MUSLIMS (& OTHERS) MARCH

London

Maria Margaronis’s account of the 400,000-strong September 28 antiwar march in London misrepresents the character of this historic event [“Blair, the Go-Between,” Oct. 21]. The marchers, many of them first-time protesters, were extraordinarily diverse and extraordinarily united. Contrary to her claim, it was precisely concern for the lives of those who will be most affected by a war–Iraqis suffering under Saddam, Kurds in the firing line–that deeply motivated them. This central human theme was stressed repeatedly by numerous speakers, including Iraqis themselves (for their speeches go to www.stopwar.org.uk).

The extreme elements Margaronis highlights were minute and unrepresentative of the vast swath of Muslim opinion at the march. The British and international media descended in force, many strongly motivated to single out anything to discredit the march, including the kind of elements Margaronis highlighted. Yet none of them reported it in the terms she did.

Margaronis also fails to note the exceptional breadth of labor union support for the demonstration, which was officially backed by twelve national unions–representing more than one-third of organized UK workers.

We have built a united, dynamic, broad-based Stop the War Coalition with support from unions, elected politicians, Muslim organizations, students and a wide variety of other constituencies. But our task has only begun. We look forward to working closely with all those in the United States who share our opposition to war against Iraq.

ANDREW BURGIN, LINDSEY GERMAN, MIKE MARQUSEE


MARGARONIS REPLIES

London

I described the march as “a landmark demonstration–the most multicultural British march in memory.” I also made it clear that the people Burgin, German and Marqusee characterize as “extreme elements” (not my phrase) were by no means the main body of Muslim marchers, whose presence in such numbers was a tremendous achievement. But it would have been dishonest not to mention the militant Islamists, and the tinge of anti-Semitism some of them brought to the march. First, because you have to name racism when you see it, whatever its causes. Second, because the participation of groups who have no problem with theocracy as long as it is Islamic illustrates the contradictions we have to get our minds around, now that America’s official targets are not struggling socialist governments but fundamentalist terrorists and oil-rich dictators. The demonstrators were admirably united in their conviction that war is no solution but not, I think, in their assessment of the problems. Yes, everyone was concerned about the Iraqi people’s fate in case of war, but few people were shouting about what they’re suffering now. The British press mostly glossed over these issues–on the left, I suspect, for fear of harming the antiwar movement, on the right because of the afterglow of the previous weekend’s even larger Countryside Alliance demonstration. But coalitions require honesty as well as tact. If we can’t talk about these matters here, where can we talk about them? And if we don’t talk about them, how can we make sense of the complicated situation we are in?

MARIA MARGARONIS


THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH…

Ken Silverstein’s “Police Academy in the Alps” [Oct. 7] drew letters of corroboration from many formerly connected with the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, and related organizations. A sample follows.
   –The Editors

Ft. Myer, Va.

Having worked at the Marshall Center from the initial concept development through its inauguration, and then for its first two years as the executive officer to the director and then as senior US military instructor, I can report that Ken Silverstein only scratches the surface. Like rusty iron that is only repainted, the corrosion remains under the surface and worsens.

The first director, in collusion with senior OSD officials, worked hard to insure that Congress got inaccurate and misleading answers to its queries. Since the first director had flagrantly violated the Anti-Deficiency Act, overobligating the center by $4.2 million before the first student even graduated, he needed approval to increase his budget by that amount (approval he got after a phony progress review).

I have tried since 1994 to help those whose lives and careers were ruined by the first director and his successors. Silverstein mentions a letter from “retired generals, active-duty officers and senior Pentagon officials” to incoming President Bush asking his help. I was one of the signatories–and also testified to the Deputy Secretary of Defense’s Management Assessment Team (whose report was never acted upon), the DoD Inspector General (whose investigation was so constrained that the report didn’t mention the violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act) and the DoD General Counsel (which sat on the issue for months before dismissing it on narrow technical grounds), and joined others in writing repeatedly to Secretaries Perry and Cohen (with no results).

Admitting the extent of wrongdoing would be so painful for DoD that it will continue to stonewall. Until this is taken out of DoD channels and investigated by an independent body (like the GAO) with a charter to find out what went wrong and to recommend real corrective actions, this won’t be resolved. And there must be corrective action to make whole all who were injured trying to do the right thing.

Please don’t misunderstand. Although I have never spoken to Silverstein, I am one of those in his concluding paragraph who believe the center is a great institution that can do great good–but past and present wrongs must be righted. Otherwise, the center will implode, despite its potential.

ERIC HAMMERSEN
Colonel, US Army (Retired)


Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

I was employed at the Marshall Center and its predecessor as a professor for more than twelve years. I am not surprised that six years after I retired from this institution, the same problems and mismanagement continue unabated. It is impossible to improve the situation until the Pentagon is removed from supervising the center and the Inspector General and they are subordinated to a Congressional committee. It is shameful yet symptomatic that the center has employed individuals who spread anti-Semitic views among the center’s students, who believe they are being educated to respect human rights and democracy. The appointment of the director and entire staff should be examined by a commission independent of the Pentagon.

MICHAEL CHECINSKI


SHERIFF MARGO!

Durham, NC

In the October 28 “In Fact…,” Eesha Williams says that Sheila Prue, if elected sheriff of Windham County, Vermont, would be “the nation’s first openly lesbian county sheriff.” Margo Frasier, an open lesbian, was elected sheriff of Travis County, Texas, in 1996 and re-elected in 2000. I’m proud to have voted for Margo and want your readers to be aware of her pioneering victories.

WENDY ERISMAN

For more on this, see “In Fact…” –Ed.


FALK & KLARE DECLARE

Philadelphia

Richard Falk, in “A Dangerous Game,” and Michael Klare, in “Oiling the Wheels of War” [Oct. 7], have detailed clear and obvious reasons why attacking Iraq would be illegal, immoral and disastrous. Yet Congress and the media seem to be so cowed by the armchair warriors who run the imperial cowboy’s presidency that they don’t dare raise basic questions. Falk says there has been no vigorous debate addressing fundamental issues of fact and law. He means, of course, debate among the power elite. There has been vigorous, vocal debate and dissent among many thousands of activists in peace-and-justice groups across the country, not to mention the underreported demonstrations in London, Washington, San Francisco and elsewhere. But the mainstream media don’t dare to listen or see us–yet.

ANN MORRISSETT DAVIDON


Wilton, Calif.

This guy Falk is a liberal/commie turncoat type, right? He’d sell the freedoms of his great country right down the river just when the President needs all the support he can muster. He just ain’t got the big picture yet, so give a listen. This Administration has accomplished in the blink of an eye what others could only dream of. If this Falk had any guts he’d applaud the Bushman. Constitutional crisis? No government can perform effectively with its powers separated. Both the judicial and legislative branches are already singing castrato. Lower courts have been yapping some, but the Supremes will set them straight pretty soon. And what is this about “loyal opposition” in the Congress? Loyal, maybe. But opposition? Where? Yeah, there’s a few commie subversives like Feingold or Jeffords or Lee. They haven’t gotten the anthrax yet. Ya see, ya gotta keep your eye on the ball. Democracy is incompatible with religious fundamentalism. Oil and water. If the Falkman wasn’t so narrow-minded, he would recognize that what this President has achieved is absolutely stunning.

What is this Falk talk about vigilant citizenry? That’s an insult! Where has he been? Bush has the people in his pocket. The bozos are falling all over themselves surrendering anything that even hints at being a right. No one wants to be left behind in the crush. Just fly that flag and pledge that allegiance to God. Onward, Christian soldiers! On to Armageddon! I heard recently that the 1776 Revolution was supported and won by only a third of the population. One-third hailed the king and the other third didn’t give a damn. This time around, we’ll do it right. As soon as the time is ripe, the new King George will rise from the ashes and declare martial law. Then we’ll have a government that really works. Not some mealy-mouthed, impotent thing that has to do with crippling annoyances like separation of powers, free speech and elections.

We’ve already proved that elections are superfluous. When you claim victory in an election by not counting votes and such claim is not subjected to belly-splitting guffaws, the next step is a piece of cake. Jefferson was right: “Timid…men prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty.” Once we have martial law and an effective gestapo, we’ll deal with the Falks of the land. There’ll be no ridiculous debates about the ethics of torture, and when the Bushman calls the country to war, the people will goose their steps and sing loud and clear. No more talk from Falk about international law and proof and silly stuff like lost lives. Patriots are proud to die for the Fatherland. Wups. That’s “Homeland” now, isn’t it?

In the fullness of time, the yappers’ll find out who’s boss, but I gotta hand it to that guy at the Sixth Circuit for getting at least one thing straight: “Democracies die behind closed doors.” Yeah. Won’t be long now.

SHARON GRAHAM


BREAD, WINE, THOU & CONDOMS…

Baltimore

Edward Sorel’s “Axis of Fundamentalism” [Sept. 23] paints a misleading picture of Islam’s attitude toward birth control, which it does not prohibit or discourage (though some in the diverse Islamic world may). Iran (the Muslim country I am most familiar with) has an active family-planning program that requires men and women to take a class in contraception methods before marriage and provides contraceptives through government-funded health centers. In fact, Iran has been so successful at lowering its birthrate, the Earth Institute calls it “a model for other countries that want to accelerate the shift to smaller families.”

DARIUS A. RASTEGAR