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Mr. Scheer makes some good points, and some not quite so good. The mine-resistant vehicles are a good idea, but I wonder at the cost and time frame, as Israel already has them. How much do they cost them?

However, the one part that really drew my attention was the words, "Fortified vehicles only further separate the occupier from the population, which will remain fully vulnerable to attack. The emphasis on the protection of the foreigner--the Green Zone model--is a failed tactic of colonizers that alienates the local populace." In recently reading about the suppression of the protests in Myanmar I found one commentator who gave an explanation of why the Saffron Revolution may not succeed there, while such revolutions have been so successful elsewhere. He said the reason such revolutions are successful is that the military refuses to attack, and fire on, their own people. His explanation of why they will in Myanmar is that the military is kept separated from the civilian population. Military bases and housing are kept away from cities and in a separated enclave.

Mr. Scheer's words remind me so much of that explanation. Even in Vietnam, US forces mingled with local populations constantly. The isolation in Iraq may be a cause, as well as a result, of the "occupying army" perception. And may lead to the reality.

Robert Klahn

Sylvania, OH

Oct 19 2007 - 8:45am

Web Letter

A few pundits are finding it very fashionable these days to criticize Senator Joe Biden's Iraq federalism plan and his steadfast support of sending MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) to our soldiers in Iraq while drawing the troop level down. Sometimes, the criticism is sensibly constructive. Others are simply political hatchet jobs by journalists who want to rub up to opposing candidates they think will win so they can get exclusive access. It's hard to tell which one the most recent op-ed by Robert Scheer is. I have tremendous respect for Robert Scheer, but this was surprisingly disappointing and made the politically astute wince at the absurdities splattered throughout the op-ed.

This I think is misguided: "Actually, Senator, you do have a higher obligation: to think through the need for this mission before you vote to put troops in harm's way..."

I think someone needs to point out a crucial fact: our soldiers are already there--Biden's not putting more soldiers in Iraq. Not funding their protection means more of those soldiers will die--and I highly doubt that Mr. Scheer wants more of our soldiers to die. Biden has stated on numerous occasions that we need to bring our soldiers home as earliest as possible--he even said that before most of the Democratic leadership thought it was a good idea. Maybe he should have made his wish more explicit--to bring home our men and women alive!

"Fortunately, the vast majority of Iraqis, whom Biden did not bother to consult, rejected that prescription for ethnic cleansing and endless civil war.... dividing their country along sectarian lines would be bad for Iraq." This is another statement that I find glaringly false. The fighting in Iraq is ethnic cleansing and civil war. The chaos now going on in Iraq is mainly Shia killing Sunni, Kurds killing Shia etc. They will never get along, at least not in the near future. Also, Iraq is already divided up into regional zones, and trespassers from the different regions are slaughtered (the ones not in their "ethnic regions" are also being slaughtered); this is the civil war we've been hearing about. The civil war Mr. Scheer doesn't seem to think is happening is causing the majority of the deaths he seems to be worried about. Iraq is already "partitioned" and consumed by "ethnic cleansing" and "civil war."

By the way, I suggest that the plan's detractors look up the definitive distinction between "federalism" and "partition" if you want to criticize Biden's plan more effectively. I especially recommend that anyone with an interest in what the Iraqis actually want look into the work of Bakar Humam Hammoudi, the Iraqi Constitution committee chairman, Fouad Massoum, the chair of the Kurdish delegation and Adnan al-Janabi, chair of the Sunni delegation. Also examine the efforts of Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of Iraq's largest political party, Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), and look at the United Iraqi Alliance, which got 4.08 million out of 8 million (48.1 percent) votes in 2005. I urge everyone to examine their negotiations between Iraqi Shia, Sunni and Kurd and look at their own consensus: they want federalism. Joe Biden is making the US listen to that Iraqi consensus. He wants Iraq to be for Iraqis.

Mowaffak al-Rubaie, who is Iraq's Shia National Security Advisor, and was nominated by the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA; UIA received the most votes in 2005) and later democratically elected, has praised Biden's plan.

I also suggest critics who worry about federalism's effects on the Sunni minority look at the advocacy efforts of Tareq al Hashemi, the head of the Islamic Party of Iraq (IPI), which is a widely-popular Sunni political party. He also is a major participant within the Iraqi consensus that Iraq should have federalism.

Biden simply wants to give the Iraqis what they themselves want: their own regions officially recognized and legalized (they already have de facto regions), and thereby their territorial integrity/autonomy respected. If this is done, the ethnic-based civil war will end, because the regions will largely be autonomous and no one would even want to cross into the different regions because they want their own independent regions.

When will Americans wake up and realize the fact that they have to let Iraq govern themselves according to their own wishes? When will they realize that they can no longer tell Iraq or Iraqis how to live their lives? This also applies to Scheer's ilk: when will these moralistic polemicists realize they cannot mindlessly apply their definition of justice and right and wrong everywhere?

Biden got the message--it seems that Mr. Scheer did not.

Daniel Buk

New York, NY

Oct 9 2007 - 11:25pm

Web Letter

The major error would be in not building the MRAPs, which could be useful elsewhere when needed at some future time. Meanwhile, also, not having them would increase American casualties now. I hope the author is not cynical enough to want increased injuries to steer more anti-Iraq feelings.

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Sep 28 2007 - 9:37am

Web Letter

Joe Biden is the only presidential candidate with the experience to end such needless wars. Even his Democratic colleagues/rivals, including Obama and Richardson, concur that Biden has the most comprehensive exit strategy. Biden understands that there needs to be a political and diplomatic solution to the problem, and that the war is unwinnable by the military. We all should look up to Biden and vote for him as the presidential candidate to wrap up the war in Iraq, and not "stay the course" thinking anything will improve over there. Thus, Bush is for "staying the course" and plundering consumer resources, and Biden is for strategically diplomatic and political solutions to end the war in Iraq by letting other Arab nations work together. "Staying the course" and "as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" is hardly a strategic solution to the mess created over there--it's moreover replacing Saddam for chaos! Biden will ensure a strategic plan similar to how Clinton worked things out in Bosnia and the Balkans.

Nick Rosen

Great Falls, VA

Sep 26 2007 - 1:06pm

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