When To Intervene
It must be wonderful to be Edward Herman, so morally certain, so
all knowing, so expert in an area where so few are ("Letters,"
June 25). Herman knows that the evil United States and NATO had
no grounds to intervene against the Milosevic regime--this at the
moment when a truck freezer filled with 85 dead Albanians, mostly
women and children with signs of torture, is discovered to the horror
of Serbian public opinion. That public opinion was tenderly sheltered
from such nasty facts, many such nasty facts, for more than a decade.
Herman knows the destruction of Vukovar, the bombing of Dubrovnik,
the three-year-long agony of Sarajevo, and the largest massacre
in post-World War II Europe in Srebrenica--where more than 7,000
men and boys were murdered after surrendering--do not justify any
intervention. Nor does the repression of the Albanian population
of Kosovo to maintain the rule of a tiny minority of Serbs and Montenegrins.
So what would? And would the interveners have to be as pure as newly
I am more modest in my hopes and supported Vietnamese intervention
in Cambodia despite the quite unlovely character of the Vietnamese
government when it came to human rights; I even supported Tanzania's
intervention against Idi Amin. Worse, I rejected Hermann Goering's
argument that the Nuremburg tribunal was illegitimate because victors
were judging the defeated and the judges represented governments,
in particular the Soviet Union, who did not have clean hands when
it came to war crimes and concentration camps.
When Herman explains who can intervene with what force against
murderous regimes, I will listen. Until then, I will reluctantly
have to accept that sometimes the interests of NATO and the United
States may coincide with the interests of greater justice.
The Education President
Linda Lutton points to a possible manipulation of George W. Bush's
education record ("Testing,
Testing," June 25). She reports: "The number of students counted
as special education students--whose scores don't factor into a
school's accountability rating--nearly doubled in Texas between
1994 and 1998. The number of students taking the GED to avoid TAAS
has shot up."
It is totally within plausibility that Bush may have set his sights
on wanting an "education legacy" to run on for president and may
have been behind this apparent movement in Texas to double the number
of students labeled as special-ed, thereby duplicitously "creating"
the successes he then ran on. Has anyone looked at the process by
which those classified special-ed students doubled precisely in
the course of Bush's first term as Texas governor? Did he have a
hand in mandating or pressuring such doubling (so as to prop up
student progress)? It behooves the media to fully explore the basis
on which he stands.
Both the movie Bread and Roses and Jane Slaughter's review
were close enough to reality ("Labor's
Close-Up," June 25). But when Slaughter tried to draw some lessons
about the state of American labor from the fate of the Justice of
Janitors campaign, she left reality for conformance to a pre-established
The Los Angeles janitors did not get absorbed in a 25,000 member
local in 1990. They joined the janitors in Local 399 of SEIU.
The Los Angeles janitors did not run a slate against the incumbents
of the local, the health care division members did. AFL-CIO
President John Sweeney did not trustee the local because of the
insurgence, but because the local became completely ungovernable
both politically and financially at least a year after the insurgents
swept most positions on the executive board, save the presidency.
Frankly, Local 399 had become politically inert years before, and
many of us cheered the insurgents and the trusteeship.
There are 8 million stories in the naked city, this just ain't
one of them.
Reclaiming 'Right to Life'
Bob Burnett makes an excellent point about the need for powerful
symbols and simple but potent ideas around which the progressive
left can mobilize for effective social change ("Publisher's
Notes," June 25). In this spirit, I offer the following audacious
proposal: The left should seize the slogan "Right to Life" and make
it a central rallying point for a truly progressive social agenda.
There is an enlightening historical precedent for the successful
appropriation of an adversary's symbolic identity. Between the end
of the Revolutionary War and the adoption of the Constitution in
1789, the Articles of Confederation provided a loose central governance
structure for the colonies. In the debates leading up to the Constitutional
Convention, the main political dispute was between the "Nationalists"
and the "Federalists," who advocated, respectively, a strong and
a weak central government. But a crucial problem for the Nationalists
was their name: During the war, supporters of the crown were known
as nationalists, and now the constitutional Nationalists were cursed
with this anti-revolutionary association. To remedy the problem,
they simply stole the name "Federalists" from their adversaries,
renamed their adversaries "Anti-Federalists," and asserted their
ownership of this name through a series of newspaper columns known
as "The Federalist Papers." The rest is history.
"Right to Life" is the perfect slogan for a third millennium social
movement. Up to now this phrase has been used perversely and cynically
by the religious right to mean nothing more than the "right" of
a fetus to be born. As Burnett's column makes clear, we all know
that the "Right to Life" really should include the rights of all
children to adequate nutrition, medical care, nurturing day care,
education and protection from abuse. It must include social and
economic justice, environmental health, equal opportunity and a
meaningful social safety net.
Ownership of the phrase "Right to Life" is clearly in the wrong
hands. For the left to allow this state of affairs to go uncorrected
binds us symbolically to an "anti-life" association, when in fact
our sensibilities and our public policy initiatives have always
been rooted in a deep appreciation of what "Right to Life" really
The question of war crimes in Vietnam may be the most profound
question that America has to face regarding its history as a nation
since 1945 ("Something
to Tell," June 25). If it is true, as I believe, that we reap
what we sow, then this terrible question will have to be confronted
if America is to avoid a demise greater than the demise that has
befallen Communism. Until then, our best hope lies with lonely and
courageous voices like Amy Goodman. May their numbers increase.
Rev. George Hunsinger
Princeton, New Jersey