The August 6 editorial, "Milosevic's
Reckoning" by Joe Knowles, confirms once again the fact that
In These Times is a liberal, not a left, journal, and that
it supports a liberal and "responsible" imperialism. A crucial feature
of this kind of liberalism is its exemption of the United States
and its principal allies from fundamental criticism and condemnation
for criminal behavior, and its acceptance of the imperial powers
as the proper regulators of global law and order.
Of course it can be acknowledged that in the distant past the United
States may have done some really bad things--Knowles tells us that
we have a "stained history"--so that, following Christopher Hitchens,
he boldly assails Pinochet and Kissinger and Operation Condor, and
implies that maybe these involve cases of war criminality. He nowhere
discusses why it is that they are exempt from tribunal treatment,
or just why it is that "despots and war criminals everywhere" are
exempt, unless the United States chooses to go after them. Liberal
imperialism is happy that the targets selected by the imperial power
are brought to book.
And when he gets to present-day affairs Knowles never suggests
that the United States has done anything recently that might make
it liable for war crimes. He talks about double-standards and the
alleged hypocrisy in the U.S. opposition to an International Criminal
Court, which would be "a palpable threat to despots and war criminals
everywhere." But nowhere in his article does he hint that the "palpable
threat" might apply to the United States itself for crimes today.
He never mentions Iraq, where the "sanctions of mass destruction"
have killed perhaps 500,000 children, or the Clinton support of
"our kind of guy" Suharto and tacit acceptance of Indonesia's 1999
destruction of East Timor. And you can be sure that Knowles doesn't
go into the question of whether NATO's use of fragmentation bombs
and depleted uranium, its escalated bombing of civilian facilities
in Serbia that killed as many as 1,800 Serb civilians in clear violation
of the Sixth Principle of Nuremberg, or its violation of the U.N.
Charter in attacking Yugoslavia constituted war crimes.
Knowles also displays his liberal credentials by taking issue with
the way in which Milosevic was "purchased" for delivery to the tribunal
and the dishonest maneuvering implementing his transfer. But not
surprisingly it turns out that Knowles approves of the transfer
despite these unpleasantries and its damaging effects on the fragile
Yugoslavian democracy. He also has not a critical word to say about
the workings of the tribunal, which has regularly violated every
known standard of Western jurisprudence.
A liberal imperialist can overlook this. After all, the tribunal
action, by pointing up the demon's evil and responsibility for all
the Balkan troubles, vindicates NATO's war and In These Times' pretty
consistent support of that war via Paul Hockenos, Bogdan Denitch
and Knowles. Better not look too closely at the workings of "our"
court, or real history, as it might turn out that the "stained history"
extends up to today.
Edward S. Herman
College Station, Pennsylvania
"Evasive" is the charitable way to describe Bogdan Denitch's defense
of NATO's intervention against the Milosevic regime ("Letters,"
August 6). Granting that outside intervention was warranted, what
form should it have taken?
As argued at the time, repeatedly and from several quarters, the
quickest and most efficient way to stop the killing would have been
introduction of multinational ground forces directly into the affected
areas. But for the United States, this would have violated the basic
rule of "kicking the Vietnam syndrome" interventions: no American
casualties. And it would have been totally at odds with U.S. goals
in 1999--reasserting our "indispensable nation" status, expanding
NATO eastward as a manifestation of continued U.S. "presence" in
European affairs, and marginalizing the United Nations as an effective
arbiter of international and regional conflicts.
So instead we carried out a horrendous "air campaign" and committed
clear, indictable war crimes of our own. But from Denitch, nary
a hint that U.S. bombs fell, how many, when, or on whom. Apparently
his democratic socialist values are expendable whenever a higher
law calls--in this instance, that interveners need not be "as pure
as newly fallen snow."
Richard B. Du Boff
Two traits stand out in Bogdan Denitch's response to Edward S.
Herman. The first is Denitch's abusively sarcastic, often ad
hominem tone. The second is the almost total lack of supporting
evidence that Denitch presents for his claims. Thus, many critical
points that Herman raised, Denitch simply passes over in silence.
For example, no one––not the OSCE, NATO, State Department or The
Hague Tribunal––has ever produced any evidence that supports Denitch's
contention that "massive killings and expulsions were taking place
before the NATO intervention."
Denitch also recites a list of atrocities attributable to Serbs:
Vukovar, Dubrovnik, Sarajevo and Srebrenica. But these incidents
derived from fighting in Croatia (1991) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992-1995),
respectively, all in the context of brutal civil wars, and clearly
had nothing to do with the question of war or peace in Kosovo in
1998-1999. And yet Denitch seems to believe that these earlier,
unrelated cases alone provide sufficient grounds to justify NATO's
war against Yugoslavia.
Finally, Denitch closes his letter with what he clearly takes to
be the most important issue: "Who can intervene with what force
against murderous regimes"? For anyone to be able to pose this question
in a magazine with leftist aspirations, published in a country with
a track record like the United States has, without realizing that
"murderous regimes," and therefore justifiable wars, would work
both ways, represents a spectacular case of blindness. When was
the last time Denitch supported the bombing of Washington? Or the
naval blockading of Puget Sound? Denitch's take on NATO's war over
Kosovo represents nothing more than humanitarian hypocrisy.
Some Balance, Please
As a progressive who supports Israel, I was dismayed by your cover
They Knew, They Would Have to Do Something" (August 6). Why
might we never see an article on your pages about the Arab suicide
bombers, who are regularly murdering innocent Israelis, such as
teen-agers from the former Soviet Union? Are indiscriminate murderers
to be deemed freedom fighters?
Consider that the world's treatment of the Jewish people has been
a rightful litmus test for society for centuries, much as has been
the treatment of black Americans in our own country. Moreover, had
the Palestinian Arabs been mildly reasonable, and the daring plan
of the Barak government agreed to, there would have been a Palestinian
state in the making by now. No Arabs would be killed now by Israelis
if the suicide bombers and other terrorists were reined in. After
these many years, it is long past time for some even-handedness
from In These Times on Arab-Israeli issues.
Stephen E. Appell
Brooklyn, New York
As the World Warms
I understand that "global warming" is becoming an important means
of mobilizing people to oppose the agenda of certain multinational
Cause," August 6). And I understand that scientists have documented
a definite warming of the planet, which may be due to changes caused
by humans in the past century. But in all the mobilizing discussions
on global warming, some important information is missing.
A thousand years ago, it was warm enough on this planet that the
people of Northern Europe did not need central heating. Then a "mini
ice age" arrived, and Europeans had to invent the chimney to survive.
While the planet is warming today, it is still not as warm as it
was back then. It certainly isn't as warm as it was when dinosaurs
ruled the earth. So even if humans did not evolve as a species and
start burning petroleum like crazy, the planet might still be warming
I think it would be better for organizers to be a little more honest
about what they are doing, which is mobilizing against some multinational
corporations. As for global warming, I think it is a pretty safe
bet that the planet will get warmer, and coastal flooding and severe
storms and drought and all the rest will happen, creating all sorts
of opportunities to organize people to ameliorate these catastrophes.
But cutting the consumption of petroleum may not have much of an
effect in preventing additional warming. If there are other good
reasons to reduce petroleum consumption, by all means let's bring
them to the attention of the public. But don't cry "global warming"
out of the context of global temperature changes of the last few
San Jose, California
Warts of Suburbia
Bill Boisvert has some nice things to say about my book, America's
Undeclared War: What's Killing Our Cities and How We Can Stop It,
and some not-so-nice things as well ("It's
Up to You, New York," July 9). One point he makes merits a detailed
reply, i.e., the supposed relationship between suburbanization and
something he calls "the General Will." In Boisvert's view, the latter
has sent Americans galloping in the direction of the former. As
he puts it: "If anything can be said to express the General Will,
it's suburbia. ... America has not had suburbs foisted upon it against
its will. America likes suburbs, warts and all."
This is a common point of view, but one that is almost painfully
solipsistic. If all Boisvert is saying is that Americans have long
had a hankering for trees, grass and elbowroom, then so have other
people as well. But a love of greenery can express itself in many
ways--in urban parks, for instance, in hiking and cycling clubs,
or in weekend cottages. The question in America is why it has taken
the form of vast, auto-dependent suburbs that are no less wasteful
of human resources than they are of natural ones.
I would submit that an amorphous concept like the General Will
is of absolutely no use in answering this question. Indeed, in Boisvert's
hands, it becomes nothing more than a general apology for the status
quo. If Americans drive SUVs, in other words, then Americans must
like SUVs, so what can you do? Yet Americans also like traffic-free
highways, walkable communities and limits to suburban sprawl. They
can't have it all. The problem is how to resolve such conflicting
longings in a way that propels society forward rather than tying
it up even more thoroughly in knots. The question of how the American
people fell into such a trap and how they can find their way out
is one that can only be answered politically, something my book
tries to do.
The editors wish to make clear that the subtitle to "The
Brame Game" (September 3) was not intended to suggest that any
union has taken a position on the nomination of J. Robert Brame
to the National Labor Relations Board based on his religious beliefs.
Rather, the headline referred to Brame's deep-seated opposition
to unions indicated by his own writings and ties to extremist religious
groups. We regret any confusion.
I'm sorry to inform you that I have resigned my position as publisher
of In These Times. Circumstances in the technology/business
side of my life have necessitated my becoming the president of Xamplify
(www.xamplify.com), a software
startup here in Berkeley. Regrettably, this will take so much of
my time that I will not be able to continue as In These Times'
publisher. I've enjoyed my all-too-brief stint in this position.
I've come away with a new appreciation for the folks whose resourcefulness
and tenacity result in the biweekly publication of this magazine.
I know that you will join me in continuing to support this valiant