THE MAIN EVENT
Re "Dying for War" [February 5-11]:
Alisa Solomon has written a definitive piece objecting to the coming war without slipping into clichés or anti-American platitudes.
While I'm against the war, many of the loudest voices on the left seem more interested in other agendas (Free Mumia, the Cuban 5, etc.) and make me uncomfortable to rally alongside them. Solomon cuts through the bullshit and rhetoric and lays it out for all to see. Great work!
WAR AND PEACE
Alisa Solomon's article is idealistic and completely devoid of historical knowledge on war and peace. Did she forget September 11? Or Pearl Harbor? War is not something a country enters into lightly, but rather a last resort necessary to protect our lives and liberties.
I'm by no means advocating war, but I'm not willing to accept living a life in fear and uncertainty either. Saddam has so many weapons that are unaccounted for. Are they already in the hands of suicidal terrorists? If he really cared about the people of his country, he would admit to violating the UN resolutions ending the Gulf War, disclose the locations of his weapons, and ultimately relinquish his position of power.
Ann Marie Cabri
To Tom Robbins:
I enjoyed your excellent article about the Washington-Jefferson Hotel and its sleazy owner ["Heartless Hotel," January 29-February 4]. One detail was incorrect: The organizing drive by SEIU Local 758 at LeMarquis did not fizzle outit's still going strong. Just last week an administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision ruling that Shimmie Horn violated federal law by signing a sweetheart contract with a shady non-AFL-CIO union, District 6.
The NLRB has issued a complaint against another Shimmie Horn-owned hotel, the Belleclaire on the Upper West Side. The trial is scheduled for next month. Local 758 is currently picketing at both sites.
Re "Brown Man's Burden" by Luis H. Francia [January 29-February 4]:
It is disgusting but true that 100 years ago the U.S. acted as a colonial power in the Philippines. The U.S. suppression of Filipino efforts at independence was hypocritical, given the precepts the U.S. was founded upon only 125 years before that.
Now, post-9-11, the Philippines has invited the U.S. back into the country to help it fight guerrilla groups like the MNLF and Abu Sayyaf and the NPA. There is currently a heated debate in the Philippines over whether this is such a good idea, as there would be in any democracy.
The question I pose is this: If the Philippines can get over a century-old American neocolonial history and a 40-year-old American Cold War history, and adjust its view of the U.S. to fit the post-September 11 reality the world finds itself in today, why can't the Voice?
Harping on the disgusting American atrocities in the Philippines 100 years ago does not advance the debate.
Luis H. Francia replies: To "get over" an immoral war against, and occupation of, the Philippines, the U.S. needs first to acknowledge it. Commendable that Ben Royce does, but he is in the truly tiny minority. And far from being ancient, American neocolonial policies are pursued even more vigorously today, whether in the Philippines or Iraq, reminding us that history does repeat itself, senselessly and viciously.
OUD MAN OUT
As a longtime admirer of Arab music and a (modestly capable) oud player, I had to chuckle when I read Robert Christgau's introduction to his Consumer Guide [February 5-11]. He wrote of a "prelude to an American war on Islam" and that Islam gave him more albums than the new Pazz & Jop Critics Poll.
In past Guides, Mr. Christgau seemed to express a blatant dislike for music from that tradition. Now that the Bush administration is offending his leftist sensibilities, he's become a cheerleader for what he previously dismissed. Nonetheless, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and imagine that he actually did listen to all the records he recommended.
Fort Lee, New Jersey
Robert Christgau replies: Who said anything about Arabs? Not me. Most of the world's billion Muslims aren't Arabs, and I've been writing briefly and at length about North and West African music for close to 15 yearsthere are three essays about music by Muslims in my 1998 collection, Grown Up All Wrong (Harvard). A relevant essay called "A Little War Music" was published during our first invasion of Iraq in 1991; find it at robertchristgau.com. Also recommended is the October 2001 Consumer Guide headed "Unpatriotic? Moi?" And except to say that I'm known above all for how much I listen, I'll stop there.
To Nat Hentoff:
I just finished reading your article about American-sponsored torture of terrorism suspects ["The American Way of Torture," February 5-11]. I have also read your columns concerning eroding freedoms under the Bush administration. While I agree with many of your points regarding these issues, and I by no means consider myself a liberal, I must confess to a profound ambivalence toward them.
I too am troubled by prisoners being held with no access to legal counsel or judicial review. However, I am at a loss to see any alternative. How does one combat an enemy who will immediately return to his efforts to destroy one's society? How does one combat an enemy who himself holds individual liberties in no regard, and indeed uses the protections provided by free societies against them?
THE DAY AFTER
Re "The American Way of Torture":
As for Hentoff's worries concerning our torturing Al Qaeda detainees: Who cares? The stakes are too high for the niceties of peacetime tolerance of criminals and their newly created rights under the Warren-Brennan regime.
Perhaps Hentoff might want to consider the converse: If we didn't torture them and thereby enabled a nuclear attack to wipe out New York City, then how would he feel about that catastrophe (assuming that he would be among the few survivors, if any)?
David I. Caplan
Delray Beach, Florida
Nat Hentoff replies: Aside from our Constitution (the Eighth Amendment) not permitting torture, it has long been known that the results of torture are unreliable because those being tortured will say anything in order for the pain to stop.
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