Sunni-Shiite Class Struggle

Against Intervention in Iraq,” your lead editorial for July 7/14, is correct, but it misses a decisive point. It echoes most media by referring to the struggle between Sunnis and Shiites as “sectarian.” Sectarianism may be the form the wars take, but in substance they are a classic long-simmering class struggle that has predictably erupted into revolution, engulfing the entire Middle East. Behind all the infinitely complex alliances are the disenfranchised Shiite masses rising up against the Sunni ruling classes, which have co-opted the wealth (read: oil) in collusion with Western capital.

Analyze the struggle along class lines and the alliances, shorn of their sectarian masks, make sense. Shiite Iran has had its “revolution”—however derailed it was from a progressive outcome—and supports the Shiites; in Saudi Arabia, where there’s been no revolution, the Sunni monarchy supports the Sunnis. So we have a progressive versus reactionary conflict—not just a sectarian one. Blood will flow, but that’s a tragedy imposed by an ineluctable juncture of history—and why outside interference is futile.

Andrew Torre
landgrove, vt.

Grabbing the Populist Moment

It is very encouraging to read in your forum “Progressive Strategies in a Populist Moment” [July 7/14] about the many grassroots organizing activities now occurring, particularly around low wages. Missing, however, is the pursuit of policies that would generate better jobs and dramatically reduce inequalities. Without major changes in economic policies, the United States will continue as a low-wage economy for many, with good jobs for only a few.
S.M. Miller
new york city

The essays in your forum advocate doing whatever each particular author was doing. We need to develop united strategies and a common agenda. This does not mean abandoning principle; it means ceding some control in the common interest. Better would be a round table on how we can all join to build a real movement.
David Gespass
birmingham, ala.

How depressing! I’ve heard it all before: organize, educate, promote a moral vision, strengthen unions, demonstrate, get out the vote, etc. We’ve been trying to do those things for decades. No one struck at the root cause of society’s dysfunction: capitalism.
Walter Szykitka
new york city

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, what message are we supposed to get from the images of the women in your forum? The sketches of the men make them look dignified, even dashing, while the women look like odd shrews with jagged teeth and contorted faces. I’m not being ultra-PC. In a world where women are all too often portrayed as sex kittens or she-devils, the image matters. As the magazine that holds the standard for projecting a progressive vision, The Nation must put your visuals where your values are.
Nell Greenberg
oakland, calif.

David Rolf’s “An Incubator for Labor,” in your forum on progressive strategies, is leading edge, but I have to take issue with his closing, which says that workers must “join together and exert collective power against the boss.” In many cases this is correct, but in many others I have experienced, workers and management work together in partnership. Not all bosses are abusive, micro-managing or want confrontation. What works best is a respectful partnership, which is the essence of the nationally recognized Labor-Management Partnership between executives of labor and management at Kaiser Permanente. The agreement is revolutionary, as it focuses on jointly working on efficiencies; patient (and staff) service; reducing injuries, loss and waste; sharing knowledge, etc. Continued success means that the principles (and training) need constant reinforcement from labor and management leaders at all levels.

Our healthcare system can improve. The partnership agreement is one tool.

Brent Green
former unit-based consultant
Kaiser Permanente

berkeley, calif.

Dissent as Illness

Zoë Carpenter, in “Noted” [July 7/14], appropriately characterizes the right-wing media’s scrutinizing of Bowe Bergdahl’s personal life and mental state at the time he walked off his army post in Afghanistan as an exercise in “pathologizing dissent.” She could also point out that the entire edifice of post-traumatic stress disorder arose on that same premise: that veterans protesting the war in Vietnam were better dealt with as a mental-health problem than a political one. With public dissent elided with the stigma of mental illness, the discontent of service members today is undoubtedly suppressed.
Jerry Lembcke, author
PTSD: Diagnosis and Identity in Post-Empire America
worcester, mass.

The Snowden Letters

It dismays me that the letters regarding the patriot Edward Snowden are not unanimously in his favor [“Letters,” July 7/14]. I think that Nation readers should get behind a Capitol Mall statue of this hero, who restored a sense of constitutionally mandated privacy to our land.
Fred Herman
modesto, calif.

Verlon Grafton, in a letter, informs The Nation that he will allow his subscription to expire to protest your alleged glorification of Edward Snowden. He then vilifies Snowden as a traitor and a coward. Since Snowden has not been convicted of treason, Grafton is being presumptuous in leveling such a scorching charge. After all, the director of the NSA has announced that “the sky is not falling” as a result of Snowden’s leak.

As for Snowden’s alleged cowardice, Grafton should take heed: a man or woman who consciously risks the penalty of imprisonment or exile to awaken his countrymen to authentic threats posed by their own government is clearly no coward. I would, to assuage Mr. Grafton’s ire, be pleased to purchase a subscription for him to National Review, a magazine with a political bent that is evidently more consonant with his own.

Gerald Amada
san rafael, calif.


The Spanish-to-English translators for Óscar Martínez’s August 18/25 article, “The Children Will Keep Coming,” were not credited. They are Daniela Maria Ugaz and John Washington. In addition, reporting for Michelle Goldberg’s article “Should Buying Sex Be Illegal?” was provided by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, which was not credited in the print issue. We regret the omissions.