Vietnam as living history; behind every great dictator…; our bazaar government; what is “radical”?; Radio Gaga…


Vietnam as Living History

George Black’s article [“The Lethal Legacy of the Vietnam War,” March 16] is one of the finest works of journalism I have read in years. Black uses the long-form approach to a long story, but in a way that will engage anyone with an ounce of curiosity or humanity. Not that social media doesn’t have its place, but Black shows us what our culture is losing to chatter.

Through characters and vignettes, and without propaganda, he makes the reader understand that Vietnam is not old history, but that the unexploded weapons and cancer-causing chemicals we left behind continue to kill, maim, and deform. Not only people, but whole ecosystems.

He describes the journey of an American Vietnam veteran, Chuck Searcy, who stayed behind as a witness and humanitarian link. Without the slightest preaching, Black asks the question: Where have the rest of us been? It’s journalism at its finest.

Searcy is one of the planners of the 50th-anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam peace movement in Washington, DC, on May 1–2. Like Black’s article, it should not be missed.

Tom Hayden
los angeles

I thought I had hit the depths of feeling humiliated by my country’s moral disgrace in Vietnam, but George Black proved I had not. His portrait of a decent American, Chuck Searcy, helped me get through it. The Vietnamese may have forgiven us, but history, I fear, will not.
John S. Harris
Vietnam-era conscientious objector
st. louis

George Black’s reporting reminds us of the long and bloody reach of military conflict across generations, and that suffering is disproportionately borne by noncombatants. “The best and the brightest” who conceived the US intervention and sent those bombs and chemicals to farmers’ fields did so either callously or ignorantly. Black’s exposé is a vivid lesson in how the truly abhorrent (gratuitous bombing, “free-fire zones,” and now unexploded ordnance) becomes a lethal byproduct of what the nation was told was truly noble (defending freedom and advancing democracy).

Plaudits to Chuck Searcy and Project RENEW for addressing this violent residue of the war in Indochina.

David DiLeo
san clemente, calif.

Tax Breaks for Sale

In your editorial “For a Contested Primary” [March 16], you say “billionaires and CEOs [are] seeking to buy elections.” No, they are seeking to buy favorable regulations, favorable legislation, tax breaks, and lucrative business opportunities—in short, privileges the rest of us will never receive. It’s the way the aristocracy, titled or not, always operates.
Marcus Lester
summerville, ore.

Behind Every Great Dictator

I was surprised that Peter Canby’s review of Kirsten Weld’s book on Guatemala, Paper Cadavers [“A Volcano of Documents,” March 16], contained no mention of the School of the Americas (SOA, now formally succeeded by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or WHINSEC), which trained Efraín Ríos Montt, among others. I don’t know whether that was the reviewer’s omission or the author’s, but I think it a mistake. Americans need to know that when their country provides infamous training to Latin American dictatorships, it is not just some seat-of-the-pants operation but a highly developed system at an elaborate facility on our soil.
Katharine W. Rylaarsdam

Our Bazaar Government

The fact that people from the corporate world are hired by Congress does not mean Congress becomes more like a corporation [“Congress Incorporated,” March 2/9]. Congress is a marketplace where corporations and politicians buy and sell laws. It’s like eBay, but for legislation.
Donald McIntyre

What Is “Radical”?

In his letter to the editor in the March 16 issue, Arnie Langberg errs, I think, in his definition of “radical.” While the word’s root meaning is “root,” radicals are not “attempting to get to the root of a problem.” Radicals rarely, if ever, present themselves as having a solution in mind other than tearing something they don’t like up by the roots. What they usually hope will replace it is often nothing, as in the desire of some reactionary radicals today to tear up the social, economic, and political philosophies that transformed the United States after Roosevelt took office and through to the late 1960s.

Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas are indeed radicals in that sense, as well as reactionaries. I think the term used by Nan Aron et al. in “The Roberts Court at 10” [Feb. 16] is quite correct. When Justice Alito and the others have something constructive to offer in the place of striking down progressive and humane legislation, I will withdraw my objection.

Henry-York Steiner
spokane, wash.

Radio Gaga

To answer the question posed by Matthew Lasar in the March 2/9 issue (“Is Pacifica Worth Saving?”): With Fox News on the one hand, and insipid news agencies on the other, the answer is very much yes.

Is KPFA or the American left immune from corporate infighting, bickering, or drama? No. Any movement that encourages free thought, such as the American left, will by necessity engender infighting, bickering, and drama.

Have missteps been made in the growth of the Pacifica Foundation? Yes. Should the Pacifica Foundation downsize? Yes again.

But it would be a tragedy if the foundation folded, for whatever reason. Pacifica is one of the few spots on the airwaves that broadcast genuine news. For all its imperfections, it is still the voice of the American left.

James Kalomiris
fresno, calif.


In Jon Wiener’s article “Aiming Higher: Make College Tuition Free” [April 6], the year of Ronald Reagan’s campaign for the governorship of California was given as 1964. The correct year is 1966.


In “The Left in Power” [April 6], Walden Bello refers to himself as a member of the Philippine legislature. That was true when he penned the piece. However, he resigned shortly before the article was published to protest the government’s botched antiterror raid in Mamasapano, which resulted in scores of deaths.

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