Letters to
We get a lot of letters, and publish some of them in this column, "Backtalk," edited by Sam Koritz. Please send your letters to backtalk@antiwar.com. Letters may be edited for length (and coherence). Unless otherwise indicated, authors may be identified and e-mail addresses will not be published.

Posted January 25, 2002

Dealing with a Linguist

Three cheers to Mr. Raimondo for his excellent columns! I wish him best of luck in a possible dialog with Mr. Chomsky; he will certainly need it. His critique was, however, the best I have seen, despite its problems. I don't see him being quite as soundly beaten back as other would-be Chomsky critics. Also, I am hopeful that his article will generate beneficial commentary, and perhaps bolder public opinions from Chomsky. At least nobody will accuse Mr. Raimondo of preaching to the choir. I worry however that he is vulnerable to the some of the same problems he sees in the US military. I'm not suggesting that he was a recent arms provider for his current enemy, or that he is responsible for the very recent deaths of thousands of Afghan civilians. By first attacking the warbloggers and then the Chomskyites, he runs the risk of being dangerously overextended, while we hear of Antiwar.com's economic woes, and without a social security fund to loot. For this reason I hesitate to make criticisms of my own, however this would belie the spirit of "Behind the Headlines." So, for the record, here's one: "This guy is, it's fair to say, in a coma" is a far greater "hyperbole" than "the US is the world's most powerful terrorist state." Careful, you are dealing with a linguist!

~ Lukas Saul, University of New Hampshire


[Regarding: "Haiti: How nation-building has gone awry," by David Adams, St. Petersburg Times, January 14:]

Nation-building is a ridiculous concept. It is impossible to build a nation out of illiterate, uncivilized people such as those in Haiti. Nation-building must evolve from the inside, and it takes generations of education and hard dedicated work by citizens. To expect these people to adopt Western values and culture overnight is stupid.

Haiti ... has been independent for nearly two hundred years (from France), the longest of any Caribbean nation, and it is the poorest and most uncivilized.

Any substantial change must come from the Haitian people. Everything else is cosmetic and temporary.

~ Eva O.

God's Agenda

This letter is in response to [Lynn H.'s letter] from January 21 about Israel and the Bible. She has her basic Biblical facts correct but she also begs the same question as the President, "Are you with us or against us?" Throughout its history, Israel has had its proverbial ups and downs. When the country became corrupt, it was cursed and went into captivity. When it acted righteously, it prospered and was blessed. A key to these blessings and cursings was how it interacted with its citizens and other nations. God held his chosen people to a higher degree of scrutiny than the "heathen." One thing that is plainly clear to me is that God is the ultimate Judge. He is the decision-maker on Israel's fate (and all nations')....

There are many well-meaning, ignorant Christians out there screaming about how we must defend Israel but I offer a logical alternative: How about not doing anything, staying neutral and letting God defend them? If they are truly chosen, they will survive, overcome the Palestinians and be saved. As a nation, we need to stop trying to interpret prophecies to fit our own personal agendas. God has his own agenda and it is the only one that matters.

~ Corkey R.

Ego of Humans

[Regarding Lynn Hs letter of January 21, "Genesis":]

Whether or not the Jews are "the chosen people" (as opposed to everyone else, who is unchosen) depends on what bible one believes in, and whether or not one believes that only God inspired that bible, without any intervention from the ego of humans.

~ M. McCormick


Love ... [Justin Raimondo's] columns. Wish you would write one about the atrocious policies being put into place in airports: strip-searches, shoe searches, no nailclippers. The guys that actually want to harm people can get around these strictures in a million ways, and the policies serve only to frighten people, anger people and create expense and misery in airports.

~ Carl W.

Alternative Hypothesis

Regarding "Manufacturing Dissent":

I think Justin Raimondo should allow for an alternative hypothesis as to Chomsky's position. To me, the Salon interview rings of the rhetorical strategy of accommodation. That is, don't alienate your audience straight off. For any of us who spent the holidays arguing politics with relatives, or spend our days trying to convince the guy next to us at work to look beyond the New York Times, our world is comprised of baby steps: raise a question, dispense a new piece of information, but don't dare try to bring down the whole house of cards all at once. Last fall, Raimondo himself criticized the "peaceniks" for potentially alienating the bulk of Americans by not beginning each speech with a "condemnation" of the "evil" "atrocity."

As to Chomsky, I don't know his long-range plans for the planet; I'm guessing he's more concerned with the short-term goal of simply rousing Americans from their comas. The fact -- accepted and endorsed by most Americans -- is that the U.S. has signed onto international law, labels states as "rogue" or "terrorist" for their rebellion against such laws, etcetera. So why not begin by pointing out the hypocrisy of the US position? Yes, absolutely, performing the thought experiment in which the US itself obeys international guidelines (!) in responding to 9/11 reveals the weakness of the U.N. structures, and the improbability that any country with a choice would take them seriously. Isn't that precisely the point? Step two: second-guess the structure itself. If only we could get to step two.

Here is my belated accommodation to Raimondo himself: I'm a great fan, read your columns as soon as they're posted, and will happily parrot what so many readers have said here before. This site is an oasis. Keep the fresh water flowing.

~ Katharine Winans

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