Washington, DC



Washington, DC

I was unpleasantly surprised to see the normally sagacious Molly Ivins branding Tom DeLay and his Texan confreres as “Shiite Republicans,” meaning (according to Ivins) “they don’t compromise, they don’t deal, they don’t look for the middle way” [“Tales of the Texas Border,” June 9]. While DeLay deserves all manner of epithets, Ivins’s word choice, however humorous in intent, reproduces the false equation in our media ether between “Shiite” and “fundamentalist” or “extremist.”

Shiism is one of two main doctrinal branches within Islam. Its split with Sunnism relates to a dispute over who was the proper successor to Mohammed, not to differing degrees of theological rigidity or piety. For centuries, the large majority of Shiites pursued a political quietism that we can only wish Tom the Bug Killer would adopt. Ayatollah Khomeini reversed the quietist tendency with his advocacy of clerical rule, but that doctrine was then, and remains, highly contested among Shiite clergy and laypeople. Today it is in decline. To tar Shiites everywhere with this brush is like saying that Methodists everywhere share the ideas of Bush and Cheney.

The United States is now occupying one majority-Shiite country, and the likes of DeLay would like it to attack another. Especially now, The Nation should help to refine, not coarsen, American discourse about Shiism and Islam.

Middle East Report


Austin, Tex.

OK, OK, my cultural horizons from Texas are a little limited. I was looking for the Islamic equivalent of “foot-washing Baptist.” If the Sunnis are the Methodists and the Shiites are the Presbyterians, what do you think: Can we call them Wahhabi Republicans?

No offense intended,




Here are three quotations for your readers:

Columbia Daily Spectator, November 7, 2002, Eric Foner: “This doctrine of what they [i.e., the Bush Administration leaders] call preemption or preventive war is a complete repudiation of the whole notion of international law, of the international rule of law. It takes us back to the notion of the rule of the jungle. It’s a throwback to the days before the United Nations, before notions of international standards of conduct. This is exactly the same argument that the Japanese used in attacking Pearl Harbor. This is exactly the justification they gave for the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was a preemptive strike against the United States because the United States was becoming more and more threatening to Japan.”

New York Post, November 12, 2002, my column, titled “Profs Who Hate America”: “Eric Foner, professor of 19-century American history at Columbia University, states that a preemptive war against Iraq ‘takes us back to the notion of the rule of the jungle’ and deems this ‘exactly the same argument’ the Japanese used to justify the attack on Pearl Harbor.”

The Nation, June 2, Eric Foner’s editorial, “Dare Call It Treason”: “Daniel Pipes said in his syndicated newspaper column that I ‘hate America’ because I noted that Japan invoked the idea of pre-emptive war to justify its attack on Pearl Harbor.”

No, Professor Foner, that is not what I wrote. You hate America not because of your comments on Japanese actions but because you accuse the US government of acting according to “the rule of the jungle” and because you see it as comparable to the Hideki Tojo dictatorship. Your misquoting me on this simple matter points out the incompetence (or duplicity) of your research. It is one more mark of shame you bring to Columbia University.



New York City

Not satisfied with his syndicated column, website and frequent television appearances, Daniel Pipes now subjects Nation readers to an example of his poisonous attacks on those he considers disloyal. But readers will recognize that to Pipes, “hating” America means disagreeing with the policies of the Bush Administration.

Let me suggest that Pipes add the following to his database of quotations. It was written by Henry Steele Commager in 1947, another time when self-appointed arbiters of patriotism used charges of disloyalty to try to silence dissent:

“What is this new loyalty? It is, above all, conformity. It is the uncritical and unquestioning acceptance of America as it is…. The concept of loyalty as conformity is a false one. It is narrow and restrictive, denies freedom of thought and of conscience…. What do men know of loyalty who make a mockery of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights?”



Des Moines

I noted the letter to the editor dealing with your internal advertising and who appears therein [“Letters,” June 2] and congratulating you on the inclusion of Janeane Garofalo (whoever she is) in your ad in the April 28 issue. Your editors’ response referred the writer to page 28, and promised (presumably) even bigger and better endorsements to come. So I turned to page 28–and gazed upon “Moby.” Moby (whoever you are), if you’re left cold by Dubya’s vision of America (whatever the hell that is), I’m happy to see you endorsing The Nation. And I look forward to all your silver-hair-impaired soulmates gracing future editions. Some of us oldsters welcome the new blood.



Washington, DC

Jack Newfield is correct that the battles now raging over the Bush Administration’s judicial appointments are about “abortion, affirmative action, civil liberties [and] equal rights” [“The Judiciary Wars,” June 2]. But they are also about other “things that matter,” particularly the ability of the government to protect the nation’s environment and natural resources.

Appointing activist judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas will greatly restrict the ability of the federal government to police polluters, conserve wildlife and safeguard the public health. Indeed, recent rulings by such federal jurists have already decimated the Clean Water Act–resulting in the loss of millions of acres of wetlands throughout the country–weakened the Endangered Species Act and erected new obstacles to citizen enforcement of environmental and open government laws. Those who seek to challenge Bush’s professed policy of stacking the courts with extreme right-wing ideologues must educate the public that the future of the environment itself is at stake in this battle.



Los Angeles

Now that we’re celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of McCarthyism [Victor Navasky, “McCarthy’s Secret Show,” May 26], it should be remembered that Joe McCarthy’s technique was character assassination. If you dared to disagree with him, you were branded “un-American.” Well, when Senator Robert Byrd questioned the need for George W. Bush to give a political speech aboard an aircraft carrier at taxpayers’ expense, White House mouthpiece Ari Fleischer called the senator “unpatriotic.” And when Representative Henry Waxman questioned the contractual goodies being handed out by the Administration, Fleischer said, “Henry Waxman never met a Republican he didn’t want to investigate.” These personal attacks, so typical of McCarthy, lie ill in the mouth of a spokesman for a President who wants to be re-elected.



San Anselmo, Calif.

David Corn titles his May 19 report on Bush’s rush-to-war falsehoods “Now They Tell Us.” I suggest that the title applies to the entire Bush program, going back to the 2000 campaign, when he referred to himself as a compassionate conservative, a uniter not a divider, who would practice humility in foreign policy.

“Oh, did we forget to tell you,” Bush or his other unelected wranglers might say today, “that our foreign policy is driven by a radical neoconservative doctrine that calls for US military domination–including of space–as the one true way to peace? That our concept of national unity basically means uniting all Americans, except those of our own social class, in poverty and downsized expectations? Now they tell us.

Shortly after the election, some publications, among them The Nation, suggested that Bush might actually do what he said he would and don the cloak of humility, given his ascent under such questionable circumstances. He would concede that he had no mandate and therefore would exercise restraint in his governance. Obviously, that was never his intent. It is testimony to the Bush propaganda machine that his party is able to foist this extreme agenda onto people who believed they were voting for something quite different.


Lakebay, Wash.

When I first saw your “Now They Tell Us” cover photo I felt there was something strange about it: Ten men sit around a conference table. The places all have nameplates–so these folks need, in that small a group, a reminder of who they’re talking to. But the nameplates are two-sided! Do they also need a reminder of their own identities?


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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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