A counterpoint to a Canadian reader's letter on Salon war coverage. Plus: Responses to "War? What War?" by Jake Tapper, and "Briefing for a Descent Into Hell" by Fred Branfman.

Published April 4, 2003 9:55PM (EST)

[Read "Letters"]

I am another Canadian reader, and I disagree with Darya Farha -- it's not your job, Salon, to care as much about the rest of the world, which can take care of itself, as you care about America, which needs your leadership if it is to survive.

John LeCarre said several months ago that America had gone mad, but I don't think it's this simple. A little Prozac isn't going to solve this problem.

What you have to confront, in yourselves and in your nation, is the Culture of Fear.

Since 9/11, fear has enslaved your country. Your leaders are doing nothing to stop it. Neo-conservatives are using it to advance their own agendas and the rest justify their own cowardice by making sure that everyone else stays afraid.

Now you are embroiled in a war which, as Gary Kamiya pointed out in his excellent article three weeks ago, will have unknowable and possibly horrendous consequences.

I have been reading a lot of comparisons lately to World War II. Here is one which is, I think, relevant now: during the Blitz, living in a world where sudden death was likely, Britons gave us the example of a society which conquered fear -- they saw it as their personal responsibility to do this; it was not their country's job to make them feel safe. So they sang in the shelters as the bombs exploded overhead.

Did anyone sing on 9/11? Actually, yes -- in the evening of that terrible day, I saw your Congress stand on the steps of your Capitol Building and sing "God Bless America" -- it was an act of spontaneous courage and incredible inspiration.

Is anyone still singing in America today? Right now, I see no sign of this.

Salon, you must start America singing again. If you do not do it, who will?

-- Cathie Fornssler

[Read "War? What War?" by Jake Tapper.]

Jake Tapper seems critical of Howard Dean for laying low on the topic of the war since the fighting started. As a Dean supporter, I'm glad he's doing so. Dean has made his position very clear on whether we should have gotten into this war. He's been by far the most eloquent of the candidates in pointing out what was wrong with the administration's failures of diplomacy, failure to make their case, etc.

But given that it is almost impossible to get accurate information on what's currently happening in the war, given that the situation is likely to change significantly from day to day, and given the propensity for the Republicans to spin, twist, and take out of context anything a Democrat says, I think Dean is doing exactly what he should.

If we care about getting a Democrat elected, we should make sure that we have other people out there questioning the administration's policies and holding them accountable -- but we shouldn't be trying to goad the best candidate we have into taking on that role, when it could easily backfire and sink him (sorry for mixing metaphors there).

At the moment, the Republicans are actually doing a fine job of criticizing the conduct of the war without any help from us -- the current circular firing squad of "former senior officials" and "unnamed sources" vs. Rummy is making Bush and his gang look terrible.

What could Howard Dean really add to that?

-- Katie Kenney

Jake Tapper's criticism of the execrable Terry McAuliffe is thoroughly justified. But his criticism of Dean is not, because he is not inconsistent.

He said he would be quieting his criticism while our men were in the field, though he still has the same opinion of the policy. That's not a cowardly position to take.

For sheer cravenness, look elsewhere in the Democratic field, at the prevaricators like Kerry and Lieberman.

-- Jim Hassinger

Dean is absolutely correct in his assertion that many of his supporters and potential supporters don't want to hear about the war anymore.

I was among the 600 plus crowd that gathered to hear Dean discuss his ideas at Boston's J.F.K. library last week. We loved him. We ate him up. He spoke about the war for maybe 10 out of his allotted 90 minutes. He's against it, we know it, 'nuff said.

His moderator, however, pushed and pushed and pushed. Dean would have none of it, saying he didn't get us into this mess and he wouldn't hypothesize about how to get us out, other than by changing presidents.

We were right there with him. One of the best reasons to be antiwar is to recognize the havoc it will wreak on our domestic policies.

Dean gives specifics about healthcare, a balanced budget and equal rights for all Americans -- and that's what I want to hear. Not someone pandering to my seething hatred for the Bush administration's ham fisted war.

-- Jacqueline Mitchell

The guy can't win and neither can Lieberman. Dean's a loudmouth and Lieberman is gutless. We don't need another McGovern; we need a viable candidate, such as Kerry, that can win.

The advocates of peace also need to get real and accept what is going on. They will not stop the war through simpleminded protest that makes them feel good. Instead it will take hard work to energize the electorate on one task: getting Bush out of office.

-- John Crawford

While I am very pleased that Salon is covering democratic dissent (or lack thereof), I am dismayed that Jake Tapper excluded any mention of Al Sharpton from his discussion about antiwar sentiments among Democratic candidates. Unlike his colleagues, Sharpton has not shied away from publicly denouncing the war on Iraq.

In a two party political system that reinforces centrist attitudes, Sharpton stands alone in his willingness to dissent -- even when his opinions run contrary to public opinion polls.

There may be little chance that Sharpton will secure the Democratic nomination, but he still deserves a degree of respect. By discounting his candidacy a priori, this kind of reporting contributes to an electoral system that suppresses debate and marginalizes progressive and minority candidates.

-- Joanna Kempner

What the hell is wrong with you people? So the only presidential candidate with the cojones to seriously criticize our Pretender-on-the-Throne decides to tone down his antiwar rhetoric. Your response? Reprimand him for trying to address the countless real and long-term problems facing the nation.

Dean is right. What can the peace movement realistically accomplish at this point? Is ranting and raving in the streets going to force our current administration to slam the machinery of war into reverse?

You ask your readers for the support of progressive ideas. And then you scold the very man holding the bright torch of liberal thought as if he were a 5-year-old with a box of matches. I think you need to get your editorial priorities straight. 2004 is looming.

-- Alex Goluszko

During the last election cycle Democrat after Democrat fell over each other in an attempt to show solidarity with President Bush. Essentially conceding that the party had no real idea what to do about homeland security, the fight against terrorism and the impending war with Iraq, Democrats did their own little version of soft-shoe around the questions with an "'Atta boy, W!" whenever questions came up.

We, the members of the Democratic Party, need to stop believing that we can dictate to the public what issues are important and need to be discussed. It is the public who demands that certain topics be addressed, and those who ignore their calls will go down to defeat at the polls.

Have we forgotten last November already?

-- Seth Thompson

[Read "Briefing for a Descent Into Hell" by Fred Branfman.]

Oh, man, not again. The aliens are always supposed to be smarter than us. They're always supposed to have better technological knowledge, to be unified politically, and to have all the wonderful social skills we lack. In other words, they are the author's extension of what's supposed to be the ideal social and political order.

It's the big stereotype of science fiction: Either aliens are Nazi invaders ripe for destruction, or utopian creatures of grace that know better than us how to deal with being human.

This is what science fiction and fantasy writers do instead of actually exploring what it would mean to be human or alien in a more constructive, original way -- one that might actually lend insight into our problems, instead of merely putting forward political agendas that beg the question for those who don't agree with them.

-- Stephen Daugherty

Fred Branfman's piece is the most brilliant thing ever on the war. I've been up nights for two weeks, surfing the Web and trying to put it all together. Branfman has freed me. Please thank him for me.

-- Sam Moses

Briefing, continued: Not only is this planet irrational, but you're the most patronizing bastards I've ever encountered!

-- Michael Fallon

By Salon Staff

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