Letters to the Editor

(April 26, 2004)


Regarding Joel Wendland's Bush Is The Stick-up Man For The Ruling Class

To the Editor:

This is an excellent article that captures perfectly the outrageous, even by the standards of Ronald Reagan, policies of enriching the military industrial complex and the well-to-do generally of the Bush administration. The real unemployed are as unreal to Bush as the phoney "weapons" of mass destruction were "real" in his administration's propaganda.

Norman Markowitz
New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA - April 12, 2004


Regarding Edward Herman's We Had To Destroy [Fill in Country Name] In Order To Save It

To the Editor:

I congratulate prof. Ed Herman on excellent summary of the US foreign policy. Unfortunately for us and for the World there is no difference between the two parties. More than half of the eligible voters don't vote because the U.S. is not a democracy but a plutocracy.

Voya F. Ognyanov, M.D.
Tucson, Arizona, USA - April 12, 2004


Regarding Gilles d'Aymery's Hearts, Minds, And The Military in Iraq

To the Editor:

I would like the words to the little poem that Sen. Byrd gave on the floor of the Senate this past week. It ended with 600.

Thank You

Billy C. Herring
Pensacola, Florida, USA - April 12, 2004

[Ed. See The Charge of the Light Brigade, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson]

To the Editor:

A lot of opinion but no facts backed by any evidence, if you want to write at least give us your qualifications and some evidence of what your [sic] saying has fact behind it, like have you been to these countries you write about and what is your experience in the subjects you write about?

Jerry Mitchell
St. Petersburg, Florida, USA - April 12, 2004

[Ed. Always glad to contribute to someone's quality of life...]

Regarding Philip Greenspan's Who Will It Be: Coke, Pepsi Or 7-Up?

To the Editor:

I am writing with regard to a statement in Philip Greenspan's article "Who Will It Be: Coke, Pepsi Or 7-Up?" to the effect that Mobutu was overthrown by his own people. This is patently not the case.

In fact, Mobutu was overthrown by a combined force of Congolese resistance fighters and the Rwanda and Ugandan armies, ironically, arguably with some degree of support from the US government, both diplomatic and materiel.

The subsequent massacres and ongoing bloodshed overseen by the DRC military ostensibly led by Rwandan army officers, and the extent to which institutions were taken over by Rwandan officials, with the blight of neo-liberalism and piratisation imposed could easily be seen as a blueprint for the US invasion of Iraq.

What is particularly sickening about this whole affair is that the world was horrified by 800,000 Rwandans murdered in a planned and orchestrated genocide, and still debates the extent to which it was 'ignored' by western governments who were largely complicit in it, but is largely unaware of 3,500,000 murdered in Zaire/DRC.

Anyway, great work, I've found the articles you publish extremely enlightening, and look forward to each edition.

Tom Dossett
Sydney, Australia - April 19, 2004

Philip Greenspan responds:

Mr. Dosset is absolutely right. I thank him for correcting and enlightening me.

I apologize to him and the other readers of the article for carelessly including Mobutu among the list of some of the dictators who were overthrown by people power.

[Ed. We regret the fact checking error.]

Regarding Gilles d'Aymery's & Jan Baughman's Ralph Nader: If Not Now, When?

To the Editor:

I am writing a letter to the editor for my local paper about the demonizing of Ralph Nader by the Democrats. I would like to use an argument from your editorial "Ralph Nader: If Not Now, When?", specifically, the figure of 250,000 registered democrats that voted for Bush. However, I cannot find the primary source for this figure. Could you tell me where you found this number, and point me to the website of the source if possible?

Nancy Staus
Corvallis, Oregon, USA - April 20, 2004

[Ed. Please check votenader.com, at


You will find: QUOTE And they did. They voted for Bush, including more than 250,000 self-identified Democrats in Florida. UNQUOTE]

Regarding Manuel García's Which Holocaust Matters?

To the Editor:

The subject of historical bias in the reporting of genocide has been treated at length in two essays by Ward Churchill, both of which are available at www.zmag.org. The first of the essays was also included in his book A Little Matter of Genocide. I strongly encourage Mr. García to read these. These are scholarly works, written with great passion .

Beginning an essay dealing with mass murder with a bunch of "interesting" statistics, and incomprehensible ones at that, is idiotic. What purpose does this serve? David McGowen, in his book Understanding the F-Word lists the millions of military and civilian deaths for WWII, but provides them in an Appendix. It makes sense to do so.

The subject of the so-called "Holocaust" does matter, greatly, as Mr. García asserts. However, I find his treatment of this subject oddly repellent. As an example, he uses a euphemism, namely, "processing rate" in comparing Nazi and US genocide. It's not in a context that deals with specific methods used to murder people, nor is it stated with a sense of irony. He follows this up with the brisk little comment "a sad achievement, to be sure." This is not understatement, it's simply crude.

Next, lets talk about syntax and semantics. I urge Mr. García to read George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language." While he's at it, he might try "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses" by Mark Twain, for a laugh.

Omit or revise the following words or phrases in the text:

k/yr (its an essay, not a science project)
this new overt knowledge
quench repetition
informing a societal decision
a large sea of a hostile culture
outer teeming world
shrill pissing matches

Forgive me, but if he's a phreaking physicist, he shouldn't be writing like a high school senior (in fact, when I first read this piece, I decided to contact him to encourage his early efforts in writing polemical essays!)

In closing, I will commend Mr. García for one very potent insight. The American Native cultures were almost entirely exterminated, and continue to be suppressed to this day. If only two-thirds of these native communities survived the American Holocaust (as European Jews survived their Holocaust), and were they permitted to manage much of their remaining lands, they would likely be one of the wealthiest and influential minorities on the planet.

I hope that Mr. García expressed these opinions with his co-workers and the management while working at Livermore Labs. Merely a whiff of this kind of liberal paradigm can get you hassled on the job, even for privileged academic types. If he spoke up and got some legal counseling to protect his job, then he did a good thing.


Randy Raider
Walla Walla, Washington, USA - April 18, 2004

To the Editor:

Allow me to address Mr. García directly.

I read your bio... You are so demonstrably brilliant: a Princeton educated nuclear physicist. What could possible sound more intelligent and educated? Yet your conclusions are ignorant and poorly thought out. It must be great to have impressive credentials, then you get to publish anything and people will read it (and believe it) regardless of how little merit it has.

In your physics you understand the value of a controlled experiment and for the necessity of respecting Aristotle's law of identity by having the variables you are measuring refer to the same things in different contexts.

Tell me this honestly:

If you had a choice, in one direction there were slavers (taking slaves), in another there were European colonists and in the third direction was the SS (taking Jews), which way would you run? Who [would] you rather be: a slave, a Native American or be in the camps?

While you are right that all death and murder is terrible and mass murder is so much worse. But, duh, who didn't know that? What is your point? To be wise, to be moral, to make intelligent statements about these extraordinarily important issues, a person has to think deeply and understand that truth is complicated are hard to understand. You entirely miss the nuances and important implications of these 3 terrible marks on the history of mankind and therefore fail to find the important lessons to be learned.

You act as if you are being scientific and objective when you are not. You act as if you have great moral high ground by condemning all holocausts...but in reality you are really diminishing the magnitude of the Holocaust and thereby practicing a subtle form of holocaust denial...I suspect you do so to serve your political agenda that is anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic:

"For example: 'lebensraum' in Palestine is just as evil as it was in Poland."

"Fortress Israel plowing its metal wall across Palestine to swallow it up. This is the subtext to arguments over which Holocaust is more important." Wrong, ignorant and biased. What the Germans did to the Jews in Poland has no resemblance to the West Bank. Even if there were no Jews considered, the way the Germans treated the Poles is vastly worse than the West Bank. Your supposition that the Jews are looking for lebensraum is anti-Semitic. It is grossly offensive and cruelly insensitive to compare the Israelis to the Nazis. Further you show your bias about the wall being constructed when you act as if it is the wall around the Warsaw ghetto and ignore the suicide bombers and valid security issues. You show no balance and no compassion for the Jews. Even if you disagree with the wall, the way you express it shows your animus.

You single out Israel to be criticized and ignore the approximately 60,000,000 who have been murdered by others since WWII.

You attack Israel's policies and forget Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Rwanda, Ethiopia/Somalia and Biafra.

So instead of actually opposing the Holocaust you are attempting to aid those who wish to commit another Holocaust in Israel. You talk of the West Bank yet you ignore all of the Arab atrocities in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Sudan etc. You ignore the 330,000 Palestinians driven out of Kuwait and the 100,000 killed in Lebanon. You condemn Israel but say nothing of the suicide bombers. You ignore the legitimate security needs of the Jews and of the Israelis. Haven't you learned anything from history?

I realize from reading your article how much you missed about the history of the Middle East, the Holocaust, slavery and the history of Native Americans. I can't correct it all but here are a few examples of your erroneous fact and fallacious reasoning:

Here is what you missed:

Your projections of population growth and your techniques for comparing atrocities are fallacious. By your reasoning, if one person was murdered 4000 years ago, it would be worse than killing everyone in the world and vastly worse than the holocaust (2.23x10 to the 51st is greater than 6 million). I don't believe this but it is your logic and your type of overly simplistic projection using a 3% growth rate. If you are going to talk about 400 years, you have to talk about 400 years in all 3 cases!

If you want to compare long historical relationships between cultures, compare apples to apples, Jews to gentiles, Blacks to whites, Native Americans to Europeans.

You minimize the atrocities against the Jews:

You cannot look at 12 years, you have to look at 1,700 years of oppression of the Jews. (FYI, The vast majority of Jews died in about a year and a half, not 12 years and the percentage of Jews murdered was vastly higher. Approximately 95% of European Jews were murdered.)

You forgot to include:

400 years of slavery by the Egyptians

Slavery by the Babylonians (Babylonian captivity)

Genocide by the Assyrians (in which 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel were wiped off the face of the earth)

Genocide by the Romans in which approximately 1 million Jews were killed

Roman slavery

The atrocities of the Crusades

The Spanish [and other] inquisitions

And all of the other pogroms and murders for millennia.

You are entirely insensitive to this history and act as if it never occurred.

You ignore all Muslim oppression of Jews for 1,400 years.

Even though terrible, you exaggerate the suffering of other groups:

The vast majority of Native American's died from European diseases ~95%. The vast majority died before they ever saw a white man...the microorganisms traveled faster and killed much more effectively than humans could. Therefore if 4 million Native Americans died in what became the U.S., then about 200,000 to 250,000 were lost to other causes. Of these how many died from economic dislocation, how many were lost by intermarriage or assimilation in one way or another? What is left of these losses is only a tiny fraction that were actually murdered. The real numbers are vastly less than 6,000,000.

Intermarriage is not the same as murder. When you look at the current Native American population you must factor in their contribution to the so called white communities. I am part Indian though white. My housekeeper is part Indian though black and my gardener is part Indian though Hispanic.

You also failed to consider is that the American Indians were more or less at the carrying capacity of the land. Any ability to reproduce beyond their numbers would have been impossible without European technology. In looking at the vast sweep of relationships between peoples you should not only look at the negative aspects of the interaction.

Slavery though terrible was not an act of extermination. Slavery was the way of life for all of humanity since prehistoric times. What was unusual about slavery in the Americas was not its existence but its abolition. Though this does not excuse it, it is important to understand it and its role in society. Some slave owners capriciously murdered their slaves but if this was the rule, the slave owners would soon have been driven into bankruptcy and the institution would have died out long before it did. You also forget that the Jews during most of this period were little more than slaves in Europe.

On the very day Columbus sailed to the new world the ports of Spain and Portugal were flooded with Jews fleeing the Inquisition with its murders and expulsions. While there was a large Jewish community in Spain at that time (the major Jewish community in the world) the population went to zero before St. Augustine was settled and remains that way to this day. The Jews who fled were stripped of their possession, banned from the New World by the Spanish and driven to Eastern Europe where most of them were put to death by the Nazis.

There were approximately 500,000 slaves brought to the U.S. They have grown to 35,000,000. Of the 6,000,000 who were taken to the camps they are almost all dead....forever and their descendents will never live. I suspect there will never be 35,000,000 Jews and it is much more likely that the Jews of the world will become assimilated and the Jews of Israel will eventually be exterminated. Native Americans are not threatened with extermination nor are American or African blacks. But the depth of the hatred in the world against the Jews is deep and real especially in the Muslim world. You ignore the very real risk to the Jews and their ongoing persecution.

Jewish law says, a person who saves one life is "as if he saved a whole world." I agree with this sentiment that is echoed in Christianity and Islam. However, I have to question the motives of one who minimizes the suffering and culpability of one group, the Jew, while exaggerating the suffering of other groups and minimizing their crimes.

There is much to be learned from these events, but you have not learned compassion. It is an undeniable fact that when it comes to persecution the Jews have the unenviable distinction of being the most oppressed people in history. Rather than look at it and help to put an end to that persecution, you tell half truths to help further their persecution.

Don't lecture Jews about how they are oppressing others. Lecture others about how they are oppressing Jews. You are of Hispanic background; your people are not without sin. Not only did they perpetrate the Inquisition, the Spanish and Portuguese were the primary slavers and brutal Conquistadors. You should not cast the first stone, nor the billionth stone. You should be lecturing the world on behalf of the Jews in repentance for what your people and your ancestors did to the slaves, the Native Americans and to my ancestors. So that what has been done to my people, what is being done to my people and what will be done to my people, will some day stop.

Tell me what you advocate that the world should do to protect the Jews they have persecuted so long.

Jay Rosen
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, USA - April 14, 2004
Manuel García responds:

I guess it's pretty obvious which Holocaust matters most to Mr. Rosen. He perfectly illustrates the point of my article, that partisans of a particular Holocaust will demolish the "importance" of any other "competing" Holocaust in the promotion of their cause. Also, he conflates "Jews" with "Israel," which is a tactic to draw upon religious identity (Jewishness) to further very particular political aims (those of the right wing in Israel). As has been pointed out by others (Chomsky, a Jew who writes, though not everyone thinks of him as a "Jewish writer"), one could correct the crimes of the Nazi-driven Jewish Holocaust by giving the Jews the state of Bavaria as a homeland -- there is no requirement that Europeans and Americans facilitate the removal of Palestinians from Palestine for that purpose (though it seemed convenient). Alternatively, the United States could just absorb all the Israelis (since we pay for their Palestinian wars anyway). Then the holy sites in Jerusalem (and Bethlehem, etc.) could be looked after by religious groups (e.g., Christians at the Church of the Nativity), and UNESCO teams of world culture experts, and supported by tourism, which would undoubtedly become the major source of income to a secular, sleepy backwater Palestinian state with little other activity. Wouldn't that be nice for a change?

I do not doubt that without any international restraints, and given the power (arms) to do so, that either the Muslim Palestinians or the Israeli Jews would annihilate each other, especially after the last 37 years of pitiless occupation. Jewishness is not an antidote to humanness, and humans of every stripe are capable of genocide. The beginning of prevention is the recognition of this capability within your own thoughts, and their social aggregations in the actions and intentions of societies of like-minded individuals. This last point is one I learned from C. G. Jung ("The Undiscovered Self"), in his description of treating victims of European fascism. I am confident that my article shows I have a clear bias against ANY Holocaust, and my writing is aimed at prevention (I hope at least this comes across in my writing).

To Mr. Rosen's specific charge, basically that I am "stupid" because I do not see things his way, well, this is a given, even my 4-year-old can see I'm "stupid" when I cross her, and tells me so, thus it must be true.

As to my choice of Holocausts: American Indian, Black Slavery and WWII European Jew, these were selected because my focus was on those which are considered as most prominent in American history and to present American consciousness. Why should Americans care about the European Jewish Holocaust in comparison to the Native and Slavery Holocausts? If the Jewish Holocaust is seen as "more important" because it was more recent and of massive and rapid fatality -- though it occurred outside America -- then by the same logic the 1994 Rwandan Genocide should be of supreme importance to Americans because it's 1 million (or more) victims were Black Africans, people who are racial kin of about 30 million Americans, who are also Black. Yet Rwanda is off the American radar-screen. Perhaps if it were only a short F-16 sortie distance from the Arabian and Iraqi oil fields, and it had a lavishly endowed and politically active "Rwandan Anti-Defamation League" in the U.S., this would be different.

As to learning from history. This is more complicated, as it depends on which versions of "history" one reads and how much analysis and fact-checking one can do. On issues of Israel and Palestine, I have found Chomsky most instructive, for example The Fateful Triangle. I recall the many stories I absorbed about Israeli life, and the Israeli Army around the time of the 1967 war and up to about 1973, from a friend and fellow graduate student at Princeton University who was a veteran and officer. I also learn from the writings of authors who have appeared on SWANS (see the Special Issue on Iraq), and from other personal testimonials in e-mail discussion groups (see further below). Also, I find the reporting of Robert Fisk and John Pilger exceptional as regards untangling truth in the Middle East. My favorite professors in college and graduate school included a number of American Jews, and my feelings of fondness and gratitude to them continue to this moment. I grew up in New York City, and lived in a very rich cultural milieu heavily enriched by Jewish presence. I had a Jewish girlfriend for a while. I've been to Jewish homes for family dinners, and been to Jewish weddings. I am not anti-Jew.

I was inclined to be anti-Arab in my youth, because of my own cultural identification with Spanish and Catholic culture and religion. This prejudice faded as I learned more about history. My studies of American Indian history led me into trouble in grade school, when I came across Helen Jackson's classic work, Century of Dishonor (published in the 19th century), and subsequent descriptions of Indian Wars, from the Seminole Indian Wars (where Andrew Jackson invaded foreign territory to kill Indians, and hung foreigners as well -- quite a terrorist operator). My junior-high book reports along these lines were not politically popular during the pre-Tet period of the Vietnam War. When I finally read about the Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce, and Wounded Knee (all before Dee Brown's 1969 book) I was overwhelmed, and had to leave off such topics. I had gotten a special talking-to when I questioned the truthfulness and validity of the American Pledge of Allegiance. It was better to read about race cars and see John Wayne movies (like "The Alamo," about brave American slave owners fighting for their right to continue as such in the foreign country of Mexico, which had made slavery illegal).

Yes, I have learned something from history. It is that genocide requires its practitioners to be both rabid and ignorant, and above all self-righteous. How does Israel "protect" itself from "suicide bombers? Tough question, probably much tougher that protecting yourself from a guided missile strike on your occupied home by an Israeli F-16 fighter-bomber. The people who die in the air-strike -- like toddlers and school children -- probably deserve to die as "the right people" have made this choice for "a greater good," while the suicide bomber is stupidly directed and selects undeserving innocent victims. It really doesn't require all that much intellectual honesty to see through this fictitious conundrum.

I enclose a response I wrote recently (CERJ Listserv, 7 April 2004), about a gentleman, a Mr. Weissman, who left a discussion group because he did not like the criticism voiced in it of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians (he objected to Israel being labeled "fascist"). Some of his criticisms were valid, but, it seemed to me, he left because it was too personally painful for him to resolve a conflict between his sense of justice and his allegiance to identifying with the State of Israel (his views are Israeli left). My response is about this conflict, and its source in world events, I do not criticize the individual.

Date: Wed, 07 Apr 2004 20:23:02 -0400
To: CERJ --at-- igc.org
From: CERJ --at-- igc.org
Subject: Re: A Political Zionist Leaves the List
Cc: Mark Weissman <markweissman -- at-- verizon.net>

On Wednesday, April 7, 2004, CERJer and scientist Manuel Garcia <garcia22 --at-- llnl.gov> wrote:

Mr. Weissman is torn between his moral scruples and his religious identity. As a Jew he is drawn to identify with Israel, which defines itself as a Jewish state (rather than a secular state with a Jewish majority -- at the moment). This state has the overwhelming power to take Palestine, and to control every aspect of Palestinian life, which it is doing even though this is an immoral thing to do. The one aspect of Palestinian life not in Israeli control are the thoughts, feelings and aspirations of the Palestinian people. Palestinian terrorism is the frustration of aspirations of lives that know they have been cancelled out in advance.

The reason some commentators are led to label Israel fascist is that they draw parallels to the land-clearing depopulation intentions of earlier states: Germany in the Ukraine and Poland in the 1940s, Serbia in Bosnia in the 1990's. One could add the USA in the 1870s to 1890s, Spain and Portugal during the 1500s and into the 1700s (and even beyond). To many it is clear that the Sharon Government represents that portion of Israeli sentiment in favor of clearing Palestine. Because of this intentional similarity to historical fascists, this label has been applied to Israel. I agree this is inflammatory. Is it inaccurate? That is probably the point of the labelers, to point discussion to that question.

The operations of the Nazis was "genocide" in part because it was so rapid, and the removals were fatal. They applied means of depopulation that were as massive and fast as modern industry would allow. The Rwandan genocide of 10 years ago also earned its characterization as "genocide" because of the scale, speed and fatality, though the technology was simple (and cruel). The land-clearings of Native Americans occurred over longer periods, and employed a variety of methods: armed force, disease (biological warfare), cultural destruction (missionaries, Christianity), assimilation, migration, internal deportation (reservations), neglect, probably others. The variety of Native American genocides up and down the American continents thus had a slower pace and a lower degree of immediate fatality. They rise to genocidal status because of the magnitude of the accumulated effect (a total reduction of probably over 50 million over 400 years, populations in 1900 -- the nadir -- being about 10% of those in 1500, up to past 30% today).

To many, myself included, it appears that Israel today is trying to implement an "Indian Removal" of Palestinians in as "humane" a way as possible. This is quite contradictory. The intention is for the Palestinians to disappear, and the sooner the better, for those who wish "Canaan" to be joined into "Greater Israel." Well, the immediate option, which Israel is physically capable of, is the Nazi way. This wouldn't do. So something slower, like the Yankee way with the Sioux, is being applied. The specifics of the plan are to expand the settlement walls so in time they merge into each other and the Separation Wall, and then tighten the confinement of Palestinians in their cantons (or reservations) until these are finally pushed out, and fall away like a dried scab over a healed wound. Can this be done gradually enough to avoid tripping the "genocide" label thresholds for fatality magnitude, removal magnitude and removal speed? Can this be done as quickly as possible to remain under such thresholds? Knowing exactly what those thresholds are improves the accuracy of the policy calculations by the Israeli government.

Some commentators who perceive this process struggle to find ways to present the situation in a way readers can visualize, and so appeal to history by splashing on the "fascist" label, perhaps too quickly or with insufficient justification.

What is indisputable is that Israel has all the power. ANY change must come by a change in Israeli actions. Since Israeli is an economic captive of the United States, the Israeli action can only be seen as a policy, or policy extension, of the United States. When you are totally in control, you are responsible for what happens. The right thing to do is for Israel and the United States to create a Palestinian State by an immediate pull-out of troops and all settlements. So far, the intention is otherwise, and with clear historical parallels. It is just an inconvenient fact for all victors -- many vanquished people do not want to die quietly and compliantly. If you are doomed, and totally overpowered, then you have nothing to lose except pride by staying put, and dying fighting.

They did it at Masada.


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Published April 12, 2004
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