Web Letters | The Nation


Remember ‘Benghazi’?

Just like Benghazi, what difference, except that it involved Ron Reagan, who in 1983 ordered 10,000 American troops into Beirut, Lebanon, and in a flash 242 American marines were blown to bits in barracks protected by American Marines commanded there by Ronald Reagan, president. At a cost of $100 million, American forces were withdrawn in less than thirty days to “a more defensible position” per Reagan in a news briefing. Marine loss worst since Iwo Jima. No investigation was requested by the Republican Congress.Reagan said he was sorry. Can you spell hypocraps or hypocripples?

Jack Doyle

United States

Mar 20 2014 - 3:31pm

Twenty-seven Questions for Stephen F. Cohen from Russia’s Leading Opposition Newspaper

“Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but bands of criminals on a large scale.”—St. Augustine

In defense of writing his The Russian Revolution  as a political conservative, Richard Pipes writes in his Introduction, “The Russian Revolution was made neither by the forces of nature nor by anonymous masses but by identifiable men pursuing their own advantages. Although it had spontaneous aspects, in the main it was the result of deliberate action. As such it is very properly subject to value judgement.” Remarkably, no such moral value judgment has been forthcoming from historians of tsarist Russia.

Thus I am surprised that the West is so aghast at the return of capitalist Russia following the success at long last of the counterrevolution against the October Revolution of 1917 in the form of the US win of the Cold War. As a high-ranking Japanese said to a US representative during the war-crimes trial in Tokyo in 1946: we learned from you.

Burke Ritchie

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Mar 19 2014 - 10:08pm

The Right Loses It Over Russia—Again

I read the following in an information clearinghouse article on the Israel lobby’s going after Palestinian justice activists:

“It would be heartening if prominent liberal intellectuals would agree with all of my conclusions, or would accept the legitimacy of BDS,” Blumenthal went on. “But the only reasonable expectation we can hold for them is that they speak up in defense of those whose free-speech rights and rights to organize are being crushed by powerful forces. Unfortunately, when those forces are arrayed in defense of Israel, too many liberal intellectuals are silent or, as in the case of Michael Kazin, Eric Alterman, Cary Nelson and a who’s who of major university presidents, they actively collaborate with fellow elites determined to crush Palestine solidarity activism through anti-democratic means.”

So, Eric Alterman, are you silent on these issues? Why?

Nina Sakun

Hartford, CT

Mar 17 2014 - 7:54pm

Distorting Russia

At the time Gorbachev was talking about new chances for humanity, I and many of my compatriots really believed him. You must be aware of what Soviet people were like. They were inspired to make a difference. They were innocent about greed and corruption. Yet talented, smart and hard-working—the best people to deal with if you Americans wanted to really make a difference. What Cohen missed pointing out in his article is the fact that what America did or, better said, did not do is a major contribution to the kind of people you probably see in Russia today. Still talented and smart, but now very cynical.

We believed in friendship. We believed that the tension between our nations was finally over. So deep disappointment followed, when all of us saw that America did not really mean to use this chance to start to perceive Russia in a new way. The USA still does not, and the chance is gone. We performed the steps that were agreed upon, and we were all disappointed that you did not.

As Cohen correctly says in his article, there was still a chance for the United States to stop demonizing Russia as the enemy.

We could still have forgiven the missed opportunities from the United States after perestroika. Even though we became very cynical as a nation, we still value love and mercy.

But humanity has made a step backward as this opportunity is lost. It is sad to see people in my country became cynical. This is regression not only here but over the whole planet.

Mikhail Koustov


Mar 13 2014 - 12:19pm

Elizabeth Warren Tackles Wall Street

Is there any follow up to this story? I haven’t heard anything. The statement about the banks getting loans for .75 percent so why do our children have to pay 6.8 percent? Any information would be appreciated. Thank you

Brenda Brown

Long Valley, NJ

Mar 10 2014 - 11:21am

Distorting Russia

Thanks to Professor Cohen for his piece of media distortion vis-à-vis Russia. I find Heinrich Mann’s Der Untertan (Underling or Subject) the most fitting to understand the particulars of being a mainstream foreign policy journalist these days.

I don’t know if you have read the book, but there is a great 1951 film of it, which I am not sure was ever subtitled, though it can be understood from behaviourism and tone of voice. Just as there is “pre-emptive war”, there is “pre-emptive obedience”.

Another hero to call to your cause of educating our public would be Barbara Tuchman, in The Proud Tower, where she masterfully depicts the general national mentality of hurrah-patriotism that led everyone quite obliviously into World War I. You may find the chapter on the Dreyfuss case in France especially instructive, to give your readers an example to which they have enough emotional distance, to fathom how belligerent madness can be entirely orchestrated, without any conspiracy—simply, pre-emptive obedience, a natural byproduct of fear, ergo ignorance.

I hope you are surviving the vilifications you must be experiencing for speaking out for rational dialogue so boldly! Keep your head high, your articles will be judged kindly by history if we manage to rescue civilization from a new world war, which could be the last if fought.

Daniel Grasenack-Tente

Copenhagen, DENMARK

Mar 5 2014 - 5:17pm

Why Woody Allen Deserves the Benefit of the Doubt

Why does Joann Wypijewski rely upon 25 year-old arguments to suggest that Dylan Farrow is making up things in her head and Woody Allen is probably mostly blameless? Why does Joann dredge up the controversy over the book, “Courage to Heal” from well over two decades ago? Does Joann know that many of the proponents of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (is it a syndrome? or a catch-phrase?) were supporters of sex with children? Did her research turn up the no fewer than seventeen

studies showing that one in three girls are molested before the age of 18? One in five boys (they don’t tend to report, so the statistic is fuzzy)? What impresses me about the letter from Dylan Farrow (which, BTW, was not put forward by Nicholas Kristof as “fact” but was published under Opinion), is that she exhibits characteristics of someone suffering from incest in childhood. Memories can be altered in their details, but to invent a traumatizing memory out of whole cloth, and then find the characteristics of serious trauma present twenty-five years later, isn’t realistic according to data. Trauma has a root that is based in real experience.

I tend to believe Dylan because she exhibits the symptoms other victims of incest exhibit. There were officials at the time that had enough evidence to prosecute, but Mia Farrow declined to do it. Today, she wouldn’t have that choice. The authorities would prosecute on behalf of the child. Reading in this article that Allen was behaving in “inappropriately intense” ways underscores for me the probability that Dylan is telling a real truth, not one implanted in her head.

This article is beneath the dignity of The Nation. Better research and less slant, please. Base it on current research.

Fionna Bright


Mar 4 2014 - 12:59am

Water and Soil, Grain and Flesh

Walter Johnson’s attempt to cast slavery in a special relationship to capitalism fails because historically the odious institution of slavery has existed within an astounding range of economic and social arrangements, and vastly antedates anything recognizable as capitalism proper. Nor is it a mystery why it is possible to draw analogies between the institution of slavery and Marx’s construal of the institution of wage labor. It is readily explained by Marx’s embarrasing misconstrual of the actual nature of wage labor, for which see pp. 114-117 of Book II of the book Vehicles of Hope, available at www.pathsplitter.net



Mar 3 2014 - 2:00pm

Distorting Russia

Given the events at Sochi, such as the beating of the Pussy Riot activists, and the way the crisis in Ukraine has played out, I truly believe that you owe your readers an apology. This was one of the worst articles I have ever read in your magazine, and does, in fact, make me question my subscription. Though the whole article was troubling, the notion that Putin has “virtually saved Obama’s presidency” by his role in Syria is just offensive. I don’t believe Putin is interested in saving any presidencies other than his own, and the puppets he controls in the surrounding former “republics” of the Soviet Union. Again, I believe you owe your readers an apology for this “cover story,” which I think it truly was, in as much as it was an attempt to provide Putin cover and justifications for his actions, so reminiscent of Georgia. Just very offensive.

Dean Sinclair


Mar 3 2014 - 1:13pm

Distorting Russia

Cohen’s article is the most sensible and fair discussion of Russia I’ve seen so far. In fact, it’s the only sensible and fair discussion of Russia I’ve seen.

It seems that almost everybody, right and left, has a mental image, or a system of categories set in stone, for viewing Russia. These categories were formed years ago, and never re-examined. Putin can’t get a break from either side.

When a bunch of disruptive, vaguely threatening juvenile delinquents invade a church to take over the service for their own purposes, they end up in prison; and it’s all Putin’s fault. When they’re released, it’s a deception, a provocation, an optical illusion.

Russia has had close ties with Ukraine in the past; I would almost be inclined to say, Ukraine is in Russia’s “sphere of influence.” Yet when a street mob overthrows the duly elected government of Ukraine, we’re supposed to side with the protesters. Well, not me.

During the Cold War, pundits were fond of saying, “Our enemy is not the Russian people; it’s the Communist system.” But then when communism collapsed, there was no rapprochement—quite the reverse. We might have become friends then, but we missed the boat; and now people just seem to go along, by habit, thinking of Russia as the enemy. It’s lazy and stupid.

Larry E.

Bloomington, IN

Mar 3 2014 - 4:39am