Contrary to the Star Tribune Editorial Board's argument, President Joe Biden did not flinch in his response to Jamal Khashoggi's murder on the orders of Saudi Arabia's crown prince, but rather demonstrated mature and experienced statesmanship ("Biden flinches on Khashoggi response," March 2). While one's first gut instinct is to push for personal sanctions of the crown prince, there is little to be gained from such a move on the international level given the United States' longstanding relationship with the kingdom both from an economic and counterterrorism standpoint, and there are far more subtle yet very effective ways for the president and this nation to express their displeasure with the murderous prince.

While no nation should stray too far from its moral compass, it is rather naive to expect strict adherence to it when much broader national interests are at stake. It is indeed a tough but pragmatic pill to swallow.

Walid Maalouli, Eagan
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On page 3 of Saturday's paper was an article on the murder of Khashoggi in which it was confirmed that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia "directed" this horrendous act ("U.S. report says Saudi prince directed murder," Feb. 27). I was sickened to read further about the president's weak response and the explanation for it. Yes, he did stop U.S. support for the bombings in Yemen and suspended arms sales to the Saudis pending review. However, according to Rajan Menon, the expert quoted in the article, "Any fundamental changes in relations that are so longstanding, so entrenched, and with deep support from both political parties, can't be made suddenly."

I am so tired of this rhetoric that has been used by our leaders to excuse or overlook appalling violations of basic human rights, which we claim are so precious to us as a nation. We are struggling with this very concept within our own borders. To protect these basic human rights I pray that Biden will condemn this murder in the strongest possible way as evidence that in this country, we practice what we preach.

Charlie Greenman, Minnetonka
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Ninety-nine percent of the time, political cartoonist Steve Sack is literally worth a thousand insightful words. The 1% was presented on March 3, when he accused Joe Biden of "coddling" Saudi Arabia's crown price. I prefer to describe Biden's approach as "carefully cornering."

The Biden administration has placed sanctions on those who surround Mohammed bin Salman, reduced military support and published the finding that the prince was behind the murder of Khashoggi. The purpose of those steps is to indeed surround the prince with warnings that he is not to be coddled, and that he is next on the list.

Saudi Arabia is officially an ally in spite of its failings. We want to keep it that way — or China is waiting in the wings. I don't see China mentioned that way in the media very often. It is the elephant. We must give Biden's team time to work its diplomatic processes.

Jim Bartos, Maple Grove

IRAN

With eyes open, let's renegotiate

Regarding "U.S. hits Syrian sites tied to Iran militias" (Feb. 26):

While peace activists have an obligation to condemn all bombing as an act of war, they are equally obliged to understand the details of the conflict and what has brought it to the current status. Many are well aware of the misdeeds of the U.S. in the region, but that alone does not suffice. Iran has long acted with impunity in the Middle East, arming and controlling militias in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, pursuing military and political hegemony.

Iran has been a major backer of the brutal dictator Bashar Assad in Syria, supplying arms, money and soldiers to suppress a popular uprising and keep Assad's murderous regime in power. It clearly was testing the new U.S. President Joe Biden when it attacked American interests, engendering Biden's response. While Biden has expressed strong commitment to peacefully engage with Iran and rejoin the nuclear pact, he has sent a message that hopefully will be understood by Iranian rulers that negotiations are open, but they cannot act with impunity. May the next step be taken at a conference table.

Andrew Berman, St. Louis Park

The writer is a U.S. Army veteran.

VIOLENCE

Two stories, one thread

Although the underlying issues are more complex, I see an important connection between the eloquent yet heartbreaking commentary by Marcus Hunter II at the back of the March 3 paper to the news article on the front page noting the record number of permits issued for handguns ("I live in a cemetery called north Minneapolis," Opinion Exchange, and "Record handgun permits issued," front page). Increasingly, a culture has taken root in our country that promotes guns, lawlessness and violence as solutions for personal grievance and political conflict. People across our country are becoming armed at an alarming rate while common-sense gun safety legislation (such as universal background checks and red-flag laws) supported by a majority of citizens languish in our state legislatures and Congress year after year. Will our elected officials wake up before our whole country becomes a cemetery?

Elaine Sloan, Golden Valley

CANCEL CULTURE

Must the past resemble the present?

With the news of Dr. Seuss' publisher's decision to cease printing some books due to "racist images," many have resorted to claiming Dr. Seuss is the latest victim of cancel culture ("6 Dr. Seuss books to stop being published," March 3).

"Mandalorian" actress and mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano was recently fired from her position in the "Star Wars" world because her social media posts, claiming today's political culture resembles Nazi Germany, were offensive, per Disney.

In 2018, the Atlantic published an article that stated 80% of Americans dislike political correctness. We have gotten to a point in our society where a very small percentage of people control what is acceptable or not.

The new litmus test for historical figures is if their work does not satisfy what is deemed culturally appropriate for [insert current year here] standards, then their work is racist, violent, dangerous to communities and a threat to Americans. Even notorious racist President Abraham Lincoln's head is on the chopping block because he didn't do enough to uplift Black Americans and espoused racist views (see San Francisco's school board).

If society continues to determine historical figures' value to society based on what year it is today, then we lose the meaning of history. History is supposed to teach us, and we are supposed to grow from it. If we omit what society does not find suitable, then how do we grow? Why is Dr. Seuss being censored while Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is still in circulation today? Historical figures provide insight to how society was at the time of their work; it's not supposed to comply with the social narrative of the 21st century. It's OK for historical work to make you feel uncomfortable — that's a part of learning.

It is 2021. Who knows, maybe in 20 years when people are revisiting the Star Tribune Opinion section, they will find my defending free speech harmful and want my works removed as well.

Nathan Dull, Eden Prairie

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