March 11, 2010

Civilian casualties a product of Afghan WarSATURDAY OPINION

— The Bush-Cheney torture legacy facing our country isn't the only black mark before us. The repeated killings of innocents in Afghanistan and Iraq may prove to be just as unforgivable a legacy.

The front page of the May 15 New York Times showed a photo of a 12-year-old girl badly burned from an American air strike in Afghanistan, which killed 140 civilians, many of them children. The Times article cited the air strike as ''the worst episode of civilian casualties in the eight years of war in Afghanistan.''

We know that the bombings of poor, innocent Afghans are a powerful recruiting tool for the Taliban, yet we continue to allocate more and more money to send troops to Afghanistan.

Please join me in calling Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, urging them to vote against the war-funding bill, which will come before the Senate.

At a fraction of the cost of an increased military budget, we could support health care, clean water and education for Afghanistan and in the process show the world that America is not heartless.

Pat Taub

Maine Chapter of CODEPINK

Tenants Harbor

Last month I was present in Washington when a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee heard testimony from veterans of Afghanistan.

Cpl. Rick Reyes, a Marine who did active duty there, said troops are unable to distinguish enemies from civilians, that Afghan men inform on others for the money and work for the Taliban because it pays them so they can feed their children.

Professor Andrew Bacevich of Boston University, a man who lost a son to the war in Iraq, testified that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. In fact our military presence makes the situation worse and is parallel in key ways to Vietnam: no clear goal, no exit strategy and unaffordable.

I hoped the senator chairing the committee, John Kerry, recalled his own historic testimony to Congress as a Vietnam vet. Back then he asked, ''How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?''

Even General David Petraeus of United States Central Command told a House Appropriations subcommittee later in the week he believes there is no military solution in Afghanistan.

Why then is Congress voting to send more troops, more air strikes and more robot drones to Afghanistan?

What is the evidence that U.S. military action in Afghanistan has reduced terrorism?

Ask your president and other elected officials that question. Then find out if they still want to spend more dollars we can't afford to do a job that force cannot accomplish.

Lisa Savage

CODEPINK Maine Local Coordinator

Solon

Why doesn't fingernail DNA exonerate Dechaine?

On May 13 the Press Herald carried a story about Paul House, nearly executed for a 1985 murder in Tennessee, and now exonerated thanks in part to DNA evidence found under the victim's fingernails.

Recently, in Massachusetts, Kurvin Richardson was convicted of a 1990 murder after his DNA was found under the victim's fingernails. And in Maine, Deputy Attorney General Bill Stokes is about to prosecute Thomas Mitchell for the 1983 murder of Judith Flagg because tests allegedly found Mitchell's DNA under her fingernails.

However, in the Dennis Dechaine case, Stokes says that the DNA found under the victim's thumbnail, proven to belong to a male who is not Dennis Dechaine, is of no significance. (The state opposed Dechaine's pre-trial request for DNA testing of fingernail blood, which was not Dechaine's type, and destroyed the fingernails and other potential DNA evidence. The thumbnail escaped incineration due to a clerk's error).

Prosecutor Eric Wright has stated that this DNA is of no significance because Dechaine had no scratches on him. In other words, the state maintains that Dechaine is guilty no matter who the man was who Sarah Cherry scratched.

And Maine's journalists, politicians, and lawyers apparently either agree with the state, are afraid to publicly question the state, or do not care what the state does in their name.

William Bunting

Whitefield

The historical record is in need of some corrections

An editorial on April 30 correctly endorsed Sen. Olympia Snowe's contention that the defection of Senator Arlen Specter to the Democrats was primarily ''a result of the (Republican) party's direction,'' or, in her own words, ''shrinking our ideological confines.'' (''Bipartisanship's decline bad, but don't blame Democrats.'')

However, the editorial then lamented Senator Specter's decision because a possible filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate could lead to one-party government. Actually, one-party government has been the norm through much of our history and has been a necessary condition for meaningful change.

In the present polarized political environment with a highly disciplined Republican minority, only two of whose members would give the Democrats the time of day (both representing Maine), bipartisanship requires Democratic surrender to the right-wing ideologues now dominant in the Republican Party.

With a desperate need to address the many challenges we must confront, we can no longer abide Republican obstructionists who constantly use the threat of filibuster to block meaningful action.

As a matter of history, the filibuster was never routinely used until the 103rd Congress in 1993-94, when Republican leader Bob Dole initiated the current practice of regularly threatening filibusters, thereby requiring a 60 percent cloture vote to accomplish anything.

In the past the filibuster was used primarily by southern senators to prevent the passage of federal anti-lynching laws and other laws fostering racial equality. Given this shameful background, I fail to understand how you can support the filibuster's current routine application.

Meredith Springer

Peaks Island

Mr. William Tappen's letter to the editor (''Obama is wrong: America is a Christian country'' May 8) is in need of a fact check.

Mr. Tappen quotes the words written in the Declaration of Independence, ''With a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.''

These words, written by Thomas Jefferson, were carefully chosen. Jefferson did not believe in the divinity of Jesus -- in fact he compiled a version of the Gospels that removed all reference to divinity and miracles.

Jefferson could have written ''With a firm reliance on the protection of Jesus Christ.'' He did not, nor did any of the founding fathers insist he do so.

To hold up ''protection of divine providence'' as evidence that we are a ''Christian Nation'' is a distortion of history.

''The Battle Hymn of the Republic'' is a Christian hymn that has no connection to our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights or anything else that defines our nation.

The words of the national anthem of the United States include ''And this be our motto: In God is our trust.''

Once again the words were chosen carefully by Francis Scott Key. He did not write ''In Jesus Christ is our trust.''

We are free to worship as we please in the United States because of the wisdom of our ancestors.

We are not free to distort what they did and wrote because of our personal beliefs.

Jonathan Matt

Portland

Bees are not harmful and shouldn't be banished

The fruits, nuts and vegetablesyou eat, the flowers you love, even your coffee beans, are made possible by honeybees (and wild pollinators).

Bees labor all day with no other desire than to carry three vital things to their hives: nectar, pollen and water. You receive the life-giving benefits for free.

Honeybees die if they use their stingers, so that's literally their last resort.

Your news staff advocated soapy water to kill bees near swimming pools ''without harmful pesticide residue'' (''The buzz on banishing bees,'' May 17).

Well, it obviously is a pesticide, harmful indeed to the bees, therefore to us! And as for vinegar water, does there actually exist any person opposed to bees drinking out of the birdbath?

I've seen wasps lined up at the birdbath for a communal drink. They then get back to work in my vegetable garden, eliminating all sorts of larva who want to eat my cabbage and corn.

Bee colonies worldwide are collapsing, jeopardizing our food supply and life on earth as we know it. There is strong evidence that the pesticide clothianidin, now banned in other countries, is the cause.

A news staff without knowledge of the subject should resist suggesting harmful solutions to problems that don't exist, lest some readers believe there is an invasion of water-guzzling killer bees that live to sting.

Just provide water stations for all God's creatures, sit back, bee-loved and admire the miracle!

Carole Whelan

Birds'n Bees Farm

Hope

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