Letters

A Canadian reader weighs in on Salon's war coverage. Plus: Responses to "'A Million Mogadishus,'" by Andrew Sullivan.


Salon Staff
April 3, 2003 2:30AM (UTC)

I read Salon regularly but am extremely disappointed by your war coverage.

I find it extremely narcissistic in the care taken with American feelings. The delicacy you extend to yourselves and your society is jarring and frightening to me in light of what your country is perpetrating on the world. There is a "soft," unalarmed and self-regarding quality to your coverage that is especially noticeable after reading, for example, British and French publications, which are braver and more forthright.

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I'm thinking particularly of the troops. They are an invading army seeking to conquer and occupy another country. To most people outside the United States, and according to international law, they are clearly the aggressors in an illegal and immoral war.

I know you consider yourselves to be on the left within the American context. But like so many other Americans, you seem to care primarily for yourselves, and to have no real feeling for the implications and consequences of this action. Unfortunately, I do not see a radical difference between the deluded pro-war "ordinary Americans" featured in the media and the editors and writers at Salon.

Perhaps it is hard living in the United States to get some distance on yourselves and understand how you are perceived by others. You are so far away from others that perhaps you cannot feel them. Perhaps the pussyfooting you do is necessary in what seems to me to an environment increasingly intolerant of dissent and self-reflection. Or maybe you can't bring yourselves to confront the full, horrifying implications of what is happening because it will make you lose faith in your country. But these things have never been more urgent.

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I wish you well and hope that you consider my perspective. We are all in this mess together.

-- Darya Farha, Toronto

[Read "'A Million Mogadishus,'" by Andrew Sullivan.]

If one group invades another's land, as is happening now in Iraq, most unbiased onlookers would wish the defenders well. Why is it impossible for most Americans to see this? We are watching the most disarmed nation of the world being invaded by the most heavily armed nation of all time. I always thought the left had a thing against aggression by superpowers.

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To explain why it's harder going than expected, the American regime now concedes that Iraqi nationalism may be stronger than their desire for liberty. It seems that in America, just as in Iraq, nationalism is so strong that other aspects such as truth, balanced reporting and fair-mindedness are being discarded for blind jingoism. Sullivan shows his blind prejudice, for instance, by referring to Americans risking their lives in Iraq as "human shields attempting to support Saddam's war crimes."

If this view is typical of Middle America, then it is well overdue that the rest of us around the world unite against American jingoism and economic/cultural imperialism, before it's too late.

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-- Jan van Dalfsen

Andrew Sullivan hits the nail on the head. Most of those who oppose the war are alien to the ideas of good and bad. Instead they've substituted a moral calculus of favoring the weak over the strong.

In the left's rationale, Saddam can murder hundreds of thousands of his countrymen, but will always be OK because he is "weak" compared to George Bush. Saddam can support fanatics who decree that every American man, woman and child shall die, but the left will favor him over a stronger man who wants to save millions of American lives.

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There is nothing in the left's moral calculus that would cause them to oppose Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao or Saddam, as long as a stronger U.S. force wants to stop them.

-- Dale Wetmore

It is perfectly true that if we believe a war waged by our government is criminal, then we have a moral duty to hope and work for the defeat of our own armies. To do otherwise is deeply hypocritical and therefore wrong. No one feels the deaths of our soldiers (or Iraqi civilians, or even Iraqi soldiers) to be anything other than a horrific loss, but in such a case they might be necessary.

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German resistance groups in World War II knew this, and lived their decision. Sophie Scholl of the White Rose wrote pamphlets encouraging the German citizenry to keep their blankets and food rations for themselves and send nothing to the soldiers in Russia. She desired only the defeat of a criminal dictatorship and, in every way she could think of, sabotaged it. I hope every person with a strong moral compass would do the same and not be swayed or bullied by the propaganda of their authoritarian government.

Having said that, I myself do not believe Bush to be equivalent to Hitler or terrorists. But there are disturbing questions about the method and direction of Bush's administration, which a revulsion for the radical left should not obscure.

They are harming their own cause, those hyperbolic ultra-liberals. But the right and far right are harming it too, by throwing their patriotic moral revulsion around like confetti. The issues at stake are too important for anyone to paint with a broad brush, particularly one loaded with righteous anger.

-- Sarah Loring

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I am one of those leftists who believe that "Bush = terrorist." However, I do not equate him with Saddam Hussein, who obviously has perpetrated many worse crimes on many more people. I call Bush a terrorist because he acts (and because he is the U.S. president, we act) in this war against the will of the world and in our own interests, with all the moral authority of might makes right.

Is it wrong to hold my own country -- the most powerful country in the world -- to a higher standard? To say that if we act to take lives, our own and those of other nations, that there must be compelling and virtuous reasons to do so?

There are many nations in the world in turmoil, where innocent people die every day from causes ranging from hunger to state-sponsored violence. I believe that it can be called terrorism when we ignore the vast majority of the suffering in the world and focus on protecting our own interests (oil), and act to kill those who stand in our way. The Germans who fled Germany in the late 1930s are the most antiwar people that I know, and that speaks volumes to me.

-- Katherine Woods-Eliot

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It's true, of course, that Bush and Hussein are not directly comparable. But about the only reasons for this are that (a) Bush has a far greater variety of more sophisticated methods of control and coercion at his disposal and does not need to resort to brute force to maintain domestic [power]; and (b) Bush operates under the diminishing but still extant constraints of a system of governmental checks and balances.

But what if the two were similarly situated? Put Bush in charge of a beleaguered, socially fragmented Third World nation like Iraq with no tradition of representative government and posit that if he does not maintain absolute control he loses his life, and I don't think his conduct would be substantially different from Hussein's.

My question to Sullivan or anyone else who disagrees: What specifically do you think Bush would do differently in such a situation?

-- Chris Bille

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No one is cheering for the death of Americans, Andrew, except the people we are "liberating." This may be hard for you to grasp, but much of the world would like to see the United States humbled because of our arrogance, our greed, and our unwillingness to work within the network of the international community.

I signed my daughter's contract to join the Army last night, and neither she nor her recruiter, who fought in the first Gulf War, felt insulted by the "No War in Iraq" sign in our window. But I would gladly let you go in her place.

-- Gaia Guirl

You're right when you assess that many in the antiwar movement are hoping, publicly or privately, for an American defeat in Iraq. I am among them. It's not that I hate the individual troops -- poor and very misguided people. It has to do with our concept of justice and our belief that this war is unjustified murder.

Take the O.J. Simpson trial. Just because O.J. paid a high-priced lawyer to get acquitted doesn't mean that I now support O.J.'s killing of his wife. In the same way, just because Bush and company paid a tiny handful of allies to support him in this illegal conquest, in spite of the overwhelming opposition of their constituents, doesn't mean I'm going to support the murder he now commits. Regardless of who bought who, Bush must be stopped for the sake of humanity.

Beyond the current aggression, the intentions of this illegal regime are clear. Just read the New American Century to see blatant plans for world domination. It's the American "Mein Kampf." When people talk of "not appeasing Saddam Hussein," comparing him to Hitler, it's such a ridiculous argument. There's nothing to indicate that Saddam wants to dominate the world in the way Hitler did. George Bush, on the other hand, clearly has this objective in mind. From his first action of rigging the Florida election to the present day, Bush has exposed himself, to any mind free of TV control, as the true enemy of peace, freedom and democracy across the world.

What people do notice is body bags piling up and obvious comparisons to Vietnam and Somalia. That's what it will take to check Bush's aggression to dominate the world, one oil-producing country at a time. Therefore, if America suffers a horrible defeat in Iraq, it will save thousands, perhaps millions of lives in the long run.

-- Paul Seymour

Sullivan uses the old sleight-of-hand technique of assigning guilt for the extreme comments of a few to an entire movement. He asks that those opposed to the war repudiate those comments, which I am sure I am not alone in doing. One can deplore comments after they are made, but it should be obvious that there is no way to stop every spokesman for the antiwar cause from saying what he believes, repugnant or counterproductive as it might be.

I would ask Sullivan, where has he repudiated the comments of the extremists on his side? Ann Coulter wishing that Timothy McVeigh had targeted the New York Times; Richard Perle calling Seymour Hersh a "terrorist" on CNN, David Horowitz suggesting that antiwar protesters be interned -- those are but a few of the idiocies that we are subjected to on a daily basis from the right.

Disagree with him though I might, I have enough respect for Sullivan to know that they do not speak for him any more than the lunatics on the left speak for me.

-- John Manchester

Regarding "'A Million Mogadishus,'" by Andrew Sullivan, I am part of the antiwar right. I am a middle-aged Republican who does not believe that Saddam was behind the 9/11 attacks, and who feels that North Korea is 10 times more dangerous that Iraq. I oppose this war because it's stupid!

As most of my friends are conservative Republicans, I've heard every reason why I shouldn't participate in a protest march. Here are some:

"Why are they protesting a war that hasn't even started yet?"

"We're at war now, the time for protest is over."

"Where were these protesters when Saddam was murdering his own people?"

And now, "If you protest, you are responsible for any far-left crazies who participate in the antiwar movement."

What these antiwar-protest protesters really want is a total ban on any demonstrations, unless it's a "support our troops" rally. But they'll never admit it.

-- Karl Spisak

Andrew Sullivan's article "'A Million Mogadishus'" is yet another warning coming from the right: If you oppose the war, you are a traitor. He uses the remarks of some unknown college professor as "proof" that the antiwar movement is some sort of "fifth column" and that if you are against the war you naturally support Saddam.

Well, I have some news for Sullivan and all the rest like him. We Americans are not going to stop exercising the most important right in a democracy, the right of free speech.

-- Edward Miechowicz

As I read Sullivan's article, I was watching on BBC the antiwar protests in Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Morocco. The sentiment in those countries (if not mainstream, pretty close) is what Sullivan attributes to the "radical left" in this country. In a way, that underscores the abyss between perceptions in this country and abroad. But it raises the question: Does Sullivan thinks all these people around the world are immoral, misguided or stupid? Maybe they need to be 'liberated' as well so they can see Sullivan's truth.

American arrogance is at an all-time high. It should occur to Americans that maybe the animosity harbored by non-Americans has a reason, and it's high time that Americans step down from their high horse and try to understand it.

I do not agree that the U.S. government is comparable to Saddam's, but once it chose to step down to Saddam's level and take a path that necessarily involves civilian casualties, it lost at least some of its moral high ground.

It is true that Saddam has killed civilians; by now, it is also true that so have the Americans. How can we be so sure that our killing is so much more justified than Saddam's?

-- Frederico Gil Sander


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