The Buck Stops Here

Ellicott City, Md.


The Buck Stops Here

Ellicott City, Md.

William Greider’s “Dismantling the Temple” [August 3/10] may be the most important summary analysis yet of the current economic crisis and its roots in the mysterious role of the Federal Reserve. If it inspires your readers (especially legislators) to educate themselves about how the economy really functions and who the real players are in the making of economic policy, it will have succeeded in bringing about the hoped-for rebellion. Money, after all, is only a means of exchange, and its value derives from the consent and trust of those who use it.


Three Oaks, Mich.

William Greider writes, “Bernanke essentially used the Fed’s money-creation power in a way that resembles the ‘greenbacks’ Abraham Lincoln printed to fight the Civil War.” But Greider fails to mention that Lincoln’s greenbacks circulated interest-free on the “full faith and credit” of the United States, as Ellen Hodgson Brown describes in her excellent book The Web of Debt. On the other hand, Brown says, every dollar bill today is a Federal Reserve Note, lent to the government to be paid back with interest.

In 1972, Brown writes, the Treasury Department calculated “the amount of interest that would have been paid if the $400 million in greenbacks had been borrowed from the banks instead…. Lincoln saved the government a total of $4 billion in interest, just by avoiding this $400 million loan.”

The Federal Reserve needs to disappear, and very quickly.


McNamara’s Legacy

Astoria, N.Y.

As one of those men Robert McNamara sent off to fight in Vietnam after he had already concluded that the United States could not win there, I was entirely confident that I could and would never forgive the man. But on reading Jonathan Schell’s truly thoughtful “Remembering Robert McNamara” [August 3/10], I find my implacable anger a little less implacable.

Schell asks how many of our fearless leaders have ever acknowledged that they’d made a mistake, or said, “I was terribly wrong.” He comes up with one–McNamara. I reluctantly agree. McNamara, no matter how badly I want to deny it, helped show us the direction in which we should be heading.

And yet. McNamara apparently continued covering his own ass long after he understood his folly, while hundreds of thousands continued to die. This still sounds pretty much like the behavior of everyone else involved in promoting that ill-begotten war.


San Francisco

I am of a ’60s antiwar movement that can never forgive Robert McNamara for his central role in the Vietnam War, though of course he had the decency to acknowledge many years later that the war was wrong. Not so Henry Kissinger, who took up where McNamara left off.

I interviewed both men in 2001 for a PBS documentary, The Sixties: The Years That Shaped a Generation. McNamara told me that he’d come to realize the war was a tragedy that could have been avoided. He said his “greatest regret” was urging President Johnson in 1965 to commit American troops to a land war in Asia.

But Kissinger was unreconstructed, unapologetic. “If you are going to ask whether I feel guilty about Vietnam, the interview is over,” Kissinger said before I asked my first question. “I’ll walk out.”

I told him I had just interviewed McNamara. That got his attention. And then he did something I’ll never forget: he began to cry. Actually, he pretended to cry.

“Boohoo, boohoo,” Kissinger blubbered, rubbing his eyes. “He’s still beating his breast, right? Still feeling guilty.” He spoke in a mocking, singsong voice and patted his heart for emphasis.

It was one of those private moments, before the camera rolls, when you get a rare glimpse into someone’s character and it’s even darker than you ever dreamed.


New York City

Robert McNamara’s recent death at 93 reminded me of Michael Kinsley’s observation in The New Yorker that he had managed to live more than four times longer than the typical soldier who didn’t make it home.

I served as an Army medic from July 1970 to May 1971. Like everyone else who made it back, my greatest regret will always be the loss of the citizens and soldiers who weren’t as lucky as me. Close behind that regret, though, is that everything we gave to the war did far more harm than good for Vietnam. I hope with all my heart that the soldiers in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do not end up with the same realization about their military experiences that I had about mine.


Politics & Faith

Washington, D.C.

The Nation has a distinguished history of producing journalism that debunks conventional wisdom. In “Obama’s Faithful Flock” [August 3/10], however, Sarah Posner perpetuates a distorted narrative about the role of faith in politics while commenting on Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

Catholics in Alliance promotes progressive, faith-based messages on economic justice, healthcare, immigration and labor rights that provide a strategic alternative to the narrow agenda of the religious right. Posner relies on specious attacks against our organization and caricatures the alliance because part of our social justice mission includes addressing abortion and supporting growing efforts in Congress to find common ground on this divisive issue.

Stereotyping religious Americans and making abortion a litmus test for entry into the progressive community only emboldens far-right ideologues who believe they have a monopoly on moral values. We expect more from The Nation and secular leaders in the progressive movement.

FRED ROTONDARO, board chair
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good

Love & Marriage

Harpersfield, N.Y.

Re Katha Pollitt’s “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” [“Subject to Debate,” August 3/10]: As a therapist, I sometimes wonder if the divorce rate is too low. I’ve seen so many people scarred by being brought up in bad marriages. Interestingly, the worst damage seems to be done by marriages where the surface is calm and polite. Hidden hatred and empty marriages are profoundly corrosive.


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