Dilip Hiro writes: When a war ends with a clear-cut result, the victorious side makes an estimate of the damage it has done to the military infrastructure of the defeated nation–as well as its economic infrastructure. There is no reason to believe that the Pentagon failed to follow this procedure after the Iraq War. Yet little effort has been made so far by journalists or lawmakers to obtain this crucial statistic. Meanwhile, for an intelligent guess, one should examine the available figures for the 1991 Gulf War, consisting of a thirty-nine-day air campaign followed by a brief ground campaign. The US-led coalition mounted 106,000 air sorties, dropping 141,000 tons of explosives, and fired 315 cruise missiles. According to Sadoun Hamadi, deputy prime minister of Iraq, the damage to the country’s infrastructure during the first twenty-six days of the war was $200 billion. Later, the Arab Monetary Fund estimated Iraq’s aggregate losses at $190 billion. Allowing for an exaggeration by Hamadi, let us put the total damage to the Iraqi infrastructure during the forty-two-day war at $200 billion. During the first four weeks of the Iraq War, the Pentagon mounted 37,000 air sorties, launched 23,000 precision-guided missiles, fired 750 cruise missiles and dropped 1,566 cluster bombs. To the resulting damage must be added the losses caused by the relentless looting and arson that the victorious Anglo-American troops allowed to go unchecked in Baghdad and elsewhere. My conservative estimate of the damage done to Iraq’s civilian and military infrastructures is $100 billion–more than five times the $18.4 billion Congress allocated for Iraq’s reconstruction.


Our friend Jewell Handy Gresham died in August, aged 82. A brilliant, strong-willed woman, with a salving sweetness and sense of humor, in 1989 she came to us, typically, with a challenge: The Nation must carry on the values of its Abolitionist founders by publishing a special edition she had conceived to counter the pathological images of the black family featured in the national media. It was to be written and edited by black women and produced by Nation editors. After a contentious gestation (in which the disputes had to do with space–or lack of it–rather than race), “Scapegoating the Black Family: Black Women Speak” (July 24/31, 1989) appeared. It was nominated for a National Magazine Award and became one of our bestselling issues. Until her retirement in 1987, Jewell had pursued an active academic career. She was married to Robert Nemiroff, former husband of, and producer for, playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Nemiroff’s death in 1991, Jewell served as executor of Hansberry’s estate and was active in the successful 2004 revival of A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway.


Pamela Newkirk writes: John Johnson, the founding publisher of Ebony, who died recently, helped disassemble the negative image of African-Americans firmly embedded in popular culture. Today, portrayals of African-Americans as doctors, lawyers and other positive contributors to society are viewed as normal, but until 1945, when Johnson founded Ebony, such depictions were virtually nonexistent in the media. Over the past few decades Ebony and Jet have been criticized for their apolitical emphasis on middle-class aspiration, but in pre-civil rights America they provided compelling evidence of African-American achievement that challenged the myth of black inferiority and dysfunction. For African-Americans living lives of dignity and purpose, the publications served as invaluable and validating mirrors. They celebrated those like Johnson, the grandson of slaves, who managed to overcome racism, segregation, poverty and self-doubt spawned by decades of oppression and demeaning stereotypes. Though Johnson’s magazines were not passionately political, their contribution to racial equality was revolutionary.


Permanent Minority

. At a critical juncture in mid-August, Senate Democrats told the Washington Post that they “will not launch a major fight to block the Supreme Court nomination of John G. Roberts Jr.” The front-page story quoted “more than a dozen Democratic senators and aides” who remained unnamed but who deflated serious efforts to expose Roberts’s extreme right-wing agenda.

Toward the Majority

. Twenty unions and grassroots organizations came together to protest the votes cast by New York Democratic Representatives Greg Meeks and Ed Towns in favor of corporate-written legislation like the Central America Free Trade Agreement. At a high-profile press conference, the group released a letter to House minority leader Nancy Pelosi demanding that Meeks and Towns be removed from their committee positions. The pressure sends a message to Democrats that there are consequences for selling out.   –David Sirota


We seem to have a milestone on our hands. Turn to our last page and you’ll see at the top the words PUZZLE NO. 3000. Actually, it’s not puzzle-setter Frank W. Lewis’s 3,000th puzzle. He took over in the issue of October 18, 1947, with PUZZLE NO. 233. So this week’s is only his 2,767th consecutive puzzle. Frank turns 93 on August 25. H _ _ _ _ B _ _ _ _ _ _ _, Frank.


Greg Mitchell, editor of the newspaper trade publication Editor & Publisher, threw down a challenge to his subscribers: “It’s time for newspapers, many of which helped get us into this war, to consider using their editorial pages as platforms to help get us out of it. So far, few have done much more than wring their hands, or simply criticize the conduct of the war, or the lack of body armor.” Stop playing it safe, Mitchell says, and “clearly call for a phased withdrawal” from Iraq.