Denver, CO

Regarding Robert Scheer’s “A Diplomat’s Undiplomatic Truth: They Lied” [“Column Left,” posted July 9]: Decisions are rarely based on a single factor. The decision to depose Saddam was made due to a confluence of American interests. These interests are as numerous as they are diverse: Saddam’s human rights abuses, Israel’s strategic position, world oil prices, the suffering of persecuted Iraqi ethnic and political groups, unaccounted-for biological and chemical weapons, establishing a forward base in the global war against terrorism, creating an Arab democracy, putting the Iranian mullahs and Syrian Baathists on notice, ending a funding source for suicide bombers and enforcing the terms of surrender from Gulf War I. Now you may agree or disagree with the legitimacy of these goals. In my mind, WMD was fourth or fifth most important on this list, but you cannot deny that all these interests existed. So then, how can one intelligence report supporting one aspect of this confluence of interests constitute a wholesale deception? Let’s be honest: The WMD threat was stressed because it was the only way Blair could sell the war to his pacifist constituency. Does that make “the case” dishonest? Maybe. Does that make what we did in Iraq wrong? No way in hell. And according to the polls I’ve seen, America is more interested in being right than being liked (especially by a rabidly anti-American European press that spoon-feeds the Continent its political opinions). I understand that a popular wartime Republican President is exactly what The Nation exists to oppose. I also understand that this is the first crack in the “W” juggernaut’s armor you’ve seen in two years. However, impeachment fantasies and crude “smoking gun” references are no substitute for articulating what Dean (or Kerry or Edwards or Sharpton) would do better. You are making the mistake of believing how we got here is more important than where we are, and where we are going.


Newtonville, MA

Yes, of course, this Administration blatantly lied to get what they so desperately wanted, war with Iraq. But I have uncovered an equally damaging and serious lie by this Administration concerning Iraq–months of reporting false casualty figures by the Pentagon.

Up until July 9, the Pentagon has been trying to make the world believe that the word “casualty” means killed in action, by reporting a total US casualty figure that only included killed in action, but which is a fraction of the total casualties of this war. Thanks to CNN, the Pentagon finally admitted that the total accurate figures for Iraq were much higher than they had been reporting. Suddenly the number went from 200-plus to more than 1,200, and included, at long last, and as it absolutely must, by dictionary definition, the wounded, MIA and prisoners. At long last the American public knows the true human cost of this highly controversial war, and the irrefutable fact that the Administration has knowingly lied to them about the most sensitive of issues, military casualties.

But I am left wondering one very disturbing question: Where was the press while this was happening? How could the media have allowed such lying to go unquestioned?


Bluffton, SC

The word count of Bush’s faulty remarks has been a strong rallying point for those around him, especially Condoleezza Rice (“It was only sixteen words”). At first, I was tempted to blow this off. The implication was that there must be a longer lie for the President to be held accountable, and that’s just asinine, right? Maybe not. After all, many Administration officials insist on this matter of word count, and she deserves a level of respect due to her position. What word count rises to the level of impeachment? The answer is easy–nine. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”


University Park, PA

I sincerely appreciate The Nation‘s coverage of the international activists in the West Bank [Adam Shapiro, “Freedom Summer,” posted July 17]. I am a student at Penn State University and was alarmed to learn that a friend of ours, Bill Capowski, along with three other international demonstrators, were arrested near Arrabony while peacefully protesting the construction of the wall. Bill had traveled to Palestine as part of the ISM movement during the first week of July. The last we heard was that Bill is being held at the Ariel police station. (I’ve read conflicting reports regarding his condition while in Israeli custody.) Those of us at PSU are trying to raise awareness of this situation by sending letters to local and state representatives and international organizations in hopes of expediting the release of the four demonstrators and their right to a fair trial in Israeli court. I hope The Nation continues their reports as well; a comprehensive and balanced account of the changes that are occurring to the people living in the West Bank is essential, especially since the attention of the US government and the mainstream press is diverted elsewhere at the moment.


New York, NY

I write as a veteran civil rights worker in Madison County, Mississippi, in 1964-67. There is a serious moral dilemma inherent in the International Solidarity Movement’s designation of its project to serve as human shields for the Palestinians as “Freedom Summer,” drawing its inspiration from the original project of that name in Mississippi. While I am unalterably opposed to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, as is the organization which I direct, and while the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) treatment of ISM activists has become brutish and indefensible, that is where the symmetry between Israel-Palestine 2003 and Mississippi 1964 ends.

Black Mississippians in 1964 were the innocent victims of a police state: Nothing in their conduct–certainly not the Gandhian tactics of passive resistance–warranted the murderous brutality of white civilians and agents of the state against innocent citizens trying to exercise their constitutional rights. As much as white Mississippi tried to rationalize its conduct by asserting that it was under assault by a Communist (often hyphenated with the modifier “Jewish”) conspiracy to destroy their way of life, there was no covert or armed African-American attack against the state or its institutions.

On the other hand, Israel and Israeli civilians are under physical assault and the ISM has not, to my knowledge, made clear in a vigorous and systematic fashion that it opposes suicide attacks against Israeli civilians. Clearly, the immorality of Palestinian operations against Israeli civilians is not canceled out by the immorality of Israeli actions against Palestinian civilians; indeed, the failure to state clearly the moral equivalence of murder of civilians, regardless of their nationality, is a fundamental flaw in the ISM’s posture. As destructive and as immoral as Israel’s occupation is and has been, it is an insult to the idealism and courage of civil rights movement leaders and martyrs to link their idealism to a cause in which murder and murderers are consciously and conscientiously intermingled.

Unless and until the ISM can make clear that it supports the right of Israel as a Jewish state to exist and the right of Israeli civilians (Arab and Jewish) to be no less safe than they want Palestinian civilians to be, it will fail in its ambition to capture the righteous indignation of those who work for peace and reconciliation. Sadly, the moral courage of the ISM volunteers doesn’t make it any easier to untangle the competing moral rights and wrongs that are so evident in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even more sad, it is not clear that the ISM sees the moral rights and wrongs on both sides, or knows what to do with them. Moral courage on behalf of the Palestinians, no less so than on behalf of Israel, demands speaking truth to power. That message cuts both ways, and both sides could use a lot more outspoken opposition to the brutal actions done by their own.

Executive director, Meretz USA