The news that our embassy in Iraq was under siege should not come as a surprise (“U.S. embassy siege in Iraq ends,” front page, Jan. 2). It was pretty much destined to happen and heralds the end of the grand neoconservative experiment in the Middle East. The popular explanation for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was that President George W. Bush was finishing what his father began, or perhaps keeping Saddam Hussein from acquiring nuclear weapons. The former might hold some water, but I have come to accept a different theory altogether.

My belief is that Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of the neocons thought they could plant a democracy in the Middle East and that it would spread like wildfire to neighboring countries. This Iraqi democracy would shine like a beacon, and the people of Syria, Iran and maybe even Afghanistan would rise to embrace those ideals. Sadly, this concept has resulted in so much hogwash because we failed to fully understand the dynamics of the situation we were creating.

This was not the first time we totally miscalculated the politics and religion of the Middle East. In the 1970s, we underestimated the religious tension in Iran that led to the ouster of the Shah, the siege of yet another American embassy and a hostage situation that lasted 444 days. Those who are old enough will remember the effect that had on the 1980 presidential election.

There is irony in the fact this is all happening as we enter yet another national election cycle. One might also suggest there is irony in our failure to learn from our mistakes. The greatest irony is that the same Iran to whom former President Ronald Reagan clandestinely sold weapons will be the influence that takes down our puppet government in Iraq and forces us to re-evaluate our policy in the Middle East.

Dale Jernberg, Minneapolis


If we act, our air gets cleaner and we get healthier. Why wouldn’t we?

Either the thousands of climate scientists across the world are correct (bet A), saying that if we do not bring CO2 emissions down significantly and rapidly in the next 30 years, then we will be ruining the planet for our kids and all future generations ... or they are wrong (bet B).

People who do not take meaningful action to help reduce emissions are betting their kids’ and grandkids’ future that the scientists are wrong (or they don’t want to be inconvenienced, or they think it’s hopeless — sorry, kids). People who take meaningful action to try to preserve a livable planet are betting the scientists are right and that action, by all of us, is urgently needed. They don’t want to bet their kids’ future.

If the B bet is wrong, but we do nothing and CO2 levels continue to rise, we will ruin the livable planet for a thousand years. Everyone loses. If the A bet is wrong, but we do take action, bring down CO2 levels and maintain a livable planet, with clean, renewable energy, then everyone wins! For any thinking risk manager, bet A is the obvious and only rational choice.

Which big bet are you making (because every one of us is making this bet)?

If you understand that the scientists are right and want to take action, we all must pick a day to begin. Start today! Consider joining Citizens Climate Lobby (a nonpartisan climate action group, no cost to join). This adds your name and voice to the fight. Also Google “reduce my carbon footprint” to find ways to reduce your family’s CO2 emissions.

Your kids, grandkids and all future generations are counting on us adults to get this right — and soon!

Alan Anderson, Northfield


We must sort good owners from bad

The National Rifle Association finally got its “good guy with a gun stops bad guy with a gun” headline when a White Settlement, Texas, congregation was targeted by a drifter bent on malice (“Gunman shot dead by Texas churchgoers after killing 2,” Dec. 30). Videos I saw showed him raising his sawed-off shotgun and firing at a parishioner as church security guards returned fire with their pistols, killing him. The local sheriff remarked how the outcome would have been worse had it not been for the church guards. The church guard who killed the shotgun-wielding shooter is a retired deputy sheriff who owns a firearm training company. In other words, a very highly trained, good guy with a gun prevailed. Total dead: two parishioners and the gunman.

In Houston on New Year’s Eve, a family matriarch of 61 years of age was killed by celebratory New Year’s gunfire. How will the NRA frame this headline, I wonder?

I think it’s safe to say that way too many people are carrying weapons who should never be allowed to do so. Some are mentally ill. Some are evil. Some are totally irresponsible idiots who know nothing about safely handling firearms. These news stories cover all three types. If our country cannot figure out how to separate these types of people from the right-to-bear-arms debate, this country is doomed.

Wouldn’t it be nice to go to church where you didn’t have to have conceal-carry congregants to keep you safe? Wouldn’t it be nice to step outside at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s to whoop and holler without dreading a stray bullet from your idiot neighbor?

Bob Brereton, St. Paul


Complicated, expensive and hard

In the Star Tribune’s recent article about sober houses (“A risky last resort for addicts,” Dec. 31) and the subsequent letters to the editor (“Sober homes are likely here to stay,” Jan. 2), I feel some important definitions were not explained. There are huge differences between treatment programs, halfway houses and sober houses. Sadly, my family has had experiences with all of them.

Addiction is an insidious disease. Although some people think that 28-day inpatient treatment is a miraculous “cure,” that is rarely the case. People who leave the cocoon of a treatment program are at high risk of relapse and even death because they have lost their biological tolerance to drugs or alcohol. Even in highly supervised treatment centers, people who break the rules, or relapse, are removed from the program.

When people successfully leave treatment, they are often referred to a halfway house. Many addicts and alcoholics need to relearn how to live sober. Here the supervision is ratcheted down. Usually residents have to find a job and begin to integrate into society, yet there is continued counseling and supervision. Ideally, someone could spend a month or two in a halfway house before going on to a sober house, but halfway houses are very expensive and rarely covered by insurance.

The sober house offers much less supervision and costs much less than a halfway house. Usually they do not have on-site counselors, although residents may be required to attend 12-step programs. Sober houses offer a drug- and alcohol-free communal living environment. It is a safe transition before returning to the real world with all its temptations. There are many rules, often with drug tests, and clearly spelled-out consequences. Although I sympathize with the resident who said he had kidney stones, having prescription opioids on site could be a trigger for other residents.

There were scandals a few years back with sober-house owners offering inadequate residences to make huge profits. Some might be promising more than they can deliver and regulation may be needed. A sober house isn’t intended to be a treatment facility; however, it can be a valuable transitional tool.

Rochelle Eastman, Savage



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