Battle Zones


Great analysis by Ronald E. Osborn on the death toll in the Iraq war (“Still Counting,” February 11). He fails to include the deaths from the murderous twelve-year U.S./UN sanctions leading up to the war, which would put the Iraqi death toll at well over 1 million, perhaps 2 million.

John F. Irwin
Catonsville, Md.



Regarding “Stuck,” by Margaret O’Brien Steinfels (February 11): Whatever is the actual course of events in the Af-Pak region, it seems long overdue to stop referring to it as a “war.” “Nation building” I can accept; “police action” I can accept. But “war” implies a certain small range of outcomes that almost always involve heads of government (and their political systems) being deposed, if they do not promise future stability and lawfulness.

It is well to point to the long resistance of Afghan natives to establishment of a modern centralized state, but one must ask, Who suffers most from the lack of order that results? Afghanistan’s willingness to tolerate Al Qaeda is a real predicament for Western society. I’m not aware of methods for successful nation building that don’t involve establishing order and national infrastructures.

Bill Mullins
Mission Hills, Kans.



I had just finished reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet when I came across Anthony Domestico’s review (“Independent Worlds,” February 11). I was taken with the novel’s religious dimension. We see Jacob’s sturdy Calvinist piety expressed in the danger of crucifixion if his psalter is discovered by the Japanese. His good Calvinism saves him from colluding in fraud at great personal cost. His friend and compatriot Dr. Marinus ably quotes the Psalms as well.

But I was especially impressed with the old woman who lives on the remote snowy slopes of Mount Shiranui. She practices a long tradition of herbal medicine. But at prayer we find her concealed in the rafters of her cottage for fear of persecution. She prays something like a rosary, two hundred years after twenty-six Jesuits and Franciscans were crucified and their faith proscribed. She lives not far from where they were killed—in Nagasaki.

Kevin Tortorelli, OFM
New York, N.Y.

Published in the 2011-03-11 issue: 
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