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Letters to the editor

July 23, 2004 | Page 4

Don't ignore Nader's flaws
Nader targets "lesser evil"
Moore's movie isn't "our side"

Spain trades occupations

Dear Socialist Worker,
Perhaps one of the highlights of the strength of the international antiwar movement was the response of the Spanish people to the tragic terrorist attack of May 11 in Madrid. Rather than a reactionary response in favor of increased militarism, the Spanish people took to the streets, rightly placing the blame for the bombings on a pro-war government headed by Prime Minister José Maria Aznar and unexpectedly kicking him and his pro-war party out of office by electing the Socialist Party (PSOE), which had promised to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.

The PSOE, headed by José Luis Rodriquez Zapatero, fulfilled its promise--a resounding defeat for Bush and his imperialist agenda. Yet the limitations of reformist politicians are now being highlighted for the people of Spain. Zapatero is currently proposing to send troops and military supplies to both the occupations of Afghanistan (where torture and murder of detainees by occupation forces has been reported) and Haiti, the most recent occupation headed by U.S. Marines.

The obvious contradiction of rejecting one imperialist occupation (Iraq) and actively participating in others (Afghanistan and Haiti) is not missed by many in Spain, with even Aznar's Partido Popular, which supported the U.S.'s war in Iraq, pointing out the flawed logic.

Zapatero's new plans point to the important limitations of reformist politicians who will capitalize on people's overwhelming antiwar sentiment but thoroughly support the idea of increasing Spain power (via the U.S.) in the world. Just as it took a mass movement to bring Spanish troops home from Iraq, it will take another to keep troops out of Afghanistan and Haiti.
Shane Dillingham, Madrid, Spain

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Don't ignore Nader's flaws

Dear Socialist Worker,
Having read SW's excellent critical coverage of the Ralph Nader campaign in recent weeks--including Nader's various sops to John Kerry and his acceptance of the racist Reform Party's endorsement--it was something of a surprise to find no mention of any of this in Alan Maass' report on the Green Party convention ("The Green Party's step backward," July 2) or Sharon Smith's column ("The chokehold of 'Anybody But Bush,'" July 2) on the same subject.

Both writers clearly believe that the question of "Anybody But Bush" (ABB) is the decisive one for the left in 2004, and rightly so. A reasonable case can be made that Nader-Camejo represents a more effective challenge to the ABB consensus than does Cobb-LaMarche, given the "safe-states" strategy and lower visibility of the latter ticket.

But Alan's and Sharon's uncritical treatment of Nader--in an apparent attempt to "bend the stick" in his favor--makes their case less convincing, not more. If comrades think that, warts and all, the Nader-Camejo campaign deserves our support, say so. But don't ignore the warts--which include, most recently, Nader's public advice to John Kerry to pick John Edwards as his running mate.
Matt Nichter, Madison, Wis.

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Nader targets "lesser evil"

Dear Socialist Worker,
On June 27, independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader addressed an audience of about 300 people at the University of Washington. He spoke of the hostility he faces running against the two-party system, citing the sentiment of Congressional Black Caucus members--who stress that they support his right to run, yet want him to withdraw.

It seems that the force of the Anybody But Bush argument has pushed Nader further away from an already unwelcoming Democratic Party. In this speech, as opposed to one that he gave in April, Nader called the American electoral system a "two-party duopoly." He went after the Democrats for hunting Greens instead of "the thieves" in the 2000 Florida elections.

Nader still defends his acceptance of the Reform Party endorsement, claiming that he doesn't want to ignore Southern voters who agree with him on most issues. While this undercuts his ability to run an entirely left-wing campaign, Nader is moving visibly to the left, speaks proudly of Peter Camejo's run as his vice presidential candidate and continues to promise a 50-state campaign--criticizing Green Party presidential nominee David Cobb's policy of running a strictly "safe state" candidacy.

At the end, two Green Party activists spoke of their disappointment in their party's decision to nominate Cobb. They reported that several nationally prominent Greens, including former San Francisco mayoral candidate Matt Gonzalez, and significant numbers of Greens around the country, will get active in the Nader-Camejo campaign, in spite of the party's nomination of Cobb.
Kolya Ludwig, Seattle

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Moore's movie isn't "our side"

Dear Socialist Worker,
We find ourselves hard-pressed to uncritically accept the characterization of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 as "A movie for our side" (SW, July 2). While the movie does an amazing job of defaming President Bush and providing scathing criticism of the war in Iraq, it seems altogether too colored by Moore's recent bend towards liberalism in connection with his acceptance of "Anybody But Bush."

The main problem with the movie that we see as left out of Adam Turl's review is Moore's unending cling to ties between Saudi Arabia and the U.S., to the complete exclusion of any connection between the U.S. and Israel. As Moore shows image after image of Saudi leaders meeting with the president, concluding that Bush must be more loyal to Saudis than to Americans, one might begin to wonder if mention of a contentious point between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia--Israel--will be mentioned at all. Indeed, it is never once mentioned.

On top of this, Moore seems to take contradictory positions on two important points throughout the movie: the war on terrorism and the war on civil liberties at home. Moore skewers Bush for his handling of the Afghanistan war, but never once calls into question the legitimacy of this war in and of itself.

This lack of a message leaves a large opening for Democrats who might claim they could "better wage the war on terror." Indeed, his criticism lies entirely within the realm of the Afghanistan war not being waged diligently enough, or that the focus did not lie with finding Osama bin Laden.

This leads to Moore's next blunder. In the beginning of the movie, he goes so far as to suggest that the U.S. should have conducted its raids on Saudi families in the U.S. (specifically the bin Laden family) more forcefully, but then later decries the U.S. violating the privacy of its own citizens after the passing of the USA PATRIOT Act. And in one point Adam hit on most forcefully and correctly, he noted that "Moore skewers the USA PATRIOT Act--but not the roundup of thousands of Arabs and Muslims."

Beyond both these political points, Moore commits a much more grievous error--he panders to racism. In leaving out any mention of Arab or Muslim Americans' civil rights violations, he leaves the door open to racists who would look to blame Arabs or Muslims.

Additionally, the movie is replete with images of Saudis in kaffiyas who are denounced as the enemy, leaving this activist worried about his having worn a kaffiya to the screening. This is all in addition to a horribly racist montage in which the "Coalition of the Willing" is depicted as a group of primitive, pot-smoking barbarians.

Most offensively, Moore makes but one overture to the Iraqi resistance, despite the fact that his movie is dedicated to the Iraqi individuals murdered in the war. This tip-of-the-hat takes the form of the images of Iraqis dragging burned American bodies through the streets. Moore seems to leave the question of a legitimate, organized Iraqi resistance entirely out of the film.

Finally, we find ourselves in disagreement with Adam that Fahrenheit 9/11 presents the view that the Democrats are not the answer. Moore touts Democrat after Democrat on screen, never once mentioning that each and every one of them voted for the war and USA PATRIOT Act. While there are a couple of instances where Democrats make fools of themselves, the message is far from clear--and indeed, when Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin appeared on screen, the Madison audience burst into applause.

While Adam was correct in noting the merits of approximately half the film, Moore's repeated nods to Democrats and attempts to merge a radical with a liberal perspective on the Bush administration--most likely the result of his capitulation to ABB--make the film fall quite short of the title "A movie for our side."
Matt Tucker and Laura Nelson, Madison, Wis.

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