Backtalk, September 21, 2005

Why This Soldier Can’t Support This War

Justin Gordon:

I have a lot of respect for your position. I served in the Navy during the war against Vietnam. Returning to Charleston, S.C., our home port at the time, I informed my captain that I would no longer be able to support the mission due to issues of conscience.

It is a long and lonely highway you have chosen; however, many have walked that way before. After 30-plus years, I look back at my position and actions and see that there was no other moral choice to make. I would do it again if faced with the same situation.

~ Dennis Flynn

America Has Fallen to a Jacobin Coup

Paul Craig Roberts’ article states that Americans still don’t know why the Bush administration attacked Iraq.

The best theory I’ve heard to date is that Bush’s political advisers, led by Karl Rove, knew that the American electorate has never changed leaders during a war. Therefore, it became necessary to create one that would last long enough to make Dubya a “war president” during the 2004 election season.

This makes sense given the facts that Bush actually lost the first election and that his political future was looking quite dismal in the months after 9/11.

In order for this theory to be correct, it would depend upon a Bush team that was utterly cynical, calculating, and manipulative and was willing to sacrifice everything anybody else was willing to give in order to accomplish their goals. I’ve been watching presidents since the early ’60s, and never have we had one that fit the bill better than Bush.


Paul Craig Roberts replies:

A good theory, but not the answer we have heard from our government.

Is there a legal way to indict the president for war crimes, or is he immune from prosecution? Would the American people stand for having him tried in a world court? If you could put him on trial, it would regain much of the lost American credibility.

~ John, Canada

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

If he is impeached and removed from office, he can be turned over to the war crimes tribunal.

Jon Basil Utley’s Backtalk


I’m confused. Why were none of the letters refuting John Basil Utley’s apology for the oil industry not posted – including mine? Or did I miss them? Utley says there were “too many [rebuttals] to respond to, and many had the same themes.” Well, no doubt.

But meanwhile your readers get to see his re-rebuttals to the rebuttals, but none of the rebuttals.

In his re-rebuttal, Utley refers to my letter twice. In one case, he boasts of having been to the Arctic Refuge, and asks me, specifically, if I have been there – assuming I have not.

It turns out, though, that I have, in the summer of 1987, probably several years before Utley even thought about the place. I was working then on a biography of Olaus J. Murie, a great scientist and humanist who spent thousands of hours in the 1950s trying to get the region placed into some type of conservation unit. I have also read the original plant and animal inventories of the region, and other firsthand accounts of the place by three of the most informed and insightful ecologists ever produced: Murie, Aldo Leopold, and George Schaller. They – and many others – have long pointed out that the coastal plain of the refuge (where the oil might be) is its ecological heart. Hundreds of thousands of caribou converge there every summer, the plain turns into a riot of color from the many wildflowers that bloom, hundreds of thousands of migrating birds store up energy there for their fall migrations.

Utley’s statements about things being not all that bad in the area around Chernobyl (“wildlife is teeming there”) and how people around Three Mile Island got more radiation from granite stones kind of tips his hand, don’t you think? Both those statements may be true for all I know. But they also trivialize to an extraordinary degree the many real dangers of relying on nuclear technology. More importantly, they reveal a lack of understanding of the most fundamental kinds of ecological principles, not to mention a rather sad lack of any ability to appreciate the value of anything in nature that can’t be turned into a profit.

Finally, I still do not understand how Utley’s commercial for Big Oil got onto your site in the first place. I would have thought the industry had enough vehicles for spreading its sheep dip around without going to a Web site that otherwise is admirably critical of such garbage.

(I am honestly confused about this. What really is going on?)

~ Jim Glover, Carbondale, Illinois

Sam Koritz replies:

Dear Jim,

I sympathize. In general it is better for readers to be able to read the letters that writers reply to. There are, though, some advantages (such as brevity and clarity) to writers replying to summarized issues raised by letters, and we do like to let the writers decide how to handle their mail. When a writer opts to summarize letters, rather than post and reply to them, I think we have a responsibility to post follow-up letters – like yours above.

As for your question about why ran Jon Utley’s “Alaskan Oil a Key to Keeping Our Freedoms,” I’m just the letters editor, but I’ll give you my opinion: I think the article is appropriate for a libertarian-run, antiwar site. Mr. Utley argues that high oil prices encourage a belligerent and counterproductive foreign policy, so the government should allow the exploitation of domestic oil, thereby lowering oil prices. It might be an anti-conservationist and pro-corporate suggestion, as your letter implies, but it’s also antiwar.

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