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Views in brief

November 2, 2007 | Page 10

VIEWS BELOW:
Hypocrisy about genocide
The lesson of In the Valley of Elah
What about the "Gravel factor"?
"No borders" or national sovereignty?
Thanks for Socialist Worker

Hypocrisy about genocide

LESS THAN a month after pummeling the Iranian president at every stop of his trip to New York, pundits and politicians are being far more forgiving of our own holocaust-denying president.

From 1915 to 1917, as many as one-and-a-half million Armenians were massacred, starved and deported in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire. For decades, Armenians have struggled to get world recognition of the genocide they suffered. This fall, members of Congress from districts with heavy Armenian populations introduced a symbolic resolution to condemn the genocide.

Predictably, Turkey reacted with fury and threatened to deny the U.S. the use of Incirlik airbase, a crucial staging area for the Iraq occupation. President Bush, eager to maintain Turkish support for a war that is beginning to qualify as genocide in its own right, argued that "what Congress should not be doing is sorting out the historical record of the Ottoman Empire." Bush's remark eerily echoes the infamous words of the French fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen, who once called the Nazi gas chambers a "detail of history."

For many people from Jewish backgrounds such as myself, it's been particularly galling to note the deafening silence of the Israeli government and its supporters in the U.S. like the Anti-Defamation League, which actually fired its New England regional organizer last summer for using the "g-word" to describe the Armenian tragedy.

"We fully understand the importance of Israel's strategic alliance with Turkey," one anonymous leader told the Jerusalem Post, "so over the years...we've given precedence to our concerns about the security of Israel over any feelings over the need take a moral stand on the Armenian genocide."

When I was a child, I was taught that the meaning of "never again" was that the memory of the Nazi holocaust should be used to prevent such atrocities against any peoples in the future. That commitment to justice helped shape my character and led me to become a socialist years later. Zionism has perverted a universal message into a nationalist one: "never again--to Jews."

Behind this banner of defending Israel we were first supposed to support the displacement and repression of Palestinians, then support the criminal war against Iraq, and now remain silent about the Armenian genocide.

It is long past due that the millions of Jews and non-Jews in the U.S. who oppose these atrocities to come to the conclusion that they should oppose Zionism as well.
Danny Katch, New York City

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The lesson of In the Valley of Elah

THE RECENT review of In the Valley of Elah ("After the soldiers come back home," October 5) piqued my curiosity, so I went to the theater to see for myself what justice the film was able to do to show the plight of soldiers and military families devastated by the war in Iraq.

What I found was not only a powerful indictment of the brutal inhumanity of war and the degrading disregard offered by the military establishment to those who devote their lives to military service in search of a sense of purpose and honor, but also an unflinchingly realistic portrayal of the very real human beings who pay the price of the war at home.

In the Valley of Elah is indeed a haunting film and seems to anticipate an audience critical of the occupation. It depicts the struggle of young soldiers who have paid dearly for a pack of lies and deals with the difficulties of breaking with that series of ideas--while expecting that the film's viewers will have already rejected them.

The film takes place in 2004, shortly after the first siege of Falluja and delivers several graphic reminders to the audience of the war crimes perpetrated there, making deliberate reference to the use of white phosphorous. It is worth noting that in 2004, the media's suppression of this and other realities of the occupation, along with a constant and concerted effort to paint the Iraqi resistance as composed entirely of foreign terrorists and the coming Iraqi elections as the imposition of democracy, was far more widely accepted.

It would hardly be uncommon, even today as a solid majority has grown weary and withdrawn its support for the seemingly endless occupation, to find young people enlisting in the military out of a deep moral sense of obligation and tradition.

Military enlistment does, without a doubt, prey on poor and working-class youth of color who hope the promise of college funding and other benefits will not turn out to be a lie.

But recruitment also depends on rural, white, working-class communities in which the lies promulgated by the ruling establishment--that in the wake of a costly occupation, jobs and benefits are scarce because of illegal immigration; that might equals right; that U.S. imperialism is a benevolent, democracy-delivery service to the world's most ravaged and depressed nations--have made their deepest impressions.

The protagonist of this film is just such a military man. He appears to hang on the words of George W. Bush, and exemplifies the racism, sexism and nationalism that pervade military life. His heartbreaking emotional detachment and sudden outbursts of violent racism are very difficult to watch. But they certainly don't "come out of nowhere," as the review stated.

Part of this movie's brilliance is that it no more shies away from the truly "disturbing" realities of the war at home--the whole series of racist ideas and outright lies sold to the public to keep them from questioning the U.S.'s real interests in Iraq--than it does from the barbarism of the war itself.

It is crucial viewing for anyone horrified by the war and dedicated to fighting to end it precisely because it makes such a persuasive case for the political battles which must be waged, against war-mongers and a complacent congress, but also against the ideology used to send the poor off to fight a rich man's war.
Rachel Cohen, Chicago

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What about the "Gravel factor"?

IN REGARDS to Dennis Kucinich being the only decent Democratic candidate ("The Kucinich factor," October 5): Hey, you guys ever hear of a fella named Mike Gravel? I guess you (like The New York Times, et. al.) are also somewhat selective in who you consider to be viable and genuine candidates.
Mike Yanasak, from the Internet

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"No borders" or national sovereignty?

I HAVE been struck by an apparent equivocation on the matter of the U.S. Civil War in particular and nationalism in general by the International Socialist Organization (ISO).

On the one hand, the ISO states, "Socialists are for the voluntary, free union of peoples and are therefore in principle opposed to any forced retention of any nation within the borders of another." This would seem to argue for the right of the South to secede from the North, and to perpetuate its policy of slavery.

I also heard an ISO speaker endorse the idea that the revolution of the South against the North freed American slaves. Of course, what freed the slaves was the failure of the South to sustain its revolution, in light of Lincoln's intent to maintain continental hegemony. He was willing to concede slavery; not abolish it for morality's sake. The "anti-imperialists" here based their rebellion upon a sensed entitlement to own and import slaves.

It's hard for me to reconcile the notion of "no borders" with the idea that national sovereignty (i.e., Poland, in the case of the Soviets, and more currently, in the case of imperialists, Iraq and Palestine) is to be respected.

Which is it? At some point, one must make a choice between envisioning worldwide socialism and maintaining national identity. I'm confused as to how exactly one can endorse both.
April Kissel, Takoma Park, Md.

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Thanks for Socialist Worker

I WOULD like to thank you so very much for keeping up on your good work with the news in the Socialist Worker newspaper. Your team is doing such a wonderful job. When I first started getting the paper, I was reading small parts of it. Now, for the last year, I've been reading the whole paper.

I enjoy reading the paper. I'm sorry that I can't send your team any money because I'm an indigent prisoner, due to my family passing away. Therefore I can't show my thanks by sending any money.

I'm also learning so much about what's going on around the world by reading SW. You've done a really great job by getting Kenneth Foster off of death row. I know your team put a lot of work into it.

Thanks a lot for everything.
Robert Mexico, Baraga, Mich.

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