Opinion | A Tragic U.S. Drone Strike in Afghanistan

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To the Editor:

Re “Evidence Disputes U.S. Claim of ISIS Bomb in Kabul Drone Strike” (front page, Sept. 11):

Congratulations to The New York Times for proving the impossibility of conducting victimless airstrikes in the middle of crowded cities. While the motivation for the drone attack by U.S. forces was to stop what officials thought were preparations for an attack on Kabul’s airport, the strike instead appears to have decimated the innocent family of an aid worker.

Civilians make up the overwhelming majority of casualties — more than 90 percent — when explosive weapons are deployed in populated areas, as in Kabul last month. Precision airstrikes in cities can be only as targeted as the information on which they are based, and the resulting blast radius can never avoid risking the lives of those nearby.

For this reason, our organization and many others are calling for a political declaration against the practice. Your investigation shows that it’s high time for the United States to support such a declaration.

Jeff Meer
Silver Spring, Md.
The writer is U.S. executive director of Humanity & Inclusion, an aid organization.

To the Editor:

Your investigative report makes a convincing case that the target was innocent of conduct justifying a death sentence. The question now is, What will the United States do about it?

I suggest that America commit to paying compensation to victims of “collateral damage.” This should be done quickly and automatically upon presentation of the kind of evidence assembled by The Times, and given complete with an apology, and perhaps a letter from the president of the United States saying he is sorry for their loss.

If we are turning over a new leaf with respect to our foreign adventures, we need to change the mind-set that an American life is worth more than all others.

Dave Sullivan
Gloucester, Mass.

To the Editor:

As an American patriot and staunch defender of our military, I was saddened and disheartened by this story. Clearly, the evidence suggests that the drone strike might have been a tragic error. If so, one can feel sorry not only for the family members who were killed, but also for the drone team members who were no doubt acting in good faith.

The disturbing issue is that the Pentagon has yet to admit the possibility that the strike may have been a mistake. In our continuing war against terrorists, both foreign and domestic, mistakes will be made, and innocent people will be killed. The Pentagon, and all our military leaders, must be willing to admit to those mistakes.

John Birdsall
Sagaponack, N.Y.

Trump and General Milley

To the Editor:

Re “New Book Details Fears Trump Would Start War” (news article, Sept. 15):

Senator Marco Rubio has demanded in a letter to President Biden that he immediately relieve Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of his duties.

Mr. Rubio wrote, “General Milley has attempted to rationalize his reckless behavior by arguing that what he perceived as the military’s judgement was more stable than its civilian commander.”

Senator Rubio got that right.

The irony is that Republicans knew that Mr. Trump was unstable but refused to take any steps that might unsettle his base.

General Milley’s “reckless behavior” was to assure the Chinese that it would not be necessary to take pre-emptive actions to defend themselves from an attack they believed was coming from a country they perceived as coming apart and from a president they observed as dangerous and on the brink of doing something crazy.

Truth be told, the Chinese were probably right to be alarmed.

Who is more reckless, the Republicans who failed to protect our country from a president they knew was dangerous, or General Milley, who assured China that Mr. Trump would not be allowed to wage an arbitrary war?

William Goldman
Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.

Justice Barrett’s Partisanship

To the Editor:

Re “Justice Barrett says the Supreme Court’s work is not affected by politics” (Daily Political Briefing, nytimes.com, Sept. 13):

Apparently Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s commitment to being nonpartisan goes only so far. Had she honestly wanted to avoid partisanship, or at least public perception of it, she would have declined to be slammed onto the Supreme Court in the last seconds of Donald Trump’s term.

Her appointment to the court was utterly partisan. All one needs is a cursory look at how it was done, and the players involved.

I find her arguments disingenuous at best. “Judicial philosophy” is sheep’s clothing for the partisan ideology that Justice Barrett and the Federalist Society follow.

Nancy Grimmer
Bethesda, Md.

Those Cushy Opera Seats

To the Editor:

Re “Yes, That Opera Seat Does Feel Roomier” (Arts pages, Aug. 23):

While I understand that filling the hall must be the goal of all opera companies and house managers, I’m not sure that this is the way to go about achieving it.

Comfort is a good thing, to be sure, and to a person like me, who is approaching 70, even something of a requirement. Comfortable seats, great. But cup holders? No way.

I vividly recall the first time I attended a theater event in New York where drinking was permitted in the theater. Since when, I remember thinking, did such inducements to theatergoing become necessary? If tickets were more affordable — with rush seats readily available — audiences would grow, and likely skew younger. But that is a cultural shift that, sadly, I do not expect to see in my lifetime.

Theater offers the possibility of a thrilling, moving, perhaps even life-changing experience. Whether or not a given concert hall, opera house or theater has cushy seats is not a prerequisite.

Susan E.H. Halliday
Lexington, Mass.

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