Letters

HOLLAND CALLING

Re James Ridgeway's "Manhattan's Milosevic" [August 21]: The Foreign Press Foundation has for quite some time been advocating what the Voice is saying now, and wholeheartedly supports it. Since U.S. journalist Charles Horman was killed in Chile shortly after Pinochet grabbed power, I've said there ought to be some justice. I was there as a correspondent for Dutch and Belgian media from 1971 to 1974, and for 35 years I've been explaining that my friends and other people died because of "good old Henry," and that he should be hauled before an international tribunal. Our organization is working to get Kissinger, et al., to the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Henk Ruyssenaars, Chairman
Foreign Press Foundation
Amsterdam, Holland


OUR TROOPS IN EAST TIMOR

Perhaps James Ridgeway ["Manhattan's Milosevic"] could explain how he arrived at the startling assertion that "U.S. troops attempted to quell" the Indonesian massacre in East Timor after its 1999 referendum on independence. In fact, the Clinton administration did nothing to stop the violence, having supplied the arms with which it was carried out. This is the more reprehensible in that no U.S. troops would have been required; a word from the paymasters in Washington would have been enough to prevent a bloodbath. But the word came only after, in journalist John Pilger's words, "East Timor had been devastated and depopulated by Indonesian-run death squads."

Michael Robbins
Chicago, Illinois

James Ridgeway replies: While "quell" was likely a poor word choice to describe the actions of U.S. troops in response to the massacre in East Timor, it's important to note that Clinton did place some 200 soldiers in the region as part of the peacekeeping effort. He might not have done much, but he didn't do "nothing" either.


HEAVY MEDDLE

J.A. Lobbia's strong piece on Peter Vallone ["The King of Queens"], which ran in your August 21 issue, regrettably repeats a canard that apparently originated in City Council Speaker Peter Vallone's office—which was reiterated in much of the print media—that in 1999 "the council was under court order to rewrite the lead laws."

The facts are otherwise: As one of the attorneys who was involved in the longstanding NYCCELP v. Koch class action concerning the city's failure to protect our children from lead poisoning, I can categorically state that there was no such court order. Rather, the city administration had been under an order since 1990 to enforce New York City's lead poisoning prevention laws, and had been held in contempt of court since 1993 for not doing so.

It apparently served the council leadership's agenda in 1999 to perpetuate the myth of a sudden new court mandate directed at the council as a cynical fig leaf for the ramming through of an ill-considered law that greatly weakened children's protection from lead poisoning.

Matthew J. Chachère
Northern Manhattan Improvement Corp.


UP THE DOWNTOWN STAIRCASE

Alisa Solomon ["Let's Fake a Deal," August 7] makes it sounds as though Suzan-Lori Parks has had to navigate a perilous course between the Scylla & Charybdis of uptown and downtown establishments. The crooked road of genius (Blake).

First, there is no downtown establishment because there is not money to establish one. Downtown is what is un-established.

Second, Parks has made very clear (in her interview with Bonnie Metzgar in the program for her play In the Blood and in Don Shewey's recent, oleaginous feature on Parks's latest play, Topdog/Underdog, in The New York Times) her intention to distance herself cleanly and completely from her former associates downtown. In this regard, Parks has followed the straight-arrow and time-honored road of improvement (and career). More power to her.

What has been lost as Parks enters the intellectual orbit (such as it is) of Times critic Ben Brantley is one more opportunity to discuss ideas (aside from the obvious) and true differences of opinion about the theater—what it can and cannot do, and what it is for.

A parting thought: One thing you cannot blame us white, effete intellectuals for is the current state of the empty wasteland of American theater (as we have been pretty much locked out of it). It is for the most part like the plays one sees at the Public Theater: slightly edgy, slightly political, slightly surrealistic, just plain slight.

Mac Wellman
Brooklyn


FOLLOW OUR LEID

Cynthia Cotts's Press Clips item on WBAI ["WBAI Is Burning"] in the August 14 Village Voice misrepresented recent events at the station and throughout the Pacifica network. Lost in the clamor and uproar over personnel and programming changes is what we are actually trying to do.

Ms. Cotts characterized interim general manager Utrice Leid as personally vindictive, dispensing arbitrary justice according to whim. However, we are not "running wild" at WBAI, despite a dissident Pacifica board member's claims. We are simply trying to ensure that WBAI remains an energetic and creative voice for the progressive community.

Protesters have besieged WBAI. Employees and volunteers regularly receive threatening phone calls and e-mails. Ms. Cotts seems incredulous that we have taken security precautions because of these incidents. The fact is, many employees and volunteers fear for their safety as a result of the climate of intimidation that has been fostered by the dissidents. We must ensure the safety of our employees.

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