Letters to the Editor

(November 1, 2004)


John Steppling's Review of Swans' October 18 Edition

To the Editor:

Phillip Greenspan's piece on war and the election is a good place to start this review. Phillip is often a good place to start for a lot of reasons. He points out just how easy it is to forget (and we all do) the ugly reality of war -- the on-the-ground face of death and destruction. In a sanitized world of corporate media we all too readily think of war as an abstraction. Here is the point at which Phillip raises the insanity of both the Democrats and the Republicans and their hawkish platforms. In spite of the obvious, the ABB brigades will continue to, rather stridently and sometimes hysterically, flog the Nobody But Kerry mantra. There are those who will submit it is a "good" thing that Nader is off a lot of ballots. Hardly democratic you might answer. Well, yes, it hardly is. But see, the hysteria has taken hold, and this electoral theatre of the absurd is rolling over all rational discussion. Phillip shows us the positions of the parties and then asks if electoral politics even has legitimacy anymore. I suspect he is right when he answers that it doesn't.

Milo Clark covers the voting details in Hawaii...quotes Rumi, even...but seems more than happy Nader isn't allowed on the ballot. Can we look up cognitive dissonance, please? Clark does however point to the obvious: electronic voting doesn't work, and seems designed to create chaos. Well, make that designed to keep the incumbent in power.

Louis Proyect reviews my favorite author, Herman Melville. His early work Typee is given a cogent critique and reminds me just how wonderful Melville really was. The dark heart of America was seen early by one of the nation's true geniuses.

Gilles d'Aymery's blips this week covers assorted issues. The question of Israeli land grabs surfaces once more...per Dov Weissglas's interview in Ha'aretz. There are often things we cannot know, but what we do know is that no Israeli government has ever wanted a Palestinian state. Period. Since Oslo this must be obvious to almost everyone, right? . . . . Right??? Sometimes we must bear strange bedfellows though -- like Antiwar.com -- because here and there they have useful information. This was true when pouring through the history of the Balkan conflict, and it's true with Israel/Palestine. Don't be too hard on those looking for answers, Gilles, even if they conflate Zionism and Imperialism. As I've said before, even a blind squirrel...a libertarian squirrel even...gathers some nuts. However, this is a minor detour, for the real lesson of this SWANS issue is the reality of blood. Gilles points to the murder of a Palestinian schoolgirl. Another one. I wonder if an Arab soldier had murdered, say, an American schoolgirl in, I don't know, Saudi Arabia, what the response would be like? What would Tom Delay say, or Hillary Clinton, or Dennis Hastert? What would Kerry or Bush say? For the record, over 500 Palestinian children have been killed since the second Intifada began. Can we define "terrorism," please?

Our fearless leader also recaps the SWANS election verdict. The envelope please; and the winner is...nobody. The writers for SWANS disagree a lot on the coming election, but I suspect (if I may speak for all) a certain feeling of dread at the coming cycle of Imperial madness.

Gerard Donnelly Smith contributes an excellent summary of what Phillip spoke to above. The war. Death. Smith's piece is a good reference and one all those friendly ABBers should read, re-read, and sleep on. Tallying up corpses isn't pleasant, and it's hard to dwell on this stuff for too long, but I congratulate Gerard and Phillip for making us look at the bloody and concrete aspects of US foreign policy. Read up on the recent disclosures of dissent in the military and one gets a rather sobering image of what a monumental failure this colonial adventure has been...and how deadly. The 343rd Quartermaster Company refused to deliver a shipment of fuel along a dangerous road in the south of Iraq. This is no doubt the first of many such refusals. Can fragging be far behind? People, no matter how indoctrinated, do have a survival instinct. Things are so bad now, that instinct is kicking in. It might be a good sign.

Phil Rockstroh argues that liberals, though irritating, are not quite as mad as Emperor Bush. I guess Phil just has a real hard on for the Christian right -- understandable (and if one wants to read some scary Christian right stuff, check Katherine Yurica's piece at Axis of Logic (http://www.axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_12647.shtml). But Phil, one might argue (I might argue) that the latte sipping smug liberal left is far worse in many ways than the cartoon fundamentalism of Ashcroft and Bush. This is all cosmetic, anyway, and I do share a reactive anger at the obvious attempts being put in place to steal this election (by the far right...read Kuttner's piece at Common Dreams...http://www.commondreams.org/views04/1020-26.htm). But the self-satisfied tone of liberals, and their positions on things like Milosevic, Rwanda, and now Darfur, should tell you something. It is this liberal stance of compassionate Imperialism that really upsets me. Oh, we can't stand by and watch another genocide... We must come up with a rational policy of intervention. Send the Marines to Sudan. Milosevic is a fascist...I read it in Harpers. We need the UN...get Kofi Annan on the phone. If we involve the international community we can help bring democracy to Iraq. Dems signed onto all Bush's policies...China, No Child Left Behind, and The Patriot Act...gag, vomit, puke. I admire Phil a lot...and always look forward to his pieces here at Swans, but this isn't about hating a schoolyard bully, it's about world corporate empire and fighting Imperialism. It's easily demonstrable that Democrats have been just as destructive and hawkish as Republicans. Phil says under Kerry he (Phil) might be frustrated at times -- well, I suspect the peasants of Venezuela will be a bit more than frustrated under Kerry, or the Bolivian peasants, or the people of Iraq and Gaza. This can't be talked of in terms of style. I recently watched a BBC documentary on North Korea. Another "let's-beat-up-the-DPRK" piece passing as serious journalism... They showed peasant women watching North Korean TV, which is partly an endless loop of Dear Leader and his accomplishments. The journalist waxed, sadly, how these people can only sit and watch this endless propaganda. I wondered about American housewives sitting and watching Oprah...I mean, is this better? At least the North Koreans aren't morbidly obese. The unsophisticated DPRK TV propaganda shouldn't be laughed at when most Americans watch Tom Brokaw and American Idol. Brokaw is slicker....the productions values better, but it's all bullshit. It's the same bullshit. It's all equally mind numbing -- twelve hours a day of Kim Jong Il or twelve hours a day of Tucker Carlson and detergent commercials. You know what, I'll take Dear Leader. Style just isn't a good enough reason to accept pillage and colonialism. The issue of class looms here as well. The svelte faux-literate liberal press suggests something that turns out to be a mirage. The patina of educated discourse makes these writers more culpable, to my mind, than the Nascar attending, flag waving yahoos, or the brain damaged zealots of The Weekly Standard. I can't think of any journalists I dislike more right now than Timothy Garton Ash, Marc Cooper, Marlise Simons, Anthony Lewis, Nicholas Kristof, Michael Ignatieff, Ian Buruma, and Samantha Power. Adorno said liberalism is the handmaiden to fascism...and one feels, these days, he was most certainly correct.

Jan Baughman's cartoon is a nice addition to the ABB debate -- or whatever it is now. Bitch fest, I guess. It's quite on target, and succinct...as I often wish I were.

I have a bias, but Anna Kuros's piece on Poland is a good guide to the post communist catastrophe of Eastern Europe. Let me add that since Poland joined the EU, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, has gotten worse. It isn't progress; it just is not. Ms. Kuros demystifies a subject the West doesn't get to hear much about.

Gilles also has a short piece on Nader. Maybe this will be the final word for a while. What is obvious, and it IS obvious, is that a candidate like Nader at least comes close to representing positions that would help the country and save lives and the environment. If Kerry wins (and refer back to Clark's piece above...since it indicates he won't) and then when the NED creeps into Caracas, or we support Sharon surgically murdering another octogenarian in a wheelchair, or when more body bags return from Baghdad (and the civilian death toll in Iraq is now close to fourteen thousand), what will those who voted for him feel? What? Less evil, no doubt. (oh, I guess Chomsky will be heard shouting "we saved Social Security"). Let me leave you with this short update from Venezuela (you know, that South American country that both Bush and Kerry want to de-stabilize...err...make democratic... It's about health care, and it's about Cuba, and it's about Chavez)... http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=45&ItemID=6441.

Oh, and Gilles nominates Frank Wycoff for President. Well, I'll buy that, but I want to nominate Stan Goff for VP, with Arundhati Roy for Secretary of State (ok, ok, she's Indian...but we can fix that with a quick amendment). And maybe Phil Rockstroh for Under Secretary of Cool.

Until next time...post election, the cold artic winds are blowing across St Petersburg toward Poland, and I am turning up the furnace...even though heating prices have gone up four-fold since two years ago.

John Steppling
Krakow, Poland - October 23, 2004
[ed. Steppling is a LA playwright (Rockefeller fellow, NEA recipient, and PEN-West winner) and screenwriter (most recent was Animal Factory directed by Steve Buscemi). He is currently living in Poland where he teaches at the National Film School in Lodz.]


Poland, mon amour: Anna Kuros's Never Buy a Cat in a Bag
To the Editor:

Some years ago, right at the beginning of the end of "Communism" in eastern Europe I met at Yale a young woman from Warsaw. She was I imagined quite like the others of her young twenty-something generation; bright incandescently curious, and full of loathing for the "workers government" then in power. During our numerous conversations, I searched in vain for some sign that there existed in People's Poland some redemptive features of everyday life, some saving grace which differentiated her society from mine. She would have none of it. Poland would be "free" -- in her words -- when it had achieved the "normalcy" of America, with its free markets and the credo of individual responsibility and initiative.

We lost contact after a few years, and I have often wondered what became of her and especially her optimistic hopes for her homeland. I am wondering if perhaps Ms. Kuros has inadvertently provided me with an answer.

Louis Godena
Cumberland, Rhode Island, USA - October 21, 2004


To the Editor:

Thanks for such an excellent and invaluable analysis on Poland's recent history under communism and its experience under capitalism, one based in large part on the author's personal experiences.

It strikes me, from my own observation and now from her comments, how millions of people in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc have been duped by the promise of prosperity and happiness of life under capitalism, which has turned out to be nothing more than a sham.

Joe Davison
Los Angeles, California, USA - October 21, 2004


We are all Jews, and Palestinians -- err, humans: Gilles d'Aymery's blips #4 and Justice and Palestine: An Oxymoron?
To the Editor:

Charges of anti-Semitism are often used when factual accounts of Israeli abuse are uncovered. Israeli apologists cry that the Jews have a historical right to defend themselves, to protect their borders form Islamic terrorist, not even considering that the Israeli government's actions, the actions of the Israeli military, and Israeli "frontier-cowboys" terrorize the civilian population of Palestine. Yes, break their arms and legs indeed, says Yitzhak Rabin. In August 1864, Colonel John M. Chivington in a speech to Colorado volunteers (Indian-killers) admonished them to "kill and scalp all, little and big... nits make lice." His commanding officer General Sheridan (burner of Atlanta) said "The only good Indian is a dead Indian." See http://www.dickshovel.com/ind.html for further analysis. Is then, the only good Palestinian child, the one with broken arms and legs; the only good Palestinian a dead one? How far, then, have we fallen from enlightenment?

Rather than deal with the facts that Israeli policy toward the Palestinians represents oppression, occupation, and ethnic cleansing, apologists cry "anti-Semite," Jew-hater. Such "name-calling," the oldest form of propaganda in the book, focuses the debate away from the facts to incite the emotions rather than the intellect.

Granted, Palestinian groups do "terrorize" the Israeli population, but as Gilles d'Aymery and many others have illustrated so well, the balance sheet of terror shows the most RED on the Israeli ledger.

Good fences do not make good neighbors, despite Robert Frost's idealism. Fences inhibit dialog, fences and walls deny the root problem, fences and walls hide the atrocities.

Those who use the label "anti-Semite" as a derogatory attack against those critical of Israeli policy are mostly uniformed. Semite means any member of people who speaks a Semitic language: Hebrews, Arabs, Assyrians, Phoenicians. The slang, very informal use of Semite for Jew, has corrupted the actual meaning of the word, just as uneducated pundits use "myth" to mean falsehood, when the true meaning is "sacred story." In the Middle East, the Semites not only share a common, root language, they also share a common sacred text: Semite sons of Shem and Abraham indeed.

If I criticize Israeli policies toward Palestine, don't label me as anti-Semite. I have good friends who are Arabs.

Gerard Donnelly Smith
Vancouver, Washington, USA - October 19, 2004


A Debate challenge, scrongneugneu. Short e-mail exchange with Jeffrey Blankfort regarding Gilles d'Aymery's review of The Politics of anti-Semitism - Part II
Dear Gilles d'Aymery,

I never got around to replying to your critique of my entry in the "Politics of Anti-Semitism," but I recently learned that you also live in Mendocino County. Would you be interested in debating me or, at least, taking the opposition in a public forum on the issue of the Israel lobby? You seem to dismiss what I and others have to say as "anti-semitism," even if you don't use that exact term -- or maybe you did, and I missed it. Despite efforts on my part, the last person to chicken out was Stephen Zunes. After agreeing to do so, he found one excuse after another not to do so. Well, how about it?

Jeffrey Blankfort
Ukiah, California, USA - October 18, 2004

Dear Jeffrey,

Thank you for your e-mail. I indeed live in Mendocino County, in the Boonville hills. Feel free to visit me any time. You are most welcome. My phone number is [XXX-XXXX].

Also, feel free to write a letter to the editor. I will publish it -- as I will publish this short exchange.

I am not particularly interested in debating you -- or anyone else for that matter -- but can do it if necessary. My experience, observing debates, is that they tend to become shouting matches quite quickly.

For the record, I have not accused you, nor the Christisons, Cockburn, St. Clair, and Suderland (whoever he is), of anti-Semitism. I posited that your analysis is erroneous and that it may result inadvertently in adding fuel to the fire and play into the hands of anti-Semites (as well as the gov. of Israel and its defenders, by the way...a point that, however, I did not make in my review of the otherwise excellent book).

I would suggest, finally, that accusing Stephen Zunes of "chickening out" of a debate with you (I sure would like to hear Mr. Zunes's views on this before taking this accusation at face value) is not the smartest way to lure me into debating you.

Yours sincerely,

Gilles d'Aymery
Swans Commentary
Boonville, California, USA - October 18, 2004
Dear Gilles,

Thanks for your prompt response. I didn't respond to your original critique because I was too busy at the time and it then slipped my mind. I'm working on another article at the moment but I will take up your offer.

Regarding Zunes, I think if you would read our exchanges and then his excuses for not participating, you might agree with my description. If I can find them, I will send them along. I actually did not want a formal debate but for both of us to present our positions, make a response and ask each other a few questions and then open it to the audience. Zunes was worried that my "organization" (I have none and belong to none) would "pack the place," so he wanted the event to be sponsored by Lerner's Tikkun or Alan Solomonow's American Friends Service Committee. I agreed and suggested that he contact either one of them which he didn't do. Then he claimed to be "sick" but was able to make a speaking engagement. The last time I saw him, in July, when he introduced Tanya Reinhart in Santa Cruz, and then promptly left, I spoke to him in friendly fashion about it, but he was non-committal. I have never been able to get anyone to debate. Chomsky, Beinin, and Bennis all said "it wouldn't be useful." their exact quotes, believe it or not -- Chomsky and Bennis to third parties, and Beinin to me. If what I have to say is so off the wall, why can't I get a discussion, if not a debate? I'm not a shouter and if you are interested, let me know. I am in the mountains above Ukiah at [phone number].

Jeff, October 19, 2004

Dear Jeff,

Thank you for your e-mail. Please excuse me for the delay in answering you. I've been distracted. As said, I am not particularly interested in a debate -- a discussion would do just fine; I've invited you to my home and would be glad to meet you.

I can't speak for the people you cite but why not take them at their words when they say "it wouldn't be useful?" You know their positions. They know yours. All, including you, have eloquently presented their views countless times. I don't see what new info would come to light through a debate.

Again, please feel welcome to visit and/or write a letter to the editor.

Gilles d'Aymery, October 29, 2004


Revolution and Zionism
Dear Mr. d'Aymery:

You are like so many others on the Left so deeply afraid of anti-Semitism, that you can't even look realistically at the facts. There is more than enough evidence, that the influence of Israel has been very strong on US-Middle-Eastern politics in the last few decades. The influence of AIPAC has been strong on Congress. And political careers have been ruined for anybody who tried a more Palestinian-friendly approach. The Iraq war and the fractioning of all Arab countries have been planned by Israeli thinkers since the 1980s. See,

The attitude of right-wing Israelis towards Arabs generally and Palestinians in particular is the same as the attitude of the Nazis towards Jews before 1941. While there is no extermination planned there however is talks quite often about transfer and a Palestine free of Palestinians (Erez Israel). Those Israelis, most of the Sharon government and sorry to say Americans as well, see the Palestinians and other Arab people most definitely as Untermenschen. How can a leftist and humanist justify this?

Zionism is a racist doctrine, claiming another people's land for themselves by expelling part of the native people, putting the rest under discriminating laws, making their lives miserable and going on killing-sprees against them over and over again. And any neighbour who sympathizes with the oppressed and murdered are targeted as well. Iraq was on Israel's list for destruction and an extremely Israel-friendly government starts a war with Iraq, under a cover of big lies. Some influential members of the Bush government have already worked for right-wing Israeli organisations, some have even been indicted for espionage. Why should it be anti-Semitic to notice the obvious? So even if you don't want to see it, there is an Israeli connection. But as so many others, if the truth goes against your core beliefs, you just refuse to face it, no matter how hard the evidence. Isn't that what the creationist Christians do? The earth was created in just 6 days, literally. Why? Well, Moses said so. I'm a Christian, myself, by the way. But I think the fundies misunderstand something. Just as you do in your belief system. Capitalism is not the only destructive force in this world. Sometimes it is intermingled with racist nationalism, such as for instance the Nazi ideology or Zionism. There are capitalist reasons for the Iraq war, like oil and further enrichment of the military-industrial complex, but the main reason this time is Israel.

Erlenda Karlsdottir
Reykjavik, Iceland - October 22, 2004

Gilles d'Aymery responds:

I evidently disagree with Mrs. Erlenda Karlsdottir's exposé, inferences, assumptions, and conclusion. Great Powers' meddling in the Middle East preceded the creation of Israel. "Divide and Rule" is certainly not a 1980s Israeli invention (in the person of Oded Yinon). Rather, I would direct her, for instance, to the (originally secret) May 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement. Talks and "transfers" of Palestinians also preceded Nazi Germany and is well documented all the way back to the first Aliya in 1882 and the implementation of Plan Dalet in 1948. Same can be said in regard to racism against Arabs, a racism that was shared by the Europeans powers and is shared by the United States. That I know, no "influential members of the Bush administration have even been indicted for espionage." There is nothing new here. What's new perhaps is the growing opposition in the world to the ongoing unjust, racist and violent policies of the state of Israel. To sustain such an opposition, enlarge it, and support the increasing numbers of Jewish people all over the world (and yes, this includes the U.S. and Israel) who are rising against these despicable policies, is certainly not helped by abject analogies and Jewish conspiracy insinuations. The much respected, esteemed, and principled Israel Shahak, were he still alive today, would have been embarrassed by the source of her information, Theunjustmedia.com -- a site dedicated to Holocaust Revisionism (Faurisson, et al.), the control of banking and the Federal Reserve by the "Jews" and the British Crown, the Illuminati, the "refutation" of evolution (Darwinism), and other canards that make me yawn due to their recurring banality. Finally, why would one "believe" when one can doubt?


Asking question is a sure ticket to Gitmo
To the Editor:

May I ask why many politicians & associates in the United States are allowed carte blanche to profit financially from selling / transferring weapons etc. to all & sundry globally (particularly in time of war) without a murmur from majority of citizens?

Demonstrably, those particularly in power treat ordinary folks with absolute disdain & contempt. Ethics, Morality, Nepotism, Cronyism, Conflict of interests, Compulsive throat lying etc. Politicians/ Lawyers etc. not mentioning these topics above are therefore complicit. How can the U.S.A. be thus called a democracy. WHILST SECRECY PREVAILS, DEMOCRACY WITHERS & FAILS.


John Cameron
Sydney, NSW, Australia - October 18, 2004
PS. Most Australians democratically opposed joining massacre in Iraq & were repudiated.


Rampant IVS infection: Jan Baughman's Cartoon Anyone But Bush?
To the Editor:

Jan Baughman's silly cartoon reinforces the general view Swans invites, think anything as long as it doesn't interfere with the facts.

Nader is also a multi-millionaire. And a lawyer.

Bill Eger
Puna, Hawai'i, USA - October 18, 2004


Pointless joke? Gilles d'Aymery's Ralph Nader: A Vote For Sanity
To the Editor:

So, who do you vote for? Nader has no electoral votes; Nader had no electoral votes in 2000. Bush and Kerry have electoral votes; both can win. Who do you choose?

Let me state, I used, USED to like and respect Mr. Nader -- I grew up with him. But after the 2000 election disaster, and now his "run" for the presidency...the spectre of Dubya again is evil and terrifying. Nader is SINGLE HANDEDLY giving Dubya victory again. The diabolically insidious "candidacy," which will be remembered in history as a tragic, pointless joke.

Mark Patterson
Phoenix, Arizona, USA - October 21, 2004


Nixon's Halloween: Phil Rockstroh's God, The Ghost Of Richard Nixon, And The Demons Of Election 2004
To the Editor:

I certainly agree with everything you said in your article, however, as much as I would like to see Bush defeated, I doubt that it will happen. The Bush team has succesfully pedaled their political poison of fear and war mongering to the general public and like the German people of the 1930s swallowed Hitler's line, the American people have swallowed Bush's big lie hook, line and sinker. The Republican bullies will continue their act as long as the American people remain in denial. Concerning the so-called Christians that support Bush, I believe they are in for a rude awakening.

Another four years of Bush will just about send this country down the rat hole; in my view this is what we are going to get. God help us.

Floyd Blue
Orlando, Florida, USA - October 18, 2004


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Published November 1, 2004
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