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 fallen snow?

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.

Bogdan Denitch
Brac, Croatia


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.

Carolyn Taylor
Los Angeles


Reality Check

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 conclusion.

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.

Jon Showalter
Lodi, California


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 entails.

Lorenzo Kristov
Davis, California


Amy Now!

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



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