UNITE HERE–The Great Debate

San Francisco

The internal union debate within UNITE HERE is no “distraction,” as characterized by David Moberg in “Unions, Disunited” [March 9]. It’s about union democracy, upholding union standards and organizing millions of new members.

The Hotel Workers Rising (HWR) campaign of 2004-06, which Moberg mentions, is a great example. Contrary to UNITE HERE general president Bruce Raynor’s assertion, our union has organized more hotel workers (seventy-five new hotels) in the past three years than in the previous five, in addition to winning the best contract in years.

In 2004 thousands of San Francisco hotel workers went on strike, eventually broke a fifty-three-day lockout and endured two years without a contract to win the right to organize through card check–all on behalf of workers they didn’t even know. Moreover, during HWR, tens of thousands more union members in eight cities across North America demanded, fought for and achieved card-check rights in 2006. If that campaign was not about organizing, Raynor evidently does not know what is.

MIKE CASEY, president
UNITE HERE Local 2



Iraq’s Refugees: The Other Side of War

Scotts Valley, Calif.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle and all members of Congress who voted to approve the invasion of Iraq and who support the continued occupation thereof should be required to read aloud before an international tribunal the entire article by Ann Jones, “Iraq’s Invisible Refugees,” in your March 9 issue.

HOWARD F. SOSBEE


Shepherdstown, W.V.

Ann Jones’s “Iraq’s Invisible Refugees” was heartbreaking. The Nation could do another service by informing readers about the condition of Iraqi refugees who have been resettled in the United States. Jones asks, “What is to be done?” One answer might be to support resettlement agencies working here to help refugees (Catholic Charities, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, World Relief and International Rescue Committee, among others). These refugees are now our neighbors.

CHRIS MOREHOUSE



The Life Cycle of the Mall

Grants Pass, Ore.

Re “The Parable of the Shopping Mall,” by Alexander Cockburn [“Beat the Devil,” March 9]. Cockburn is right about the life cycle of malls. When the mall in Eureka, California, was built, I said, correctly as it turned out, that someday it would be a bunch of boarded-up stores. But one feature is still a drawing card: older folks use the mall for walking exercise. It is out of the rain and safe.

But go up the hill to Pearson’s Mall. It went through all the stages, and is now in a later phase: the boarded-up stores are mostly filled. A big discount grocery store draws people from all over the county. Some stores in the rear have been turned into a dancing school, gymnastics studio and other places for kids, exactly as Cockburn suggests.

Times change. Humboldt County is no longer a lumber capital. With mild weather summer and winter and better weather due to global warming, retirees are moving in. If you want to live in a small town with beautiful Victorians and two colleges with all the culture and intellectual stimulation they bring, that’s the place. And you still have an aging mall to walk in when it rains.

ANDREW MONTGOMERY



Cockburn Replies

Petrolia, Calif.

All true, except–alas–for the fact that the naturally occurring global warming phase that started in the 1970s ended in 1998, and because of the phenomenon known as “the quiet sun” it looks as though we are in for a cooling phase for at least the next quarter-century. I hope the poor will be able to stay warm in the Bayshore Mall.

ALEXANDER COCKBURN



Double Double Standard in Gaza

Palm Coast, Fla.

Jim Glaser [“Letters,” March 9] cites a double standard regarding Gazans “smuggling” weapons while Israel gets megaweapons of “support” from us.

There is another facet to this. During the mid-1940s, when I was in Britain’s peacekeeping force in the Holy Land, we were aware that Zionists smuggled in guns and explosives for their terrorist gangs. The Irgunists’ and Sternists’ leaders, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, became prime ministers of Israel. Far from being condemned as terrorists, they were showered with billions of dollars and tons of ordnance by the United States and used them in their pursuit of Lebensraum and to pulverize Palestinians. Could there be a more hypocritical manifestation of a double standard?

HORACE HONE



Paging Alexander the Great–II

New York City

“Paging Alexander the Great” by Gabriella Kolias [“Letters,” March 23], against American escalation in Afghanistan, says that “only Alexander the Great succeeded in conquering that country.” Actually, Alexander and his armies only superficially conquered Afghanistan, never really controlled it and quickly lost influence there after leaving for more attractive conquests. Afghanistan has always been a loose collection of temporary and shifting alliances, so it cannot have ongoing peace. It is not really a country, except in temporary response to hated invaders.

GERALD M. LEVITIS


West Palm Beach, Fla.

Afghanistan was Alexander the Great’s toughest challenge, and he never subdued its citizens completely. He faced his fiercest battles there and grave loss to his army physically, mentally and financially. In the fourth century BC, he fell afoul of Pashtun tribesmen, took an arrow in the leg and almost lost his life.

Alexander was mired in the region for three long years–more time than he would spend anywhere else on his campaign. His attempts to quell the rebellion would force him to build more fortresses than anywhere else on his route, and to bury more of his troops in its territory. We believe it is accurate to say no one has ever conquered Afghanistan, though much blood has been lost trying.

TERRY and GEORGE MOLINA



Thousand-Year-Old Verse

Rochester, N.Y.

Thank you for “Poem” by Bertran de Born [March 9]. It provided many discussions–some readers thought it was contemporary and that the “(circa 1185)” had been added by the writer for effect; some thought it was an actual praising of war; others assumed it was great satire. And thank you for the trip to the past to learn more about the author. The power of the poem reminded me of Picasso’s Guernica.

BYRNA WEIR



Correction: Nationalization? Not So Much

In Joseph Stiglitz’s “A Bank Bailout That Works” [March 23], it was stated that “even Alan Greenspan and Senator Chris Dodd are supporting bank nationalization.” In fact, Senator Dodd has said he does not welcome nationalization, but “we may end up having to do that.”