GULF WAR SYNDROME
Roger Trilling ["Fighting Words," May 7] did a very good job in presenting the facts surrounding the study I directed for the U.S. Army into allegations that the Iraqis deliberately gassed civilians at Halabja in 1988. Had he had more space he might have gone more deeply into the affair, which is more complex than he was able to convey in his piece.
In my book, Iraq and the International Oil System: Why America Went to War in the Gulf (Praeger, 2001), I discuss not just Halabja but a whole raft of stories that appeared in the media in the United States from 1988 to 1990, all of which were phony (as was the Halabja story). In the book, I speculate about who was behind the campaign to create an environment in which America could go to war with Baghdad. In my view, Jeffrey Goldberg's piece about Halabja in The New Yorker was part of an effort to recycle that original campaign.
This time around, the business is even more frighteningbecause the anti-Iraq forces in the United States seem determined to finish the job, which will produce a tragedy of epic proportions.
WEB OF LIES
I was dismayed by Nat Hentoff's column in your May 14 issue which brought up old, mostly spurious charges against a good friend and fellow student, Nadeen Al-Jijakli, accusing her of supporting anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic causes ["Who's an Anti-Semite?: Hating Not Just Israel, but Jews"]. Ignoring the mindlessness of this charge (anti-Semitism? If she's Arab, she is a Semite), I am calling on the Voice to do some more responsible work.
Nadeen has, time and again, apologized for an unfortunate mistake, and has never and will never support racism or bigotry. It is against her values and against the causes she has worked so tirelessly for. This is nothing but a consistent smear campaign by certain groups on campus that have felt threatened by a growing alliance of pro-Palestinian groups that have called on the U.S. government to end its own unfair actions and gross injustices, and have called, similarly, for a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East that is fair and balanced. That Hentoff should swallow such a campaign, and then repeat it wholesale, is, to say the least, disappointing.
The Islamic Center of NYU, which has over 200 members, has consistently stood for principles of fairness, equality, tolerance, and justiceand this has been recognized by the NYU administration. Last year, we were named Religious Club of the Year. This year, I won a President's Service Award for Leadership.
What are the true facts? Why is it that when an apology is delivered, with sincerity, it is not accepted, even a year after the date of the incident in question? It seems to me that some people have an agenda, and cannot help but constantly bring up old issues to prevent any progress with the real issues of the moment.
Haroon Moghul, President
Islamic Center of NYU
Nat Hentoff replies: Nadeen Al-Jijakli is quoted in my column and in the April 19 New York Sun as saying that, if she had known who David Duke is, she would not have posted his material. However, it is not the author but the author's message itself in her e-mail that counts: "The primary reason we are suffering from terrorism in the United States today is because our government policy is completely subordinated to a foreign power: Israel and the efforts of world-wide Jewish Supremacism." She has indeed apologized for sending another "accidental" e-mail urging a presidential vote for Ralph Nader because "he DOES NOT have a Jew running for vice president." But even if she was going through many e-mails swiftly, the capital letters in that one would likely have leapt out, and that message is attuned to David Duke's message.
Thank you for Adamma Ince's cover article on reparations ["Why the Slave Reparations Movement Has Ignored the Hip-Hop Generation," May 28]. It is the first of many stories that we hope to see on this subject in the coming months.
Since reading Ms. Ince's article, I've decided to change my focus from legal to the education and public-awareness campaign that must be waged.
Thanks to The Village Voice for being a leader on this important issue.
Adamma Ince's article was articulate, and her most telling point, I think, was made by Kitty McClain, the granddaughter of a slave, who commented on the historic abandonment by the African American middle class of its lower-class roots.
I wonder what Ms. Ince's suggestion would be for those thinking of utilizing the reparations movement for their own gain, which I unfortunately suspect may be the case with many who espouse the claims of this movement?
I'm a teacher in Bedford-Stuyvesant. I prepare welfare recipients and non-custodial parents, many of whom are black, for the GED exam. I am using Adamma Ince's article to inspire my students to write essays on the topic.
North Brooklyn Business Resource Center
LIFT EVERY VOICE
I was featured as one of the women on welfare talking about marriage in the package of articles titled"Altared States" [Chisun Lee and Sharon Lerner, May 7]. The accounts by different women in response to Bush's marriage proposal covered an important issue. This violation of human rights must be stopped.
I believe it is important for newspapers such as The Village Voice to not only explore the issues, but also to let people know that there are ways for them to fight for their rights around the issues. There are organizations that are fighting against the policies Lee and Lerner wrote about that many of us are involved in, yet these were not mentioned. People who are curious about what they have read should have access to these organizations.
Reporters could encourage such activism by presenting stories about people not only as individual victims but as part of collective struggles. I for one don't stand alone. As a member of Community Voices Heard, I am active in fighting against the Bush plan and against other harmful proposals that are going through Congress.
I encourage people to join us in the struggle. If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.
Community Voices Heard
GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE LUKEWARM
Nat Hentoff's May 21 column on Bernard Goldberg's new book Bias ["A Liberal Slant to the News"?] is rife with logical and ideological confusion. On one hand, reporters are "liberal" for supporting Clinton and Gore; on the other, Clinton and Gore are "tepidly centrist."
I agree with the assessment that the mainstream Democrats are "tepidly centrist." And I agree that the press is biased toward tepid centrism, as against the extreme economic plutocratism and social oppressiveness of the Republican Party's agenda.
Of course, this discounts the power of extreme right-wing talk radio, plutocratic television pundits, and the hegemony that the plutocrats have on the op-ed pages.
Nat Hentoff replies: The problem is that those "liberal" reporters supporting Clinton and Gore are themselves "tepidly centrist." Mr. Shaw generalizes about op-ed pages. Some are diverse.
Thank you for Alisa Solomon's "Tipping Toward Hate" [May 21], which presented a rare, balanced perspective on the divisive American debate on the situation in the Middle East.
I believe that most Americans support Israel, while reserving the right to disagree with some of the things that the Israeli government has doneparticularly in response to the recent waves of barbaric suicide bombings.
However, it is not helpful to impose a unity of belief upon American readers that is not even held by the citizens of Israel themselves.
Jonathan Ames writes in "Ode to the OED" [VLS, May 7] that the 20-volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary "goes for $995 and the one-volume 'compact edition,' which shrinks the print to the size of pinheads and comes with a hemispheric magnifying lens, costs $390." It is a small point, but unless there is more than one compact edition of the compleat OED, it comes in two volumes. The copy I have prints four pages to one, comes with the magnifying glass, and was bought used and in good condition for $90. Given the relative cheapness of the OED, it is not clear to me why anyone would pay the $550 fee to use the online version. Not only is the cost prohibitive, but the benefits Ames speaks of in having access to postings are contrary to what seems to me to be the OED's best use.
While other dictionaries have repeatedly jettisoned useful, though uncommon, words and replaced them with useless vulgarities, the OED had remained, along with a few older dictionaries, a fundamental resource for those who do not long to speak the language of the slum. For this reason, it is disappointing to read that the OED is apparently turning against its own purpose of documenting words of some endurance and the origin of those words, and has turned with the rest to documenting every faddish term.
It is not only that some of the new additions are vulgar, but that they were in usefulness nearly dead from the womb. Most of those cited by Mr. Ames I have neither used in print, nor heard in conversation. They may have some use for a metafictional novelist who wants a certain eclectic color to make his writing bizarre, but the rest of us will never need the spelling or the definition of "M**d**k."
I read with interest Adamma Ince's Close-Up column on Bedford-Stuyvesant in your May 7 issue. Noteworthy was the absence of mention of our institution of higher learning. Your readership should know that a branch of Empire State College of the State University of New York has been located in Bedford-Stuyvesant since 1974.
Rudolph A. Cain
Diector, Bedford-Stuyvesant Branch
Empire State College
Re Michael Atkinson's allegation that George Lucas's Star Wars Episode IIAttack of the Clones was racist, and that Episode I was racist too ["Reproductive Rites," May 21]: Racial harmony was a virtue of the Old Republic. The Empire enslaved non-human alien species. The "good guys" fought against that.
Aside from content, Atkinson's notion that casting in the film was racist is absurd. Daniel Logan, who played the young Boba Fett and whose face was on all the "Asian" clones, is a New Zealander, as is Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett. Samuel L. Jackson (a black man) plays the part of a hero. Ian McDiarmid (who is white) plays the ultimate villain, not to mention that other white guy, Darth Vader [whose voice is that of James Earl Jones].
Wake up. When it comes to Star Wars, it's a mix'n'match of the good, the bad, and the neutral.
Michael Atkinson, in his review of Star Wars Episode II, aptly uses the word "groupthink" to explain why the film is a cultural phenomenon. The original Star Wars movies inspired our adulation to such a degree that each new installment has been a guaranteed success at the box office. Yet about the only thing the newest movie inspires is confusion.
When we were younger, we gazed upon a bright, distant image of a galaxy that sparked our imagination. Despite ridiculous dialogue, we could identify with the hero's desires. We grew older and Star Wars grew famous. Although the new movie is crammed with impressive technical wizardry, it is curiously devoid of adventure. Attack of the Clones only compounds the problem by giving us more action, none of it exciting.
In science fiction, it is important to create not only a new world, but one we care about. By suspending natural laws, the filmmaker can transport us to fantastic placesbut why do we want to be there? The earlier Star Wars movies created mystery and inspired our imagination. By attempting to explain everything through tedious exposition, Episode II removes any mystique.
BAARD, COONEY WIN DEADLINE AWARD
Erik Baard and Rebecca Cooney have won the 2002 Deadline Club Award for Reporting by Non-Daily Newspapers for their article "China's Execution, Inc.," which appeared in the May 8, 2001, issue of The Village Voice. The article detailed the trade in body parts of executed prisoners. The award is given by the Society of Professional Journalists.
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