MORE MILITARY FAMILIES’ VOICES…

Old Bridge, NJ

I am the mother of an American soldier (my only son and child), posted to Iraq in January. This is not a war, this is a suicide mission. The Iraqis do not want us there. We brought on more terrorism by going there. America is more at risk now than ever for a terrorist attack. Our troops should be here at home protecting us.

I have met with both my senators, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, who I am happy to say voted for the Kerry amendment, for a timetable to bring our troops home. President Bush and Vice President Cheney act as though I don’t even exist. That is the respect the President gives a soldier’s mom. Just ignore them and they will go away. I will never give up the fight to bring our troops home.

My son was recently notified that his unit will be extended for at least six weeks past his yearlong deployment. That is six more weeks of worry and fear for me and six more weeks of combat for him. I wrote this poem about it.

I wish I could sleep through the war!
The pain is so constant, the anger so severe.
I just wish I could sleep through the war.
My child, my baby, feels like he’s been kidnapped from me.
He faces such dangers that none of us sees.
My cries, my pleas, seem to get me nowhere.
I want to yell, “Bring Our Troops Home!”
If only Mr. Bush hadn’t sent our troops there
If he only had a child serving
Then he would know our pain.
I wish I could just sleep through the war.
The days go by, not a word I hear,
My heart is always in fear. A call or a knock
Could set off my tears.
I wish I could sleep through the war!

JoANN SOHL
Military Families Speak Out


…AND MILITARY VOICES

Stafford, Va.

As a retired US Army enlisted man, I wholeheartedly support the retired generals in their position on the Iraq War [Richard J. Whalen, “Revolt of the Generals,” Oct. 16]. I felt this way from the beginning. I saw no reasons of national interest or any strategic advantage to be gained from this debacle. The immediate response of world opinion strengthened that belief. This is a blunder, Vietnam aside, that may take this country decades to recover from. We gained and lost the sympathy and support of the world in one fell swoop after 9/11. This will be President Bush’s legacy: abject failure in world diplomacy and leadership.

SYLVESTER L. COOK


Woodland Hills, Calif.

I join these courageous military men in their fight to bring this unwarranted war to an end and bring our troops back from the quagmire of Iraq. I see that Bush has “cut and run” from his “stay the course” slogan. History will note his disastrous disservice to our country.

HAL GOLD


Hillsborough, NC

As a two-tour Vietnam vet, I read Richard Whalen’s article with great interest. It confirmed what I have long suspected: Our current generals and admirals, junior officers during that war, are no different from the careerists and incompetents who led us through the Big Muddy. It’s disgusting that the same officers who went through the Nam meat grinder have become the Westmorelands and DuPuys of our current folly, and it appears that, to the current generation, “never again” had a thirty-year expiration date.

Worse, they seem to have forgotten that the most basic part of the military creed is loyalty to the Constitution, not to the ephemeral officeholders in the Pentagon and the White House. It was absolutely their duty to speak out while in uniform to their “superiors,” and to resign in public protest in 2002, not three and a half years down a long and bloody road. Just as that previous generation of flag officers wrecked the Army, this generation has allowed feckless civilians, starting with the Chickenhawk in Chief, to wreck the Army, the Guard and the Reserves, something even Westmoreland, McNamara and Johnson couldn’t do.

The only positive in all this is that this time, some of them are speaking out on the record, even if from their safe retirements. I note that many are not.

DAVID PRESTON


Santa Fe

I agree with much of the criticism offered by the retired generals who oppose the Iraq War. The war and the current occupation have been conducted incompetently. More telling criticism is offered by some officers who object not only to the operational mistakes but to the policy that led to the war in the first place.

I do not agree, however, with Whalen’s assertion that the Iraq War has confirmed the “wisdom of the nation’s commitment to the all-volunteer armed forces,” a policy he helped develop in the Nixon years. Laying aside the profoundly antidemocratic nature of a volunteer military, drawing its “recruits” from minorities and lower economic classes while exempting the upper and middle classes from service, the Iraq War has demonstrated the failure of volunteer military forces.

First, in terms of operational fitness, a volunteer military has proved inadequate to the tasks of winning both the war and the peace.

Second, it is hardly “voluntary” to impress the National Guard into extended and multiple tours of service in Iraq to make up for this inadequacy.

Finally, the American public has tolerated Bush’s catastrophic war, even though it now opposes it, because casualties have been largely limited to lower-class “volunteers.” If offspring of rich and middle-class Americans were included among the killed and maimed, I believe there would have been a greater and more effective outcry against the war than we have seen.

JACK ARCHER


Goonellabah, NSW, Australia

As a resister of the draft during Vietnam, I must disagree with Richard Whalen’s point that getting rid of the draft was a positive step. Having a draft might get some of our young people off their mobiles, their iPods or whatever and paying attention to what’s going on!

JOHN DOLAND NICHOLS


VOTING: NOT FOR SISSIES

Meridian, Idaho

A friend shared Andrew Gumbel’s “Guardian of the Ballot Box” [Nov. 6] with me, because of my recent experience completing a mail-in ballot here in Idaho. As “blue” people in a “red” state, my husband and I wanted to insure that our vote would count and wanted extra time to read, mull and ponder the initiatives and special items.

I was told by the Ada County Clerk’s office that I must mail my request for a write-in ballot directly to them. Fax or e-mail would not do. About a week later, I received a package with a lengthy booklet listing the items in the envelope; a two-inch shiv, excuse me, stylus; a three-fold pamphlet containing the ballot; a return envelope marked postage due; a ballot in the form of a punch-card attached to styrofoam boarding with special instructions: punch cleanly–any styrofoam left inside punch will invalidate your entire ballot.

Shivs and hanging chads, postage due, request in writing, etc. It took us each twenty minutes just to vote and pick out hanging chads. We refolded everything, slid the styrofoam card into the tri-fold carrier, sealed the large envelope, put on required postage and signed where indicated. But I’m still not certain my vote will count. I feel the pain and see the light re voting in America.

SHIRLEY GREENE


A FAR, FAR BETTER REST THAT I GO TO

Kansas City, Kans.

I enjoyed Richard Goldstein’s “Death Trip” [Oct. 23]. When he asked, “Where is our Dickens?” I wanted to point out Studs Terkel. His 2001 book, Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith, related more than sixty true-life memoirs about death and how people have coped with it. One by Tammy Snider spoke of her harrowing experience of surviving the atomic attack on Hiroshima. Terkel’s collection of genuine narratives about death speaks dearly of the preciousness of life.

EARL NISSEN


WELCOME, WALTER

Stanford, Calif.

I read Walter Mosley’s “Cultural Famine: A Cycle” [Oct. 23] the same day the New York Times reported that a health insurance executive whose salary is $19 million a year had to give back his portion of $1.78 billion in back-dated stock options. The local weekly was reporting that our neighborhood grocery store may have to close because developers want to build a highrise and upscale shops on the site. In the first case, huge profits are made from people’s illness while millions of Americans go without medical care or have trouble paying their bills. In the second case, a family-owned grocery that has a union contract, sells high-quality produce and serves a community full of elderly people and students without cars may have to leave so developers can make ever-higher profits. Walter Mosley’s reference to “a basic contradiction in our current definition of power and success” was very much to the point. I’m glad he has joined The Nation.

RACHELLE MARSHALL


Beaverton, Ore.

For the first time in a very long time, I have been moved to tears. It’s been too long since I saw something so inspiring, so moving and so full of hope that I let loose with an emotional torrent. What moved me was the wonderful column by Walter Mosley. He paints a stark picture of the state of society, yet there is great optimism in his writing. Despite all our setbacks, despite the ultraconservative push to pursue wealth and power over all else, there are still people out there who are good, kind and thoughtful. Not everyone is money-grubbing and self-centered. The sentiment is best expressed here: “It is not the questing after wealth and property that made us great but the belief in the rights of all human beings.” Thank you, Mr. Mosley, for renewing my faith in humanity.

BRITTANY MEYER-STROM


MILLER THE JOB KILLER


Evanston, Ill.

Bob Moser’s “Virginia’s Rumbling Rebels” [Oct. 23], a basically fair portrayal of the Jim Webb Senate campaign, contains a sin of omission. It refers to Webb’s primary opponent, Harris Miller, as a “longtime corporate lobbyist” and tells of a flier put out by the Webb campaign on Miller’s role in outsourcing jobs that was widely seen as anti-Semitic. What this omits is that Miller is not your garden-variety corporate lobbyist. Harris Miller was the head of the Information Technology Association of America, which has led the effort each year to get Congress to raise the quotas on H1B immigrants, who are frequently used to undercut the salaries and even the jobs of US computer programmers. Miller and the ITAA are well-known as opponents of organizations like the Communications Workers of America’s Techs Unite, who have tried to oppose this trend. Miller’s activities were fair game for Webb, and attempts to spin his attacks as anti-Semitism were irrelevant and deplorable.

STEVE COHEN


TOUJOURS FIDEL

Chicago

Ned Sublette’s “Fidel Lives” [Oct. 9] is one of the best articles on Cuba I have read in a long time. Unlike the thoughtless speculation in the mainstream press on what will happen in a Cuba without Fidel, Sublette provided both information and insight.

DEBRA EVENSON


Poland, Ohio

Ned Sublette demonstrates an ability to report a complex issue covering more than fifty years. Unfortunately, our government with all its resources cannot arrive at a sensible Cuba policy. Having traveled to Cuba over the past twenty years and having lived there during the late Batista regime and early revolutionary period, as well as having followed the path of US policy with respect to Cuba through most of the media (including El Nuevo Herald and Carlos Montaner) as well as academic writings, I admire Sublette’s accurate evaluation of the state of Cuban affairs.

MILTON SANCHEZ-PARODI


Winter Park, Fla.

While there’s satisfaction in watching Havana twist its thumb in Washington’s eye for forty-seven years, Havana has, during those decades, twisted its own balls with the other hand. Marvel, if you will, at Fidel’s longevity, but the Cuban people those long years have endured his megalomania and his fiats against civil liberties. That Castro must defend against a rapacious United States will not absolve him. As our own murderous jefe has made clear, all despots invoke the imminent enemy in order to quash dissent at home. Forty-seven years is a long time without a multi-candidate election or the right to read Animal Farm. Sublette’s soft-core paean to the man who cries “Libertad!” while executing his show-trial prisoners is tiresome.

STEVE KRONEN


DRIVING WHILE MUSLIM–II

Jonesville, Ky.

Re Spencer Ackerman’s “Driving While Muslim” [Oct. 9]: As a Muslim woman who wears a complete covering, I have been stopped and surrounded here in the state of Kentucky while driving my children to a home-schooling cooperative. I definitely do not look at the people beside me at a light. I was photographed at a gas station in Lexington as I got gas for my car, which had my children in it. The paranoia is astounding.

ALAA MENCKE