Letters to the Editor


Submitted Letters:

As I said before, discussion through email, especially if it is supposed to be serious is rarely fruitful. So this is not my paradigm. I like discussion with a purpose, when people actually listen and even heed the arguments of other people, and then actually act on what they discussed. But in the end, a lot of this is just a combination of (a) reaction to the overwhelming isolation that pervades our society, compounded by the (b) competitiveness of academia, super-saturated by our (c) overwhelming need for some form of recognition. That being clear, I have something to say:

This is not addressed at anybody in particular; in fact, it’s nothing new; I said a lot of it in my previous “submission” (or whatever the industry term for these are nowadays). But in the end this is about two things (it might turn into more than two as I write this, so let’s think of that as a tentative “two”): values and acceptance.

First, values. Our beliefs are formed through our experiences. Some of those beliefs are our values. So, if you run into someone who has drastically different values than you, it’s most likely because they had drastically different experiences than you (so don’t think you're better than they). So, in the end, to change their mind is to change their experiences in some sort of way. It’s not an easy thing. For some people it really just is a conversation. But for others, a simple conversation is dramatically insufficient because their experiences are such that they can’t even hear the logic of your argument because they don’t share the values that logic is based on. So, like I said before, this is for those of you who care. Let me say what I mean by care: (1) you don’t place certain lives at higher value, e.g., you don’t place American lives over Iraqi lives (you could place American lives over Saddam’s life, or Iraqi lives over Bush’s life, but those are only exceptions that support the principle--aka “exceptions that prove the rule”). (2) you deeply desire, not just yourself, but other people in the world to be able to live well. Here’s what I mean by living well: eating fresh food, sleeping on a bed with shelter, wearing clothing, getting an education, working a job you care about, having a *real* say in how your society functions…these types of things. These are values that decent people have, and most people in the world are decent.

Now acceptance. Some people with those values have another sort of value: when they see things going on in the world they disagree with, they donÂ’t just sit back, theyÂ’re forced to try and do something. They canÂ’t accept it going to go on without a fight. (I guess itÂ’s similar seeing a friend of yours getting jumped--youÂ’d feel pretty forced to do something, then.) ThatÂ’s how some people feel about this war with Iraq. I think it is important to really try and get that feeling, understand it, actually understand it and then criticize it; if you want to critique, you better be damn sure you can articulate it first. I havenÂ’t seen that yet, not because itÂ’s your (again, not a specific you) fault, but because I guess it hasnÂ’t been articulated clear enough--though I think it has. Let me try, again.

When we talk about this war, we’re not just talking about the day the bombing started. It is a long history of relations with the middle east. Of course I wont go into any details, because, again, this is not a real discussion; even if you did care, this situation is not very conducive for you to do anything about it. First, the United States was a huge ally of Saddam Hussein and his ruling Ba’ath party ever since 1979 when he helped the US crush a rebellion in Iran. Good old Donald Rumsfeld was sent over to Iraq by Ronald Reagan to develop ties with Saddam and help arm his regime. Second, Saddam’s most brutal acts—using chemical gas in the Iran/Iraq war on some of his own soldiers and civilians in Iraq, and gassing thousands of Iraqis later on—were known completely by the US administration at the time. Some US corporations even sold Saddam’s regime the chemicals. The US reaction to these events was not at all the same kind of propagandistic criticism you see today; the US, instead, continued their support of Saddam, and even increased it. So, there’s a big problem here: what are the US administrations real motivations? Well, the only way we can get a glimpse of that is to look at it’s actions in the past. Again I’m not going to give you the list: just look at, for fun, some of the following: Iran, 1953--CIA overthrows democratically elected Prime Minister because he announced plans to nationalize US and British oil companies; Guatemala, 1953--CIA overthrows democratically elected President (Jacobo Arbenz) because he announced plans to nationalize a US fruit company; Chile, 1973—CIA organizes a coup, with Pinochet, head of Chilean army, to overthrow and execute Salvador Allende (the democratically elected leader at the time) and kill about 3000 people, because he announced plans to nationalize US companies. That’s enough. The list contains over two-hundred of these type and similar events since WWII.

The point of all this is it paints a nice picture of the characteristic of the US government: it represents clear interests--not the interests of what decent people care about. So, when you talk about the people of Iraq being freed by the United States (hence the term “Operation Iraqi Freedom”) you better ask yourself, is the US government made up of the kind of people who care about that? The answer is clearly no. If you bomb a country’s infrastructure and their agriculture and leave them with no ability to sustain themselves and then impose sanctions on that country that starves the people, killing over one million people (majority of which are children under 5), you definitely don’t care about those people. Yes, the US wants Saddam out of Iraq. But they don’t want Iraq in the hands of the Iraqi people. What we’ll see is, what the US is calling a “regime change.” What that means is the overthrow of the current regime and replacement of another one. Well, whose interests will be represented? Not the Iraqi people. Yes, the US will probably lift the sanctions and allow more food and medicine to get in. But to call that a humanitarian act is like calling a person who starves their children to near death and then decides to give them some pretzels a compassionate person. To really care about the Iraqi people would have been to (1) not destroyed their country in the first place; (2) to have never imposed the sanctions and allowed the Iraqi people to get rid of Saddam on their own; (3) to have allowed the Iraqi people to overthrow Saddam when they had the opportunity in the last gulf war. The US has done none of these. They're going to replace Saddam with a government that runs the country corresponding to the interests of US domination, not what the Iraqi people want. The day the war’s over we’ll probably see a nice picture of food getting in and a huge weapon the US found, and Iraqis playing in the streets. But that is only because decent people can’t just be handed the truth, because they wouldn’t accept it, they couldn’t accept it. And the more people with those values I mentioned early discover what’s going on, the more they can’t accept it. And for some of them, not accepting it means trying to change it. For others not accepting it means, criticizing it but believing it can be changed, and thus being a bit demoralized (i.e., stripped of your morals) and depressed. This, again, all depends on what your experiences have been, which again are changeable, some easier to change than others.

So this is long, and I somewhat apologize, because it’s not so simple. And I think it is very difficult to discuss it in this way. Give me a break, though, “Operation Iraqi Freedom”—it makes me cringe. It should be called operation “allow the people we’ve starved to death to eat after we get rid of the regime we put into power.” Lastly, once again, what kind of person are you? If you care, how much do you care? Are you willing to act on that caring, or, perhaps not yet? I care. Marc Lispi, March 29, 2003.


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