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Letters to the editor

May 28, 2004 | Page 4

Nader doesn't deserve our vote
SW is wrong on identity politics
Changing leaders isn't enough

Trained to view Iraqis as animals

Dear Socialist Worker,
Reading about the horrific revelations of U.S. torture of Iraqis in Saddam's notorious Abu Ghraib prison, I was struck by the testimony of Military Police Specialist Matthew Wisdom. Wisdom testified in the hearing that led to the court martial of one of the soldiers who carried out the torture.

His testimony tells of chilling brutality and abuse. But throughout, he refers to Iraqis not as "he" or "she," but as "it." He said, "I remember SSG Frederick hitting one prisoner in the side of its ribcage. The prisoner was no danger to SSG Frederick...I saw two naked detainees, one masturbating to another kneeling with its mouth open. I thought I should just get out of there. I didn't think it was right."

Wisdom--who says he told his superiors about the abuse shortly after witnessing it--isn't one of the sadists who gleefully humiliated and brutalized Iraqis. He thought the torture was wrong. But he didn't see Iraqis as human enough to warrant human pronouns.

He criticized the torture the way you would criticize the torture of a dog. I am repulsed that an entire country is being treated as though they are less than human--and that ordinary Americans, some younger than me (I'm 21), are being trained to see them that way.

I'm sure this dehumanization is aided by the incredible racism being directed at Arabs and Muslims throughout the U.S. But seeing how the occupation trains soldiers to see Iraqis as sub-human also makes it all the more inspiring that some soldiers--such as those profiled in Socialist Worker--are speaking out against the racism and brutality of the occupation.
Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, New York City

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Nader doesn't deserve our vote

Dear Socialist Worker,
I am writing to strongly disagree with a letter by Peter Lamphere (SW, April 16), which argued that the left should back Ralph Nader in the upcoming presidential election. While I was not old enough to vote, I was proud to be a revolutionary socialist and building the Nader campaign during the 2000 election.

The reason? Nader pulled no punches when it came to the Democrats and said that "the only distinction between Bush and Gore is the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when big corporations knock on the door."

Today, likely Democratic nominee John Kerry has taken the most special interest money of anyone in Congress. Nader's response? He's met Kerry to discuss "opening a second front against Bush."

While Lamphere brushes this off as a "strategic problem," for socialists and everyone committed to building a left alternative to the Democratic Party, this is the crux of the issue. Nader's campaign as it stands is not a "referendum on the question of 'Anybody but Bush,'" but is a "yes" vote on the question.

This is the logic of lesser evilism that the International Socialist Organization has consistently rejected since it was founded, and there's no reason to stop now, Nader notwithstanding.

To compound the problem, Nader is trying to appeal to both disgruntled right-wingers and the left at the same time. He's even called on Reform Party founder Ross Perot to attack Bush's "fiscal irresponsibility." Fortunately for Nader, his "ally" Kerry is a firm advocate of responsible fiscal policies--such as budget cuts, gutting social programs, and union busting.

The last major problem with Nader is his position on the occupation of Iraq. He, like Kerry and the other defunct Democrats Howard Dean, Wesley Clark and Dennis Kucinich, all want the United Nations to take over control of Iraq. This would not be an end to the occupation, but an expansion to include France, Germany, Russia and China which would support such an arrangement in exchange for some multibillion-dollar "rebuilding" contracts.

Nader's campaign has said nothing about self-determination--even in the distant future--for the Iraqi people. Instead of echoing Kerry's position on Iraq, Nader should take Kerry on by saying "bring the troops home now" or "Iraq for Iraqis, not corporations." Until Nader decides whether he wants to be a left alternative to the Democrats or a foot soldier for Kerry, the left shouldn't back him.
Pham Binh, New York City

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SW is wrong on identity politics

Dear Socialist Worker,
While there were several aspects of Nicole Colson's article "The Pessimism of Identity Politics" (SW, May 7) that I disagreed with, I do, for the sake of clarity, want to elaborate on the quote she attributed to me from the Washington Post.

I wholeheartedly agree that saying that "human beings are hard wired for reproduction" is an assertion that rings of a patriarchal assumption of women as incubators, and that is why I never said it. The article attributed the conclusion to me, but that "conclusion" was in fact made by the author, who is a woman schooled in the second-wave feminist rhetoric that Colson seems so fond of.

Because this particular article certainly misrepresented many of the views of the young women interviewed, it might be a good exercise for Colson to talk to some of the young feminists engaging in identity politics in order to see how the movements of our foremothers are being cultivated within the contexts of our lives.

It behooves none of us to assert that the younger generation "has it all wrong," and continuing to slam young women for not taking feminist activism seriously enough does nothing to encourage a new generation to fight for reproductive freedom. Encouraging a dialogue between second- and third-wave feminists is the only way we can preserve the hard-won lessons of the past while continuing to evolve our message.
Grayson Crosby, from the Internet

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Changing leaders isn't enough

Dear Socialist Worker,
Your recent coverage of the ongoing occupation of Iraq has been excellent. Recent issues of SW have done a great job of explaining the origins of the Iraqi resistance, making the connection between the occupation of Iraq and U.S. imperialism in Haiti, Afghanistan and Palestine, and calling for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of American forces from the Middle East.

However, I think SW is mistaken in constantly drawing attention to the personal role of George Bush in Iraq. Your recent headline "In Iraq, In Palestine: Bush's terror in the Middle East" (SW, April 23) is a fine example.

There's no denying that Bush represents a gang of particularly ruthless corporate crooks and right-wing fanatics with a vested interest in seizing Iraqi oil reserves. Nevertheless, George Bush alone can't take credit for the "terror" in Iraq and Palestine.

The occupation of Iraq, for example, is being conducted in the interests of a tiny elite at the top of American society who are trying to remake the world in their own image--at the barrel of a gun, if necessary. Multimillionaire Democratic candidate John Kerry is just as much a representative of this class as Bush, and at a time when much of the left is succumbing to "anybody but Bush" lesser evilism, SW should always be clear that changing personnel at the top of the system isn't enough.

All activists should realize that to fight against war and occupation, we need to organize against the rotten capitalist system that breeds these atrocities, and not just the crook who happens to be running the show at the moment.
James Illingworth, Santa Cruz, Calif.

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