Nat Hentoff's "Why I Didn't March This Time" (April 2-8), about his response to the war in Iraq, received an unusually large number of letters. A selection follows.
No one denies that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant, as Nat Hentoff reminds us. Opposition to Bush's war has nothing to do with Hussein, just as the invasion itself has nothing to do with the long suffering of the Iraqi people. Bush's war is a reckless act of aggression by a president unhinged by power and influenced by a cadre of right-wing ideologues. When one considers that the veritable Pandora's box of repercussions apt to result from this singularly ill-advised venture would give this most authoritarian of administrations an excuse to rip to shreds the Bill of Rights that Hentoff holds so dearone wonders if the cure is not infinitely worse than the disease itself.
Though not quite the Hitler of Bush-ite hyperbole, Hussein is undoubtedly the source of much of the misery of his people. But to assert that he's so extraordinarily bad as to necessitate invasion is dangerous nonsense.
OUT, DAMNED DESPOT!
My views, and those of many right-wing conservatives, are in line with Hentoff's. Even if this is merely a "War for Oil," we must eliminate Hussein and his henchmen. Their hid-eous, disgusting actions are indeed a proven threat to freedom and liberty everywhere.
I am saddened by the loss of human life and do not advocate war at every turn, yet I strongly believe we must take aggressive action in cases like Iraq. Those who advocate diplomacy with evil tyrants like Saddam are either hopelessly naive or callously indifferent.
Santa Barbara, California
A DIFFERENT DRUMMER
Right on, Nat! I also believe that whether or not the general public is aware, Saddam, with the aid of Russia, France, Germany, and perhaps North Korea would have supplied Iraq with nuclear weapons very soon to lob at us and Israel. Please, remember that 9-11 took place in New York. These folks want to eliminate us and our way of life. March to that tune!
SPLEEN BUT NOT HERD
Nat Hentoff is for this war because it will liberate the Iraqi people from the despotic Saddam Hussein. But where does he draw the line? Should we invade all the countries on the list of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch?
Sometimes I suspect Hentoff contrives political positions in order to distinguish himself from the left herd. How else to explain such silly criteria for going to war?
Nat Hentoff's column remembers the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, but forgets the toll of war and sanctions, which go far beyond what Saddam could dream of doing. More than a million people have died as a direct result of the sanctions over the last 12 years; the current war threatens to put millions on the brink of starvation.
It amazes me that Hentoff can believe American soldiers are going to liberate Iraq, when here in the U.S., we are becoming less free by the day. Anyone who truly wants to see the Iraqi people liberated should support the resistance against the war. Supporting the war means supporting the continuing oppression of ordinary Iraqis, and to cloak it in humanitarian rhetoric is shameful.
EXCESS OF EVIL
We can't truthfully calculate the consequences of this invasion. Regime change could lead to either the permanent occupation of Iraq by U.S. forces or civil wars among Kurds, Shiites, Baathists, and would-be military dictators.
This war's purpose is not to liberate Iraq. There's a militarist doctrine being tested here, and we need to acknowledge it and stop it.
Concerning the body count, our war is likely to kill more babies and damage more psyches than Saddam did. And when the Kurds rise up for their own state, do you think they'll get a better deal from whomever is in power at the time?
Unfortunately, Hentoff's primary assumption is false in that he equates marching against a war in Iraq with supporting Saddam Hussein. He obviously hasn't been reading the signs carried by the protesters, or listening to anything they've been saying.
The war in Iraq is plainly and simply an illegal act of aggression on a sovereign state. The U.S. is setting an incredibly dangerous precedent in this, by giving the go-ahead to anybody who wants to effect "regime change" to attack the country of their choice.
To talk about how the Iraqi people have been violently treated by their government is one thing, but to go in there, killing, maiming, and terrorizing them because of their lot in life, is cruel beyond belief.
Nat Hentoff replies: Jeff Allcock writes, "Opposition to Bush's war has nothing to do with Hussein, just as the invasion itself has nothing to do with the long suffering of the Iraqi people." But who would have ended that sufferingand when? Andrew Jagunich writes, "Anyone who truly wants to see the Iraqi people liberated should support the resistance against the war." How would the resistance to the war have ended the cutting out of the tongues of Iraqis suspected of disloyalty to Hussein? I have yet to see any answer from my critics on what to do about the torture chambers and the beheading of women in the public square. Surely there is a need to answer that question. Jack McCarthy writes, "Should we invade all the countries on the list of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch?" Does McCarthy believe we should have not stopped the genocide in Rwanda by force? None of the critics of my column have answered this question: When there is utterly clear evidence of a government's unbridled terrorism against its own people, and the United Nations is impotent, what is the alternative?
The photo for Kareem Fahim's "The Unquiet Americans" (March 26-April 1) should have been credited to Jehad Nga.
A memorial service for actress Lynne Thigpen will be held at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 14, at the Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane. Thigpen, winner of two Village Voice Obie Awards, as well as a Tony Award and an L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award, died in Los Angeles on March 13.
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