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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Wednesday - 8/21/2013, 3:31pm  ET

The Associated Press

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

August 17

Rocky Mount (N.C.) Telegram on revise mandatory minimum sentencing:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's call last week for a revision of mandatory federal sentencing laws is a welcome but overdue proposal.

Holder specifically took aim at low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have filled the nation's prisons during the so-called "War on Drugs" of the past 30 years.

Mandatory minimum sentencing and so-called "three strikes" laws were enacted throughout the 1980s and 1990s as politicians sought to "get tough" on crime and more aggressively combat the failing "War of Drugs." These laws removed any discretion in sentencing from judges based on the actual conditions of specific cases and imposed arbitrary prison time for general classifications of different types of crimes.

The result was a swelling of the U.S. prison population -- mostly with inmates convicted of drug-related crimes. Holder said the prison population has grown by almost 800 percent since 1980, with more than 219,000 federal inmates in facilities that are operating at nearly 40 percent above capacity.

Holder said he has instructed federal prosecutors to stop charging many nonviolent drug defendants with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences. He said he plans to work with Congress to give judges greater discretion in sentencing.

It's way past time for the United States to bring some common sense to the criminal justice system and return flexibility to judges when they hand down sentences. The increasing cost of maintaining the country's prisons continues to divert needed resources from law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and drug prevention and intervention programs.

Mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders promote injustice and do nothing to protect public safety. Holder is correct in his call to abandon them.



August 13

The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune on post-invasion Iraq finds civil war, not democracy:

Americans, whatever their position on the decision to invade Iraq 10 years ago, had hoped that when the controversial war was over that peace would prevail, but judging by recent events something akin to a civil war is tearing the country apart.

Sectarian warfare cost an estimated 1,000 Iraqis their lives last month alone, making July one of the worst months in years. So far in 2013, more than 4,000 Iraqis have been killed by acts of violence. Almost every day there are reports of multiple bombings taking multiple lives, and it is always Muslim against Muslim, Shia against Sunni.

This is not the outcome the United States had in mind when it invaded Iraq, captured the despised Saddam Hussein, saw him executed, and drew up the plans for an Iraqi democracy. Washington didn't take into account -- or perhaps didn't give enough credence to -- the deep, long-standing religious differences among Iraq's Muslim population.

All over Iraq, as people celebrated Eid al-Fitr (the holiday that annually marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan) bombs took more than 60 lives, officials said. Washington immediately condemned the bombings, describing the attackers as "enemies of Islam."

They may be, but these attacks represent a continuation of a bloody pattern that has developed over many months. The United Nations reports that 1,057 Iraqis were killed and 2,326 more were wounded in attacks in July. Those are the highest monthly casualty figures since 2008. ...

There is almost no hope for an early declaration of victory in the global war on terror, and the plight of the Iraqi people is grim evidence that even an infusion of a Western-style democracy offers no promise of security. It turns out that, quite often, religious affiliations are more important than political theories.



August 17

The Sacramento Bee on Egypt's military makes a bad situation worse:

The military coup that toppled former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's Islamist government has proven as destructive to the nation's hopes of democracy as the regime it replaced.

In a government-backed bloodbath Wednesday on the streets of Cairo, government forces demolished two camps set up by pro-Morsi demonstrators.

Hundreds were killed and thousands injured when soldiers fired live rounds into crowds of civilians, snipers targeted protesters and pro-Morsi militants killed police officers and others.

As too often is the case, President Barack Obama's response Thursday morning was timid. Again, the president stopped short of naming the takeover and crackdown a coup, and did not use what little leverage he has to ward off more carnage.

While Obama canceled joint military exercises planned for next month with Egypt's military, he did nothing to remind its leaders of the $1.3 billion in military aid the United States dispenses to Egypt every year.

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