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Thank you for your interesting and informative piece on John Judge and his fine program (“Uncle Scram,” 1/31). Like Judge, I also oppose U.S. plans to go to war in Iraq. For me, that is the single most important reason for young people to refuse to serve in the military. The armed-forces representatives the story quotes are correct to point out the progress the military has made to address racism in the service, its progress on fighting rape, and its educational benefits for youth.

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Fine as all these things are, however, both Judge and the recruiters you quote failed to mention one important thing: Young people considering enlistment should remember that the service is not set up to fight racism or poverty, to stop rape, or to send you to college. The only reason to have an army is to kill people. Youth considering enlistment need to remember that and give serious thought to deciding if they are willing to kill people they have never met, for reasons they may not understand or even oppose, because men they did not elect, do not know, and have no reason to trust order it.

They need to also think hard about whether they are willing to be killed, crippled, blinded, disfigured, or poisoned. They should give thought to the fact that those making the decisions have never themselves served in a war, having wisely avoided service in Vietnam, where 56,000 young Americans met their deaths and another 200,000 were maimed.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz have no idea of the sacrifice they are calling on youth and their families to make; each chose to avoid combat during his own youth, and yet they are calling on the American people to give our lives and the lives of our children to fight a war in Iraq. Do you trust them? Is Iraq important enough to kill and to die for? The recruiters and I would agree that when you do enlist, you won’t be able to change your mind and go home if you decide combat just isn’t for you.

Petworth