Backtalk

From the May/June 2007 issue.

Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank's study of the Iraq War's impact on terrorism, "The Iraq Effect," was picked up by media worldwide, ranging from CNN to India's Tribune to the front page of London's Independent.

On the blog Hullabaloo, Tristero wrote, "What's astounding is that this study is, apparently, the first public attempt to quantify by how much terrorism has increased since Bush opened the gates of Hell.... What's also astounding is that this study appeared not in the Times, not in the Post, not in Foreign Affairs, not in The Economist, but in...Mother Jones. Good for Mother Jones, of course, but WTF??? That's a little like opening up Popular Science and finding out that they've published the first paper by Einstein on relativity because no one else would dare to." On opendemocracy.net, Sidney Blumenthal wrote that the theory "that the U.S. presence in Iraq cannot possibly be an inspiration for terrorism is simply not shared at the highest levels of the senior military, including commanders on the ground in Iraq. I have learned that they are privately reading, circulating, and in agreement with [The Iraq Effect]."


Iraq's Other 50 Percent
I am disappointed that in your "Iraq 101" package there was no coverage of sexual violence against women in the American and Kurdish militaries, and only scant mention of that against Iraqi women and children, when human rights groups note that such abuse is on the rise. Why is it that human rights groups are the only ones consistently noting the sexual crimes committed against women? I find it appalling that a magazine run by mostly female editors either never considered or chose not to include any substantial information about such an important matter of violence in Iraq.
nicole-marie despain
Portland, Oregon

Happiness, With a Side of Applesauce
I am the creator of the Pork Chop Theory, which corroborates—much more briefly—Bill McKibben's "Reversal of Fortune." My theory exposits the basis of capitalism: I'm supposed to want a pork chop today, two pork chops tomorrow, four the next day, eight the next day, and so on. Of course, if I have no pork chops, I would most definitely want one. And I might want two tomorrow. But if I ate eight or sixteen pork chops per day, I'd be put away, quite rightly. McKibben gets to the heart of the matter. As the Greeks put it, "Nothing too much."
joanne forman
Taos, New Mexico

No Choice on Taxes
Troy Newman may have been less than honest in dealing with women ringing him at his new offices ("Born-Again Abortion Clinics," by Josh Harkinson), but happily he can no longer be economical with the truth on tax-free dollars. Last September 11, the Internal Revenue Service withdrew Operation Rescue's 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. While the IRS never lets on specifically why it takes such action, it might have had something to do with the group's blatantly illegal politicking against the pro-choice Catholic candidate John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election.Conservative Catholic organizations like Operation Rescue often seem to think they exist on a higher plane, usually above the tax law. But they should adhere to the same laws that the rest of us follow, which just happen to be secular ones.
jon o'brien
President, Catholics for a Free Choice
Washington, D.C.

Questioning Gay Assumptions
Although I appreciated Cameron Scott's "The Gay Marriage Stimulus Package," what about the fiscal liabilities once you consider Social Security? Wouldn't recognizing those additional marriages put additional strain on the already underfunded Social Security system? And you assume that in same-sex couples, both work and would move up the economic ladder. How about those who might marry the unemployed or quit to raise dependents?
nancy mendez
Silver Spring, Maryland

Mocking Maria
I don't know much about Ave Maria University ("Hail Mary," by Bill Donahue), but have heard it is generally regarded as among the more authentically Catholic colleges. Donahue is clearly able to turn a decent sentence and, as is so popular in journalism these days, say what he really wishes to say without ever actually saying it (or find other people to say it for him). However, it might have saved some ink if he had written just one line: "I think Ave Maria is stupid, backwards, and silly."
seth murray
McMinnville, Oregon

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