Letters to the editor

The Accuser

After the success of the Iraqi elections, I'm afraid that William Langewiesche's tendentious piece "The Accuser" (March Atlantic) reads rather badly. The reporting on Hania Mufti and her tireless work in documenting the horrors of Saddam Hussein's regime is very interesting, and the revelation of the double standard of the "human-rights" agency is extraordinary: Yes, document the atrocities, but no, don't accept that invading Iraq will actually stop them, when nothing else can; and yes, insist on trying Saddam, but in that oh-so-efficient court of The Hague (which has had such notable success in nailing Milosevic, after all) and not, heaven forbid, in an Iraqi national court, when everyone knows the Iraqis are stupid and vengeful, like all Arabs! But the whole carping tone of Langewiesche's piece—with, for example, scare quotes around the word "liberated"—made me see red. Either you are with the much maligned, much oppressed, much patronized Iraqi people or you aren't. They were liberated indeed, from the regime of a monster. Saddam's reign of terror is ended forever, and his sons will never be able to take over. Whatever one may think of the mistakes of the Bush administration in Iraq, that simple fact will never change.

What's more, the Iraqis are showing, with extraordinary dignity and fortitude, just what they are capable of. I think the trials will continue to show that. Or does Langewiesche, like so many well-meaning people, think only Westerners are capable of a true sense of justice?

Sophie Masson
Invergowrie, Australia

In "The Accuser," William Langewiesche quotes a report on Iraqi prisoners who were deliberately bled to death: "The amount of haemoglobin remains very low (2—4 ml per 100 mm)." This is an obvious error in translation, on a level with referring to a number of eggs in units of watts per inch. Earlier in the same article herefers to thallium as a lethal powder. Thallium is a metal, and cannot be made available in powdered form because of its reactivity with air. Powdered compounds of thallium have been used as poisons. But they areas distinct from thallium as sodium metal (also reactive with air and thus not available in powder form) is from common table salt.

Marshall E. Deutsch
Sudbury, Mass.


I am the subject of April's twenty-three-page cover story, "Host," by David Foster Wallace.

Ifelt it was both very interesting and, for the most part, quite truthful. But the reporting included several minor inaccuracies, and a few important misimpressions were created in the telling of the story.

My biggest complaint, however, is that despite my pleas that it do so, The Atlantic chose not to update readers on what happened in the eight months after Wallace stopped shadowing my radio show: the ratings skyrocketed in the spring and fall of 2004, and thanks to this success my showwas moved up to the 7:00 P.M. time slot, replacing the local legend Phil Hendrie.I have also completed a book called The Death of Free Speech, which will be in bookstores in July of this year.

Choosing not to update the reader on what occurred in the extremely long period between research and publication (especially in an age when day-old news is considered ancient) was much like telling the story of World War II and stopping after Pearl Harbor.

But as disappointed as I was that Atlantic readers would not know how the story is currently turning out, I was even more disappointed by Wallace's decision to decline an invitation to appear on my show. After being given a month's worth of free access to my show and my life, I thought Wallace would have the decency to answer a few simple questions about his writing. He apparently lacks the courage to do so.

John Ziegler
KFI Radio Los Angeles
Burbank, Calif.

I found the format of the article "Host" too cute by half and extremely annoying. Perhaps it was an experiment worth conducting; I commend you for your willingness to innovate. But please never repeat it!

David Cade
Montgomery, Ala.

I was delighted to read "Host." Not only was the content wonderfully tragicomic and well written, but the colored highlights offered a nice creative and practical effect.

Stephen Cloughley
Yardley, Pa.

Editors' Note:
A passage in "Host" incorrectly implied that the daily installments of Dr. Laura Schlessinger's radio program airing on KFI in Los Angeles are pre-recorded rather than broadcast live. Although a taped version of the daily broadcast airs in some markets, The Dr. Laura Program is carried live by KFI.

The whole aim of David Foster Wallace's article was to provide a deep description of life at a radio station in a narrow moment in time. Wallace therefore did not describe subsequent events affecting any of the people presented in this cross section.

Wallace has turned down a dozen requests to do radio interviews. He works in print.

Wilson and Bush

David M. Kennedy ("What 'W' Owes to 'WW,'" March Atlantic) is right on target in pointing out the intellectual debt President Bush owes to President Woodrow Wilson. Unfortunately, he did not pursue the differences between the two.

Wilson sought to accomplish global organization through other than military means. The proposed League of Nations, whatever its subsequent inadequacies, was built on the idea that U.S. power had to meet that of other nations in an international political concert. The Bush administration's "my way or the highway" approach violates the principles that Wilson was promulgating.

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