned to identify the flags of all different countries, now only one is raised and recognized.
Our society once made things; our education system produced producers. Now all we pump out are consumers and soldiers: consumers who only buy and sell at Walmart and soldiers to protect this walled mart --- exemplified in Homeland Security's preoccupation with Marketplace Mall.
Inscribed above the entrance of Webster Spry Middle School is the Daniel Webster quote, "The Education of the People Is the Security of Our Nation." Should that quote be changed instead to one of Danny Wegmans': "Shoppers in Training"?
Rajesh Barnabas, Weldon Street, Rochester
IT WAS OUR MONEY
For many months, both City and our daily paper have run letters to the editor voicing opinions on the fast ferry. Not surprisingly most are from non-city residents --- i.e., people who are not paying the bills. And therein lies the problem.
In addition to the underlying issue that the ferry is far too large for our market, the City of Rochester, with its declining population and tax base, is footing the bill. The fast ferry is the Rochester Fast Ferry in name only. The true benefit of the ferry lies in its potential to promote the region. Consequently, the region should be willing to share the cost.
I agree with Carl Pultz's letter to City (January 18): when there is free money to be had, politicians just can't resist it. It's not that we Rochesterians lack vision, but as long as we're paying the bills, there is nothing wrong with common sense.
Bill Coppard, Rochester
HERE'S A FIX
So many of the problems in New York State's government seem to stem from the manipulation of districts to maintain the status quo ("New York Sucks," January 18). The "fix" for the problem with State Senate districting seems pretty obvious to me. New York State has 62 counties. It has 62 state senators. Hmmm; I wonder what a fair, manipulation-proof solution might be?
Some would argue that by splitting the state up by county, it would destroy the concept of one citizen, one vote. As if. As if that concept even exists. (It's more like one vote per million-dollar contribution, isn't it?).
Nobody seems to mind that the US Senate is made up of 2 people per state, regardless of size. We could design the state system to mimic the US system, with the assembly districts based on population and the State Senate based on counties.
I believe that if you presented the concept to the people, and each person had the opportunity to decide between keeping the status quo or having each county represented fairly, with the added benefit of knowing for sure which district you lived in, and who your rep was, every citizen would want the common sense plan.
Of course, this wouldn't solve the problem of district fixing for the Assembly. That would be next year's project.
Howard Loveless, Elmwood Avenue, Rochester
'I CAN SERVE'
"School Board Fill-up" (January 18) describes me as a "frequent district critic." While it is true that my criticisms have been frequent, they have not been leveled at the "district" per se, but instead have focused on particular issues or individuals, ranging from some School Board members and top-level administrators all the way down the chain, especially some top-level union officials and some teachers.
I have always been one who calls a spade a spade, which I intend to continue doing.
In this particular case, filling the vacant board seat, the spade is that (with the exception of Mr. Brennan) current Board members --- with the exception of Tom Brennan --- don't indicate that they are thinking about the best interests of students and parents. Instead, they are doing what most have always done: they are playing politics with the lives of children.
Secondly, I challenge district counsel Michael Looby's claim that "the state law is clear on the subject" of a Rochester School District teacher serving as a member of the School Board. There are many exceptions to "general rules" of law. Numerous precedents have been set in Rochester. To name a few: a City Council member serving simultaneously as a Rochester principal; directors and other top-level employees of community agencies that depend on the county for the major portion of their funding and who serve as Monroe County Legislators; School Board members who hold upper-level positions within community agencies that depend on the school district for student-referrals; mayors and City Council members sitting on boards of corporations that do business with the city.
Mr. Looby is also completely off base in saying that a Rochester teacher (such as myself) who desires to serve on the School Board "can't be his boss and employer at the same time." That demonstrates profound confusion or disrespect for the people of Rochester. Those who subscribe to such thinking either don't know or have forgotten that School Board members are not their own "bosses." They are accountable to taxpaying citizens and voters.
In any case, after I win a seat on the School Board, whether I will be compelled to resign from my teaching post with the district won't be Mr. Looby's decision. As in the case of at least one other example cited above, that question will be settled in a court of law.
Howard J Eagle, Rochester (Eagle is a Rochester teacher and community activist and was one of more than a dozen people who sought appointment to the School Board last month to fill a vacant seat.)
WRITING TO CITY
We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org or The Mail, City Newspaper, 250 North Goodman Street, Rochester 14607.
Our guidelines: We don't publish anonymous letters --- and we ask that you include your street name and city/town/village. We don't publish letters that have been sent to other media --- and we don't publish form letters generated by activist groups. While we don't restrict length, letters of under 350 words have a greater chance of being published. We do edit letters for clarity and brevity. And in general we don't publish letters (or longer "op-ed" pieces) from the same writer more often than about once every two months.