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Letters to the Editor

September 2005

Sept. '05

Military’s Terrific Job

My son is a cadet at West Point. Last semester we received an e-mail from him, describing a lecture he’d attended that was given by Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli after his recent return from Iraq. He was quite pleased to hear that he and the general both call Seattle home and made a point of introducing himself. He was also very impressed with what the general had to say about the terrific job our military forces are doing in Iraq. After reading “To Baghdad and Back” in the June issue of Columns, I can see why. Thank you for publishing this article. And thank you to Gen. Chiarelli and all the UW alumni who are serving our country.

Craig Peterson, ’77
Seattle

Selective Perception

Editor Tom Griffin’s story on UW grad Maj. Gen. [Peter] Chiarelli’s version of our involvement in Iraq [“To Baghdad and Back,” June 2005] was a remarkable example of selective perception.

According to it, the January election in Iraq justifies our essentially making up reasons for invading that country because it has “brought democracy to the Middle East.”

Wow! George W. Bush couldn’t have better tunnel vision. Having been in Vietnam during the similar “election” there, I can only wonder how certain facts are overlooked.

Like the fact that the candidates were essentially those selected either by the U.S. or by “puppets” established in power by the U.S.

Like the fact that those voting were primarily from formerly non-enfranchised sectarian blocs, the Shiites and Kurds, and that a massive amount of U.S. money was injected as encouragement; that the most prominent and repeated political appeal during the campaign involved saying that voting in the election would bring about the withdrawal of American troops. (The ad showed an endless string of American military vehicles leaving while citizens returned to their homes.) Not mentioned also is the fact that Bush and the generals now say this possibility has no prospective “deadline.”

But if I had the perks and benefits of being a general, I would probably have good reason for selective perception also.

Bottom line: Somehow Vietnam’s 1967 “democracy” (or even respect for it) did not spread through the Far East, and Iraq’s form of it appears to be running into resistance, to say the least.

Richard Pelto, ’61, ’69, ’75
Kenmore

Endorsement of Dishonest War

Like most of the media, Columns plays into the safe angle on the war in Iraq: “support our troops.” On its face, it’s a commendable sentiment. After all, the sacrifice of military personnel is awesome—indeed, many will never return. But the sacrifice of troops must not overshadow real debate. In the absence of other stories, feel-good pieces about U.S. troops are tantamount to a saccharine endorsement of a fatally flawed, dishonest and costly war. UW alumni are active in the peace movement, in diplomacy and in humanitarian efforts. Representing these faces would contribute to dialogue and a diversity of ideas about Iraq: two things sorely missing from the media, mass and small alike. We owe it to our troops, our nation and all of humanity to engage in robust debate about foreign policy.

Dylan Clark, ’96, ’00M
Boulder, Colo.

Honest Consciences

I read with a sense of deep concern comments made by Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli in your article “To Baghdad and Back.” After the general made many statements favorable to what our army is now doing in Iraq, when the subject of the justifications for going to war were raised (weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda), he only said that “I’m not a policy guy. I can’t comment on that.”

To me this was a very strange answer for a military leader. I have lived through World War II and we never heard any answer like that during that war, only solid support of the country … for our pursuit of the war against our enemies. So his answer surely means that he opposes our entry into Iraq.

His answer also has the haunting sound of answers certain other military leaders have given after war ended: “I only did what I was ordered to do.”

If military leaders had honest consciences on which they had the courage to act, there would probably never be any wars. The general’s answer is also a reason for having a military draft instead of a volunteer army.

Bert Metzger Jr., ’86
Seattle

The Wrong Side of History

I love how you placed Noam Chomsky’s Meany Theater rant about the Iraqi elections [“First Take,” June 2005] in the same issue as an interview with the U.S. general responsible for Baghdad’s security. [Chomsky called the elections “an amazing triumph of non-violent resistance to the American invasion.”] Chomsky and his ideological kindred hated Reagan when he challenged the Soviet Union’s “evil empire” in Eastern Europe, and they hate Bush for taking on a genocidal Saddam and bringing democracy to a tortured Middle East. Bit by bit, the good guys are winning, and Chomsky and kin are finding themselves on the wrong side of history. With a bit a good fortune, in another generation, there’ll not be a murderous regime on the planet for them to defend.

Mike Perry
Seattle

Baghdad Yesterday and Today

Please tell me that Noam Chomsky was misquoted on page 11 [“First Take,” June 2005], or at least he was quoted out of context. My wife and I lived and worked in Baghdad back in 1975 and ’76, and I feel our ability to evaluate the Iraqi impressions and feelings toward America in general and Americans in particular is a better judgment.

It is all too common for Americans to think we are putting ourselves into a foreigner’s shoes and correctly evaluating their response, when in fact we have little appreciation of the foreigner’s history, culture or thought processes.

The article on General Chiarelli comes much closer to capturing the feelings of Iraqi friends and co-workers we knew and entertained both in our Baghdad house and here in our Seattle home.

Earl R. Scott, ’58
Seattle

An Identified America-Hater

I fail to see the relevance of an identified America-hater such as Noam Chomsky being quoted. His remarks can only be considered idiotic. There would not have been, nor would there ever be, any election in Iraq without our intervention.

R.W. Allen, ’47
Edmonds

Shameful Quote

Whereas the June issue of Columns did provide a good article by Tom Griffin with “To Baghdad and Back,” I am appalled and offended at the Soundbite included on page 11 by Noam Chomsky. Without that “American invasion,” there would not have been any Iraqi elections! Your inclusion of that remark is a slap in the face of every American man and woman serving in Iraq, giving the Iraqi people the first chance in their history to choose their own destiny through free and democratic elections. It is especially dishonoring to those who have given their lives in this effort.

Shame on you!

Laura Julian, ’76
Manakin Sabot, Va.

Yarns About Weavers

I was pleased to learn that the University of Washington is honoring Jack Lenor Larsen as Alumnus of the Year [“Dream Weaver,” June 2005]. I remember Jack very well when he was at the UW, as I was a student in the weaving class that Ed Rossbach taught and in which Jack was an assistant. One of the things that Jack taught me at that time was while in painting, color is mixed on the palate, in weaving, two different colors of yarn could be placed side by side and a third color is mixed in the eye observing them.

To teach color, Jack would take yarn from one of the storage boxes that lined his room and toss it on the table. He would then invite you to select a second one and then observe how the colors would interact.

Jack had an apartment in the Kennedy Building. When walking up the “Ave.” yarns could be seen hanging out his window, yarns he had just dyed and put out to dry. He would dismantle matchstick bamboo blinds, dye the wood and use this and metallic ribbon in his weaving. This was new and exciting work for this time.

While Jack was still at the UW, he contacted what was called a “Ten Cent Store” chain to offer new designs for their window curtains. It was a time when Walter Teague and Russell Wright were designing everything from automobiles to dinnerware to bring “good” design to everyone. The chain turned down Jack’s offer but I often think of it when I see Martha Stewart design in Kmart.

Jack went on to Cranbrook and I to New York City. We met again during the time he used up all his funds to send himself and his yarns to New York. For a while he survived on oatmeal and dinners my wife prepared. I came back to Seattle to teach art in the public schools, but in a short time Jack’s career really took off and the rest, as they say, is history.

Millard Petersky, ’50, ’54
Seattle

Singular Prof and Single Malt

As the administrator of the rest home where Bill and Julie Shadel spent their last four years [“In Memory,” June 2005], I, among other things, learned to better appreciate single malt. Better still (though Bill would vote the scotch), I was treated to a good chunk of American history and politics for which Bill had a passion and rare insight. In a setting where the ravages of dementia and Alzheimer’s afflict so many of his contemporaries, Bill’s lucid intellect fully intact and at its mature best stood fast. My friends, Bill and Julie, demonstrated for all who knew them an unparalleled romantic life together, and as the Bard would write it, Julie followed her Romeo in death the next day.

Tom Wall, ’80
Seattle

Editor’s Note: We were in error in the June 2005 Columns obituary of retired Communication Professor William Shadel, which stated that he was survived by his wife, Julie. She died Jan. 30, the day after her husband’s death.

Worth Every Excruciating Moment

I enjoy reading every issue of Columns—especially the stories of all the financially successful UW alumni from over the years.

Although I graduated with a B.A. in communication in 1970 and have just turned 59, I have never managed to earn as much as $10,000 in any given year since receiving my degree. In spite of being among the hardest working, most dedicated and most dependable people in the U.S. work force, and having most often worked 12–18 hour days, 6–7 days a week, my lack of financial success probably makes me a failure by most people’s standards.

Nevertheless, I am grateful for my UW education. It didn’t bring me the same riches it brought others, but it taught me much. I learned to respect others for who and what they are, to appreciate a wide variety of people and issues, and that being kind is more important than being right. Finally, I’ve found a lot of joy in living and dying with the success and failure of every UW sports team!

I am absolute proof that a university degree is not a guarantee of financial success, but that doesn’t mean my college education wasn’t worth every excruciating moment.

Gary Del Mastro, ’70
Port Angeles

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We usually receive more letters than we have room to print. To read these extra letters, please visit our Web site at <UWalum.com/columns>.

Letters to the editor are encouraged. Brief letters are more likely to be published; longer letters may be edited due to lack of space. Please include a daytime phone number and send all correspondence to: Editor, Columns Magazine, 1415 N.E. 45th St., Seattle, WA 98105. You may send e-mail to <columns@u.washington.edu> or send a fax to 206-685-0611.

pull quotes:

“Feel-good pieces about U.S. troops are tantamount to a saccharine endorsement of a fatally flawed, dishonest and costly war.”

“Chomsky and his ideological kindred … hate Bush for taking on a genocidal Saddam and bringing democracy to a tortured Middle East.”

Letters to the editor are encouraged. Brief letters are more likely to be published; longer letters may be edited. Please include a daytime phone number.

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