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!
UNICEF AND TEXTBOOKS IN PALESTINE
Fouad Moughrabi's "Battle of the Books in Palestine" [Oct. 1] incorrectly states that UNICEF evacuated its staff from the West Bank and Gaza at the outset of the intifada one year ago. In fact, staff were not evacuated but remained on the job in order to insure UNICEF's longstanding support to Palestinian children. Only relatives of some staff members, a volunteer and a consultant at the end of her assignment were sent home. The article also gives the mistaken impression that international agencies like UNICEF have not extended any help to Palestinian children suffering psychologically as a result of this most recent period of conflict. This is not true. UNICEF promptly mobilized up to $480,000 at the outset of the current situation to assist children suffering from stress and other psychological problems, in cooperation with our Palestinian partners. We continue to do so. Our most recent effort is to help others working to help children reach a consensus on practices and ethics for this important work. Rather than being left to "cope on their own," as Moughrabi states, children in the West Bank and Gaza can continue to rely on UNICEF's support during this difficult period.
UNICEF West Bank and Gaza
Professor Fouad Moughrabi's article is, in fact, a reprint of a piece to which the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP) has already responded. We invited Professor Moughrabi to "openly and honestly examine and discuss the content of the textbooks themselves." To date we have received no response from him.
Moughrabi is disturbed that CMIP has placed the issue of the educational policies inherent in Palestinian and Israeli school texts on the public agenda. Textbooks are not simply another educational device but a clear expression of what governments instill in the minds of the young to further their long-term agenda.
Nothing in Moughrabi's article does anything but reinforce the conclusion that he has no real answer to the analysis put forward in the CMIP report. The objective reader is still left with the conclusion reached in the report that Palestinian textbooks incite against Jews, against Israel's very existence and coexistence with its neighbors. Certain Palestinian textbooks still depict Jews as greedy, treacherous, racist liars and thieves. They are the "enemies of the Arabs," of "the prophets and believers" and even of God. They aspire to rule and control the world, and they view the "non-Jews as pigs just fit for servicing them."
With regard to the work by Mustafa Dabbagh, CMIP would like to clarify the following points: (1) Our Country Palestine was not originally printed in 1947. In 1947 there existed a manuscript, which was lost at sea during Dabbagh's flight from Jaffa to Egypt. This volume was first printed in 1965 by the Dar al-Taliah printing house in Beirut. The same house printed Volume 2 in 1966. (2) Our Country Palestine is not "merely mentioned" in the chapter of the Palestinian Authority's sixth-grade textbook Our Beautiful Language, devoted to Mustafa Murad Dabbagh. Most of this chapter is actually a long quote from the introduction that Dabbagh wrote in 1964 for the first edition of his work. Moreover, in the eighth lesson, for example, the pupils are asked to write a detailed account of the importance of their cities or villages. The lesson suggests using Dabbagh's book to perform this task. So, the pupils have to use Dabbagh's work, which provides a detailed account of each town and village in Palestine from the archeological, historical, geographical, geological, botanical and economic point of view.
(3) Our Country Palestine was reprinted by the University Graduates Union of the province of Hebron, Volume 1 in 1973 and Volume 2 in 1985. Also, one of the copies of Our Country Palestine that was used by CMIP during its research came from the library of one of the intermediate schools of Hebron. (4) The quote "There is no alternative to destroying Israel" appears in the 1965 edition. In the 1973 edition this sentence was changed to "There is no alternative to the complete destruction of Israel." In spite of the Oslo accords, the State of Israel still does not appear on any map in any of the Palestinian textbooks or teachers' guides. One cannot find the slightest hint of recognition of the State of Israel, within its borders of 1948 or even within the framework of the 1947 UN Palestine partition plan. There is no reference to the peace process or to the content of the Oslo accords, to the mutual recognition between Palestinians and Israelis, or to their mutual commitment at Oslo to solve their conflict exclusively by negotiation. Unfortunately, certain Palestinian educational materials advocate the opposite approach--the obligation to liberate Palestine by jihad.
One can find numerous quotes propagating this indoctrination, including excerpts from Palestinian textbooks on the CMIP website (www.edume.org).
DR. YOHANAN MANOR
Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace
Ramallah, West Bank
In October 2000 most international agencies in the West Bank and Gaza evacuated what they call their "nonessential" staff. In those grim days, UNICEF in particular was not answering our phone calls or responding to our e-mail requests. More significant, however, is the fact that UNICEF's intervention here was minimal, mostly geared to increasing general awareness about the psychological effects of trauma on Palestinian children, by placing ads in newspapers and by distributing a useful booklet designed to help teachers and parents recognize the symptoms and try to deal with them. Pierre Poupard recently sent us a letter in which he claims that UNICEF has also done a limited amount of training of teachers. In other crises throughout the world, UNICEF intervened immediately by conducting large-scale screening and by devising intervention strategies, thereby gaining a wealth of experience in responding to children who suffer the effects of trauma. Excellent and useful work was carried out in neighboring Lebanon with the help of Dr. Mouna Macksoud, who translated screening measures to Arabic and adapted them to local needs. This was not done here, despite the nearly half-million dollars allocated to the task. Palestinian children and their parents continue to cope on their own.
Dr. Manor's response is consistent with a pattern of lies that permeates the entire work of CMIP. He claims that CMIP responded to me and invited me to "openly and honestly examine and discuss the content of the textbooks themselves" and that I have not answered. This is another lie. I never heard from them.
A much longer version of my Nation article is forthcoming in the Journal of Palestine Studies. It will contain even more proof, on the basis of text analysis, of CMIP lies and distortions.
If textbooks are indeed a "clear expression of what governments instill in the minds of the young," as Manor suggests, then I invite him to take a look at Israeli school textbooks, which to this day view Arabs as thieves, killers and marauders; present a map of Israel that includes the entire area from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River as the eternal Land of Israel; and describe the occupied Palestinian West Bank as Judea and Samaria, where no Arabs are said to exist. His obfuscatory remarks about Our Country Palestine notwithstanding, the fact is that CMIP deliberately misquotes and badly translates in order to force a point about a book that various scholars consider to be a classic reference work on the history of Palestine during the British Mandate.
I am more than happy to enter into an honest and open debate on the issue of Palestinian and Israeli school textbooks with knowledgeable and professional Israeli colleagues, but not with extremists whose political agenda is to show that peace and coexistence with the Palestinians are impossible.
I don't think it was fair for Katha Pollitt to object to my observation that embryonic stem cell research, "'rightly or wrongly' summons up visions of Dr. Mengele's Auschwitz experiments" ["Subject to Debate," Aug. 20]. That's exactly how many people feel, and for those debating the issue it's important to know what motivates all sides. Nevertheless, I must say Pollitt made some good points in illuminating the inconsistencies of some of those favoring funding for embryonic stem cell research.
She correctly summarizes Orrin Hatch's position as: It's "OK to destroy a frozen embryo because the embryo is only a person if it's in a woman." Dubbing this the "location theory of personhood," she notes that by this logic, "You put the cells in the woman, it's a person, you take them out, it's not a person, you put them back in, voilà!--it's a person again. You might as well say Orrin Hatch is a person in his office but not in his car." Well put. But it would be nice if Pollitt would apply her wit and reasoning to the "convenience theory of personhood." If the mother wants it, it's called a "baby," cards are sent out, the empty bedroom is decorated with stuffed animals and a crib is installed. If the mother doesn't want it, it's called a fetus and aborted.
The Hudson Institute
Katha Pollitt suggests that antichoice women be recruited to gestate the 100,000 frozen embryo children in need of homes. But how responsible is this? If half of all fertilized eggs fail to implant, we would be condemning 50,000 embryo children to death. Really, the safest place for an embryo child is the freezer. In fact, we might require all fertilized embryos to be removed and frozen for their own safety. What responsible parent would want an embryo child to be faced with the perils of gestation and birth--and ultimate death? Besides solving the problem of death, freezing all embryo children would save money spent on education, medical care and other things that we are too prone to provide for unruly children. Frozen embryos are certainly the best behaved, least troublesome children we will ever get.
WE SHINE FOR ALL
Your magazine remains a
beacon of hope for all of us, even those who revile you for your
progressive values--because we all lose when mindless, precipitate
actions are taken that end up costing more lives and wasting more
resources. You are a refreshing alternative voice to the jingoism
overtaking this nation. Thank you for remaining true to the cause of
LEE--FULBRIGHT OF HER TIME
Thank you for the interview with Representative
Lee ["Barbara Lee's Stand," Oct. 8]. I was reminded of Senator
William Fulbright's comment (in an interview not long before his
death in 1995) responding to the question of how he would vote on the
Tonkin Gulf Resolution given the benefit of hindsight. Fulbright was
chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1965. The
resolution, passed with about the same degree of consideration given
the House Use of Force resolution, gave President Johnson a similar
blank check to escalate the Vietnam War. Fulbright said if he had
another chance he would do his best to stop the 1965 resolution.
Barbara Lee is in good company.
GREG STARKEBAUM (Vietnam
MAD PROF--'VOICE OF REASON'
Patricia Williams--finally a voice of reason rather than mere reaction ["Diary
of a Mad Law Professor," Oct. 1]. No sane person would condone the
terrible acts in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. But what's
missing from our reaction is self-reflection and self-criticism.
America has drawn increasingly inward with George W. Bush and his
isolationist policies. The walking out of US delegates at the Durban
Conference on Racism is the most recent sad proof that America does
not want to hear or deal with what it does not like. This nation's
skewed foreign policy puts us all in peril. The American people and
our leaders must become more knowledgeable about the rest of the
world and how US actions and polices are perceived. Professor
Williams is absolutely correct. This is no time for ignoring the
causes of the deep hatred for the United States among many people and
cultures around the world.
FLY YOUR FLAGS
It is rare for me to
disagree with Katha Pollitt, but in "Put Out No Flags" she spoke too
quickly ["Subject to Debate," Oct. 8]. She should listen to her
daughter. The flag cannot be allowed to stand for "jingoism and
vengeance and war." We must take it back. It must again stand for the
best we can dream.
As a child during
World War II, I knew that our flag represented freedom. Most homes,
including ours, proudly flew the flag. Our nation fought a war, paid
a high price and helped win a fight that saved future generations
from a terrible fate. Now, to protect our grandchildren from a life
of terror, we must again take up a just cause and fight for
freedom--freedom that even allows for the expression of unrealistic
and offensive thoughts.
JOHN C. BOOTH
Pollitt says that what is needed is solidarity. Right now, that is
what the Stars and Stripes does for this country. It shows that we
citizens of this Republic are united against the perpetrators of
these barbarous acts. The fact that right-wingers used the flag to
support that monstrosity known as the Vietnam War doesn't mean those
on the left must cede this psychic territory of the Stars and Stripes
to the Ann Coulters and Jerry Falwells of the world. To use the flag
when engaged in activities that it stands for--freedom of speech,
freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom to petition the government for
the redress of grievances--what a radical idea! What a nonviolent
rebuff to those who have injured us!
White Salmon, Wash.
with Katha Pollitt's opinion of what our flag stands for. I also
agree with her daughter, who wants to fly it in a show of solidarity
with the victims and survivors and rescue workers, families and loved
ones who have been touched by this horrendous act against humanity.
The country needs to become united with the rest of the world,
Muslims, Arabs, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, everyone.
have agonized over how to show my solidarity without appearing to be
pro-war. So I have hung Buddhist prayer flags against my house and my
boyfriend's house next to his US flag. We feel that this represents
what we feel--support for our country's losses and a wish for
worldwide peace, US restraint and acceptance of everyone, regardless
of race or religion. The prayer flags carry our prayers (for peace)
with the wind, around the globe.
Virginia Beach, Va.
you, Katha Pollitt. Now I know I'm not alone. I refuse to fly our
flag as long as we kill people and don't negotiate. I received an
e-mail saying that we should all wear a purple ribbon for those who
have died in this terrible tragedy, as we did the yellow ribbon
during Desert Storm. I feel that this is much more
flag-waving for the same reason as Katha Pollitt, but I've been
jonesin' for a flag I could believe in. I'd like to see a flag with a
globe on it, as she mentions, so I could wave it proudly to say, I
belong to the Earth and I take a stand for protecting it.
MICHELLE Y. R'MY
It's a painful time for those of
us who have lived through the bad choices our government made in the
twentieth century. As one who has survived all those choices (I was
born in 1909), I fly the Earth flag--a blue banner with the beautiful
photo of our planet taken from outer space, used for the first Earth
Day. Our small organization has distributed these flags to schools
and municipalities for many years to help people realize that, in the
words of the Earth Charter (which all governments must
subscribe to if our planet is to survive), we must "bring forth a
sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal
human rights, economic justice and a culture of
Save Our World
I went to the AAA
flag store here last week and passed the forty or so people standing
in line to buy American flags and asked loudly, "Where are the flags
with the picture of planet Earth on them?" I took one home, and it
now flies proudly next to my American flag--which I fly with some
ambivalence but also with a determination to redefine this symbol of
jingoism for myself.
I have not joined the
patriotic fervor by displaying a US flag even though I deeply mourn
the loss of innocent lives, not just American lives but lives from at
least eighty other countries ruthlessly sacrificed in a perverted
interpretation of Islam. The first impulse I had was to fly the flag
with a picture of the Earth to show solidarity with our brothers and
sisters throughout the world. But since I don't own such a flag, I
have tied a black ribbon to my car antenna in memory of those who
died and as a symbol of the period of darkness that must now be
overcome if we as a global people wish to survive. Patriotism serves
only to further separate us from the sufferings of our brothers and
sisters throughout the world in a time when we need more than ever a
sense of unity and global community.
addresses the flag conundrum quite well. There is an alternative
symbol--the peace symbol--which could show empathy with the victims
and their families as well as expressing the desire for alternative
a global flag. See www.oneworldflag.org.
Thanks to Katha Pollitt for her
ideas for alternatives to the American battle flag. Here in
Asheville, we've made posters of the peace dove. They're hanging in
the windows of homes and businesses, a symbolic alternative to the
Stars and Stripes and the march to war.
Santa Monica, Calif.
We need American peace flags and not blank checks! Check us out to see what we're about: www.peaceflags.org
(click on info).
BILL RUSSELL, JOHN LANDRUM
Santa Cruz, Calif.
important to know our enemies. Listening to newscasters and
politicians would lead one to believe that our enemies are Osama bin
Laden, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, Afghanistan or some fuzzily
defined worldwide network of brown-skinned lunatics with names like
Mohammed and Ahmed who take flying lessons in
Listening to the Rev. Jerry Falwell would lead one
to believe that our enemies are gays, Jews, abortion providers,
feminists, the ACLU and (though he neglected to mention them this
time) Teletubbies. Watching the actions of large numbers of Americans
would lead one to believe that our enemies are the 6 million Muslims
living in the United States, the mosques they pray at, the businesses
they run and the schools their children attend.
All are mistaken.
I hope Americans will look beyond these easy
targets and scapegoats and recognize their true enemies as ignorance,
intolerance and fanaticism. I fear we have already fallen prey to all
three. We have seen a man in Seattle drive his truck through a mosque
and begin shooting in the name of patriotism. And we may soon see our
military kill innocent people in the pursuit of one man and his
followers, also in the name of patriotism. As we indulge these acts,
I can only hope that we will not be surprised when their eventual and
inevitable responses follow, once again in the name of
We need to make the choice between a patriotism
we can buy at Wal-Mart for $3 and a greater cause than
patriotism--humanity. We must identify and make war on our own
tendencies toward fanaticism and intolerance. Otherwise, we ourselves
become the enemy, and the terrorists win.
UNCLE SAM WANTS THEM?
Given all the pro-war and American Empire rhetoric, I guess people like William
Kristol, David Brooks, Jonah Goldberg, Bill O'Reilly, Zell Miller,
Ann Coulter and the entire staff of National Review, among
others, will be stepping down from their jobs to go sign up at the
nearest armed services recruiting office. It will be a shame not to
hear their articulate opinions on everything from Monica Lewinsky to
the Taliban, but I believe it is a sacrifice America will have to
make. Such patriotic pundits, banging their war drums, surely will
lead America to victory.
Why don't we trade Henry Kissinger for Osama bin
Laden? Then we each can hold war crimes tribunals and let justice
prevail. It's a curious contrast: The Taliban won't surrender bin
Laden without presentation of evidence, whereas the United States
won't surrender Kissinger even with mountains of
OUR GLASS HOUSE
On September 11 America experienced a true faith-based initiative. Then, hearing the
remarks of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who purport to be
Christians, made it clear that we have fundamentalists in our own
society no better than those we say we must fight. Our forefathers
tried to protect us from intolerance by making our government
secular, with the imperative to protect all beliefs. We have just
experienced the result of deep intolerance and become the victims of
religious fanatics. It is heartbreaking to begin this new century
with "holy wars," and we must not let our leaders put us on those
terms. We must stop those right here in our own country who preach
intolerance. As much as we condemn Muslim extremists, it is difficult
to cast stones when you live in a glass house.
DOROTHY I. MUNDY
A 'HYPENATED PERSPECTIVE'
New York City
Can I be at
war with myself? Watching the World Trade Center collapse, then
living through the aftermath, I ask that absurd question. I'm
American with a Muslim name but nondescript appearance. No one takes
me for Middle Eastern--I was born in West Virginia, and I'm only a
quarter Arab. But thanks to the peculiarities of history, and naming,
I have an Arab-American identity.
The attack on the World
Trade Center puts me in an awful place. Like everyone else, I am
horrified and angered. I could have been there, munching a bagel on
the observation deck. I can't imagine how someone could have planned
such an attack, and my shock is turning into anger and mourning. At
the same time, I feel excluded from the national unity. Why? As an
Arab-American, I'm subject to reprisals. I'm nervous, wondering if I
will somehow share the blame. Slurs, threats and even violence have
been leveled against anyone associated with Islam, and I wonder what
will happen to me. I'm looking for work--will I be denied a job? What
if a wider war breaks out? Will I lose my liberty?
friends have said I should go to Egypt. They meant well, but their
comments betrayed a misunderstanding that verges on racism. Hard as
it is for the safely white to comprehend, there is only one place for
me and other hyphenated Americans: the United States. America
produced me. My grandparents hail from four different countries.
Where else could they have created a family? If I'm out of place here
thanks to my name, I'm certainly out of place in the Middle East,
where I stick out as an American. What is left for me? Do we have to
pick sides in the end? And what can I do if neither side will have
me, if both treat me as the enemy?
Some of my fellow
citizens are striking out at American Muslims. Some are even calling
for a firestorm to be rained upon Islamic nations. Don't they see
that the terrorists had the same inspiration? The Afghans were caught
between the Soviet Union and the United States for decades. Their
country has been reduced to rubble. They have no hope. Violence
occurs in cycles, and, if we respond senselessly, striking innocent
people in our search for criminals, we'll create more radicals, more
suicide bombers who embody the despair of poverty and war. The
monopoly on violence is broken, and I shudder to think what comes
My situation brings a special clarity, one that
opposes choosing sides. What do I see from my hyphenated perspective?
The absurdity of labels, indeed, of the whole idea that race,
religion or flags divide humanity. I have a Muslim name, but my
grandfather was Serbian. How would that fly in the Balkans? Is the
world becoming a vast Balkan state?
I've wondered if I will
have to choose a side. If I do, here is my choice: pacifism and
dialogue. I choose love, I choose humanity. I may symbolize Islam to
some and America to others, but I transcend these distinctions. I am
proof that love conquers hate. My grandparents conquered tradition to
found my family, and I stand tall as an American born from a unique
and tolerant soil. What race produced me? The human race. I plead for
understanding and compassion. Chase the criminals, but let us then
begin to fight. Let us fight not for oil, money or revenge but for a
world where hatred and weapons belong to a distant, barbaric
'NEITHER IN THE EAST OR THE WEST'
I am an Arab-American. I am also a New Yorker born
in America of a Moroccan Muslim father. On September 11 I stood
terrified at my office window above Madison Square Garden, as I
watched in horror and disbelief the devastating destruction of the
World Trade Center--one of the quintessential landmarks of this city
I love. In the distance, down the soundless stretch of Seventh Avenue
hung the ghostly cloud of what moments before had been the mirror for
the Statue of Liberty, the thriving workplace of thousands of people
hailing from all over the planet, each living their portion of the
American dream. Read the names on the Wall of Prayers outside St.
Vincent's Hospital; they will tell you how the blow dealt to New York
truly hit the world, for the names are not only Mark, Jennifer and
Kevin, but Imran, Mohammed and Kumar. The terrorists who committed
this heinous act, if they were Muslim, are no more "my people" than
Timothy McVeigh was "the people" of Christians.
liberal Muslim, I must speak out with the clearest and loudest of
voices and not let fanatics and extremists define me and my
community. For we are in the vast majority--Muslims and Arabs who
condemn the killing of another human being, who believe that Allah is
compassionate and good and forgiving. Who know that the Koran forbids
suicide, who see life as a gift that must not be squandered. My
father taught me his favorite sura from the Koran, where God
is described as a "Light within Light, emanating from a source found
neither in the East nor in the West." The terrorists who carried with
them death and destruction shared neither my vision of Allah, nor my
vision of the world. They were men devoured by hate and stood only
I don't know if we will ever have a real
sense of how much was lost on September 11. I don't think I can ever
stop hearing the bells from the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
that tolled for the dead all day that Tuesday. I heard them as I
walked out of Central Park coughing from the soot and ash, my feet
blistered from the long trek to Harlem, away from the horror. I
feared so much was dying, I feared not just for my college friends,
graduate school buddies and neighbors who worked in those towers but
for my visions of peace and of a better world. I feared for my dream
of an end to the conflict in the Middle East--most likely that vision
had gone up in a cloud of smoke. What of my hopes of cultural
understanding, of erasing of stereotypes, of validating identity and
difference? That, too, had come tumbling down. The terrorists had
sounded the death knell for my vision of a better day to come.
But I will not let them do that. In memory of all those
who died, I will speak up loudly and not let terrorists write the
epitaph of our future. I will not let a handful of hatemongers, who
twisted the minds of desperate souls, convince more people that there
is no way out of despair but through destruction. The differences
that divide the Arab-Muslim world and the West are not a chasm that
nobody can bridge, and I will not let extremists on either side tell
me otherwise. I refuse to let hate draw the blueprints for our
ANISSA MARIAM BOUZIANE
We regret that space considerations permit us to print only a few of the many letters we received on Martin Duberman's "A Fellow Traveling," his review of Ronald Radosh's Commies, and Victor Navasky's "Cold War Ghosts," an essay on the new McCarthyism, both in the July 16 issue. Among those we're unable to print (but which may be read on our website) are letters from victims of McCarthyism, letters on the merits (demerits, actually) of the Hiss and Rosenberg convictions, scholarly letters filling in missing pieces of cold war history (including one from a Navy veteran who served in the Office of Strategic Services) and a letter finding a "cold war ghost" in the actions of "those who rule the National Pacifica Radio Board." Radosh invites readers to his website to read his answer to Duberman's review. We accept, and we invite readers to our special website letters page to read more on this topic. --The Editors
I would like to thank Martin Duberman for trying to be evenhanded and fair in his discussion of my memoir, Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left. I suspect that many Nation readers will be angry that he did not deliver the hatchet job expected by so many of them. Nevertheless, I have many points of difference with both him and Victor Navasky, whose piece appeared in the same issue. Rather than take up the limited space allotted in the letters column, which would not allow for a substantive answer, I refer interested readers to my archive at frontpagemag.com, where they will find my answers to both Duberman and Navasky.
I thank Victor Navasky and Martin Duberman for their sane and cogent analyses of the new anti-Communism. As a veteran of union organizing during the Great Depression and of military service in World War II, I long ago concluded that Communism and anti-Communism are equally absurd. They are absurd in being essentially theological, in the outdated mode of the Crusades or of Cromwell's Puritanism. Both Communism and anti-Communism derive tests of faith syllogistically from shaky first principles. Thereupon their opposing heresy-hunters are off and running. Heretics are judged to violate vague notions called loyalty and security. Our nation's Founding Fathers omitted these notions and defined treason narrowly and precisely. Later the notion of loyalty tests died with rejection of the Alien and Sedition Acts; died again with revulsion against the Palmer Raids; and died a third time with the deserved unpopularity of Joe McCarthy. (Espionage is another matter. Insofar as there really are national secrets, they must be protected, but only with strict observance of due process.) I began to recognize Stalin's paranoia and cruelty with Trotsky's murder and the "treason" trials. Nevertheless, I must raise a query about Sidney Hook's dictum that "the first priority" of our time has been "the defense and survival of the West." Did not the Red Army, despite Stalin's crimes, help to meet that priority?
JOHN M. PICKERING
Martin Duberman and Victor Navasky leave out one important point. During the cold war many anti-Communist liberals and leftists, with some very few honorable exceptions, spent more time inveighing against "domestic totalitarianism" on the left than they did agitating for peace and social justice. For all of their well-meaning ideals, those anti-Communist liberals did no more to advance progressive causes than did the right-wingers who were using anti-Communism to impede those causes.Meanwhile, rank-and-file Communists, as well as other leftists, without regard to who did or did not do what and with which and to whom, were among the most dedicated, passionate and successful people working for peace and social justice. And they and their political descendants remain so today.
Chevy Chase, Md.
The Soviet Union is no more, nor, effectively, is the CPUSA; yet the indefatigable experts on the Red Menace keep clambering over old battlefields and, with the help of such imperfect tools as the Venona Project, constructing new ones.
Victor Navasky and Martin Duberman adumbrate admirably the pathological nature of this quest, the dishonest methods employed by its practitioners, the absurdity of regarding Communism solely as a security threat and the American CP as just a tool of Soviet foreign policy. But both writers are guilty of some serious inaccuracies. Thus, while Irving Howe objected to Ronald Radosh's portrayal of the Sandinista regime as composed of "ultrarevolutionary Marxist-Leninists," it is absurd to suggest, as Duberman does, that Howe would warn Radosh not to criticize the Sandinista regime while they were "under attack by the American empire." I happen to know something about it, as I was close to Howe and wrote a few pieces for Dissent after visiting Nicaragua and interviewing some of its leading players.
In general, terms like "Marxist-Leninist" and "Stalinist" are often used incautiously vis-à-vis Central American revolutionary parties. There were certainly Marxist-Leninists among the Sandinistas, but the Sandinistas were a motley lot, and "anti-imperialism" or "anti-Yankeeism"was more relevant to their collective ideological makeup than the verities of Marx and Lenin: It could hardly be otherwise. Nor is it true that the Sandinistas simply followed the "Castro model." Rather, they tried to combine it with those of Eastern Europe's "people's democracies" and, curiously, with more authentic stress on democratic principles. Even the Polish elections of 1989, which brought Solidarity to power, stipulated that 65 percent of all seats in the new Parliament would be held by Communists and their allies.
As for the American CP, however small the number of members Moscow tried to recruit--successfully or not--few of them were starry-eyed idealists fighting for social justice, organizing unions (as long as they could control them) and joining Pete Seeger in singing "We Shall Not Be Moved." Almost all desperately believed that the Russian CP was always right and that frequent changes in the party line were explainable by the Russian comrades' superior wisdom. (Doubts and hesitations would be suppressed--though luckily not altogether banished.)
Hence the outrageous justifications of Stalin's heinous crimes, hence the inquisitorial means used against suddenly out-of-favor figures, and the groveling mea culpas by those who had, poor souls, defended the new enemies when they were still revered leaders.
During my many years as a Sovietologist, I got to know not a few ex-Communists, some of whom (Joe Starobin, for instance) became good friends. It was precisely their original commitment to a noble cause that made many realize that they had been serving false gods. Still, for a long time they had belonged to a party that was, in the words of French CP head Maurice Thorez, "unlike any other political party," a description that fits the American CP as well as the French. Exposing one set of simplifications is no reason for espousing another.
Washington Township, N.J.
Victor Navasky's "Cold War Ghosts" was as cogent and historically focused as anything I have read on this topic in a very long while. The old left, social idealists like me whose beliefs were contoured by the Depression and World War II, made mistakes, but we were never ideological "shills," as a Nation essayist recently called us. We believed in fundamental human rights for all Americans and, yes, in peace, and we put our youthful energies and our hearts into trying to move our country toward those goals. Espionage was never part of it. We bore harsh criticism for our efforts and some of us suffered severe punishment. It was not that we were wrong but that we underestimated the enormous power of the right wing, which distorted and misrepresented who we were to the American people. By raising the specter of espionage, they were able to successfully market their own antihumanist agenda and have been doing it ever since.
Misjudging the right was a mistake as destructive as the misplaced trust we put in our own demagogues, but at least our efforts were honest. That is not true, I believe, of most of this era's facile-tongued critics with their skewed hindsight, dishonest representations and scrambled historiography.
Victor Navasky is right that historians obsessed with Communist Party espionage have been unable to offer a convincing answer to the question, What was the essence of the Communist Party USA? The Comintern, Profintern (Red International of Labor Unions) and CPUSA archives in Moscow are vast, and are perhaps even more riddled with difficult problems of evidence and verification than most historical archives. It still seems to me, as someone who has done extensive research in those archives, that to focus selectively on some documents implicating certain CP leaders in espionage seems wildly misdirected and disproportionate. Even at the level of leadership cadre, the emphasis on espionage does not hold up very well. After all, even CP leader William Z. Foster (whom Harvey Klehr himself identified in his book Communist Cadre as the single most influential leader in the party throughout its history because of his degree of involvement with its everyday governance) has not been identified as connected with the espionage apparatus, nor has he been implicated in the Venona dispatches. Significantly, Foster, despite his shortcomings as a party spokesman, was primarily involved in labor organizing, the party's self-declared most important mission. Productive research into the party's goals and mission must begin by rejecting the functionalist and unilluminating "spies or dupes" dichotomies of the McCarthy era.
Pine Plains, N.Y.
The Haunted Wood was formed under conditions that should be known: The co-authors are not really co-authors. There was the researcher, Alexander Vassiliev, who spent two years in the KGB archives gathering the material, and the editor, Allen Weinstein, who put the book together. Vassiliev had virtually no say on what went into the book. It wasn't supposed to be that way. Vassiliev, an ex-KGB colonel, seems to have been overwhelmed by Weinstein's reputation, his rhetoric and by the prospect that Weinstein kept dangling in front of him of making big bucks from the book. Also, he was in England, and Weinstein was in the United States, dealing with editors and publishers.
The uneven collaboration unfortunately weakens the book in more ways than one. The heavy anti-Hiss slant is pure Weinstein; the substitution of Hiss's name wherever Vassiliev wrote "Ales" was not Vassiliev's idea. Victor Navasky (and everyone else) should know that Vassiliev told me that in the KGB files "I never I saw a document where Hiss would be called Ales or Ales may be called Hiss. I made a point of that to Allen. It might be important for you." Ah, yes. Just slightly.
Left out of the final copy is the list of code names that Vassiliev found in the archives. It is, according to Vassiliev, a list of names and code names of US sources and Soviet operatives who worked in the United States. Besides names that have been noted in various other books, such as Silvermaster, Bentley and Golos, the following appear: Alger Hiss, given the code name Leonard, noted as a former official of the State Department; Harry Dexter White, "Lawyer," noted as dead; Whittaker Chambers, code-named Karl. A measure of the limits of Vassiliev's understanding of US political history (and this underscores how Weinstein took control of the book) is that, according to Vassiliev, this list "was composed in connection with Bentley's defection," and of course Bentley defected in 1945, Hiss resigned from the State Department in 1947 and White died in 1948.
Also on the list, according to Vassiliev, is Noel Field, code-named Ernst, an idealist of whom much has been written, most of it wrong. Field was an authority on disarmament, an idealistic "Quaker communist" who, offered the German desk at the State Department in 1936, turned it down to work for the League of Nations in Geneva (not exactly the smartest thing to do if you are a Russian spy). By the late 1940s Field was in Europe working for world peace and by 1949 had been picked up by the Russians and thrown into a Budapest prison, accused of being an American spy.
But back to The Haunted Wood. Accompanying a photo there's a caption that reads, "Three high-ranking Soviet agents in policy-making position in the wartime Roosevelt Administration--Laughlin Currie, Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White--all provided Moscow with crucial documents...." Vassiliev says he never saw a document, or reference to a document, supplied by Hiss in the files.
Am I the only one who thinks that "Ales" might be almost anyone except Alger Hiss? Without any special knowledge of the field, it seems unlikely that any competent espionage organization would assign a code name so easy to decipher. (Not to mention Alger's willingness to identify himself this way.) Have the readers of the Venona files found other cases of similarly transparent anagrams? If not, maybe they should wonder why an exception was made in this one case, or if in fact "Ales" continues successfully to conceal the true identity of the real spy: Bill Buckley, perhaps, or Fala.
ROBERT M. FLANAGAN
I make no claim to be either a historian or an intellectual. But after reading Victor Navasky's "Cold War Ghosts," I wondered, Why would Hiss's name be mentioned at all in the Venona communications if he were innocent? To excuse that use of his name by saying the spies were not supposed to use real names is begging the question.
THOMAS BRYAN WARREN
Another "cold war ghost" occurred to me while reading Victor Navasky's article: To this day, civilian federal government agencies spend millions each year on security clearances that invade the privacy of career federal employees who have absolutely no access whatsoever to national security information. These costly and intrusive investigations are based on an Eisenhower executive order that created a cottage industry for the FBI and the OPM, who conduct the background checks.
New York City
Thanks to all who sent their thanks. Here I'll only say to Thomas Warren that my point was not that "spies were not supposed to use real names" but rather that under the informal rules of Venona, real spies were never referred to by their real names, only their code names. Thus the cryptic Venona reference to "Hiss" by his real name gives rise to the inference--to be weighed along with other evidence pro and con--that he was not a spy.
And to Abe Brumberg, whom I admire, I'll say only that while I may indeed be guilty of "serious inaccuracies," I can't find them in his letter. I didn't suggest that hard-core Stalinists and Moscow-recruited spies sang along with Pete Seeger (although they may well have), but rather that 99.9 percent of the CPUSA were not spies, and many of them did row the boat ashore (Hallelujah!) with Peter. I don't doubt that some of them were apologists for the party line.
New York City
To John M. Pickering: In insisting that "Communism and anti-Communism are equally absurd," you're equating Communism with Stalinism and ignoring communism with a small c. Those who did and do believe in lower-case communism are part of a complex lineage--an intertwined, shifting mix of Fourierist, anarchist, Marxist and socialist traditions--whose first principles, far from being "shaky," as you blithely state, are solidly rooted in the belief that (to employ one common formulation) the "highest social priority should go to the needs of the least fortunate." Nothing theological about that: It's about the distribution of opportunity and wealth right here on earth.
To Abe Brumberg: I knew Irving Howe only slightly, but through the years I read (and agreed with) his extended, sophisticated critique of Stalinism--which makes me suspect that you're right in saying it would have been out of character for him to warn Ronald Radosh (as Radosh claims) against attacking the Sandinista regime while it was "under attack by the American empire"; but I can't prove it one way or the other.I also accept your corrective that the Sandinistas combined a "Castro model" with that of the Eastern European "people's democracies," though I'd still question how much "democracy" that represented.
We agree that only a small number of those who joined the American CP became spies for Moscow, but I don't share your certainty that among them only a "few...were starry-eyed idealists fighting for social justice." How can you know that for sure? Where is the evidence to back your claim that "almost all...believed that the Russian CP was always right"? I doubt we'll ever have the documentation needed to prove or disprove such statements, given how many CP members are dead and how inordinately difficult it is to measure and quantify human motivation. In saying this, I acknowledge that my own opinion is also impressionistic--based, that is, on a selective list of readings and interviews that I could never prove are "representative."
And finally, to Ron Radosh: Yes, I've caught some hell from fellow leftists for being "too soft" on you in my review. That didn't bother me overly much until I went, as you directed, to your far lengthier response online. It contains so many startling misstatements about what I believe that I have to wonder, after all, whether I didn't give you too much credit for veracity. I never thought I'd have to set this particular record straight, but here goes: I've never believed, let alone "still" believe, that the Soviet Union was on the "right side of history." Nor do I believe, as you suggest, that "only apologists for Stalinism are true black people." Really, Radosh, that is a bit much!--even for someone who can claim that the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua "was comparatively moderate and merely authoritarian" when compared with the Sandinistas! To prepare me for your kind of "history," I'd better start reading more novels.
: Ronald Radosh h
Woods Hole, Mass.
Katha Pollitt is my favorite Nation columnist, but guess what, Katha, you've got my objections to cloning embryo stem cells all wrong ["Subject to Debate," July 23/30].
Maybe now that it's public knowledge that researchers have been buying women's eggs so they can make human embryos for research, you may be getting the point. But if not, let me explain. Human eggs don't grow on trees. They are embedded deep inside women's bodies; not easy to get at, like sperm. To collect more than one at a time means you first have to give women hormones to shut their ovaries down. You then have to hyperstimulate their ovaries with hormones of another sort so that many more than the customary single monthly follicle and its egg mature. At the right time, you then puncture each follicle and suck out its egg. Sound good for women? Steptoe and Edwards, the scientific "fathers" of Louise Brown, didn't give her mother hormones because they feared it wasn't safe. They waited patiently for a follicle to mature and then collected the egg that eventually became Louise. But the fertility industry doesn't have time for such niceties. Now it's hormones and mass production.
The concerns Pollitt imputes to me are not what worries me. I worry about what this new "need" for human embryos will do to women. And do you know what? We may never know the answer, because in countries with proper healthcare systems where proper health records are kept, people are not permitted to buy and sell body parts. "The enemy isn't the research," Pollitt writes, "it's capitalism." Wrong again: The enemy is research under capitalism.
Professor emeritus of biology Harvard University
Board member, Council for Responsible Genetics (www.gene-watch.org)
It's unfortunate that the usually perceptive Katha Pollitt completely misses the point about human cloning in her column on this subject. Kids produced by in vitro fertilization are one thing: They are made from the standard starting materials--an egg and a sperm. The donor of either may request anonymity, but the resulting infant is guaranteed to be a full-fledged member of the human species, biologically speaking (as well as socially and legally, although these connections are rapidly being eroded in the current environment--see Lori Andrews, The Clone Age, Henry Holt, 1999).
A clone is quite a different animal, however. It is constructed of parts of cells (an egg missing its nucleus; the nucleus of an adult cell) that never meet in the course of reproduction. Evolution has never had to deal with, and arrive at correctives for, the errors introduced into the developmental process resulting from this atypical combination of cell parts. No wonder virtually all attempts at animal cloning have led to fetal deaths, multiple birth defects or severe health problems later in the lives of even the most sound-looking clones. This is not a set of problems that can be worked out in mice before confidently being attempted in humans; it is probably too complex to be fully controlled, and in any case, each species presents unique complications.
A Massachusetts company, Advanced Cell Technologies, has announced that it is now producing clonal human embryos as a first step in producing donor-matched therapeutic stem cells. And now biotechnology industry representatives have begun to make common cause with some of their anti-choice beneficiaries in Congress in trying to define such embryos as "not true human embryos" in order to thwart laws against their production and manipulation. Indeed, if Pollitt's blasé attitude toward the production of full-term human clones becomes prevalent, we can look forward to the day when the not-quite-natural, not-quite-artificial products of human cloning experiments (disconnected, as they would be, from any social network other than that defined by ownership rights) are also redefined as "not true humans." This would open the way to their finding use as sources of transplantable organs,experimental laboratory models or perhaps, for the most presentable examples, wounded hero status in the march of reproductive technology. Would Pollitt flip off concerns about "threats to 'human individuality and dignity'" in this not very distant brave new world?
STUART A. NEWMAN
Professor of cell biology,
New York Medical College
Board member, Council for Responsible Genetics (www.gene-watch.org)
On the question of human cloning, Katha Pollitt's usually reliable political insight has failed her. She dismisses the pro-choice statement calling for bans on human cloning--signed to date by more than a hundred women's health and reproductive rights leaders--on the grounds that the pending Congressional bills to prohibit cloning are the "brainchildren of anti-choice Republican yahoos."
But that's precisely the point: Human cloning and genetic manipulation are feminist-liberal-progressive-radical issues. We leave them to the anti-choice crowd at our considerable peril.
The recent deluge of news about stem cells has generated a great deal of confusion about cloning. Two clarifications are key: First, opposition to cloning can and does co-exist with support for research on embryonic stem cells, using embryos from in vitro fertilization procedures. Stem cell research and embryo cloning intersect, but they are technically distinguishable--and vastly different politically.
Second, looking at human cloning through the lens of abortion politics blurs and distorts its meaning. The prospect of cloned or genetically "enhanced" children is ominous because it could so easily trigger an unprecedented kind of eugenics, one implemented not by state coercion but by upscale marketing campaigns for designer babies.
Pollitt thinks this scenario unlikely. I invite her to reconsider. The marginal figures she mentions--the Raelians and the cowboy fertility doctor Panos Zavos--are not the only champions of human cloning, and they are far from the most dangerous.
Already biotech companies are jockeying for patents on procedures to clone and manipulate human embryos. And for several years now, a disturbing number of influential scientists, biotech entrepreneurs, bioethicists and others have been actively promoting human cloning and genetic redesign. Some are open about their ambition to set humanity on a eugenic path and to "seize control of human evolution."
One example among many is Princeton University molecular biologist Lee Silver. In multiple appearances on national television and in the newsweeklies, Silver has plugged the "inevitable" emergence of a genetic caste system in which the "GenRich" rule and the "Naturals" work as "low-paid service providers." Like others of his persuasion, he seems quite ready to abandon any pretense of commitment to equality--or even to a common humanity.
Pollitt is right to caution against accepting wildly overblown claims about the power of genes to determine everything from sexual orientation to homelessness. But it would be foolish to overlook the rapidly expanding powers of genetic manipulation, or to dismiss the possibility that the advocates of a "posthuman" future will achieve enough mastery over the human genome to wreak enormous damage--biologically, culturally and politically.
Free-market eugenics is not science fiction or far off. It is an active political agenda that must be urgently opposed.
Exploratory Initiative on the New Human Genetic Technologies
New York City
"It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's...Superclone?"--my column on cloning--was probably the most unpopular "Subject to Debate" ever. Clearly this is a vexed subject, with many aspects, some of which are noted in the letters above.
The hormone-stimulated ripening and extraction of eggs, which Ruth Hubbard vividly describes, are, as she notes, the basis of much assisted reproduction, including now-routine procedures like in vitro fertilization with one's own eggs. Indeed, many college newspapers advertise for egg donors, and many students are willing to go through the extraction process and to take on its risks in return for substantial fees. Cloning would expand this market--how much, we don't know--but the market already flourishes.
While I, too, am troubled by so many women undergoing procedures whose long-term safety is still unknown--I mentioned this in my column as a fair objection to cloning--the fact is that every day all sorts of people take risks for money, or knowledge, or pleasure, or survival. What makes eggs so sacred? And would Hubbard approve of cloning embryos if the eggs were obtained in the "patient," old-fashioned way?
Stuart Newman and Marcy Darnovsky raise "brave new world" scenarios that to me do indeed sound farfetched and wild, and not even all bad--why would it be bad to "design" healthy babies, cloned or not? In any case, cloning seems like an odd place to begin worrying about a society divided into classes destined from birth for different levels of health, wealth and personal development: We live in that society now!