Readers respond to "The Salon Interview: Camille Paglia" by David Talbot, and "Shock Troops for Bush" by Michelle Goldberg.

Published February 12, 2003 9:30PM (EST)

[Read "The Salon Interview: Camille Paglia " by David Talbot.]

An American living in Germany, I have been increasingly distressed by reading one point of view about the Iraq war in the European press, and one very different point of view in the American press. Seen from here, Europeans think that the Americans have reduced the issue to good versus bad, and are ready to ride behind George W. to another shootout at a different OK Corral.

I was greatly relieved to finally read a balanced, critical look at America's position on waging war with Iraq. At last, here is a person asking serious questions and raising serious doubts about waging war against Iraq.

Until reading Paglia's interview, virtually all antiwar media reports I've seen from here appear to equate protesting against this war with general pacifism. I greatly lament that many antiwar protesters are coming across more as peaceniks who make a lifestyle of demonstrating one week against globalization, the next to save the whales, and have simply added this war to their list of things to crusade against.

In the international press this weekend Germany, host of the International Security Conference, came across as a nation demonstrating against the war in Iraq on the simple grounds that peace is better than war. What didn't come through in the press is that Germans are not unequivocally against any war, but instead are against the grounds for this one. Germans aren't "Euroweenies" as I have been seeing in the press -- look at their armed engagement in the armed conflicts in the Balkans and in Afghanistan. Germans are just as pragmatic as Americans -- where a war must be fought, they will fight it.

Their grounds for not fighting this war are also pointed out by Paglia, who expresses well-founded concerns about what will happen after the war -- what will happen to the Middle East when one of its principal countries is occupied by the United States?

It is my strong hope that mainstream media on both sides of the Atlantic take the time to report the many reasons behind protesting against a war in Iraq, rather than distilling many rationales into mere pacifism. And I also sincerely hope that protesters find effective ways to bring the reasons driving their antiwar sentiment more clearly into the protests -- abandoning seemingly meaningless "make peace not war" slogans, which as Paglia says serve to alienate the mainstream and more conservative public.

Let's find a way to protest which brings the fundamental issues into the public arena and to our politicians -- that war in Iraq will lead to a greater instability in the Middle East, and risk unleashing a wave of resentment and hatred against the West which could compromise all of our national securities -- in ways just as scary as 9/11, if not worse.

-- Elizabeth Lamberts

Thanks for bringing Camille back to us for a day. I really miss her.

However, I disagree with her position that Saddam cannot be compared to Hitler for the following reason. With the availability of biochemical WMDs -- the "poor man's A-bomb" -- a small fanatical group of suicidal maniacs can now kill as many people as several of Hitler's Panzer and SS divisions could have killed -- without destroying a single building.

In my opinion, Camille and many others fail to grasp the fundamental change in the meaning of "military power" caused by biochemical weaponry in the hands of terrorists. Saddam's biggest threat to the U.S. is that he has the means, motive and opportunity to supply America-hating terrorists with such weapons.

The long-standing principle of nonaggression does not stand up to close examination when viewed against this new paradigm. Must we sacrifice 100,000 American lives on the altar of political correctness before we respond to this threat? If we do not move proactively to eradicate such weapons, the world may never know peace again.

-- Tom McGuinness

I don't get around to writing nearly as many letters as I'm inclined to write, but I'm making an exception in this case. In this time of national crisis, it is heartening to hear a clear and courageous voice speaking the thoughts many people must have about the very likely calamity which is about to unfold.

Of course we're sad for the families and friends of the Columbia crew. But the very first thought I had when I heard the news was that this was, as Paglia states, an omen. If there is one thing history teaches, it's that you can't escape it.

We all know there are reasonable, intelligent alternatives to the path our country has accepted at the coaxing of our deluded leader. But now we are brash, now we are self-righteous, now we are full of ourselves.

Every day I wonder how best to frame what is happening. Lately, I think of Clint Eastwood in one of the early Dirty Harry movies doing away with a puffed-up assailant who is too full of himself. "A man's got to know his limitations," he says. As a country, we're about to discover ours.

-- Bill Dinger

I've always enjoyed Paglia's Salon columns, but I have to disagree with her call to work with moderate Muslim forces. Where are they? There is no major Arab country -- with the possible exception of Turkey -- with non-fundamentalist leadership. There are no moderate Muslim organizations of any consequence. After 9/11, not one Muslim group -- not even an American one -- could bring itself to rally against fundamentalist regimes. Yes, some groups conveyed their sadness over the tragedy, but not one cried out for justice. As Americans, it's almost impossible for us to imagine a society where any moderate faction is obliterated utterly, but that is the situation in the Middle East.

-- Dan Avery

Camille Paglia is quite right to look for signs and omens, as any "heightened" individual knows, but I think she may be looking at the wrong ones -- an occupational hazard for omen-lookers.

The U.S. has a tremendously powerful astrological chart (obviously), though we will, of course, endure many harrowing challenges in the life of our nation. But, we are far, far from the eventual, inevitable collapse that that she correctly indicates history promises will come one day.

If she really wants a clue, she should look to the Ides of February, as the weekend of the 15th is "dynamite" for the chart of the United States, and not in a good way.

-- Bill Guest

[Read "Shock Troops for Bush" by Michelle Goldberg.]

This article literally made me cry.

I worry for the future of this country while these paranoid, self-involved, and in the case of Ann Coulter, lying, cretins are in any kind of power.

That "hell-hole" Sweden is looking mighty good now. Do you think they would take me?

-- Eileen Hotham

It's a disturbing coincidence to see this article on the same day my curiosity got the best of me and I visited www.lucianne.com, only to see pure hatred of, well, me. Not because I have done any terrible acts, but because I believe in fairness and equality, and have compassion for those less fortunate than myself -- and I have had plenty of misfortune.

Is this what we are coming to as a society? What drives these people to such arrogance and hateful contempt? Is it money? Is it power? Is it religion? God help us all.

-- Jim Parris

CPAC is a tiny under-funded operation compared to some of the behemoth liberal operations such as NOW, AARP, NRDC and a myriad host of others. While parts of the CPAC group might be described as fringe, they are quite tame by comparison to my experiences of the NOW crowd.

I recently went to a movie and discussion meeting on some feminist issues, and when I disagreed with the speaker, I received a tongue-lashing that would blanch a sailor. After the lecture, one aging female "brown shirt with a crewcut" got right in my face and screamed so violently that I had to turn my head because she was spitting on me!

We all respond according to our particular wounds; I would contend that your wound doesn't allow you to see the shadow of the left -- the anger and hatred of all things "father." George Bush is channeling father energy for all people with father complexes in this country -- everybody that ever had an alcoholic or abusive father, everybody whose father abandoned the family, anybody who was ever an underdog and had an impotent father, and everybody that had a father that always blamed "the man."

-- Mark Bennett

Michelle Goldberg's report of the most recent CPAC conference was both fascinating and shocking.

The speeches given at this conference are indicative of a dangerous trend in American political rhetoric. It seems that every person, idea or cause on the American political landscape is either "liberal" or "conservative." Everything is extremely polarized. This belies the true complexity of the issues currently facing the United States and the rest of the world. The L-word and the C-word become little more than codes for the-side-that-I'm-not-on, useful for marginalizing, criticizing and dismissing what may otherwise be considered worthwhile ideas and arguments.

It's this same atmosphere that makes third party presidential candidates look to many like nothing more than a strange curiosity. It's what's behind political campaigns that do nothing but smear -- rather than discuss -- the issues at hand. And it's this same simplistic thinking that is behind Bush's "either with us or against us" rhetoric.

-- Joel DeYoung

For years I have been telling my friends and anyone who would listen that the Christian right wants nothing more than a theocracy in this country, substituting their bastardization of the Gospel -- a canonization of unchecked capitalism, jingoism and imperialism -- for the Constitution.

Michelle Goldberg's article should remove any lingering doubts that our country is now controlled by unelected, war-mongering fascists hiding behind Jesus and funded by corporate interests. What next? "Liberal ghettos" to be built by these heel-clicking soldiers of Christ?

-- Lawrence Tonsick

What is the difference between the CPAC conservatives and the Islamic fundamentalists that you Americans seem so worked up about?

Both groups seem to possess the same degree of intolerance for those who do not share their beliefs, and both favor similar measures to eradicate infidels or impose their beliefs on them.

A plague on all of them.

If I had my way I'd line up all fundamentalist zealots -- Christian, Muslim and Jewish, conservative and liberal -- and shoot the whole bloody intolerant and ignorant lot of them!

-- Bill Cushing

By Salon Staff

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