October 20, 2004: Letters
Letter Box Online
PAW welcomes letters. We may edit them for length,
accuracy, clarity, and civility.
Steven Simon *83 displays a deep bias and a poor grasp of the facts. (A Moment With, Sept. 15).
Neither the President nor anyone in his administration has ever said that the war against al-Qaida would be won in 30 days, that the war in Iraq would be won in 30 days, or that conquering Iraq equaled conquering al-Qaida — three false claims that Simon conflates in his statement that the administration “said this war was going to be won in 30 days by attacking Iraq and conquering it.” On the contrary, the president has repeatedly said that the war on terror would be long and difficult.
On the subject of offending Muslims: The word “crusade” has had a non-religious connotation and has been used in predominantly nonreligious contexts for a long time; it is a natural word to use for undertakings like fighting diseases, social problems, or far-flung organizations bent on destroying us. President Bush used this word once early on, and refrained from using it again after being reminded of its older religious connotation.
On “fostering the idea that the United States is at war with a particular religion”: The president has gone out of his way to point out that this is not the case, but that we are at war with a particular group of Muslims who have declared war on us. I guess Simon doesn’t believe this, or feels that simply by virtue of being Muslims, the terrorists attacking us should get a pass. He turns reality on its head by ignoring the fact that it is al-Qaida that invokes its religion as a justification for attacking us.
Finally, if we are to base our foreign policy and national-security decisions solely on what some group finds “deeply repulsive and a moral affront,” rather than our own assessment of what is in our national interest, then our course is simple: We should just ask al-Qaida what we should do to make them happy, and then do it. This also seems to be what would make Simon happy. Unfortunately, the only thing that would make al-Qaida happy is for the United States to disappear from the face of the earth.
However, it should gratify Simon that al-Qaida and its sympathizers in the U.S. and abroad have waged a very effective PR war in turning every perceived religious and cultural slight against us, while pursuing their own ends ruthlessly.
Craig Moberg ’83
I’m David Gardner ’69’s sister and just read the beautifully crafted article (cover story, Sept. 15) on my brother and his legacy. You did a lovely job capturing his spirit and talent. David passed his love for magic onto his adoring and adored nieces and nephews as well as everyone who ever watched him perform.
We visited the campus in April 2004 for the dedication of the Magic Project, which helped our children understand why David was so smitten by Princeton!
Lynn’s gift will clearly continue to add magic to the institution that my brother so loved.
Cindy Gardner Bruml
Walter Morse ’42’s letter (Sept. 15) regarding the draft and military service included ideas with which I agree, and ideas with which I decidedly do not. That’s fine.
It also includes the statement that “it should be noted that President Nixon succeeded in ending the [Vietnam] war.”
• Richard Nixon was elected, partially on the basis of “a secret plan to end the war,” in November 1968.
• My own Army tour of Saigon began in October 1971, 35 months later.
• President Nixon left office rather hurriedly Aug. 9, 1974, after 66 months.
• One of Gerald Ford’s most wrenching speeches as president, on the subject of the war in Vietnam and Cambodia, was made April 10, 1975.
• Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese April 30, 1975.
• The final American military deaths commemorated on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial took place May 15, 1975.
Gregg Lange ’70
Excuse me, Mr. Morse. Did you really start the second paragraph with “Without going into the reasons for ‘escalation of the war’ in Vietnam ...”? As a lawyer, you should know that motive is a key element in convicting someone for a crime!
The questionable reasons for U.S. involvement in Vietnam, like the questionable reasons for U.S. involvement in Iraq, were the heart and soul of the refusal of many to be drafted. How can you simply dismiss the motives of those who “raised fundamental questions about our policies and values” with a callous clause?
Moreover, not all protesters are draft dodgers. There are differences, of course. Today, military service is voluntary — not conscripted. Because of this a larger proportion of the ranks is drawn from low-income families. Today, military reservists are more likely to be called up and serve abroad. We lose more critical civilian workers — firemen, policemen, paramedics, and tradesmen — whenever a U.S. soldier in Iraq is killed. There are no draft dodgers anymore and — surprisingly — precious few deserters, but many reservists are thinking twice about re-enlisting. It is their prerogative.
So who is Mr. Morse angry at? Civilians who are using their constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech, press, and assembly to question our government’s suspect policies? That our government is suffering a “credibility gap” is undeniable: No convictable evidence of a 9/11-Saddam Hussein connection, no WMDs, no mobile biological or chemical labs, no yellow-cake uranium, no “Mission Accomplished,” no elected government, no democracy, very little real reconstruction, only sporadic electricity and water, Abu Ghraib, a growing insurgency, etc. How long do we continue accepting flimsy excuses, rather than demand better policy planning and effective execution of those policies?
Is Mr. Morse suggesting that only citizens who have served in the military have earned the right to comment on government policies? I was drafted in my senior year at Princeton, but a sympathetic Selective Service doctor decided my “trick knee” made me unfit for service, so I claim the “Cheney defense.” If he can avoid military service in wartime and become vice president, I and other Princetonians certainly can claim the right in wartime to protest our government’s policies, whether or not we have served militarily.
Michael V. Olds ’62
I agree with the assertion of Walter Morse ’42 that “it is an honor to serve and save our country in times of peril.” That is why I sent my draft card to my local selective-service office in May 1970, in full awareness that I might “suffer the consequences.” For me, the war in Vietnam was wrong. My choice, my service, was to speak and act against a folly that claimed too many lives and diminished my country’s stature.
Robert Burkhardt ’62
How does one keep up with a changing world/university 50 years after graduation? I’ve just learned a lot that I didn’t particularly like about Ivy League athletic recruiting, early admissions, and financial-aid policies from a book by Chris Lincoln, Playing the Game. The author lauds Ivy scholar-athletes and coaches as he describes complex issues that need addressing. (People and examples cited from Princeton I found reassuring, especially the approach and values of Fred Hargadon.)
It is time for the Ivy League to assess the effects of the creep of professionalization upon its athletes. George Sella ’50, Reddy Finney ’51, Brad Glass ’53, and others played more than one sport well. To do so now, students have to choose Williams, Amherst, or Middlebury instead of Princeton.
Is the extent of Ivy League recruiting really necessary? Would athletes with intellectual curiosity and ambition not apply to Ivy schools without weekly calls from coaches and competitive visits to homes and schools all over the country — and next the world?
Are Ivy recruiting costs transparent? Are abuses of the Likely Letter ignored? Are Division I recruiting practices really necessary for Ivy League stature, or for fund raising?
How are these and other questions raised by this book being addressed? Would PAW investigate, report, and debate such issues of athletic policy, please?
Jack Davison ’51
A brief in Notebook in our Sept. 15 issue mischaracterized the project to be located at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. PPPL will house the U.S. project office for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. The reactor will be located in France or Japan.