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Top 10 Letters

Idealism on the left and right, our Saudi problem, and more.

11:00 PM, Dec 9, 2002
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How does Skinner disregard the fact that the British did not come out with such a report till the eve of a war with Iraq? Why do we not see such reports on Syria? Are the people of Syria free? Has there not been political repression there? Have not thousands been killed there? What about a report on Iran? Myanmar? Vietnam? Indonesia? Malaysia? What about reports on our allies such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Eygpt?

The report by the British government was factual, and if it had come out 2, 3, 5, or 10 years ago it would have been hailed. There was no misreporting of Amnesty's research, just cold hypocritical, political misuse.

I am a neo-Wilsonian, and I do want to see the world a better place. I do want to see the United States take on its obligation as a leader in the world order, and I want to see an effective United Nations, but the actions of the current administration in the long run are bad for this, and will come back and haunt this nation.

Skinner is correct that it is tough for those on the left who do not want war but hate Saddam with every fiber of our being. What Skinner and the Right wish to ignore is that Saddam could be defanged without war. That change can be brought to Iraq without war. Yes, it would take longer. It would be harder to point to success, and it would not look good on TV, but it could be done.

The administration has built Saddam into a bigger boogie man then he ever truly was, so please excuse the Left if we do not want a war that could be avoided.

-Richard J. Rolsen

*8*

I was delighted to discover in David Skinner's article "No More Idealism on the Left" that the Right has become a breeding ground of crusaders for human rights and world peace. And I thought that "compassionate conservatism" was an oxymoron! I despair, however, in learning from Skinner that those on the left have become moral truants and cynics and that "to be of the Left is to be anti-American and to oppose America's allies." I think the best way the Right can help the Left overcome its cynicism is by proving that the Right is more moral and idealistic than the Left when it comes to human rights.

Of course the Right could not rely on past actions as proof. It would be nice to say that when confronted with Saddam's human rights atrocities in the 1980s, Reagan immediately withdrew financial and military aid to Saddam and worked to overthrow the regime and helped support a democracy in Iraq that would be a beacon of freedom in the Mideast. This cannot be said, however, because human rights or even democracy have never appeared to be an objective of the Right. As long as a dictator was responsive to the economic or strategic desires of the United States, human rights or democracy was not an issue.

So now it is up to George W. Bush to prove that those on the right are the moral standard-bearers in the struggle for human rights and democracy. His big chance comes in two parts: postwar Iraq and the consistency of his administration's foreign policy. If a pro-American government with little popular support, like the Shah of Iran, is installed in Iraq, Bush won't succeed in dispelling the cynicism of the Left because this will re-enforce the notion that human rights are an afterthought and a pretext for war after the administration's attempt to link Saddam to al Qaeda proved to be embarrassingly untenable. If the administration uses our resources and influence to help create a vibrant democracy in Iraq, it will go a long way to prove Skinner's assertions. To really prove to the Left, and indeed the world, that the Right is commited to peace, democracy, and human rights, the administration needs to apply these principles consistently, even when there is not such an obvious economic and strategic interest as friendly control of a third of the world's oil. Consistent support of these principles would include an even-handed approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict, leading the world in ending Africa's nightmare of disease, tyranny, and starvation, and outlawing American companies' exploitation of third world citizens. If Bush pursues these objectives, not only would the Left lose its cynicism, but anti-Americanism would no longer be a badge of honor among the worlds have-nots.

-Peter Baker

*9*

Our nation, our government, and our future are being held hostage to the Saudis due to our dependence on imported oil (Terry Eastland, "A Problematic Ally"). If we want to force the Saudis to end their support of the most radical elements of Wahhabism, we must first address our own dependency on their oil. Our government has failed for many years to develop a coherent energy policy. We must wean ourselves off of Saudi and other imported oil so that we may be free to voice our opinions and pursue our foreign policies without fear of economic retaliation. In the short term we ought to be drilling in the Arctic and in the Gulf of Mexico. In the longer term, our government needs to adopt a vision of an alternative fuel to oil, support its development, and then support its deployment. The obvious solution is hydrogen. Our government should adopt the goal of achieving the full conversion of all new gasoline engines to hydrogen by the end of the decade. Vehicle engines, with relative ease, can be modified to run on hydrogen rather than gasoline. Whatever technical barriers standing in the way of this goal can be solved. It's not rocket science. All it takes is a vision.

-Richard Brook

*10*

Protecting Eli Lilly from being sued for the known neurotoxic effects of thiomerasol, which they have added to their vaccines, and which have permanently injured many thousands of children, is simply not acceptable (Katherine Mangu-Ward, "Of Pork and Patronage"). Hiding it in a bill for Homeland Security; sneaking it in with no chance for public debate and disclosure is not acceptable behavior. Who will protect the public from thiomerasol if not the trial lawyers? I am a Republican activist, and a conservative, and I am ashamed of this sleazy bit of paying off a large campaign contributor at the expense of American children and adults harmed by thiomerasol.

-Milton Fried, M.D.