Editor’s note: The inbox for letters to the editor has been especially full following President Trump’s decision last week to launch missile strikes against an air base in Syria in retaliation for a chemical-weapons attack. Rather than trying to select just a few of these letters for publication, we’ve decided to represent the full range in this expanded edition of Readers Write. Please note that the balance of views in this package reflects that which we received.
Let us analyze the April 8 letter put forward under the headline “Trump is abusing our power”:
• “Thus begin the nightmares of veterans. …”
I am a combat veteran and do not suffer nightmares.
• “Military lives are treated as forfeit — of no consequence — in decisions to make war, simply pawns in a game of thrones. … ”
We in the military voluntarily enlisted to defend this nation knowing that we may eventually go into harm’s way.
• “What is wrong with this picture? A billionaire in a comfortable and luxurious setting (made possible by millions of our tax money) has just rained death and destruction (made possible by billions of our tax money) on an already beleaguered people while refusing to help refugees and personally dodging taxes. … ”
The attack was on an airstrip, not civilians.
• “When the president abuses our power, he makes us all complicit — but some suffer much more than others.”
There was no abuse of power, and a great deal of the civilized world sighed in relief that the United States had finally drawn a line in the sand.
Paul A. Trill, Glenwood
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One of the April 8 letters about the Syria strike boasted that “there is a new sheriff in town” — meaning, of course, Trump. The writer went on to argue “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad got the message … that his days of launching chemical strikes against his own people, unchallenged by any world leader, are over.” Apparently, the writer forgot that the last sheriff achieved the goal of stopping the chemical-weapons attacks by the Assad government without missiles — through an agreement brokered with the Russians in 2013.
Perhaps the writer should have wondered why Assad waited until after the new sheriff was inaugurated to launch this chemical attack. Could it be that Assad did get the message from candidate Trump and President Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.N. Ambassador Nikky Haley that this administration would not intervene in the Syrian civil war? Did Assad believe he had a “green light” to do whatever he wanted to destroy the opposition, including using chemical weapons? In that event, Trump bears some responsibility for the lives lost in the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun.
I do support the cruise missile attack on the Shayrat airfield as necessary to hopefully deter future use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, but wonder if it all could have been avoided. As a nation we can only hope that the “new sheriff” learns something from the “old sheriff” — that the words of a president often matter as much as actions. You do not tell a brutal dictator like Assad — over and over — that you aren’t going to intervene no matter what he does.
Eric W. Forsberg, Golden Valley
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In a coffee shop conversation following the U.S. missile strikes, I threw into conversation that “we are a barbaric people.” Another took issue with my comment — especially if I’d meant to include Americans. True; guided by better angels, we’re also a kind and generous people. But seeing the USA from other parts of the world and through the eyes of other peoples, angels of violence have been close allies of America since our nation was born.
Miroslav Volf, a Croatian teaching at Yale, wrote that as a youngster in Eastern Europe he’d admired our country from afar. He still does — with the caveat “but living here I find that Americans are a ‘kick-ass’ people.” Our knee-jerk response to violent death is to threaten death with death — even visiting it upon perpetrators “justifiably.” Altogether too often, photos of gun carnage picture what? More guns — strapped to authorities. Threatening death with death! It seems beyond us — beyond our capability — to threaten death with life.
The Christian church throughout the world is in Holy Week. This week many of us will re-enact the myopic way we delivered what seemed a justifiably expedient solution, “missiles of destruction,” upon what turned out to be life itself. We’ll learn that God suffers all the kick-ass we might be — and yet holds nothing against us!
John Bipes, Mankato
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The Star Tribune editorial “Follow missile strike with diplomatic push” (April 9) was accurate on many points but failed to recognize a critical issue. Our leaders must embrace diplomatic peacemaking as the primary and sometimes the only option to resolve international conflict.
The editorial was heavy on policy analysis and prescriptions, and of course those perspectives are important. The disposition to employ diplomacy, however, is at least as vital, and it is that tendency that will drive policy decisions. Macho rhetoric and aggressive action as the first responses undermine opportunities for peaceful resolutions.
The missile attack on a Syrian airfield illustrates this folly. While widely lauded as appropriate, the U.S. broke international law and ceded the moral high ground. And to what end? We lost the opportunity to apply pressure on Russia as Assad’s benefactor, and the next day Assad’s warplanes took off from the same airstrip to drop conventional bombs on Iblid. Assad, Russia and Iran are emboldened, and the suffering of the Syrian people is unabated.
Saber-rattling with North Korea is even more dangerous. Kim Jong Un is both unpredictable and despicable. Pre-emptive military action will result in massive casualties in South Korea and Japan, including U.S. personnel. The only viable solutions on the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East will be diplomatic.
The U.S. must project a foreign policy whose foundation is diplomacy. Diplomacy is not synonymous with weakness or appeasement. In fact, it takes significant measures of courage, fortitude and wisdom to succeed with diplomacy. We must nurture these qualities among ourselves and embrace leaders who will pursue the path of peace.
Phil George, Lakeville
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Using violence to respond to violence accomplishes only more evil. The correct response to the sarin-gas attack would have been to parachute-drop many tons of food and medical supplies into the regions where Assad’s opponents live, to support the people who oppose this evil man.
Mark R. Jacobson, Richville
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Killing innocent children is obscene. That said, I keep wondering how the parents of the children at Sandy Hook are feeling right now. I keep wondering what it takes to drive our government to take action on behalf of the children in this country.
Karen Schott, Excelsior
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The dishonesty of the Trump administration and his party makes me cynical about anything they do. And this cynic can’t help wondering if the missile strike against Syria wasn’t a charade. No doubt the gas attack occurred and people died. But Trump needs a major red herring to forestall continued investigation into his ties to Russia. What better way than to bomb a Syrian air base in a way that seems to challenge Russia? So now pundits can ask: How could there be any alliance between Trump and Russia? And are the Russians feigning indignation to further the charade? Perhaps the future will tell. In the meantime, keep investigating.
Edward Plaster, Edina
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What I feared most about a Trump presidency has come true. He acts on an impulse without thinking or restraint. We should sympathize with the Syrians over Assad’s use of chemical weapons. However, Syria is a sovereign nation. Trump has ordered an attack on the air force of a sovereign nation without authorization from Congress. If he orders another attack against Russian forces in Syria, against Chinese forces in the Sea of China or against nuclear sites in North Korea, we may be facing a more potent enemy that has nuclear weapons. A nuclear war may mean the extinction of the human race.
As citizens, we need to take steps to prevent Trump from taking such illegal and dangerous courses of action. We need to write our congressmen asking them to censor Trump for starting a war without congressional authorization. Congress needs to debate whether we go to war in Syria. We need to protest his action. We need to fight any increase in military spending while he is president. If we do nothing, we at best might have another fruitless war like we had with Iraq in 2003 that destabilized the Middle East, or we might have a war against North Korea in which nuclear missiles are targeted at U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan or the U.S. itself.
Roger Clarke, Minneapolis
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So Trump launches missiles against Syria without congressional approval, and his opponents hiss and moan about this. But what can they do to him — make him stand in a corner for an hour? Make him write on a blackboard 100 times, “I will never again launch missiles against any country without congressional approval”? I will bet you dollars to doughnuts there is no reprisal against the president for violating the Constitution, so where does that leave the Constitution as supposedly the supreme law of the land?
Willard B. Shapira, Roseville
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Trump is a pompous, self-absorbed man-child who has managed to do the right thing even when a better U.S. president could not.
Sometimes you do the right thing at the wrong time; other times you do the wrong thing at the right time — this is what happened with Trump’s measured, appropriate response to Assad’s gas attack on his own people. The conflict in Syria is a complicated rock-paper-scissors game, way beyond the capacity of Trump’s feeble decisionmaking ability, that pits Assad, Russia and Iran against anti-Assad forces including the U.S. and its allies, and, of course, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Unlike Obama’s threat of airstrikes in 2013, which resulted in reduced stockpiles of Assad’s chemical weapons stockpiles, this decisive move sent a clear, unequivocal message that use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated by the U.S. Obama did the right thing at the wrong time in 2013 (when a sarin attack by Assad killed 1,400 in a Syrian village) by extracting a reduction in chemical weapons because getting the required approval from a hostile U.S. Congress and the U.N. Security Council was a nonstarter.
The prospect of a gas attack in a crowded U.S. city likely had more to do with Trump’s decision than the horrific images of babies struggling to breathe their last breath. Trump did the right thing at the wrong time by attacking a sovereign nation without seeking U.N. or congressional approval, an approval that was unlikely, and that, if it came at all, would have been too little, too late.
It seems even a broken clock can be right once in a while.
Benjamin Cherryhomes, Hastings
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In showing his support of Trump’s decision to strike a Syrian military base without consulting Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated: “It is a clear signal from America that Bashar al-Assad can no longer use chemical weapons against his own people with impunity.” Having served in Vietnam, I can assure the senator that the chemical weapons America used there, Agent Orange and Napalm, are deadly. Approximately 75 percent of Vietnam veterans who had their boots on the ground have died. Understandably, I find the senator’s comment, and others made by those who support the president’s decision, ironic at best and hypocritical at worse.
I have survived Agent Orange, so far, and my wife and I will attend a Vietnam veterans reunion this month. For a number of us, it will be our last. After I applied for Agent Orange compensation, it became clear the veterans who told me that the VA policy is, essentially, “delay and deny until they die” were correct. The entire process took more than six years. You know, just like foreign-aid payments.
Thomas Edwards, Forest Lake