Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq

I think it’s the best thing in the world that MotherJones will not let this essential story die. It humanizes us to know exactly what effect we are having on others’ actual lives (and deaths) and it humanizes the victims we are misrepresenting as “enemies”.

The despair I feel at all the death and destruction we are causing is deepened by the lack of attention it is getting in the media, and by the forced ignorance of those who actually feel themselves fully informed by watching CNN, or worse, FOX!

Thank you MoJo!! Thank you Tucker Foehl.

I read this interview when it was first released, and enjoyed re-reading it. It’s simultaneously comforting and disturbing.

Ken Daves
San Francisco

Still Counting

Your article about the recount is exactly right. As an ACT volunteer who was in Columbus on election day, I believe that the greatest single abuse was the inequitable distribution of voting machines, as you mentioned in your article. Although those lost votes can never be counted, a recount can expose the blatant discrimination and fraud that riddled the electoral process in Ohio and deprived thousands of citizens of their most basic right, the right to vote. There’s got to be accountability. Whoever is responsible for this crime needs to be outed and prosecuted. That’s the value of the recount effort, as far as I’m concerned — justice, and the hope that finding out what happened will help prevent its ever happening again.

Carolyn Sherman

Count. Investigate. Get rid of electronic unverifiable voting. Get rid of election administrators who serve in campaigns. Make voters who have to stand in line for more than 1 hour eligible for cash payments. Provide evidence of having voted that exonerates one for parking violations. Make election day a holiday. Provide child care and chairs for disabled voters (with place markers for them in the line). Use HAVA money for these things instead of Republican voting machine companies.

SA Swisher

I live in La Jolla, CA about a mile from the University California at San Diego. I breezed in to my voting poll in what is no doubt a Republican area and voted within 10 minutes at 4:30pm.

I went home and on the news saw lines at the campus where the wait was 3 hours to vote. I knew then what was going on. This is a Republican town. The students were disenfranchised.

Lezlee Comstock

Icarus (Armed with Vipers) Over Iraq

What a remarkable piece. Is there any way to get this out to a larger
readership? This is the untold story. Somehow we have to have a public discussion about the use of American air power. Do we really want to give the authority to a mid-level officer to call in a 500-pound-bomb air strike on an inhabited urban area? What kind of nation bombs and destroys cities, yet keeps information about the destruction away from the citizens of the country in whose name the bombs are dropped?

Frank Nelson
San Rafael, California.

Very interesting article. But what has changed in reporting over the years, really? In combat aircraft move fast and act fast, sometimes in remote areas, sometimes not. That is one of their advantages. Trying to convey the shock of even a high-speed pass at low altitude of a combat aircraft, let alone the violence of its attack, has been almost impossible for the limited recording methods we have. That was true in the Second World War, in Korea, in Vietnam, in the Russian war in Afganistan, even in Libya in 1911. You have to see it to believe it. Even Hollywood finds it difficult to make flight look “real”!

If aircraft are attacking a target in a city the only way to film it is from a distance or from the target. The former makes poor pictures, the latter is suicide. And no pictures, no story.

Plus, flying is supposed to be glamourous, not like the grunt work of infantry. And what would it serve the air forces to talk about endless practice, maintenance schedules, hemorroids, pee bags and pep pills?

I read this article as an aircraft historian whose interest has been the effect that aircraft have had on our life. The conclusions have not always been rosy. One of these conclusions, which I myself hate, is that, far from being useful to create a new, free world, aircraft have by and large been instruments of repression. They are complex, delicate machines that require a high standard of technology and sophistication to operate effectively. Aircraft as weapons do not lend themselves to use by non-government forces, but to the wealthy and powerful who wish to remain so. Thus to most of the world the sight of an aircraft or helicopter is to be feared.

To us in the industrialized world this may be a surprise, but then we usually think of our aircraft fighting other industrialized and aircraft-equipped forces. The US dropped more bombs in Vietnam than in the Second World War, most of it in small ground attacks against tactical targets. The images of “bombing” that most recall, by and large, are the B-52, the Arclight, the Rolling Thunder and the Linebacker attacks. Who cares about “Mud Moving”? The image that is not remembered as a “bombing” is a screaming girl, running naked down a road. That image said more about air combat than all the pictures of targets or bombs falling from B-52s.

The use of aircraft in Iraq for urban warfare has been noted by the rest of the world. Those with any knowledge know that using an F-16 or even an AC-130 in this manner, no matter how accurate the ordance can be placed, will cause a lot of destruction. And if civilians are present, they will be part of it. If speed is one of the advantages of an aircraft, it is also one of it’s disadvantages. Everything happens fast, and mistakes cascade so quickly that they happen even when you know you are making an error. By the time you think of an action, it’s done. You can’t recall a missle or a bomb, and airplanes can’t take prisoners.

In the U.S. Civil War there was a phrase for troops who had seen combat, they had “seen the elephant”. You couldn’t imagine the elephant unless you had seen it. Air to ground attacks are similar. Unless you’ve “seen the elephant”, you really don’t understand it. We have imperfect methods of recording some aspects of combat, but we have no way to give anyone who wasn’t there an easy picture of air-to-ground attacks.

Paul Squires
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Torture and Truth

Dave Gilson is absolutely right on target.

While, in the good-ol’ U.S.A., the Abu Ghraib story was being managed off of the front pages during the run-up to the Presidential election, I’d venture a guess that the Iraqi people weren’t forgetting about it. Certainly not the thousands of ordinary Iraqis who were rounded up and herded through that prison for no reason other than that they were Iraqi and hence, unlike their captors, might know something, anything. And certainly not the tens of thousands more who heard about it firsthand from brothers or uncles or friends, or the millions more who were bound to recognize it as the unspeakable affront to their race, their religion, and their humanity that it was.

How do you recover, America, after Abu Ghraib? You don’t. You have blown it. In this battle for hearts and minds, American democracy has lost. If you have any sense of honor, you pack up and leave — immediately — cutting your losses, however bad they may be. Face the facts. It is now your very presence, more than any other single factor, that is fuelling the violence in Iraq. Every day you stay you compound your mistakes and make the situation worse for everybody, not least of all yourself.

Of course, if you don’t have any sense of honor, then you resort to more gunfire to try to impose your will on the very people you have already humiliated beyond belief.

It’s too late, George W. Bush, for the American people to fail to elect you, but when they wake up to the truth, you may still, God willing, be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. There’s an old saying in Texas…

Michael Bein
Chelsea, Quebec

How to Talk to a Conservative (If You Must)

Lakoff makes a lot of sense, but only if one starts with a clean slate. People have ingrained beliefs about what Democrats stand for — demonstrated by their actions in the past, programs they supported and passed, etc. This needs to be overcome before framing gets off the ground. Otherwise we look disingenuous.

George Persico

Eve Ensler on “good” bodies and bad politics

Hail, Eve Ensler!! Oh for the day when we get these sexually repressed, religious Republican zealots out of office and a woman in the Presidency so that we can begin making this a sane world for men and women!! Thanks for the article.

Mona Lopatka

Intelligence Matters

The interview with Senator Bob Graham was enlightening to me. It may well be the intelligence community is on the road to recovery following 9/11. I hope that the recovery does involve positive changes for the good of the citizenry of this nation and not fall back on practices of the past domestic surveillance. As a nation we have the resources to build a strong, efficient intelligence community.

Don Waterbury

The Mother Jones Interviews

I have been a subscriber to MJ for several years. I have found it to be the most diverse progressive magazine on the market. You all have put together a great website, and the addition of the interviews has been most welcome. It gives some hope to those of us living in the very “red” state of Kentucky.

Thanks again for the great effort in putting out the word to those of us who never tune in to the “mainstream” media.

Whit Watkins

The Great Media Breakdown

Gitlin gives a nice thumbnail of progressive complaints about recent media news coverage but does not seem to have any ideas about how to improve the situation.

He puts the blame on an amorphous entity called “journalism” but in the entire article does not note that the corporate media are hierarchical organizations and at the top of the hierarchy, giving out orders and deciding who gets promoted and who gets fired, are the executives of some of America’s largest industrial corporations – and even when this is not the case, the media are still either profitmaking organizations (answerable to advertisers) whose top management are immersed in the same corporate culture as the Fortune 500, or else “public” institutions funded by government through a “Corporation” and also directly by corporations.

The problem is not “journalism”, it’s the bosses and the structure the journalists have to work within and under, imposing a regime of deference to power, cynicism and contempt for independent voices.

Mark Avrum Gubrud

One Roof at a Time

Good article. A big step in the right direction. Suggestion: Almost every article I read on clean or renewable energy invariably mentions that fossil fuels are still cheaper….what would be nice to see is a much stronger case against fossil fuels including the dollar amounts that NEVER seem to be taken into account of the environmental devastation that has been caused so far. For example, we live in such a polluted world that you cannot, except for one supplier I know of, obtain wild fish without dangerous levels of mercury due to burning coal. How about all the countless oil spills? What’s the dollar tab of all those fiascos? Now if environmental writers stressed over and over and over again these “hidden costs” of so-called cheap fossil fuel energy and clearly demonstrated that they are not cheaper, maybe the average reader would start to think and act differently because we all know the pigs at the top of the money game have no concern for the well being of people or the planet which is strange because those jackass’s inhabit this earth too.



Thanks for the article from Bill McKibben on photo-voltaic energy. We appreciate the valuable information to the public. We are in the middle of construction on a solar home: passive solar, solar hot water for domestic and radiant floor heating and photovoltaic panels. It is exciting stuff! Our region of western north carolina is very receptive to this. It is unfortunate that our utilities do not encourage the buyback of electric and banking of energy this way.

Keep up the good work.

Joe Baum
North Carolina