More readers respond to President Bush's first-term scandals. Plus: Former soldiers applaud -- and condemn -- a conscientious objector to the Iraq war.

Published January 20, 2005 11:35PM (EST)

[Read "The Scandal Sheet," by Peter Dizikes.]

Your list of 34 scandals missed one: the failed prosecution of 9/11 terrorists.

The scandal: Two terrorists who were likely part of the cell that carried out the 9/11 attacks and participated in the preparations for them were arrested in Germany. The U.S. Justice Department was unwilling to provide requested evidence, citing "security concerns," which resulted in one of the suspects being found not guilty. The other one had been initially found guilty, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.

The problem: The Justice Department apparently has other concerns besides punishing people who likely helped commit 9/11. The government has been unwilling to give evidence to the German prosecutors and will not allow U.S. captives to testify in German court. Much of the evidence that has been turned over comes with a provision that it be kept secret, making it inadmissible in court.

The outcome: Terrorists who were likely involved in logistical support for 9/11 walk free.

-- Keith Irwin

Your top 34 scandals missed the one that's been most deadly to Americans and that promises to be for years to come. When the U.S. decided to attack Iraq and chased international inspectors out, the administration neglected to secure or track hundreds of tons of explosives and other munitions, despite repeated warnings from the IAEA about Al Qaqaa and other weapons sites that had been secure since 1991.

The IAEA confirmed this in October 2004, and the Pentagon's subsequent alibis have been demolished by video reports from multiple U.S. news organizations.

These are the weapons that continue to kill most U.S. troops, in the form of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Even if the U.S. wasn't fomenting international hatred at record levels with its attacks, leaving millions of pounds of high explosives available to any Middle Easterner with a pickup truck makes whoever is responsible a negligent accessory to murder. If Saddam Hussein had done this, it would be a leading charge in his war crimes trial.

Status: Apparently no investigation yet begun. Perhaps the families of dead soldiers and civilians blown up by these mismanaged weapons sites will some day make sure those responsible are held accountable.

-- David Levitt

Until there is a semi-level playing field in our mass media, there will continue to be a double standard by which we judge Republicans and Democrats. The only reason why firing a couple of travel office employees gets a "gate" while lying us into war and outing CIA operatives get no "gates" is that our mass media finds it easier to attack Democrats, and corporate discipline makes it tough on anyone who attacks Republicans.

Our only recourse is to elect representatives who are committed to re-regulating the media and re-instituting a new fairness doctrine. If we don't fix our media, our system will never again be self-correcting, and nothing will ever work.

-- Bill Batten

[Read "Ain't Gonna Study War No More," by Phillip Babich.]

I received a conscientious objector discharge from the Air Force in April 2003, just after the end of "major combat operations" in Iraq. Although I did not see any combat, I had spent five years in active duty after graduating from the Air Force Academy.

Sgt. Benderman's story is unfortunately common in that the military is generally reluctant to grant anyone C.O. status. He clearly showed incredible moral fortitude by standing by his convictions, though few people will agree with him. It is not easy to understand the transformation of a person who willingly enters the military and learns to stand against its aims. I was fortunate myself in that my senior commanders did not stand in my way but seemed to respect my decision.

I hope the best for Sgt. Benderman, both in his discharge process and the grueling emotional process of changing his life's direction.

-- Stephen Potts

I take exception with the statement that we can't "question Benderman's sudden application for C.O. status." I have respect for conscientious objectors. And yes, a person can change their mind after experiencing war. But conscientious objector status does not mean you cannot serve. There are many jobs in the service that conscientious objectors can do that support their deeply held convictions. Besides, a man in a position of leadership who accepts a paycheck and waits until he is about to be returned to a combat zone to declare his sudden objections is very suspect.

I've read many writings this week about the responsibility of the soldier in his role as a warrior. I am discouraged by those who see the soldier as the cause of evil in a war. Our soldiers are doing the bidding of the American people as defined by those we choose to represent us in government. If you have a problem with war, blame those we put in power.

Let me say that again: Blame those we put in power!

-- Chet Dailey

Whenever I hear of veterans who played warrior for many years before suddenly deciding that they are antiwar, I am pretty sure I know the reason: cowardice.

I was a Marine and I did not want to go to war, but I knew I might have to. That was the deal.

Benderman let his family, his unit, his Army and his country down when he took the coward's way out. Shame on him.

-- Neil Lewis

There are many in this the country who accept the fact that people can suddenly be saved by Christ and change their ways. Why is it so surprising then to those patriots that a soldier could come, after long thought, to the conscientious objector position. There seems some hypocrisy in that.

-- Gerri Caldarola

Sgt. Kevin Benderman is a hero for filing for C.O. status in response to Iraq deployment.

I wish that I'd had the same fortitude to avoid being deployed to Vietnam in 1969, where I participated in the illegal bombing of Cambodia, not to mention helping kill tens of thousands in South Vietnam. I was part of a small ground-based SAC unit that ground-directed precision-bombing strikes with B-52s, 24/7/365.

Sgt. Kevin Benderman's chaplain says that he is ashamed of Benderman. I am ashamed of my country and its illegal and immoral actions in Iraq. The chaplain's apparent allegiance makes me wonder if he sees President-select Bush as a higher authority than God.

-- Al Zayha

By Salon Staff

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