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Letters to the editor

Jim Dorsey

“We must stay the course.” That’s something that both Bush and Kerry seem to agree on. The problem is of course, is that no one can say what is the course that we must stay! At least not clearly.The best I can learn is that the “course” is the implementation of democracy in Iraq and the rapid withdrawal of our troops. A laudable goal. How does one spell “hubris”?We Americans seem to possess some sort of mystical belief in the inexorable progress of democracy wherever a seed is introduced. This article of faith seems to be of an almost religious fervor, and even more so these days.I’d perhaps be more persuaded by the viability of democracy in Iraq if it had even a scintilla of experience in self-government in the last thousand years. Three powerful and competitive ethnic-religious groups who’ve been at each others’ throats for centuries doesn’t fill me with encouragement. Each of these ethnic groups is also splintered within with traditional warlords fighting militant clerics, with various tribal leaders flavoring the mix. All striving for suzerainty (which they all associate with survival). But then, perhaps they’ll abandon their traditional animosity and develop altruistic streaks in the next 30 days.When I look at a map of Iraq, I can’t help but notice that its longest border is with an Islamic revolutionary republic. Then you have a few kingdoms on the other sides. Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria (their “president” is an hereditary title). The operative word is “kingdom.” No one has yet explained to me how a successful democracy right in their midst is anything but anathema to their best interests.The last country untutored in democracy that we spread the word in was South Korea. We installed a democratic government there in contravention to the history of their traditionally subservient population. It worked there, true. It only cost some 50,000 American lives and we still maintain that democracy with the presence of 35,000 troops some 50 years later.Japan was more successful. We only occupied them for 15 years or so. They picked up on democracy pretty quickly. At this stage, one might wonder what would have happened had LBJ, back in ’66, parked his ego, picked up his ball and went home, declaring victory in Vietnam. Would the world be appreciably different today?The supplementary argument to “staying the course” is that America would lose all credibility if we didn’t. Hmmm! What credibility?Every survey taken in the last year or so clearly demonstrates we don’t have any credibility with, well, anybody. Our traditional European allies all own populations (yes, even in England) that actively distrust and dislike America by a very wide margin. Our credibility in the Middle East? With whom? The Kings? The Iraqis? Exactly with whom is this credibility an issue with? Memories are short. As soon as any one of them needs us again, we’ll have all the credibility we need. Remember, nations don’t have friends; they have interests. They will love or hate us as their interests are engaged. Why chase a chimera? Particularly given the cost? There is one more uncomfortable piece of history at play here. Along with the arrival of our troops came hundreds of insurgents: al Qaida, home-grown Fedayeen, Islamic Jihadists, etc., ad nauseam. The inconvenient problem this presents is that insurgents all too often win! From the American Revolution all the way to Vietnam, history is peppered with far more successful insurgencies than notable failures. They just wait you out.Remember that Kerry and Bush are substantially in agreement about Iraq. The back and forth carping is largely semantics. These are issues that don’t seem to be of much interest to much of the media. Nor do many, if any, of our politicians seem all that concerned. Maybe our leaders have some specific plans to neutralize these obstacles to success.It’s just that, well, based on recent experience, I’m concerned that those “plans” may consist of a box of pick-up sticks.Jim DorseyAvonAll wetMy eldest child graduated from Eagle Valley High (Saturday). A day that should have been filled with pride and excitement for my family and me was instead filled with disgust and disappointment.The 2004 Eagle Valley High School commencement ceremony was, in my opinion, completely disrespectful to the graduates, their families and their friends. As I sat in the stands, soaking wet and chilled to the bone, I found myself wishing that the student and guest speakers would talk faster, that the band would play faster and that the choir would sing faster so everyone could get inside out of the rain. I heard those around me muttering similar comments and I felt deeply saddened that the thoughts of those in attendance weren’t about how proud they were of their graduate’s success but of how quickly they wanted the ceremony over with so they could get in out of the rain. Mark Strakbein’s determination to plow through a miserable ceremony instead of making a decision to move it inside for the comfort and safety of everyone in attendance disgusts me. I feel that Mr. Strakbein made a mockery of the ceremony by stubbornly refusing to put a halt to the torturous event. His inability to display the leadership that a school principal should possess is a disgrace. You should be ashamed of yourself, Mr. Strakbein!I look at the photos that your paper printed of the commencement ceremonies of both Eagle Valley High and Battle Mountain High. The contrast of the images is heart-breaking. The graduates of Battle Mountain High are smiling, hair groom neatly, gowns pressed and dry, able to pause briefly for a picture perfect photo to be taken of them happily receiving their prized diplomas. What a stark contrast to the photos taken of the Eagle Valley High graduates who are somberly huddled together, shivering and soaked to the skin, hair dripping wet, no doubt praying for a quick conclusion to a ceremony that should have been a celebration of achievement instead of yet another event in their high school careers that they must endure. It pains me that the photos your paper printed will be the only photographic remembrances that I will have of my daughter’s graduation, as my camera was soaking wet and my film was ruined. The photo of Mark Strakbein screaming each graduate’s name was particularly disturbing to me. I felt his action showed disrespect to everyone in the stands who had been looking forward to hearing with pride their beloved graduate’s name announced. Those of us who were on the other end of the bleachers couldn’t hear anything that was said when the sound system went down. I never heard my daughter’s name announced. Mr. Strakbein robbed me of a precious moment in my life. A precious moment that I will never have the opportunity to relish like the parents of Battle Mountain graduates.Perhaps I am taking this whole situation too personally, but I had been looking forward to and planning for this moment for four years. I wanted a picture perfect conclusion to high school for my daughter and me to remember. I’m sure the day will come when the events of her graduation won’t bother me so much, but today isn’t that day. As for all of the graduates of Eagle Valley High, I couldn’t be prouder of each an every one of you for overcoming all of the obstacles you’ve come up against. I found your compassionate remembrance of your lost friend Syklar Hootman particularly touching. I congratulate each and every one of you and wish you all best wishes for your future. Cindi MerrittGypsumProject Graduation kudosI would like to take a moment to extend a heart-felt thank you to the Vail Valley community for once again providing huge and generous financial support to BMHS’s Project Graduation. Because of all of you we were able to provide our graduates with a fun packed evening at the Avon Rec center which included casino games, sumo wrestling, bowling, swimming, karaoke, lots of great food, and wonderful prizes for everyone.The goal of Project Graduation is to provide an alcohol and drug free party the evening of graduation. Statistics tell us that teens are at highest risk for using drugs and alcohol on both prom night and graduation night. Project Graduation provides an alternative and most of our graduates chose to attend this year’s event. We couldn’t have done it with out all of you! As a senior parent, I can tell you that the enormous amount of fund raising required for this annual event seemed daunting back in October. The Vail Daily generously donated ads recognizing our sponsors, and requesting a few more. Many local businesses and community members responded and the money rolled in. I would like to especially thank our most generous sponsors: 1st Bank, Beaver Creek Resort Company, Traer Creek, The Ritz Carlton, NRC Broadcasting Inc., Eves Print Shop, Wal-Mart, The Eagle County Commissioners, Margo and Roger Behler, and the Vail Daily. The parental support of this event was phenomenal. It was truly a pleasure to work with such a great group of people, especially the talented and dedicated committee chairs. Thank you!Caroline Sheahan


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