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Letters to the Editor


I have appreciated your thoughtful coverage of the grading issue, but I do want to set the record straight on an important misstatement of fact in your story on Feb. 18. I never told your reporter that I "demand immediate efforts to roll back the trend" of grade inflation and grade compression. As the Dean of the College I do not presume to make demands of my faculty colleagues. Rather, what I – and the Committee on Examinations and Standings – have done is to encourage discussion about this important matter. Nancy Weiss Malkiel Dean of the College

Military motives


While Lucas Cadena '98's letter in the Feb. 18 'Prince' may accurately address a technical detail in Rizwan Arastu's Feb. 16 guest column "Genocide in Disguise" – depleted uranium is, in fact, mostly nonradioactive – he ignores the rest of the article, which stands independent of this particular fact. Cadena employs the common rhetorical technique of criticizing a small point in an argument to prove that his opponent's ignorance precludes the possibility of any reasonable discussion. Many of the other claims in the original column, which are far more important and backed by solid evidence, should not be brushed off. For example, according to the Toronto Sun, over 4000 thousand children do die every month in Iraq from starvation and malnutrition resulting from the economic embargo imposed by the United States.

The issue at stake in Iraq is ostensibly forcing Saddam Hussein to comply with a United Nations resolution to keep the Iraqi defense system transparent to the world; however, the U.S. is only rarely interested in supporting UN consensus. In the past 30 years, the U.S. has been far in the lead in vetoing Security Council resolutions. In the UN General Assembly, the U.S. regularly votes against resolutions in virtual isolation (effectively vetoing them) on a wide range of issue. This sort of action occurs in the World Court, international conventions on human rights, and in many other places. Finally, the U.S. often disregards violation of UN resolutions that it has formally endorsed, and even contributes to these violations when it is in its "best interest" (policies on Israel and East Timor provide two undisguised examples).

The current militarization against Iraq has no more to do with enforcing UN resolutions "on principle" or stopping Saddam's "evil weapons plan," than did the Gulf War have to do with restoring democracy and sovereignty to Kuwait, an oil-rich oligarchical regime run entirely by one family that has treated its 500,000 foreign workers as slaves, disallowed citizen membership in political parties, excluded women from the political process, banned political assemblies and violently suppressed pro-democracy opposition. The goal in Iraq is now, and has always been, to maintain and expand U.S. hegemony in resource-rich areas of the world. George Bush summed up this goal nicely while praising the military accomplishments in Iraq: The U.S. has a new credibility, and what we say, goes . . .".

If the U.S. were truly interested in challenging opposition in the world and enforcing UN resolutions, there are far more egregious examples available. In fact, Hussein's worst crimes occurred while Iraq was a favored U.S. trade partner, before 1990. Even after the Gulf War, the U.S. watched passively as rebelling Iraqis were slaughtered, since this particular issue did not constitute an opportunity to further expand power in the area. Before engaging in war again – which, as Arastu correctly notes, will likely results in great civilian casualties in Iraq – we need to examine the motives involved and the goals to be achieved. Do they justify the deaths to come? Adam Kessel '98

Reevaluating war

A particularly troubling combination of media events in the Feb. 18 edition of the 'Prince' compels me to intervene with what I hope can begin a discussion on death and global capitalism. I would fist like to address Lucas Cadena's response to Rizwan Arastu's column regarding U.S. policy in Iraq. While Cadena's "correction" might shed some light on the physical fine points of military technology, it conveniently dodges the political, and the humanistic, questions around the war. War is not explicitly "about" technology any more than it is about "policy" or death. However, a pathologically myopic focus on ballistics minutiae does obfuscate and bury any serious policy analysis, and makes the wholesale slaughter of geographically (and deliberately, culturally) distant "masses" (read: civilians) seem at beast a harmful externality.

This is what allows industry-lackeys-cum-professors like Norman Augustine '57, GS '59 to objectify in the Feb. 18 article "Augustine '57 envisions new policy dependent on military technology," "smaller, more 'conventional' wars" as "safe." Augustine's argument, like Cadena's, masks the necessary politics of weaponry (namely: the politics of death). It is no surprise that Augustine looks favorably upon the consolidation of the defense industry. He personally received an $8.2 million bonus as a result of this explicitly "insider" military-industrial deal. (Meanwhile, 30,000 workers lost their jobs in this "downsizing.") In light of this government handout, it is particularly ironic that Augustine would trumpet the end of communism "in practice and in theory." Better luck next time professor Augustine.


I find myself wholly agreeing, however, with Augustine's statement that "capitalism is changing the face of the earth." "Capitalism" is allowing opportunists like Augustine to market death as ideology. If (after the inconvenient semblance of global harmonic spirit that is the Olympics has passed) "we" do invade Iraq, people will die. Capitalism allows Mr. Augustine to hide behind a rhetorical fallacy, while Mr. Cadena is distracted by technology. It does not, however, prevent the critical citizen from understanding the oft-overlooked kernel of war: death. Peter Rowinsky '98

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