On the road to democracy or the road to hell? Readers respond to Phillip Robertson's report on the last five months in war-ravaged Iraq.

Published September 24, 2004 9:52PM (EDT)

[Read "Hell," by Phillip Robertson.]

Phillip Robertson's work ranks with the best of historical war reporters, such as Edward R. Murrow, who risked his life during the Blitz of World War II to bring the ugly facts of war home to the American people.

America in 2004 is edging toward a disastrous precipice not so much because of demagogues like Bush and Cheney but rather because so many Americans lack either a critical faculty or the will to use it in their own long-term interests. A reasonable civil society would cleanse itself of such cankers as the Bush administration. My only hope is that enough of the American electorate awakens to the peril we now face in time to chart a course toward sanity. Robertson's fearless reporting has sounded the warning call.

-- David Spyr

Phillip Robertson's article demonstrates just how polarized we are as a nation -- particularly when it comes to Iraq.

While no one would argue that the more prolonged a war is, the more hellish it becomes -- the cry of freedom and democracy would never be heard if we followed the advice that Robertson implies. Sure, war brings death and destruction; unfortunately, these are necessary evils to bring about the refreshing breath of freedom that all humans long for.

To get through that Hell will take courage, determination, and a willingness not to wallow in the horror of it all. We must keep our minds on making things better and better in Iraq -- helping to move those people (now free from imposed dictatorship) toward a government for them and by them.

-- Scotty Neasbitt

As so often occurs in war reporting, the women of this war-torn zone seem to have been lost. Are there any women living in Iraq at present? It would be difficult to say based on the news reportage I read and see and hear.

I'm sure it's not easy for journalists to get access to women in contemporary Iraq, but I wish they'd expend as much of their energy and courage making their way into the trust and home of various women as they do into braving extremist rallies.

I want to read about every day people's everyday lives -- partly so that I can relate but mainly because I want to know the ultimate reality of war -- its impact on normal people, who have no interest in fighting and politics but who want to carry out their lives in stability and peace, just like most of us. We know enough about taxi drivers who ferry Western journalists around. How about a taxi driver's wife?

-- Laura Budd

This the most elegant and powerful critique of the war in Iraq that I have ever read. Why doesn't Kerry say this, exactly this? If he has (and I follow news very closely), why does no one hear it? Its near apocalyptic conclusion, that we are "teetering" on the reelection of the administration that made this mess, is a bone-chilling call to action that has to be heard in order to be heeded.

I will pray that Kerry gets this, precisely this, message out loud and clear, or that a plurality of Americans are actually less tolerant of ideological lies than a cowardly media would have us believe.

-- Megan Becker-Leckrone

The other day I met a young soldier, a sergeant, who had just gotten off the flight from Baghdad.

I met him at a commemoration of 9/11, at which both he and his father spoke. The father went first, and just by reading a timeline of events of that day, he brought the audience to the edge of tears.

After the timeline completed, however, the young man's father stated that the war in Iraq is our response to these attacks. Even in the face of all that has been reported, 9/11 commission, CIA reports, everything, some educated people still believe that Iraq was behind 9/11.

The young man was then asked to speak. He had not had time to even change his clothes, coming straight from the airport. His eyes were still darting from side to side, his shoulders slightly hunched, as he spoke to us. What he described was the loss of friends in his squad while patrolling the slums of Baghdad. The look in his eyes was so forlorn my heart broke.

He is just one soldier, and yet several of his friends were maimed or killed while on patrol. Looking at him, I could see the frustration of trying to communicate with us, trying to express the horror and sorrow he felt to a group of people who could no more understand his feelings than they could grow antlers.

That's what I saw in his eyes. I can only guess what he saw in ours.

-- Rick Foley

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------