Readers respond to "See No Evil," by Edward W. Lempinen.

Published March 20, 2003 11:48PM (EST)

[Read "See No Evil."]

Edward Lempinen's article left me speechless and brought tears to my eyes.

I live in Kuwait, where I have firsthand experience of Saddam's brutality, having lost three friends and a relative during the 1990-91 occupation. However, seven months of occupation are nothing compared to the sheer horror of 30 years under Saddam. Not one Iraqi household has escaped his clutches; every family has at least one person dead, imprisoned without trial, or missing.

Much as we distrust Bush's motives, we find ourselves rooting for the war that's about to start any minute now because we want to live in a Saddam-free world. I'm sure Iraqis feel the same, regardless of the human cost. After all, it simply cannot get any worse.

-- Ziad Al-Duaij

I am so furious after reading this essay, I can hardly type. A "lefty"? Yes, I suppose I am a lefty. Ten years ago, I was a moderate Democrat that voted for George Bush because the economy was already improving and Bill Clinton was too iffy. I haven't changed parties or philosophies; everyone else did.

I didn't leave Saddam Hussein in power and he is not my problem. You want me to fight a battle for every Rwandan, Serbian or Iraqi that is getting tortured? How about rating people on a "worthwhile scale"?

After 9/11, I wanted Osama bin Laden and his henchmen arrested and tried in this country. I wanted better intelligence from the CIA and the FBI. I wanted the anthrax murderer caught and punished. Period.

So put a sock in it.

-- Jamie Peppard

I would consider myself a centrist, and the current debate offered by the left holds no resonance for me. I'm sure it would be easier to pick up a placard and believe whatever a certain group wants me to, but I resolve to weigh the issues as they come and look at the world with a bit more realism.

The world and its issues are complex and you cannot apply one ideology to all situations. Democrat, Republican, whatever -- the current crop of candidates that are to challenge Bush in 2004 hold no appeal for me, either. Why can't the Democrats choose someone like Joe Biden, who uses a bit more common sense on these issues?

I too am divided on this war. I don't necessarily trust Bush wholeheartedly, but what is to be done?

-- Daniel Burns

I've read millions of words about invading Iraq, written by hundreds of different people on all sides of the issue. This is easily the best piece I've ever seen on the topic: well-reasoned, honest and compelling.

I'm impressed that Salon, despite its impeccable liberal credentials, doesn't toe any particular line on Iraq and so will actually publish articles like "See No Evil." Although I enjoy the great majority of what appears on the site, this article alone makes my subscription worthwhile.

-- David Chappell

Whether or not one is a "leftist," Mr. Lempinen's editorial speaks to the dilemma we face whenever we see wrong being done: Is force the answer? And, if so, what kind of force? His specific example, the Lincoln Brigade, is not without irony -- after all, Gen. Franco remained in power until 1975. Spain was out of the fighting during World War II, when the Allied forces, a real army, could have deposed him. I think the Lincoln Brigade, however noble, is not a model for effective intervention against tyranny.

More pertinent to today's conflict in Iraq: Is the American military the proper force to counter foreign tyrants, and if so, which ones, at what risk, and for what political ends?

Opposition to America's war in Vietnam wasn't just "hip." It was a protest against our political aims and the means used to achieve them -- in short, the political morality of the war. That is the appropriate basis for opposition to the war against Iraq: If our political aims are not just or our means of achieving those aims are not acceptable, then protest is necessary.

It is unfair to ask soldiers, taught to kill or be killed, to be humanitarian saviors of oppressed peoples. Diplomacy is hard work and rarely provides the drama that war does. But many of us wish we had as good and professional a corps of diplomats as we do soldiers -- and that this administration would use that corps more effectively. This is perhaps one difference between "antiwar leftists" and "pro-war rightists" (and I know those are terrible labels): The first group would like to believe that more effort put into diplomatic intervention, from a position of moral and military strength, could avoid war; the latter believe diplomacy is a waste of time and war's the way to go. That, at least, is how the debate has gone here recently, independent of the specific arguments against Saddam Hussein. In that regard, it is discouraging to hear Secretary Powell doing diplomacy in the U.N. with false documents and misleading photos, it is discouraging to hear President Bush doing diplomacy in Europe with threats and bribes, and it is discouraging to hear Republican congressional leaders berate Sen. Daschle for criticizing this administration's failures in diplomacy.

-- Bartholomew Hobson

First of all, I'll fall right into line with the rest of the leftists and say that I don't think Bush gives a hoot about the Iraqi people. His expressed concern was near the bottom of a long list of disingenuous justifications that were floated for public consumption.

Secondly, only a sociopath wouldn't be upset about torture in another country. But what about the woman down the street who's being pummeled by her husband? This is, I think, what upsets thinking people about all this. Given Bush's disregard for the less-well-off in our own country, who is to believe there is anything altruistic in his invading and occupying another country?

It's bad enough to have to endure a two-bit dictator in a small country, but what if you had a dictator in a country with the most powerful military of all time? That can't happen in the "shining city on the hill," right? The country with "God on our side"? Don't worry.

-- Eric Jurgensen

Growing up in Mexico, the daughter of a Spanish Civil War veteran, I was always appalled by American "not in my back yard" human rights blindness.

The tales from the 1994 Rwandan massacre just solidified my views: As long as the dead were other people, preferably of dark skin color, in a remote land with no strategic or financial purpose for the United States, the death of thousands is "OK." Now, as a liberal living in the United States, I am somewhat perplexed by the peace movement's stance on Iraq.

Yes, the actions of our government are scary and not justified in international law, but shouldn't we be happy as freedom-loving people that one more tyrant is gone? Shouldn't our purpose now be to organize ourselves and make sure that regardless of why they waged this war, the U.S. government now takes responsibility for its actions and helps the Iraqi people assert the freedom they have so courageously waited and fought for, for 30 years?

Democracy, freedom and human rights come at a price. My father, in his exile of 50 years, taught me that. It is time those of us who consider ourselves pacifists and liberals tell that to the world. Thank you for articulating why I have not been able to march against this war.

-- Patricia Alba

If I thought our forces would go in, topple Saddam, and bring democracy and freedom to the people of Iraq, I'd be all for the war. Alas, if the U.S. handling of Afghanistan is any indication, we're going to go in, bomb the crap out of civilians, and go home. Maybe, if the Iraqis are lucky, we'll install a regime like the one we support in Saudi Arabia -- some bunch of wealthy thugs who will give money to the correct interests here in America, while paying terrorists with the other hand.

Or maybe some gangster will take over and we'll end up with a brand-new Saddam, or Arafat, or Castro.

Great idea! No thanks. If I thought the United States really meant anything by "nation building,'' I'd support the war. But I don't.

-- Chris Rywalt

The strongest arguments in favor of ousting Saddam can be made with leftist principles. As an international police action to arrest an evil dictator for crimes against humanity, this war might be justified. But make no mistake -- that is not what this is.

The United States refuses to accede to the International Criminal Court for fear that international law might constrain our own crimes against humanity (read: we'd have to extradite Kissinger).

Lempinen falls victim to the administration's forcing of a false choice: You must endorse the unilateral invasion of Iraq, or you must accept the continued atrocities of a despot. Why are we limited to just these choices? This is the conundrum leftists are attempting to expose when they say, "I'm not defending Saddam, but..."

There is another way. And it's shameful that no one is discussing it.

-- Chris Cooper

Fundamentally, I'm not opposed to regime change in Iraq, and I'm not even that adamantly opposed to using war as a tool to facilitate that. But I worry a lot about where the Bush administration will turn next, and how badly he will abuse our current and former allies to achieve a goal..

But there's little to be gained in supporting or opposing the war now. Probably within a week we'll be dropping missiles on Baghdad. The next thing to concentrate on is trying to convince Bush to keep his promises of creating a better Iraq than the one we're about to wreck.

-- Noah Lesgold

By Salon Staff

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