Letters to the Editor

(April 10, 2006)


[Ed. As a reminder to Letter writers: If you want your letters to be published, you must include your first and last names and your city and state of residence. Thank you.]

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Another way IS Possible: Vigil for Peace and the End of the Iraq War

[ed. This worthy letter should have been published in the March 27, 2006 edition. We messed up. Our apologies to Mrs. Quintiliano for the mishap.]

Dear Gilles and the crew at Swans,

I just returned from a vigil marking the third anniversary of our tragic decision to invade Iraq, and I'd thought I'd send you this account of the experience. You'll see that I'm not used to writing for publication, so I'm not at all offended if you do not use it.
Real-time Reflections on a Peace Vigil

It was going to be one of those weekends when the bathrooms would get what I call "a lick and a promise." (I'm showing my age with that one.) Just scour the sinks and the toilets and put out clean towels. The bathtubs keep their rings. The floors keep their fallen hairs. It's not something I'm particularly proud of, but then I've never been much of a housekeeper. I laugh at myself worrying about the state of my bathrooms. Three years after the mayhem and massacres unleashed by our war of liberation, what's the state of Iraq?

My excuse this week for rushing through my chores is my need to be finished in time to go stand with others in front of the county Court House located at the corner of High and Market Streets in the heart of West Chester, PA. From 5:00 to 6:00 pm we'll hold a silent vigil urging our government -- yet again -- to end to the war. However, I still have an article on Google Scholar to complete for our library's online newsletter. My sons do homework and connect with their buddies. I review dinner instructions with my husband. Around 4:00 pm I put a heavy sweater on over my long-sleeve top before donning my coat, and I find a pair of warm socks and a wool scarf. Tomorrow may be the first day of spring, but March doesn't show any signs yet of going out like a lamb.

I'm the first to arrive in front of the Court House and have to laugh at my new-found virtue of punctuality. To keep my blood circulating and my body's warmth from dissipating I take a walk around the block. Upon returning, I see at least a dozen persons greeting one another in front of the statue of the Civil War soldier holding "Old Glory." For the next hour we're going to demonstrate that dissent is not an act of disloyalty to the flag but rather proof of the liberties it stands for. As the corner becomes crowded with more participants, we're urged to fan out and occupy the sidewalk in both directions and across the street as well. I stand at the east-most point holding a sign that says "Wage Peace," a favorite motto of the American Friends Service Committee. I've officially been a Friend for a week now.

The vigil isn't very silent. Someone has a guitar and I can catch bits of "Give Peace a Chance" and other sixties protest songs whenever the wind blows from that direction. As I chat with companions, our conversation is occasionally drowned out by exuberant honks from the cars passing through the intersection. The reaction to our presence is overwhelmingly positive. Only one sullen driver urges us to get the f*** out of there. "If only all these people would write letters to their senators, congressmen and to the president, maybe there would actually be some change," I remark to the companion on my right, a member of our Friends monthly meeting and a great-grandmother. She has an unwavering, irresistible cheerfulness that almost jumps out at you.

A reporter from a local newspaper approaches us and really makes my evening by estimating that the vigil has at least one hundred participants. She asks my companion and me why we are there and what sort of outcome we're hoping for. Not very good at giving statements, I manage nevertheless to pronounce one grammatically correct sentence: "I hope our leaders will learn that a military solution is often not a solution at all." Well, no one will ever accuse me of being profound.

At 6:00 pm we come together again on the corner, hold hands and sing "We Shall Overcome." I head toward the parking lot a few blocks away, the words of a companion echoing in my head: Hope we're not doing this again here next year.

Barbara Quintiliano
Malvern, PA, USA - March 19, 2006


Conclusion of the conversation between Jacob Amir and Gilles d'Aymery on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

[ed. in response to Gilles d'Aymery's e-mail of May 26, 2006 and the March 13 e-mail by Mrs. Miriam Adams.]
Hi Gilles,

I hope both you and your pickup are well and running...

I think we have clearly stated our respective positions and I doubt we can add much. I would only like to react to Ms. Miriam Adams, who wrote that, "There is little time spent on discussing the WHYs of Arab/Palestinian resentment of Zionists (not Jews, per se) until the 1930s..."

She, being a librarian, can easily find information as to what happened to the Jewish community in Hebron in 1929. That community has been there for more than 600 years. On August 24, 1929 the Arabs started attacking the Jewish homes murdering 60 Jews, including women and children, some of them after torture. They were killed only because they were Jews, as they were anti-Zionists ultra-Orthodox Jews.

To answer the other points made by Mrs. Adams would make me repeat myself, and I doubt it would be of any benefit.

By the way, I am an OLE (singular of OLIM). I was born in Bulgaria and came here in 1949.

All the best,

Jerusalem, March 29, 2006

Dear Jacob,

Many thanks for your response. The pickup truck is running again (it was the battery) and the dial tone of our phone line is back, though it took four days to get it fixed.

Mrs. Adams, being a librarian, is fully aware of the tragic massacre in Hebron. It reminds me of another tragic massacre, that of Deir Yassin. Isn't today its 58th anniversary? How many Palestinians were killed? 254? 100? What did Begin say about that event? ("Arabs throughout the country, induced to believe wild tales of 'Irgun butchery', were seized with limitless panic and started to flee for their lives. This mass flight soon developed into a maddened, uncontrollable stampede." Source: The Revolt, p. 164). Then, there was Kibya, and then, and then, and then....all the way to deadly attacks on Jewish civilian population and Jenin in 2002....and it keeps going and going and going and going like the rabbit of fame.

Is this what humans are about -- finding who started first?

Is this what you are about?

With due respect and not one iota of ill-feeling, your tit-for-tat litany brings to mind the kid in the block who, being admonished by his dad that his aggressive behavior was uncalled for, retorts, "But dad, he started first."

I don't care which side started first. I am tired of the respective narratives.

Palestinians need their own country and sovereignty. You do have your own country and sovereignty. Make the darn thing happen.

You see, Jacob, your, and Israelis' deepest predicament, is not only that your society is slowly disintegrating over this issue, but that you have been losing the minds and hearts of people like me, people who were and remain in large numbers, not only emotionally attached to the existence of Israel, but genuinely embracing the Jewish culture of knowledge, culture, compassion, and truth-seekingness.

I am inconsequential and non-existent in the big picture, of course. States have no friends and will go as far their power allows. I know: I live in the USA. Still, I will keep advocating for your humanness, which should and must include that of the Palestinians.

Please, Jacob, once again, I am saying loud and clear: get out of the OT (the West Bank and Gaza). Do not delay. Do not play the tit-for-tat game. Do not try to hold to as much as you can. Get out. It is not "your" land. We belong to the land. We do not own the land.

Or, maybe, you want to join the US Christian fundamentalists or the Avigdor Lieberman cohorts... (sorry, this is a cheap shot, but I am desperate...)

I do not want Armageddon. I do not want to see the U.S. nuke Iran and you guys be blamed for it (the "Jewish Lobby," and, in turn, allow you to keep at it, treating Palestinians worse than you would treat your dog, mine, or me, and gobble more land.)

Finally, I wish you had not avoided most of the questions I asked from you. Perhaps that was necessary on your part to avoid jumping on me and questioning my, to put it mildly, sincerity.

But once again, I shall ask:

I have sent you the PDF file of Michael Neumann's book, The Case Against Israel. I have repeatedly asked you whether you had read it. I have offered you to write your own take on Neumann's elegant (intellectually speaking) offering. You have ignored my requests and proddings. Can you get on with it?

I have asked you to enter into a discussion about the nature of being a "Jew" in an ethnic, cultural, meaning. You have ignored my request.

Dismissal of one's serious questioning does not make a reality be.

The reality, again, is simple. Accept Palestinians and do not loose those of us who are striving for life. There are more dire challenges we all need to face. You are an M.D., after all. Do you treat a sick child differently depending on where (s)he is from?

Thank you again for addressing me as best as you can.

With very best regards.

Yours sincerely,

Boonville - April 1, 2006
Hi again, Gilles:

I did not bring the Hebron massacre to Mrs. Adams's attention to show "who started first." You apparently missed the point. She wrote that Arabs in Palestine attacked Zionists and not Jews as such. I pointed out that those murdered in Hebron were anti-Zionists and lost their lives only because they were Jews.

You ask how many people died in Deir Yassin, 254? 100? I will refer you to a paper by a team of researchers from Bir Zeit University, a Palestinian University, concerning the history of Deir Yassin and the details of the battle. The researchers interviewed numerous former residents of the town and reached conclusions concerning the actual number of people killed in the battle. They write "we became absolutely convinced that the number of those killed does not exceed 120." (Sharif Kanani and Nihad Zitawi, Deir Yassin, Monograph No.4, Destroyed Palestinian Villages Documentation Project -- Bir Zeit: Documentation Center of Bir Zeit University, 1987.)

I will also remind you that there was a fierce house to house battle in Deir Yassin. And not only Begin thought that exaggerating the casualties brought panic in the Arab community. Here is what Hazem Nusseibeh, an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service's Arabic news in 1948, admitted in a BBC television program that he was told by Hussein Khalidi, a prominent Palestinian Arab leader, to fabricate claims of atrocities at Deir Yassin in order to encourage Arab regimes to invade the expected Jewish state. Nusseibeh described an encounter at the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem's Old City with Deir Yassin survivors and Palestinian leaders, including Hussein Khalidi... "I asked Dr. Khalidi how we should cover the story," recalled Nusseibeh. "He said, 'We must make the most of this.' So we wrote a press release stating that at Deir Yassin children were murdered, pregnant women were raped. All sorts of atrocities." Nusseibeh told the BBC that the fabricated atrocity stories about Deir Yassin were: "...our biggest mistake, because Palestinians fled in terror and left the country in huge numbers after hearing the atrocity claims."

In fact Khalidi was one of the originators of the "massacre" allegation in 1948. It was Khalidi's claims about Jewish atrocities in Deir Yassin that were the basis for an article in the New York Times by its correspondent, Dana Schmidt (on April 12, 1948), claiming a massacre took place. The Times article has been widely reprinted and cited as "proof" of the massacre throughout the past 58 years.

Just like there was no massacre in Jenin, there was no massacre in Deir Yassin.

As I wrote before, I acknowledge that we made mistakes. Plenty of them. One can easily understand those mistakes if one knows the history. Gradually, but surely, more and more of us accept that, and are trying to correct those mistakes. And I disagree with Avigdor Lieberman, just like I disagree with the US Christian fundamentalists. More and more of us understand that a viable Palestinian state is a must. This means that we must withdraw from most of the West Bank. You write that Israel has to get out of Gaza and the West Bank. We already got out of Gaza. It will be much more difficult from the West Bank, but if Kadima forms the next government, it has already stated that it will withdraw from large parts of the West Bank.

I am very sorry to lose the hearts and minds of people like you. But, we are not angels but human beings with all the deficiencies human beings have. It took almost 38 years to get out of Gaza. I hope it will take much less in the West Bank.

I apparently misunderstood. I thought that I would relate to Michael Neumann's book at the discussion you were arranging between us. I read the book some time ago. I will send you my reaction to it (I did not find it as "intellectually elegant" as you did) in a couple of days.

I will be more than willing to discuss with you the question of "who is a Jew." You wrote that this is a different story and requires a separate discussion. I am ready at any time.

You ask if I would treat a sick child differently depending on where (s)he is from? For your information, thousands of Palestinian patients have been, and are being, treated in Israeli hospitals. At the Wolfson Hospital in Hulon, hundreds of Palestinian children from the West Bank and Gaza, with congenital heart defects have undergone life-saving surgery (free of charge).


Jerusalem, April 2, 2006

Hi Jacob,

Thank you for your e-mail. I must first apologize for the tone and some of the content of my last communication. I'm afraid I let my emotions take the bigger part of myself, thus personalizing the issue, which I should not have done. Please excuse me.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict for myriad reasons and perceptions -- the confluence of religion, nationalism, ideology, power and economic interests ("the Grand Chessboard"), etc. -- has always brought raw passions to the fore. So, not surprisingly, I've been embroiled in various side conversations in the past couple of months, some rather heated and to say the least quite unpleasant. Hard to keep a modicum of sanity in such circumstances...

Anyway, your understanding in regard to Michael Neumann's book is correct. I did try to have a discussion among the three of us. Michael felt that he would not bring anything new that he had not already said or written about, and I chose to carry on with you alone. Thanks for your perspective on his book, which you just sent me. As said, I will publish it on April 10, and let the chips fall where they may.

I see your point regarding the massacre of anti-Zionist Jews in Hebron (cf. Mrs. Adams), and I am not going to engage you on whether or not Deir Yassin was a massacre. Remember Humpty Dumpty?
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."
Who knows, perhaps without masters and servants there would be no massacres. But, no, I did not really ask how many people were killed in Deir Yassin. The point I was trying to make is that it serves no positive purpose to keep throwing the rights and wrongs of the respective parties to the conflict, which party started first, or the degree of suffering of each party (victimology?). Whatever the merits of such exercise, it does not solve the conflict, but keeps adding to the recriminations and grievances.

It's time to close down this exchange, at least for now. I'd like to summarize my stand:

- Israel exists and is a secure country. It is a sovereign nation. It is recognized by the entire world (whether happily or not makes no difference).
- Palestinians have yet to have a sovereign nation and they are utterly insecure due to an almost 40-year Israeli occupation and settlement of their land.
- Israel cannot exist from the sea to the Jordan River without either accepting a binational state or forcefully expelling the Palestinians from the West Bank.
- An overwhelming majority of Jewish Israelis opposes a binational state (the demographic "problem," and, I easily concede, downright unpractical in light of the Zionist project and the bloody circumstances).
- Though Israel has the military power to expel the Palestinians, this is not a viable solution (morally, internationally -- and, here again, anyone should realize that had Israel wanted to do it, it could have done it a long time ago.)

So, we are left with only one positive solution: Israel must leave the Occupied Territories, let their neighbors have their own *viable* nation-state, hope that hatred will abate with peace (as it always does), and focus its attention and creativity on its internal development and on contributing to the much larger predicaments that the world confronts.

Finally, on the withdrawal of the OT, whether unilaterally of through negotiations (I'd rather see the latter happen but have no quandary with the former), you say, *most* of the West Bank. What's the extent of *most*? Is it 50 percent, 75 percent, 96 percent? Are you (Israel) going to keep the Jordan Valley, etc.?

But for the big settlement blocks around Jerusalem, which the Palestinians have long conceded that Israel can/should keep, in exchange for the same amount of land from Israel proper (within the Green line), keeping more land (and resources, like water) will be a recipe for further disaster. Peace has a price, however exorbitant it may look to you. Palestinians need a *viable* state with a safe corridor between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Nothing else will do -- at least, I am convinced of that.

You say Israel made "mistakes." Then, please, be responsible for them. Do not gobble more land. Give the Palestinians, whatever their own "mistakes," the chance to be whole -- that is, have a nation of their own, sovereign and independent.

Regarding the difficulty of removing the Jewish settlers from the Occupied Territories I am reminded of the Pieds Noirs in Algeria. In 1962, France was able to get the entire French population -- over one million of them -- repatriated in a matter of weeks. It was not a friendly situation either. The huge majority lost everything. Remember the OAS (Organisation Armée Secrète) and the civil war-like in France at the time? I was a kid, but clearly recall the mayhem... Jewish settlers in the West Bank have the choice to either stay and accept the laws of the Palestinian state, or reintegrate Israeli society within Israel proper. I can imagine violent uprisings on their part, nothing that cannot be handled by the Israeli state.

It is up to you and your fellow Israelis to close this sorry chapter of human history.

Jacob, thank you very much for having interacted with me and stayed away from the customary nasty accusations that are so prevalent in any debate related to this human predicament. I've tried my best too. A few readers have wondered why I would bother to engage in a discussion with someone who did not share my views. My answer is two-tiered, one rhetorical, the other more objective: Who should I engage with? Only the people who agree with me....or those who do not? There is no way to find out whether the differences can be bridged without engaging the people one disagrees with -- an exercise (and attitude) that both the Israeli government and the Hamas should heed.

I'd like to take a couple of months off before entering into a new discussion about the nature and raison d'être of the Jewish people (I need to "recharge my battery"). But this is a discussion I am looking forward to.

I would like to extend to you the courtesy of having the final word. Please try to come back ASAP, for I'd like to reconcile the entire exchange within one file that will become part of both Conversations at Swans Café and Israel-Palestine archives. And talking about Swans, allow me to be opportunistic here: Please consider supporting my work financially.


Boonville - April 5, 2006
Hi Gilles,

I enjoyed our exchange and I did not mind an occasional "change of tone" due to inflamed passions...

I agree with your assessment as to what has to be done. However, this is a difficult task and may take time to complete.

Contrary to the Pieds Noirs in Algeria, many of the settlers feel that this country was promised to them by God and giving it up is a crime against the Jewish people and blasphemy. Some of them are outright zealots and will not hesitate to use extreme violence either to stop any evacuation or to punish those who they think are responsible for it. France, being a much bigger country, was able to solve the problem faster. The evacuation of Gaza gives me some hope that it could be repeated in the West Bank.

As we live in a democratic country all we can do is try to convince as many Israelis as possible that the two states solution is the only way out. This means that they will have to accept the Green Line, with some modifications and land swaps, as the permanent Israeli border. I hope very much that this is going to be the outcome and I hope it happens as soon as possible.

If it does not happen, my country will pay a heavy price, which is going to affect all of us. I remember Yehoshafat Harkabi, an army general and then an academic, who said: "I accept the democratic right of the Jews in Israel to commit national suicide and, if that happens, I will be with them. But it is my duty, and the duty of others with similar views, to warn them against such a course."

I hope the election results show that we are not going to commit national suicide.

Again, I enjoyed this discussion.


Jerusalem, April 6, 2006

[ed. And this concludes the conversation. Hopefully, readers will have gained some insights from it, at least those readers who are not entrenched in the demonization of one "side" or the other.]


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Objecting to Dr. Erimtan's letter regarding Gilles d'Aymery's Slobodan Milosevic, 1941-2006: A Cursed, Blasted Statesman
To the Editor:

Dear Gilles, I can only express my concern at our liberal editor's printing of Dr. Can Erimtan's letter concerning Jugoslavia and Mr. Milosevic. I would not have done so. Allow me to reply.

In October 1991, I enraged my MEP by demonstrating outside an EEC Exhibition caravan on behalf of Jugoslavia, and trying to get my local British Labour Party to take some action.

I told them if protests didn't start there would be the most horrific massacres and atrocities if the fighting spread to a place called Bosnia-Hercegovina (B-H). They looked at me as if I had two heads.

All this could be predicted. B-H was the place the massacres took place in WWII and it was clear it would start again with the same participants taking part. B-H was A PART OF the Ustasa's collaborationist Free State of Croatia. And claimed by Tujman. It was here Alija Izbegovic's former outfits, the Handschar and Kamar SS divisions, carried out these massacres. A most enlightening book is Tito by Fitzroy MacClean, the former British Liaison officer to Tito's H.Q., complete with maps.

Alas, all this came to pass with over three years of fighting. It was not going to be the victims that did this but the former perpetrators, as Serbs, Orthodox Christians, and Muslims still committed to the multicultural Jugoslavia resisted or had to be cleared out of the way to create the Croatian or Islamic states.

The next month there was an equally enlightening documentary on British Channel 4 on "The Ratlines." This was the smuggling out of the Ustasa and other Eastern European fascists and SS divisions by a part of US Intelligence -- it was Allan Dulles's pet scheme -- whilst being opposed by another part, the uniformed Counter Intelligence Corps, who had Rome staked out. Then the news was brought to its commander they had been smuggled out.

It was also explained about "Intermarium," the scheme between the wars with British connivance for the Vatican to take political power in Eastern Europe. This is the origin of the Ustasa and the Vatican's involvement with the Croatia and Slovenia projects in the 1990s. It was said why have there been no other documentaries. You can also get a tape in the U.S. On "The Ratlines"

Look at the map and compare it to the one in MacClean's book of Hitler's Jugoslavia and the states he divided it into. It's the same bloody map!

There is the famous film-noir shot in New York and the New York railways in the forties on the subject, the one where they run across the bridges in the huge windows of Grand Central Station and across the roof. A young FBI officer, returned from being a CIC officer in Europe, sees the Nazis he was trying to arrest in Europe on a train going into New York, in business suits. To his amazement they get out and go down into the subway to Wall Street. This is about "The Ratlines."

I recall that the EEC acted as the good cop of the good cop-bad cop and good guy-bad guy routine. Lord Carrington, the EEC's negotiator, having obtained a cease-fire, disappeared for three months. He then reappeared in B-H. and at three meetings got their politicians to agree that B-H would be a confederation -- it would be divided in three, and that it would be independent. As a Muslim politician was later to say, "It was very flattering negotiating with Lord Carrington, but we are fighting for concepts he invented."

As a general had said earlier, "Lord Carrington's mediation is entirely fraudulent."

Lord Carrington was to disingenuously explain that the EEC Council of Ministers rejected the agreements he had made on their behalf and supposedly as their representative.

It is hardly surprising Mr. Milosevic should have accepted all of this as this is what had been agreed with Lord Carrington, that there would be a "mini Jugoslavia," that Croatia and Slovenia could secede from Jugoslavia, but the areas who didn't want to could secede from Croatia, and B-H would be divided in three.

Meanwhile the Americans wrote a new constitution for B-H which gave power to Izbegovic's Democratic Action and effectively his faction within it. Many pro-Jugoslav Muslim politicians objected as did Muslim parties but were attacked by Izbegovic's supporters.

But the most important thing that must be emphasised was a Black Op. and Covert Operation organised by Washington on a massive scale and very much a return to the classic para-military Covert Ops. of the early 1980s and using the assets and their descendants brought out in 1945. It was always possible that the policy of a neutral communist Jugoslavia would revert to the extreme hostility before 1948, and this is what happened. The target was Jugoslavia's system of self-managed enterprises and thus its socialist system. Jugoslavia was going to be the model for Eastern Europe and it really got up the noses of these people when the Jugoslav government began to move away from the Free Market in the winter of 1989-90 and so the Jugoslavia Democracy Act was hurriedly passed in February 1990, "de-recognising" the Jugoslav government and giving a vast amount of money to dubious organisations. As was said every far right group not heard of for forty years reappeared.

But there was another twist, the decision to employ Islamic fundamentalist para-military groups, recruited amongst other places, in the U.S. You can imagine what the reaction would have been if this had come out at the trial had the Milosovic defence proceeded.

R. A. Roper
Sheffield, U.K. - April 3, 2006


What does sodium benzoate do? Jan Baughman's Government-Sanctioned Food Poisoning
Dear Editor:

This is an interesting article indeed and it does not surprise me too much.

While it is clear that benzene is carcinogenic, I cannot quite understand what sodium benzoate does. It is basically benzene?

Perhaps Jan could clarify this.

Kind regards,

Brian Emmis
Northwood, Middlesex, England - March 28, 2006

Jan Baughman responds:

Sodium benzoate is not benzene. Sodium benzoate is a salt, and is not classified as a carcinogen. It is frequently used in foods and drinks as a preservative.

When sodium benzoate is combined with ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) they form benzene. Benzene is classified as a carcinogen, and has been used since its discovery as aftershave, an industrial solvent, and an anti-knock additive in gasoline -- none of which we should be drinking...

Thank you for reading Swans.


Is Freedom Worth Pursuing? Julian Edney's Who Stole the Common Good?
Dear Editor:

In his article "Who Stole the Common Good?" Julian Edney misrepresents the philosophy of Ayn Rand and fails to live up to the standard of intellectual honesty. Whether or not Mr. Edney actually read the novels and philosophic essays of Ayn Rand is unclear; what is obvious is his failure to understand them and present them accurately. I urge all interested readers to read the works of Ayn Rand and judge for themselves.

Ayn Rand championed the human faculty of reason and an ethics of individualism. She held that every individual has the moral right to his own life, which includes the right to freedom and the right to keep the product of his efforts. Rand showed that there is never any moral justification to coercively take the wealth of one man and give it to another -- as Rand observed, "The man who produces while others dispose of his product is a slave."

Since only individuals benefit from values, the only meaningful sense of a term like the "common good" is when something is good for everyone. If that were the way the term was used, nobody, including Ayn Rand, would object. But the "common good" is often used as an injunction for the sacrifice of some people for the benefit of others. Ayn Rand was the first philosopher in history to identify this kind of sacrifice as the essential nature of the moral code of altruism and the first to show why such a code is evil under the standard of human life.

We should all be grateful to Ayn Rand for giving us a philosophy that defends the sanctity of the individual against all those who would do him harm. We should all be wary of someone like Mr. Edney who lambasts a defender of personal freedom as some kind of tyrant. What does it say about the concept of the "common good" when its only obstacle, as Mr. Edney implies, is freedom?

Noah Stahl
Ames, IA, USA - March 27, 2006


Is Altruism Worth Pursuing? Julian Edney's Who Stole the Common Good?
To the Editor:

It is typical that Julian Edney's article "Who Stole the Common Good?", with its subtitle "The Shadow of Ayn Rand," does not include a single quotation from Ayn Rand to support the author's misinterpretations of her ideas. To do so would risk exposing what a warped mischaracterization of Rand's revolutionary thought his article puts forth.

At least Edney names several of Ayn Rand's most significant works (though it is not Capitalism, but Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal). To see whether Ayn Rand really says what Edney claims, one needs to read at least three or four of her books to get enough understanding of the uniqueness of her philosophy in history to understand why her opponents are obliged to sidestep or distort her own words and their full context. It isn't just the "common good" that Ayn Rand rejects; it is the entire millennia-old morality of altruism which Julian Edney clings to, with all the philosophic errors underlying it. (A recommended reading list can be found at the Web site of the Ayn Rand Institute at aynrand.org.)

When it comes to Ayn Rand, nobody should believe anything anyone says about her -- yes, including me, and least of all Julian Edney -- until one has read her works and can judge for one's self who is right, Ayn Rand or her enemies.

Phillip Schearer
Devon, PA, USA - March 27, 2006


American Catholics out of sync with Rome: George Beres's US Supreme Court And Catholic Church Dogma
To the Editor:

A point worth noting in regard to George Beres's article is that American Catholics are totally out of sync with Catholics worldwide and, sooner or later, Rome is going to rein them in. Don't forget that John Paul II vigorously opposed the Iraq war, even pointed receiving Iraq's Catholic foreign minister just before the invasion, but the same ultra-conservative American Catholics who now claim him as their own (when he's conveniently not there to contradict them!) didn't follow him. Rome has already fired a warning shot on creationism/ID, repeating the Church's rejection of them and defence of Darwinian evolution, just in case any American Catholics are tempted to go in that direction. Moreover, the Catholic Church in the U.S. is increasingly Latino and there is a slow but steady passing of power from the old Euro-ethnic (Irish, Italian, Polish...) "mafia" to Latinos. The split with the religious right is already shaping up over immigration policy and more will surely follow. Rome cannot indefinitely tolerate an American church which has reduced Catholic morality to "protect them while they're unborn, do anything you like to them once they're born." With an American Latino (Levada) as head of the "inquisition," my guess is that Rome, in its classic slow and downbeat way, will re-assert its authority over American Catholics.

Michael Kenny
Luxembourg - March 28, 2006


Louis Proyect's bio
Dear Sir:

May I ask you a small favor? On your site I found a little curriculum vitae about Louis Proyect, one of your contributors and a well-known film and book reviewer and list-owner. But I couldn't find out his year of birth. Can you please be so kind as to provide it? Many thanks in advance

Wolfgang Lubitz
Senior Librarian and Trotsky Bibliographer
Berlin, Germany - March 28, 2006

[ed. Louis Proyect was born in January 1945.]


Supporting the troops even when not supporting the cause: School Assignment

I am a senior at Souhegan High School in Amherst, New Hampshire. I am doing a senior project on the topic of improving soldiers' lives while at war. I need to do an applied piece and I was wondering if it would be possible for me to write an article for your website? It would be about soldiers' experiences at war and supporting them even if one does not support the cause.


Caroline Eriss
Amherst, New Hampshire, USA - April 6, 2006

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Wedge Political Issues Successful in Conquering and Dividing Political Parties
To the Editor:

It seems obvious that issues such as "immigration" and "abortion" and like issues are capable of manipulation and can be used as tools to successfully divide and conquer or maintain control by one party or group against another party. In regards to immigration, I believe that the Republican strategists are using the "immigration" issues to successfully conquer and divide poor people and perhaps to even cause division and to refocus attention on immigration to take attention away from other issues like improper political influence and corruption.

I think some Republican strategists might theorize that poor people will feel hatred and anger toward Mexican immigrants who might be working for less money under the table and maybe play upon the publics fears and anxieties over the transference of jobs and the economic worries of people and maybe even throw in some racial tension.

Illegal immigrants do work for lower wages than people who are legally here. People are looking for ways to save money. Immigration laws already on the books are not being enforced. What is the remedy?

Some in Congress think we should pass more laws even though the current laws are not being enforced. Others think that we just need to enforce the current laws already on the books. The administration wants to grant some form of amnesty and some method for people to become legal or to have "temporary" work visas. "Temporary" is a matter of interpretation. Some big corporations (Microsoft and others) are happy to hire foreign college graduates who can obtain a special work visa and pay them a fraction of the cost of an American citizen who has a college degree.

According to some estimates, there is an influx of illegal immigrants from Mexico into the country of about 500,000 per year. I theorize that since the Mexican government is such a failure and a more immediate threat to our security than Iraq that we should invade and take over Mexico. It is a beautiful country. Less than 1% of the population controls 99% of the wealth. The government is a failure. There are human rights abuses and for humanitarian, democracy, and security reasons we, the United States should invade Mexico and take over. It could be declared the 52nd state -- "Old Mexico" or we could designate it as a "territory."

The Mexican government has failed its people and our two countries are on a collision path. Immigration laws with Mexico are unenforced. Wage and salary laws don't exist in Mexico so poor Mexicans are coming to the United States. Big corporations don't want wage and salary laws in Mexico. Wealthy people don't want poor people to be paid equitable to Americans.

Poor people living in Mexico who are fleeing the corrupt system of Mexico which fails to protect poor people. People in the United States don't want to deal with the problems of Mexico but are forced to anyway. The Mexican system of government and the failure of Mexico to treat its people right is the real problem.

Poor American people blaming poor Mexican immigrants is exactly what some "Republican" strategist wants.

Abortion is another wedge issue capable of manipulation for political ends.

Glen R. Graham
Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA - March 28, 2006


Announcement for 2007: Anniversary of the Political Lie -- Eliot Weinberger's "What I Heard About Iraq."
Dear Editor:

The appeal and the readings for the anniversary of the political lie on March 20, 2006 were crowned with success. Eliot Weinberger"s text "What I Heard about Iraq" (the German translation is from Eike Schönfeld in Lettre International, Nr. 68 and -- and has been recently published in Lettre International, Nr 72.) was read out in 50 cities such as Sydney, Kalkutta, Durban, Athens, Prague, Berlin, Zurich, Amsterdam, Luxemburg, Rome, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and in Hawaii. The initiator Ulrich Schreiber of the Peter-Weiss-Stiftung for arts and politics, which is based in Berlin, invites you to participate in the up-coming anniversary of the political lie on the 20th of March 2007. Scientific, artistic and political contributions are possible.

Please contact <info AT peter-weiss-stiftung.com> or visit literaturfestival.com.

Berlin, Germany - March 27, 2006


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Published April 10, 2006
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