Readers respond to articles on Hitchens vs. Danner, the Democrats' campaign blues, and CBS' decision to yank "The Reagans."

Published November 13, 2003 11:54PM (EST)

[Read "The Great Debate, Reloaded," by Gary Kamiya.]

Thank you for the concise and masterful play-by-play of the Danner-Hitchens debate. As a student of Hitchens' writing, it has been a painful but instructive process to see him lose his grip on the independent mind he once so brilliantly, effortlessly flaunted.

I was in Berkeley for the original debate, one that I felt Hitchens took handily. Less because of the soundness of his reasoning than the poor execution of Danner's pacifist counterpoint. But having just returned from Baghdad myself, and having witnessed as truth everything that Danner cited in his rebuttal, I am happy to see that his firsthand experience granted him more steadfast grounding in his arguments.

Truly, this is the advent of a dark time. But Salon continues to be one of the most illuminating sources for deconstructivist writing.

-- Stephen Marshall

A formerly great mind in the grip of atrophy is such a sad, sad thing. Christopher Hitchens is in such an ideological, pro-interventionist rut that he's fallen to firing off moralism as if behind the evangelical's pulpit -- the last gasp of the factually underprivileged. He's now the Machiavelli of intervention: jump in at all costs, no matter how fraudulent the sales job, how ill-planned the effort, or in how many shreds it leaves your Constitution.

How long before Hitchens tells us he's run his saintly course in full and been born again?

-- Brian Dundas

Gary Kamiya charges Christopher Hitchens with removing "the actions of Palestinian terrorists from any historical or political context" by referring to Palestinian terrorists as "suicide murderers.'"

But what is inaccurate about Hitchens' description? Kamiya's whitewashing reference to "actions of Palestinian terrorists" disturbs me far more. His double-speak implies that the murder of innocents is acceptable, so long as it occurs within a "political context."

Here's a political context: The civilians now targeted by Palestinian terrorists had nothing to do with founding the state of Israel. And, furthermore, the murder of those Israelis has not led to the formation of a Palestinian state or to a better life for Palestinians. Sometimes a cigar is a cigar, and a suicide murderer is just that.

-- Naomi Rosenblatt

The crux of this debate is whether or not, in the various Arab states of the Middle East, elements of authoritarianism, militant Islam and terrorism are blending and festering into something just as sick and dangerous as the rise of fascism in the 1930s. How much more evidence of this do we need?

Certainly we botched planning for the occupation, certainly we botched getting the rest of the world behind us for this mission in the first place. But is Hitchens' main point lost on us? We had to approach the hornet's nest.

Will liberals continue to argue around the elephant in the room -- that thousands in the Middle East are joining various movements under various banners with the same goal: attacking modern civilization? If so, we'll get no nearer the White House and we'll do no good for the cause of progress in the world.

-- Kevin Allison

Tell Christopher Hitchens to take his tea bags and swim back to England. We don't need him to tell Americans how to be patriotic. He should be reminded that we came up with a Constitution and Bill of Rights that give us the basis for our questioning our leaders when we feel they have overstepped their bounds as servants of the public.

-- John Bayley

[Read "The Democrats' Campaign Blues," by Tim Grieve.]

Like most Democrats, I have been waiting wanly in my moated grange for a candidate who is willing to step up and launch a positive campaign against George W. Bush. Dean does not appeal to me -- while I agree with him in principle, I don't think he is capable of leading a country so deeply divided, so polarized. America is mired now in political enmity so deep it amounts almost to hatred. We need someone who can unite at least the center of the country and help pull us all back into the mainstream.

I agree with Tim Grieve that Kerry has been a disappointment, but the reason has nothing to do with his support for the war -- based on the disinformation we were all being given, many people, Democrats included, believed that we had to go to war against Iraq. It is Kerry's apparent inability to say that, and his assumption (apparently shared by Grieve) that voters are naive fools incapable of putting events into their proper perspective. In other words, it is the backing and filling and rationalization -- none of which are needed -- that so disgusts. Gen. Clark might well say that he'd have voted for the war based on the "facts" we were given at the time. It's the means and not the end that these candidates should have the sense to be focusing on.

As a Democrat, I pin my hopes at present on Gen. Clark. Though I am as mistrustful as any Democrat of a candidate with a military background, Clark at least appears to be everything that Bush is not -- and if the voters are indeed undiscriminating fools, that alone should be enough to win him the Democratic nomination. Whether we are or are not, Clark has come out strongly against the Bush administration's disastrous economic "policy" of robbing the American public of any form of security -- domestic, environmental, economic, emotional and physical -- in order to benefit his oil-millionaire cronies. He has also been critical of Bush's "method" of waging war (on terrorism and on Iraq) and there can be no doubt in anyone's mind that he has the credentials to make his opinion on that aspect of this disastrous presidency worth considering.

However, it is doubtless the case that there are too many other contenders in the field, and that it's time here and now for most of them to lay down their feeble campaigns and give their endorsement to someone who can actually win this election against the very large segment of the population who believe -- but how can they? -- that George Bush and his neocon minions should be allowed to continue to dismantle our American values and international credibility, to hijack the Christian religion, and to roll back our civil liberties.

-- Maggie Temples

It seems to me that the Democrats need to make the case that the only way to internationalize the war in Iraq is with a different occupant of the White House. The current president has burned so many bridges with the rest of the world over Iraq that this administration is incapable of garnering the world support needed to help bear the burden in Iraq.

This would have appeal across the board, I think, as so many Americans are so dubious about the current state of affairs in Iraq and at home. Military families might welcome this appeal, as they have an enormous stake in the future in Iraq.

We are in Iraq, whether we wanted to be or not, and we now need to make it a place of peace and security. This cannot be accomplished without the rest of the world. Hence, we need a regime change here.

-- Marion McClain

[Read "'The Reagans' Uncensored," by the editors of Salon.]

By giving the right wing a veto over its programming decisions, CBS has abandoned any pretense of independence and destroyed the last remnants of its credibility. (Which is not to say that any of the other broadcast networks are any less owned by large corporations or any more relevant in the fall of 2003.) So much for the "liberal media."

Ronald Reagan as a heartless front man for the neocons (sound familiar?), or a buffoon who took naps while secret wars were run from the White House basement? Sounds about right to me. Nancy Reagan as a weirdo who preached "Just Say No to Drugs" with a cocktail in one hand and a cigarette in the other? That's certainly how I remember the 1980s. But I guess a critical examination of the Reagans is now as unthinkable for the U.S. corporate media as is even the mildest criticism of Bush the Younger.

-- Jim Morava

Typical liberal nonsense. Censorship by the vast right-wing conspiracy is a lie. CBS self-censored because it feared it could not sell its product and that its product was so shoddy that CBS' reputation would suffer. Fox and company could only censor CBS if it took over the broadcast room and stopped transmission. That obviously did not happen. Nor can criticism against admittedly false and inflammatory statements be construed as censorship.

Finally, why shouldn't CBS self-censor a product that its own producers admit contains false statements? This program is not comparable to comedic satire -- it masqueraded as a basically true depiction of an American president.

-- Don Rory

Shame, shame, shame. "The Reagans" could be the biggest turd in the history of public television. It could be the "Gigli" of miniseries. That doesn't mean the public can't make up its own mind. But because we live in a "fair and balanced" world, CBS has caved in to the angry bleat of conservatives, who practice their own "revisionist history" when it suits them. God forbid the legacy of Ronald Reagan be besmirched. Quick, what can we replace the miniseries with? How about another heartless Kennedy epic about infidelity and mob ties. Hypocrites!

-- Brad Mellesmoen

By Salon Staff

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