"Love-bombing bin Laden"

By David Rieff

By Salon Staff

Published October 23, 2001 2:36PM (EDT)

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David Rieff's article repackages the prevalent opinion that we should ridicule people who think that violence never solves anything. He depends upon and propagates the stereotype of the soft Berkeley "peace, man" lefty. I winced upon reading his characterization of my city.

Sure, the folks out here are more liberal than in other parts of the country; but these "lefties" tend to be thoughtful and engaged in the world around them to an astounding degree. At Berkeley and Bay Area pro-peace rallies, the speeches have been full of facts, articulate arguments against the war and, above all, people accepting the full moral weight of their pro-peace sentiments. Pacifists have been neither passive nor blind.

Berkeley is not playing the traitor; Berkeley is being patriotic by embodying the American spirit of independence, questioning and the checking of unbridled power.

-- Chuck Groom

David Rieff can't understand the viewpoints of the peace advocates in Berkeley, so he ridicules them. He liberally casts aspersions on them without refuting any of their legitimate positions -- "violence only breeds more violence" or "innocent people don't deserve to die anywhere," for example. Among the 300 casualties, Rieff fails to include the thousands or hundreds of thousands that will die of hunger or disease without international humanitarian aid. All many peace advocates claim is that an international court of justice is a more effective venue for resolving crimes against humanity.

-- Karel Baloun

Your correspondent David Rieff has it exactly right, and I say this as a liberal-left taypayer of Berkeley. The response of the Berkeley left has been fatuous in the extreme. What, for example, does City Council representative Maudelle Shirek mean when she says that violence never accomplishes anything? It accomplished her ancestors' emancipation, for a start. Did a number on the Japanese, too.

It's worth taking a moment to contrast WTC and Pearl Harbor, Berkeley style. If anything, the United States was even more immoral in 1941 than it is now. We ran a colonial regime in the Philippines, we tolerated European imperialism throughout Asia and we enforced Jim Crow laws at home. Overt racism against Japanese-Americans was evident before the war and horrific during. Can you imagine how the Berkeley City Council would have reacted then? Whining about our embargo of the Japanese attempt to escape white-dominated globalization (that is, the "Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere")?

-- Andrew Lazarus

"Perhaps this is why another popular poster in Berkeley these days insists: "An eye for an eye makes us all blind." Yes, that would be from Martin Luther King. As is, too, the sentiment: "For in Berkeley, the presumption is that in fighting evil, one becomes evil," might remind one of Gandhi's statement that there are many causes he was willing to die for, but none he was willing to kill for, the implication being that by killing for his cause he becomes no better than those he opposes.

It amazes me how we lionize these figures, these champions of peace, and then degrade and insult anyone who actually tries to live their lives according to the principles they so profoundly articulated. We'll put them on a stamp, put up a statue, name a holiday for them. And then attack as "depraved" those that believe in their ideas and are willing to say so.

-- Michael Huff

David Rieff's letter disparaging the left is an empty exercise because he either fundamentally misunderstands the views of the people he so dislikes or has deliberately tried to misstate them.

What most of the "soft left" want is a stop to the bombing, not to stop the offensive against Osama Bin Laden and other terrorist operatives. This is a crucial distinction. The debate is not about whether to react or not to react, but about how to bring the terrorists to justice and ensure the future security of the country with a minimum of human suffering. The true question is: Will Americans feel good about achieving justice for the 6,000 innocent Americans killed if 60,000 or 600,000 innocent Afghans die in the process?

The truth is that the victims in Afghanistan are just as real as the brokers at Cantor Fitzgerald who called their loved ones on cellphones just before they were killed. And they are just as worthy of our consideration and our compassion. That is what is at stake and that is what some people in this country are fighting for.

-- Mike Robbie

Salon Staff

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