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Letters to the Editor: Remembering U.S. wars, preventing school violence


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Today’s letters to the editor reflect on U.S. war involvement and how leaders must work to prevent tragedy.

Remembering those lost in U.S. wars

The middle of the month of March is a muddle of murky memories. March 16 marked 50 years since the U.S. massacre of 500 Vietnamese civilians in the village of My Lai. It epitomized the disgrace and shame of a war built on lies that claimed 58,272 American lives and more than 3 million Southeast Asian lives. But that was 50 years ago, and University of Iowa students have no memory of it.

March 19 marks the beginning of another U.S. war built on lies, 15 years ago, in 2003, with Iraq the target. Most UI students were alive then, but most too young to have clear memories of it.

But, as William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” So it is with the Vietnam War, so it is with the Iraq War. Five hundred thousand U.S. veterans of the Iraq War have post-traumatic stress disorder. We still had more than 5,000 troops in Iraq as of a few months ago, and how many are there now? How much educational expenses could be covered by the trillion dollars we have spent directly on the Iraq War? What about the state of affairs in Iraq today, having lost thousands of lives in the U.S. war and with infrastructure and social structure severely fractured? Maybe most importantly, what can we learn from these tragedies?

RELATED: Veterans stand in remembrance, speak out against war

Please join Veterans For Peace and PEACE Iowa at the Clinton Street/Iowa Avenue entrance to the Pentacrest at 5:30-6 p.m. today for a 15-Year Peace Vigil. We must do more than mourn the past. We must learn from it and build a better present and future.

– Ed Flaherty

Iowa City resident

Why ‘never again’ is never enough

A recent audit revealed the University of Iowa’s emergency preparedness has “unacceptable weaknesses” creating “unacceptable risks.”

Following the next predictable campus crisis, will it be enough for UI’s administrators to say, “We must see that this never happens again”? Is that an adequate response to school shootings by federal and state lawmakers? I don’t think so.

There are some truly unpredictable surprises.

My mother told the story of a woman who found a penciled note from her new cleaning woman. It read, “I’m sorry, but I can’t work in a home with an alligator in the bathtub. I would have said something earlier, but I did not think the situation would arise.”

But railroads know that without “positive train control,” passenger and freight trains can jump the tracks, crash into other trains, spill oil, and kill people.

Iowa’s NRA-backed legislators and governor know their stubborn support of every NRA demand means more school children will be shot.

RELATED: Judiciary hearing points to failures leading to Parkland shooting

Preventing such disasters is part of the job description of those getting the big bucks to lead corporations and government. Predictable shootings aren’t unexpected alligators in bathtubs.

Leaders’ performance should be judged by not what they propose to prevent “next time” but by what they failed to do to prevent “this time.”

– Nicholas Johnson

Former Iowa City  School Board member

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