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Letters to the editor

September 20, 2002 | Page 4

When U.S. soldiers rebelled
I support bans on smoking at work

INS is stepping up deportation drive

Dear Socialist Worker,

The racist Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) is trying to deport Bronx rapper Slick Rick, who's been in detention since June 1.

Readers who follow music might know Rick for his distinctive black eye-patch. He was born in England and moved to the Bronx at the age of 11. In 1990, he was convicted of attempted murder and spent several years in prison.

The INS attempted to deport him first in 1995, but failed. In 1996, Congress passed a law allowing the INS to detain or deport noncitizen felons even after they had served their time. Rick has a wife and child, who are both U.S. citizens.

Slick Rick's fame, connections and fortune will probably spare him from being deported. But if a well-to-do legal immigrant can be detained for months on end by the INS, what does this say to the poor and undocumented? As he put it: "If I wasn't Slick Rick, there would be no sign of any sympathy. I'm not the only bad case. There are a hundred other cases that are even worse than this."

Rick isn't a saint--his albums often include sexist lyrics--but this is a question of human rights. The INS needs to be abolished and people given the same free-flow across the borders as multinational commerce is already afforded.

John Green, Davis, Calif.

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When U.S. soldiers rebelled

Dear Socialist Worker,

A recent letter to the editor (SW, August 30) argued that the murders and murder-suicide by Fort Bragg troops happened because "these are soldiers who were taught to murder, maim and participate in a slaughter in Afghanistan."

"Is it any wonder that sooner or later they bring that violence home?" asked the author. "These murders are a product of the changes that a person undergoes when confronted by the horrors of war."

Readers could hardly be blamed for concluding from this line of argument that soldiers are nothing but a pack of mindless homicidal maniacs. But if that's true, then how can what soldiers did to end the war in Vietnam possibly be explained?

They were also ordered to murder and maim. Many followed those orders--until they rebelled. "By every conceivable indicator, our Army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and non-commissioned officers, drug-ridden and dispirited where not near mutinous," wrote Col. Robert Heinl in the Armed Forces Journal in June 1971.

The revolt of the Tsarist troops in 1917 started the Russian Revolution, and the revolt of the American troops in Vietnam signaled the end of the war.

Some on the left, instead of scorning soldiers as disgusting homicidal maniacs, did everything they could to reach out to rank-and-file soldiers with political arguments against the war, and helped soldiers organize to oppose it.

To understand why it is necessary for us to do the same today, read "The GI's Revolt" in The American War: Vietnam, by Jonathan Neale, available from Haymarket Books.

Thomas Barton, New York City

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I support bans on smoking at work

Dear Socialist Worker,

Sherry Wolf recently wrote a letter about smoking bans and taxes (SW, August 30), in which she said: "Unfortunately, many progressives support the smoking bans and higher taxes."

I agree that sales taxes are regressive and an attack on workers that should be opposed. However, I think SW should support smoking bans in workplaces--airplanes, restaurants, offices, factories, etc.

Environmental tobacco smoke (or "second-hand smoke") is a poison. It is classified as a Class-A carcinogen--as is asbestos--by the federal government. Its presence at work is a danger that people should not have to endure in order to make a living.

Flight attendants' unions have fought for and won smoking bans on both domestic and international flights. Just as SW supports other workplace-safety laws (and opposes the ongoing cutbacks in OSHA inspectors), so too should it support smoking bans.

Jason Yellen, Boston

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