Mark Bowden ("The Dark Art of Interrogation," October Atlantic) is right to say that "as it happens, a pertinent case study exists" (referring to Israel). No democracy has been more frequently stalked by terrorists than Israel, and Israel's response for a time included the use of "moderate physical pressure" in "ticking-bomb" cases. Bowden neglects to say where the Israelis' experiment with legalized torture led.
Israeli courts allowed a practice called tiltulim in Hebrew. In applying tiltulim, the interrogator seizes the prisoner by the shoulders and shakes him. (He can't grab the prisoner by the lapels, because it causes whiplash.) No pain is involved, the interrogators assure; this is just a means to establish "psychological domination."
Before long a Palestinian prisoner died after being shaken. The pathologist said the brain had bled from bruising against the skull—the way an infant dies from shaken-baby syndrome. Editorials about the incident appeared in Israeli papers, and there was an article in The New York Times; the attorney general of Israel declared that the legal limits must be respected.
A short while later the head of Shin Bet, the secret security services, called a press conference. (This was remarkable, because under Israeli security laws the name of the head of Shin Bet cannot appear in print.) He began by apologizing to the families of five people whose bodies had been shredded in a blast on a bus. He said he had had the bomb builder in custody seventy-two hours before the blast, but that he had failed to question him severely enough to get the information that would have saved those lives. The reason he had failed was that man over there—and he pointed at the attorney general. But in making his case against the attorney general, the Shin Bet chief slipped badly: he said his agency's methods could not be torture, since only one death had occurred in 8,000 cases.
An inquiry, however, revealed that more like 20,000 such interrogations had occurred, and more than one death—probably at least three (see Human Rights Watch and U.S. Department of State country reports). As the evidence accumulated, it became clear that Shin Bet had rarely been investigating ticking-bomb plots; it had been neutralizing threatening people.
The shaking, which continued for hours and typically came after nearly three weeks of softening up by "stress and duress methods," was only incidentally about information gathering. (Information extracted by torture is unreliable anyway, as Bowden points out, since the victim will say whatever the torturer wants to hear.) Rather, it was about making the suspects into damaged goods.
Therapists who treat people who have been tortured say they are never trusted again by their former associates, because they are assumed to have broken under pressure and to have yielded up names, dates, and places. Even more important, they are themselves incapable of trust, of optimism, of self-confidence, of dealing with authority, in some cases even of being in crowds. They emerge depressed, solitary, reclusive. They are neutered as leaders.
On the other hand, some will likely make good suicide bombers.
U.S. Naval Academy
Your excellent article "The Dark Art of Interrogation" was marred by a glaring oversight: what if the individuals being tortured aren't guilty? Torture suffers from the same issue as capital punishment: it may be morally justified if you are certain of the facts—but you never are.
I enjoyed reading "The Dark Art of Interrogation," but found its premise inherently contradictory. There is no question that under threat of violence or actual violence a suspect will ultimately say whatever is necessary to prevent torture or make the pain stop, even if it is misleading or a lie. And as human beings, we can confidently assume that once an interrogator hears what he wants, he will be satisfied, thus promoting the illusion of truth in the suspect's statement. Knowing this, contrary to Mark Bowden's argument, there is no incentive to take the slippery slope of torture. The only question in my mind is how to adequately screen out potential interrogators with sadistic tendencies and adequately train interrogators in successful practices.
Bowden doesn't mention the common practice of handing over suspected terrorists to a third-party government, such as Syria's, for interrogation—a practice that both makes the United States culpable in the routine torture of prisoners and results in information that is inherently problematic.
Incidentally, Bowden mistakenly refers to the Kubark Manual. The correct title is KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation. For those interested, "KU" was a digraph used by the CIA in the 1960s to refer to a general covert operation or intelligence program, typically in a specific country. "BARK" is the specific name of the project.
Further, the CIA document was written specifically for interrogations of professional intelligence officers, not terrorists. Since the motivations, weaknesses, and dedication of terrorists are qualitatively different from those of intelligence officers, we should recognize that the techniques in the KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation document may or may not apply to the current problem of captive terrorists.
Finally, given the highly compartmentalized nature of CIA operations, we should not assume that this "manual" was widely known to exist within the CIA, much less widely used.
The Woodlands, Tex.
Mark Bowden does a fine job of covering the landscape of torture (as far as we can know). I think he could have avoided a conclusion (in the last few sentences of his piece) and settled on ambiguity. The problem with allowing torture or its kissing cousin, coercion, is that it invites copying. If we, for instance, copy the techniques of Shabak, we are on a slippery slope. The Israelis may trumpet the success of their tactics, but they have brought a plague of suicide attacks upon themselves. Caleb Carr, in his excellent little book The Lessons of Terror, concludes that war against civilian targets is always counterproductive. He is discussing the tactics of war, but the same principles may be applied to the treatment of prisoners. We can know the efficacy of our interrogation tactics only after the fact. So innocent prisoners will bear the same fate as the guilty. The officially ambiguous Guantánamo detainees have seen justice delayed for two years. Any information they may have had is stale to interrogators by now. Could it be that long detention for no cause is the ultimate weapon of mass deterrence? We should all be alarmed—particularly when Secretary Rumsfeld considers any criticism of President Bush to be tantamount to support for the terrorists.
J. Russell Tyldesley
As a retired CIA case officer, an ex newspaperman, and an Atlantic subscriber, I find it hard to believe that Mark Bowden's remark "Most CIA agents, especially by the 1980s, were just deskmen" made it past the copy desk.
Bowden owes an apology to the many hundreds of Agency case officers who, in the 1980s and before and after, worked the streets and jungles of Central America, serviced the dead drops in Eastern Europe, and roamed the hellholes of the Near East. Far outnumbering those who supported us from the Washington, D.C., area, we rode in helicopters and drove cars and jeeps, not desks. And we weren't then, and aren't now, called "agents," except by the uninformed or by commentators in need of a hot-button word; the term properly refers to those recruited by an intelligence agency for espionage or propaganda purposes. But Bowden must know that.
Bowden errs again when he writes that the Agency's "knuckle-draggers" belonged to the "Investigation and Analysis Directorate." The name is not only improbable ("knuckle-draggers" are action-oriented paramilitary operatives, not analysts) but bogus. No division so named ever existed.
James A. Smith
Fernandina Beach, Fla.
Mark Bowden quotes an unnamed "retired Special Forces officer" as saying, "I'll tell you how to make a man talk. You shoot the man to his left and the man to his right. Then you can't shut him up."
At the Winter Soldier Investigation, a hearing into the U.S. government's policies of torture in Vietnam, which was held in Detroit in April of 1971 by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, American veterans of the war testified that captured Vietcong were made to provide information to their interrogators by taking them for "half a helicopter ride." Two or three prisoners would be taken to a great height in a helicopter, and one or two of them would be thrown out. The remaining one or two would then talk nonstop. Testimony at the hearing revealed that such murders and torture were sanctioned or ordered by ranking officers and amounted to military policy. (The Winter Soldier Investigation was the subject of a prizewinning documentary and was read into the Congressional Record. See Winter Soldier Web sites.)
Mark Bowden replies:
Stephen Wrage provides a good description of one kind of abuse that, as I wrote, led the Israeli Supreme Court to ban coercion in 1999, after a decade-long experiment with it.
William Rosenfeld writes to defend the presumption of innocence, which all right-thinking people endorse, but which in the entire history of warfare has never prevented a captured enemy soldier's being harshly questioned. Prisoners of war or "enemy combatants" are not citizens charged with a crime; they are presumed to be members of an organization at war with our country. If a perfectly innocent bystander is mistakenly arrested, then rigorous questioning followed up by careful investigation ought to reveal that fact fairly quickly. Personally, I would prefer it to languishing indefinitely at Camp X-Ray.
Paul Cooke ignores the importance I placed on rapid, thorough follow-up investigation of subjects undergoing interrogation. The art consists not only of asking questions but also of quickly verifying or disproving what a subject says. Verifiable information is rewarded; lies are punished. In the absence of investigation, as Mr. Cooke points out, a subject can simply feed his tormentors what they want to hear. This scenario has little relevance to intelligence gathering. It makes sense only in the context of a criminal investigation, where lazy, corrupt, or incompetent investigators are intent on wringing confessions or incriminating testimony from captured suspects. The point of intelligence interrogation, which seeks to thwart pending attacks or to unravel a terrorist organization, is to learn new, verifiable information. So the interrogator and the investigator must work hand in hand. Mr. Cooke kindly provides the official title for what I refer to as the Kubark Manual, a CIA how-to on the art of interrogation. I have no way of telling how "widely known" this document was inside the CIA, but it was familiar to all the former agents I interviewed, and it is, to my knowledge, the most complete survey of such methodology in print. It's pretty well written, too.
J. Russell Tyldesley writes of concern for the inmates at Camp X-Ray. Most are still being held, as I understand it, not for intelligence-gathering purposes but to prevent them from furthering their jihad by rejoining cadres bent on carrying out murderous attacks. He is wrong in supposing that it is possible to "know the efficacy of our interrogation tactics only after the fact." Skillful interrogation is a process, one that does not involve severe acts of torture, although it is helpful if that fear is present. Information obtained through coercion can be checked out, and the subject's conditions can improve or worsen accordingly. The interrogation process, if well conducted, ought to uncover mistaken arrests quite rapidly. This is a far cry from lopping off body parts. It would be regrettable if an innocent person were suspected of being part of a terrorist organization and, because of that suspicion, were kept awake and uncomfortable for a period of time; but given the stakes, I don't regard such treatment as especially cruel or unusual.
I am grateful to James Smith for pointing out my error in naming the CIA unit that employed Keith Hall. The initials IAD stood for "International Activities Division." The line about most CIA agents' holding desk jobs reflected, I'm afraid, Hall's bias against case officers, who no doubt, as Mr. Smith argues, were considerably more active than the line suggests. We owe them all a debt of gratitude for their service.
Jonathan Rauch seems to ignore two salient points in his article on genetically modified crops, "Will Frankenfood Save the Planet?" (October Atlantic). First, what informs many environmentalists' doubts about this latest cure-all is not only a well-reasoned (contrary to Rauch's flippant dismissal of it as reactionary politics) suspicion of markets and artificial substances (recent history is littered with tragic examples of the failures of both) but also a logical suspicion of the flawed technologies for which we have an insatiable appetite, ironically looking to each new one to undo the horrors wrought by the last. Second, does it not occur to Rauch that simple adjustments in Western appetites and patterns of consumption could have just as significant an impact on the world food supply as this quest for the high-yield holy grail—without the frightening collateral damage? It strikes me that Rauch has adopted the Bush Administration's short-sighted attitude toward the conservation of resources. His article epitomizes our collective preference for philosophies and technologies that allow us to ignore our own culpability and responsibility. Given the choice, however false it may be, between addressing the underlying systemic problem and deferring to the next great magic bullet, we always seem to choose the bullet and then wonder how we got shot.
As a practicing organic farmer, I found that Jonathan Rauch gives short shrift to sustainable organic farming: he dismisses organic methods as "using a lot of manure, which can pollute water and contaminate food."
We grow 240 acres of organically certified wheat, corn, and soybeans here in Wisconsin without the benefit of any animal waste. This is done with crop rotation and by planting "green manure" crops such as red clover and rye, which both enhance fertility and foil crop pests. For those certified organic farmers who do employ animal agriculture, the National Organic Program standards mandate that uncomposted raw manure must be incorporated into the soil at least 120 days prior to any crop harvest, which prevents any contamination of crops growing or harvested for either animal or human consumption and prevents manure runoff into streams and groundwater.
Rauch also claims that ploughing releases greenhouse gases. Any greenhouse gases released by ploughing to kill weeds and to create a seedbed for crops are recycled by subsequent crops. It is the burning of fossil fuels, not the tillage of the soil, that causes global warming.
Ironically, biotechnology and herbicide-dependent no-till farming methods have inadvertently promoted the organic industry in recent years, by creating consumer resistance to food produced by genetic manipulation and toxic chemicals spread onto growing fields. No one walks into a grocery store with a preference for food that has been produced with chemicals, and when the consumer sees an organic alternative on the shelf next to its chemical brethren, often the organic version is bought. This is why organic sales have increased by 20 percent a year for the past seven or eight years, making organic the fastest-growing sector of American agriculture.
Rauch's larger point, that biotechnology must feed the hungry multitudes of the future, is merely a prescription for future corporate profits on the part of Monsanto et al. Worldwide use of biotechnology will require worldwide dependence on genetically modified seed and herbicides, which are available only from companies that hold patents on same. Farmers cannot keep this seed for future planting. They will be forced to buy new seed from the same suppliers year after year, and to pay whatever price is asked—prolonging Third World poverty.
Furthermore, high crop yields, whether from genetically modified or traditional hybrids, are a function of timely planting, favorable weather, proper fertilization, and timely harvest. If any of these basic elements is not optimal, yields will be disappointing and people could still go hungry. The only certainty under this scenario is that multinational biotech companies will reap big profits. I do agree with Rauch regarding using genetically modified crops that have been bred to tolerate soils contaminated with high levels of salt and/or aluminum. If these soils can be reclaimed for food production, so much the better.
Feeding the people of the future will require a multifaceted approach to agriculture: biotechnology is only one of many ways in which the farming of the future will be conducted, and relying on biotechnology alone would be extremely dangerous and foolhardy.
When an article like Jonathan Rauch's posits a technological solution to world hunger, I feel compelled to point out that modern famine is a structural problem—an issue of food distribution, not of undersupply. Despite all the advances in agricultural technology over the past thirty years, structural problems in the world's food-distribution system have caused terrible famines in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. The monetary costs of integrating new agricultural technologies into subsistence-based agricultural systems often exacerbate this problem. Suddenly people cannot afford their food anymore. The nation of Zambia compellingly illustrates the various considerations that developing countries face when struggling with food-technology decisions, and may offer an excellent example of how best to move forward.
When, in September of 2002, Zambia declared that it would not accept genetically modified American crops as famine relief for the millions of its citizens facing starvation, a great outcry ensued from U.S. relief organizations. Irrational fear of poisoned food was the way the issue was trivialized by Zambian politicians and American agribusiness alike, yet a careful reading of the Zambian government's position reveals that its motivation was to prevent the distribution of genetically modified food without more careful consideration of the impacts—financial, agricultural, and otherwise.
Adopting genetically modified crops transforms agricultural technology in the adoptive country, with all the attendant increases in capital and manufacturing costs. Like many of their Green Revolution predecessors, genetically modified crops have substantial irrigation and fertilization needs. Some of these fertilizers even act as a form of patent control: genetically modified crops will not express their genetically enhanced characteristics until certain trigger fertilizers are applied. The costs of these fertilizers, and of the genetically modified seed itself, are high. In Zambia, where 85 percent of the population is involved in subsistence agriculture, only the largest industrial farms can afford to farm genetically modified crops.
Zambian leaders had every reason last September to believe that portions of genetically modified maize distributed as famine relief to individual families would be set aside for planting in the upcoming year. Under the pressure of averting a food crisis, Zambia faced the potential of inadvertently adopting genetically modified crops as subsistence crops. The specter of this uncontrolled distribution raised the possibility of losing the "GM-free" designation that Zambian products enjoy in European Union markets. The EU is Zambia's main export partner, and it does not readily accept imports of genetically modified foods.
Zambia's decision to reject genetically modified foods protected the stability of the government's relationship with its largest trading partner and shielded its small farmers from exponential increases in their food-production costs.
On April 11 of this year The Zambian Times proudly reported that very few people had died of undernourishment in the fall of 2002, despite the government's rejection of genetically modified famine relief. More than 30,000 tons of non-genetically modified food, primarily from the EU, was bought and distributed throughout the country. The world's market contained plenty of food to feed Zambia's hungry population.
Zambia illustrates how the effective application of government and nongovernment resources, careful planning, and efficient food distribution can prevent a terrible human tragedy. It shows that increasing worldwide crop yields is simply not a pressing need; improving distribution is. The only community arguing otherwise is that community of corporations attempting to create demand for their genetically modified products in order to recoup their development costs. Absent this pressing need, the independent scientific community has plenty of time to test the downstream effects of genetically modified foods on large-scale ecological and economic systems. These long-term tests are necessary to avoid unintended adverse consequences and to build world confidence in this useful but not well understood technology.
I have historically sung the praises of The Atlantic Monthly for its investigative journalism, so I was extremely surprised by the lack of balance represented by Jonathan Rauch's article in the October issue. The tone and content of Rauch's article, however, are nothing new.
Ever since the commercialization of Monsanto's synthetic milk hormone (rBGH), approximately ten years ago, the biotechnology industry has been attempting to sell the public on the environmental benefits of novel plants, animals, and drugs. More recently, because of the exponential growth of the organic marketplace (in part a direct result of consumers' looking for GE-free alternatives), this cartel of agribusiness giants has felt compelled to invest in a systematic and relentless effort to undermine the credibility of organic farming. At the forefront of this attack on organics is the Hudson Institute, which, along with its agricultural director and his son, is coincidentally the centerpiece of the article in question.
The Hudson Institute, financed by Monsanto, DuPont, and other biotechnology powerhouses, has relentlessly attacked organic agriculture, accusing this sustainable form of farming of endangering the health of consumers and damaging the environment, and even labeling it a "fraud."
As Rauch and his interviewees sing the praises of genetically modified soybeans, corn, wheat, and cotton, engineered either to resist proprietary herbicides that would normally kill them or to have pesticides built right into the plants, they fail to look at farming as a holistic system, in terms of both the environmental and the socioeconomic fallout from the application of this capital-intensive technology.
First, they do not address some grave environmental and health risks. The use of Roundup Ready crops has required an exponential increase in the use of glyphosate-based pesticides worldwide. What are the implications of this trend? A growing body of literature seriously questions the safety of this material's entering the environment. Glyphosate and one of its breakdown products, AMPA, are turning up in drinking water. Critics are concerned that there is a link between cancer—including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma—and glyphosate. Just this fall Denmark became the first country to impose a ban on glyphosate, which is likely to cause additional scrutiny of this chemical by the European Union.
Aside from the potential risks to human and environmental health, the economic sustainability of Roundup Ready crops is also being seriously questioned. Because of glyphosate's widespread use, glyphosate resistance is already being seen, creating what farmers refer to as superweeds—weeds able to survive greater and greater applications of this pesticide. As a result, farmers now have to apply even more glyphosate, or mix in additional chemicals, creating an herbicide cocktail, if you will, for application to no-till crops.
The story is similar with corn and cotton that have the toxin-producing gene from Bacillus thuringiensis, commonly known as Bt, spliced in. Farmers, including organic producers, have depended on Bt, a naturally occurring bacterium, for spot applications to control a number of pests that destroy crops. But the fear is that conventional and organic farmers are about to lose this tool. Entomologists say that it is a question not of whether but of when the insects that are now so beautifully controlled with Bt will become immune to it. So the long-term effectiveness of genetically engineered Bt crops is very questionable, and farmers not using GE crops will also be forced to switch over to highly toxic synthetic pesticides once resistance develops.
But the most egregious aspect of Rauch's article is that it is so narrowly focused, primarily on reducing soil erosion through no-till farming and cutting back on pesticides that attack just a limited number of critters. The argument Rauch makes—that genetic engineering will address the nutritional needs of large future populations—is specious. This technology is an internal part of the movement toward industrializing all agriculture, worldwide. Fundamentally, if we and our global neighbors do not develop answers to address the population explosion, we will have challenges relating to the carrying capacity of this planet that are more serious than finding enough calories for everyone. Developing countries are quickly burning down rain forests, not in an effort to feed their own populations but, rather, to pay off debt and market cash crops internationally. Promoting sustainable farming practices, like organics, and adequately funding research, which in this country garners only about one percent of the budget, will prove more effective from both the economic and the social-justice standpoint.
Rauch claims that the trend will be for environmental groups to get on board and support genetically engineered food, but the reality is just the opposite. When the group Waterkeepers Alliance, headed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and dedicated to preserving the quality of surface water (especially the Chesapeake Bay), decided to partner with farmers in an effort to advance its agenda, it sought not the disciples of Monsanto and high technology but, rather, the 500 members of the nation's largest organic farmers' cooperative, Organic Valley. Waterkeepers understands well that the industrial model for agriculture, in which feed crops are produced in mass quantities in one location and livestock are concentrated on factory farms in another, is a prescription for environmental disaster. The true model for environmental stewardship and economic sustainability for the families involved worldwide is the diversified organic farm, where livestock pasture, cover crops, and perennial forage are incorporated into a crop rotation, and nutrients are recycled.
Rauch had to look long and hard for the isolated "environmentalists" who embrace GE food. Not bothering to interview anyone from the mainstream environmental movement or the organic-farming sector, and instead simply lifting quotations from two Web sites, was disrespectful to those of us who find hope in the marketplace success of organic agriculture.
Mark Alan Kastel
La Farge, Wis.
Jonathan Rauch replies:
Here's the problem: before population growth and protein intake level off, toward the middle of this century, we've got to at least double global food production from existing farmland, or else turn untold acres of prime wilderness and habitat into second-rate cropland. By raising the per-acre productivity of existing fields, and by reducing the need for pesticides, herbicides, ploughing, and other environmental hazards, biotechnology, I argue, will be one of the best friends the environment has, if environmentalists take ownership of it.
Given the scale and immediacy of the challenge, calling for "simple adjustments in Western appetites," as Andrew DeGraves does, is mere wishful thinking, and not very relevant given that developing-country appetites are the ones that will need feeding. I agree with Mike Peters that biotech is only one of many tools for grappling with this problem (though I would add that it's a singularly powerful tool). My point is that we'll need all the tools we can get.
Advocates of organic farming maintain that their way of farming is better for the environment. Others dispute this. I don't carry a brief on that issue, because there is no need to choose between organic methods and biotechnology. There is plenty of room for both—and for a variety of other promising approaches as well. Owing to its higher cost and lower efficiency, however, organic farming is for the time being a niche player—a supplement to, rather than a substitute for, high-tech methods, and affordable in rich countries. Someday that may change. Meanwhile, biotech is a bridge technology that can help feed the world and save rain forests until we get there.
In his eagerness to force a false choice between organic and biotech, Mark Alan Kastel leaves the facts far behind. He is wrong about the Hudson Institute: according to a spokeswoman, it gets less than a fifth of its money from corporate sources, and in fiscal 2002 and fiscal 2003 Monsanto and DuPont provided a total of $37,500, or 0.27 percent of Hudson's $13.7 million in revenues. He is wrong about the herbicide glyphosate (more commonly known by its trade name, Roundup): it has not been banned in Denmark; it has not turned up in appreciable quantities in drinking water (in Denmark it did turn up in drainage water); "concerns" about cancer links are unsubstantiated; and, having been in common use since the mid-1970s, it has been studied to death and found safe by everyone from federal and state environmental authorities to the World Health Organization.
As for weeds' and pests' ability to develop resistance to herbicides and pesticides, that is a problem with agriculture of every kind, not just biotech. Mixing herbicides, a practice Kastel oddly decries, helps prevent resistance and has been standard in farming for years. Biotech allows farmers to use fewer such chemicals, and to apply them less often.
I am an attorney and have practiced election law for more than twenty-five years. I exclusively represent Democrats. Seth Gitell's article "The Democratic Party Suicide Bill" (July/August Atlantic) is the best piece of reporting on campaign-finance reform that I have read. But it does not analyze the fundamental problem, which underpins the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 and similar laws: such legislation is inherently ineffective.
When Congress passed the Campaign Finance Reform Act, in the 1970s, in reaction to the Nixon campaign-contribution scandals, it sought to set up a regulatory mechanism that would both increase disclosure of contributions and limit the amount of money given to candidates. Whereas the disclosure side has worked, the limitation side was quickly overcome by the law of unintended consequences, because the drafters overlooked both the practical realities of running political campaigns and human nature.
The concepts of hard money and soft money did not exist prior to the original act. Nor did issue ads, independent-expenditure committees, contribution bundling, "party building" accounts, 501(c) and 527 advocacy committees, and PACs. All these mechanisms either were specifically invented by the original law or grew logically out of the complicated regulatory scheme it imposed. Every web of regulation necessarily has holes between its strands. Eager to maximize contribution cash flow, campaign managers and candidates soon began looking for—and finding—the holes. The McCain-Feingold law closes some of these holes but, in order to protect First Amendment rights, necessarily opens others. You can be sure that they have already been found. For example, through the careful raising of money for state-party soft-money accounts, the Democrats will not lose as much soft money as it now seems.
In the end, the reduction of soft money for the Democrats may not matter much. Gitell quotes Representative Dick Gephardt as saying that he voted for McCain-Feingold to limit the Democrats' overdependence on soft money. The irony is that one of Gephardt's opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination, Howard Dean, is showing the way by using the Internet to raise unprecedented amounts of hard dollars, without regard to the new law.
Richard M. Botteri
Seth Gitell glosses over the fact that most Democrats and Republicans alike joined in supporting the McCain-Feingold bill's provisions to double the amount of hard money that candidates can accept directly from big donors. This may be the most significant portion of the law, because fat cats will find many ways to evade the soft-money restrictions. George W. Bush, who called for a hard-money increase during his presidential campaign, signed the law largely because it included this increase, and he is now its greatest beneficiary. McCain-Feingold dramatically boosts the clout of Bush's Ranger supporters, who each pledge to raise upwards of $200,000 for his re-election. But McCain-Feingold's increase in hard money will benefit incumbents of all stripes, and its enactment represented more self-interest than principle by members of both political parties.
There was an omission from your list of Department of Defense operations accompanying Robert D. Kaplan's article "Supremacy by Stealth" (July/August Atlantic). Since 1955 the Department of Defense has maintained a presence in Christchurch, New Zealand, as part of the United States Antarctic Program. Operating under the name Operation Deep Freeze, this multifaceted logistics program involves intercontinental strategic airlift, ski-equipped theater airlift, icebreakers, sealift, and other support for peaceful scientific research in Antarctica, under the auspices of the National Science Foundation. As part of this extraordinary program, Department of Defense and U.S. Coast Guard elements work with multinational civic and military organizations to support science that one day might well unlock the secrets of this planet and the universe.
Hope you can stretch your world map enough to include us next time. We should, with luck, still be here.
Lt. Col. Timothy S. Penn
Air National Guard Detachment 13
Christchurch, New Zealand
Our list of U.S. military operations, labeled "1993-present," included only those initiated during that period.
Cullen Murphy's September column, "On Second Thought," mentions "Coincidence Design, Inc.," which is a so-called service allowing wealthy men to hire the company to stalk attractive women and then arrange an accidental meeting. It is a notorious hoax, and was exposed in January of 2002. An excellent synopsis can be found at the always useful Urban Legends Reference Pages: www.snopes.com/inboxer/hoaxes/coincidence.asp.
Despite the current climate of political correctness, not even the highly respected Atlantic Monthly seems able to resist the primeval urge to insult somebody and try to get away with it. In your October issue the cartoonist Barry Blitt revived an old and familiar theme and placed it in a new setting. He simply rehashed the tired joke about the light bulb and how many are needed to turn it. Any category can fit, but Blitt chose the Polish soldiers in Iraq as the fall guys.
Before Hitler invaded Poland, in 1939, everyone else was either appeasing or acquiescing to him. The Poles were the first to fight the Nazis and stood firm against their blitzkrieg. If Poland's allies had honored their treaties and immediately intervened, World War II might have been aborted right then and there. Even so, Polish soldiers continued to fight the Germans and provided the fourth largest military component of Allied forces in Europe, which led to eventual victory in 1945.
More recently, Polish soldiers performed professionally in Afghanistan and Bosnia. And before the Berlin Wall came crashing down, it was the Poles who shook the foundations of world communism inside Poland and caused the reverberations that led to its collapse everywhere else. This nasty attempt to get a laugh at our expense is awkwardly misplaced.
Chairman, Anti-Bigotry Committee
Polish American Congress
A reader has pointed out that in a review of Peter Kolchin's American Slavery, Benjamin Schwarz erroneously attributed to Kolchin an argument he paraphrased regarding the intense and ambivalent ties between slaves and slaveholders. Although Kolchin does hold this view, the paraphrased lines should have been credited to Eugene Genovese's Roll, Jordan, Roll, a book Schwarz discusses in the review. The reviewer deeply regrets the mistake, which stemmed from faulty notation.
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