Letters to
Please send your letters to Backtalk editor Sam Koritz. Letters become the property of Antiwar.com and may be edited before posting. Unless otherwise requested, authors may be identified and e-mail addresses will not be published. The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of Antiwar.com.

Posted March 19, 2003

Regarding "This Isn't About You" by Justin Raimondo:

I think your comments about the "direct actionists" are right on target. Nevertheless, what is it that YOU hope to accomplish? Do you really think you can just turn an empire around against the socio-economic-political inertia that is driving it? If that's what you intend, then you are attempting something that historical experience says is impossible. Empires do not "reverse course." You are fighting a kind of sociopolitical second law of thermodynamics. The empire will have to fall before things get better. Attempting to "save the empire from itself" is as doomed to failure as the antics of the direct action people.

~ Bob Lallier, Lodi, California

Raimondo's recommendations are wise, I believe. Time now to stay out of the way. The STATE will be looking for any reason to do whatever IT wants to whomever. Let's face it, We've lost this battle. It was a good effort but we are at the end of this period. Let's prepare for the next Act. Assuming that Bush and Team get their way, we must not let it become the default mode of foreign policy.

~ IN Stecky

Shame on you Raimondo! You know this coming Iraq war is immoral and totally unjustified. You've written as much on many occasions. You also know that the mainstream media is strongly biased against the antiwar movement to the extent of giving it minimal coverage. You know that that pathetic little dictator in the White House is being lead around by a cabal of rabid Zionists. You know that the US Congress has totally abrogated its responsibility to stand up to the War Party. YOU ARE WRONG! The antiwar movement is about much more that just narcissistic behavior. Its about trying to prevent the pending slaughter of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians and US service personnel. Its about trying to regain our republic from the clutches of the chickenhawks that currently control it. You have disgraced your position as a journalist with this disgusting and misleading article.

~ Terry Dumke, Westlake, Ohio

Let's see you get some of these "advocates of war, right and left" you speak of into town hall meetings. Do you think they will come given an invitation? And who would they be, pray tell. And what media is it exactly that will "expose them in full view of the American people"?

A charge of cowardice? Pleeze do you think that they give a damn.

The protests in Europe that have stopped trains carrying munitions have had an impact. Do you think that the young woman's death in Israel is of no import?

Talk talk talk, write write write.

You would do better to set up a fund and jobs for people who are willing to take such risks.

~ Marta Russell

I read your columns with great interest even though I have to admit I find myself on the opposite side of many of your arguments. This recent column on the self-centered nature of this anti-Bush/antiwar movement was on the mark. I see and hear so much protesting with very little in the way of real world solutions from the protesters. I think more Americans realize the long road ahead for the country and the people who are serving than we are given credit for.

My question to you is in regards to the statement I hear over and over from the anti crowd that Iraq will be incapable of taking the reigns of their future and establishing a freer society then they have now. My understanding of Iraq is that it has an educated middle class, many in exile, that may be able to lead a rebuilding of the government and financial strength of the area. Also, Iraq has the potential, with the vast oil it possesses, to take a large chunk of the rebuilding effort on and not be fully beholden to outside pressures. A few countries might have to forgive some of the debt (I think that is what all the bitchin' at the UN was about)

Maybe it's wishful thinking. ...

~ Bill Bolander, Millerton, New York

The article written by Justin in which he argues against disruption by antiwar protesters is written from a thoroughly bourgeois perspective. If the American people can't stop Bush and his fascist gang in America then there really isn't any hope as America is undefeatable militarily. True revolutionaries, unlike armchair sofa radicals, firmly believe in a second democratic American revolution. ...

Long live American freedom but it will need to be fought for.

~ Paul Morgan

Justin's excellent assessment of disruptive tactics being used at the start of this war (slaughter) cannot be repeated enough. Already, the antiwar movement is being tarnished with smears of "anti-American" and "traitor".

Smashing windows, trespassing, blocking traffic and leaving work will only make the situation worse, not better for the antiwar movement.

It's better to hold a peaceful rally, candlelight vigil, organizational meeting, prayer gathering or "teach-in" than to show off just how destructive or disruptive one can be. Frankly, the antiwar movement NEEDS all the allies we can muster! By alienating Joe and Jane Ordinary, we will not only bring shame unto ourselves (warmongers should be the ones shameful), but the boot of oppression will surely come down on our necks.

~ Gene Trosper, Wildomar, California, Founder, NonInterventionist.Com

Justin’s recent column, “This isn’t about you” took me by surprise. I guess his in-your-face writing style led me to believe that he’s a “radical,” or extremist. But here he is, slapping down Warren Langley for being extreme!

I’ve known more than a few “direct-action” types and all but one have been self-righteous and masochistic—if not downright suicidal. Each one spews a venomous rhetoric toward the “average joe.” As if through their own special cause they have touched the face of G-d. Frankly, I have never wanted any of them as friends. I agree with Justin that the direct-action types are a repulsive lot.

I also agree that it is in the interests of the war party to encourage radicalism in the antiwar movement. The more audacious and self-destructive are these actions, the less will be popular support for the antiwar movement. Justin is right; people in Kansas will see these “black bloc” actions in SF and fall into line with the Ashcroft crowd. Eventually, we will be living with a repression that is unprecedented, but that our children will think is normal. ...

The “black bloc” may smear making antiwar views out of public consciousness. Who wants to go to a march when every march turns into a great stage for the black bloc to garner attention, cause chaos, disrupt your and my lives, and grandstand at the expense of innocent and law-abiding marchers? Who will voice an antiwar opinion when antiwar becomes synonymous with childish antics and pointless destruction? ...

Nevertheless, I am not satisfied with Justin’s proposed alternatives. Justin proposes a series of town-hall meetings. This strategy sounds as absurd as ineffectual. If the “war party” brushes-off millions of protesters, and the media minimizes the antiwar stance, then no doubt they will barely notice polite debate. They don’t care Justin, and the most intelligent electorate can not break their hold on power.

But you are right; we are in this for the long haul. And your approach is better than the “black bloc.” We do need more debate. We also need to pressure the media, and try to break the hegemony of the news. Frankly a protest at media centers carries more significance than protesting at the Israeli embassy. We want truth, and we are getting it! We also need a firm commitment to remove from office any Congressman who is not reflecting the majority’s will. If the 80,000-200,000 marchers are committed to removing Senator Feinstein, and Representative Pelosi, well, I have a feeling they’ll start listening.

Forget this absurd and antagonist notion of disrupting business as usual. We want peace AND prosperity.

~ L.V., San Francisco, California

Okay, I finally got your point near the tail-end of your column, but on the way there I detected a lack of intuition on your own part. You wonder at the "narcissism" of the antiwar protesters – you dismiss their own pain, which none of this is supposed to be about. As a psychologist I assure you that there is something very real, known as vicarious suffering. It's not very mysterious. When you suffer because others are suffering, that is called compassion. But when it overwhelms you, such that you can't get it out of your mind, and feel compelled to do something to release it, that's vicarious suffering. It's not something reserved for selfish prima donna's, it's quite natural and is a motivating force that could end up creating, as you suggest in your column, more effective strategies.

Many feelings will be hurt by your words today. You could make it right, if it's not beneath you, by apologizing for maligning the character of all those who are sincerely worried about the innocent people of Iraq, not to mention the young US soldiers who have no idea what they've been thrown into ("Let's you and him fight"). THEN, and only then, your important message re: devising smarter strategies, such as televised debates, will actually be noticed.

As it is, your column will only be read through to the end by people who already think as you do – and that's not quite your aim, is it?

~ Teresa Whitehurst

I read just about every article you write and I usually agree wholeheartedly.

I agree with this one as well except I think you're coming down pretty hard with the name calling. We are not all "nut cases" or "narcissists" as you claim. We are beyond upset much like most of the members of the Security Council at the UN. But true, it's not about us. Because there was nothing we could have ever done to stop him, I knew that from day one when I heard him spewing all that "disarm" crap. Anyone who actually believed we could stop the war had to be rather deluded. I was encouraged and supported to see so many who felt the same way and were against him because we need all the support we can get.

They don't need to be smashing stuff and disrupting things because you're right, that will defeat the purpose big time.

So please have a bit of a heart – even though I would never participate in vandalism of any kind, I've marched several times and protested the "inauguration" as well as protesting Vietnam years ago.

Thanks and keep telling us the truth, that's the main thing.

~ Paula Little, Garland, Texas

So, what is everyone expected to do? Kowtow to the demands of the big defense/oil business interests linked to the Bush Administration which will be the benefactors of this insane jingoism? Roll over passively without the public showing their outrage? Emulate Neville Chamberlain in appeasing Bush and his cronies, who want to instigate a Blade Runner-like global corporate feudal system, while simultaneously masquerading as a liberator, aided and abetted by his allies in the corporate media in redirecting and misleading the public's attention?

What if the "direct action" of the Boston Tea Party didn't happen; that was "direct action" without which we might still be under the British Crown, which was then headed by another oppressor named George. What if Rosa Parks shunned direct action, cowed to the letter of the law and gave up her seat on the bus? What if Dr. Martin Luther King had buttoned under, shut his mouth and accepted the horrible state of civil rights in the South as something which couldn't be changed? What if Mahatma Gandhi had felt that his direct action was too "all about me"?

America is currently under attack from within, betrayed by an unelected man and his team of "neo-con" men, traitors who want to obliterate the Bill of Rights and a host of standards that represent the most noble experiments in civilized society that the world has come up with so far. Sometimes it takes drastic measures to oppose such a threat, and if people "suffer" some minor inconveniences as a result, so be it. The progress of civilization doesn't happen in a smooth increments, and it is often initiated by highly motivated people who are prepared to undergo personal loss, imprisonment, even death in order to make the world a better place for future generations. Jesus Christ himself took part in "direct action" – or was that a bit too "it's all about me" for Justin Raimondo?

It is all about us.

~ Nik Green, PeopleToPeople.tv

I'm a regular reader and supporter of Antiwar.com. Justin's article today is SO WRONG and SO LAME, that it appears almost IVORY TOWEResque. 99.9% of Americans are already alienated from the truth of their vain imperial lives. Now he's worried about "alienating" them?

Justin now calls direct action folks "crackpots." Justin now calls for a series of town hall meetings. Wow, that ought to have the fascists quaking in their boots. Town hall meetings really worked well for Nader.

Has Justin been invaded by a body snatcher, where is the REAL Justin?

As a student of History, surely Justin is aware that we are no longer a country that listens to its voters or the will of the people or even our "allies."

The fascist state is clamping down on us WITHOUT direct action having reared it's head, what makes him so sure that the fascists will listen to a town hall meeting?


Understand that folks have been petitioning their representatives for redress of grievances for A LONG TIME, and have been IGNORED, LIED TO, BEATEN, and KILLED, over and over and over and over again!

Folks are now exploring various ways of being heard, including direct action.

So now Justin calls these folks "narcissist" and "spoiled children," maybe they are or maybe they are just now awaking to the fact that they live in a FASCIST POLICE STATE that they don't approve of.

Justin writes: "Nothing is wrong with peaceful and legal protests on the day war breaks out..."

Huh? As they're raining down bombs on women and children, ILLEGALLY IMMORALLY, we're supposed to be all peaceful and legal – sure, right!

What makes you think we have any right to protest anything? In case you haven't noticed our constitution's been shredded, for a while now, that's exactly WHY folks are notching up their tactics, dude!

How dare they endanger your world! ...

Please bring back the REAL Justin.

~ Rob Mahon (still a reader/fan)

I enjoy your column, and usually agree but I have to say: Wrong, wrong, wrong, on this one Justin. You could have a million town hall meetings or a zillion people in the streets in traditional protest mode, and I guarantee the War Party couldn't give a damn, nor will the largely pro-war media pay much attention. Just look at the way they've covered the protests thus far. Unfortunately, we are way past that point.

True, direct action may have the affect of tying up the system. That's exactly the point. Hit him in the pocketbooks, I say. Yes it may piss off a few simple minded ignorant jingoists who only care about their own little bubble, but too bad! Because more importantly, it will wake up and possibly even embolden many a fence-sitter to do something about the war, in their own way. There are many paths and methods and you do the movement no favours by nit-picking along tactical lines. Yes, kids will be kids, and angry kids will do stupid things, (ie: Blac Bloc hooliganism), but surely this is minor footnote compared to the violence about to be unleashed on Iraq. Besides Ashcroft and his ilk need no excuse to crack down on dissent – they're doing it anyway, no matter the tactics. ...

~ Wayne Saunders, Canada

To all the antiwar readers – Justin is right.


* Give the authorities a reason to crack down on dissent under cover of war
* Think this is the end, this is the beginning of the neo-con agenda


* Seek out pro-war people and try to explain what is really going on – you need to get more people on our side! The facts will speak for themselves. Challenge them and their thoughts/information.
* Donate to Antiwar.com. Give up a vice, give to this site!
* Keep writing your senators and representatives and any other relevant public officials. Write weekly (or better yet call). There is more coming down the pipe (aid to Israel, expanded Patriot acts. The drums for Iran and Syria will be beaten after Iraq, maybe right around 2004 elections?).
* Join a civil liberty organization to help protect our free speech.

Never quit! This war sucks but we must keep together and double our efforts.

~ BK

I agree with Justin Raimondo on the entire issue of direct action. I would like to add another suggestion. Vote them out. There is an election coming, eventually. Try and mobilize the antiwar block to vote. Make the voting as crude as possible. The Republicans are in and Labour are in in the UK. Vote them out. Even if you "always" voted Republican or Labour. Vote them out and get as many of your friends to play along as you can. Moreover, let, whoever your local representative is that this is why you are voting.

I admit that this will have more effect in Britain than the US, with the
much larger antiwar feeling inherent here. I personally will be campaigning for a LibDem vote over here next time the ballot boxes are passed around.

Good luck with anything you do try.

~ Eamon Brennan, Chelsea, London, United Kingdom

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Raimondo's dismissal of direct nonviolent action as a tool for social change. The ONLY power the people have is that of boycott and direct action against the empire. The regimes of Britain in India and South Africa were overthrown through direct nonviolent action. Those who wage peace must be as willing to put their bodies on the line as the mercenaries and slave soldiers of the empire.

There are many of us and few of them, and we are the force more powerful.

~ Sue Skinner, Astoria, Oregon

I've just read your whole column or should I say your rant against what some in the antiwar movement call a "call to action". Your suggestion to have a debate, seems to me, to be incredible naive. What planet have you been living on. We haven't had a debate(big or small) leading up to this horrible war – so why would anyone in this government conduct one now?

Our "president" won't even conduct a real press conference. He has never subjected himself to Tony Blair type discussions. But regardless, our leaders – during a war are going to submit to a debate and if they don't, "then they lay themselves open to the charge of cowardice" Oh plah-leaze like they care what any of us in this movement or the citizens think about them or their policies.

I agree with you that we should continue to voice our opposition and I also agree that acting out (or up) will NOT solve anything. But turning your frustration and hostility towards other antiwar activists demoralizes and demeans those who are just as passionate as you about making a stand but differ as to how it should be done.

~ Lana N.

Good article. You make many good points. The strike will only put strikers in a weakened position where perhaps they will be unemployed. This either will make them more reactionary or busy looking for work. Either way it will not help anything. Very good article. And, if they do try jumping into the V.A.F. base it will be a very bad injury to actual peace. There is nothing peaceful about their plans to vandalize. The rest of the movement will need to explain these actions for years. A good read is The Culture of Narcissism by Christopher Lasch. An old book, but most of us are like this now to some extent. Still, narcissism is a type of mental dysfunction or even a deeply hidden depression which surfaces through grandiose actions. Two narcissists with opposing views general will fight when contact is made. Yeah, they will probably make idiots of themselves.

~ Darrell Ulm

...I agree with everything you said in that column, and it needs to be said today. Your next column, however, ought quite properly to be about how wrong you've been in predicting that George W. Bush would resist the chickenhawks in his cabinet.

For many months, you haven't hesitated to make it about you, and to crow about how right you were whenever the war party suffered some sort of setback. Others were predicting that Bush would go to war no matter what, and had had his mind made up even before he took the White House. You seemed to have a bit more faith in him than appears warranted, in retrospect.

It's only fair for you to eat some of that crow, now, as publicly as you proclaimed your powers of prophecy in the first place. George W. is going to war. Look how wrong you can be.

Otherwise, thanks for all your good work.

~ Mark Zepezauer

How We Lost the War to Stop the War

...Very simply, we lost this war for two primary reasons and the baggage associated with those reasons.

1. We have been unable to field a leader of national prominence not compromised by other failures. Kennedy? Too drunk and asleep. Byrd? Too old and lacking the energy to lead since he is so burned out running his pork barrel enterprises.

2. We have run a campaign based on lies and innuendo and we as a movement do not have the strength to admit to it. Our arrogant sense of self-righteousness has cost us the support of Joe Public, which was crucial in stopping this madness. ...

Let's examine the roll of pundits who sought to feed on this crisis as if it were no more than chum and all one had to do was write lies and innuendo to assure their place at the table.

Remember the article on misled casualty figures from the war in Afghanistan? The author suggested that the Pentagon might have been engaging in deceit by publishing figures that may not be true. I would ask if her story has ever been corroborated? If it has not, has she ever repented or retracted? Again we lack the moral strength to do what is right to insure our focus. Like sheep we bought what this author had to sell because it paralleled our cause.

Remember the Jenin massacre? The antiwar camp screamed there were casualties by the hundreds, no, thousands. The truth? Just as the IDF predicted – and again we lack the moral strength to distance ourselves from the yellow journalism that was to figure so prominently in our demise. Obscure web sites and blogs seemed to be places where truth was a commodity of little value.

Israeli culpability in 911. So incredulous as to defy imagination. I would again ask for corroboration and again I would find none. These allegations are so absurd I can’t believe anyone would stake their journalistic reputation on them. Worse yet, they tried to link them to my movement. ...

American Imperialism. Does anyone remember Gulf War 1? Was Kuwait made the 51st state and I did I miss it? Please don’t argue that the Arabian royals are the products of US government edicts. Their resources are still theirs and still sell on the open market at bid price. The only outside influence on price is OPEC, and if given the opportunity the antiwar pundits will say OPEC is made up of Texas oilmen with no Arab membership. ...

Oil! No war for oil! No blood for oil! Would someone stop and do the math? This war is about a lot of things, but oil? No way Jose. All of Iraq’s reserves pumped dry would never come close to recouping the damage this war will bring. The ramifications will last for decades long after hydrogen power and fuel cells arrive. To suggest that a profit be made by this war is not a course taught at Wharton. This I would bet on. ...

I would ask all who are against this war to reflect on their individual behavior as well. Did the constant barrage of Bush bashing serve any real purpose? One author described Bush as “despicable.” I would ask, how does she know? I do not agree with his policy as well, but I’m sure his convictions are as dear to him as mine are to me. Witness the retreat of the human shields from Baghdad, were they truly steeped in the depth of their convictions? I think not and again this tactic only detracted from our focus. A good bet to place, Bush will not retreat from his conviction. ...

I have no illusions that many will take me to task for what I say. Some will be sincere and many will argue the company line that has failed us so disastrously. My intent it not to make enemies or engage in endless debates, but rather to suggest there is a better way. A way of dialogues born in grass roots and nurtured with truth, open to debate regardless of political leaning. I know many readers will say the same holds true for the pro-war side, they are deserving of much criticism given their tactics as well. I would answer by reminding the reader that I have no interest in abetting their cause. Let’s heal the divisions and regroup to fight again.

~ DB


Something interesting occurred to me. It is a known fact that books don't have to sell that many copies in order to become bestsellers, since not that many people actually read them. For instance, it is possible for a book that sells only 30,000 copies (a relatively small number, if you think about it) to make it to the New York Times bestseller list. Nonetheless, political discourse is shaped in part by what political books make these lists. After all, it's those authors that get reviewed and invited for interviews on teevee, and it's those reviews that are read and those interviews that are watched by many people who won't ever read the books.

Surely the antiwar movement has more than 30,000 members. Surely Antiwar.com alone has more than 30,000 readers. So, perhaps a massive book-buying campaign is in order. Let's send whatever antiwar books we can think of (or whatever ones this site's editors can recommend) solidly to the top of the mainstream charts. There are plenty, by Scott Ritter, Chris Hedges, Norman Solomon, and doubtless many more. Let's write the publishers of those books letters of thanks for their willingness to publish them, thus encouraging them to publish more. Let's show that it's not just the latest half-witted Coulter screed that can get national attention.

~ Steven Small

Regarding "Tony Blair: An Appreciation" by Sean Gabb:

Great article! While I take a different view of whether or not this war is necessary, you are right on target about hitching your national wagon to an unruly horse. There is a saying that one should never go into business with someone who has nothing to lose. Many of us in the US have felt that way about the UN for years. I am glad to see that you in Britain are sensing the folly of the EU. All organization whether League of Nations or NATO have lifespans dependent upon their mutual usefulness. I would love to see as many US forces as possible removed from foreign countries. People who don't have to defend themselves just don't get it.

~ Ric Curtis, Glendale, Arizona

Rubbish. Could Britain have called on Peru for major assistance in World War II? The USA, Canada, and Australia are Britain's best friends. Tony Blair has admirers and supporters worldwide. Time will support his wisdom.

Gabb's gab needs to be shorn like an overpuffed sheep.

~ Donald Crowhurst, Canada

Ruse and Deception

Note: The following is the second half of IM Fletcher's letter posted March 14. Mr. Fletcher has complained that dividing the letter into two parts weakens its impact. Readers are encouraged to read the first installment of this exchange.

Regarding Sam Koritz's reply to Jamie T.'s letter, posted in the March 11 Backtalk:

...Sam, the man is just saying that he is willing to fight for your right to protest. We have had to fight throughout our history to keep this country free, whether you agree with war or not. Jamie T never says anywhere in his statement the words "un-American" in which you accuse him of. If you read Jamie T's letter again you will see that he is only encouraging you to listen to the citizens of Iraq, explaining that we could have taken control of the oil fields the first time we were there and a little respect for him willing to put his life on the line in the US military. ...

Jamie T never says that his participation in Desert Storm helped preserve our way of life. Jamie clearly states that he is willing to go tomorrow and put his life on hold to preserve the US way of life, he doesn't state any particular war, he only states "he is willing to go tomorrow."

Maybe if you wouldn't continue to use ruse and deception to further your points, you would find more people like myself willing to make your Backtalk forum interesting with healthy debates offering different opinions from your own.

~ IM Fletcher

Sam Koritz replies:

I didn't accuse Jamie T. of using the words "un-American," I accused him of expressing un-American opinions. And I explained what I meant by the term "un-American." There's nothing deceptive about it.

Jamie T. wrote that he's a Desert Storm veteran who could get activated to fight in Iraq again. If this happens, he wrote, he will put his "life on hold to preserve our way of life in the USA," including our right to protest. As I replied to him, and as I believe, Desert Storm didn't preserve liberty in America (just the opposite), and Gulf War II is also unlikely to do so. There's nothing deceptive about that either.

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