ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death at the hands of U.S. forces is being celebrated just as Osama bin Laden’s was a few years before (“Brutal ISIS leader dead,” front page, Oct. 28). I suggest we use this occasion to reassess U.S. foreign policies that gave rise to these men.

Extremist Muslims who carried out the terror attacks on 9/11 were former allies of the United States. Former CIA Director Robert Gates wrote that the U.S. aided the mujahedeen to lure the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan. He quoted former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who said: “We now have the opportunity of giving the USSR its Vietnam War.”

In 1998 an interviewer asked Brzezinski if he regretted supporting Muslim extremists. “Regret what?” he said. “It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap.” The interviewer persisted, “And neither do you regret having supported Islamic fundamentalism?” Brzezinski responded, “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet Union? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

Bin Laden and al-Qaida grew out of the ashes of failed U.S. policies in Afghanistan. Baghdadi formed ISIS while a prisoner in a U.S.-run prison in Iraq after the disastrous occupation of that nation. Rather than celebrate Baghdadi’s death, let’s come to terms with foreign policy blunders that fuel anti-American sentiments and Muslim extremism. As the Pentagon-appointed Defense Science Board concluded in 2004, “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.”

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, Minneapolis

• • •

Have we reached the point in our political discourse where a president cannot even be congratulated for accomplishing a major victory for our country, the killing of a man who led the Islamic State’s terrorist activity worldwide? Apparently so. If that sounds far-fetched, then you didn’t see the interviews of Democratic leadership following the president’s announcement. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who gushed over Obama when he announced the killing of Osama, had only this to say about the killing of Baghdadi: that the president failed to notify the Democrats before the action was taken and that he should not have used bellicose language in his news conference following completion of the action (“Trump notified Russians of Baghdadi’s death before telling congressional leaders, Pelosi says,” StarTribune.com, Oct. 27). The president said he didn’t tell the Democrats about the intended action because he was afraid it would be leaked. Where did he get the crazy notion that a presidential communication might be leaked?

And as for Joe Biden, who said the president shouldn’t take credit for what our military accomplished, he needs to be reminded about how Obama and Biden used bin Laden’s death in their re-election campaign. The killing of bin Laden was a matter of retribution, for his leadership days were over long before he was killed. The killing of Baghdadi, on the other hand, was strategic, for it eliminated the man most responsible for global jihad. It would be nice if the Democrats could pause in their march toward impeachment to at least take a little time to allow the president and the country to savor this victory.

Ronald haskvitz, St. Louis Park

HEALTH CARE

Not so fast to trash universal care

Steve Chapman’s essay on Medicare for All (“The deceptions of Medicare for All,” Opinion Exchange, Oct. 25) throws the kitchen sink at universal health care. Chapman fears huge costs, massively increased utilization, the demise of private (commercial) insurance and general mayhem.

OK, I exaggerated about “general mayhem.”

This bleak picture distracts us from the basic point: Comprehensive universal health care is eminently possible if we utilize single-payer financing. That is, all residents of the country constitute an insurance pool, financed by our payments to a central fund, according to ability to pay.

Does that sound familiar? It’s how Medicare works for the elderly and closely resembles Social Security. Chapman forgot to mention how popular and effective Medicare is. Consider it a successful pilot test of a health care system for all of us.

Chapman also forgot to mention the projected savings on the financial side of Medicare for All. By relying on one insurance pool and avoiding the conflicting and expensive commercial insurers, we save dollars that are currently wasted in billing, profit, advertising, etc. Those savings occur in backroom bookkeeping, not the clinical services that we experience. The savings enable comprehensive benefits without deductibles and copays, which Chapman finds worrisome for some reason.

Joel Clemmer, St. Paul

• • •

Chapman refers to a right-wing think tank study put out by the Mercatus Center. Right-wing think tanks promote insurance companies. Insurance companies survive by profiting from raising prices and denying care. Around 29 million people are without health insurance. Millions who barely have insurance can’t afford their deductibles and copays. Affordable Medicare access gives hope to working people.

Chapman promotes known fearmongering tactics by calling Medicare “the government.” And the Mercatus study summary implies that Medicare is another insurance company. Neither statement is accurate. Medicare is simply a way for all of us to be able to affordably pay for health care access. It’s our country’s single-payer financing system that most people don’t want to end, including doctors and nurses.

How does a thoughtful person start thinking about covering everyone? By looking at what is working. What is the lowest-cost, most reliable payer? Medicare. What payer consistently reimburses providers rather than denying payment even after reviewing reasonable appeals? Medicare.

How do smart folks go about creating a better plan for everyone? By referencing what works. That’s why Medicare for All has been extensively researched and thoughtfully prepared, and nonpartisan studies are available that solidly show the dollars are there to make Medicare for All happen. And together, we can afford to cover eye, ear and long-term care as well.

Sanders and Warren have a plan. Chapman writes like someone without a plan.

Valerie Swenson, Little Canada

TRANSPORTATION

Cities change, and so can transit

A letter writer reported frustration at spending an hour and 45 minutes in traffic to get from his home in the western suburbs to last Thursday’s Vikings game in downtown Minneapolis (“It’s scaring away lifelong residents,” Oct. 28). “This is not the city I grew up in” during the 1960s, he wrote.

True. According the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of the Twin Cities area was about 1.7 million in 1960 and 3.63 million in 2018 (estimated).

A suggestion: Make your next game in 2023. For $2.50, take the Green Line light rail from one of 11 suburban stations to the plaza in front of U.S. Bank Stadium in about half an hour.

Richard Adair, Minneapolis

BUDGET DEFICIT

Gee, that’s a lot of zeros

As the country’s one-year deficit approaches $1 trillion, the mind is boggled by numbers beyond the experience of most people (“U.S. deficit soars under Trump to $984 billion,” Oct. 26). So let me give an example of what “trillion” means: The ratio between $1 and $1 trillion is the same as the ratio between one second and nearly 32,000 years, or 320 centuries.

Edward J. Schwartzbauer, Edina

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