Kurds, Kirkuk, Chaos
What did anyone expect? Of course there would be mayhem once the regime was gone (“The Race, and the Riots”). But, have faith – RummyCo. and friends will have that under control within days. Humanitarian relief, better medical care, food and water, power and water restored, and rioting and looting stopped with help from the Iraqi police. Yes – there will be cooperation because the cause is good and the people of Iraq look forward to the days ahead. Of course, it will never be good enough for the progressive crowd.

Perhaps you should just admit the outcome was for the better good and stop whining already.

Robert Henning
Orlando, Florida

The American media has done a very good job of confusing some people about the reason for the war if an Iraqi doctor isn’t 100% sure. Of course it’s the oil. Most of us (I hope) already are aware of the 30-year foreign policy plan for America to take over the Middle East for oil. The group surrounding Bush has been pushing that plan even when Clinton was president.

Jean Jearman
Richmond, Virginia

The Way Forward
The only way is best described with the phrase “change the leadership.” But the big question remains: HOW (“What Next, Antiwarriors?”)?

Democrats are too fearful of being branded “unpatriotic.” Sorry to tell you but as far as I can see, the majority of the media is on the side of the neoconservatives. How will you be able to change this fact? The only hope remaining is that the economy will really go South, even much more than right now.

Klaus D. Wiesensee
La Paz, Mexico

We need to focus and start working on getting rid of Bush and his administration in the next election. He is already working on his re-election. We the people need to get our ducks in a row.

Mary Hirsch
Kalamazoo, MI

Antiwarriors need to broaden their dissent from the Iraqi war to the broader neoconservative policy machine at work inside America. Their needs to be a comprehensive campaign to inform the public about the history, connections, and intentions of this coalition of the Willies, from Richard Scaife and Ted Olsen, to Perle and Wolfowitz, to Cheney and Rumsfeld. Liberals need to essentially ignore the President’s role in all of this and respect his office and instead focus on the real operators in the current economic and foreign policy momentum moving the country. Iraq needs to illustrate a point, not be THE point. The war in Iraq was the fruit of neoconservative labors, not the tree nor the roots. Until this is understood and liberals formulate a coherent strategy to counter the neocons, they will just look like unpatriotic hippies. It’s time to step up the protest from the war to the policies and individuals that created it.

Jordan Carswell
Houston, Texas

Backtalk | Week of April 13 – April 19

Cooking the Intel Books
Wow, you at Mother Jones could not be more wrong (“The Misinformers”).

World War I lasted four years! World War II lasted six years! The Korean war lasted three years! The Vietnam war arguably lasted 10 years! The first Gulf War lasted six- to-12 months before all was said and done! Oh, but I guess three weeks is just too long for those at Mother Jones. Lord, how did we ever make it through this nightmarishly long conflict?

The Iraqi people will, in the end, be better off than they have been for the past 30 years. I recommend that you look at American history when full military force is used to topple evil regimes in the world and how well those countries fare after the war is over. In 1945 Japan could barely be classified as a modern nation. They were mainly made up of “backyard factories” and had little manufacturing. The quality of life was horribly slanted toward the wealthy and the poor suffered. After the war was over, American enterprise and the American government ensured the rebuilding of the Japanese homeland. We, the United States, went into Japan to help rebuild factories, roads, schools, hospitals. Japan is today considered a major player in the world economy. The quality of life in Japan is second to none and their education system is one of the best in the world. You can see similar situations in Germany.

Now none of those processes happened overnight, and neither will the situation in Iraq. It will take time. Nations are not built in a single day or even a year. We will continue to hear about pockets of resistance and rebellions going on for at least a year. However, in the foreseeable future you will notice the quality of life in Iraq, for the Iraqi people go through the roof. Schools will be rebuilt, hospitals will be repaired, universities will be reopened and life will go on better than most people can remember.

Lucas Mentzer

Thank you for an intelligent, in-depth analysis of the profound dishonesty and deceit that lies at the very heart of this administration’s plans and actions. I am thoroughly sickened when I read about polls that show how many people think Iraq had something to do with the 9/11 attacks, and to what extent these so-called neohawks (isn’t it really neo-Nazis?) have played this misconception out to justify a war of conquest and payback. Despite numerous investigations and stories which have called into question the real relationship between the US and Saddam Hussein, these stories are almost always absent from the mass market media. I shouldn’t be surprised really, but I guess that I always hoped that, in the end, truth would prevail. With each passing day, that somehow seems less likely and the American public is being taken for a ride into an uncertain future, not unlike the citizens of Germany in the 30’s with promises of a new century of power, peace, and prosperity. As these neo-whatevers now look to Syria and Iran for furthering endless war, I am at this moment grateful for the alternative media channels such as Mother Jones to try and keep the truth alive. I am also saddened to call myself an American at this very low point in our history.

Greg Cummings
Austin, Texas

Robert Dreyfuss has it exactly right. What he did not touch on, however, are the two great truths that our Founding Fathers knew all too well: that a nation’s best defense is an educated citizenry, and that the greatest threat to liberty is an apathetic public. The American public is as close as it should get to a Hitleresque capture of all public power by a small clique that will lie, cheat, and steal to get its way. We need a regime change, all right, here in America.

Robert David Steele
Oakton, Virginia

The Grand Illusion
By inventing lingo the Pentagon propagandizes a “new” way to truth and reality (“Embedded in Washington”). Embedding is a new appellation to make us think we know what’s going on when we really don’t. And unfortunately can’t.

Elias Vernikos
Orlando, Florida

Backtalk | Week of April 6 – April 12

Democracy and Dissent
Anti-war protesters who alienate these moderate and non-hardcore protesters will ruin the movement faster than the extreme right-wingers could ever dream of (“Is This What Democracy Looks Like?”). The elderly, the families with small children, the never-been active protesters have to be encouraged to come out and take active part so the media will show how mainstream the movement is, thus allowing greater media coverage and greater incentive for other anti-war people to come outside and join the protests.

Linda M
Roanoke, Virginia

I’m ashamed that as an editor from Mother Jones you would propose that there is a pragmatic, monochrome way to drive home one’s point to end the war. It reeks scarily of the hegemonic condition that plagues the US. You clearly don’t understand the tactics of the various schools of thought outside of your own, so you’ve decided to make yours the model for all us “liberals” to follow, while attacking the “radicals” as if they’re misguided. We’re all chipping away at the Man, so stop promoting the catty infighting. Write a positive piece on how much the future of the US “machine” will be forever changed by these various paradigms interacting.

Jersey City, New Jersey

I’m sad about the lack of self-awareness among the more narcissistic protestors, who are acting as though the most important thing is to be seen and heard shouting that George Bush is a dangerous, arrogant dork (he is). It essentially creates another permanent divide — anti- vs. pro-war — that mirrors our failed way of acting in the world, by claiming many friends (including the lukewarm) and ostracizing our chosen enemies.

Creative peacemaking will come from creative people, not from conflict-dependent people who need an adrenaline jolt of rhetorical or real aggression to get through the day, or the war.

Peace is as peace does.

Eileen O’Brien
Baltimore, Maryland

Peace implies an openness to “the other” that puts supposed adversaries on the same side working together to end injustice.

My peace movement is no better served by the radical, non-peaceful participants than democracy or justice or decency or love or pick-whatever-high-order-abstraction-you-wish is served by the radical, non-peaceful, non-just, non-decent, non-loving participants exemplified by our current administration, those fundamentalist capitalists at Enron, or the war profiteers in the various heavy industries of my nation, or the “Me first, me only” political lobbyists — that sort of radical.

Steve Kohn
New Rochelle, New York

As a police officer in the Washington, D.C. area I really appreciated the fair shake you gave the officers of the SFPD. Many officers support causes for which people protest, but cannot take part because of the violence and disorder associated with them. Officers have to exercise extreme restraint during these events. It is very difficult at times to stand on a barricade and take verbal abuse and obvious tauntings from people who would probably appreciate this enlightened “pig”‘s view on civil rights. As was pointed out in the article, being called a fascist gets old quick, especially when you’re a libertarian. What is sadder still is the belief that only if you get the cops to swing a baton or throw gas will the point be made.

I wish more people remembered the impact of the peaceful and dignified protests of Dr. King. If you want to make an impact with your message, you want to have a protest to which a parent can bring their children. What a civics lesson that would be! To me that is what democracy looks like.

M. Zifcak
Montgomery County, Maryland

What protest did Clara Jeffery see? The one on TV?

The protests were very nearly completely peaceful, and the San Francisco Police Department has issued statements to that effect. I understand two police officers were injured during that first week of the war. That’s horrible, but violence did not come from the average marcher. There are “anarchists,” apparently, that happen to agree with the majority of San Franciscans, and a (very) few of the more violent ones chose to attend the protests along with the veterans and school teachers and artists and union laborers.

I can’t see how Clara Jeffery could possibly have come to the conclusion that the protest was unruly or unsavory had she attended the march the Saturday following American dropping of bombs. It was absolutely beautiful, totally peaceful, and we even wore respectable clothing.

Matt Stroebl
San Francisco, California

One of the most heartening things about peace rallies around the world — including here, in Melbourne, Australia — is the extraordinary diversity of the people marching. Grandmas, little kids, full-time activists, people in suits, whoever, all coming together to say “We don’t need to kill to save lives.” Melbourne’s “Make love not war” rally on Valentine’s Day this year attracted about 200,000 people in a city of 3 million — it took an hour for the back of the crowd to start moving and even the police weren’t talking down the numbers for a change. Everyone was there and that’s what made it so powerful.

I have a huge amount of respect for people who organise and turn up to different rallies or actions every week — having done it for a few years I know how tiring it is, and I often feel bad for not doing more — but if we really do want to stop the war we have to ensure the Mums and Dads of the world that it’s not only safe to bring their little kids to rallies, but that it’s vital they turn up along with all the usual suspects (and I include myself in that!). After all, democracy looks like all of us.

Liz Minchin
Melbourne, Australia

A Legacy of Betrayal
You act as though the Kurds are new to the disappointment game (“No More the Promised Land”). As the largest group of people in the world without their own country, they have long been used to being used as pawns by the larger regional powers. But what surprise was there in that the US attacked fellow Muslims? They knew we were going to be doing this. Saddam is not a hero in any manner to the Kurds; not a folk hero, not a bin Laden, not a Nasser. He is simply a butcher who, as you stated, gassed Kurds throughout his reign. The Kurds in northern Iraq have been relieved of Saddam for some time and a replacement regime in Baghdad can only bring better conditions still, if not a country, to the Kurds.

George Shore
Wyncote, Pennsylvania

Backtalk | Week of March 30 – April 5

Protests or Parlor Games?
I am so sick of people taking a great cause and making its supporters look like idiots and extremists (“Is This What Democracy Looks Like?”).

There is nothing extreme about marching for peace. But when these morons come in with completely different issues, looking like absolute fools, being incredibly disrespectful to others … they take a good cause and flush it down the toilet.

The only person these people help are the G.W. Bushes of the world.

Bill Asch
Aloha, Oregon

(Losing) Hearts and Minds
At least for now, and maybe forever more, I think ‘Ah-may-ree-ka’ is no longer the promised land (“No More the Promised Land”). I think that just now we are giving away — throwing away — everything that made us America. I think they are right that what we are attacking is not just Saddam Hussein. I think [the Kurds] are right to fear that we will not stop here — I fear it too. And it makes me very sad, too.

Melanie Schweitzer
Dana Point, California

Secrets and Lies
I’ve wondered about this since it first came out (“A Spurious ‘Smoking Gun'”). How could it be ignored, not just by the media, but by members of Congress, now that it is public knowledge? To me it appears to be more than simply a dereliction of duty, but a willingness to be deceived — and in the case of the Congressional general staff of president-select Shrub’s Republican Guard, probably complicity.

I.B. Richards, III
Linden, Virginia

I can’t say I’m necessarily shocked by the idea of the administration using incorrect information to plead its case. Look at the track record of some of the people in the cabinet. I am surprised that they are so sloppy in their tactics.

Gary Demos
Graeagle, California

There are people out here in middle America who do care about the calumny of this administraton. I’m grateful for Congressman Waxman and grateful for Mother Jones. My anxiety level creeps higher and higher with every passing day, due not simply to the war but as a result of the threat to democracy that this administration represents. We are out here caring, hoping, reading Mother Jones and writing to our representatives. Our numbers are not reflected in those silly polls that sway opinion more than measure it.

Judith Krieger
York, Pennsylvania

Backtalk | Week of March 16 – March 22

Behind the War
The arguments reported here (“The Thirty Year Itch”) are the most cogent and compelling that I have read throughout the build up to this war. They explain the total implacability of the US administration during the UN “negotiations”, and also the absolute acquiescence of the Australian government in the face of the real threat of regional terrorism. Compared to the slightly longer world-view issues posited by the neo-cons, the loss of face by the US on the world stage, and the minor injuries that terrorism has done and might do to states like Australia, are trivial. Realpolitik at a truly global level has been discussed at length for years now, but I would suggest this is the first time it has been practiced, and it is truly awe inspiring (and awful) to witness.

Daniel Barton
Sydney, Australia

I think if you take out of this article the dogmatic buzzwords, like ‘hegemony’, ‘imperial America’, ‘under-hawk’, and insert a neutral word like stability in its place then the article makes a lot of sense. To my mind there is nothing wrong with a country like the US, a country who has shown itself to be anything but imperial during the 200 plus years of its existence, having a supervisory control of the oil in the Middle East.

What, in America’s political and military history, leads us to believe that a US supervisory role in the Middle East would be such a bad thing for the world?

Ronald Proby
Montreal, Canada

Bad is Bad
I grant you, Padilla is a citizen of this country. But he is a bad citizen (“The Bad Guy”).

The Bill of Rights is not a suicide pact. And while I will agree with you that we must be mindful of the loss of our civil liberties, we also must be vigilant against groups and persons that will cause this country harm.

The first job of a government is the protection of its people. Let us remember this instead of crying over the rights of a Latino gang banger turned radical Islamic terrorist.

Brian Lopez
Cranford, N.J.

Backtalk | Week of March 9 – March 15

Blood and Oil
The point that Mr. Dreyfuss seems to leave out is the history of dictatorship in the region (“The Thirty Year Itch”). Saddam’s rule is vicious and cruel; no one seems to argue otherwise. Saddam’s own behavior verifies his willingness to lie, cheat, steal, kill, pillage, etc., to get what he wants. Governments in the area want Saddam gone; they have said so publicly, so it seems there is an argument for both points.

It is important that the region be as stable as possible for the benefit both of the region and the rest of the oil-consuming world. It is also important that men of Saddam’s ilk be dealt with soundly. He and his regime are a danger to Iraq, the Middle East and the rest of the world. Is it the only regime that poses such a danger? Of course not. But letting others know that such behavior will be quelled seems like a sound investment of time and resources.

Ron Phillips
Detroit, Michigan

It’s a no-brainer that oil has been the root of all Middle East evil, but your article was like a hit in the solar plexus as to the true scope of the administration’s arrogance and the depths of its ignorance.

Considering the Ashcroft/Ridge theory that we live in a sieve in which terrorists and truckloads of nasty items of mass destruction flow through at will — which only duct tape, plastic and a complete trashing of the Constitution will prevent (saving only the 5th, natch!) — a peace in the Middle East obtained by launching 800 missiles at Baghdad and replacing a former US-friendly dictator with a brand new US-friendly dictator would certainly work. As well as the Shah did in Iran.

Kevin Riley
Kihei, Hawaii

Anyone familiar with the ballad “The Springhill Mine Disaster” knows, from one of the verses, that “bone and blood are the price of coal.” Apparently, although the commodity has changed, the currency is still the same and the price, far higher.

Mary S. Golden
Chicago, Illinois

It would be in the best interest of the West, if they were to start reducing their dependence on oil, by increasing their research on alternate sources of energy. We should have continued our pursuit of more energy-efficient transportation as we wean ourselves off of oil. But too many Texans have vested interests in maintaining profit longevity in the currency of petrodollars.

I feel a sense of foreboding in my soul, and the hell of a conflict we will leave for our children and grandchildren to inherit.

Greg DeCastro
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Improving on Nature?
I can speak from experience about Prozac. I would have likely lost my life without it (“Better Than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream”).

After being on Prozac for fourteen years now, I can say it has helped and hindered me in recovery and re-entrance into American society. Prozac takes the edge off of the insanity of grief, and I am not sure that that’s a good thing. I lived, but the grief-induced depression took much longer to process. However, there was so much grief that, Hell, I may never process it all, and today, I can accept that and draw on the experience of it.

Karen Wade
Colorado Springs, Colorado


Got Fat?
I appreciated your article “ Unhappy Meals” (January/February 2003). As a teacher of 30 years and a vegetarian, I am appalled at the lunches our schools serve our children. As educators, I would think that we would be promoting a low-fat, plant-based diet, in light of recent studies on high-fat diets and serious illness. Unfortunately, I see teachers giving students candy and fat snacks as rewards for good behavior.

John Mooter
Cincinnati, Ohio

In my first day as a volunteer in a kindergarten class in upscale Marin County, California, I was horrified to see teachers setting out Burger King bags at lunchtime. My supervisor informed me that while the kids receive Burger King lunches “only” twice a week, the company “donates” the bags for use on the other days. Nobody seemed to see the gift as an obvious push to instill brand loyalty in the kids.

Isabella Hennigar
San Rafael, California

Two articles in your January/February issue were startlingly inconsistent. The article on school lunches rightly highlights that most school foods are too high in saturated fat and sodium, and too low in dietary fiber and other nutrients. Two articles later, “Culture Change” focuses on the takeover by giant corporations of such socially “good” companies as Ben & Jerry’s and Stonyfield Farms. Unfortunately, that article omits the fact that Ben & Jerry’s made its fortune by “greenwashing” high-fat ice cream (at prices that make it easy for the company to give modest donations to progressive causes). Ice cream’s saturated fat is an equal-opportunity killer, affecting students, lefties, and Republicans alike.

Michael F. Jacobson
Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest
Washington, D.C.

Culture Wars
While I was not surprised when I read David Goodman’s article (“ Culture Change,” January/February 2003) I was disappointed. These socially responsible companies have betrayed my trust. I gave them my money as a way of investing in the values they espoused. I was supporting the idea of sustainable businesses that protect the environment, businesses that care about their people as much as they care about profit. I posted the chart from the article on my fridge and will use it to seek out alternatives to these products. While I agree that organic products need to be brought into the mainstream, I do not agree that the only way for this to happen is to allow socially responsible companies to be sucked up into the mega-corporate machine. Any belief that large, profit-driven corporations will change by absorbing a few sustainable businesses is naive and shortsighted.

Holly Robbins
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Venezuela’s Experiment
As a Venezuelan journalist opposed to President Hugo Chávez, I was primed for the worst when I read Barry Lynn’s article (“ Chaos and Constitution,” January/February 2003). The foreign press and most foreign lefties get Chávez catastrophically wrong — mangling the facts, putting an aggressively tendentious spin on events, and often just buying into the government’s PR hook, line, and sinker. That’s a temptation Lynn wisely avoids. He sidesteps the pitfalls inherent in trying to lionize Chávez the man by focusing instead on the effects his government has had on how poor Venezuelans relate to politics. I would argue with much of what Lynn writes — he fails to convey Chávez’s intolerance toward dissent, for instance, or his contempt for the legal system. But after four years of living through el comandante’s reign of error and reading dozens of pro-Chávez tracts, Lynn’s piece is the best researched and most convincing defense of the Chávez experiment I’ve ever read. He deserves praise for shining a spotlight on positive aspects of chavismo that critics (like myself) too often overlook.

Francisco Toro
Caracas, Venezuela

Exporting Democracy
I agree with George Packer and Todd Gitlin that both our safety and our economic success depend on democracy building abroad (“ America’s Age of Empire,” January/February 2003). But safety and economic success also depend on creating a real democracy at home. In the United States, votes, media coverage, and foreign policy are all bought by millionaires. If Bush invades Iraq and installs a puppet government, the only gain will be oil for the men who buy our elections. We need top leadership that is not in thrall to big money.

Bob Saxton
Eugene, Oregon

Packer is correct that the Bush team’s imperialism will continue in the absence of an acceptable alternative. Unless liberals want to descend into irrelevance, they must stop identifying themselves simply in opposition to the conservative realists who support Bush. Until liberalism displays the self-examination necessary to combine the pragmatic aspects of realism with the humanitarian goals of justice, liberty, and political reform, we will remain on this path to ruin.

Mark Tallman
DeKalb, Illinois

“South Africa’s Driest Season” (November/December 2002) incorrectly described cholera as a virus. The disease is bacterial.