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Communists spread message with puppets

The Vietnamese organizations would not call on the public to boycott the water-puppet performances without firmly believing our cultural heritage is being exploited as propaganda to conceal the regime's brutality while gaining the sympathy of the American people ("Hosting puppeteers does not endorse communist regime," Editorial, Star-Bulletin, June 2).

The protest is not directed at the art form, but rather at the false pretense of the communist regime. Water puppetry is the traditional art form of North Vietnam and its techniques are still secret, passed from father to son for generations. How could the Saigon Water Puppet Theatre have been founded in 1977, when anyone in Vietnam would have been arrested for just saying the word "Saigon" in lieu of "Ho Chi Minh"?

I lived in Saigon from 1970 to 1993, but never heard about this troupe. It was deceivingly named after Saigon, the capital of democratic South Vietnam, to gain acceptance.

Through this protest, we hope these Vietnamese puppeteers will have a first-hand look at democracy in action.

Quoc Le

Puppeteers portray culture, history

I heartily congratulate the East-West Center for its sponsorship of the Ho Chi Minh City Water Puppet Theatre. This cultural exchange program with Vietnam is a strong indication of the EWC leadership's awareness of its role in the promotion of the United States' interest in Asia. As it has been almost three decades since the end of the Vietnam war, the United States is now looking at Southeast Asia as a zone of peace, security and economic cooperation.

For centuries, Vietnamese living in the Red River delta enjoyed itinerant water-puppet theater troupes even as the great river flooded their villages almost every year during the rainy season. I was able to enjoy this unusual form of rural theater twice in Hanoi during the past three years. It gave me a meaningful picture of Vietnamese village life and sketches of Vietnamese history, especially stories about the people's struggle for independence before the European colonial era.

I hope people will take the time to see this unique performance. As a retired United States Foreign Service officer and native of Indochina, I thank the EWC for its robust vision of cooperation for peace and prosperity between the United States and all of Southeast Asia.

Thavanh Svengsouk

An Iraq battle is over, but war continues

As unaccustomed as I am to agreeing with any editorial from the Star-Bulletin, I must concur with your June 1 opinion ("WMD ambiguity may have been Saddam's ruse").

What I think you missed, as well as has the "blame America for everything" crowd, is that Iraq has now effectively been removed from the list of state sponsors of international terrorism. Moreover, the action in Iraq was not a war, it was a battle, one of seven I can see in a war between Islam and Western civilization.

Charles De Zurik

Were soldiers' deaths in Iraq necessary?

This Memorial Day weekend, our military and their families were appropriately praised for making the supreme sacrifice -- giving their lives to save ours. In the recent Iraq war more than 160 members of the military made that sacrifice. We should ask if those painful deaths were necessary.

Before the war, President Bush and members of his Cabinet repeatedly told the world Saddam Hussein had "tons of weapons of mass destruction" and was ready to use them. The U.N. inspection teams could not find any of the weapons.

In spite of that, before the war began we had special operations forces in Iraq searching for the weapons so they could not be used on our troops. Since the war began, we have had thousands of troops searching for those WMDs. Not a single one has been found.

I have come to three conclusions. The first is that the intelligence units, on which we spend billions of dollars, are useless. The second is that Bush and his Cabinet were duped by poor intelligence.

The third conclusion is that Bush and his Cabinet were aware that there were no WMDs but chose to go to war in any case.

We should demand to know why our service members had to make the supreme sacrifice. Was it because of stupidity or criminality?

John Casken

Pot is neither addictive nor dangerous

I wish to refute the belief that marijuana is dangerous (Letters, June 3). Forty-seven percent of Americans have smoked marijuana. If there were a direct causal effect between marijuana use and addiction, criminal behavior and birth defects, would not 135 million people in the United States be afflicted with some of these maladies?

One of my close friends, a case analyst for the U.S. Supreme Court, is fond of saying that many government employees are incompetent. We were fed all sorts of propaganda during the Cold War, and we are still looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What incompetence! The same is true about what the government tells us about marijuana. If I were dying of cancer, going blind from glaucoma or wasting from AIDS, I would want to smoke marijuana if it alleviated the symptoms.

Marijuana associates the user with the dealers who deal harder drugs. If marijuana were legalized and put in the same category as alcohol, we might solve part of the problem of harder drugs such as heroin, cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, morphine, opium and others.

Phil Robertson


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