Views in brief

January 11, 2008

Distortions about Respect

CLIVE SEARLE'S explanation of the crisis in Respect in Britain is wholly partisan and rather non-political ("What happened to respect?" December 7).

Splits of this nature are not caused by groups overreacting to letters they receive, but by serious political differences. In particular, Searle omits to say that the Respect Renewal group, around George Galloway, instead of presenting to conference proposals for change in Respect, called for Respect members not to go to the Respect conference and organized a Respect Renewal rally on the same day at the same time as the delegate conference.

In this kind of split situation, all sorts of accusations--true or false--fly in all directions, but organizing a rally and a boycott of the conference is not a serious political response.

Many mistakes were no doubt made on both sides, but the center of the split is whether elections or on-the-ground struggles should be the main focus of Respect as an organization. Sadly, Galloway prefers electoralism. And some good class fighters have made the mistake of following him in this split.

It is on the ground that it will become clear which of the two groups has a viable project for the socialist left.
John Mullen, from the Internet

Hidden toll of the Iraq war

ALTHOUGH THE official number of U.S. soldiers killed from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is over 4,000, the number is probably six times higher. Why? Because of the deaths the government doesn't track--veteran suicides.

A CBS News investigation released in November found that out of the 45 states who returned data, in 2005 alone there were "at least 6,256 suicides among those who served in the armed forces. That's 120 each and every week, in just one year."

Read it again: 6,256 veteran suicides in 2005 alone. That's nearly 2,000 more in one year than official number killed in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past six years of war and occupation. This should be the news story of the year!

Let's be charitable and suppose that there were no suicides in 2001-2004. Suppose, furthermore, that the numbers in 2006 and 2007 are the same as for 2005, which is also a conservative estimate given that both wars have gotten steadily worse over time--with extended tours of duty, multiple deployments, increased violence in each successive year of occupation and all the post-traumatic stress that goes along with it. This means at least 18,768 U.S. veterans have been killed during the past three years of the so-called "war on terror."

If you add the 4,366 active duty soldiers killed, then the number of dead we should be talking about is over 23,000 current and former U.S. soldiers--not to mention the deaths of Iraqis and Afghanis.

No wonder these numbers have been largely suppressed by most of the corporate media. Veteran suicides are the predictable mental health result of what soldiers experience as they are made into human cannon fodder in U.S. wars for oil and empire.

As Penny Coleman--whose veteran husband committed suicide after the Vietnam War--put it in testimony before a recent House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing on mental health issues, "It is a credit to their humanity, not a sign of their weakness, that these men and women find it hard to live afterwards with what they have seen and, in some cases, done."

What CBS News has called a hidden "suicide epidemic among veterans" ought to give lie to the claim that people aren't affected enough by the war to take a stand against it.
Brian Kwoba, Boston

Stop apologizing for Chávez

I CANNOT help but feel that Lee Sustar's article "What's Really Happening In Venezula?" (November 30) is a malicious lie at worst, and grossly misinformed at best.

As opposed to analyzing what Chávez is doing in Venezuela with a critical eye, Sustar has acted as an apologist for Chávez's actions. Various points made in the article are contradictory not only to socialist politics, but to the working of a basic democratic society.

Take, for example, the way Sustar describes the closure of the RCTV channel. Decried for supporting the coup that deposed Chávez and for espousing the beliefs of the opposition, it has been shut down.

Instead of being up in arms about this, we are told that it is an excusable action. Utilizing this logic, what prevents the United States from shutting down papers such as Socialist Worker? Are we not an "opposition" force as well? Aren't we trying to usher in a radical restructuring of society that would ultimately dismantle what is currently in place?

Sustar refuses to acknowledge that the bad must also be taken with the good. An opposed viewpoint, no matter how despicable, must be tolerated and not stamped into submission. We are supposed to prove our superiority through politics and organization, not by exercising the power to squelch them out.

Another example can be found in the way that Sustar supports Chávez's constitutional "reforms." Regardless of all the wonderful things Chávez is proposing, one cannot help but see his consolidation of power as a sticking point.

Someone needs to ask what the motivations are for these actions. I can recall many times throughout history in which leaders have taken it upon themselves to more accurately represent their people through "reforms." Once all of Chávez's oil wealth runs out, what is really going to remain? The massive public works projects or the constitutional power?

I also find Sustar's swipe at the U.S. Constitution a low blow as well. I don't really see how one of the most important documents in the history of the world can be considered a relic. If Bush proposed the same alterations to the Constitution that Chávez has, I'm sure there would be a multitude of protests attempting to limit his naked increase of power. But in Chávez's case, it is considered acceptable.

Lastly, does Sustar notice the irony in criticizing university students for their participation in protests? Is it not the International Socialist Organization's policy to perform a large amount of recruitment from university campuses all over the United States?

Furthermore, just because these students in Venezuela are middle class, it doesn't mean that they are conservative. Class consciousness can be mixed. Creating a broad generalization that university students are anti-Chávez simply because they are conservative is conflating the actual issue.

I sincerely hope that in the future, Sustar will analyze issues with an objective lens. Someone cannot be confused as to what is going on simply because it is couched in leftward-leaning terms. I hardly see anything superiorly democratic occurring in Venezuela.
Michael Brenyo, from the Internet