Hayward, Wisc.



Hayward, Wisc.

It is truly sad that in order to acquire some semblance of racial justice and equality the argument must be put forth that diversity on campus is beneficial toward achieving greater corporate efficiency, a more effective military and a broader educational experience for white students [Eric Foner, “Diversity Over Justice,” July 14]. Gone, it seems, are the days when appeals could be made to the collective conscience regarding the legacy of oppression and the virtues of kindness and empathy. As Eric Foner writes, “it is a sign of the times.” I applaud Justice Ginsburg for taking the position that we should do what is right because it is the right thing to do.



Washington, DC

The Supreme Court’s decision invalidating the Texas “sodomy” statute [Richard Kim, “Queer Cheer,” July 21/28] is an important victory, and I sure don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. But this happy news is also a sad reminder that on this as on so many other issues, the United States is decades behind the rest of the developed world. To cite just one example, Canada repealed all laws regulating private consensual sex in 1969. How shameful that it took us a third of a century to catch up.



New York City

Patricia Bosworth’s profile of my mother, Bella Abzug, in the July 21/28 issue was indeed reflective of her truly amazing and dynamic life as one of the most influential Democratic women and Congresswomen of the twentieth century. However, many in my family and many of my mother’s close associates from those years feel compelled to correct an error of fact in this story. Bosworth says, “Bella was often disruptive when she was expected to be deferential. As when she barked ‘Fuck you!’ to Carl Albert [Speaker of the House] and Hale Boggs [fellow Congressman and friend of my mother’s, by the way] after they voted no to her resolution to end the Vietnam War.”

My mother would never have used those expletives to Albert, someone whom she greatly respected and liked, and who had been her mentor in her first years in Congress. As the consummate lawyer who greatly understood and respected the process and procedures of Congress, she knew better than to show such disrespect to the most powerful man in the House. Nor would she ever use such curse words toward her fellow Congressmember and very dear friend Hale Boggs. That part of the story is simply not accurate, which I told the Nation fact-checker. I also told her that if my mother exhibited any anger at that time to any House personnel, it was toward Fishbait Miller, the steward and doorkeeper of the House. When Miller told my mother to take off her famous wide-brimmed hat upon entering the House, of course she told him that she would not be told when and where to take her hat off. But let the record note that she did in fact comply and take off her hat in the House chamber… But, of course, only on her own terms!



New York City

Respect and friendship have nothing to do with the expletives directed at Carl Albert and Hale Boggs, which Bella’s assistant at the time, Esther Newberg, heard her say (outside the hallowed halls of Congress). For the record, throughout 1971 Bella fought to get a Stop the War resolution passed in the House. Albert and Boggs never supported her efforts, and she kept trying to convince them how important such a resolution was. They argued a lot–both publicly and privately–as documented in her memoir, Bella, which chronicles her first year in Washington. Bella spent years tirelessly opposing the Vietnam War; she played a vital role in igniting debate about the brutal US involvement in that country.



Washington, DC

Robert Dreyfuss’s “More Missing Intelligence” [July 7] completely misstates the function and mode of operation of the Special Plans directorate. It was created in October 2002 (not fall 2001) by expanding the Near East and South Asia Bureau’s Northern Gulf section, in order to provide enough manpower to handle policy issues with respect to Iran, Iraq and the global war on terrorism.

Special Plans is a policy planning group and is a consumer, rather than producer, of intelligence. It receives intelligence information via normal US government channels. It is simply wrong to suggest that Special Plans received information from a “secret, rump unit…in the office of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel.”

It is regrettable that The Nation did not check its facts with the Pentagon before printing this erroneous article.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs

Decatur, Ga.

Robert Dreyfuss made several salient points about how the Administration dropped the ball in devising a postwar strategy in Iraq. However, he erred in closing with: “A massive failure of US intelligence has led to an emerging disaster in postwar Iraq.”

The disaster had little to do with failures in the intelligence community. Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld drove the events. They had access to the best intelligence in the world. They decided what to discount and what to believe. This failure was one of political leadership, not intelligence-gathering.



Alexandria, Va.

Since fall 2001, the Pentagon has shrouded the intelligence analysis unit in Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith’s office in octopus ink-like secrecy. That’s the unit that, according to many accounts, including my own reporting, was set up to manufacture skewed intelligence reports that could justify the Administration’s drive to go to war in Iraq, by linking the former regime in Baghdad to Al Qaeda and to weapons of mass destruction. What the unit did, and why, has remained unclear, and the Defense Department isn’t working hard to explain it.

By the same token, the relationship between that intelligence unit and the so-called Office of Special Plans has been kept murky. Perhaps they are the same thing, or perhaps one replaced the other, or perhaps they work side by side under Feith. At one point, Feith claimed that the intelligence unit was disbanded last August–but last October, in an on-the-record briefing, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld referred to the unit in the present tense, specifically acknowledging that it gave him intelligence tidbits that he could use to challenge the CIA’s decidedly antiwar views. In early June, at a stealthily called surprise briefing, Feith said that the Office of Special Plans, run by neocon intelligence specialist Abe Shulsky, was created in October–yet the New York Times has quoted senior Defense officials as saying that the OSP and the supposedly dissolved intelligence unit had some sort of special relationship. Whitman asserts that the OSP was a “consumer, rather than producer,” of intelligence. But Rumsfeld himself said it was designed to sift CIA intelligence to find nuggets he could use to challenge agency conclusions. These apparently included that Iraq had no significant ties to Al Qaeda and that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were not an imminent threat to the United States.

The role of the intelligence unit, and of the OSP, must be at the very heart of the several inquiries into whether the Bush Administration altered or distorted intelligence about the threat posed by Iraq. And, within that, the “smoking gun” will be the forged documents alleging that Iraq tried to buy uranium in Niger for a nuclear weapons program. Someone, somewhere–obviously with an interest in leading the United States to war against Iraq–deliberately created those forgeries. Who? And why? One of my sources says the documents may have been generated by Ariel Sharon’s office–but if not, well, someone forged them. And, as important, Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney and others apparently overlooked or ignored evidence that the documents were bogus. Why? Maybe hauling Abe Shulsky to the witness table can help uncover the truth.



Princeton, NJ

The gratuitous, tasteless bashing of New Jersey by Luc Sante is beneath you [“On Mediocrity’s Cutting Edge,” June 23]. Suburban architecture and values are rampant throughout the country, but New Jersey has much more. Beyond the Turnpike there are beautiful rural and coastal areas, many historical sites and towns like Cape May and Lambertville. Princeton, where I live, is an intellectual and liberal hotbed that sent packed Peace Trains to the New York demonstrations via New Jersey Transit; home of the Institute for Advanced Study, the Wilson School, Paul Krugman and Uwe Reinhardt. New Jersey has a liberal Democratic governor who supports human services, and two Democratic senators. Most of my local senior citizens’ group actively support The Nation‘s positions. What more can you ask?



Huntington Beach, Calif.

Thank you for giving us more truths from Gore Vidal, in “We Are the Patriots” [June 2]. I feel a sense of moral vertigo when reading his analyses of the grotesque travesties of the military and corporate establishments, and the political transgressions and infringements, by both Democratic and Republican leaders, on our constitutional rights and freedoms.

Vidal is a political savant, with a tricksterlike knack for identifying mean, opportunistic and vulgar trends in American life. But like the positivist social archeologist he is, he finds some artifact in our collective past (like the words of the dying Benjamin Franklin) that reflects organic, timeless and universal vision and truth, refocusing our attention on the possibilities and promise of our people.


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