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Updated: October 6, 2012 1:48PM



Afghan outposts

One must understand that, historically, wars are won by fighting the enemy on their land, defeating the enemy in combat, controlling their land and then converting the enemy to peaceful ends as has been done in Germany, as an example.

Afghanistan is an anomaly, a general departure from the norm. We have been in Afghanistan for some 10 years and still haven’t controlled but a small part of the country.

This has left the Afghan people and the Taliban basically in control of the land. Consider also that the majority of the Afghan people sympathize with the Taliban.

Our military and civilian leadership has instituted the tactic of placing our combat units in combat outposts — from platoon units, company, battalion and larger. This includes our NATO allies.

These outposts are heavily fortified and subject to numerous attacks by the Taliban, as they control most of the land in Afghanistan. But what does our military dictate? Send out patrols to find and engage the Taliban.

These patrols keep encountering improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that are strewn across roads, trails or open fields by the Taliban or the Afghan civilians in the area. The result is horrific, as thousands of our finest young men end up dead or with life-lasting loss of legs, arms and mind.

My prayers go out to all of our military personnel. The military or civilian minds that instituted this strategy should be praying also, and for other reasons. For the average soldier, including myself, combat patrols into enemy areas are serious combat missions.

What we need is a new strategy and new leadership! In other words, we need to fight wars properly.

Kless Gyzen

Waukegan

Return of the arts

I took some time last week to experience David Dallison’s art exhibit at the Waukegan Public Library. “Exhibit” doesn’t do credit to what David has shared with his community — not only with strikingly beautiful watercolors, but also with fascinating tales of their creation, a viewer is immersed in the intoxicating ambiance of places like China, Vietnam, Japan, Bali and Italy, along with the more familiar environs of Chicago and Waukegan.

What an extraordinarily rich life is here on display: A gifted Waukegan artist (painter and musician), restoring an older home to include amenities like an oriental garden and art studio/gallery, entertaining music fans every weekend with his talented band (the Downhome Sophisticates), while still finding the time and energy to travel with wife and son to distant shores, capturing for us more sedentary folk the beauty and allure of the wider world.

With the expense and hassle of going overseas these days, you might want to consider a free, simple alternative awaiting discovery at Waukegan’s downtown library. Here is a perfect example of how the return of the arts — along with new re-greening and education projects — are transforming a town too quickly written off by too many.

Others might want to follow Waukegan’s cultural lead by bringing the magnificent work and inspiring story of this unique local artist to their communities.

Newton Finn, Waukegan

Rudderless ship

The large bold print headline in the Aug. 18 Lake County News-Sun read: “House adjourns without bill to cut pensions.”

Despite positive reports and hype to the contrary, lawmakers failed to come up with a measure to rein in public employee pension costs even as they were called to Springfield for a special legislative session by Governor Quinn on Aug. 17, under the guise of striking an agreement to overhaul Illinois’s five retirement systems.

The House, however, did find time to expel indicted legislator, Rep Derrick Smith, with a vote of 100-6. Even so, Rep. Smith could be re-elected in November and sworn in again in January.

Telling is that Quinn’s proposal (House Bill 1447) to cut pension benefits for teachers, university employees and state workers wasn’t even publicly considered during the single day-long session, which speaks volumes about Quinn’s leadership deficit.

One measure introduced might have been more appropriate for an April Fool’s Day prank. It would have cut lawmakers’ pension benefits, then eliminated pensions for new lawmakers starting the summer of 2013. The projected savings: $111 million by 2045, or one-tenth of 1 percent of the state’s overall retirement debt. This is an amount even too minuscule to call a start!

Although the estimate of pension debt is often listed as $83 billion, Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, has done the math and has concluded that Illinois legislators must actually address a total shortfall of $203 billion. That’s $41,000 per household.

How can Democrat-controlled Rhode Island, with the second-worst funded pension system in the nation (Illinois is last), pass a series of reforms to cut the state’s unfunded liabilities by almost 50 percent, yet Illinois legislators aren’t able to grasp the severity of their state’s math and do the same?

In one sense, failure to act by legislators amounts to gross dereliction, but lack of leadership by Governor Quinn must also be factored in, for like a rudderless ship, both spell disaster and catastrophic failure.

Nancy J. Thorner

Lake Bluff



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