IS AL QAEDA JUST A BUSH BOOGEYMAN?


by Robert Scheer

Bellingham, Wa.

It occurs to me that the concept of an intricately organized network of terrorists is wishful thinking on the part of those forces aligned against them. Any large organization is inherently vulnerable to espionage and infiltration. In contrast, individual terrorists and terrorist cells operating independently are far more difficult to detect, let alone infiltrate.

PAUL FAUGHNAN


St. Clairsville, Oh.

Robert Scheer raises the question of whether or not an organized worldwide conspiracy headed by Osama bin Laden actually exists or whether, much like the insidious Fu Manchu or Dr. Moriarty, this is a myth.

Bin Laden, through his release of videotapes, has encouraged this myth (if it is one), but this is not my point. A fundamental point of military doctrine is “know your enemy.” If we do not, we are apt to lurch into places like Iraq, where that enemy does not exist, with apparent adverse consequences.

The problem posed by Scheer’s argument, therefore, is not that he is right but rather that it is so difficult precisely and rigorously to show how he is wrong. And regardless of political viewpoint, that should give us pause.

DUNCAN C. KINDER


KERIK’S NANNY


by Paul Krassner

Brooklyn, NY

I am appalled by the insensitivity of Paul Krassner’s imaginary interview with Bernie Kerik’s nanny.

Krassner employs every negative stereotype of Mexican-American women in the first three sentences of his article.

I read The Nation avidly, but if it is to be its common practice to insidiously mock and degrade any ethnic or minority group, then perhaps I should rethink it.

JODY MARTINEZ


BACKING GONZALES IS BACKING TORTURE


by Robert Scheer

Munster, IN

Robert Scheer’s recent column on Alberto Gonzales neatly sidesteps a tremendous problem that faces our military. Whether or not Gonzales crossed the line on prisoner treatment with his famous memo, there is a hugely important question that both the left and the right need to face as long as we are so conventionally powerful: the problem of military perfidy.

Perfidy is a war crime, and it tempts combatants because perfidious military acts provide them with an advantage. It is clear that both Al Qaeda and the Baathist former regime forces in Iraq regularly engage in perfidy for military benefits. Customary military law dealt with perfidy through reciprocity: You torture ours, we torture yours. Since such an idea of reciprocity is shunned today, the Unites States must develop some sort of punishment for military perfidy in order to keep war-crime rates down and reduce as much as possible the awful savagery of war.

I have yet to see any serious, practical guidance from the left that our soldiers could use to deal with the problem of our opponents’ routinely resorting to military perfidy. It would do the country a lot of good if The Nation would address this problem.

T.M. LUTAS


Cherry Hill, NJ

In more than 230 articles published since 1999, Robert Scheer has focused not a single article on the torture and murder of men, women and children committed by Saddam Hussein; not a single article on decrying the Taliban’s brutal torture and murder of women; not a single word on the torture and murder of whole families in North Korea’s active work/death camps.

While the abuse of Abu Ghraib was terrible, there is no comparison between it and institutionalized, state-sponsored torture in North Korea, Afghanistan under the Taliban, or Iraq under Saddam.

Scheer acknowledges that terrorists do not follow the normal rules or restraints of war, but wants captured terrorists to be treated as prisoners of war and the United States to follow normal military rules and restraints in dealing with them. While I am not in favor of torture, I am not for making a suicide pact, either. If a terrorist cell is known to be planning an attack within the United States with weapons of mass destruction, I hope and pray that US interrogators will do whatever they need to do to foil the attack.

As for Gonzales, I don’t know much about him. But after learning more about Robert Sheer, I am inclined to be for Gonzales merely because Sheer is against him.

P. GERST


TIM SPICER’S WORLD


by Andrew Ackerman

Washington, DC

Andrew Ackerman paints a distorted picture of Tim Spicer. His litany of complaints against Spicer–complaints that make the man out to be a money-grubbing, anti-Catholic dog of war–are the same litany of complaints that right-wing British critics of Spicer have made since 1994. Those who know him intimately and have worked with him have refuted such claims.

Indeed, Ackerman should wonder why Tony Blair’s government, notable for its leftist streak, went to bat for Spicer when the US military contract in question was opened up to bidding. Is it because Spicer is a “dangerous” or “corrupt” man? No.

If Ackerman ever decides to visit Sierra Leone, he will find the populace incredibly grateful to Spicer and his company, Sandline International. During Sierra Leone’s civil war, Sandline defended remote villages and mid-size towns, helping the democratic government of the country to contain and eventually forge a peace settlement with the fascist RUF rebels.

Spicer’s involvement in Sierra Leone was an example of what to do, not “what not to do.” Ackerman should have investigated more. He should have talked to UN, US and British foreign officers who lived through the Sierra Leonean civil war, witnessed the terror of the RUF and saw how Sandline effectively, and humanely, stopped it.

THOMAS CHEPLICK