Another Cost of War

Washington, D.C.

Your March 31 cover story, “The Costs of War,” did an excellent job of calculating the toll the Iraq War has taken on the economy. A new report by Oil Change International examines another cost of war: its impact on the climate and on efforts to combat global warming.

A Climate of War (at quantifies the greenhouse gas emissions of the Iraq War and the opportunity costs of fighting a war rather than climate change. Research reveals: projected total US spending on the Iraq War could cover all the global investments in renewable power generation needed between now and 2030 to halt current global warming trends; the war is responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions since March 2003, as much as would be generated by putting 25 million more cars on the road this year.

Military emissions abroad are not captured in the greenhouse gas inventories that all industrialized nations report under the UN Convention on Climate Change. It’s a loophole big enough to drive a tank through. If we weren’t so dependent on oil, it’s unlikely we’d be warring for control of reserves thousands of miles away. Energy efficiency and renewable technologies will help keep US troops at home.


Jersey City, N.J.

In “The Wages of Peace” [March 31] Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier address what far too few media do–the devastating yet largely hidden domestic costs of war and a hugely bloated military budget. And it is not just lost jobs or tax revenues; it is the deep political and social side effects of a massive amount of GDP devoted to a war machine.


Carmel Valley, Calif.

“The Wages of Peace” carefully details the relative value of peace jobs compared with war jobs. When a society invests in infrastructure, education and healthcare, that spending promotes growth, productivity and social good. When a society spends that money on weapons and warfare, that’s it–a dead end. A nation that puts military spending ahead of nurturing its future generations, as we are doing, is doomed to swift decline. We are spending away our children’s futures. Progressives need to make the American people and the next President understand the real costs of war.


‘Class War’ for the Classroom

Sierra Madre, Calif.

Class War,” your chart on the costs of the Iraq War to the people of Cleveland, Ohio, is brilliant. I teach history and will use it in my classroom.


Working-Class Warriors

San Antonio, Tex.

I have waited too long to see an article like Michael Zweig’s “The War and the Working Class” [March 31]. As an Army officer, veteran and military spouse, I can attest to every hardship and mistreatment of the working-class soldier. I have been making this argument for years, and the saddest part is that so many of the kids who work for me and put themselves in danger every day don’t, or won’t, see how it is. It’s about time we talked about the effect of this damned war on the working class. We condescend to free Iraqis but enslave our poor and undereducated with impunity.

ILANA [Last name withheld by request]

Jews for Obama

Washington, D.C.

Thanks to Ari Berman for his perceptive “Smearing Obama” [March 31]. Berman demolishes some of the pernicious myths dogging Barack Obama’s campaign aimed particularly at the Jewish community. Fortunately that community, never monolithic and now more nuanced than ever, is fighting back. A group of women who were tired of receiving e-mails painting Obama as a closet Muslim, an enemy of Israel and worse embarked on an e-mail counterinsurgency. Their letter explaining why they support Obama and decrying the despicable whispering campaign against him garnered 100 online signatures within days. That letter, now with many hundreds of signers, including prominent Jews in all walks of life, is at I invite your readers to join in.


A Sip of Southern Comfort

Waukegan, Ill.

There it was in your March 31 issue: several articles devoted to Roberto Bolaño. Thanks to Carmen Boullosa, Marcela Valdes and Forrest Gander for approaching Bolaño with grace and a sip of South American liquor. Since my first encounter with By Night in Chile, then the stunning Savage Detectives, I keep asking myself, Why is this work so important? I have a better idea now, and I hope to read more. There is much to understand, particularly Bolaño’s use of what we say we know from memory and what we choose to remember and how well he plays with memory in those disjointed narratives. Thanks again.


Keep It Coming!

Bethesda, Md.

I’ve been reading The Nation for more than twenty years. I shrug when I see letters from readers canceling their subscriptions, most recently in response to the magazine’s qualified endorsement of Barack Obama [“Letters,” March 24 and April 7]. I haven’t always agreed with every word printed in The Nation; I’d have to write my own magazine if I wanted to enjoy solidarity without compromise. Compromise–it keeps everything from marriages to legislatures functioning. I’m sorry The Nation didn’t endorse my first choice, Dennis Kucinich, but please, keep my issues coming.



Eagan, Minn.

Brett Story’s “Noted” item [“Green Machine?” Feb. 18] on GM’s new flex-fuel Hummer regurgitates falsehoods about the fuel instead of examining how preposterous it is that an auto company in trouble is continuing to manufacture such fuel-guzzling vehicles. There’s plenty of published work demonstrating that corn ethanol has a net energy gain of about 25 percent. Story’s estimates of water and grain required to fuel a Hummer are excessive. Next-generation biofuels, those using cellulosic technologies, have much better attributes. Why not consider corn ethanol a transition to a solution instead of an evil? Compare ethanol with gasoline if you want to stir up some controversy.


Story Replies

New York City

Bob Shepard is right to censure the auto industry for trying to rebrand itself as an eco-champion. But overwhelming evidence from such institutions as Berkeley and Stanford attest to ethanol’s failings–from water consumption and pesticide pollution to deforestation and CO2 emissions. Almost all biofuels, including ethanol, generate more greenhouse gases during production than gasoline, according to two recent studies in Science. Such findings stir up controversy, as should the elite corporate corn growers and members of Congress from farm states (including Barack Obama) who have steered billions in federal subsidies to underwrite ethanol production. An ethanol-fueled Hummer is no more a “transition to a solution” than an ethanol-fueled economy.


Bee Season

In last week’s issue, in Rick Perlstein’s “All Aboard the McCain Express,” Johann Hari’s first name was misspelled, as was Kaiserslautern in “Noted.