Chile's troubled past
Re "Ghosts of Chile," Opinion, March 20
I survived the repressive military regime in Chile backed by the U.S., and I believe Ariel Dorfman asked too much of President Obama in imploring him to visit with the researchers compiling a list of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's victims.
I thought that perhaps Obama could have visited the concentration camp, Villa Grimaldi, where I was confined. But that wouldn't change anything. In order to get along with Chilean President Sebastián Piñera — Pinochet's economic model incarnate — Chile's painful and ugly history is regarded as an obstacle to peace and progress.
Obama's role as a world leader is to maintain the status quo. It means the perpetuation of volumes of denied history, one of an apartheid system in which the developed world rules. I don't doubt that he will carry this out with sophistication because, unlike his predecessors, he truly is very smart and well informed.
Dorfman thinks that Obama should pay homage to deposed Chilean President Salvador Allende. He actually did pay homage to the architect of the "Chilean economic miracle": Pinochet.
The president encountered the amazing prosperity and unparalleled liberty of the Chilean people, and thereby witnessed firsthand the good
Pinochet did for this most democratically successful Latin American nation. Pinochet's policies, which ensured access to free markets for all, not just the privileged class, thwarted an attempt by Allende to sabotage Chile with Marxist policies.
I have no particular connection to Chile or South America, but for some reason Allende's removal sickens me as much as any act my country has participated in.
I wonder if we will ever realize that our relationships will be better and more rewarding if they are true friendships, not at the point of a gun (whether figurative or literal). There are plenty of lost opportunities to point to, along with the gruesome results.
As a November 2010 Times Op-Ed article put it, Obama ran for office as a transformational figure, then abandoned that to be a transactional one. How terribly sad.
There must be a catch
Re "Not our fight," Opinion, March 21
Edward N. Luttwak is right on. Not only will we again be cast as the evil aggressors by the Arab world, but the same group who asked for help — the Arab League — is already complaining about our use of cruise missiles.
The reaction in the Muslim countries is that no country would be dumb enough to risk its people and money unless it had something to gain. That's why we have not won the hearts or gratitude of the people in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All we are doing is wasting our lives and our fortune. United Nations approval doesn't mean it's in our best interest.
Ronald W. Howard
It seems that Luttwak would base his decisions not on whether doing something is right or wrong but rather on whether the action would be seen by others as attacking a religion.
Enough of this drivel already. Spare us the thought that some people will view the action in Libya as predatory, aggressive and anti-Muslim. If that's the way they want to see it, so what? Aren't the rebels Muslims?
It's a coalition action anyway. Let them blame the United Nations.
Luttwak has hit the nail on the head. Years ago a friend of mine who had just returned from the Vietnam War told me that the people assumed that the United States was there to take over the country.
Luttwak is correct when he states that people in situations such as Libya's find that it is beyond their imagination that any government would be "benevolent enough to expend blood and treasure to disinterestedly help foreigners." Nothing changes except the location.
Online taxes are too much
Re "Are you an online tax cheat?" Editorial, March 22
Instead of passing new laws to collect taxes from Web retailers, how about enforcing the ones already on the books?
Californians are already required to remit unpaid taxes on their Internet purchases, which they can easily do when filing annual state tax returns. Scofflaws can be penalized up to 25% for noncompliance.
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) should push the Board of Equalization to do its job rather than lose faith in her fellow Californians to follow the law.
Kun David Lee
I make an occasional online purchase, but I don't bother to remit the sales tax. Why should I? Last year I paid $4,979 in income taxes to the state. What did I get in return? A broken government that refuses to make hard choices.
Now I have two kids who will have to endure more crowded classrooms because we can't afford to hire enough teachers. And you want me to go out of my way to give the state more money? Are you kidding?
If the state wants the money, it should have Amazon.com record my annual purchases and bill me, or it should deduct my sales tax due from my state tax refund.
The definition of marriage