Backtalk, April 13, 2007

Magnanimous Mahmoud

With all due respect to Mr. Buchanan, the Middle East is not the South Atlantic. Defending your own people in a colony which is yours, the Falklands, is a far cry from operating in disputed waters where you are the country which invaded another sovereign nation. It is the next-door neighbor of the invaded country which seized your troops, one which never worked out the boundaries of the waterway with its old enemy after the last war. After all, there may be resources under that waterway. By declaring your boundaries with a hostile act, then releasing your hostages, you win twice. You are telling the world what you own.

I do not know why no one is talking about this as a boundary dispute. Buchanan seems to wish that shots had been fired, in other words, that the Brits had also declared where the boundary is. But what does a bunch of young sailors know about the law of the sea? What do they know about the long-term goals of economic colonialism? …

Neither Iran nor Iraq has consistently agreed to where their territorial boundaries are. Only this one area has just been decided by Iran, but there are others. I think it would behoove our leaders to decide where consistent boundaries are, or there will be war with Iran. Let us not negotiate from fear, but let us not fear to negotiate.

Unfortunately, Buchanan focuses only on the Iranian menace, not the Iranian understanding that they have rights in the area and that they have successfully defended them.

~ Dianne C. Foster

Charles Goyette Interviews Hamid Dabashi


Charles Goyette’s interview of Hamid Dabashi for Antiwar Radio was extraordinary. It was fantastic that he arranged the interview with an informed commentator, and some of the discussion was superb, yet I can’t suppress a serious criticism. He managed to take two events in the history of Iran (the 1979 hostages crisis, and the 2007 capture of UK marines), and construct an entire identity for “the Iranian people,” as if they were responsible for the actions of their state. It is outlandish for a libertarian to conflate the actions of a state with the culture of a people.

What’s worse, he accepted the idea that the 2007 arrest of UK marines was some form of hostage-taking. This is propaganda direct from the British state. Hostages are people held illegally in lieu of some sought pecuniary or political benefit: the Iranian state made no demands other than the diplomatic resolution of a territorial issue. The legal status of the waters in the Arab/Persian Gulf is far from clear. In no sense is it sensible to call those captives “hostages.” In substance, the arrest of these marines was no different to the brief arrest of a few sailors in mid-2004, which was resolved with a little diplomacy. It is only because Downing Street decided to make a bit of patriotic exit music for a discredited Prime Minister that this issue achieved any kind of prominence. It would be tragic if libertarian antiwar commentators were so taken in by the pro-war propaganda of the British state that they allowed a few brief episodes in Iranian history to speak for the culture of the Iranian people as a whole. No serious person considers the Indochina cataclysm or the terrorist campaigns in Latin America or the Balkans, and draws conclusions about a general American character, as if foreign policy from Kennedy to Clinton was decided by a collective national will.

~ Richard Seymour

Opposition to the War Growing Among Troops

Military people who may read Sarah’s article at should be reminded that those who voluntarily participate in illegal war inevitably share complicity in war crime. We made an example of Hermann Goering, yet that lesson evidently has been totally lost on Americans themselves. Why not point out to those young people that one of their own, Lt. Watada, has seen the light to which they too should be opening their eyes. From their words it is obvious that they simply don’t know what they are getting into.

~ Jack Dennon

Sarah Olson replies:

Hi Jack:

I appreciate your comments.

I think the question of how to talk to troops and how to deal with them politically is an interesting one. I have come to believe that it’s very important to “meet people where they’re at.” Not everyone – in fact, probably very few – are ready to resist this war if they are ordered to fight it. So how does the antiwar movement deal with that?

It seems to me that if you support those that are looking for meaningful alternatives rather than denounce any soldier who participates, you will make more headway. No soldier likes to be told they’re complicit in war crimes. What’s more, I think it’s unfair for us in civilian society to lay that complicity exclusively on the troops. All of us in the United States have a responsibility for our government’s actions.

Why are We Still in Korea?

Dear Editor,

I read Doug Bandow’s “Why are We Still in Korea?” online and clearly understand his point.

To be fair to all your readers, I have a counter-question to his article: Why are we still in Europe?

The same logic and argument he makes should also be applied to Europe. As a retired Air Force Senior NCO, I still can’t figure out why our forces are still in Europe? Is it to give our troops a working vacation in Europe (e.g., Garmisch, Edelweiss, Disneyland Europe, etc.)? Militarily, I don’t see why we continue to station as many forces in Europe as we do when European forces can very well take care of themselves. I’ve been asking this question since around 2000 when global troop reductions were, and still are, a popular topic.

I’d really like to read a similar piece by Mr. Bandow about why we’re still in Europe.

Thanks for your views as they help round-out my information of current events.

~ Terry Eusebio


I just wanted to thank you very much for the long page of quotes about war. I am finishing a book on terrorism and needed some of those quotes to demonstrate that the “War on Terrorism” contradicts the values held by our nation’s founders. Though I am not a pacifist and I supported the war in Afghanistan to unseat the Taliban, I understand that war is futile against terrorism and that sincere diplomacy is the effective answer.

~ Justin

Michael Austin replies:

Dear Justin,

Thank you for your thank you.

It’s wonderful to hear you had such a practical use for our Quotables. Some of our editors consider that little piece of to be somewhat superfluous (witness their recent expulsion from the main page!), but I’ve always maintained that the Quotable are an interesting and potentially useful resource, and am glad I now have your e-mail to back up my claims!

~ Michael Austin, Culture Ed./Outreach Coordinator,

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