Letters From the March 14, 2016, Issue

Letters From the March 14, 2016, Issue

Letters From the March 14, 2016, Issue

Southern discomfort… what’s gender got to do with it?… no nukes are good nukes… Flint without fire…


Southern Discomfort

This story is a great look at South Carolina’s politics [“South Carolina in Black and White,” Feb. 22]. As a Connecticut Yankee who has lived and studied and worked in this state since 1970, I can second every one of D.D. Guttenplan’s observations. Although South Carolina isn’t as vicious as some of her Southern neighbors, the state is still all about race. Go out into the countryside, to some of the rural towns, and race simmers under the gossamer veil of civility, recognizable only as a wink and a spoken code.
Frank Dougherty

What’s Gender Got to Do With It?

Thanks to Katha Pollitt for expressing my thoughts about women supporting another woman for president [“Now I’m With Her,” Feb. 22]. I, too, supported Barack Obama in 2008 because I thought it was far past time for Americans to see an African American as the leader of our nation. As with anything, there have been both good and bad consequences of that. It certainly has brought out a lot of inherent racism in our society and, in the process, forced us all to confront some of our biases. Until we elect a woman, we won’t have to do the same about the basic misogyny in our culture.

I would have much preferred that The Nation remain neutral and was considering canceling my subscription for what I felt was the basic unfairness of [endorsing Bernie Sanders in the race]. Now I won’t have to do that…. I saw a twentysomething on one of the news shows saying that electing Bernie is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as if we’ve had so many opportunities to elect a woman as president. I’ve voted in every presidential election since 1968, and I don’t recall a single one in my lifetime.

Donita Jones
sacramento, calif.

In her recent article, Katha Pollitt refers with embarrassment to a statement that she signed in 2008, “Feminists for Peace and Obama.” The clear implication is that she and presumably others had applied a double standard to the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Now, in 2016, she intends to undo that mistake by encouraging others to “put a collective thumb on the scale” on behalf of this particular woman, who is again seeking the highest office.

As one of the originators of “Feminists for Peace and Obama,” I can affirm that no double standard was involved. It was drafted by feminist peace activists in New York, who from 2001 to 2004 had found Senator Clinton’s office to be extraordinarily unresponsive to a list of concerns: the arbitrary incarceration of Muslim immigrants in the wake of 9/11, the waiving of the Geneva conventions in the establishment of Guantánamo, the authorization of military force in Iraq, the use of depleted uranium once the war began, the unconditional funding of an ongoing occupation. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, she åmight have played a constructive role, which she failed to do.

To be clear: On matters of substance, Senator Clinton’s positions were distinctly “hawkish” as compared with several others in the New York congressional delegation; on matters of process, her office was unusually resistant to communication with peace advocates.

Of course, Clinton wasn’t the only “liberal” senator to vote to authorize the use of military force in Iraq. But there was one crucial difference between Senator Clinton and all 99 of her colleagues: As the wife of the former president of the United States, she was uniquely situated to know that the so-called “intelligence” on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction was largely (if not entirely) hyped. Under these circumstances, her choice to follow the lead of President George W. Bush was a major setback for the cause of peace.

This history is directly relevant to the present. As an abstraction, the election of a woman to the presidency of the United States would be a positive gain. But when leading feminists advocate the election of Hillary Clinton and ignore entirely her record not only as a US senator but as secretary of state, this does the opposite. I am concerned that it sends the wrong message: that Clinton’s gender matters more than her performance in office.

Pollitt seems to suggest that a “liberal” Hillary Clinton is no better or worse than others whom feminists might support. But it is instructive to compare her behavior as secretary of state with that of her successor, John Kerry. Since assuming this position, he has worked tirelessly to find agreement with international adversaries on a range of critical issues, in which the possibility of failure looms large. Secretary Clinton did nothing of the kind. Moreover, what is presently known about the internal deliberations of the first Obama administration makes clear that Clinton remained a policy “hawk” who, together with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, pushed a reluctant president in a militaristic direction—on the troop surge in Afghanistan, the bombing of Libya, the response to the Syrian civil war, and a range of other items.

Based on her past performance, there is every reason to fear that Hillary Clinton will become a president with a more than usual penchant for military action. Before we put a “collective thumb on the scale” on her behalf, such worries should give us pause.

Carolyn Eisenberg
new york city

No Nukes Are Good Nukes

As usual, Andrew Bacevich is on point in diagnosing the reasons why we have endless war and a military-industrial complex run amok [“Who Runs the Pentagon?,” Feb. 8].

While his analysis is much appreciated, I wish he had also noted the apparent lack of any viable grassroots movement to oppose such reckless spending. In the 1970s, the Pentagon’s plans to build the B-1 bomber sparked a truly national movement—led by the American Friends Service Committee and Clergy and Laity Concerned—to demand that defense dollars be converted into spending on schools, roads, and other worthy projects. Yet today, no one seems to care about the Pentagon’s plans to roll out a new nuclear-weapons delivery system that will cost this country billions. Where’s the outrage?

Seth Kershner
lee, mass.

Flint Without Fire

How can we have an acknowledged bunch of baby poisoners running around in Michigan [“Poisoning the Public in Flint,” Feb. 15], but nobody has been put behind bars or even charged with any crime?
Michael Hudson
san francisco


Chenxin Jiang’s “Memories of the Mao Era” [Feb. 29] stated that the Chinese writer Ji Xianlin was born just a few weeks before the overthrow of the Kuomintang. In fact, he was born just before the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty.

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