MILITARY FAMILY DIARY
We said goodbye to our son at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and that night saw the cruise missiles strike Baghdad for the start of “Shock and Awe.” Day after day we heard the reports of soldiers being killed. Hoping that our son hadn’t died wasn’t an option, because that would be wishing the death onto another family. All we could do was hold hands with military families and grieve together. Each soldier who dies is our son or daughter.
Our son came home, but our nephew is in his third tour in Iraq. From their stories and the stories of our military friends, we have come to appreciate the profound compassion they feel for the people of Iraq. They have witnessed families struggling to live without dependable drinking water, electricity, jobs, basic law and order, and on and on. My son, nephew and military friends urgently want to help the people of Iraq. They have seen firsthand families whose needs have stretched on not for weeks or months but for years, in neighborhoods where soldiers are afraid to go and families are prisoners in their own homes–a community that doesn’t grieve the loss of two or three loved ones each day, but dozens.
A friend, an officer in military intelligence, recently returned from a year in Iraq. He tells us he didn’t see any difference in conditions on the ground over that year. He didn’t see a plan to improve conditions or to protect his buddies or Iraqis. Staying the course in Iraq is tearing the military, the Iraqi people and our hearts apart.
Now our son has been reactivated and is on his way back to Iraq. There has been a massive call-back of previously discharged and 50-year-old retired soldiers. None of them re-enlisted, and their morale is deplorable. Without acknowledging it, the Bush Administration has instituted a backdoor draft, ending the “all volunteer” army. Not known by most people is the fact that only about half of the soldiers being called back are reporting, as ordered, to support their buddies in Iraq. These veterans are giving us a failing grade for our support of the troops.
KENT ALLAN ROBERTSON
SPRAWL: NOT NECESSARILY BAD
While I appreciate Thomas Sugrue’s positive comments on my book Sprawl: A Compact History, the way he characterizes it and my approach generally may mislead potential readers [“The Geography of Fear,” Feb. 27]. He describes the book as based on a libertarian and free-market ideology and suggests that I approve of sprawl because it is based on the collective result of millions of individuals making choices in an uncontrolled real estate market.
But I don’t say that sprawl is good. I only say that it is not necessarily bad and that the problems of development at the edge are no worse than those anywhere else in the urban system. I also don’t say that sprawl is the result of laissez-faire capitalism. As I show in my book, this explanation has always been countered by those who have argued cogently just the opposite: that the market, left to itself, would create high densities and that sprawl has been caused by bad government policies–highway construction, single-family zoning and the mortgage income-tax deduction among them.