Readers respond to Matt Bivens's "Nuclear Power & Terrorism."
New York City
On October 11, an alliance of Latinos, blacks and union members came close to a historic victory in New York. Alas, media ranging from The Nation to the New York Post rallied enough white votes to keep Fernando Ferrer from becoming mayor. Even after Mark Green cravenly agreed that Rudolph Giuliani's term of office should be extended, The Nation reaffirmed its endorsement in an introduction to an editorial by Michael Tomasky that correctly identified Green as "the white-backlash candidate" ["NYC's Mayoral Muddle," Oct. 22]. Green played that role with vigor. After having groveled for the support of the Rev. Al Sharpton, he then invoked Sharpton as an evil shade in a Ferrer administration. He denounced Ferrer's talk of serving "the other New York" as divisive--the classic Republican retort to criticism of legislation favoring the rich.
It is true that Ferrer and Green are both flawed men who have changed their positions. But Ferrer has turned to the left, Green to the right. The Nation's editors were evidently muddled by what has lingered of Green's Naderite past. They overlooked his climbing aboard the Clinton bandwagon in 1990 and his advocacy, in The Nation itself, of "pragmatic idealism," a neoliberal equivalent to "compassionate conservatism." If, as Tomasky wrote, many white liberals have been voting for Giuliani, Tomasky himself is partly at fault. He wrote a whole bookaccusing liberals of having all but destroyed New York with their political correctness and their misguided generosity.
Only recently, many good liberals were berating Naderites for clinging to their ideals. They had a chance to go for reform within the Democratic Party, and they blew it. We'll just have to try again, won't we?
JOHN L. HESS
We agree with Ferrer that between Green and Michael Bloomberg there's no contest. We also believe that both our candidate, Green, and Ferrer, regrettably, made it possible for racist demagogues to distort and exploit their nonracist positions; and now Bloomberg, in an ill-advised TV commercial, has entered the demagogy business too. We stand by our endorsement of Green and are pleased that most elements of the Democratic Party, including people of color, seem to be getting behind his candidacy.
THE RIGHT TO DIE IN DIGNITY
Carol Bernstein Ferry, in her well-written posthumous essay, "A Good Death" [Sept. 17/24], exemplifies high intelligence, clear insight and a firm resolve that goes beyond courage. By acting with steadfast adherence to the essence of the creed below, Ferry manifested the strength of character it takes to honor in action the axioms of a secular morality worthy of a truly civilized society, tragically not the one we have today. The following four-point creed of a free human being has to be the guide for my colleagues and me, as well as for the patients we have helped:
(1) I know myself.
(2) I have sovereignty over myself.
(3) I will do and say what I firmly believe to be correct.
(4) I will in no way unjustifiably harm other beings.
JACK KEVORKIAN, MD
GIVE PEACE A CHANCE
Santa Monica, Calif.
Following your publication of my letter and Katha Pollitt's mention of our Peace Flags website, Peaceflags.org ["Letters" and "Subject to Debate," Oct. 22], we received a barrage of hate e-mail ("the Taliban is first, you and your peacenik buddies could be next!"). Complaints were filed against us to Yahoo, to our web host and to our own e-mail boxes. A businessman threatened to do everything in his power to see that we were put out of business. Someone hacked into our computers and prevented us from communicating with customers. Domain Direct shut us down because someone sent a series of porn spam from our website to create a backlash of complaints. Before all this, orders were swelling daily, and hundreds of people were expressing relief to find that we existed. We started Peaceflags.org to prove a point--that people are conscious, and have a right to dissent against this "war." We're now back in business again, very much sadder but wiser.
RELIGIONS [HEART] WOMEN--REALLY
Katha Pollitt is incorrect when she states that all major religions attempt to subjugate and marginalize women from the very first ["Subject to Debate," Oct. 22]. I am an atheist, but I'll point out that, for example, early Christianity was fairly liberal in its treatment of women (agape being as close to genderless communism as you're likely to see in human history), even if the establishment church in Rome later became virulently "antifeminist" and produced misogynist ideologues like the notorious St. Jerome. Buddhism and Hinduism are also, at base, not antifemale. Rather, as happens with any system of belief, secondary interpreters and "scholars" introduce their own biases, and patriarchy being what it is, those biases come out as antifemale dogma in secondary texts.
BACK INTO THE QUAGMIRE
Mount Vernon, Wash.
I was impressed with your editorial "A Great Wound" [Oct. 1]. It is painfully clear that George W. Bush is using this tragedy to crush all violent opposition to US and Israeli domination of the Muslim world. There will be no national debate; Bush has already decided for us. George and his party have accepted $400 million in bribes from the energy lobby, among whom are the "Seven Sisters"--American oil companies operating in Saudi Arabia. I'd like to know how much George and his party received from the Jewish lobby and how many Americans will die in battle as a consequence of this bribery.
Bush & Co. believe they can destroy the terrorists, just as LBJ & Co. believed they could crush the Vietcong. So now we're back in 1964: The Tonkin Gulf Resolution has been passed by Congress; our carriers, special forces, CIA and troops are ready to go in, allies are being cajoled to join. Only this Vietnam stretches around the world, and no place on earth will be safe.
We can end this conflict by working through the UN, Interpol, the Arab League and the World Court to attain justice. We can pull out of the Persian Gulf and allow the UN to bring peace to that region. We can "bomb" Afghanistan with water, food and money. We can land troops of experts and equipment to get Afghanistan back on its feet. Or we can seek a worldwide military solution and go back into "Vietnam."
'ENLIGHTENING & COMPASSIONATE'
The reverberating trauma of September 11 called for a poet, and Yevgeny Yevtushenko's "Babi Yar in Manhattan" [Oct. 15] was enlightening and compassionate, pointing us with the language of poetry to a reasoned response to crimes against the sanctity of life. The smart bombs are falling on Kabul, but will they remove the cancer in the hearts and minds of those so committed to their cause that suicide is an accepted weapon of war?
OUR OWN ANTHRAX TERRORISTS
Anthrax suddenly has become major news [Bruce Shapiro, "Anthrax Anxiety," Nov. 5]. The media and the legislature now face the same fear as abortion providers, who have received anthrax letters and threats from "right to life" extremists for at least five years. But it was never front-page news because it "only" involved abortion clinics. From January 1998 to April 2001 there were 172 anthrax threats in the United States, a third of them against abortion clinics. In one recent week, 110 Planned Parenthood affiliates received envelopes of white powder and a letter stating it was anthrax. The media report these threats under the general category of "terrorism," which they have made synonymous with "Muslim terrorism." Antiabortion terrorism is not by Muslims but by our own home-grown Christian terrorists. The violence at our clinics is the product of religious extremism, no different from the mindless extremism that brought down the twin towers.
Perhaps when Americans must routinely wear bulletproof vests to go to work, as abortion providers do now, they will understand the meaning of terror and the determination not to let the terrorists win!
Oklahoma National Abortion and
Reproductive Rights Action League
FROM THE BELLY OF THE AGRO-BEAST
Thank you so much for your attention to the Slow Food movement [Alexander Stille, "Slow Food," Aug. 20/27]. It is often surprising to many that slow food has become so strong in America, the birthplace of fast food. Even more surprising is discovering that it is not merely a bicoastal phenomenon but that it's here in the heartland. We have branches in Champaign, Illinois; Madison, Wisconsin; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and even here in Iowa. It's quite appropriate that slow food established a "beachhead" here, because it is certainly the belly of the agro-industrial beast.
Slow Food Iowa
I'd like to pass on to your readers a brief description of an excellent nutrition group, the Nutrition for Optimal Health Association (NOHA), located near Chicago, and the URLs of two websites. NOHA has always opposed the use of toxic pesticides in agriculture and has tried to encourage more consumption and growth of organic food. For more information, visit www.nutrition4health.org and www.puregrassrootsinfo.org.
ANDREW T. FISHER
ABOUT THAT $43 MILLION...
Christopher Hitchens, in his October 8 "Minority Report," referred to the Bush Administration's $43 million "subsidy to the Taliban." Many readers have asked for more information. At a May 17 press briefing, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced a "package of $43 million in new humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan" that "bypasses the Taliban" and includes wheat, food commodities and a search "for ways to provide assistance to farmers who have felt the impact of the ban on poppy cultivation, a decision by the Taliban that we welcome."
TERRORI$T CA$H--$TAY$ CLEAN
St. Clairsville, Ohio
Lucy Komisar's June 18 "After Dirty Air, Dirty Money," on money-laundering [posted on the Nation website after the September 11 attack], does not really apply to Middle Eastern terrorist networks, for these two reasons.
First, money laundering in the Indian Ocean basin relies upon a traditional alternative banking system known as hawala or hundi, which makes it difficult to trace money transfers. Hawala has been integrated with gold smuggling for centuries. Wealth can be stored and payments can be made with gold; currency--much less a bank account--is unnecessary. When accounts are needed, neither numbered accounts nor shell corporations are necessary to camouflage the actual owner. Somebody's grandmother can nominally hold the account.
Second, we can enact all the money-laundering legislation in the world, but it will avail nothing unless the police and the judiciary are willing to enforce it. Bribery is rampant. Countries can profusely pledge support to the war on terrorism, be "shocked, shocked" when terrorist activities in their locale are brought to their attention and promptly "round up the usual suspects," as Pakistan appears to be doing right now.
DUNCAN C. KINDER
New York City
Jesse Gordon and Knickerbocker's insightful graphic "The Sweat Behind the Shirt" [Sept. 3/10] left the impression that no one gets rich working for the Gap. The authors should have used a final arrow to track how the $48 spent on the shirt ends up as part of the Gap's $14.4 billion annual revenue; almost $1.5 billion in gross profit; and, of course, $15.7 million in annual salary, bonus and stock options for president and CEO Millard Drexler. Clearly, the labor capital invested throughout the process is all there--one person just gets most of the wages for it.
FLY THE COMPASSIONATE SKIES...
I'm beginning to understand "Compassionate Conservatism" [Robert Borosage and William Greider, "Calling All Keynesians," Oct. 15]. It is cash for large airline corporations in financial difficulty and compassionate, comforting speeches for everyone else.
New York City
However imaginative the "modest proposal" to use Martha's Vineyard instead of Vieques as a naval bombing range ["Letters," Sept. 3/10], the US Navy thought of it first. From World War II until 1996, the Navy used Nomans Land, a 628-acre outcrop close to the Vineyard, as a military target range. More than 250 tons of 33-millimeter rounds, rockets, aircraft flares and bombs were cleaned out in the process of turning it over to the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1998 (www.s-t.com/daily/07-98/07-09-98/c01lo060.htm). Claiming continued contamination and the presence of unexploded ordnance, the Wampanoag tribe of Gay Head, whose ancestors lived on the site, called the cleanup "an environmental and public safety outrage" (www.wampanoagtribe.net/news/). The tribe has pressed the Navy to allow community members to participate in an ongoing cleanup review (www.capecodonline.com/cctimes/archives/2001/jun/20/tribeseeks20.htm).
'SPEWING' IN PALESTINE
In "Letter From Palestine" [July 23/30] Roane Carey spews falsification upon falsification. He writes that "Israel made it clear that there would be no full withdrawal to the June 4, 1967, borders, as required by international law." Nowhere does UN Resolution 242 say that Israel must withdraw from "all" territories captured in that defensive war. It refers to "territories," not "the territories." Further, the Oslo "peace" process has superseded this resolution with respect to the Palestinian Arabs, and the extent of any territory transferred must be through negotiations. The world has acknowledged that, but apparently Carey hasn't. By the way, in 1979 Israel gave up 91 percent of the territory it had won in 1967. The difference between 100 percent of the West Bank and the 93 percent Barak offered is a difference of 0.5 percent of the land. You have to question a people that aren't happy with 99.5 percent and whether only 100 percent is their goal, or whether they desire all of Israel. Finally, when one speaks of "occupation" of the "West Bank" the obvious question is "occupation from whom?" Palestine? There never was a country of Palestine, there never were a Palestinian people, until it was invented in the 1960s. Maybe occupied from Jordan? Jordan illegally invaded 100 percent of the West Bank in 1948 and illegally annexed it in 1950. No country recognizes the legitimacy of that annexation, with the exception of Pakistan and Britain. From 1948 until 1967, when Jordan renamed Judea and Samaria as their West Bank and expelled all the Jews, there was no talk of making another state in the area for Palestinians--because there were no Palestinians. There were Arabs, living in the area of Palestine. These Arabs should be absorbed into the surrounding Arab states just as the 600,000 Jews expelled from Arab states found their home.
ROGER DAVID CARASSO
Altamonte Springs, Fl.
My family is from Aboud, near Ramallah, and after having three chunks of our olive farm confiscated (the biggest one being 158 acres in 1997), we have had it. We are not going to live like this. We'd rather fight back or be expelled than live in such humiliation. Thank you, thank you, thank you again for this article. It sure is refreshing to read a fair depiction of home.
New York City
Roger David Carasso hauls out an old whopper about Resolution 242 that has no basis in the historical record. Almost all members of the Security Council at the time--including British ambassador to the UN Lord Caradon, who devised the wording; US Secretary of State Dean Rusk and US ambassador to the UN Arthur Goldberg; as well as the French and Soviet delegations--were crystal clear in their interpretation of the resolution, both at the time of its adoption and afterward: The crucial preamble, "emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war," mandates full Israeli withdrawal, including from East Jerusalem, with the allowance of only minor and reciprocal border adjustments to rationalize the haphazard 1949 armistice lines. Propagandists for Greater Israel frequently harp on the missing "the," conveniently forgetting to point out that in none of the four other official languages of the UN (French, Russian, Chinese and Spanish) is there any ambiguity; the French version of 242, for example, refers to "des territoires occupés." It should be noted that in 1968 Moshe Dayan, Israel's defense minister during the 1967 war, urged Israel's rejection of 242, as did opposition leader Menachem Begin, precisely because it was understood to mean withdrawal to the June 4, 1967, lines.
With the Oslo accords, Yasir Arafat undermined this international consensus and betrayed his own people, as Carasso indicates. But the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949--which was established in the wake of Nazi crimes against humanity to prevent a reoccurrence of such depredations--specifically invalidates any quisling abrogation of an occupied people's fundamental rights (for a fuller discussion, see human rights attorney Allegra Pacheco's essay "Flouting Convention" in The New Intifada, published this month by Verso). Furthermore, the convention enjoins all High Contracting Parties, among them the United States, to "do everything in their power" to make sure the convention isn't being violated. Thus Israel's chief bankroller and patron is also culpable for the grave breaches of the convention that Israel is carrying out.
Carasso not only irrelevantly mixes in Palestinian land with Egyptian territory properly returned two decades ago. He actually denies the existence and history of Esam Samara and millions of other Palestinians. He then calls for another massive round of ethnic cleansing. (If Carasso were to apply his argument consistently, he would also point out that "there never was a country of Israel...until it was invented in 1948." Would he then make the absurd demand that Israelis now be "absorbed" elsewhere?) Such nonsense might be dismissed as the ravings of an escapee from a lunatic ward or of a member of Milosevic's goon squads itching to apply his sanguinary talents elsewhere, except for the terrifying fact that important sectors of Israeli public opinion, even recent members of the Cabinet, are now calling for the same thing. Such a "final solution" to Israel's Palestinian question is no solution at all; it's the abyss. Sanity demands that Israel end the occupation and recognize the legitimate national and human rights of the Palestinian people, who have already recognized the legitimate right of Israelis to live in their 1967 borders.
ISOLATED NO MORE
I am a 15-year-old boy. Up until a few months ago, thanks to my left-leaning philosophies, I had felt politically isolated. After complaining about this to my parents, they suggested I subscribe to The Nation. As skeptical as I was that any media product would agree with me politically, I decided I would give it a whirl. A few months later, I have found your magazine to be a godsend. Finally, I have found people who think the same way I do. Incredibly, The Nation and I agree on so many issues--trade, the Democratic Party and many others. Thanks for the great articles. Keep up the good work!