I think we should focus on the issue at hand, which is that Iraq is quickly degenerating into a guerrilla war (if it isn't there already) and we are an army of occupation. How we can go from that scenario to leaving the country with a functioning government that won't be a source of anti-American terrorism is a hard problem.

Kevin Lyda
County Galway, Ireland

Six-Pack Serenade

A strange bit of logic underlies James Ridgeway's "The Royal Business" [villagevoice.com, April 22].

Are the Bushes corrupt because they are typical American capitalists using government institutions to make money for themselves? Or because they have ties to foreign capitalists—with similar agendas—who happen to be Arabs?

It is difficult to see why Ridgeway would mention the birthrate of the Saudi leadership unless he is trying to raise the timeworn racialized specter of "Arab influence" in Washington. Given that Washington is full of public officials willing to trade favor for finance, surely the Bush family is not such an abnormality. Is corruption somehow more dastardly when the partners in crime are Arabs than, say, American good-ol'-boy elites or Brits, Panamanians, or Poles?

Moreover, if Ridgeway were concerned with the plight of "Joe Six-Pack," perhaps he would take more seriously what he seems to know at some level: that Saudi Arabia, the royal family, and OPEC were all created or protected by the United States precisely to ensure the interests and profits of U.S. oil companies. Indeed, it is the profits of U.S. interests that Ridgeway rightly states would suffer "if the Saudis decided to let the so-called free market take over." Unlike Mr. Ridgeway, however, the Saudi royals know that such a decision is not theirs to make. Would the U.S.—which has engaged in regime change to ensure control over much less valuable resources than oil—really allow its swing producer such independence of action?

Ridgeway's resort to race-baiting weakens his argument because it reverses the relation of power in U.S.-Arab relations and distracts his readers from patterns of corruption that are all too normal in both American politics and the projection of American power abroad. The centrality of racism to Ridgeway's argument undercuts the credibility of the Voice as a principled news organization.

N. Binyamin
Park Slope

My Kind of Town

As a member of a multi-generational Law & Order fan family, I would like to extend my profound gratitude to Mollie Wilson for giving props to the best damn show around, in her article "The Passion of the Hargitay" [The Essay, April 14-20].

Forget show: It's a lifestyle. And, I daresay, sort of a free, entertaining orientation service for new arrivals to la gran manzana. I, a native Wisconsinite, temporarily left my lactose roots behind and lived in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, for a year while working for the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Moving to New York was an adjustment. But thanks to Lennie, Olivia, Elliot, Munch, Ed, Adam—sorry, Mr. Schiff—and Jack, I feel I had a jump-start in understanding the psyche of the New Yorker. And that made my year much easier.

So thank you, Mollie, thank you Dick Wolf, thank you Village Voice, thank you New York! And, Mollie, next time you're in Chicago, I'm takin' you out for cheesecake.

Nora Phillips
Chicago, Illinois

Hentoff Joins First Amendment Group

The Voice's Nat Hentoff has joined the Media Institute's First Amendment Advisory Council. The Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit Media Institute specializes in First Amendment and communications policy issues.

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